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Israel: Same name, two meanings

Explaining the difference between the nation-state of Israel and the gathering of Israel

Jerusalem's skyline
Dome and the Rock and the Western Wall, part of Jerusalem's skyline
Photo by Cristina Gottardi

The term “Israel” can refer to the nation-state in the Middle East, with Jerusalem as its capital. However, in Latter-day Saint theology, Israel has a broader and more spiritual connotation.

The concept of the Gathering of Israel is one of the central beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is not related to the politics of the nation-state, said Dr. Matthew Bowen, an associate professor in the Faculty of Religious Education.

On Oct 12, 2023, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement that says,

“We are devastated by the recent eruption of violence and loss of life in the Middle East. Violence of this nature is abhorrent to us and is not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gospel of peace. At such times, our hearts ache for all victims of this atrocity. As servants of God, we affirm that He calls upon all of us to love our neighbors as ourselves and we pray for a peaceful resolution of all conflicts.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website says the House of Israel consists of descendants of the ancient Israelites and lost tribes. The Gathering of Israel refers to Latter-day Saints gathering in Stakes of Zion, says the website. Elder Bruce R. McConkie is sourced on the webpage saying, “Zion exists wherever individuals gather together… through baptism and covenant.”