With imagery that speaks to all ages, Jeremiah prophesied of the last days: "Behold I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks" (Jeremiah 16:15).
The prophecy, of course, pertains to the gathering of Israel in the latter days after it has been scattered due to wickedness and unbelief. In verse 19, the prophet goes on to foretell that the Gentiles, or nations of the earth, shall come unto the Lord and say, "Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit." In so doing, these lineal and adopted descendants of Jacob will reject the idolatry and apostasy stemming from ancient Israel. In our day, that prophecy is fulfilled whenever anyone embraces the restored gospel of Christ.
The prophet Lehi, a contemporary of Jeremiah, spoke with plainness concerning this subject to his people in the promised land. As recorded by his son Nephi, Lehi taught that after the house of Israel was scattered, it would be gathered again when the Gentiles had received the fulness of the gospel. The scattered remnants of Israel would then come to a knowledge of the true Messiah and would be "grafted in" to the olive tree (see 1 Nephi 10:14).
In a striking allusion to the above-quoted prophecy of Jeremiah, Jesus told Peter and Andrew to follow Him and He would make them "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:18).
Later, of course, Christ would bestow upon Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" with the promise, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19). The wording here is reminiscent of that associated with the doctrine of the sealing power as given to Elijah (see 1 Kings 17:1) and Nephi son of Helaman (see Helaman 10:7).
It would follow, then, that God's will is accomplished and His kingdom rolls forth on the earth in that men and women receive priesthood ordinances and covenants that are sealed in heaven. Initially, these comprise baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and subsequently the ordinances of salvation and exaltation associated with the temple.
How then can we as individuals fulfill the latter-day charge to be "fishers of men"?
- Surely, we can pray that the Kingdom of God will spread forth on the earth; thus we unite our mind and will with that of God and Christ. But there is much more that we as Latter-day Saints can do and are doing to carry forth the gathering of Israel:
As parents, we can bring up our children in "light and truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:39), teach them "to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord," and prepare them for baptism for the remission of sins by the time they are 8 years old (see Doctrine and Covenants 68:26-27).
We can participate in missionary work by introducing our acquaintances to the gospel and by responding to calls as ward or full-time missionaries.
Through family history research and temple work, we can make the ordinances of salvation available to those who have died without receiving them in mortality.
We can pay our tithes and offerings. In so doing, we exercise the privilege of participating with our means in the gathering of Israel, as tithing funds are used for the administration of the Savior's church and in construction of temples and houses of worship. Offerings to the missionary fund directly support the worldwide effort to bring people to a knowledge of the Savior. And donations to the Perpetual Education Fund enable Church members in certain areas to more efficiently support themselves and their families, allowing them more time and energy to serve the Lord and participate in the work of the Kingdom.
We can diligently fulfill our callings and duties in the Church. Every position of leadership, of teaching, of clerical responsibility has as its objective to bring souls to Christ and nourish them with the good word of God.
Participating in the gathering of Israel is exciting and fulfilling work if we catch the vision as unfolded by prophets ancient and modern. As we do so, we prepare the way for the coming of the Son of God in glory.