Gospel Doctrine Lesson#12: “The Gathering of My People”

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

In the spirit of Jim F. (and despite falling far short of his standards) here are some thoughts and questions regarding the suggested readings for the lesson.

First, one brief comment:
Reading through these early revelations it is clear that the impetus to gather was present in JS’s thinking. However, what is quite noticeable is that the motivations for this gathering develop and expand. Of course, these themes are not necessarily wholly separate but it seems to me that this was a period of innovation for JS. At first there appears to be a concern with being separate from the world and yet this act of separation is not given any clear content, that is, there is no place or structure to give shape to this gathering. This is especially apparent when contrasted with the later revelations which locate the place of the gathering and begin to give it an architectural and ecclesiatical form. At the same time there is a move toward city-building which is coupled with the importance of Zion is JS’s revelations.

Clearly the temple (and the expanding notion of ‘endowment’) is the focal point of this new city of God and yet the shift away from gathering to ‘one place’ raises important questions for what it means for us today to gather. What is the future structure of Zion? Will it be arboresccent or rhizomatic (to borrowa phrase from Delueze and Guattari)? That is, does this Zion have a recognised centre? Will it ever? If so, when? Or will Zion become a decentralized network of Zions? A network of saved communities? How we view the gathering, I think, impacts on how we live in our present communities. In other words, do we see ourselves as present and (semi-)permanent members of a community where we expect to find God in our midst? Or is there a sense, however latent, that we are hoping/wishing for another place in which we finally be able to build the communities to which Christ will come?


D&C 29.1-8: Sept 1830
v.4 – What is the relationship between being ‘chosen out of the world’, being gathered, and gathering?
v.5 – This verse appears to allude to Matt 18.20. Why does the Lord specify that he will be present when there is more than one other person gathered together?
v. 6 – In what way is united prayer (presumably a consequence of gathering) different from individual prayer?
Praying on behalf of another in a ‘gathered prayer’ is something that is largely lost from our religious practice but there is a long history of this type of spiritual practice being used in healing and also in seeking revelation.
Would we feel comfortable if a group of fellow saints gathered to vocally pray for us? If so, why?
v. 8 – Why was the early church asked to gather to one place?
Mormons are not currently required to gather to one place. Has this ‘decree’, then, been rescinded or postponed?
What is the purpose of gathering? How might gathering be able to provide these blessings?

D&C 33.3-7: Oct 1830
v. 5 – Here, again, the there is a connection between the church being gathered and then being called to gather others.
v. 6 – Why are only the elect gathered?
Can those who are not-the-elect be gathered?
Are the elect merely those who are gathered?

v. 7 – What does it mean for the field to be white?
Are there limits to the harvesting metaphor as a way of discussing the gathering? In what ways are people unlike the field being harvested?

D&C 37: Dec 1830
According to the historical background ‘herein is given the first commandment concerning a gathering in this dispensation’. Why does the Lord’s counsel to gather to ‘one place’ in D&C 29.8 not count?

v. 1 – What motivated the gathering to Ohio?
How is this motivation different from the more general impetus for gathering described in D&C 29.8?
What was JS translating?
v. 3 – Why did the Lord ask the church to go to Ohio?
Why did this revelation not ask the church to move to Jackson county or Missouri more generally?
To whom was this revelation given? When does Sidney Rigdon meet with JS? Where was Rigdon from?
v. 4 – Is the word ‘until’ significant in this verse?

D&C 38.24-41: 2 Jan, 1831
v. 27 – In the context of D&C 37, to what might the call to be ‘one’ referring?
v. 31-32 – What is the motivation for gathering?
How is this similar to different to other motivations for gathering discussed in previous revelations? What does this verse imply the power of the enemy with do? What will be one of the blessings of gathering? What does the Lord mean by ‘the law’? Why will it only be given once they are gathered?
Does the word endowed have a consistent meaning in the D&C? What does the word endowed mean in this context?
v. 34-5 – How is the gathering to be gathering to be accomplished?
To what extent is this counsel applicable to the church today, even though we do not have a single gathering place?
v. 38 – What does the Lord mean by ‘all things’? How should they be preserved? What does it mean to be gathered to the bosom of the church? Does this imply that the gathering is not just about people but about ‘things’ as well? If so, what things need to be gathered?
v. 39 – The revelation implies that riches may follow the gathering and that the people should beware of pride. Did this happen to the saints then? If so, how?

D&C 52.2-5, 42-44: 7 June, 1831
The historical context states that this revelation was given while the saints were in Kirtland.
v. 2 – In what place will the Lord consecrate the land unto my people? What has happened to prompt this interest in Missouri after JS has only just arrived in Kirtland?
v. 3 – Why this urgency to go to Missouri?
v. 5 – What does the phrase ‘land of your inheritance’ mean? Did they ever ‘inherit’ the land? Why not? What can stop the process of gathering? Does this verse suggest that they did not yet know where the land of their inheritance was?

v. 42 – Missouri is here proclaimed to be the land of their inheritance? Why is there some ambiguity in verse 5 and no ambiguity in verse 42? Is there a connection between gathering and rejoicing?
v. 43 – Is this the first mention of a city? When is the earliest mention of city-building in the D&C? (see D&C 45.64-75) How does the notion of city-building develop in connection with the concept of Zion? Are there clear connections between the two?

D&C 57.1-3: 20 July, 1831
v. 2 – Here we see Zion connected with a city? Does Zion need to be a city? If so, why? Is this nineteenth century use of the word city congruent with our usage today?
v. 3 – The temple is explicitly associated with gathering and Zion. How are these three ideas associated with one another? Why is temple built in a gathering place? Can we gather without a temple? Is the temple the facilitator or gathering or a blessing that comes to those who are gathered? Is this revelation still in force or has it been superseded by other revelations? Will there ever be a gathering to Jackson county?

D&C 110.11: 3 April, 1836
v. 11 – What are the keys of the gathering of Israel?


  1. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks Aaron, I’m curious about your perspective as a British person. Is there residual feelings for a physical gathering, or has England fully become Jerusalem?

  2. Near the end of Joseph Smith’s life, he seems to be reckoning with a multicenter Zion. Zion is where a temple exists. It was some time before temple speech evolved to the many temple idea, but if you follow the JS trajectory, then it seems your idea of many Zions is possible. Historically, gathering came to be seen as an excuse to accrue economic and artisan strength for building a temple. With central finance, this seems less planned. Great thoughts, Aaron.

  3. J., good question. Among many of the long-term faithful, at least at church and in private conversation, there is an assumption that we will be going back and that our view of Zion is still millennial. Among the short-term faithful, there is probably only a very minimal awareness of these ideas. This especially true among post-correlation converts. However, this group do not have a clear sense of Zion at all, in my view, because of the same shifts, i.e., as the American exceptionalism within Mormonism has been minimised through correlation we have simultaneously minimised the concreteness of Zion. In short, member either see us going to Jackson Co. (probably as preparation for the or as a consequence of the Millennium) or they only have some vague sense that Zion will be established at some future point by Christ (again, most likely associated with the Millennium).

    WVS, that has been my sense as well, however being less familiar with the sources I would not have been as confident in making that claim. In reading these texts I was surprised at how quickly JS moved the place of gathering from Fayette to Kirtland to Jackson Co. Even across the 12 month period during which these revelations were given it is clear that the centre was shifting in ways which hint at a multiplicity, i.e., it is not so much where we are gathered but just that we are, in fact, gathered.

  4. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Thanks Aaron R.

    JS has his sights on New Jerusalem this entire time, and knows that it will be “among the Lamanites”–or as near as they can get. But until they can establish this city, they stil have the Acts 2 ideal wherever they are.

  5. I found a brief memoir my ggrandmother wrote about her family’s immigration (gathering) to Utah from Scotland in about 1856. I am of the opinion, from her comments, that economics and economic opportunity played as much a part as the spirit. Of course no motives are pure.

  6. Mark, thank you for your insight. In my brief reading (and largely acontextual reading) that impulse was not always clear and so your comment is quite valuable. This effort to be as near to the ‘Lamanites’ as possible might explain the progressively westward location of Zion, no?

    RW, that seems quite right to me. Mixed motivations which were heavily influenced by a particular view of the New World.

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