“The Nations and Kingdoms of the Gentiles”

Monte S. Nyman

One of the first questions to be answered is: “Who are the Gentiles?” Jesus answered this question when he visited the Nephites after his resurrection. He defined them as those who believe “in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father” (3 Nephi 16:6). Lehi had taught his sons that after the Messiah “should rise from the dead, (he) should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 10:11). In Jerusalem, after his resurrection, he instructed the eleven apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:14–15). Prior to this time they had been instructed to “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, … But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5–6). In the last year of his mortal ministry, Jesus taught the Pharisees a parable of the sheepfold at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem:

1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. [John 10:1–5]

In interpreting his own parable, Jesus said: (John 10:14–16).

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

John records that the Pharisees “understand not what things they were” in the parable (John 10:6).

Jesus told the Nephites that those in Jerusalem “because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word” (3 Nephi 15:18). He then explained:

21 And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.
23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.
24 But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me. [3 Nephi 15:21–24]

The apostles, after Christ’s ascension into heaven, took the gospel through parts of Asia and into Europe, the homes of the Gentile nations. As the apostles taught the gospel to them, the Holy Ghost bore witness of Jesus Christ, and many were converted. However, the apostasy came, and many pagan beliefs were adopted into the Church. These beliefs led to the formation of many separate Christian denominations. Some of these forms of Christianity were adopted by the various nations as their state religions. Thus these Christian nations would be the “nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles” shown to Nephi (vv. 1–3).

Book of Mormon Commentary: I Nephi Wrote This Record