The Book of Mormon has much to say about the Jews and the Gentiles, Heavenly Father’s plan for them, and what will happen to them in the future.
At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we are introduced to the family of Lehi, who was a prophet in Jerusalem just before the Babylonian captivity. The Lord led Lehi and his family out of Jerusalem, because the Jews were seeking his life. The family and a few friends eventually made their way to what is now North America. At the time, the Jews were extremely wicked. It must be understood that other societies in the region were as wicked in their behavior, but that the Jews were sinning against the light. They were the Chosen People in that they had over the years made binding covenants with God through prophets. They had more knowledge of the ways of God and had promised that they would keep His commandments and serve Him always. Where much is given, much is expected. However, the Lord also destroyed heathen nations that had polluted the earth through their wickedness.
In the Old Testament, the Lord listed the sins of the Jews of that time: they worshipped idols and rejected the prophets (Jeremiah 2); they polluted the land with their whoredoms (Jeremiah 3); they made the temple a den of robbers; they oppressed the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger; they stole, murdered, committed adultery, and swore falsely; they worshipped the moon and stars (Jeremiah 7); they walked after the imaginations of their own hearts (Jeremiah 9); they disobeyed the covenant (Jeremiah 11); they dishonored the Sabbath day (Jeremiah 17); they sacrificed their children to Ba’al (Jeremiah 19); they upheld false prophets (Jeremiah 23).
When Lehi’s family arrived in the Americas, Nephi, son of Lehi, determined that his people would not fall into the wicked ways of the Jews. They had brought scriptures with them containing gospel truths, and the Lord sent prophets to teach them. When Lehi died, Nephi became both prophet and leader to his people. Certain prophecies were of utmost important to these exiles. They longed for the Holy Land all of their days and loved hearing the scriptures from Isaiah that prophesied the regathering of the Jews in the last days.
Nephi recorded the prophecies of his father, Lehi (around 600 B.C.):
“For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews— That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem, and many be carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity; and after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance.
“Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world” (1 Nephi 10:2-4).
“And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.
“Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise [the Americas], unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
“And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer” (1 Nephi 10:11-14).
Nephi became prophet, teacher, and leader of his people. He prophesied that the descendants of his brethren (who became part of what we call Native Americans) would be scattered over the American continent, continually at war with one another. Then he foresaw that Gentiles would flow into the land from Europe and conquer the Indians.
“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren. And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles [probably Christopher Columbus], who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
“And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten” (1 Nephi 13:10-14).
The first Gentiles in America would be faithful to and favored of God. Although foreign nations would rise up against them, they would prevail:
“And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. [Nephi’s direct descendants, the Nephites, were destroyed by the darker-skinned descendants of his brothers, around 400 A.D.) And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them. And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book? And I said unto him: I know not.
“And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass [the record Nephi brought with him from Jerusalem], save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
“And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God. Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God (1 Nephi 13:20-25).
Nephi then saw that Satan would cause many “plain and precious” truths to be taken from the Bible, so it would become a stumbling block to many of the Gentiles:
“For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them [and their record became the Book of Mormon], which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed [the Nephites were destroyed in 400 A.D.], and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb. And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation (1 Nephi 13:26-36).
Thus is described the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to the Gentiles. From the nations of the Gentiles, the Book of Mormon would be taken to other lands. And other books would also come forth, adding their testimony that Jesus is the Christ:
“And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
But most of the Gentiles would reject the Book of Mormon:
“And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish. Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God (1 Nephi 14:5, 6).
“And because my words shall hiss forth [referring to the Book of Mormon]—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible….Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
And of the gathering of the Jews–
“…then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth” (1 Nephi 19:16).
“Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel. Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel (1 Nephi 22:11, 12). And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture (1 Nephi 22:25).