By Bishop Donald B. Owens
Volume 20, Number 2 May/Jun/Jul/Aug 2019 Issue No. 78
This article was written by Bishop Owens for another Restoration publication in 1988.
It is reprinted here with permission.
As a child, my first recollection of the use of the word remnant had to do with a “remnant bag” that was used to keep small pieces of material for the women of our family and community who worked these small pieces of material into quilts that often turned out to be major works of art.
We find this same term remnant used repeatedly throughout Restoration Scriptures to refer to small groups of those faithful to the calling of God and Christ to be a righteous, faithful, and obedient people in the face of an overwhelming majority who chose to ignore the Word of God. From the beginning of God’s dealing with mankind, He has chosen to work with relatively small groups, beginning with Adam and Eve, Enoch, Noah and his family, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It may not be entirely clear from the record whether God prefers to work with the few or simply recognizes the reality of human nature that large groups have a tendency to stray from those disciplines that enable them to commune closely with the Creator.
Noah and his family were indeed a small remnant of those dwelling on the Earth at the time of the great flood. The appeal to repent, and warnings as to the consequences of a failure to repent, were extended to the general population, but Noah and his family were the only ones to respond and make the necessary preparations.
At the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, only Lot and his daughters were spared as a remnant from those wicked communities.
The prophets of the nation of Israel often appealed to their brethren to repent and change their course as a nation or face destruction. These prophesies were often accompanied with some reference to a remnant being preserved even though the nation would be destroyed. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were active in their ministry during a time of great turmoil in Israel. The root cause of the problems Israel faced as a nation were directly related to their unfaithfulness to God and their disobedience to His commandments. Even in those turbulent times, when the leaders and a large majority of the people were in a state of rebellion against God, He continued to provide ministry through his faithful servants. Jeremiah was of the faithful remnant left in Jerusalem and continued to minister to the faithful remnant in Israel and also sent words of counsel to those in captivity. Ezekiel was among those taken captive into Babylon and he ministered there to the Lord’s remnant and all who would listen. The book of Daniel tells us of a faithful remnant of the Israelites, during this same period of captivity, and how the Lord watched over and used these faithful servants for his holy purposes in what many would consider impossible circumstances.
Another remnant of God’s children was led to safety during this same period of time. This was the family of Lehi, whose story is recorded in the Book of Mormon. At a point in time approximately 500 years after Lehi and his family were led from Jerusalem to the Americas, his descendants were reviewing their heritage as a remnant of the seed of Joseph, the son of Jacob. Moroni is quoting their record as it is recorded in Alma 21:56–57: “Yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death; for behold he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved, and had not decayed. And he said, Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my sons be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself… .”
The men that followed John the Baptist, who in tum became the core of Jesus’ disciples, were part of a remnant of a remnant. They were among those who watched faithfully for the “Consolation of Israel” prophesied by Isaiah and as such were a minority among the Jews who were in turn a remnant that had been preserved through many invasions, dispersions and occupations. It was with this small, faithful, and obedient remnant that Jesus went on to build his church and spread Christianity throughout the world.
It was with a small remnant that the Lord chose to restore his full gospel and church in 1830. When the majority of that body apostatized, another remnant was preserved and called to continue the Restoration in the 1850–1860 time frame. We suggest that a remnant is being called today to once again preserve and continue the work of the “Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
It is important in our own situation today that we take heart from the history of God’s dealing with the faithful in days gone by. Numbers and material wealth are not what qualifies us for the Lord’s work. Let us be faithful to our calling to preserve the restored gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, His holy ordinances, and the priesthood which He restored among us, and to represent Him and His Holy Father. If we live in obedience to the word of God and are valiant in our testimony that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God, I am sure we will be numbered with those faithful remnants of days gone by to dwell in the Kingdom of God.