D&C 45:24–30 . What Are the “Times of the Gentiles” and When Are They Fulfilled?
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “the times of the Gentiles commenced shortly after the death of our Redeemer. The Jews soon rejected the Gospel and it was then taken to the Gentiles. The times of the Gentiles have continued from that time until now. The Lord said: ‘But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.’ In that day the Gospel was given first to the Jews and then taken to the Gentiles. In this dispensation it was taken first to the Gentiles and afterwards it will go to the Jews.” ( Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:196.)
The times of the Gentiles began with Peter’s vision and the baptism of Cornelius (see Acts 10 ). Paul and the other Apostles then began the great missionary work to the Gentiles, since the Jewish nation, for the most part, had rejected Jesus. As President Smith indicated, the times that the major gospel effort would be with gentile nations continued with the Restoration. The times of the Gentiles will be over, or fulfilled, when the major efforts of gospel teaching begin to focus on the house of Israel: the Lamanites, the Jews, and the ten tribes.
In the Olivet Discourse, the Savior gave four signs to indicate when the times of the Gentiles were over. Three are given in section 45, and one is given in Luke’s account of the great discourse.
1. The Jews will be gathered back to the land of Jerusalem (see D&C 45:25 ). In the April 1960 general conference, Elder George Q. Morris of the Quorum of the Twelve discussed this sign:
“I think perhaps we may well now not continue saying the Jews are going to gather in Jerusalem. I think now we may well say they have gathered . The ultimate returns will come later as they develop this land and are joined by others. . . .
“This statement by a writer is very interesting:
“‘Strangely enough when the State of Israel was reborn in 1948, it was a nation of 600,000, the same number which the Bible reports that Moses led out of bondage in Egypt. It now numbers some two million, the same number which it is said populated the ancient Kingdom of Solomon, when Israel was in all its glory.’
“That is why we may now say that the Jews have returned to Palestine.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1960, pp. 100–101.)
2. It will be in a time of great social turmoil (see D&C 45:26–27 ). One need only follow current events as reported in the news media for a day or two to see turmoil like the Savior described.
3. The Gentiles will for the most part reject the gospel (see D&C 45:28–30 ). President Joseph Fielding Smith, writing about these verses, said: “‘And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my Gospel,’ the Lord said in this revelation [ D&C 45:28 ]. The meaning is that when the time had come for the restoration of the Gospel—in the times of the Gentiles—that it would not be perceived because the hearts of the people are turned away by the precepts of men. However, in that generation this should happen, the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled.” ( Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:196.)
4. Jerusalem will no longer be “trodden down of the Gentiles” ( Luke 21:24 ). Again President Smith explained: “When we consider the words of the Savior to his disciples, that the Jews should be scattered and ‘Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,’ we have a fair understanding of the meaning of this . . . verse [D&C 45:30] in this revelation. Jerusalem was trodden down of the Gentiles from the day of its destruction until the close of the year 1917, when it was freed from Turkish rule by General Edmund H. Allenby of the British forces. After the war Palestine became a British mandate, and Great Britain by proclamation declared that country to be a refuge for the Jews, who were invited to return. . . . It is very significant, however, that Jerusalem is no longer trodden down by the Gentiles and the Jews are again gathering there. This is the sign given by our Lord, for the end of the times of the Gentiles. We are now in the transition period and shortly the day of the Jew will dawn and the Gospel will be taken to them and to the remnants on this land.” ( Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:196–97.)
When Joseph Fielding Smith wrote those words in 1947, Israel had not yet been made a state; they were still under the British mandate. But on 15 May 1948, Israel became an independent nation and declared Jerusalem to be her capital. In the war that followed this declaration, the Jews could maintain control of western Jerusalem only. East Jerusalem became part of the state of Jordan. In general conference in 1966, Elder Smith, now President of the Quorum of the Twelve, said: “Jesus said the Jews would be scattered among all nations and Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. ( Luke 21:24 .) The prophecy in Section 45, verses 24–29 , of the Doctrine and Covenants regarding the Jews was literally fulfilled. Jerusalem, which was trodden down by the Gentiles, is no longer trodden down but is made the home for the Jews. They are returning to Palestine, and by this we may know that the times of the Gentiles are near their close.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1966, p. 13.)
During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and for the first time since the city fell to the legions of Titus in A.D. 70, Jerusalem came completely under the control of a Jewish government.
D&C 45:30–31 . Why Is the Fulfilling of the Times of the Gentiles So Significant?
The fulfilling or closing out of the times of the Gentiles is one of the great signs given by the Savior in answer to the question of the disciples, “What is the sign of thy coming?” ( JS—M 1:4 ). Doctrine and Covenants 45:31 shows its great significance: “There shall be men standing in that generation [in which the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled] that shall not pass.” That language is almost identical with the Savior’s warning to the Jews, as he recounts in verse 21 , and the fulfillment will be just as sure (see Notes and Commentary for D&C 45:21 ).