Hitherto, I have made an attempt to demonstrate that the revelation of both Isaiah and John support and expound upon that which was seen by Nephi in his great latter-day vision. I would now like to demonstrate how the sermon Christ delivered, through express commandment of the Father, to the Nephites, also ties back to Nephi’s great vision. Included in Nephi’s narrative of his vision is the following direct quote from the pre-mortal Messiah:
For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.[i]
As this verse is found in the heart of Nephi’s vision, it is reasonable to assume that the plain and precious truths the Lord was referring to would be in relation to the things Nephi saw in his vision. From this we learn that Nephi was not only instructed by an angel of the Lord, but by the pre-mortal Messiah himself – some 600 years prior to His birth. Apart from this verse we do not have a record of what Christ shared with Nephi, but it is clear from Nephi’s subsequent commentary regarding his vision, that he knew much more than he wrote. It cannot be a coincidence that both Nephi and the Savior spend so much of their time on this subject, nor that both Nephi and Christ reference both Isaiah and John.
The ministry of the risen Savior to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas comprises nineteen of the chapters in the book of Third Nephi. His American ministry begins at the Temple Mount, where he delivers the same sermon he gave back at the Galilean Mount. He then performs miracles, prays with the Nephites, and teaches of baptism and the Holy Ghost. He institutes the sacrament and teaches them what His church should be called. This part of His message takes up less than half of the written record. What is the rest of His message? It is spectacular, but seldom studied in depth!
His message relates to the gathering of Israel in the latter-days, and is the clearest discourse on the subject matter in all the scriptures. His message is so straightforward that it can be easily understood sequentially as it is written. Therefore, rather than studying select passages from multiple chapters, I will go through Christ’s entire discourse verse by verse in the order in which they appear in the Book of Mormon.
Christ’s message concerns America and the modern-day gathering and restoration of the House of Israel. As we have noted previously, when we are discussing these gathering events, there are distinct groups we need to consider, namely- the Gentiles, the Remnant of Jacob that will return in a body, those of the House of Israel that are scattered among all nations of the earth, the House of Joseph, and the Jews. For clarification purposes, it will be beneficial to identify these groups in the language that Christ uses prior to examining the Lord’s message in greater detail.
House of Joseph – Members of the church often refer to the Native Americans as Lamanites. This is a stereotypical reference rather than a genealogical degree. Among the Lamanites are remnants of many different groups of people – Mulekites, Nephites, Jaredites, and probably even others not specified in the record. This is not to say that there were not those of other tribes among them. Nor does it require that all present were literal descendants from Abraham – any of the surviving Jaredites were not. Whether by adoption, literal decent, or a geographical reference, the Lord associates the American remnants as being affiliated with the tribe of Joseph. Consider the following verse:
Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people, who are a remnant of the House of Joseph.[ii]
To better understand the above verse, lets contrast it with another verse regarding another remnant. Consider the following:
The remnant shall return, yea, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.[iii]
When Christ refers to the Nephites he refers to them as “A remnant of the House of Joseph”, not “The remnant of Joseph”, as Isaiah does “The remnant of Jacob”[iv]. This may seem a minor difference, but it is actually profound. “A” is an indefinite article, implying more than one, whereas “The” is a definite article, implying singularity. The Lord, whose collective wisdom rivals the combined wisdom of all of the other sons and daughters of God combined, does not use words lightly. He used the indefinite article before “a remnant of Joseph”, because there is more than one remnant of Joseph.
Of all the tribes of Israel, only Joseph was subdivided into two half tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. Therefore the Lord must be implying that the ancient American remnant is affiliated with one, rather than both of these. The following scripture from Alma teaches us which of these is meant. Consider the following verse:
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.[v]
As all the remnants of ancient America were generally called after the name of the son of Lehi they chose as their leader, namely Laman/Lamanites or Nephi/Nephites, so were they likewise associated with the tribe of Manasseh, from which all Lehi’s sons descended. The Lamanite and Nephite remnants are from Manasseh.
The Jews – Of the four groups, this is the most obvious. Throughout history, the Jews, more so than any other tribe we know of, have maintained their identity as a tribe of Israel. The Jews, as referred to by Christ in this revelation, appear to have a geographical reference. The reference to Jerusalem is common. Consider the following verse:
Then shall they break forth into joy—Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.[vi]
We know, without question, that the Jews were scattered among all nations of the earth. We also know that, in large part, the gathering of the Jews has taken place. It is no coincidence that the Jews have been gathered primarily to one of two places, America – soon to become Zion, and Jerusalem.
Gentiles – In Christ’s teachings to the Nephites, the Gentiles encompass two groups, the righteous and the wicked. It is important to understand that the word Gentile is a biblical term, and therefore comes to us by way of the Jews. The term Gentile denotes a non-Jewish person. From a strict interpretation, the other non-Jewish tribes in the House of Israel could, and in the case of the Samaritans, were considered Gentiles. Therefore in the Lord’s eyes the term Gentile is neither good nor bad, but rather a classifier. It is by their fruits these shall be known, not their pedigree.
Righteous Gentiles: The Book of Mormon (which takes a Jewish perspective, as its authors came from Jerusalem) teaches that the restoration was to happen at the hand of the Gentiles. What this really means is that the people of the Book of Mormon knew that the latter-day restoration would not come to them by way Judah. And so it was. The church was restored through Ephraim. From this perspective consider the following verse:
Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles [Ephraim], unto your seed [Manasseh] which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity; for thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles [Ephraim], that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O House of Israel;[vii]
Note that in this verse Ephraim is referred to as a Gentile, but all people that repent and harken unto God are numbered among His people. From the Book of Mormon perspective, the righteous Gentiles and the tribe of Ephraim are one and the same.
Unrighteous Gentiles: The unrighteous Gentiles are comprised of all the unbelieving, regardless of a tribal affiliation. It is interesting to note that, of the twelve tribes of Israel, the only two tribes that are explicitly named as being scattered and subsequently gathered into tribes are the tribes of Judah and Joseph. This is so in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Consider the following verses from Zachariah:
And I will strengthen the House of Judah, and I will save the House of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord.
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.[viii]
In these verses the prophet clearly calls out two complete tribes as having been scattered and gathered again, “as though I had not cast them off”. It is exciting, and a little scary to note, that both these groups have largely been gathered. Judah and the House of Joseph. Furthermore, Ephraim is called out separately for a greater work that will bring them untold joy. This joy will come from their supportive role in the restoration, along with an incredible missionary effort which, it turns out, will largely result in the further gathering of Joseph. It is through Ephraim that the gathering of Israel commenced.
The Lost Tribes of Israel – As we have noted previously in this work, The Remnant of Jacob refers to an existent body of the Lost Ten Tribes. The definite article “the” identifies them as a specific group. These are a group apart from the many scattered individuals from all the tribes of Israel that exist to one degree or another among all nations of the earth. While those scattered individuals have lost their identity, the Remnant of Jacob has not, they know who they are. They have been led away out of the land by the Father[ix], and will return again being led by Him[x]. With this in mind we will begin our study of Christ’s words to the Nephites regarding the events of the latter-days.
[i] 1 Nephi 13:35
[ii] 3 Nephi 3:12
[iii] 2 Nephi 20:21
[iv] Isaiah 10:21
[v] Alma 10:3
[vi] 3 Nephi 20:34
[vii] 3 Nephi 21:5-6
[viii] Zachariah 10:6-9
[ix] 3 Nephi 15:15
[x] D&C 133:26