Speaking to a gathered multitude in the ancient Americas, the resurrected Christ declared, “I will gather my people as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor” (3 Nephi 20:18). Like in this statement, much of scriptural history is marked by God’s purpose to gather and redeem His chosen people. However, the idea that God might have a chosen people, a group uniquely privileged to enjoy His care and attention seems to cut against the idea that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). If we understand God’s relationship with and definition of His chosen people, though, we may begin to see that His purpose really is to gather and save all of His children—not just a select few.
The basis of God’s relationship with His people comes, at least in part, from the covenant that He made with Abraham, as recorded in Genesis: “And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly…. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and they seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Genesis 17:2, 7). Covenants are mutual promises wherein two or more parties accept certain conditions. Here, God promised Abraham that He would bless and prosper him and his posterity if Abraham fulfilled his end of the covenant by obedience to God’s commandments.
But, while God made His covenant with Abraham and His posterity, it is clear that God did not mean to restrict His richest blessings to a single family. We see this truth dramatized vividly in the New Testament: “But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:7-9). John makes it clear that the true focus is not on lineage but on character, obedience, and “fruits meet for repentance.”
For us, then, this means that we have access to God’s richest blessings—not because of our family history or national identify, but because of our faithfulness and willingness to make and keep covenants with God. The covenant of baptism for example, an ordinance available to any one of God’s children, entitles us to be “redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [we] may have eternal life” on the conditions that we be “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and all places” (Mosiah 18:9).
Salvation and its attendant blessings are not reserved for a select few, chosen at the whim of a capricious God. Our status as part of God’s covenant people depends much more on us than on Him, for He is ready to welcome all who will come into His fold. Only we can exclude ourselves from His blessings by refusing them, by rejecting Him and His covenants and deciding instead to walk in our own ways. But, even if we have rejected Him once before, we can turn anew to God, accept the conditions of obedience and return to full fellowship in our covenant relationship with Him, for “he inviteth [us] all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).