Groups are very important to understand, they NEVER apply to any individual. A group could almost be considered a trend or a fashion for understandings sake. A lot of people are going to be doing it, in fact an entire generation may even be defined by it. But still, no one person is bound to it. Even if you were alive, you may not have been a hippie in the 60’s, and if you were part of the “greatest generation” that does not mean you were a war hero or helped build anything.
You are part of a gospel group. The Lord uses groups to tell us what is going to happen, in general, the same way I can say the 70’s were the disco era.
The Book of Mormon uses two groups as types – Lamanites and Nephites. They WERE groups then, but have become types now. You can be either, and the gentiles are both at different times. When you read it should become apparent that individuals even changed groups, but that the general prophesies applied to the groups. Read Samuel the Laminate for a classic example of this:
And he said unto them: Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people. (Helaman 13:5)
Note that Samuel is from one group, speaking to another group, but that people have been dissenting and changing groups lots. It’s really key to understand this so you know how groups are addressed. The people who comprise this group will not even be alive four hundred years hence, yet the message is addressed to the Nephites as a group.
The Book of Mormon concerns itself with three main groups. The Lamanites, who are referred to as a remnant of the house of Israel, the Jews, and the Gentile.
It is written TO the remnant mainly, but also to both the Gentile and Jew who will find it convinces them that Jesus is the Christ.
If you do not understand the groups in the Book of Mormon, your understanding is so severely limited that you cannot comprehend the messages in it. Period. The Lord uses them, and He does so for a purpose. To discount this is to fail to see the purpose behind the groups.
The main group for me is the Gentiles, because that is the group that currently designates the modern Church and to whom I belong. The remnant is important because it is they who will replace my group. To go forward with a study of Nephi and the Book of Mormon we have to first come to grips with and understand how groups are used and who we are.
We are the Gentiles. I hope that was clear. I am not sure how to drive this point home. This is perhaps the biggest impediment, to understanding the gospel and the Book of Mormon, that exists in the church today.
It is understandable how we have this misconception. We read our patriarchal blessings and see we are of the house of Israel. We know our missionary efforts are to gather Israel out of the world and we know we are gathered. We sing “Israel, Israel God is calling”, not “Gentiles, Gentiles”. We teach we are Israel.
Still, we are the GROUP in the Book of Mormon called the Gentiles. It can be confusing because the group includes both the church and the nations at times. For the most part, when speaking to us, the term is used to mean the church, but it does at times expand that designation to include the nations of the Gentiles.
There are so many things that assure us that we are the Gentiles that it would be worth an entire book, except that it is also so simple that it can be covered in a single verse.
Section 109 of the D&C is the dedication of the temple at Kirtland. According to the Prophet’s written statement, this prayer was given to him by revelation. Jumping to verse 60 it says:
Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles. (D&C 109: 60)
Okay, so here we are, this is the dedicatory prayer of the first restored temple on the earth in the dispensation of the fullness of time, given by way of revelation. So who is the “we” that have spoken these words, and who is the “us” who are identified with the gentiles? Simple isn’t it. no matter how else you look at it, that is us. Go back to verse one:
For thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people. (D&C 109: 1)
Who is the “we” that did this great work through tribulation… Again, it’s simple.
Just for the sake of a couple of witnesses, let’s jump to the Title page of the Book of Mormon, as written by Moroni. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained “The title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation” ( History of the Church, 1:71).
And see what it has to say:
The Book of Mormon is to be… Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile…
So, simply ask, who did the Book of Mormon come forth by as that term was used by Moroni. Again, simply he did mean us.
With this knowledge, we can really go forward and see what the book has to say to us and about our group.