On January 4th 1833 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to newpaper editor Noah C. Saxton from Kirtland Ohio, highlighting important details about the history and current state of the Latter day restoration movement.
Nearly one decade later, on March 1 1842, Joseph Smith wrote another letter to newspaper editor John Wentworth from Nauvoo, once again highlighting important details about the history and current state of the Latter day restoration movement.
Both letters are consistent in proclaiming that an ancient covenant between God and Israel (that had been prophesied in the Old Testament) was about to be fulfilled.
In the Wentworth Letter Joseph quotes Moroni as declaring that the fulfillment of an ancient covenant with Israel was about to commence.
“This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence;”
The above declaration of Moroni in the Wentworth Letter is revealing information that was intentionally withheld in the account of Moroni’s visit that ultimately became canonized in the Pearl of Great Price.
No mention of the fulfillment of an ancient covenant is found in the JS History contained in the Pearl of Great Price.
Indeed, the JS History version in the Pearl of Great Price informs us that many explanations were given by Moroni that could not be mentioned in that account:
“And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.“
It appears that in the Pearl of Great Price account of Moroni’s visit, it was not intended to reveal that the fulness of the Gentiles (including the ultimate rejection of the fulness by the Gentiles) would birth the beginning of the fulfillment of the ancient covenant that would prepare the way for the coming of Messiah.
According to the Wentworth Letter, it was not just the restoration of Biblical Christianity that has been preparing the way for the coming of Messiah during the last four generations, it is the covenant that God made with ancient Israel that has been preparing the way for the coming of Messiah!
In the Saxton Letter Joseph Smith chose to reference the ancient covenant with God’s ancient covenant people in Jeremiah 31:31-33 instead of referencing the Covenant that Christ established with the Gentiles in the New Testament.
Those passages refer to the an ancient promise of God to the House of Israel and to the House of Judah, that he would provide a New Covenant with his people in the latter days. He also gave Romans 11:25-27 in which Paul simply paraphrased the promise of the ancient covenant in Jeremiah 31.
In the Saxton Letter Joseph emphasized that God was setting forth his hand a second time in establishing this covenant and that the first time that he set his hand to offer it to Israel, they rejected it.
“The time has at last arrived when the God of Abraham of Isaac and of Jacob has set his hand again the second time to recover the remnants of his people which have been left from Assyria, and from Egypt and from Pathros &.c. and from the Islands of the sea and with them to bring in the fulness of the Gentiles and establish that covenant with them which was promised when their sins should be taken away. see Romans 11, 25, 26, & 27 and also Jeremiah 31. 31, 32, & 33,11
Below is Paul’s reference to above words of Jeremiah
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Upon further study of these two letters and the passages they reference, it becomes clear that the ancient covenant being spoken of that had previously been extended, included the invitation of salvation to the Jews during Christ’s mortal ministry which they had rejected.
During Joseph’s ministry, the Lord was setting his hand “a second time” to recover the remnants of the posterity of the New Testament Jews and other remnants of Israel under the “New Covenant” mentioned in Jeremiah 31.
The Lord Sets his Hand a Second Time to Recover the Jews
The Book of Mormon provides a second witness that the setting of God’s hand the “second time” to recover the remnants of his people is referring to the posterity of the New Testament Jews that rejected Christ.
Just prior to the allegory in Jacob 5, the prophet Jacob prophesied, (sometime between 544 and 421 BC), that the Jews would eventually gather to the Old World Jerusalem where they would reject Christ. They would “stumble” because they “despised the words of plainness“. Therefore, Christ would take “way his plainness from them“.
According to Jacob, the Jews “will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation“.
Nevertheless, Jacob informs us that “according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last and the only sure foundation upon which the Jew can build”
A Great Mystery is Revealed
How is it possible that the Jewish people that rejected Christ in New Testament times could eventually build upon the foundation of Christ?
The narrative in Jacob 4 continues with Jacob presenting a great dilemma and mystery and then providing the answer to it-
“And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these [Jews], after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?
Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you.” (Jacob 4:17-18)
The great mystery is then revealed within the rather lengthy allegory that is contained in chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob. The allegory is written somewhat cryptically, however within the general narrative, an intercession takes place that involves the grafting in of the natural branches (the Jews) into the wild tree (the apostate Gentile Church).
The following passage from 1 Nephi informs us that the fulness of the Gentiles makes possible the grafting in of the ancient covenant people (Jews) into the Gentile church-
And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed— 1 Nephi 15:13
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 10:14
After the lengthy allegory, Jacob summarizes things by paraphrasing the setting forth of God’s hand a second time narrative from Jeremiah 31-
“And the day tht he shall set his hand again the second tie to recover his people, is the day, yea even the last tie that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh” Jacob 6:2
The solving of the great mystery by Jacob in the Book of Mormon parallels the solving of the same mystery by Paul in the New Testament. It is interesting to note that passages just prior to and following the passages that Joseph Smith quoted in the Saxton Letter address the exact same allegory that is provided in Jacob 5.
The Rejection of the Fulness by the Gentiles
In previous posts I have noted that the rejection of the fulness of the Gospel was complete by the end of 1834 when the Saints had failed to live consecration and the law of the gospel as documented in section 42.
After the dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham was secretly ushered in with the priesthood keys of restoring Israel on April 3rd 1836, the Lord commissioned the quorum of the Twelve Apostles to cross the great waters and promulgate the gospel as documented in Section 118 on July 8 1838.
The following statement of Joseph Smith on May 18 1840, identifies the two houses of Israel mentioned in Jeremiah 31 as the demographic that this new wave of missionary work was targeting.
“If there is anything calculated to interest the mind of the Saints, to awaken in them the finest sensibilities, and arouse them to enterprise and exertion, surely it is the great and precious promises made by our heavenly Father to the children of Abraham; and those engaged in seeking the outcasts of Israel, and the dispersed of Judah, cannot fail to enjoy the Spirit of the Lord and have the choicest blessings of Heaven rest upon them in copious effusions.” (Joseph Smith Jr., Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 195.)
All of this represents an amazing change in the trajectory of the church. After the Gentiles rejected the fulness in Kirtland, the knowledge of the Gospel was then taken to the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah. As this missionary work progressed, converts to the church from these two houses of Israel began gathering to Nauvoo and eventually to Utah.
To be continued…