What does it mean to “gather Israel” and why is it so important now?
President Jean B. Bingham and Sister Sharon Eubank of the Relief Society general presidency focused on those questions during their shared address as part of the 2020 BYU Women’s Conference digital event on Friday, May 1.
The goal of gathering Israel is to “unite families” and prepare them to live with “our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Redeemer,” said President Bingham, Relief Society general president. Those living on the earth today are living in the latter days, the last dispensation of time that will usher in the second coming of the Savior, she explained.
“This ‘now’ is filled with great challenges as well as great opportunities” but it is also an “unprecedented time of great opportunities for personal growth,” President Bingham continued. “We are being reminded of those things of lasting value on which to focus our energy. We are learning to share the message of the gospel through technology as well as personal connections. We are increasing our understanding of the value of temples. All these efforts are part of the gathering.”
President Bingham and Sister Eubank focused on four key ways — ministering, missionary efforts, temple and family history work, and caring for those in need — that women today can participate in and help with the gathering of Israel, and the two shared examples of what women around the world are doing during this unique time in history.
Although a global pandemic would seem to make ministering, missionary work, temple and family history work, and caring for others more difficult, in truth it has brought out people’s creativity, Sister Eubank said. Around the world, Relief Society women have made creative use of technology and other resources to continue the work of serving and loving one another on both sides of the veil.
“Something extraordinary is not going to be stopped by a little social distancing,” she said, sharing examples of some ways women have continued to minister.
President Bingham commented that women are continuing to fulfill their covenant responsibilities as disciples of Christ in “simple yet remarkable ways.”
Simple as it may seem, gathering Israel really just means “bringing yourself, your family and other loved ones — living and dead — closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,” Sister Eubank continued. And critical to that work is the gift of the Holy Ghost.
She shared a quote — one she says she keeps in her study journal as a constant reminder of the importance of the Holy Ghost — from Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, who was made an emeritus General Authority Seventy last fall: “The worst of all human conditions is the most common: it is to die spiritually. It is to be separated from the presence of God, and in this life, His presence is His Spirit. … Conversely, … the best of all human conditions is to be endowed with heavenly power; … to have the gift and companionship of the Holy Ghost, which is the source of revelation, clarity, love, peace, confidence, faith, and almost every good thing.”
In each example the two leaders shared of women continuing their work of gathering Israel, the work began with one person being willing to listen to the Spirit, President Bingham noted. “The power of one is indeed powerful,” she said. “One by one, one step at a time, we can accomplish great things.”
Telling the story of a woman named Gene Bauer, President Bingham described how through diligent, daily work that took place over the course of nearly 40 years, Bauer was able to plant more than 1 million daffodils on a remote hillside in California.
“The result of her patient, one-by-one work was this stunningly beautiful garden that covered five acres,” President Bingham said.
And to share the bounty of her work, each year Bauer would invite anyone who wanted to “come and see, to experience the gorgeous colors, to enjoy the calming natural atmosphere and bask in the beauties of God’s creations — all for free.”
With the Lord’s help, every individual can do magnificent things, President Bingham said. “And as we join our small efforts together, just think of the influence for good we can have on the world around us.”
Oftentimes, it is easy to feel that one’s contributions don’t measure up to those of others, Sister Eubank said. But the Savior’s example teaches that “meaningful service does not have to be flashy or widely known to be of great value.”
Like a night-blooming ginger plant that looks unassuming in the daytime and blossoms only in the darkest hours, sometimes individuals may flower and show their best side in unlikely places or circumstances, she said. “Be assured that your efforts are making a difference, that they are good enough.”
Although the world right now is understandably stressed physically, economically and emotionally, members of the Church have an advantage because of the “knowledge and testimony of the gospel,” President Bingham said. “Your spiritual strength can help you not only cope, but also be resilient in the faces of these challenges.”
In a way, “these current circumstances are a blessing,” she continued, “because they are forcing us to prioritize, to simplify, to be intentional and to be creative.”
Closing with a quote that hangs in the Relief Society general presidency offices, President Bingham reminded, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).