At the conclusion of his earthly ministry, Jesus commanded the remaining apostles to take his gospel into all the world. He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt 28:17-20). The apostles obeyed and preached the Saviorís message throughout the Roman Empire and beyond its borders, gathering multitudes into the infant church.
Jesus originally commanded his apostles to seek scattered Israel. He told them, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and enter ye not into any city of the Samaritans. But rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mat 10:3-4). Surprisingly, the apostles continued to fulfill the latter portion of this commandment when they preached the gospel to the Gentiles. This is because God had previously dispersed ancient Israel among them. As Gentiles believed and obeyed, Israelites living among or near them, many of whom had lost their national identity, were also converted to Christ.
Unfortunately, the church that Jesus organized when he was personally on earth gradually departed from its original teachings shortly after the ministry of the apostles. Paul had warned, "After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). The departure was so severe that the church lost its commission and fell into apostasy.
The apostasy of the church hid the clarity of Christís gospel and interrupted the divine power attending its ministers. Those who embraced the church after it changed could no longer witness many manifestations of the Holy Spirit or hear the pure teachings of the Savior. Since most Israelites joined the church after its apostasy, they never enjoyed all the promises vouchsafed in the gospel.
God had promised to make a new covenant with Israel. Through Ezekiel he said, "For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them" (Ezek 36:24-27). That promise has remained unfulfilled and could only be completed after the Reformation and the establishment of America as a land of freedom.
Just as God called and sent prophets to ancient Israel, he called and sent his prophet to latter-day Israel, lately restoring his church in its primitive and pristine power and adorning it with its profound and sublime teachings. As the ancient apostles once called the repentant to be baptized in water for a remission of sins and receive the Holy Ghost through the laying on of their hands, God commissioned latter-day apostles to baptize for the remission of sins and give the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands. The return of Christís church and the restoration of the gospel provided the opportunity in these last days for scattered Israel to be cleansed from sin and have Godís Spirit placed within them. Now, the descendants of many Israelites whom the apostles could not personally visit may obey the gospel and enjoy its blessings.
The resuscitation of the ancient promise was only one of many covenants that God restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. The Lord said, "Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember" (Lev 26:42). Moses revealed that Godís remembrance of those covenants would happen seven times (or 2520 years) after Israelís punishment began (Lev 26:24-25). The restoration of Christís church marked the end of Israelís punishment. It terminated the time of their dispersion (Dan 12:7) and was marked by the revelation of "closed up" words, as Daniel said (Dan 12:9), or a sealed book, as Isaiah predicted (Is 29:11-12). The Book of Mormon restates many of Godís covenants with former Israel and was specifically written by ancient prophets for portions of Hebrews who left the Promised Land separate from either the Assyrian of Babylonian captivities. It forms the keystone of Godís restoration work.
The mission of the church is to preach the restored gospel, gathering believers into its fold and uniting them with the covenants of the Lord. There they find remission of sins and the abiding gift of the Holy Ghost. There they find an anchor to their faith and guidance for their Christian walk. By the power of the Spirit as it moves among them, they are lifted into heavenly places and commune with those whose rest is already won. As the church proclaims the gospel, it fulfills the Saviorís great commission and readies the world for his personal return.
Among those believers gathered into the restored church have been and will continue to be descendants of Israelites. Some are still sown among the Gentiles and others strewn in various corners of the world, having lost their identity. As they hear the gospel preached and obey the ordinances, they will be cleansed and formed into a holy community, even Zion, to which the Savior can return in clouds of glory and over whom he may reign in millennial glory.