Gospel Doctrine lesson 40 for the Book of Mormon talks about a subject that isn’t explored as often in Mormonism today: The Gathering. In Joseph Smith’s day it not only mean the gathering, literal and spiritual, of the House of Israel, but it also meant the gathering of Mormon converts to the ‘center place’ of the Church. While we don’t call for the gathering of Mormons to a single place today, the concept is still important when we examine the role of the House of Israel and the times preceding the millennium. The scriptures, including the Book of Mormon in 3rd Nephi 16, 20 and 21, teach that the House of Israel has been scattered and that it will be gathered in the last days.
Given the scriptural teachings on this subject and the millenarian views of Mormons in the 19th century, The Gathering was often the subject of Mormon poetry, however more often it drew on the gathering of Mormons to church headquarters than on the scattering and gathering of Israel.
Of the poems I found, the following poem, by the prolific William Wines Phelps, matches this lesson the best:
by W. W. Phelps
- WHAT wond’rous things we now behold,
- Which were declar’d from days of old
- By prophets, who in vision clear
- Beheld those glories from afar.
- The visions which the God,
- Confirm’d by his unchanging word,
- That to the ages then unborn
- His greatest work he would perform.
- The second time he’d set his hand
- To gather Israel to their land,
- Fulfill the cov’nants he had made,
- And pour his blessings on their head.
- When Moab’s remnant, long oppress’d,
- Should gather’d be and greatly blest:
- And Ammons children, scatter’d wide,
- Return with joy, in peace abide.
- While Elam’s race a feeble band,
- Receive a share in the blest land;
- And Gentiles, all their power display
- To hasten on the glorious day.
- Then Ephraim’s sons, a warlike race,
- Shall haste in peace and see their rest,
- And earth’s remotest parts abound,
- With joys of everlasting sound.
- Assyria’s captives, long since lost,
- In splendor come a num’rous host;
- Egyptia’s waters fill’d with fear,
- Their power feel and disappear.
- Yes, Abram’s children now shall be
- Like sand in number by the sea;
- While kindreds, tongues, and nations all
- Combine, to make the numbers full.
- The dawning of that day has come,
- See! Abram’s sons are gath’ring home,
- And daughters too, with joyful lays,
- Are hast’ning here to join in praise!
- O God, our Father, and our King,
- Prepare our voices and our theme;
- Let all our pow’rs in one combine
- To sing thy praise in songs divine.
Evening and Morning Star, May 1834
As poetry, this is far from Phelps’ best work. The rhymes are often strained and the meter is broken at times. Some of these problems seem like they could be fixed with a little work, while others I suspect can’t be corrected without changing the meaning of the poem. This is also a very early poem, and I believe Phelps’ later work got better.
But this poem’s content is perhaps more interesting. Phelps suggests not only the scattering and gathering of Israel described in scripture, but also suggests that the people of Israel’s neighbors would also be gathered; Moab, Ammon, Elam and even the gentiles are, in his view, also gathered.
Is that scriptural? I’m afraid I can’t say—I haven’t the time to research the question. Perhaps some reader can enlighten us. It does have a certain ring of Old Testament completeness to it—everything and everyone brought to their proper order and place.
Even if it isn’t scriptural, I believe this poem still could be used in conjunction with lesson #40. its easy enough to simply omit the 4th and 5th stanzas without damaging the poem. Or teachers could leave them in and mention how Mormon views of the Gathering have changed over time.