“Gathered to their fathers”
There are two curious phrases used in the Old Testament: when a man passed away he was “gathered to his people” or “gathered to his fathers.” Those phrases were, in a sense, euphemisms for “died”—a nicer, softer way to express the stark reality of death. Here are five examples:
“And [Jacob] charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my father in the cave [of Machpelah]” (Genesis 49:29).
“Aaron shall be gathered unto his people” (Numbers 20:24).
(It is recorded that the Lord said to Moses:) “Get thee up into this mountain . . . unto mount Nebo . . . and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people” (Deuteronomy 32:49-50).
(The Lord said to good king Josiah:) “Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace” (2 Chronicles 34:28).
The notion of being gathered to his people or his fathers is a clear hint that all of us will, upon leaving this mortal world, come face to face with “our people,” our ancestors. The phrase “gathered to our fathers” is also a subtle hint that we should do something about that relationship while still here in mortality. The scriptures poignantly present to us the divine injunction to be about our Father’s business, and about our ancestors’ business—to know their names, and to know something of their lives. As we come to know them, we come to love them and appreciate them. Time spent getting acquainted with them is one way we honor them.
Borrowing some words from Isaiah, addressed to those who have “joined themselves to the Lord” and “taken hold of His covenant”:
“Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
“Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their . . . sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar” (Isaiah 56:5, 7, emphasis added).
I noticed that the Prophet Joseph Smith expressed the same idea as Isaiah—using similar words—in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple:
“We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy house, to all generations and for eternity” (D&C 109:24, emphasis added).
I want to be among those who remember the people who have laid the groundwork for my mortal life.