With a basic understanding of Israel’s covenants, it is easier to understand how these covenants have shaped Israel’s history, especially in the context of Nephi’s vision. This will be done by first reviewing the House of Israel as a whole, and then each of its subgroups separately. At the conclusion of this review the context of Nephi’s vision will make more sense, as will certain underlying themes throughout the Book of Mormon. Each subsequent section of this book will build upon the groundwork laid out in this review.
The House of Israel
The House of Israel is comprised of the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons, namely: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), and Benjamin. When Moses brought Israel to the promised land he sent a scouting party to go before the main body of Israel. The scouting party was gone for forty days. Upon their return, all but two of the party’s members were terrified of the inhabitants of the land, and did not believe that the Lord could deliver Israel from them – despite all they had hitherto witnessed. As a consequence of their unbelief, Israel was made to wander in the desert for forty years, one year for every day the party was gone.[i]
While wandering, the host of Israel were commanded of the Lord to form four encampments, which would become the four camps of Israel. Each camp was to place their tents so that they faced the tabernacle. Each camp was comprised of three tribes. Judah, Issachar and Zebulon, comprised the camp of Judah and was located to the east of the tabernacle. The Camp of Ephraim consisted of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin and was located to the west of the tabernacle. The camp of Reuben was to the south of the tabernacle and consisted of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. The camp of Dan was located to the North of the tabernacle and consisted of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. Each camp had a unique ensign, or symbol, emblazoned on a banner. The ensign of each camp was as follows: Judah- a lion, Dan- an eagle, Ephraim- an ox, and Reuben- the head of a man. [ii] The placement of the camps of Israel and their standards are rich in symbolism.
With an understanding of this symbolism certain passages and references in the scriptures make much more sense. Consider the following passage taken from the first chapter of Ezekiel wherein he sees four amazing craft that he has trouble describing. He describes them as appearing as a wheel within a wheel. The crafts Ezekiel describes are seen coming to earth from terrible heights in the heavens. When the four wheels arrive to earth Ezekiel expounds upon the occupants of all four craft with the same peculiar description:
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.[iii]
The description of these occupants without context is strange indeed, however when considered in the context of the House of Israel it makes more sense, the number of craft, the number of faces, and the faces themselves are all symbolic of the camps, the banners, and the armies of Israel. Similar symbolism is referenced throughout the scriptures and will be touched on again in other sections of this book in greater detail. Thus we see both iconic symbolism with the tribes of Israel, as well as numeric symbolism. Both the number twelve, and the number four are associated with the House of Israel, twelve for the tribes, and four for the camps of Israel.
Continuing on, once Israel finally inherited the land the Lord had covenanted with them, they lived as a united people, in varying degrees of righteousness, until the death of King Solomon. After the death of King Solomon, because of wickedness, the twelve tribes of Israel fractured into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. A prophetic account of this fracture was given by Ahijah the Shilonite, to Jeroboam the future King of the Kingdom of Israel – those that would become the Lost Ten Tribes. An abbreviated scriptural account of that prophecy follows:
And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: and Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: and he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee:[iv]
Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.[v]
And unto his son [Solomon’s son Rehoboam] will I give one tribe [Judah], that David my servant may have a light always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that [which] is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not forever.[vi]
Accordingly, ten tribes followed Jeroboam and created the Northern Kingdom of Israel with Samaria being their capital city. The tribe of Judah stayed in Jerusalem under the reign of Rehoboam. The ten tribes to the North, and Judah that stayed behind account for eleven of the twelve tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi was not allotted a geographical inheritance.
Only unto the tribe of Levi he [Moses] gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.[vii]
Rather than a physical location, Levi’s inheritance was the Aaronic priesthood. Aaron and Moses were Levites.[viii] It is apparent from the scriptural record that the tribe of Levi was present in both the Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but their presence did not impact the geographical boundaries of either Kingdom, as did the inheritances associated with the other tribes, which could be the reason only eleven tribes were identified in this instance. Therefore, today the House of Israel can be identified in three sub-groups: Judah, the House of Joseph, and the Lost Tribes of the Kingdom of Israel.
Judah struggled to keep their covenants depending upon the righteousness of the king. Under the righteous leadership of the young king Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, Judah cleansed the temple and re-sanctified themselves to the Lord. They extended this invitation to sanity themselves to the Northern Kingdom of Israel as well, but all but a small portion of the House of Joseph mocked their offer of returning to the Lord, within five years of this invitation the Assyrian army destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel and carried them off captive. Assyria tried to do the same to Judah, and would have succeeded had in not been for Judah’s return to their covenants.
The Armies of Assyria flooded the lands of Judah, coming up to the very gates of Jerusalem- an army 180,000 soldiers strong. At the gates of Jerusalem the Assyrian’s mocked both Judah and Israel’s God, but Judah’s faith in the Lord was stronger than their norther brothers, and they called upon the Lord for deliverance. That night, the Lord sent a destroying angel to the camps of the Assyrians and all 180,000 soldiers died in their sleep. Judah was preserved while the ten tribes were lost. The deciding factor: their choice to stand in holy places and honor their covenants.
Unfortunately, the rising generations were not as faithful as their fathers, and their covenants and their God no longer was a priority in their lives. In the days of Jeremiah the prophet, around the same time that Lehi [Manasseh] was being led by the hand of the Lord out of Jerusalem, Babylon was threatening to destroy Judah and Jerusalem. The chapter heading to Jeremiah 17 provides some timely insight into both the events of their days and our own.
The captivity of Judah comes because of sin and forsaking the Lord—Hallow the Sabbath day; doing so will save the people; otherwise they will be destroyed.
The reader should consider the emphasis our leaders have placed upon temple attendance, standing in holy places, and keeping the Sabbath day holy. These things were of great significance to our fathers immediately preceding a season of great trial, is it just coincidence that these things are being emphasized once again? Judah did not head Jeremiah’s call and the Jews were taken into captivity around 587 BC. The Jews remained in captivity for 70 years, until the prophet Nehemiah (Ezra’s contemporary) cried out to the Lord, in the remembrance of Israel’s covenants. Consider what he said:
I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.
We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man [the king of Babylon]. For I [am] the king’s cupbearer. [ix]
Nehemiah cried out in the sincerity of his soul to the Lord and asked Him to remember the covenants He made with Israel- the same ones we reviewed in the previous chapter. As a result of the Jews humbling themselves before the Lord and remembering anew these covenants, not only did the Lord soften the heart of the King of Babylon, He inspired the king to finance their return and the rebuilding of the city, and even the temple.
Unfortunately for the Jews, the later generations did not continue in the covenants, but rather mirrored a cycle of wickedness similar to that of the Nephites. The church morphed from a saving institution, into a contingency of the Great and Abominable Church – seeking power, riches and status above all else. This continued until approximately 70 AD when the Jews were destroyed and scattered once again, after they had crucified the Great Jehovah and persecuted, imprisoned, and killed His followers. This time the Jews were scattered among all the nations of the earth, and remained in that condition for more than 1,800 years.
It was not until the atrocities of World War II, after the systematic slaughter of six million Jews, that the movement to re-establish their ancestral homeland would gain worldwide momentum. On the 14th of May, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and once again established the kingdom of Israel. After 2,000 years of exile, Judah was gathered back to his ancestral home. On March 3rd, 2015 Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, spoke before a joint session of congress and stated the following:
America and Israel share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope.
We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves. This is why, as Prime Minister of Israel, I can promise you: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand!
There is no tribe of Joseph, but rather the House of Joseph consists of two tribes, Ephraim, and Manasseh. This stems back to the blessing given by Jacob, the father of the tribes, to Joseph’s two sons. This is found in the book of Genesis and reads as follows:
And now, of thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt, before I came unto thee into Egypt; behold, they are mine, and the God of my fathers shall bless them; even as Reuben and Simeon they shall be blessed, for they are mine; wherefore they shall be called after my name. And thy issue [Joseph’s future children] which thou begettest after them [Manasseh and Ephraim], shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance, in the tribes; therefore they were called the tribes of Manasseh and of Ephraim.
The above passage is very peculiar in that Jacob, effectively seals Joseph’s two oldest sons to himself, stating that only the children after Ephraim and Manasseh would be considered Joseph’s offspring in the sight of the Lord. I believe that rather than being an demeaning gesture, Jacob was elevating Joseph seemingly above himself, making him not only a father of a House of Israel, but as we shall shortly see, the father of the Birthright son of the whole House of Israel, elevating newly created tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh above all other tribes. The passage continues:
And Jacob said unto Joseph, When the God of my fathers appeared unto me in Luz, in the land of Canaan; he swore unto me, that he would give unto me, and unto my seed, the land for an everlasting possession. Therefore, O my son, he hath blessed me in raising thee up to be a servant unto me, in saving my house from death; in delivering my people, thy brethren, from famine which was sore in the land; wherefore the God of thy fathers shall bless thee, and the fruit of thy loins, that they shall be blessed above thy brethren, and above thy father’s house;
For thou hast prevailed, and thy father’s house hath bowed down unto thee, even as it was shown unto thee, before thou wast sold into Egypt by the hands of thy brethren; wherefore thy brethren shall bow down unto thee, from generation to generation, unto the fruit of thy loins forever; for thou shalt be a light unto my people, to deliver them in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down under sin.[x]
In the above passage Jacob explicitly states that Joseph has been raised above Jacob and all his house in the sight of the Lord. He further acknowledges that the House of Israel owes its physical deliverance from destruction and famine to Joseph, and states that in the future the House of Joseph will once again deliver that House of Israel from spiritual darkness and destruction when they are oppressed by the yoke of sin – think restoration and proclamation of the gospel in the Latter-days. The brazen sea, or baptismal font that rested upon the backs of twelve oxen, symbolizing the tribes of Israel, were all cast using the symbol of the camp of Ephraim – an acknowledgement that in a future day the salvation of the House of Israel, both the living and the dead, would come at the hand of Joseph. It would come during another time of great famine, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord”.[xi] The sons of Joseph would bear the light of the restored gospel. The account between Joseph and his father continues:
Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.[xii]
From these verses it is clear that the House of Joseph is given a special mission of salvation to the other tribes of Israel, with Ephraim receiving the birthright.[xiii] It also seems clear that the elevated status of these two will come from the work of salvation they will bring about for their brethren. With Ephraim, more than any other tribe, serving as the Ensign bearer for the latter-day restoration. All other tribes of Israel (Manasseh included) directly or indirectly, will receive the gospel at the hand of Ephraim.[xiv] Confirming Christ’s words to his apostles, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant”.[xv]
The American origins of both Manasseh and Ephraim are documented in the Book of Mormon. Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh.[xvi] In addition we can infer that latter-day Ephraim came to America as the “Gentiles that went up out of captivity”. Never does the Book of Mormon explicitly state that Ephraim and the Gentiles are one and the same, but rather it is implied that Ephraim is a subgroup among the Gentiles.
The term Gentile is of Jewish origin and denotes a non-Jewish people. In the case of the Book of Mormon, given that the remnant of Manasseh writing the book came from Jerusalem and closely related to the teachings and customs of Judah, they perpetuated this non-Jew tradition. Interestingly enough, www.dictionary.com defines a Gentile as being either a non-Jew, or a non-Mormon.
From the Jewish perspective, latter-day Ephraimites living amongst Gentiles were themselves considered Gentiles and are referred to as such. Therefore, as we have discussed previously, it is by the fruits of these groups that they are known. Among all the affiliated Israelite groups, no group has responded to the restored gospel like the House of Joseph. It would appear that while the Lord Himself would restore the gospel, He would use the House of Joseph to gather Israel to the standard He had raised. Consider the following verse:
Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days. And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land. For, verily I say that the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out.[xvii]
The Remnant of Jacob – Lost Ten Tribes
In spite of the promise made to Jeroboam by a prophet of the Lord, the Northern Kingdom of Israel lived in a continual state of rebellion. They neither remembered the Lord their God, nor kept His commandments. They preferred the deaf and dumb idol gods of other nations – perhaps because they required nothing of them. Therefore, as stipulated in their covenants, approximately 200 years after becoming a kingdom unto themselves, they were destroyed and carried off into bondage. This destruction came to pass in the days of Isaiah, 721 BC. They were conquered, with a remnant being carried off captive into Assyria.
It is unclear precisely how long this remnant of Jacob remained in captivity. It is, however, clear that around 632 BC, a Babylonian lead coalition attacked Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, which ultimately lead to the complete destruction of the Assyrian empire. To me this seems a likely trigger point, but whether corresponding with the fall of the Assyrian Empire, or at some other time, it is evident that a large body representing the Ten Tribes of Israel left Assyria and headed North. This information comes to us from the Apocrypha. In this account, the prophet Ezra had a vision of the Second Coming of the Lord, wherein he sees a large group of people and queries his angelic guide about them and is provided with the following answer:
Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land.
And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow places of the river. For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. Then dwelt they there until the latter time[xviii]
This fascinating account states that this group took “counsel among themselves” that they would keep their covenants, which they had never before kept. According to the promises of the covenant, in the day that they remembered the Lord and kept their covenants, he would again remember and bless His people, and make them a holy nation. It appears that must have been the case. Rather than returning His people back to the land of their inheritance, as He would do with the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, the Great Jehovah intended to do something else. He led them North, to a new land, where never before had man set foot. We do not know where the land of Arsareth is, only that the Lost Ten Tribes will dwell there until the latter-days, at which time they will return.
Archeological and DNA evidence clearly demonstrates that man had already inhabited Europe, Russia, Siberia and even the Artic Circle long before the Lost Ten Tribes left Assyria. As the Apocryphal account clearly states they were traveling Northward to a place where “never mankind dwelt”, none of these locations could therefore qualify as the land of Arsareth under a literal interpretation of the scripture. Where then could these have gone to be where never before man had dwelt?
The belief that the Lost Tribes, like the people of Enoch, were taken from the earth was common among the early members of the church, and seems to have its origins in the teachings of Joseph Smith. Consider the following verse written by Eliza R. Snow which was included in the 1905 Hymnal of the church.
And when the Lord saw fit to hide
The ten lost tribes away,
Thou, earth, was severed to provide
The orb on which they stay.[xix]
Also consider the following two separate journal entries from the journal of Wilford Woodruff regarding this subject.
President Young said he heard Joseph Smith say that the Ten Tribes of Israel were on a Portion of Land separated from this Earth.[xx]
The evening was spent in conversing upon the subject of the Ten Tribes in the North Country…. a portion of the North Country containing the ten tribes may be separated from the Earth. O. Hyde and others believed they would soon return.[xxi]
While none of these accounts should be interpreted as authoritative statements, they do demonstrate that prominent members of the early church considered such an option as a real possibility. It is my opinion, that an Enoch-like separation of these people, while incredible, is also the most scripturally harmonious theory I have found. It also may be the reason the Lord included the following otherwise odd reference in the covenants discussed in the previous chapter: “Though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence”.[xxii]
Although there remains a shroud of mystery regarding the location of this group, it is crystal clear from the Exodus migration, that when the Great Jehovah is leading His covenant people, nothing is impossible. We know they went North. We know the Lord led them. And we know they left in a large body. From Nephi we received further insight into this group. Consider the following verses:
For behold, I [Jehovah] shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the House of Israel, which I have led away, [confirming what we learned from the Apocrypha] and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.[xxiii]
These verses discuss the three groups we know to make up the House of Israel, all of which existed in the past as independent bodies of people: Judah – the Jews, the House of Joseph – the Nephites, and the Remnant of Jacob – the Lost Ten Tribes. The fact that these groups have scriptures further implies that each group continued as a body long enough to have accumulated a noteworthy scriptural record. Regarding these verses, the Apostle James E. Talmage made the following prophesy from the pulpit in General Conference in October 1916.
The ten tribes shall come; they are not lost unto the Lord; they shall be brought forth as hath been predicted; and I say unto you there are those now living—aye, some here present—who shall live to read the records of the Lost Tribes of Israel, which shall be made one with the record of the Jews, or the Holy Bible, and the record of the Nephites, or the Book of Mormon, even as the Lord hath predicted.[xxiv]
In October 2016, this prophecy will have been given one hundred years ago. Presently, approximately 2% of the population lives to be one hundred. According to the Gerontology Research Group, there have only been 226 Americans that have ever lived to be 112 years old. Therefore, in order for Elder Talmage’s prophecy to be accurate, the return of the Lost Ten Tribes will not only happen in our day, but must be imminent.
Another latter-day prophet – Joseph Fielding Smith, made the following statement regarding these Lost Ten Tribes:
The Ten Tribes were taken by force out of the land the Lord gave them. Many of them mixed with the peoples among whom they were scattered. A large portion, however, departed in one body into the North and disappeared from the rest of the world. Where they went and where they are we do not know. That they are intact we must believe, else how shall the scripture be fulfilled? There are too many prophecies concerning them and their return in a body for us to ignore the fact.[xxv]
According to President Smith, the Lost Tribes of Israel are comprised of two separate groups. The first is comprised of those that stayed and mingled among the people and nations wherewith they were scattered. The second was a large group that was led out of the land by the hand of the Lord. This latter group left in a body, they were in a body at the time of Christ’s post resurrection ministration,[xxvi] and they will return from Arsareth in the latter-days in a body.
As stated by this prophet, there are many scriptures that refer to the Lost Ten Tribes returning in a body. Of their return, we know that they will return from the direction they left, North. However, from a prophetic perspective, the most distinctive feature of their return seems not to be the direction from whence they come, but rather the miraculous nature in which they do. Consider the following reference to the return of the Lost Ten Tribes, given by the prophet Jeremiah, Lehi’s contemporary:
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the House of Israel out of the North country.[xxvii]
Note again the use of the term “led” associated with this group. If the Lord led this group away in a miraculous fashion as attested to by multiple accounts, and returns them in the latter-days in a miraculous fashion that will overshadow even the miracles associated with the exodus of Egypt, it is fair to say that the whole world will together know of their return. Further insight regarding this group comes to us from modern scripture. Consider the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:
And they who are in the North countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep. Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.[xxviii]
These verses are packed with information regarding the return of the Remnant of Jacob from the North. First, this again confirms that the Ten Tribes will return as a body, with their prophets at their head. Second, their return is likewise described as being miraculous, with the appearance of a highway being cast up out of the great deep. The term “great deep” leaves much to the imagination, especially in light of Moses’ reference to a portion of Israel returning from the outmost parts of heaven.[xxix] Third, the returning remnant will come in power, subduing their enemies, which we can presume are the enemies of the God of Israel. Fourth, it is consistent with the understanding we obtained from Jacob regarding Ephraim and his adopted brothers and fellow tribesmen, with the Lost Tribes bowing (falling down) before Ephraim. Fifth, while this account only generally alludes to the place from whence this host comes – “North countries”, it is quite specific about the location to which they will return, at least initially.
These verses provide three separate locational references that when taken collectively all point to the same location. These are the three identifiers: the children of Ephraim, the boundaries of the everlasting hills, and Zion. The first of these is easily identifiable; there is no other known location on the planet that houses more Ephraimites than the United States of America. The second, the everlasting hills are likewise associated with the United States, and Utah specifically. The term “everlasting hills” is used only twice in scripture. The first time Jacob blesses Joseph that his seed will inhabit the everlasting hills,[xxx] and the second in the verses above. If you are unfamiliar with this phrase, tune into a broadcast of the Spoken Word, the nations oldest continual broadcast. Each broadcast closes with the following phrase: “Again we leave you within the shadows of the everlasting hills.” Lastly, according to the Bible Dictionary, Zion is associated with the North and South American continents generally, and with the United States specifically. In other words, the Lost Tribes of Israel, their prophets, and their records will, at least initially, come from a highway out of the great deep to the children of Ephraim in the United States.
The above accounts paint the picture of a miraculous return, an event of an incredible nature. Recall that the Bible dictionary confirms this fact by stating the following regarding the return of this mighty host.
Since their captivity [the Lost Ten Tribes] have never yet returned to their homeland, but extensive promises and prophecies speak of the time when they of the “north countries” shall return when they are ready to obey the gospel. The gathering of the lost tribes is to be a more spectacular event than the children of Israel coming out of Egypt in Moses’ day.[xxxi]
The purpose of the Remnant of Jacob’s return is an underlying theme that will be discussed at great length throughout this book. For purpose of this summary, it appears that the Remnant of Jacob will come as a precursor to the Second Coming. Consider the following verses from Jeremiah regarding this remnant:
The portion of Jacob [remnant of Jacob] is not like them [vain of the world]; for he [Jehovah] is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the Lord of hosts is his name. Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms.[xxxii]
Likewise consider the following from Jesus Christ during His discourse to the Nephites:
And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—Then shall [they], who are a remnant of the House of Jacob, go forth among them; and [they] shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and [they] shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. [Their] hand shall be lifted up upon [their] adversaries, and all [their] enemies shall be cut off.[xxxiii]
Between Jeremiah and Jesus Christ we understand that the Remnant of Jacob shall destroy the wicked. The verses before these likewise describe the enemies of “they who are in the Northern countries” as being destroyed. The points briefly touched on in this summary shall be greatly elaborated upon within this book, for now this summary will suffice.
The map below represents the current understanding of the locations of the known tribes of Israel, namely the House of Joseph, and the tribe of Judah. While there are members of various tribes scattered throughout the world, this map is meant to show where the largest known bodies are located, defined by populations of a million or more.
The above map has some interesting similarities with how the Lord organized the camps of Israel around the tabernacle when they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. According to the Lord, Judah was to camp on the east of the tabernacle and Ephraim and Manasseh were to camp on the west side of the tabernacle. [xxxiv] The following is one interpretation of the configuration of the Camps of Israel from the scriptural account.
I do not believe that this placement is coincidental. The Lord knew long ago that the House of Joseph would receive their ultimate inheritance in the West, and that Judah’s would be to the East. We know this from the words of Zachariah the prophet, who prophesied regarding the latter-days, particularly regarding the salvation of the Jews.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in mine eyes? Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country.[xxxv]
Ephraim has settled in the location Nephi stated the Pilgrims would arrive.[xxxvi] Manasseh is located in Central and South America, where Nephi saw that the Conquistadors would arrive among the seed of his bretheren.[xxxvii] Outside of these areas, there are no known concentrations of people affiliated with the Tribes of Israel in groups exceeding 1,000,000 as of the date of the publication of this book. This is not unexpected as Nephi noted that such would be the case, consider the following verse.
And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.[xxxviii]
President Joseph Fielding Smith enhanced our understanding of Nephi’s prophecy. Consider the following regarding his prophecy regarding the location of the faithful in the last days:
I can testify that when the Lord will come, he will find faith upon the earth. That faith, however, which he will find, shall be limited to a very small portion of the inhabitants of the earth, He will not find faith in the nations abroad to any noticeable extent; He will not find faith among the peoples of the earth who have not received the gospel as it has been restored. But there will be faith among those of the House of Israel who have been gathered out from the nations and who have repented of their sins and received the message that came through the Prophet Joseph Smith.[xxxix]
Great are the covenants that the Lord has made with the House of Israel. He is a covenant-making God and He wants a covenant-keeping people. The Lord does not enter into a covenant lightly, nor does He expect His people to.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.[xl]
In the past, Israel became obsessed not with keeping the covenants they had made with the Lord, but with being a chosen people. Whenever Israel kept their covenants they prospered, whenever they broke their covenants and ripened in iniquity, the Lord of the vineyard would clear the vineyard of the unproductive vines and branches cumbering the ground to make way for productive ones. As this has been the example in the past, so we can expect it to be in the future.
Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me.[i]
[i] D&C 97:8
[i] Numbers 14:34
[ii] Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament. 1:660
[iii] Ezekiel 1:10
[iv] 1 Kings 11:29-31
[v] 1 Kings 11:33
[vi] 1 Kings 11:36,38-39
[vii] Joshua 13:14
[viii] Exodus 4:14
[ix] Nehemiah 1:5-11
[x] JST – Genisis 48:5-6
[xi] Amos 8:11
[xii] Genesis 48:10-20
[xiii] 1 Chronicles 5:1 Jeremiah 31:9
[xiv] 2 Nephi 3
[xv] Mathew 23:11
[xvi] Alma 10:3
[xvii] D&C 64:34-36
[xviii] 2 Esdras 13:40-46
[xix] Eliza R. Snow- 1905 hymn book no. 322 5th verse
[xx] Waiting for World’s End, The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, 1993, p. 291
[xxi] Waiting for World’s End, The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, 1993, p. 238
[xxii] Deuteronomy 30:1-4
[xxiii] 2 Nephi 29:12-13
[xxiv] Conference Report October 1916 Page 76
[xxv] Joseph Fielding Smith, Way to Perfection, p. 130
[xxvi] 3 Nephi 17:1-5
[xxvii] Jeremiah 23:7-8
[xxviii] D&C 133:26-34
[xxix] Deuteronomy 30:1-4
[xxx] Genesis 49:22-26
[xxxi] Bible Dictionary – “Israel, Kingdom of”
[xxxii] Jeremiah 51:19-20
[xxxiii] 3 Nephi 20:15-16
[xxxiv] Numbers 2
[xxxv] Zachariah 8:6-7
[xxxvi] 1 Nephi 13:13, 16-19
[xxxvii] 1 Nephi 13:10-12; 14
[xxxviii] 1 Nephi 14:12
[xxxix] Doctrines of Salvation 3:10
[xl] Ecclesiastes: 5:4-5