Thursday, April 10, 2008

The end of the time of the gentiles

The fulfillment of the "Times of the Gentiles"
by Trafford R. Cole

As a church we believe that the “Time of the Gentiles” is the time that the gospel will be preached to the gentile nations (Christian nations). ‘The fullness of the time of the gentiles” began with the restoration of the gospel to Joseph Smith, and the fulfillment of the times of the gentiles will be when the gentile nations refuse the gospel, which in turn will be preached to the House of Israel.

I first was confronted with the idea that we are close to the end of the times of the gentiles during my oldest son’s mission to Greece in 2000. Besides being thrown into prison various times by the authorities, he was spit upon, taunted and abused by the Greeks. This is not exceptional in this mission and happens to most of the missionaries, however, my son is 6’ 7” and is big. You have to be very angry to want to taunt him or spit on him! In the more than 15 years that the Greek mission has been opened no more than 15 Greek members have been baptized. There are members there from Albania, the Philippines, Bulgaria, Kosovo and other nationalities, but not Greeks.

This has made me look closer at Italy. In Italy over the last fifteen years there is the same unsettling tendency. Few Italians anymore accept the gospel and are baptized. In the Padova ward we have had one Italian family baptized in the last 15 years and they immediately became inactive. Most of the baptisms of recent years have been Nigerian or from other African countries or immigrants from east Europe such as Moldavia, Romania, Kosovo, or Albania. My youngest son who is now on a mission in the Rome mission so far has taught the lessons to a woman from Congo, one from the Philippines, a Nigerian and a Romanian. He says that Italians listen to the gospel message, are convinced, but then decide that they don’t want to change their life style.

The same tendency is true throughout Italy and most of Europe. In our ward about half of the members are from other nations, and we have some branches and wards that are entirely made up of members from South America or Africa.

This makes for interesting cultural mixtures. For example our bishop is Armenian and his wife is from Colombia. There are about eight different languages spoken in our ward and one of the big problems is teaching everyone Italian so they can accept a calling. I will talk more of the problems and opportunities this entails in future posts. The question remains however, are we at the end of the times of the gentiles? What do you think?


Shirley Bahlmann said...

Do you live in Italy? (We only have one language in our ward in Utah.) This is an interesting message. I've never studied this before, but you make some good points that prompt me to agree with you that, at least in your experiences, it does look like the end of the gentiles.

Trafford R. Cole said...

Yes, I have been living in Italy for the last thirty-five years. It has been an amazing experience.

Tiki Warrior said...

I enjoyed your posts. Insightful. I am on a HC here in SLC and an OW as well. I love seeing faithful saints everywhere. I will be in Italy in July and will see the beauties of your region. Keep the faith. If ther e is anything that I can ever do for you, contact me.

Mark Tylka