I stopped using Roman numerals to number these posts because Arabic numerals require less brain power.
I did not expect these posts to stretch so long, but there is a lot more to say as we wind our way towards the ultimate subject of this series: the Government and Laws of Zion, even if it takes 100 posts! (Or, "C" Posts, you could say.)
Say "Paradisaical" Three Times Fast
Let's have a look at this simple statement:
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel
and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes;
that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent;
that Christ will reign personally upon the earth;
and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory.
(Article of Faith 10)
Hahaha. I said this was a "simple" statement.
Timing is Everything
Here's an important question: Are these events sequential? Will they occur in this particular order, or is it haphazard?
Let's pretend for a minute that this does lay out a specific order:
1. Gathering of Israel 2. Restoration of 10 Tribes 3. Zion will be built 4. Christ will reign on earth 5. Earth will be renewed in glory
So, where on this list do we find ourselves in the year 2020?
According to the Science and Security Board Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who maintain the Doomsday Clock, in January 2020 (this was before we knew anything about 2020) we were just 100 seconds from midnight, or in other words, destruction. The Atomic Scientists explained:
"Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode." -- John Mecklin, editor.
Anyway, back to our spiritual doomsday clock, a.k.a. Article of Faith 10. How far are we down the list? Well, we have not seen the New Jerusalem yet -- so that narrows it down to (1) the gathering of Israel, or (2) the restoration of the Ten Tribes.
Before we can evaluate this question, I guess we'll need to agree on what the "restoration of the Ten Tribes" means. There is no consensus, and the purpose of this post is not to enter that debate. People have strong opinions about it. Maybe some day we we'll get to the subject of the Lost Ten Tribes, so for now . . .
Oh, why not. We can at least introduce the topic of the Ten Tribes.
First, you may wonder why the Ten Tribes matter at all in the 21st century. Who cares?
I would like to point out that the Ten Tribes are part of our Articles of Faith (and a lot of other important things didn't even make the cut). It also appears to be a major event in the coming latter-day drama. Could the restoration of the Ten Tribes be related to the building up Zion?
A Brief History of Israel
Once upon a time, around 4,000 years ago, a man named Abraham received some special promises from God that we call the Abrahamic Covenant.
If we were cramming for a midterm test on the topic, all we need to remember for now is there were three promises, each with a temporal and a spiritual fulfillment.
1. Priesthood 2. Posterity 3. Promised lands
(They all start with "P" to make it easy to remember.)
These promises were renewed upon Abraham's descendants: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
Jacob's name was changed to Israel and the family settled in Goshen, near Egypt, so they could have Sunday dinners in the palace with Joseph.
Now, fast forward 400 years. (To put that in context, Columbus discovered the New World around 400 years ago.) By now, the Israelites had grown into a large nation and were slaves in Egypt, and Moses, 80 years old at this point, showed up in Pharaoh's court, bringing some plagues with him, and he freed the slaves by parting the Red Sea. Afterwards he received the Decalogue and destroyed a golden calf.
So here we've got, say, two or three million Israelites, wandering around the wilderness eating lots of manna for 40 years, which puts them in a bad mood, pining for Egypt's melons and cucumbers.
Moses is succeeded by Joshua, who takes the people into the the holy land where they battle their neighbors for a very long time.
Fast forward another 400 years, after the period of the Judges ("Bye, Debbie!") when Samuel anoints Saul to be the king of Israel. ("Hello, Goliath!")
We made it: the heyday of Israel. David united all 12 tribes into one kingdom and became the coolest poet king around 1000 B.C.
This is interesting: when the kingdom was carved up like a porterhouse, each tribe got its own territory. But the Tribe of Levi did not receive a land inheritance because they were priests supported by the offerings of the people. That way, Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh got their own territory because Joseph received a double portion for his birthright. So there were really 13 tribes. (But who's counting?)
David's son Solomon is a wise and wealthy man who kept some very nice horses in a fancy stable. He also finished the Temple.
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over the family business and was abysmal at it. A bunch of elders from the Northern 10 tribes of Israel petitioned Reb to lower their taxes, and he refused. I think he said, "My little pinky finger will be heavier upon you than my father's thigh." (He must have had gout.)
In any event, the Northern tribes did not like Reb's attitude and they went to war. The civil war resulted in the kingdom being split into two nation-states: the North, called Israel (I know, confusing), and the South, called Judah (mainly composed of Judah and Benjamin).
The Northern Kingdom of Israel became very wicked and didn't repent even though Elijah was running around doing everything he could, and thus Israel was ultimately "destroyed" when the Ten Tribes were taken captive by the global superpower of that time, Assyria, around 721 B.C.
After a good while, perhaps 20 or 70 years, the Ten Tribes were freed. Some of the people went home, some stayed in Assyria, some wandered away into the "north countries."
And that is where the mystery begins: where did those people go? Where are they now?
The prophet Esdras recorded:
And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passages 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.
(2 Esdras 13:41-46)
What Happened to the Lost Tribes?
In search of an answer, we could begin by seeing what others have come up with. This list of books, below, is by no means exhaustive, but something I compiled years ago.
The Lost 10 Tribes by Joseph Wild (1880)
A Trip to the North Pole: The Discovery of the 10 Tribes by O.J.S. Lindelof (1903)
The 10 Tribes, Discovered and Identified by Stephen Malan (1912)
The "Lost" 10 Tribes by James Anderson (1927)
Are the Lost Tribes Found? by Thomas Brookbank (1929)
The Lost Tribes of Israel by Reader Harris (1941)
The Kingdom of God by Francis Darter (1941)
God's Covenant Race by James Anderson (1946)
3 Timely Treasures: Dispensations, Ten Tribes, Kingdom by Leon Strong (1949)
The Gathering of the 10 Tribes of Israel by Ariel Andersen (1965)
The Lost Tribes: History, Doctrine, Prophecies and Theories by Robert C. Brough (1979)
A New Witness for the Articles of Faith by Bruce R. McConkie (1985)
A Scriptural Search for the 10 Tribes and Other Things We Lost by Joseph McConkie (1987)
From Samaria to Samarkand: The 10 Lost Tribes of Israel by David Law (1992)
The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel - Found! by Steven Collins (1995)
Gathering of the Waters: A New Discussion of the 10 Tribes by Clay McConkie (1997)
To the Ends of the Earth: The Quest for the 10 Tribes by Rivka Gonen (2002)
The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth by Tudor Parfitt (2002)
The 10 Lost Tribes: A People of Destiny by Clay McConkie (2002)
Lost Tribes & Last Days: What Modern Revelation Tells Us by Kent Jackson (2005) Missing Links Discovered In Assyrian Tablets by Raymond Capt (2010)
And don't forget the scriptures are a great source, too. Jesus told the Nephites he had to show himself "unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them" (3 Nephi 17:4).
Nephi recorded a promise from the Lord, saying we "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" (2 Nephi 29:13).
So what will their return look like?
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, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
I think everyone agrees that the Ten Tribes will return and be restored. The problem comes when we start talking about how, or where, or when.
Bruce R. McConkie rejected the notion that the Ten Tribes are still around today as a separate body, or distinct people, believing instead that the Ten Tribes are being gathered through modern day missionary work: "There is something mysterious and fascinating about believing the Ten Tribes are behind an iceberg somewhere in the land of the north, or that they are on some distant planet that will one day join itself with the earth, or that the tribe of Dan is in Denmark, the tribe of Reuben in Russia, and so forth." A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1985, p. 520.
This view is shared by many wonderful scholars and believers. One of them, Bob Millet, summarized their position in the 25th Annual Sperry Symposium: "I have concluded simply that the ten tribes are scattered among the nations, lost as much to their identity as to their whereabouts. Thus it seems to me that the restoration, or gathering, of the ten tribes consists in scattered Israel . . . coming to the knowledge of the restored gospel, accepting Christ's gospel." Doctrine and Covenants: A Book of Answers, 1996, pp. 216-217.
The Plot Thickens
In John Whitmer's 1831 History, he recorded some comments made by Joseph Smith at a general conference held June 3, 1831:
The Spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And prophecied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been lead away by Salmanaser King of israel, to prepare them for their return, from their Long dispersion.
John Whitmer, History, Document Transcript, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/john-whitmer-history-1831-circa-1847/18#full-transcript.
In a somewhat obscure but primary source, the Sketch Book of Oliver Cowdery, we find an entry for January 23, 1836 where Oliver says: "Conversed considerable time with president Rigdon on the subject of his vision concerning the return of the Ten Tribes." Leonard J. Arrington, "Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland, Ohio, 'Sketch Book'", BYU Studies, Vol. 12, no. 4, 1972.
(Isn't it funny how people in the old days thought journals were for marking weather conditions and who they talked to . . . but didn't put in the details of those conversations!)
I've searched for more information about Sidney Ridgon's "vision concerning the return of the Ten Tribes." The closest I have found is an article that Sidney Rigdon wrote 11 months later, on December 3, 1836, published in the Messenger and Advocate, vol. 3, no. 27, p. 419:
"It is a well known fact, that Israel is widely scattered, and that they help to people [populate] almost every division of the earth with which we are acquainted, and must people some parts with which we are not acquainted, or else the ten tribes are not in existence on the earth, and if that is the case, the testimony of the prophets is surely false; and they will be found false witnesses for Israel; for Jeremiah has declared in the third chapter of his prophecy that Judah and Israel shall walk together . . . For though great things are to be accomplished, still those things are to be accomplished by the agency of men. It will be found to be a fact, that if the the Lord ever does fulfil the testimony of the prophets, it will be by the faith and agency of his saints." (The whole article is really interesting -- definitely worth a read. You can find it at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Latter_Day_Saints%27_Messenger_and_Advocate/Volume_3/Number_3/The_saints_and_the_world)
The Craziest Theories
In 1957, Hugh Nibley wrote in An Approach to the Book of Mormon that "in olden times the Jews believed that even the Ten Tribes 'in order to be able to live the Law without molestation, resolved . . . to depart from the society of mankind and migrate in terram aliam,' that is, to the Other World . . . 'in a land beyond, where no member of the human race had ever before lived.' "
In 1840, Leonora Taylor (wife of John Taylor) attended a sermon preached by John E. Page, and wrote to her husband, who was serving a mission in England at the time (the letter is found in the Millennial Star, vol. 1, p. 63-64). The fascinating part is where she says John Page used the text of Job 28 to teach about the Ten Tribes:
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:
The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.
He putteth forth is hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.
One theory is that the Ten Tribes were taken off the earth like the City of Enoch, and that they will return one day in similar fashion. This was a common belief held by members of the church during Joseph's lifetime. In 1841, Parley P. Pratt published in the Millennial Star, vol 1, no. 10, p. 258, the following:
"The stars which will fall to the earth, are fragments, which have been broken off from the earth from time to time, in the mighty convulsions of nature. Some in the days of Enoch, some perhaps in the days of Peleg, some with the ten tribes, and some at the crucifixion of the Messiah. These all must be restored again at the "times of restitution of ALL THINGS." This will restore the ten tribes of Israel; and also bring again Zion, even Enoch's city. It will bring back the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God; that you and I may partake of it. [See Rev. ii, 7.] When these fragments, (some of which are vastly larger than the present earth) are brought back and joined to this earth, it will cause a convulsion of all nature; the graves of the Saints will be opened, and they rise from the dead; while the mountains will flow down, the valleys rise, the sea retire to its own place, the islands and continents will be removed, and earth be rolled together as a scroll."
Finally, I can't resist throwing in the Philo Dibble Drawing, supposedly given to him by Joseph Smith.
What is the truth? Is it important for us to know?
When Enoch could no longer stay Amid corruption here, Part of thyself was borne away To form another sphere.
That portion where his city stood He gain’d by right approv’d; And nearer to the throne of God His planet upward mov’d.
And when the Lord saw fit to hide The “ten lost tribes” away, Thou, Earth, wast sever’d to provide The orb on which they stay.
(Eliza R. Snow, Hymn 313, 1856; appeared in the LDS Hymnal until 1912)