The 10th Article of Faith is an impressive commentary on several biblical passages. It allows us to see the depth of Joseph Smith's understanding of the Bible.
The Lord said in the Book of Mormon, "And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance. . . ." (3 Ne. 20:29.)As a Church, we believe in the literal gathering of Israel. We are part of Israel. We are part of this gathering. Great promises have been extended to us. The 10th Article of Faith asserts our belief that the promises of God do not fail, and that He does remember every covenant He has made.
Much of the history of mankind can be seen as the fulfilling of these covenants over long periods of time. During the time of Isaiah, the Northern Kingdom, consisting primarily of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, was carried away captive by Assyria, and nothing further was heard of them. Part of the eventual gathering of Israel includes the restoration of these lost tribes.
Chief among the 10 tribes was Ephraim, second son of Joseph. These decendants of Joseph, along with Ephraim's brother Manasseh, are promised a leading role in the gathering.
"His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh." (Deut. 33:17.)
Not only were these sons of Joseph leaders among the 10 tribes as they traveled north and out of our history, they were the leaders among those who became dispersed. Although we preach to all the world and all Israel, we are especially looking for those lost ones who have the blood of Ephraim and Manasseh in their veins.
Apostle Orson Pratt said Ephraim is the "highly favored" whom our missionaries will "gather up and hunt out" from "wherever they are scattered, and bring as many as they possibly can into the Church."
The writer of Chronicles understood this vital role of the sons of Joseph when he wrote: "Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's." (1 Chron. 5:2.)
This gathering is worldwide - from the "four quarters of the earth" (Ether 13:11). The Doctrine and Covenants says that before the great day of the Lord the children of Jacob will "flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose." (D&C 49:24.) President Spencer W. Kimball said, "The gathering of Israel is now in progress. Hundreds of thousands of people have been baptized into the Church. Millions more will join the Church and this is the way we will gather Israel. It is to be done by missionary work." (New Era, May 1981, p.46.)
In the book of Ether we are told that those who are gathered from the north countries will also be gathered to "Jerusalem of old" (Ether 13:11). It appears, then, that a portion of the House of Israel will be eventually gathered to Palestine. In this regard it is interesting to read 2 Ne. 24:2 and 3 Ne. 29:1. In this worldwide effort Ephraim's role is to administer to the needs of the other tribes. This fits well with the Church's concept of the word chosen. Chosen in this context means "chosen to serve."
Joseph Smith understood these passages because it was revealed to him: "A seer will I [the LordT raise up out of the fruit of thy [Joseph who was sold into Egypt'sT loins, and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins; and not to the bringing forth of my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word. . . ." (JST Gen. 50:30.) This seer, of course, was Joseph Smith himself, a "pure Ephraimite" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 322).
The Lord also revealed to the Prophet Joseph that the 10 lost tribes, including some from Ephraim and Manasseh, would come forth out of the north countries. They would smite the rocks and ice, and pools of water would spring up before them. And they would come, bearing rich treasures, to the "children of Ephraim." (D&C 133:26-32.)
As the gathering of Israel proceeds, the building of Zion, the New Jerusalem, will begin. Moroni tells us that the New Jerusalem will be built by a "remnant of the house of Joseph." (Ether 13:8.) The Savior told the Nephites that this "remnant" would come and build a holy city "which shall be called the New Jerusalem." (3 Ne. 21:23.) And this "remnant" will assist in the continued gathering. Then would the "power of heaven come down among them," and the Lord Himself would be among them "in their midst" (3 Ne. 21:25). This is a sign for the work to be accelerated "among all the dispersed." Ether affirms that the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven. (Ether 13:3.)
For more help we may refer to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST). "When men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself" (JST Gen. 9:21-23.) Also, the book of Moses records "And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other." (Moses 7:63; see also Jude 1:14.)
It seems that those dwelling on the earth, the remnant of Joseph, will begin to build the New Jerusalem, or Zion, and they will be joined at some point by the returning ten tribes from the north countries. Then the city of Enoch will come down from heaven and join with Zion and its inhabitants. The crowning moment will be when the Lord himself comes to the city. Apparently the Lord and the people from Enoch will not remain permanently in this city, but will be frequent visitors. Also, there will be people who do not belong to the Church on the earth during this time. Missionaries from the City of Zion will go out to teach these people. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 268-69).
From the beginning of this dispensation the prophets of the Lord have seen the building of Zion as a major goal of the Church. Brigham Young said, "When we conclude to make a Zion we will make it. . . . He [the LordT has called upon us to do this work; and if we will let him work by, through, and with us, he can accomplish it" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 118, 121).
The New Jerusalem will be built on the American continent, and the earth will be turned back like it was at the time of the Garden of Eden. (See Ezek. 36:35.) The Lord affirmed to the early saints, "this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. . . . Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place." (D&C 57:2-3.)
The keys of the gathering and the building of Zion rest with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 110:11; see also Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 152). When the 10 tribes return, they will come to receive their blessings at the hands of Ephraim. (D&C 133:32.) The First Presidency are the only ones who administer these keys.
The beauty of the 10th Article of Faith is that it sets the faithful members of the Church squarely among the Lord's covenant people throughout the ages. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are given the opportunity to have a part in fulfilling the covenants that God has made throughout history to His faithful children, and to be united with them eternally in God's presence.
"And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy; And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come." (JST Gen. 9:22-23.)