In the title page of The Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon identifies the three groups of people the book addresses. “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.”
In order to receive the message of the Book of Mormon meant for us. it is important to recognize which group we identify with. Am I a Lamanite? Am I a Jew? Or Am I a Gentile?
Book of Mormon Title Page
An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi
Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.
An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
TRANSLATED BY JOSEPH SMITH, Jun.
The prophets of the Book of Mormon saw our day and know exactly who they are addressing and what message each group needs to hear. These identities stay consistent throughout the entire book.
Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. Mormon 8:34-35
How does the Book of Mormon serve each of these three groups?
- To show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.
- To the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.
It was foreseen that the house of Israel would be scattered among all nations. It would follow that all the nations upon the face of the earth would be blessed by this bloodline.
Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations. 1 Nephi 22:3
With this understanding, Mormon continues to distinguish the Gentiles from the House of Israel in his writings. Notice even when the Gentiles receive the fulness of the Gospel, they are still called gentiles. In the Book of Mormon, receiving the Gospel does not seem to change a Gentile into an Israelite.
Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer. 1 Nephi 10:12-14
The gentiles are given the hope that if they repent and return unto the Father, they shall be numbered among God's people; but still the record does not show that their identity changes when they accept God's offering and protection. What is the difference between being numbered among them and becoming one of them?
And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel. But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father. 3 Nephi 16:12-14
If Joseph and the people attending the dedication of the Kirtland Temple have already been baptized, why did Joseph still identify the members of the church and himself as Gentiles? Joseph Smith reiterates these distinctions between these three groups of people in his prayer.
Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.
But thou knowest that thou hast a great love for the children of Jacob, who have been scattered upon the mountains for a long time, in a cloudy and dark day. We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed; And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David; And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father.
And cause that the remnants of Jacob, who have been cursed and smitten because of their transgression, be converted from their wild and savage condition to the fulness of the everlasting gospel; That they may lay down their weapons of bloodshed, and cease their rebellions.
And may all the scattered remnants of Israel, who have been driven to the ends of the earth, come to a knowledge of the truth, believe in the Messiah, and be redeemed from oppression, and rejoice before thee. D&C 109:60-67
Just as the gentiles were allowed to go through and tread down the seed of Nephi's brethren,
And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten. 1 Nephi 13:14
the house of Israel shall go through among the gentiles, and shall tread them down. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. 1 Nephi 13:42
But if they [gentiles] will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel. 3 Nephi 16:15
Which specific group of Gentiles is Jesus describing in this verse? Who has been called to be the salt of the earth?
When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men; They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. D&C 101: 39-40
Which group of Gentiles were called with an everlasting covenant?
What is this group of Gentiles doing? What have they rejected? What will the Father do?
And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. 3 Nephi 16:10-11
Who is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to reject the fulness of the gospel? What does it mean to receive the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Of whom we bear record; and the record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision. D&C 76:14
As Gentiles we have the opportunity to be numbered among God's people but it requires us to repent and return unto God. We too must seek the face of the Lord and receive the promise of eternal life.
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; D&C 93:1
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. D&C 39:5
And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life. D&C 101:38
Individually, we each must make the choice.