A Great Division Among God’s People
The entire tone of the Book of Mormon changes when we truly realize in our minds and hearts that we—the Latter-day Saints—are the Gentiles being spoken of by the authors. The end-time picture the prophets are trying to paint with their foretelling grows less and less obscure. Suddenly we begin to “awake to a sense of [our] awful situation,” recognizing our own need for repentance in order to become clean from the blood and sins of this generation and be numbered among the House of Israel.1 It becomes increasingly clear that the book really was written by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, and the people it was to have the most profound effect upon were its principal readers—the Latter-day Saints. We are the ones the authors are trying to save from apostasy in order to fulfill our birthright role as kings and queens of the Gentiles—ministers to the House of Israel even as Joseph, our father, who was sold into Egypt.
Book of Mormon prophecies characterize the latter-day Gentiles as a people whose heads the judgments of separation and loss constantly loom over. The fact that there is something to lose and be separated from inherently implies that these Gentiles being referred to are indeed covenant people.
In the meridian of time Jesus taught openly that He and His teachings would naturally have a splitting effect: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.”2 He noted this partition would extend beyond a societal level and would reach even down to the family: “the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”3 This occurred in many instances during His public ministry over issues such as His lineage, His performance of miracles such as opening the eyes of the blind, and His proclaimed power over death as He promised to lay down His life and take it up again.4
Nephi wrote about a great division among the Gentiles just before the millennial era as the work of the literal restoration of the House of Israel is commenced: “For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people.”5 A search for the term division as a word link in the Book of Mormon presents us with several relevant types and shadows which shed light on what issues this division Nephi speaks of could be caused by. There was a “division” between two political ideologies as some “were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land,” while others sought to “maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.”6 We read of a “division” over whether or not to support a king who is set on destroying “the people of the Lord.”7 There was a great “division among the people” as some accepted a servant of the Lord who testified of the wickedness of the people while others did not.8 We also observe “a great division among the people” when many “did harden their hearts” allowing themselves to be “led by many priests and false prophets;” these “dwindle[d] in unbelief and wickedness” and began to persecute and “smite upon the people of Jesus.”9
Thus, a typological and thematic approach enables us to identify four root causes of division among the Gentiles in the latter days: 1) the choice to defend privileges and rights of a free government, particularly the free exercise of religion; 2) the choice to support a king; 3) the choice to accept or reject a latter day servant sent by the Lord; and 4) the choice to follow apostate ecclesiastical leaders. In each case the common result of those who chose wrong is they then persecuted the humble followers of Christ. Such will certainly be the case in the end-time. Yet it is this very division which separates the wheat from the tares, enabling the righteous to experience deliverance while the wicked are “made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations.”10 During Nephi’s grand vision he was taught further about this end time division by an angel:
“Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish. Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God. For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.”11
The carrying forth of the Lord’s great and marvelous work in the end time—the literal gathering of Israel—thus causes a division unlike anything ever seen in this world before. Those who join with the Lord and His servant experience peace and eternal life while those who harden their hearts are brought into spiritual and temporal captivity, ultimately leading to their destruction. The responsibility of the Gentile Latter-day Saints, predominantly of the tribe of Ephraim, is to repent and perform their birthright role—becoming lights to the other Gentiles around them, and saviors to the scattered remnants of the House of Israel, carrying them back to Zion. Those who rise to this level of spiritual stature also will have found themselves on the right side of the four divisions listed above.
This post is an excerpt from chapter 14 of my new book “Upon My House Shall It Begin.”
1 Ether 8:24; 3 Nephi 16:13-14; D&C 88:85
2 Luke 12:60 JST
3 Luke 12:61-62
4 John 7:42-43; 9:15-17; 10:17-19
5 2 Nephi 30:10 cf. 30:8-9, 11-12 for context of prophecy
6 Alma 51:5-6
7 Mosiah 19:1-2
8 Helaman 9:39-41, 10:1
9 4 Nephi 1:34-35
10 D&C 87:6
11 1 Nephi 14:5-7; cf. Alma 12:9-11