“I Will Give Thee for a Light to the Gentiles”

Bryan Richards

Who was this 'light to the Gentiles'? We have already seen that the term is appropriate for the Savior, 'the light of the world' (John 8:12) and for Paul (Acts 13:47). But let's consider for the moment how this scripture also applies to Joseph Smith. Joseph of Egypt was told, 'But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word' (2 Nephi 3:11). Two other scriptures which confirm this include Moroni's statement regarding Joseph Smith, 'blessed be he that shall bring this thing (the Book of Mormon) to light' (Mormon 8:16), and the D&C, which teaches that those who administer the priesthood in the last days (obviously Joseph Smith is the best example) are blessed, 'Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel' (DC 86:11).

""D&C 86:1Section 86 of the Doctrine and Covenants was revealed to Joseph Smith in December of 1832, only two and one-half years after the organization of the Church. It is one of many revelations that grew out of the Prophet's study of the Bible…Perhaps Joseph had never considered the fact that he might have been mentioned in scripture by biblical prophets. Nonetheless he certainly knew by this time that the infant latter-day Church was the kingdom of God and that its continued success was sure. "D&C 86:8"D&C 86:9"D&C 86:10"D&C 86:11Doctrine and Covenants 86:8-11 made known yet other truths that brought greater emphasis to the mission of the Prophet and his work. Among other things, it brought to light the fact that Joseph Smith and his fellow workers of the lineage of ancient Joseph were the fulfillment of the great revelation recorded in "Isa. 49:1Isaiah 49. It seems, in fact, reasonable to conclude that the 'Israel' mentioned in Isaiah's prophecy refers to the specific tribe that was to preside in the last days—the tribe of Ephraim. At the head of that tribe—and presiding under the Lord's direction over latter-day Israel—stands the Prophet Joseph Smith. "Isa. 49:1Isaiah 49 speaks of him and of the church that was restored through his service.
"A few brief comments regarding some key phrases in Isaiah's words will enable us to understand the prophecy and its fulfillment.
"'Called me from the womb' (v. 1): From the days of the Patriarchs, ancient Joseph and his descendants had been singled out to stand at the head of the house of Israel (see "Gen. 37:5"Gen. 37:6"Gen. 37:7"Gen. 37:8"Gen. 37:9"Gen. 37:10"Gen. 37:11Gen. 37:5-11; "Gen. 48:13"Gen. 48:14"Gen. 48:15"Gen. 48:16"Gen. 48:17"Gen. 48:18"Gen. 48:19"Gen. 48:2048:13-20; "Gen. 49:2649:26; "Deut. 33:16"Deut. 33:17Deut. 33:16-17). This was their foreordained calling. An important part of that calling included the challenge to be saviors of their brethren of Israel, just as their forefather Joseph had been a temporal savior in ancient times. Jeremiah prophesied concerning Ephraim's role in the latter-day gathering. As presiding tribe, it would be he who would announce to all that the time of the gathering and return had come ("Jer. 31:6Jer. 31:6)…
"'A polished shaft . . . in his quiver' (v. 2): Joseph Smith himself provided an interpretation that may show the fulfillment of this scripture: 'I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else . . . all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.' Thus Joseph Smith viewed himself as a polished shaft in the Lord's quiver, perhaps in direct fulfillment of Isaiah's words.
"'To bring Jacob again to him' (v. 5), 'to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel' (v. 6): As has been discussed already, it was the commission of the birthright children of Joseph to bring about the gathering of Israel in the last days. Ephraim's leader, Joseph Smith, was the one to whom the keys of the gathering were restored ("D&C 110:11D&C 110:11), and it will be under the authority of those keys that the gathering will continue. Jeremiah explained that it would be 'the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim' that would cry, 'Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God' ("Jer. 31:6Jer. 31:6). In modern revelation the Lord has affirmed that 'they who are in the north countries' will return and receive their blessings under the hand of 'the children of Ephraim' ("D&C 133:26"D&C 133:27"D&C 133:28"D&C 133:29"D&C 133:30"D&C 133:31"D&C 133:32"D&C 133:33"D&C 133:34D&C 133:26-34). Today it is, with extremely few exceptions, the children of Ephraim and his brother Manasseh—who constitute the Lord's Church—who are taking the gospel message to the scattered remnants of Israel and who thus are gathering their brethren.
"'A light to the Gentiles' (v. 6): Nephi and others taught how the great blessings of the last days would be made available not only to the house of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well (see "1 Ne. 22:8"1 Ne. 22:9"1 Ne. 22:10"1 Ne. 22:111 Ne. 22:8-11). Indeed, the gospel is to be taken by Ephraim and his brethren in the dispensation of the fulness of times to all people (see "JS~M 1:31JS-M 1:31; "D&C 42:58D&C 42:58). Once again, the tribe of Ephraim and Joseph Smith stand out as the main participants in this work. In the fullest sense, Jesus Christ is the 'light'—not only to the Gentiles, but to all nations. The Church today has a commission to bear his message; thus it reflects his light.
""D&C 86:1Section 86 (vv. 8-11) clarifies Isaiah's prophecy and identifies Joseph Smith and his co-workers of the tribes of Joseph—the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—as the fulfillment of these words from Isaiah. These are they 'with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of [their] fathers—For [they] are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God' ("D&C 86:8"D&C 86:9D&C 86:8-9). Having been foreordained long ago to this calling, and having inherited it through lineal descent, Ephraim's children now are no longer 'hid from the world' ("D&C 86:9D&C 86:9) 'in the shadow of [the Lord's] hand' but are at the forefront of the Lord's work in the last days: to restore scattered Israel to the covenant blessings, and to bring the message of the gospel to the Gentiles. The Lord concluded his revelation to Joseph and the Church: 'Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel' ("D&C 86:11D&C 86:11)." (Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 328-330.)