Abraham received a covenant from God that the literal seed of his body would be the ones entitled to the blessings of the gospel including the priesthood, celestial marriage and eternal life. Jacob whose name was changed to Israel, Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson, had 12 sons who became the House or Tribes of Israel. Israel was scattered over the whole world and in the last days must be gathered.
Through this covenant with Abraham, the House of Israel is the lawful heirs to the celestial kingdom. But, any Israelite must also be faithful in all things and obey the full law of the gospel to become heirs to the Celestial Kingdom. In addition, others regardless of their literal blood ancestry become of the house of Israel through adoption into the lineage of Abraham if they accept the gospel and are faithful in all things. Joseph Smith said regarding Gentile converts who receive blessing of the House of Israel, “...the Holy Ghost literally purges the old blood and makes him actually of the seed of Abraham.” (Teachings p 150). In any case, people who inherit the Celestial Kingdom will be those who receive their covenants, are faithful in all things and obey the full law of the gospel, and will be either direct descendents or adopted to become direct descendents of Abraham.
Zion is the name given by the Lord to his people. They are always identified as Zion. Zion can refer to a condition of existence for his people – the pure in heart, of one heart and one mind, dwelling in righteousness and no poor among them. (DC 97:21, Moses 7:18) Zion is also referred to as a place including; the City of Enoch, the hill where Solomon’s temple was built, the new Jerusalem in Jackson County, Stakes of Zion, etc.
We are engaged in gathering Israel to Zion in our missionary work. The Lord said we are to, “…find them that will receive you ye shall build up my church in every region.” (DC 42:8) One of the unique things about the gathering today is that Israel will no longer run from or leave the wicked in search of a promised land. Separating themselves from wickedness was done repeatedly by Israel over the ages. For example, Israel leaving Egypt, Lehi leaving Jerusalem, the Nephites leaving the Lamanites, the Pioneers leaving Nauvoo and immigration of saints to Utah. Israel will from now on stand its ground and fight wickedness where ever Zion is.
We are gathering Israel to Zion in the last days when plagues, war, wickedness and destruction are prophesied. During this gathering in the last days, Zion will be a place of peace, refuge and safety for the Saints. The wicked will not come unto it. People who will not take their sword against their neighbor will flee to Zion. The righteous will gather there from all nations and it will be the only people who shall not be at war one with another. The wicked will not go there for fear of the Saints. In 1831 this was Jackson County, Missouri:
“66 And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;
67 And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.
68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.
70 And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.
71 And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.” (DC 45:66-71)
After the Saints had been driven out of Jackson County by mobs the Lord said Stakes would be formed as the strength of Zion and would become holy places:
“16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
21 Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.
22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;” (DC 101:16-22)
In the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple the Lord again declared that Zion is to be found in the Stakes of the church. The last days are a time when the judgments of God will be sent out on the inhabitants of the earth, but the people in Zion will not faint and the Lord’s peace and salvation will be upon Zion:
38 … all those judgments thou art about to send, in thy wrath, upon the inhabitants of the earth, because of their transgressions, that thy people may not faint in the day of trouble.
39 And whatsoever city thy servants shall enter, and the people of that city receive their testimony, let thy peace and thy salvation be upon that city; that they may gather out of that city the righteous, that they may come forth to Zion, or to her stakes, the places of thine appointment, with songs of everlasting joy; (DC 109:38-39)
The Lord declared that Zion is to be a light to all nations. Zion and her Stakes will be a defense and refuge from storm of the wrath that will be poured out upon the whole earth in the last days. Zion’s borders must be enlarged and strengthened:
“5 Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
6 And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (DC 115:4-6)
14 For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments. (DC82:14)
So here we are; missionaries during the last days. We are armed with righteousness and our numbers are few as prophesied by Nephi. (1Nephi 14:13-14) We are gathering Israel to the Stakes in Zion; the pure in heart. We are building the 5th Stake as a protection for the people of Belgium and the Netherlands. The Stakes will be the only place of refuge for Saints in a world growing wickeder, where people are warring against each other. We know those in the Stakes of Zion are promised protection for the most part from the destruction, wars, wickedness and plagues. Those in Zion will be preserved. (Rev 9:4). The great pit which hath been dug for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who dug it. Nations that war against Zion shall turn against one and other and fall into the pit they dug for the Saints. (1Nephi 14:3, 22:13-14) The Stakes will be the only place of refuge since there is nowhere to run.
As missionaries, we have been blessed as we go forth in this great work. We are promised, as James Covill was, a blessing so great as we never have know, great faith, power, the Savior will go with before our face and we will rejoice and flourish.
“10 …you shall receive my Spirit, and a blessing so great as you never have known.
11 And if thou do this, I have prepared thee for a greater work. Thou shalt preach the fullness of my gospel, which I have sent forth in these last days, the covenant which I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel.
12 And it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and I will be with thee and go before thy face.
13 Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish. (DC 39:10-12, 13)
Elders and Sisters, this should give us courage to do our best to gather Israel. Our cause is just and the need to build the 5th Stake is critical.