Friday, April 16, 2010

Three Types of Scattering and the Scatter-Gather Cycle

In 3 Nephi 21 at the end of the chapter, there is a massive repetition of the ideas of gathering the scattered remnants of the house of Israel, which I encourage you to study. (Particularly, notice which words seem to be repeated over and over again.)

In the process of studying different repeated words and ideas, I noticed something in this verse:
And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem. (3 Nephi 21:26)
There seemed to be three different ways that Christ spoke of the scattered:
  1. All the dispersed of my people
  2. The tribes which have been lost
  3. Led away out of Jerusalem
These three different expressions—dispersed, lost, led away—seem to suggest different mechanisms. “Dispersed” suggests the idea of a large group being spread out or distributed over a wide area. “Lost” suggests that a people no longer exist, can no longer be tracked, or awareness of their existence has been lost. It could also suggest death. “Led away” suggested that an agent has been a guide to a group of people to take them elsewhere.

These three different expressions for scattering suggest that there can also be three different methods of gathering that correspond. The dispersed can collect, congregate, and coalesce. The lost can be located, found, discovered. And those led away can be led back.

Cycles of gathering and scattering abound in families, in the church, and in our doctrine.

In our families, a male and female come together and are permanently gathered by a sealing ceremony and they accumulate (gather) children. Families gather for meals, play, prayer, scripture study, etc, then they disperse. They are together when at home, then they disperse to work and school, then they gather together again. Children grow up and they disperse. Families come together for family reunions, then they disperse. We are promised that sealed families will be gathered together forever in the celestial kingdom.

In the church, we gather together for our meetings, then we scatter back to our homes. Together, apart, together, apart. We gather missionaries together to train them and then disperse them into the world so that they can gather more people into the church. There is gathering (unity) over doctrine, but then there is also contention and apostasy, which scatters and fragments. Through the fall we are scattered by sin, but then we are gathered to the Lord through repentance.

Because the scatter-gather dynamic is so much a part of our lives, the Lord makes use of it as a teaching tool and also points out global scatter-gather movements so that we can see how He uses it to bring about our salvation. The plan of salvation is a massive scatter-gather operation as the spirit children of God disperse from heaven to mortal life to be tested, and then are gathered home after death.


Jocelyn Christensen said...

This is so great! Thanks again for sharing this!