(Isa. 49:18; refer in this text to 2 Ne. 21:10–12)
The essence of the gathering is the gathering to the covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as Nephi taught (1 Ne. 10:14)—the same covenants that God made with Israel’s great ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because such phrases as “the gathering of Israel” usually refer to joining the Church, the idea of a physical return in the scriptures may often be a metaphor for returning to the covenants, accepting the gospel, and joining Christ’s church. Geographical relocation plays a lesser role. Today the gathering of Israel is taking place as individuals from all over the earth are gathering to the Church in their own lands. And Gentiles—those who are not of literal Israelite descent—are equally welcome.
(Kent P. Jackson, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4, ed. Kent P. Jackson [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 142–43.)
The gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church and their coming to a knowledge of the true God… . Any person, therefore, who has accepted the restored gospel, and who now seeks to worship the Lord in his own tongue and with the Saints in the nations where he lives, has complied with the law of the gathering of Israel and is heir to all of the blessings promised the Saints in these last days.
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,ed. Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 439.)
In the scriptures there are set forth three phases of the gathering of Israel. One, the gathering of Israel to the land of Zion which is America, this land. That is under way and has been under way since the Church was established and our missions abroad were inaugurated. Then two, the return of the lost tribes, the ten lost tribes, from the land of the north (see D&C 133). And the third phase is the reestablishment of the Jews of Palestine as one of the events to precede the second coming of the Master.
(Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 91.)
One of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, through the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, is the gathering of Israel (of whom the Lamanites constitute a part) … when … there will be none to molest or make afraid; when He will turn to them a pure language, and the earth will be filled with sacred knowledge, as the waters cover the great deep; when it shall no longer be said, the Lord lives that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but the Lord lives that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither He has driven them. That day is one, all important to all.
(Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ, 2:357.)
Not many of the Jews, I take it from my reading of the scriptures, will believe in Christ before he comes. The Book of Mormon tells us that they shall begin to believe in him… .
But in the main they will gather to Jerusalem in their unbelief; the gospel will be preached to them; some of them will believe. Not all of the Gentiles have believed when the gospel has been proclaimed to them, but the great body of the Jews who are there assembled will not receive Christ as their Redeemer until he comes himself and makes himself manifest unto them.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, ed. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–1956], 3:9.)
And thus shall Israel come: not a dark corner of the earth shall remain unexplored, nor an island of the seas be left without being visited; for as the Lord has removed them into all corners of the earth, he will cause his mercy to be as abundantly manifested in their gathering… . He will, as he said by the prophet, (Jer. 16:16) send for many fishers and they shall fish them; and after send for many hunters, who shall hunt them; … with glad tidings of great joy, with a message of peace, and a call for their return… .
Though the house of Israel has forsaken the Lord, and bowed down and worshipping other gods, … they will know the voice of the Shepherd when he calls upon them this time; … God is preparing the way for their return… .
What is to be fulfilled in the last days, is not only for the benefit of Israel, but the Gentiles, if they will repent and embrace the gospel, for they are to be remembered also in the same covenant, and are to be fellow heirs with the seed of Abraham… .
In consequence of the transgression of the Jews at the coming of the Lord, the Gentiles were called into the kingdom, and for this obedience, are to be favored with the gospel in its fulness first, in the last days; for it is written. The first shall be last, and the last first. Therefore, when the fulness of the gospel, as was preached by the righteous, upon this land, shall come forth, it shall be declared to the Gentiles first.
(Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate, Apr. 1835, 111.)