—3 Nephi 21:12
By Tausha Larsen
I’ve heard (and it may be true!) the Irish people have a saying: “There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were!” As a product of Irish ancestry, I’ve long been interested in my cultural traditions and heritage. My maiden name “Quigley” is considered one of the original Irish names. Unfortunately, the name “Quigley” means “untidy person,” which is about as far from the truth as you can get when referring to my family. But that doesn’t stop us from being a little too proud of our name!
As I was raised in the LDS church, I was taught that I was part of the tribe of Ephraim, and I believed that somehow my Irish heritage fit into this lineage. I also believed that being LDS made me a member of the House of Israel, and that the Gentiles, mentioned throughout scripture, were all those “other” people who were not members of the LDS church. But I was wrong in many of these beliefs. Through a more careful study of the scriptures, and particularly the Book of Mormon, I have since learned that I AM a Gentile, as is practically every other person of European descent, and those of many other nations as well. I have also learned that the Book of Mormon is full of surprises, and that the fate of the Gentiles is something completely different than I could have possibly ever imagined.
With my new understanding came a newfound desire to learn more about the Gentiles and how the Lord is including them to fulfill his work regarding the last days Zion. My husband, Adrian, has been writing a series of posts on “the covenant” and what we can learn about it from the Book of Mormon. Because I’m passionate about this topic, I volunteered to write about the various groups involved in the covenant. The “who,” of the covenant, if you will. This topic certainly involves us Gentiles. So, let’s take a closer look at the history of the Gentiles, and how they fit into the coming covenant.
We are They
Joseph Smith, in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland temple, described the people in attendance as those “who are identified with the Gentiles.” (D&C 109:60) This leads to the question: What exactly does the word “Gentile” mean?
The word originates from the Latin word gentilis, which means “of the same family or clan.” Gentilis was used in the Latin Vulgate to translate the Greek word ethnikos from ta ethne “the nations,” and the Hebrew ha goyim, or “the (non-Jewish) nations.” The term Gentiles eventually came to mean all those who did not descend from Jacob (Israel), and are therefore not part of the House of Israel. Over time, the term also came to signify nations without knowledge of the gospel—or basically foreigners to God.
For a little more information about the Gentiles, I’m going to turn to Adrian, and borrow something from one of his prior posts, about how Nephi defined the Gentiles:
1 Nephi 13 gives a lot of information about those Nephi viewed as the “Gentiles.” Here is some of what he says about them (with verses in parentheses):
- They are the source of the great and abominable church (4)
- They were separated from Nephi’s descendants by “many waters” (10)
- The Gentiles went forth out of captivity and crossed the waters to come to the land of promise (13-14)
- The Gentiles scattered and smote the remnants of Nephi’s seed, but did not utterly destroy them (14, 30)
- The Gentiles were prosperous, white, fair and beautiful (15)
- They humbled themselves on the land of promise (16)
- They were delivered by the power of God from all other nations (19)
- They had the Bible, though it was in a very corrupt state and actually prevented salvation and became a stumbling block to them (24-29)
In short, the “Gentiles” refers to the primarily white, European immigrants who came to America and displaced the Native Americans. That is how Nephi sees you, me, and the vast majority of all people on this continent, as well as Gentile nations elsewhere.
OK, so we’ve got a starting definition of Gentiles in scripture, as described by both Nephi and Joseph Smith. Next, let’s consider how Ephraim fits into this whole story. (Because aren’t we LDS-ish gentiles somehow, some way, kinda-sorta, supposed to be associated with, or to fit in with the tribe of Ephraim somehow?) The LDS church has taught many of us all our lives that we are of Ephraim, that this is our lineage. It’s by far the most common lineage declared in LDS patriarchal blessings.
So What’s Up with Ephraim?
In the Book of Genesis, we read of the blessing Jacob (now named Israel) bestowed upon his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When giving the blessing, Israel reached for Ephraim first and laid his right hand upon Ephraim’s head. This displeased Ephraim’s father Joseph, who moved Israel’s hand from Ephraim’s to 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 also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother 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.” (Genesis 48:18-20)Ephraim received the birthright blessing, that his seed would become a multitude of nations. Curiously, as the story of Ephraim and his descendants unfolds, it becomes evident that this blessing was fulfilled by a curse. Stick with me and we’ll get there.
The next part of the story takes place after the Israelites left Egypt and possessed the promised land of Canaan. The terms of the covenant tying them to the land were clear:
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on thee and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice the Lord thy God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statues which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee….and the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 64)After King Solomon’s death, the 12 tribes of Israel divided into Southern and Northern kingdoms—the Southern consisting of Judah and Benjamin, and the Northern including the other nine tribes and Ephraim. Jerobaom (an Ephraimite) became king of the Northern kingdom. From this time forward, the southern kingdom was referred to as “Judah” and the northern kingdom as “Ephraim.”
Unfortunately, the Israelites became rebellious and failed to obey the Lord—with Ephraim, perhaps, being the most rebellious of all. As a consequence, the tribe of Ephraim was particularly scattered when the Lord scattered the Northern kingdom. The prophet Hosea took special note of this fact:
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. (Hosea 7:8)The Hebrew verb root balal, in this verse translated as “mixed” literally means “anoint.” Ephraim has anointed a multitude of nations.
By scattering Ephraim, the Lord not only brought about the curses pronounced in the covenant, but also blessed the world by mixing the blood of Ephraim, and therefore the blood of Israel, into many nations. This literally fulfilled Israel’s blessing on his grandson Ephraim, that his descendants would become a multitude of nations. But it happened by God’s scattering curse.
During the scattering of Israel, legend has it that much of the tribe of Ephraim migrated to Northern Europe. This is how Ephraim came to be known and associated with the Europeans.
Let’s Talk about Lehi
Now if you will remember, Lehi, having left Jerusalem, sent his sons back to gather Ishmael and his family (Ishmael having many daughters) so the sons of Lehi would have women to marry “that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.” (1 Ne 7:1) Lehi descended from Manassah (Alma 10:3) and according to many early church witnesses, Joseph Smith taught that the original 116 pages of the Book of Mormon showed how Ishmael descended from Ephraim.
So we see, even in the very beginning of Lehi’s journey to the Land of Promise, the Lord gathered descendants of both Ephraim and Manassah, connecting them through every one of Lehi’s sons. Therefore, any male-line descendent of Lehi, is by definition, an Ephraimite, at least in part.
Furthermore, because Lehi’s posterity are directly related to Ephraim’s bloodline through Ishmael, it follows that the white, European Gentiles, descended from Ephraim, also have ties back to Lehi and his seed through Joseph.
But There is More
The Europeans who came to America and displaced the native inhabitants didn’t only scatter and kill them, but also intermingled and intermarried with them. The result of hundreds of years of connection is that the largest single mixed-race group in America is white-American Indian, who comprise 50% of all mixed-race people. Nearly all these identify as white, and are unaware of their mixed-race blood. (See American Indian and white, but not ‘multiracial’, D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center, June 11, 2015.)
The point of all this is that the bloodlines are in place. In fact, the bloodlines in America are so mixed, that we really don’t even know how interracially mixed a people we are. Many of us are directly connected to Lehi’s seed through blood, and we don’t even recognize or know it. Even if we perhaps don’t have the Native American bloodlines connecting us to Lehi, many of us are still connected to Lehi’s seed through Ishmael and his Ephraimite lineage.
I am going to be so bold as to say: Many of us are the literal seed and remnant of Lehi. Go back and look at your family history. Do you have Native Americans in your family line? Even if you don’t know it, you may. And if your ancestors came solely from Europe, or even other nations of the earth, there is a good chance your lineage is through Ephraim. His blood was scattered among many nations.
Bloodlines matter to the Lord, and are required to inherit the covenant opportunity promised to Israel. But even if we have the correct bloodlines, we are no more special than anyone else. Until we rejoin the house of Israel by covenant, we are still considered Gentiles. For that matter, even Native Americans are considered Gentiles until they accept God’s covenant.
The Book of Mormon is intended to be received as a covenant. The covenant MUST first be delivered to, and accepted by, the gentiles in order for the gentiles to be numbered among the remnant of God’s people. (3 Ne:21:22) The gentiles must have a covenant or they cannot assist in any way to establish the New Jerusalem…. But if even a few will accept it, those who do will become at that time part of the covenant people of God, numbered with the remnant, and entitled to inherit this as their land. In turn, God will protect them. If they abide the covenant, He will establish a New Jerusalem. (Denver Snuffer, Things to Keep Us Awake at Night)If we look at what Nephi has to say in the Book of Mormon about the Lord gathering His family Israel in the last days, we see just how connected the seed of Lehi and the Gentiles are and how the covenant is an essential part of the last days gathering. The following is a lengthy passage, but it deserves careful attention. Please read it slowly and carefully, with the realization that it is speaking of YOU.
Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel?
And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fullness 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 fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed.
And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.
Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree. And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel. Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. (1 Ne 15:12-18)In these verses, Nephi makes it very clear that when his seed have dwindled in unbelief for many years, and this after the Messiah manifested himself unto his seed at Bountiful, then many years later, the fullness of the Gospel would be given to the Gentiles, who would then take the fullness to the remnants of Nephi’s seed. He specifically states that they will come to the knowledge of who they are, and therefore rise up and become Israel, “pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days.”
It will be former Gentiles who are called “Ephraim” once restored, to whom all other tribes must come to receive their part in the covenant. This will happen once the gentiles have been given the land as THEIR land of promise, an inheritance from God given only to covenant people. (Denver Snuffer: Things to Keep Us Awake at Night)And thus, these former Gentiles, with Ephraim now restored, will fulfill the prophecy:
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. (D&C 133:26-34)Fulfilling Prophecy
Many ancient prophets spoke of the very events that are now upon us. For example, the prophet Micah (for whom we named our second son) said the following:
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass. (Micah 5:7)When rain or dew falls on a group of people, they all get wet. Therefore the statement that the remnant will be “in the midst” of many people seems to indicate that the bloodlines will be common, like rain falling on a group. Yet, only some few will “awake and arise,” to recognize who they are and what they are called to accomplish.
Isaiah said it this way:
For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return; (Isaiah 10:22)The blood of Israel is spread far and wide. Yet only a remnant will reclaim the covenant.
Even more striking, the Hebrew word root am, translated in this verse as “people” is the same root used by Hosea, when referring to “the people” among whom Ephraim would mix, and the same root used by Isaiah in referring to “thy people Israel.” In other words, the blood of Israel is now common and widespread among all people, awaiting some few to rise up and become the remnant.
Micah’s language gets even more interesting when he says:
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. (Micah 5:8)Waking Up
The remnants of both Lehi and of Jacob will finally realize who they are by the preaching of the Book of Mormon from other Gentiles. The preaching must be done (and is being done) by servants of the Lord who are given power to help open our eyes of understanding, and help us realize our false traditions and unbelief. Then, we, who already have the bloodlines in place, can finally recognize who we are, and see how we fit into the prophecies concerning the last days Gentiles and our role in the establishment of Zion.
Not all Gentiles can be classified as the remnant of Jacob or Ephraim. Only those Gentiles who will accept God’s covenant, once it is offered, can change their identity from Gentile to House of Israel, or God’s family.
Then Nephi’s prophecy can be fulfilled:
And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed.
And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews. And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.
And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes (2 Ne 30:4-6)The Book of Mormon will fulfill its purpose, “Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” (Book of Mormon, Title Page)
And now, nearly 200 years after the Book of Mormon was first given to the Gentiles and treated lightly, (D&C 84:54) the Gentile seed of Israel will finally come to understand who they are and what they must do. They will finally “come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.” (1 Nephi 15:14).
Denver Snuffer explains this process even better.
The conversion of the “Gentiles” will remake the nation of Israel in the latter-days. Those who regard themselves as “Gentile” include great numbers of formerly Israelite people who have lost knowledge of their original birthright…
As they convert, the Gentiles shall regain their identity with Israel. This process of re-affiliation with Israel by conversion is also spoken of by Nephi. And he uses the words of this verse to capture the idea: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like a father unto them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.: (2 Ne 10:18.) The way the Gentiles become numbered among Israel is by softening their hearts; i.e., conversion. When they convert, they are restored through covenant to their status as Israel. (Nephi’s Isaiah, pp. 154-155, emphasis mine)
An Irish Girl
So I think I finally understand how my Irish ancestry fits into the whole story of the last days. Because of my Irish roots, I most likely do have the blood of Ephraim, but I also understand now that bloodlines alone aren’t enough. The Lord, in His infinite knowledge, made it possible to disperse the blood of Israel among many nations. Any of those bloodline people who accept the offered covenant, will be changed from Gentiles, or foreigners, to God’s family Israel.
Even though the Lord currently views me as a Gentile, I still love my Irish heritage. I also look forward to my status changing from “Gentile,” to “Ephraim.”
This is my first blog post, and I can say that, after writing this post, I think a trip to Ireland to kiss the Blarney stone is definitely in order—to give me the gift of eloquence!
In closing, I will leave you with my own Irish blessing: “May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!”
Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity...it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.
—3 Nephi 21:5-7