Promises: 3 Nephi 21



This chapter is full of promises to covenant Israel. In fact, there's not much here that doesn't fit within that description. I'm going to start by listing a brief summary:

  1. Vs 1 -- The Lord promises a sign that allows us to know when He will gather in His people and establish Zion among them (vs 1).

  2. The sign: -- First, Vs 2-4,6 -- the record of Lehites (Book of Mormon) will be brought to knowledge of the Gentiles (that willing Gentiles might be numbered among Israel); Second, Vs 5,7-- Book of Mormon transmitted from Gentiles to Lehites by the Father

  3. Vs 8,9 -- Kings (the endowed?) shut their mouths -- personal revelation replaces rumour and speculation

  4. Vs 10,11 -- Servant of the Lord (Joseph Smith) is secure -- may be "marred" (including reputation?) but will be healed

  5. Vs 12-13 -- Descendants of Israel become quasi invincible.

  6. Vs 14-21 -- Unrepentant Gentiles suffer many judgements.

  7. Vs 22-23 -- Believing Gentiles enter the family and assist remnant of Israel in establishing New Jerusalem

  8. Vs 24 -- They assist in gathering Israel to the New Jerusalem

  9. Vs 25 -- The power of heaven and Jesus Christ Himself will be in their midst

  10. Vs 26 -- Gathering of all scattered Israel begins in earnest with the preaching of the gospel among the Lehites

  11. Vs 27,28 -- The Father will prepare the way for them to accept the gospel and come unto Christ

  12. Vs 29 -- All Israel will gather to the land of their inheritance, without haste, but with God leading them and guarding their back.

There is a chronological element to this list that may or may not be intentional. If intentional, it's humbling. Here is what I understand from it.


First of all, in this chapter, it seems that when the Lord speaks of a remnant of Jacob, He is most often referring to the descendants of the Lehites, (presumably the Indigenous peoples of the Americas). Secondarily, He refers to the Jews and the Lost Tribes. My ethnic group is referred to as Gentile. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm not literally descended from Israel. I may be that as well. But in this context, "Gentile" is an ethnic designation that applies to those who came from Europe, established a free government in the Americas and brought forth the Book of Mormon.


The next point that strikes me as important is, it appears that the task of building up the New Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri (D&C 57:1-3) belongs primarily to the Lehites. My task, as a descendant of Gentiles, is to assist and to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord by which He can carry the Book of Mormon into the hearts of the people for whom it was primarily written. It is also to repent, so that I can fulfill that commission.


When I say repent, I'm not speaking lightly. This has specific meaning to me because I live in a town with deep divides between ethnic "Gentiles" who are predominantly LDS and the remnants of the Lehites, who are mostly not. Our relationship with each other is generally characterized by mistrust on both sides, even when we're friendly. When we're not friendly, it devolves into invective and even incidents of violence.


I grew up referring to Indigenous peoples as "Lamanites." We played our Lamanite Generation record so often that a younger sister's first words were lifted right out of one of their songs. It didn't occur to me that the term "Lamanite" had negative baggage until I heard an Indigenous member explain that the Lamanites were the bad guys of the Book of Mormon. More recently, in my divided community, I've heard of Indigenous locals sharing with each other passages from the Book of Mormon that seem to the readers to explain how we (their LDS neighbours) see them. Passages like "this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us" (Mormon 5:15).


Ouch!


I'm not here to quibble with Mormon for his phrasing of the results of his people's apostasy. His words should be understood in the context of his life, which was spent preserving a record for the blessing of the descendants of the very people he calls loathsome. Also, the depravities detailed in Moroni 9 provide painful provocation for his use of such language. Nonetheless, I am sure Mormon would agree that it is behaviors, not people, that can be justly described as loathsome.


And here's why I need to repent. Because today in my community, my Indigenous neighbors see echoes of that loathsome language in the attitudes of the LDS townspeople toward them. For instance, they feel disdained when the color of their skin gets them followed around in local stores, or when they hear their people dismissed as drunks. How can they receive the Book of Mormon from us when we approach them with an attitude of presumed superiority? And when the record keepers of the Nephites frequently described the dark skins of their cousins as a curse?


There's a lot here to unravel. A lot more than I understand. But here are a couple things that I do understand.


First: I am part of the problem. Not as much as I used to be because I first heard this call to repentance years ago. But I've got a long way to go yet. I need to be actively involved in bridging the divide in my community. I need to widen my circle of friends to include a lot more of the Indigenous members of my community.


Second: I need to let God prevail with regard to the Lehites' reception of the Book of Mormon and the fulness of the gospel. The Nephite record keepers were keenly aware of their fallibility (1 Nephi 19:6) and their "weakness in writing" (Ether 12:25). But they trusted God to magnify their best efforts to achieve His purposes. 3 Nephi 21:3 says these things shall come forth "of the Father" from the Gentiles to the Lehites. The Lord has a plan which He will bring to pass for the healing that needs to happen within Indigenous communities. That's between Him and them. My job is to focus on the healing that needs to happen within me and my community so that we can be in a position to assist as servants, when invited.

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