I’ve been researching the usage of the word “Gentile” because I think it has different meanings for different people at different periods of time. For instance, I grew up in the LDS church, and associated “Gentiles” with those not of our same faith. I don’t know how I got that idea, so I’ve looked back into the history of the church, and found some discourses by Brigham Young and John Taylor where they used the term “Gentile.” Some of the times, it seems like the early members of the church used “Gentile” to refer to those outside the church. But, Brigham Young goes a step further, and in 1854, indicates that “Gentiles” are the disobedient:

No matter whether we are Jew or Gentile, as the two classes of people are called; though Gentile signifies disobedient people; no matter whether we believe in the Koran as firmly as we now believe in the Bible; no matter whether we have been educated by the Jews, the Gentiles, or the Hottentots; whether we serve the true and the living God, or a lifeless image, if we are honest before the God we serve. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2 JD 2:140, Brigham Young, Dec., 3, 1854

Yet it seems that the word “Gentile” was often used to describe those who were not part of the Mormon faith. As I did a word search in the Journal of Discourses I found many.  One example is Orson Pratt:

We need not think that we can get into any place where we will not be associated with the Gentiles; for the Lord intends that we shall be among them all through this mortal state, and even in the Millennium we find that there will be two classes of beings upon the earth. JD 3:74, Orson Pratt, July 8, 1855

Still, I guess there was confusion about who were the Gentiles during the early days of the church, because Brigham Young, tries to clear that up by saying the Gentiles are those who reject the Gospel:

I want, now, to say a few words with regard to a term that is frequently used in our midst. I refer to the term”Gentile.” I have explained this a great many times to the Elders both in public and in private, and I was surprised at the use made of the term this afternoon. “Gentile,” or “gentilism,” applies only to those who reject the gospel, and will not submit to and receive the plan of salvation. Will you remember this? It does not apply to any only those who are opposed to God and His Kingdom. When the Jews, as a nation, were in their glory,
they called the nations around them Gentiles. Why? Because they were opposed to the laws and precepts that the Lord, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, had revealed for the guidance of Israel. But it does not apply to this or any other nation, simply because they are not of our faith; and in fact, in these days, on account of their conduct, the term could be more properly applied to the Jews than to any other people; but it does not apply to them for they are of the chosen seed. Among the nations of the earth there is a great mixture, but there are many millions that we shall yet gather into this Church. JD 12:269 − p.270, Brigham Young, August 16th, 1868

We are identified with the Gentiles

Yet, we are of the Gentile nations, Joseph Smith said the Lord gave him the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, March 27, 1836, in which he says,

Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the GentilesDoctrine and Covenants 109:60

How Are Latter-day Saints Gentiles?

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Let us also remember that we are of the Gentiles! By this I mean that the Latter-day Saints have come to their blessings through the Gentile nations. President Brigham Young … said that Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite. This is true; yet Joseph Smith came also of a Gentile lineage. So do most members of the Church. We may boast of our lineage, and rejoice in the fact that Patriarchs have declared us to be of Ephraim, but at the same time let us not despise the Gentiles, for we are also of them. If it were not so the scriptures would not be fulfilled. [1 Nephi 15:13–14Ether 12:22.]” (Way to Perfection,p. 140.) (ref)

I am probably guilty of claiming to be an Ephraimite, since my patriarchal blessing declared such. I recall telling my Jewish friend that we were both of the tribe of Israel. In reality we Ephraimites are quite a mix. We are from the Gentile nations even though, I found out in my DNA test that I have 2% European Jew.

Nephi explains how we are the Gentile nation that brings the gospel forth in the latter days:

And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed— (1 Nephi 15:13)

Compare the usage of “Gentile” in 1828 and 2017:

Webster’s Dictionary in 1828:

GEN’TILEnoun [Latin gentilis; from Latin gens, nation, race; applied to pagans.]

In the scriptures, a pagan; a worshipper of false gods; any person not a Jew or a christian; a heathen. The Hebrews included in the term goim or nations, all the tribes of men who had not received the true faith, and were not circumcised. The christians translated goim by the Latin gentes, and imitated the Jews in giving the name gentiles to all nations who were not Jews nor christians. In civil affairs, the denomination was given to all nations who were not Romans. (ref)

Meriam Webster Dictionary 2017:

Definition of gentile:

1. often capitalized :a person of a non-Jewish nation or of non-Jewish faith; especially :a Christian as distinguished from a Jew
3. often capitalized :a non-Mormon

I became interested in the meaning of “Gentile” when I read

Brigham Young’s prediction that the Gentiles will be just as mistaken about Jesus’ second coming as the Jews were about his first (JD 8:115), might forewarn us of a similar test awaiting “us, who are identified with the Gentiles” (Doctrine & Covenants 109:60). (Gileadi)

Brigham Young spoke about the Character of God and Christ, July 8, 1860:

When he [Christ] again visits this earth, he will come to thoroughly purge his kingdom from wickedness, and, as ruler of the nations, to dictate and administer to them as the heir to the kingdom; and the Gentiles will be as much mistaken in regard to his second advent as the Jews were in relation to the first. The eyes of the Gentiles are like the eyes of the fool, wandering to the ends of the earth. They are deceived, blinded, and far from understanding the things of God. All who would understand the things of God must understand them by the Spirit of God. JD 8:115, Brigham Young, July 8, 1860  

Perhaps, instead of assuming we are above the Gentiles, we need to be reminded that we could miss the Great Day of the Lord, since it was so easily missed by the Jews when Christ came to them. Hindsight is always so clear.