Literary OTGD #07: The Gathering

February 2, 2014 | no comments
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William Wines PhelpsIf doctrines can have ideological parents, then the doctrine of the gathering is clearly descended from the Abrahamic covenant, the same that is discussed in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 7. Throughout the scriptures, when the Lord talks of “gathering” his people, he is refering to Israel, the descendants of Abraham. The covenant speaks of giving his people a promised land—the place where his people will be gathered to. Indeed, the gathering is simply a part of how the Lord’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled.

I think that many of the elements of the Abrahamic covenant are found in the following poem, although it seems to primarily discuss the gathering.

This  poem is another in the oerve of the prolific William W. Phelps. Unlike his contemporaries Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow and John Lyon, Phelps never published a volume of his own poetry. He is also unique because he is likely the author of the only poem, outside of scripture, attributed to Joseph Smith (The Vision, a paraphrase of D&C 76). If I recall correctly, he is still the Mormon author with the most hymns in the current hymnal.

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The Gathering

by W. W. Phelps

WHAT wond’rous things we now behold,
Which were declar’d from days of old
By prophets, who in vision clear
Beheld those glories from afar.

 

The visions which the God,
Confirm’d by his unchanging word,
That to the ages then unborn
His greatest work he would perform.

 

The second time he’d set his hand
To gather Israel to their land,
Fulfill the cov’nants he had made,
And pour his blessings on their head.

 

When Moab’s remnant, long oppress’d,
Should gather’d be and greatly blest:
And Ammons children, scatter’d wide,
Return with joy, in peace abide.

 

While Elam’s race a feeble band,
Receive a share in the blest land;
And Gentiles, all their power display
To hasten on the glorious day.

 

Then Ephraim’s sons, a warlike race,
Shall haste in peace and see their rest,
And earth’s remotest parts abound,
With joys of everlasting sound.

 

Assyria’s captives, long since lost,
In splendor come a num’rous host;
Egyptia’s waters fill’d with fear,
Their power feel and disappear.

 

Yes, Abram’s children now shall be
Like sand in number by the sea;
While kindreds, tongues, and nations all
Combine, to make the numbers full.

 

The dawning of that day has come,
See! Abram’s sons are gath’ring home,
And daughters too, with joyful lays,
Are hast’ning here to join in praise!

 

O God, our Father, and our King,
Prepare our voices and our theme;
Let all our pow’rs in one combine
To sing thy praise in songs divine.

Evening and Morning Star, May 1834

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What Phelps sees as a second gathering (The second time he’d set his hand / To gather Israel to their land) is necessary because the Lord must “Fulfill the cov’nants he had made.”

After listing some of the peoples descended from Abraham and mentioning their blessings, Phelps suggests that the Abrahamic covenant is being fulfilled in our day:

Yes, Abram’s children now shall be
Like sand in number by the sea;
While kindreds, tongues, and nations all
Combine, to make the numbers full.

And in the last two lines of that stanza, Phelps adds the mechanism by which the seed of Abram expands: through adoption—the self-selection by those who are willing to follow the Lord.

That is, of course, crucial to our understanding of the Abrahamic covenant today — that all of us can be grafted into the house of Israel and participate as his seed. We may not ‘gather’ physically like Israel once did, but we certainly are gathering spiritually, to raise seed to Abraham and fulfill his covenant.

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