The exodus of ancient Israel from Egypt was a shadow for the exodus of the Mormon pioneers from Nauvoo, Elder Russell M. Nelson said Sept. 7.
Speaking to more than 24,000 college-age young adults in the BYU Marriott Center – and thousands more via the Church Satellite System – Elder Nelson said instructive parallels exist between the exodus of the Israelites under Moses from Egypt and the exodus of the Latter-day Saint pioneers under Brigham Young from the United States."We can learn much from these stalwarts of ancient and modern Israel," said Elder Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
An obvious likeness is that both groups had their inland sea of salt water and a River Jordan, said Elder Nelson. "But there were many other very significant similarities. Ancient Israel and modern Israel are linked arm in arm."
The leaders that preceded Moses and Brigham Young are one example, explained Elder Nelson. "A name common to both was Joseph – Joseph who was sold into Egypt and the Prophet Joseph Smith."
But these men shared more in common than a name, he continued. "At age 17, Joseph was informed of his great destiny. At the same age, Joseph Smith was informed of his destiny regarding the Book of Mormon.
". . . Both Josephs endured persecution. Joseph of old was falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and put into prison. Joseph Smith suffered incarceration on trumped-up charges and false accusations.
"Joseph's coat of many colors was taken from him by his brothers in a cruel attempt to convince their father that Joseph had been killed. Joseph Smith's life was cruelly taken from him, largely because of betrayals by false brethren."
Elder Nelson said that like Joseph of old and Joseph Smith, Moses and Brigham Young also had much in common.
For example, he noted, both men were astute followers before they became great leaders. "Moses had been prepared in the courts of Egypt and had gained much experience in military and other responsibilities. Brigham Young was likewise prepared for his leadership role. In the march of Zion's Camp, he had observed the leadership of the Prophet Joseph Smith under difficult conditions."
In both ancient and modern Israel, civil and ecclesiastical law were unified under one head, said Elder Nelson, noting that Brigham Young and Moses followed parallel patterns of governance.
He added that both the journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai and the journey from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley took about three months.
And "the destination for each group was described by the Lord as a `land flowing with milk and honey.' The pioneers turned their wilderness into a fruitful field and made the desert blossom as a rose – precisely as prophesied by Isaiah centuries before."
Elder Nelson said that in addition to similarities between their leaders, both groups of people also shared similar miracles.
"Both groups traversed deserts, mountains and valleys of untamed wilderness. Ancient Israelites left Egypt via the parted waters of the Red Sea `as by dry land.' The pioneers left the United States crossing the wide waters of the Mississippi river – frozen to become a highway of ice," he said.
Elder Nelson further noted that the book of Exodus reports that quail were miraculously provided to feed the hungry people of ancient Israel, just as quail miraculously flew into the modern camp of Israel near Montrose, Iowa – providing food to the hungry pioneers.
"God preserved ancient Israel from plagues sent upon Egypt," he continued. "Similarly, God preserved the Saints from the plague of the U.S. Civil War that caused more American deaths due to war than any other war."
Elder Nelson also explained that the travail of both groups forged spiritual strength among the people. "They both endured trials of their faith during which the weak were winnowed away and the strong were empowered to endure to the end," he said. "They had to leave their homes and possessions and learn to rely wholly upon God."
He continued that just as the children of Israel had a portable tabernacle where ordinances were performed to strengthen them on their journey, many Latter-day Saints were endowed in the Nauvoo temple before their arduous trek westward.
Finally, scriptures available to ancient and modern Israel include timeless principles of the gospel, said Elder Nelson. Timeless truths and principles – such as honoring the Sabbath day, tithing and temple worship – were and are important to people of ancient and modern Israel, he said.
Elder Nelson concluded by reminding his listeners that ancient and modern Israel subscribed to an ageless message of the Old Testament: "Know therefore that the Lord thy God . . . keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations." (Deut. 7:9.)
Elder Nelson said, "Upon our shoulders lies the responsibility to keep the faith through our own generation."