Read part 1 and part 3 in this series
The average member incorrectly believes he or she is a gentile. Also, few members and missionaries realize that we are gathering literal Israel. That is, the children of Jacob as scattered throughout the world.
This is the second article of three on the gathering. If you missed the first read it here – The Gathering of Israel: Nothing of greater consequence!
Most of Israel—except for the tribe of Judah—does not realize her heritage. And even within Judah, there are other tribes mixed in as we shall see, especially that of Benjamin and Levi. Furthermore, many of Judah, also do not realize they are descendants of that tribe.
The gospel of Jesus Christ will be accepted first by Ephraim (and Manasseh is implied also) and eventually by all of the other tribes of Israel, and finally, by Judah. The book of Zechariah speaks much about the latter.
Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses 2:268–269, 8 April 1855) and Joseph Fielding Smith (Doctrines of Salvation 3:246) have made it clear that the majority who accept the Gospel are literal descendants of Israel. Is it not thrilling to know, as we do missionary work, that we are literally gathering Israel back in fulfillment of the promises in Deuteronomy 30:1–6? So also as we do vicarious work for our departed?
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “The Lord said he would scatter Israel among the Gentile nations, and by doing so he would bless the Gentile nations with the blood of Abraham. Today we are preaching the gospel in the world and we are gathering out, according to the revelations given to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets, the scattered sheep of the House of Israel. These scattered sheep are coming forth mixed with Gentile blood from their Gentile forefathers. Under all the circumstances it is very possible that the majority, almost without exception, of those who come into the Church in this dispensation have the blood of two or more of the tribes of Israel as well as the blood of the Gentiles.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957–66, 3:63.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith also declared: “The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1923, p. 1149). While this was especially the case in 1923, the number of converts from other tribes is beginning to grow. It was thrilling to hear Sister Wendy W. Nelson, as she spoke in the youth devotional of 3 June 2018, tell us how she met individuals from all twelve tribes in a trip to Russia and Armenia.
The rare person who is adopted into Israel—and I would not assume adoption unless the patriarchal blessing says so—will be just as much a partaker of the blessings given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as those who are direct descendants.
Gentiles, Gentile Nations, Heathen
Words can have multiple meanings. A few have the philosophy that words need to be translated in the same way throughout the Bible. Although this at first sounds quite laudable, the premise is flawed. Words in Hebrew also have multiple acceptations as do words in English, Spanish or any language.
Oftentimes, there are multiple words needed to provide a good translation—this is not an issue limited to biblical translation. Certainly, this is the case where words do not have an equivalent in the target language. For instance, the word sobremesa in Spanish has no equivalent in English. It means the time spent sitting at the table and chatting after people have stopped eating. Even where there are translations for a word, where there are multiple choices, the translator has to truly understand the context. Every translator thus becomes an interpreter.
That is why the approach is taken by the Amplified Bible (AMP) makes sense in that multiple acceptations of the original word are often used in the target language. In my opinion, however, there is no better translation into English than the KJV, speaking generally. But let us return to our topic.
The Hebrew expression הַגּוֹיִם, HA-Goyim, is variously translated as the heathen, the Gentiles, or the nations. Each of these words—heathen, Gentiles and nations—has a different meaning. The context of the word in Hebrew dictates the best translation.
The word heathen is often thought of as a strange, barbarian, uncivilized people or those who do not accept the God of the Bible (see Webster). A Gentile often means someone who is not a Jew, or someone who is a heathen or pagan (Webster). A humorous archaic definition of Gentile—as it is not used in real life among the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is “a non-Mormon.” I will use the term to distinguish those authors who represent both non-Jewish and non-LDS authors cited in my work.
There is a difference between Gentile and Gentile Nations. The word nation is often elliptical or implied when the word Gentile is used.
We read about the Gentiles taking the Gospel to Israel, but what is really meant is that the Gentile Nations will take the Gospel to Israel. The Prophet Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite (Journal of Discourses 2:268–69.), on the one hand, and a Gentile, on the other. Once again, to understand this we must comprehend that the Prophet Joseph Smith was born in a Gentile Nation. But the Prophet was a descendant of Israel through Joseph of Egypt.
When something positive is said about the Gentiles, it sadly seems to exclude Judah. In some instances, I would prefer if it said that these positive things would come upon the nations. It seems to me, at least, that it is more inclusive as the nations include both Jew and Gentile. Please remember, once again, that it is up to the English translator to decide how to render the word גּוֹיִם. This is, for instance, where I appreciate Leeser’s translation. Lest I be misunderstood, there are times when wonderful things are intended for the Gentiles, but more often than not, the Gentile nations are intended. And these are the descendants of Israel from the other tribes who are also scattered throughout the nations—but unless they have joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints they know it not.
In the Title Page of the Book of Mormon, we read that the Book of Mormon was: “Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile.” Meaning, by way of the Gentile Nations. Joseph Smith was the one who was to bring forth the Book of Mormon to the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after being restored, mostly sent missionaries from the Gentile Nations to the Gentile Nations. But these missionaries would be descendants of Israel who lived among the nations. And who would they go to? To the descendants of Israel among the nations, beginning with the tribe of Ephraim and ending with the tribe of Judah.
The most important point, once again, is that missionaries are going out to the nations of the world to gather Ephraim and his companions first and Judah and his companions next. All are to be invited to come unto Christ.
What tribes do the Lamanite nations come from?
According to Elder Erastus Snow, Joseph Smith taught that in the 116 pages of the lost manuscript, that Ishmael was a descendant of Ephraim (JD 23:184). From Alma 10:3 we find that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh. “And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren” (Alma 10:3).
The American Continent, then, was populated by at least three tribes, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah. The latter, by way of Mulek, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi had done so, and who formed the community of Zarahemla.
Because the sons of Lehi married the daughters of Ishmael, it follows that the descendants of the Lamanites might receive their blessings through either Ephraim or Manasseh but have both of these types of blood running through their veins. The third most common tribe in South America seems to be that of Judah. The tribe of Manasseh seems to generally predominate in Mexico in contrast to Chile, where more are from Ephraim.
There are at least two sources of Ephraimite blood; that which the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive from (1) the Gentile nations and that which they receive from the (2) Lamanite peoples.
The blood of Ephraim from the Gentile Nations was that which was spread forth after Assyria captured the Lost Tribes. The blood of Ephraim from the Lamanite nations was that which goes back specifically to the descendants of Lehi and Ishmael and their wives—which includes peoples from the American Continent as well as many of the isles of the sea.
In terms of our own patriarchal blessings, as has already mentioned, we most likely have multiple tribes running through our veins. We receive our blessings, however, through the tribe mentioned in our patriarchal blessing.
Israel’s Civil War
For the longest time, the children of Jacob were disobedient to the Lord “for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face” (Jeremiah 2:27b). The Lord even reminds them of the broken Abrahamic covenant: “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers (Jeremiah 7:23–26, emphasis added).
Likewise, in the Psalms: “Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God” (Psalm 50:7).
At the time of King David’s grandson, that of King Rehoboam, Israel was split in two by a civil war. This sad turn of events was a result of the iniquity that existed from the very top down, from the king to dignitary, from the common man to the false prophet. In the words of Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and honorable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail” (Isaiah 9:14-15).
The story of the actual split is fascinating. Jeroboam came to King Rehoboam and demanded better treatment on behalf of the northern ten tribes. Jeroboam said: “Thy father [i.e., King Solomon] made our yoke grievous: now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee” (1 Kings 12:4).
King Rehoboam acted wisely in asking for three days to think things over and give a proper response. He first sought the advice of the older men. They provided wise counsel: “If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7).
Rehoboam forsook the advice of the older men for those of his younger contemporaries. The latter advised that he speak to the people roughly, saying: “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:10b–11). Some have suggested that scorpions were whips with sharp flesh-tearing objects embedded in them.
The forceful answer was disastrous: “So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David” (1 Kings 12:16a).
Thus, the united nation composed of twelve tribes ceased to be. The ten tribes to the north were now governed by King Jeroboam, and they retained the title of Israel. They were also known by their most prominent tribe, Ephraim, as well as by their capital, Samaria (according to Rabbi Ibn Ezra, another reason for this honor is that Jeroboam, its first king, was an Ephraimite).
Meanwhile, King Rehoboam was able to retain the remaining two tribes (Judah and Benjamin and part of Levi). They were referred to by the name of Judah, their most preeminent tribe, and sometimes by Jerusalem, their capital. A hatred and jealousy developed between the northern and southern tribes.
In Isaiah 9:21, we read of the hatred felt by the north for Judah, as well as the internal squabbles between Ephraim and Manasseh. Truly Ephraim hated Manasseh and Manasseh, Ephraim. Both hated Judah and Judah hated them back. The outlook was bleak, to be sure.
Jehovah rejected as King
The downward spiral could be traced to an earlier time. Saul was made king over the twelve tribes during the times of the judges because the children of Jacob rejected Jehovah as her King in preference for an earthly sovereign. The people wanted to be like all the nations who surrounded them.
Samuel the Prophet felt rejected by the children of Israel in this thing. The Lord permitted the people to have their agency: “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee [i.e., give them the king that they think they want]: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7).
Why did Lehi and Ishmael live in Jerusalem?
While both nations did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, at first the Ephraimites (northern ten tribes) were much eviler than Judah (southern two tribes). Jeroboam, King of Ephraim, built a false altar and ordained a false priesthood (1 Kings 12:26–31).
Both Lehi and Ishmael belonged to the northern tribes of Israel yet they lived along with the tribes of Judah in Jerusalem. As we said, Lehi’s family heritage was of the tribe of Manasseh (Alma 10:3) while Ishmael’s was of the tribe of Ephraim (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:141).
Why is it that they were living in Jerusalem among Judah and Benjamin?
The most righteous who lived within the territories of Ephraim began to migrate south to Jerusalem, and thus we read: “Out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 11:16b).
We likewise read: “Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:11).
Also, we read: “And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh” (1 Chronicles 9:3).
The Bible, then, gives us a very good reason why Lehi and Ishmael were found in Jerusalem. The exodus of the righteous down to Judah left Ephraim (speaking of the ten tribes) in an even more idolatrous state.
Among the prophets sent to warn Ephraim (northern tribes), was Hosea. The Prophet Hosea was asked to call his son לֹא עַמִּי Lo-ammi (לֹא, Lo, not; עַמִּי, am, people, ammi, my people): “Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9).
Mark the words, “for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.” This theological ellipsis takes us back to Rain in Due Season and the promise that the Lord would honor our covenant-keeping by making us His people and be our God. But now the Lord is telling us that He is withdrawing because the children of Jacob broke the covenant. As much as the original promise makes me full of joy, these words are like a painful sword cutting through me.
There is good news, however, as not all is lost. In the very next paragraph the Lord tells us that in the last days,after the blessings and cursing had taken place (all of this elliptical), the Abrahamic Covenant would once again be instituted:
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10).
I call it the Hosea Principle. Any time that the Lord speaks with a strong admonition, it is followed by His tender mercies [חֶסֶד].
Christ taught His disciples to follow this very approach, “… showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved” (D&C 121:43b). The Savior repeatedly gives us the example in the scriptures.
The Lord reprimands: “They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity, they feel after me” (D&C 101:7–8). This admonition is followed by a very tender: “Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath, I will remember mercy” (D&C 101:9).
We might say with Alma, “My soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20b). The day would come when once more the Lord would say, “Ye are the sons of the living God.”
Scattering of Israel & Judah: Aholah & Aholibah
Ezekiel speaks of Ephraim and Judah as two wicked sisters, competing to outdo each other. He calls Samaria (capital of Ephraim) Aholah, and Jerusalem (capital of Judah), Aholibah (Ezekiel 23:4 ff.).
Ephraim was now at the verge of being taken captive by Assyria and being scattered all over Europe, Asia and Africa. These individuals would not be returning to the Holy Land but would be scattered all over. They would come to be called the Lost Tribes.
So it is that we read that “In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29).
Judah’s capture by Babylonia would follow about 120 years later and last for seven decades. Much of Judah would remain in Babylon and yet a remnant would return to the Holy Land. The promised Messiah would be born from within this returning remnant of the tribe of Judah, even Jesus Christ.
Of the Babylonian captivity of Judah ,we read: “The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive” (Jeremiah 13:19).
These scriptures in 2 Kings and Jeremiah are accompanied by many others. These events took place over a number of years.
After Christ’s death, Judah continued to be scattered, yet she was in part able to retain her national identity. Many of Judah—like her sister Ephraim—have lost their identity, however.
From the Book of Mormon, we read that there is a portion of the Lost Tribes who have also kept a record (2 Nephi 29:12–13): one which we will have in due course of time.
Lehi’s family escaped Jerusalem just before Judah was taken captive, and with the help of God, made sea vessels to travel to the American continent.
One way or the other, then, the children of Jacob were scattered to every continent, island of the sea, and corner of the earth. Her blood would be mingled with those of all the people upon the earth.
In Genesis 22:18a Abraham was told: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” One of the ways this would take place is that Israel’s blood would run through all the nations.
Early Patriarchal Blessings
The Holy Scriptures contain the patriarchal blessings of Joseph, as well as those of his brothers. We find a very important portion of Joseph’s patriarchal blessing in Genesis 49:22–26. Much less often, do we speak of his blessings given by Moses and found in Deuteronomy 33:13–17. I wish to quote the last of these verses: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh” (Deuteronomy 33:17).
These horns were to be used to gather Israel from all the nations of the earth. One Elder who served in Llanquihue, Chile, and with whom I shared these thoughts added, “Yes, one horn represents Ephraim and the other Manasseh.”
It would be the thousands of Manasseh and the ten thousands of Ephraim who would begin this great work. Certainly, with time, missionaries from all of the tribes would be united in this effort. President Russell M. Nelson, during the June 2018 worldwide youth devotional, invited the youth to be part of this great battalion who is gathering Israel on both sides of the veil. The prophet told the youth that nothing was more important in their lives at this moment than this gathering.
Blessings for Ishmael
The Lord, in his great love, will not leave anyone unblessed. We are told that Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother, would not be left without a blessing: “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac …” (Genesis 17:20–21a).
Writing to your posterity
If you were given an opportunity to write a letter to your great, great grandchildren and share your testimony of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—at a time when they had lost knowledge of Him—would not that be wonderful? And would not that be even more wonderful if your readers would be blessed with the Holy Ghost to know of the truthfulness of your testimony?
In essence, this is what the Book of Mormon is to the Lamanite nations. But this book is not just a blessing to those of Lamanite heritage, but to the whole world, to all the nations, to both the Jew and the Gentile nations—for the convincing of all that Jesus is the Christ.
Prophets speak of the gathering
The Jews, as we have said, divide the Holy Scriptures or Tanakh (תַּנַ”ךְ) into three discrete categories: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Prophets, נְבִיאִים or Nevi’im, are full of allusions, especially to the Law or Torah, תּוֹרָה.
Both the law and the prophets particularly testified of Christ. When the Lord visited the American continent He said: “And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me” (3 Nephi 15:10b). The Prophetic books are particularly important in this respect:
“Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me. And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (3 Nephi 20:24–25).
“And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things” (3 Nephi 23:5).
“And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles (3 Nephi 23:1–2, emphasis added).
There are a number of chapters in Isaiah that speak of the Book of Mormon, and we shall see in more detail as we enter our study. One of them is Isaiah 18, the subject of a a different article. In 18:7 we read of ambassadors of truth that have a great work to perform:
“In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts.” The present that is brought to the Lord are the converts from the twelve tribes of Israel. “To the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion.” This place, clearly, is the House of the Lord, even the Temple of our God. Mount Zion stands for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—and by extension, probably all the temples.
One of the greatest gifts we can give the Lord is to share His word with others and help others come unto Christ. Just as a baptism without confirmation is not complete, missionary work is not completed until the converts partake of the ordinances of salvation in the House of the Lord. Of course, each person has to also endure to the end in righteous living. So also, the work we perform for our departed in the House of the Lord.
A vital part of the gathering of Israel, then, is to help people go to the temple, and as the Prophet Joseph Smith said in our opening quote, to “prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings” (HC 5:422).
In the final article of three, we get to the most exciting point, how the Book of Mormon is used to gather Israel by the Lord himself.
And again – if you missed the first of this series here it is:
This article is an update of the introduction “Rain in Due Season,” in Isaiah Testifies of Christ.
 Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
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I love the sections where you had the header as a question instead of a statement! So interesting to learn why Lehi was living in Jerusalem!
Thanks so much, Hannah. The critics would have had a heyday with this one had the Bible not provided the answer for us. In fact, it would have been strange if they would have stayed in the northern area or Ephraim territory, when the Lord called them to leave for the American Continent. The Bible makes it clear that the faithful returned to Jerusalem after the nation of Israel was split by the civil war.