Gathering Israel One by One
By Lauren Madsen
One by one. It is how the Savior healed the blind and caused the lame to walk during his earthly ministry.
One by one. It is how the Nephites approached the Savior to feel the nail prints in his hands and feet.
One by one. It is how the Savior blessed each of those Nephite children.
One by one. It is how the Savior gathers his sheep.
I remember sitting in a Relief Society meeting as our stake president told us about President Russell M. Nelson’s recent visit to our stake conference. President Nelson sat on the stand and as he looked over those in the congregation he would lean over and ask the stake president about different individuals right up until it was his turn to speak. After reading One by One by Elder David A. Bednar I have learned that this attention to the one is common among all general authorities. When they are on assignment and come to speak to thousands, they are speaking to thousands of “ones”. Some have even been known to leave meetings early to go give an individual a blessing.
These same leaders have urged us time and time again to participate in the gathering of Israel and have explained that it is the most important work we can do on earth. I love the expanded definition President Nelson has clarified in recent years: “When we speak of gathering Israel on both sides of the veil, we are referring, of course, to missionary, temple, and family history work. We are also referring to building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work, and serve. Anytime we do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—to make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping to gather Israel.”
In this world determined to measure success in a variety of ways, from likes and followers to awards and medals, we have to keep in perspective what is really asked of us in helping to gather Israel and what our “success” will look like. We need not feel overwhelmed that we have to influence as many people as possible for good. I like to look at President Nelson’s teaching with one small adjustment: “Anytime we do anything that helps any ONE--on either side of the veil--to make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping gather Israel.”
My mom once taught me a trick to help me avoid becoming overwhelmed by my to-do list. She held her hand up and spread her fingers out in front of me, “When you look at each of your fingers as a task and you see them all at once, it feels like so much. But if you turn your hand to the side you only see one finger at a time. Take your list just one task at a time and I think you will feel like you can handle it.”
I think this idea can apply to gathering Israel too. We might look at people all around us and wonder how we can possibly help them all make and keep covenants. But what if we just look at the person in front of us instead?
The child who needs help saying their bedtime prayers.
The neighbor who needs to know they are loved not only by us but by God as well.
The spouse who is struggling with an addiction.
The friend who has wandered away from the fold.
Elder Bednar wrote, “I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. . . In this individualized work of the ministry, the Savior frequently relies upon us to deliver His tender mercies.”
Our lives are full of “ones” who need our help, our love, our attention, and our understanding. There is some ONE you are meant to meet. There is some ONE who needs to hear the words you speak. There is ONE soul you’re custom-built to love. There is some ONE’s life you can help save.
Focus on THE ONE as the Savior did, and you will be doing all you can to help in this most important work of gathering Israel.