Analysis of the terms “great,” “marvelous,” and “work” in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures reveals that the Lord’s work comes forth in a day when he manifests his power to an extraordinary degree. This manifestation of power happens in part because the righteous among the Lord’s people are being threatened by the wicked who are ripening for destruction. To counter that threat, the Lord endows his covenant people with divine power to preserve them from their enemies (Mosiah 1:13; 29:19–20; Alma 10:5; 57:26; Helaman 5:26). Moreover, the “great and marvelous work,” by its very nature, comes forth by the gift and power of God (3 Nephi 21:9–11; Mormon 7:9; Moroni 10:25). The work occurs when some come unto Christ and exercise faith as the brother of Jared did (Ether 4:7, 13). Such a spiritual condition comes as a blessing based on faithfulness—none can imitate it.
The “great and marvelous work” is itself a miracle and is accompanied by miracles (2 Nephi 27:21–23; 28:6; Mosiah 8:18; Mormon 9:15–16; Doctrine & Covenants 35:7–10). These miracles include certain small means the Lord provides that confound the wise (1 Nephi 16:29; Alma 37:6–7, 41; Ether 3:5; Doctrine & Covenants 8:8). They include healings, such as the Three Nephites and all the disciples of Jesus performed (3 Nephi 28:31; 4 Nephi 1:5; Mormon 1:13; Doctrine & Covenants 35:7–10). The Three Nephites themselves will be instrumental in the coming forth of the “great and marvelous work” among the Gentiles (3 Nephi 28:32). The wonders the Lord performed of old he will fully duplicate in our day (cf. 2 Nephi 3:24).
As shown in Nephi’s sequence, the “great and marvelous work” causes a final and universal polarization of the righteous and the wicked. In other words, it sets completely at odds those who repent from those who harden their hearts. In that day, all will discern clearly between the two (1 Nephi 14:7; 2 Nephi 30:10–18; Doctrine & Covenants 101:95). To the one, the “great and marvelous work” comes like a light, releasing them from darkness into the joy of the Lord (Mosiah 27:29; Alma 19:6; 26:3, 15; 36:20). To the other, it spells damnation (1 Nephi 11:36; Ether 8:23; Doctrine & Covenants 35:7–11; 84:97). The wicked, therefore, seek to destroy it (Mormon 8:21). According to Isaiah, however, the wicked are themselves destroyed by an archtyrant who in that day serves as the Lord’s instrument of wrath (2 Nephi 20:5–6, 12–15; 3 Nephi 22:15–17; cf. Isaiah 10:5–6, 12–15; 54:15–17).
The entire purpose of the “great and marvelous work,” therefore, is to restore the Lord’s ancient covenant people (1 Nephi 21:4–6; 2 Nephi 3:24; 3 Nephi 21:25–29; Doctrine & Covenants 38:33). It is to ransom the house of Israel, to preserve them from destruction in the Lord’s day of wrath (1 Nephi 1:13–14; 14:17; 2 Nephi 30:8–10; Alma 62:50) We find an important type for that end-time redemption in the sons of Mosiah’s conversion of the Lamanites (Mosiah 28:4–7; Alma 17:13–16; 19:36; 26:3, 15). After the sons of Mosiah had repented of their sins, they were filled with a desire to preach the gospel to their enemies (Mosiah 28:1–5). In the “great and marvelous work” of the last days, those among the Gentiles who repent fill the role of the sons of Mosiah. The Gentiles perform that role by ministering the gospel to the Lamanites (1 Nephi 22:8–11; Doctrine & Covenants 14:1, 10). They exemplify the mission of Joseph in Egypt, who ministered salvation to his brethren (1 Nephi 15:13–18; 2 Nephi 30:3–7; 3 Nephi 16:4–7). The Gentiles’ saving mission ensures the house of Israel’s deliverance in the Lord’s Day of Judgment upon all nations (1 Nephi 21:22–25; 22:6–19; 2 Nephi 30:3–10; 3 Nephi 16:4–5)
This ministry of salvation occurs when the Lord “set[s] his hand . . . the second time” to restore his ancient covenant people from their lost and fallen state (2 Nephi 25:17; 29:1; cf. Isaiah 11:11). The first time the Lord sought to restore his people, with only partial success, was in the Meridian of Time. The “second time” is the Lord’s day of power (2 Nephi 6:14; Jacob 6:2–3; Doctrine & Covenants 58:10–11) According to Isaiah, from whom this expression derives, the Lord’s “setting his hand the second time” results in a sudden and dramatic gathering of the house of Israel and the house of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:11–12). Isaiah in part likens this phenomenon to a new exodus (Isaiah 11:15–16). The term “hand,” like the term “arm” in the book of Isaiah, serves as a metaphorical pseudonym of the Lord’s servant. The Lord’s “setting his hand,” in other words, denotes the servant’s mission of gathering the Lord’s covenant people in the last days.
(From The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, 76–77.)