Free eBook: Getting Through the Storms in Life Mormonism

Enter Mormonism, and its belief that the “lost tribes” crossed the Atlantic prior to Columbus, an idea which attempts to shore up the creative historical account of the early Americas as found in The Book of Mormon.

Perhaps the most fantastical of all claimants to be Lost Tribes are in the Americas. The Indians’ supposed history as a lost tribe had saved them: in the early days of South American exploration there was debate as to whether they were human at all, or whether they could be killed like beasts. Only the belief in Indians as a remnant of the tribe of Reuben prevented an even more complete destruction. But how could a band of migrants from the Middle East have got there, two thousand years before Columbus? How could anyone believe anything quite so implausible? In fact, the story of the Lost Tribes is very much alive in the United States. Many Americans have pursued the belief to - or even beyond - its logical limits. The idea goes back to the early days of their nation. In 1837 Mordechai Manuel Noah published The Evidences of the American Indians being Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. He planned to establish a Jewish State, Ararat, near Buffalo, New York. His state came to nothing, but the vision of America as the destiny of the exiles from Armageddon has gained a power that affects the lives of millions. The story is tied to the visions of Joseph Smith and the history revealed to him by the Angel Moroni. According to the Book of Nephi, after a century of captivity the ten tribes escaped to the North. They passed through the unknown region of Arsareth and were then lost to mankind. Some of the theories as to where they now live are frankly speculative. They may be on another planet (as is the City of Enoch, which ‘was translated or taken away from the earth ... is now held in reserve, in some part or portion of space ... not yet revealed’). In 1842 Philo Dibble preserved a drawing made by the Prophet Joseph Smith himself showing the earth joined by a narrow neck to another sphere, home of the Tribes. A more plausible idea had it that the earth was hollow, with the tribes within. This theory was popular in the early nineteenth century, when a Captain Symmes had applied, without success, to Congress and to the Government of Russia for funds to find the entrance. Other Mormons believe the Tribes to be scattered among the peoples of the earth, lost only in identity, not in location. Brigham Young himself felt that ‘The sons of Ephraim are wild and uncultivated, unruly, ungovernable. The spirit in them is turbulent and resolute; they are the Anglo-Saxon race.’ Saxon does sound suspiciously like Isaacson and many Mormons believe themselves, because of Brigham Young’s words, to belong to the Tribe of Ephraim. Wherever they are, at the Second Coming, the tribes will return to the New Jerusalem to be built in Jackson County, Missouri. The Mormon Church studies the monuments of the Aztecs and the Maya in the hope of establishing a link with the Hebrew peoples they suppose to have built them. They have a centre for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem, where attempts are made to search for a connection of the peoples of the ancient world with today’s Mormons.1

In the Mormon doctrine of the return of the Jews to the Promised Land, the “lost tribes” will remain west of the Atlantic:

Gospel Principles, a manual published by the LDS Church for new members, says on page 263, “The Israelites are to be gathered first spiritually and then physically. They are gathered spiritually when they join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . . Thousands of people all over the world are joining the Church each year. These converts are Israelites either by blood or adoption. . . The physical gathering of Israel means that the Israelites will be ‘gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and established in all their lands of promise’ (see 2 Nephi 9:2). The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will be gathered to the land of America. The tribe of Judah will be returned to the city of Jerusalem and the area surrounding it. The ten lost tribes will receive from the tribe of Ephraim (in America) their promised blessings (see D. & C. 133).” . . . Mormons expect these “lost tribes” to return from the North because Joseph Smith said they would. On January 4, 1833, Smith said God commanded him to write the following: “And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation: pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. . . there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things which I have spoken, fulfilled” (History of the Church by Joseph Smith, vol. I, pp. 315-316).2

Restoration of the Lost Tribes—From the scriptural passages already considered, it is plain that, while many of those belonging to the Ten Tribes were diffused among the nations, a sufficient number to justify the retention of the original name were led away as a body and are now in existence in some place where the Lord has hidden them. To them the resurrected Christ went to minister after His visit to the Nephites, as before stated. Their return constitutes a very important part of the gathering, characteristic of the dispensation of the fulness of times. (Talmage, James E. A Study of the Articles of Faith. 12th ed., rev. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1970. pp. 340-341.)3


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