More Puzzling Subordination and Diminution of Book of Mormon Text in LDS General Conferences

David A. Bednar waving with a journal in his hand as he and his wife exit the Conference Center.

In most of the articles on this website, I have stressed the point that The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter “LDS,” “Church” or “LDS church”) teaches myriad ideas which run contrary to the unambiguous teachings of the Book of Mormon.  Most LDS church members are surprised and/or upset by this assertion and skeptical of its accuracy.  But to prove its truth, I urge readers to ask themselves if, during the April 2020 LDS general conference, they noticed any point in any talk where a scripture was quoted by a general authority which was at odds with the version of the same scripture in the Book of Mormon.  It absolutely did happen, as we shall see. Continue reading

Jesus’s Failure to Endorse Eternal Marriage in the Bible and Book of Mormon

The title of this essay will be offensive and/or threatening to many Mormon readers.  As discussed fully in the essay Jesus’s Doctrine and Gospel versus Mormonism’s Teachings of Temple Priesthood Ordinances and Exaltation , found elsewhere on this website, Mormons believe that in order to attain the highest degree of eternal glory and become a god, a person must be sealed to his or her spouse by proper priesthood authority (which is held exclusively by Mormons) in an LDS temple.  These beliefs stem from a revelation purportedly received in 1843 by Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This revelation that properly performed marriages lasted throughout eternity was and is known as the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 131:2 and 132:15-17, 19-21.)  However, this essay is not an attack on the institution of marriage.  It is meant to be the complete opposite of that.  Jesus plainly taught that God intended mankind to marry, and blessed them with the ability to multiply and replenish the earth within marriage’s framework.  This essay is meant to preserve respect for the institution of marriage, without encumbering it with teachings not endorsed by Jesus Christ. Too often, the doctrine of eternal marriage, when taken as true, depicts God as demanding that which he does not actually require at all.

Nor should this essay be taken as evidence that the author is dissatisfied in his own marriage, or is looking for justifications to diminish its sacred character.  Again, the opposite is true; the author would in no way be disappointed if the idea of eternal marriage were an actual teaching of Jesus’ gospel.  In fact, there is no such thing as an unhappy person in heaven, so even if an unhappily married couple made it to heaven and it were doctrinally possible that their marriage could continue there, it would be impossible, by definition, that said marriage would remain unhappy in heaven.  Thus, the audiences most targeted by this essay are those Mormons who are concerned about (a) the eternal ramifications of dying without having been married in the temple (and thereby not being “sealed” for eternity to their spouse); (b) dying without even having a spouse at all (and therefore having no one whom their relatives can seal them to after they die); (c) being sealed to a spouse or to a family to whom they don’t want to be eternally sealed; or (d) the discrepancies between the teachings in the Bible and Book of Mormon on this issue and the practices and beliefs of the LDS Church.  A fifth audience would be any others, Mormon or not, who are spiritually or intellectually interested in whether eternal marriage is a true teaching of Christ’s church.

In the 12th chapter of the New Testament book of Mark, verses 18-27, we read that the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection, came once to Jesus with a hypothetical:  A woman is taken to wife by one man, who dies without producing any children by her.  Then, following the Levirate marriage practice prescribed in the law of Moses for such situations, the dead man’s brother took the woman to wife.  But he died without producing seed as well, as did five more brothers in succession from that same family.  After the death of her seventh husband, the woman died childless.  The question posed to Jesus was which man would be the woman’s husband in the resurrection.  Mark 12:24-27 recounts Jesus’s response:

24 And  Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

26  And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the Book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?

27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

These verses of scripture have greatly perplexed thoughtful orthodox Mormons, because Jesus here refutes the idea of marriages performed on earth having any effect when we are resurrected.  Based on my personal observations as someone is his mid-sixties who’s been an active LDS church member his whole life, the first impulse of Mormons upon reading Jesus’s words here is to see if they are corroborated by the other synoptic gospels.  And indeed they are, in Matthew 22:23-32 and Luke 20:27-38.  Their next impulse is to see if Joseph Smith, in his own purportedly inspired correction of the erroneous verses of the Bible, in any way altered the wording contained in the verses in Matthew, Mark or Luke. But he did not; he left them intact.  In fact, no sermon or exposition by him construing these verses has ever been reported.

A third Mormon impulse has been to hypothesize that Jesus was somehow limiting his remarks to a category of people who were married on earth, but not sealed together properly by Melchizedek priesthood authority, and thus not entitled to have their marriage last beyond the grave.  This hypothesis is untenable, however, for several reasons.  First of all, there was no such thing as eternal marriage at this time in history; it was unheard of among the Jews and among the Nephites, and no scripture suggested it.  Jesus never spoke of it in anything he said to the Jews or to the Nephites, though he spoke much of marriage-related issues to both peoples.

Second, the Old Testament contains a complete description of all ordinances performed within the Jewish Temple, and marriages weren’t solemnized there ever, under any circumstances.  In fact, the manner of marrying couples among the Jews appears to have been devoid of any exchange of vows by the bride and groom themselves, or of any ritual words pronounced by a priest as is characteristic of today’s ceremonies.  Marriages were consummated by sexual union inside the bridal chamber as the guests waited outside; before that point, they were only contractual betrothals (engagements) arranged by parents.1

Third, the question asked of Jesus was a hypothetical referring to no specific people.  The question thus did not contain any information which would cause Jesus to provide an answer that applied only to persons who weren’t devout enough to have been married in some ritually-preferable way.  In fact, Jesus’s answer presupposes the righteousness of the hypothetical people involved, as shown by his reference to them in the next life as being “as the angels which are in heaven.” His words as quoted in Luke are even more indicative of their presumed righteousness, wherein Jesus describes them by saying “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”  See Luke 20: 36.  Only in Mormonism does the idea exist that angels who dwell in God’s presence in the celestial kingdom of heaven are individuals being punished for their ritually inferior marriage, or for their failure to marry (see Doctrine and Covenants 132: 15-18).  Such a notion is utterly devoid of foundation in the Bible or Book of Mormon, where angels in heaven are uniformly revered as holy.2

Fourth, the whole context of Jesus’s answer to the hypothetical is that it’s being used by Sadducees who are attempting to demonstrate supposed logical problems associated with a belief in the resurrection.  Jesus’s purpose in answering is not only to correct the false notion that marriages survive the grave, but to establish the universality of the resurrection.  Therefore, he speaks categorically, clarifying that marriages are performed only by “the children of this world” (see Luke 20:34), but are not part of anyone’s heavenly existence.  Just as his comments on the universality of the resurrection cannot be interpreted as having only limited application, his comments on marriage are also not  susceptible of such an interpretation.

Another explanation occasionally proffered by Mormons is that what Jesus means is that for a marriage to last forever, it has to be performed on earth to be eligible for eternal duration, but it cannot be performed in the hereafter, because marriages aren’t done in heaven.  Joseph Smith taught this.3  In fact, this is also the canonized explanation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 132:15-16:

 15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.

16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

This explanation of Jesus’s quoted words in Matthew, Mark and Luke, which was also the one adopted by James E. Talmage in his well-known tome Jesus the Christ,4 suffers from the same defects as the last one discussed, and more.  The most obvious of these defects, at least for Mormons, is that Mormon doctrine steadfastly maintains that marriages are performed in heaven after this life, and this doctrine is also found in the Doctrine and Covenants, and is taught repeatedly by almost every Mormon general authority and lay leader everywhere.  Women and men who go their lives without marrying through no fault of their own, are assured by church leaders that they will be provided with at least one spouse and marriage in the next life, assuming they’ve lived righteously.  This promise is also provided to spouses who are married, whether in temple or not, and live worthily, but whose spouse does not live worthily enough to expect the highest heavenly reward.  And naturally, it is taught to grieving family members and friends of those who die before having the opportunity to marry.  Some Mormon women, including the author’s own mother, secretly harbor worries that when they arrive in heaven, they’ll find their dead husband has acquired an additional wife, or more than one, in heaven while his wife lived out her mortal life.  The doctrinal basis for such a belief of marriages being performed in the future in heaven is found in Doctrine and Covenants (hereafter “D&C”) 132:39, where the Lord is quoted as saying he gave David’s wives to someone else.  Since there is no scriptural account of David’s wives being given to anyone else by the Lord during David’s life on earth, it is to be presumed this would have to have been done in heaven.  This one verse provides a fairly weak and uncorroborated scriptural foundation for the Mormon belief of marriages performed in heaven, and it is virtually never cited as authoritative on the question, but that fact has had virtually no effect whatsoever in deterring church leaders from promising such future marriages to the faithful.

Looking at Jesus’s words within the broader context of biblical and Book of Mormon exegesis, they seem to merely restate that which is plainly implicit in the ancient scriptures.  Nowhere is found in either book even a slight hint that marriage endures beyond the grave under any circumstance, even though marriage as a topic, and marriages of specific people, are much discussed in both books, and the posterity of the main figures are faithfully chronicled. If indeed the Book of Mormon contains, with the Bible, the “fulness of the everlasting gospel,” as Mormons believe (see Introduction to the Book of Mormon in the LDS scriptures, as well as the numerous Book of Mormon verses which substantiate that claim), its teachings should contain many references, both by prophets and the Lord himself, to the extreme importance of this doctrine of eternal marriage.  Instead, the doctrine goes unmentioned throughout the several allusions to the sanctity of marriage in both books, and  even when Jesus goes out of his way to define the basic elements of his gospel in 3 Nephi 11:28-40.

Moreover, it requires no great scrutiny of the scriptures to conclude that numerous prophets down through time, and Jesus himself, were definitely not married.  The scriptural descriptions of the lives of Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, John the Beloved, and Paul so clearly establish their lifelong bachelorhood that this author has been unable to find a single scriptural scholar outside of Mormonism who thinks otherwise.  Those Mormons who have been willing to teach that Christ or Paul, for example, were married constitute a very small minority of Mormon writers, and even they have rarely been willing to publish books or papers to that effect, apparently cognizant of the nonexistent scriptural support.  In the author’s experience, those Mormons hold such views only because they deem it impossible to be exalted without being married, relying solely on D&C 132.  As this author has argued in essays on this website referenced above, the teachings of D&C 132 are spectacularly wrong, fully contradicted by the Book of Mormon and Bible at almost every turn.  (In the author’s opinion, Book of Mormon prophets Abinadi, Samuel the Lamanite and the last Moroni, to name a few, most probably remained single as well.)

In preaching that marriage was ordained of God, and that men should not divorce their wives for any reason other than sexual infidelity, Jesus also explained why some few men nevertheless intentionally remain single.  He prefaced his remarks by saying “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to which it is given.”  He then declared, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.  He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Emphasis added; see Matthew 19:11-12.)  By twice limiting his words’ application to those who could receive them, Jesus implied that they were not generally applicable to most men.  Virtually all Bible Commentaries interpret this scripture the same way.  Representative of them is this explanation:

Those who heard the words could hardly fail, as they thought over them, to look on their Master’s life as having been the great perfect example of what He thus taught… The motives which St. Paul states as determining his own choice of the celibate life (1 Corinthians 7:7), or the counsel which he gave to others (1 Corinthians 7:32-34), are identical with this teaching in their principle.5

Even James E. Talmage interpreted Jesus’s words to mean that some men

voluntarily devoted themselves to a celibate life, and some few adopted celibacy “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake,” that thereby they might be free to render all their time and energy to the Lord’s service.  But the disciples’ conclusion that “it is not good to marry” was true only in the exceptional instances stated.6

Another often-overlooked scripture signifying Christ’s abstention from marriage is found in Isaiah 53:8, wherein the prophet makes pointed reference to the dilemma posed by the prospect of Jesus dying without posterity.  Isaiah then resolves the dilemma in verse 10 by explaining that Jesus, the suffering servant, shall obtain posterity whenever individuals “shall make his soul an offering for sin.”  This explanation would be unnecessary, and would make no sense, if Jesus were producing posterity through the biological means incidental to marriage.

This understanding is further reinforced by the comparison in Ephesians 5:25 of Christ’s relationship with the church to the ideal relationship of a man to his wife:  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved  the church, and gave himself for it . . .”  Again, if Jesus had been married, Paul would have taught that men should love their wives as Jesus loved his wife.  The comparison of men’s wives to Christ’s church bolsters the conclusion that as Jesus had himself indicated, some men, like he himself, had kept themselves celibate so they could serve God with undivided attention and devotion.

In summary, it appears that the reason Jesus failed to teach that any marriages last into the eternities, regardless of how they’re performed, is because he didn’t believe it.  He affirmatively taught the opposite.  Whether he eventually changed his mind thirteen years after the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1830,  readers must decide for themselves.



1.  Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995) 803-05.

2. For more on Mormonism’s unique teachings on the supposed inferiority of “ministering angels,” see the essay previously referenced in the second sentence of this essay, and Polygamy, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 and their Doctrinal and Historical Problems within Mormonism “Polygamy, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, and their Doctrinal and Historical Problems within Mormonism” elsewhere on this website.

3.  See Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1968) 300-01.

4. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1972) 548, 564.  Surprisingly, Talmage, citing modern revelation from Joseph Smith as his source, even goes so far as to say that Jesus’s words make obvious that only the first marriage had could have any eternal effect, despite the plain indication in Jesus’s words that none of the marriages survived into the resurrection.

5. Excerpted from “Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers” as quoted in, an online biblical exegesis website.

6. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 475.

Why Are Mormons Commanded to “Follow the Prophet”?

Note:  The following essay was authored by reader and contributor Hal Mitchell.  The author can be communicated with by writing a comment at the end of his essay.


In 1980, Mormon Church apostle Ezra Taft Benson gave a speech at Brigham Young University titled, The 14 Fundamentals in Following a Prophet. This speech has been oft-quoted, and repeated en toto more than once by other LDS church general authorities. It has been 37 years since the talk was originally given, and it is now a sort of sacred motto-exhortation within Mormonism to “follow the prophet.” In Mormonism, the term “the prophet” refers exclusively to the current president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A man becomes the prophet automatically upon his ordination to be the church’s next president. “The prophets” is a more general term usually referring to the twelve apostles and three members of the First Presidency of the church collectively, and twice a year in General Conference, these fifteen men are all sustained as “prophets, seers and revelators” by the general membership of the church in attendance.  Otherwise, in gospel discussions sometimes denoting all prophets down through the ages. Most Mormons likely also consider “follow the prophet” to be a scriptural mandate, although it isn’t actually found in the canonical works. Following the prophet is heavily emphasized in the first lesson of the LDS church’s missionary training manual Preach My Gospel.1

Is this the way God intends us to foster loyal obedience to one particular church leader? An apostle gives a talk, other church leaders like what was said and quote it a few times, and then they get used to it, and then it becomes a sacred responsibility? Should we not first ascertain whether becoming president of the Mormon church purely by seniority, which is the way presidents are always chosen in Mormondom, automatically means they’ve become a prophet to be followed? Did they suddenly become incapable of teaching errors, just because the most senior LDS apostle ahead of them just died? A prophet establishes him/herself by accurately foretelling future events, or by declaring divine revelations from God that the people previously not received. If a person has been successful in that capacity, he/she will have a voluntary following, and should not need to command followers.

Since 1980, in the Mormon church, members are frequently taught that they can confidently adhere wholly to what the prophets and apostles say, because the saints cannot be led astray. This is another saying that has been repeated so often that it has now become doctrine. It was stated by Wilford Woodruff in his comments after issuing the Manifesto [banning polygamy] in 1890:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.

(Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)

In Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, his second fundamental is that the word of a prophet can refute the standard works.

So Mormon prophets have such faith in their abilities, they believe they can refute established scripture, which has been revealed to mankind by miraculous means. Ironically, in 1986 (six years after his Fundamentals talk), Benson gave another famous speech regarding how the saints trifle with the Book of Mormon:

Finally, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church . . .

Yes, my beloved brothers and sisters, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion—the keystone of our testimony, the keystone of our doctrine, and the keystone in the witness of our Lord and Savior.

(Emphasis added.)

Many members who read or heard these words could be justifiably confused. Which is a standard truth, the Book of Mormon or the teachings of prophets? First Benson says a prophet can override the standard works of the church, but then he says six years later that if the if the Book of Mormon is not true, it being the keystone of the religion, then prophets, priesthood, testimony and all that Mormons believe is not true.

So again, which Ezra Taft Benson was correct? He was accepted by Mormons as a prophet, seer and revelator when he made both statements. How does one discern when we rely wholly upon human leaders? In which talk was he never leading us astray?

While President of the church, and thus considered a prophet, Brigham Young emphatically declared: “I never preached a sermon that could not be considered scripture.”2 (Emphasis added.)

He also emphatically declared his Adam God theory from the pulpit in the LDS General Conference on April 9, 1852 that Adam was “ . . . our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” He also stated that Jesus was begotten of Adam, and that he was our Father in Heaven. This sermon became famously known for its “Adam-God theory,” and caused much controversy because it was scripturally unfounded.

In his book Doctrines of Salvation, then-apostle Joseph Fielding Smith stated: “In all probability the [Adam /God sermon] was erroneously transcribed.”3

In a 1976 session of General Conference, Spencer W. Kimball, the then-current prophet, bluntly referred to Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory as “false doctrine.” He said:

We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some General Authorities of past generations, such, for instance is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine.

(Church News, 10/9/76).

Kimball’s statement puts him at odds with not only Brigham Young, but also makes obvious his disagreement with Joseph Fielding Smith’s opinion that Brigham Young’s quote was transcribed incorrectly.

In his April 9th 1852 Adam/God address, President Young ended with the the following words: “Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation.” 

So now the orthodox Mormon must choose whom to follow and whom to ignore as a faithful follower of prophets. Is one damned by not agreeing with Brigham Young, or for not following Spencer Kimball, or agreeing with Joseph Fielding Smith? Which is right? All have been ordained as prophets, seers and revelators, and in the eyes of Mormons, all three carried the mantle of the living oracle.

In case there be doubt again of a potential misquote, as Smith suggested, other apostles, namely Heber C. Kimball, on June 6, 1856 and Wilford Woodruff on June 29, 1854 wrote in speeches and in journals respectively that Brigham Young taught that Adam was God the Father.

Isn’t it better to follow God’s words in scripture than the theories and opinions of successive church presidents?

Brigham Young said in 1852 that blacks should not hold the priesthood and ten prophets agreed with him over the years. (See “Race and the Priesthood” essay published by the LDS church at

The most well known of these was the statement made by Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine. McConkie offered the following opinion:

Those who were less valiant in the pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin…but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, based on His eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate.4

On the LDS Church’s website it states:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

(Essay “Race and the Priesthood” at

Does this mean the LDS church condemns and refutes past prophets, seers and revelators?

On the privately owned and operated apologist website, it is mentioned that the most unfortunate legacy of the ban of blacks from the priesthood is perhaps an aspect that was least intended. Many members were sincerely concerned about the justice of the ban. Many sought to explain it through a variety of hypotheses. Such doctrinal folklore was never official (it is claimed), but became widespread as members sought to reconcile their ideas about the justice and mercy of God with the ban’s reality. But this doctrinal folklore, as implied by FairMormon, was not just taught by “many members,” but men like George Albert Smith, David O. Mckay, J. Reuben Clark, Bruce R McConkie, all whom Mormons had sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. See the following quotes:

“From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.” (“Statement of The First Presidency on the Negro Question,” July 17 1947)5

The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.

(The First Presidency on the Negro Question, 17 Aug. 1949)

The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintained their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes . . .

Man will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam’s transgression. If this is carried further, it would imply that the Negro is punished or allotted to a certain position on this earth, not because of Cain’s transgression, but came to earth through the loins of Cain because of his failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world.

(Official Statement of First Presidency issued on August 17, 1951)

Whom do we believe? Was Spencer W. Kimball wrong and the others right? Either way, if early church presidents speak for God, why would God change his mind?

When Bruce R. McConkie wrote his book, Mormon Doctrine, he did it without the knowledge of the First Presidency. He was not an apostle, or what the church designates as a prophet, seer and revelator at that time. Mark E. Peterson and Marion G. Romney (both apostles) were asked to review his book and give an official report to the prophet David O. Mckay. Peterson and Romney found over 1000 errors in doctrine in the book. and David O. McKay asked McConkie not to pursue the project.

From David O. Mckay’s office journal, we learn:

THURSDAY, January 7, 1960

10:15 to 12:45 p.m. Re: The book—‘Mormon Doctrine’

The First Presidency met with Elders Mark E. Petersen and Marion G. Romney. They submitted their report upon their examination of the book ‘Mormon Doctrine’ by Elder Bruce McConkie. (sic)

These brethren reported that the manuscript of the book ‘Mormon Doctrine’ has not been read by the reading committee; that President Joseph Fielding Smith did not know anything about it until it was published. Elder Petersen stated that the extent of the corrections which he had marked in his copy of the book (1067) affected most of the 776 pages of the book. He also said that he thought the brethren should be under the rule that no book should be published without a specific approval of the First Presidency.

I stated that the decision of the First Presidency and the Committee should be announced to the Twelve.

It was agreed that the necessary corrections are so numerous that to republish a corrected edition of the book would be such an extensive repudiation of the original as to destroy the credit of the author; that the republication of the book should be forbidden and that the book should be repudiated in such a way as to save the career of the author as one of the General Authorities of the Church. It was also agreed that this decision should be announced to the Council of the Twelve before I talk to the author.

Elder Petersen will prepare an editorial for publication in the Improvement Era, stating the principle of approval of books on Church doctrine.

All of these men were prophets seers and revelators. Technically McConkie was not yet an apostle when he wrote the book, but the prophet told him to stop pursuing the project. Since the prophet instructed that the book McConkie had written be “forbidden,” who received the revelation that it should be pursued and continue to be a reliable church doctrinal resource? It is still quoted in LDS Seminary curricula and other Church manuals. Whom do we believe? Which prophet do we follow? Which prophet is inspired and speaking with the endorsement of the Holy Ghost? Which side is the one that will never lead us astray?

In the introductory heading of the LDS canon Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, it states:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831.

On May 7, 1831, section 49 was revealed, and in verses 15 and 16 the Lord is quoted as declaring:

“15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.                                                                              16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation . . .”

So now we have two conflicting scriptures, allegedly from the Lord, giving two opposite commandments, one endorsing polygamy, and the other saying men should have one wife.

How do we know what is from God, and what is from man, when we get two opposing commandments in the same few months of 1831?

Doctrine and Covenants (hereafter D&C) 137 is an interesting account of Joseph Smith’s vision of the Celestial kingdom.

5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;

6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.

7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

The clearly states that temple ordinances for the dead are not necessary. That was the question Joseph Smith says he took to the Lord, and the Lord answered it clearly and simply.  Joseph even implied that only baptism, not additional temple ordinances, is required to inherit the Celestial Kingdom, since Joseph had previously believed Alvin’s mere lack of a baptism had prevented his inheritance of the Celestial Kingdom. Why,  then, does the church persist in beliefs when a book accepted as scripture refutes a doctrine? According to this revelation, in the eyes of the Lord, if a person died who would have been receptive to the gospel, that person is going to the Celestial Kingdom . . . just like Alvin and Joseph’s parents. So whom does one believe, modern church doctrine or past Joseph Smith visions? What is the purpose of temples, if ordinances are not necessary for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom?

Also, in Alma 40 of the Book of Mormon, Alma is counseling his son Corianton and describes to him what happen to souls after they die. He never mentions a spirit prison, or souls waiting for relatives to get their temple work done so they can enter into God’s presence. Who came up with this idea when it is clearly negated in these two scriptural locations? Whom is one to believe, scriptures, or nonscriptural sources of unknown origin that eventually evolve into doctrine by no known inspiration or documentation?

In Joseph Smith’s April 1844 King Follet sermon he taught the doctrine that God is an exalted man and that man can somehow become God. This is a radical doctrine that most of Christianity rejects. But is it true? Lorenzo Snow, a future prophet, said the famous couplet as quoted from The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow:  “As man is now, God once was. As God is now, man may be.”6  But in an August 1997 Time Magazine article, Gordon B. Hinckley was asked about this concept established by two of his previous fellow prophets. The Time Magazine reporter asked the following question:

Q: …about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?
President Hinckley’s complete response was:

A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

Is this disturbing on several levels? Why would the acting oracle of God on the earth say he didn’t know when asked about what is being taught in the church over which he presides? Is he denying that it is taught? Is he implying it may be a false doctrine? If something is no longer taught, does that mean it is no longer true? If it is a doctrine taught by Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow about the nature of God, shouldn’t it be endorsed if two other predecessors emphatically stated it was true? And if it is not taught shouldn’t there be a solid reason for why it is not? If you are a prophet, why do you provide such a vague, meaningless answer?

In the next General Conference of 1997 he stated, possibly trying to redeem himself:

The media have been kind and generous to us. This past year of pioneer celebrations has resulted in very extensive, favorable press coverage. There have been a few things we wish might have been different. I personally have been much quoted, and in a few instances misquoted and misunderstood. I think that’s to be expected. None of you need worry because you read something that was incompletely reported. You need not worry that I do not understand some matters of doctrine. I think I understand them thoroughly, and it is unfortunate that the reporting may not make this clear. I hope you will never look to the public press as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.

What a puzzling response. It is strange that if he feels he was misquoted, and he has a forum to clarify the misinterpretation to faithful followers of whether or not the church accepts, teaches, or believes what other prophets have said, why doesn’t he take the opportunity to do it? Why can’t Mormons hear hear his thoughts so they can discern, as he does, what the press is allegedly misconstruing? It’s again unclear who is inspired, President Hinckley or Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow.

The temple endowment ceremony is considered doctrine in the Mormon faith. It is unknown exactly who received the inspiration that established the things taught there, but it is doctrine. It also is continually changing. Words, rituals, etc. are changing as the years go by. The first endowment in the temple took eight hours. Who received the revelation to alter the ceremony and its doctrines over the years? Mormons aren’t taught that it comes from God or any other source. They’re taught nothing on that topic. One just goes to the temple and sees the endowment ceremony has been modified again. Why is it massively modified, if the author of truth is God? Does God need to correct his words for any reason?

According to Section 111 of the D&C, Joseph Smith was inspired in a revelation from God to go to Boston to get money for the church. He and those church leaders he took with him came back having accomplished nothing the Lord supposedly sent them there to do. The purported revelation was filled with misinformation from the beginning. The details of this are laid out in another article on this website devoted to D&C 111. Are we to believe that God erred, or just likes to play tricks, or did Joseph just report a non-revelation as a divine revelation? If the revelation was from God, why would it result in a wild goose chase?

D&C Section 103, another purported revelation which inspired the trek called “Zion’s Camp” to Missouri by a large group of Mormon men to defeat the church’s enemies there and reclaim lost land, is another example. Mormons teach that there were great lessons, and great examples of courage from Zion’s Camp. Here are the actual words the Lord supposedly said to the Joseph Smith:

13 Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren—your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down . . .

16 Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel.

17 For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm.

18 And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.

19 Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence.

20 But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.

Despite being allegedly told by God, “ye shall possess the goodly land . . .”, that never happened to Joseph Smith. Why did the Lord make promises if they were never to come true? In any other scripture does the Lord make promises that don’t come true? Sometimes he will offer a contingency of righteousness or wickedness to prophecies, but he did not in this case. This revelation clearly did not come from the Lord. The Saints never have possessed the “goodly land.” Joseph Smith was not like unto Moses leading them to Zion. The mission failed. There is nothing wrong with being wrong and admitting to it, but we need to question the notion that a Mormon prophet can never lead us astray. Pretending what happened was all the Lord’s will, which is a position taken by church Sunday School manuals, when God proclaimed the opposite according to Joseph’s revelation, is being deceitful.

According to Ezra Taft Benson in his Fundamentals talk, the prophet can authoritatively speak on any topic without specific training.

Joseph Fielding Smith and James Talmage both wrote on the subject of evolution. Talmage and Smith disagreed widely in their views despite the fact that they both were prophets, seers and revelators. Both are entitled to their opinions, but they cannot both be right. Smith wrote Man’s Origin and Destiny, and Talmage wrote The Earth and Man, after Smith’s book was published, to counter Smith’s opinion. David O. McKay gave a third opinion, stating that on the topic of evolution, the LDS church has no opinion. Which prophet, seer and revelator is right?

There has been, and will continue to be errors in judgment and false revelations due to the fact that we are led by men. Can the prophets, seers and revelators lead us astray despite their promise not to?

We are clearly not taught in any scripture to follow a prophet, but instead the Book of Mormon and the Bible clearly instruct mankind to follow Jesus. He did tell his disciples to come and follow him. If we do this, we are promised the kingdom of God.

Is it better to follow a prophet which Jesus never asked us to do, or is it better to just follow Jesus as Jesus asked us to do? Why do Mormons try to place someone in between Christ and his disciples?

Reading the Book of Mormon should cure any one of such notions. The brother of Jared story and the story of Enos are tales included in scripture to show us what happens when we put our faith in Jesus. Mormons rarely, if ever, get to sit and speak personally to a prophet, seer and revelator. But Jesus asks us to offer up prayers from our hearts daily. Why does he do this? Because if we are sincere, he will use our prayers to start building our faith. With greater faith, we have greater insight into our spiritual natures and we have greater capacity to understand God’s ways, and therefore we draw closer to him. Must this direct process be interrupted by a prophet, when we know from countless examples they are often in error?

In the story of the brother of Jared found in the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, the Lord chastised the brother of Jared for not praying to him in a very long time. It is mentioned that after being rebuked, the brother of Jared and God spoke to each other for three hours. I believe the sacred scripture is written for us, for our times, and for every time. There is a message to be learned. The brother of Jared had been labeled by the Lord as someone whose faith was greater than any other’s (Ether 3:9). The Lord wants to hear the prayer of a person who has much faith. There are probably relatively few such people, and God looks forward, I imagine, to blessing that soul who believes mightily in him. Did the Lord actually miss the Brother of Jared, and does he miss us, when we don’t pray to him from our hearts? I believe the brother of Jared is no different than any other of God’s children. The Lord is always inviting us to have faith in him, to believe in him, to pray to him and to follow him. Is there anywhere a single verse of scripture that suggests that presidents of the church have superior understanding of God’s teachings, and sensitivity to the Holy Ghost, than any other sincere follower of Christ? Does God want us to follow a prophet who obviously can, and occasionally will, lead us astray, whether intentionally or unintentionally? I believe the Bible and Book of Mormon are filled with invitations for Jesus’ disciples to follow him only.



1. Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 31-46.

2. Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p.95, Brigham Young, January 2, 1870

3. Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writing of Joseph Fielding Smith, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954) vol. 1, p. 96.

4. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966) p. 527

5. John J. Stewart, Mormonism and the Negro (Orem, Utah: Bookmark/Community Press Publishing Co., 1960) 46-47.

6. Lorenzo Snow, as quoted in LDS lesson manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2011), p. 83

How Scripture and History Show the Pre-Millennial Gathering of the Lost Tribes of Israel is Mostly Complete

The purpose of this essay is first, to carefully analyze the doctrinal and scriptural foundations of the Mormon belief in the “literal gathering of Israel and the restoration of the ten tribes,”1 and second, to consider whether the evidence suggests that said gathering is yet to occur, now partly underway, or mostly complete.  In the latter part of the essay the following hypotheses will be advanced:

1.  The prophesied physical gathering of  Israel found its most prominent fulfillment in the gathering to the present-day nation of Israel that occurred primarily in the 20th century.

2.  To the extent that ancient scriptural prophecies contemplate a gathering in the Americas by the lost tribes of Israel, these prophecies refer to a spiritual gathering as opposed to a physical one.  They have been largely fulfilled by the following groups who at some point in history came to the Western Hemisphere, and some of whose members were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ: first, the groups led by the Lehi and Mulek, and other groups yet unknown to us, in the sixth century B.C. and before and after, as described by the Book of Mormon; second, European Gentiles among whom is mixed much of the seed of ancient Joseph; third, European Gentiles of all genealogies who embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ; and fourth, Sephardic Jews.  The last three groups migrated to America over the last five centuries.

3.  Book of Mormon scriptures make clear that the spirtual gathering of the lost tribes began when the Book of Mormon was brought forth , and has continued since then as Jew and Gentile alike continue to embrace the gospel of Christ.  It is now mostly complete.

4.  The prophesied acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jews in the last days has already come to pass on a far greater scale than most Mormons realize.


Few LDS doctrines have engendered so much speculation as the belief in the latter-day gathering of the ten tribes.  Before we determine whether these prophecies have been fulfilled, we must take great care that we’re not looking for events to occur that were never prophesied, and, of equal importance, that momentous events foretold in scripture don’t escape our notice merely because of the unexpected form in which they came.

Several common Mormon assumptions about the gathering of Israel need to be scrutinized.  The following list of doctrinal question is by no means exhaustive.

  • Do the scriptures indicate the “lost ten tribes” would remain together in one cohesive or semi-cohesive body after they disappeared from history?
  • Do the scriptures indicated  that “ten” tribes would be lost, or instead, that all the tribes of Israel would be scattered?
  • Do the scriptures indicate that all the members of the northern ten tribes were lost when the Assyrians took them captive in 722 B.C., or just a relatively small portion of them?
  • When the people known as the “Jews” were taken captive or scattered from Jerusalem and Judea leading up to and including 587 B.C., were they composed of more Israelite tribes than just Judah, Benjamin and Levi?
  • If the answer to the preceding question is yes, weren’t the people who returned to Judea after their captivity, and whose posterity remained there until being scattered in subsequent centuries, composed of the same tribally diverse group?
  • If the Jews who were scattered from Judea were tribally diverse in the six centuries before Christ and in the first century AD, what conclusions can be made about the tribal ancestries of the Israelis who’ve gathered to modern-day Israel over the last 150 years?  In other words, shouldn’t today’s “Jews” be descended from the same integrated group of tribal descendants as the original “Jews” who were composed of most or all of the tribes of Israel?
  • As the tribes gather in the latter days, do we have clear scriptural indication that they will necessarily know their respective ancient tribal affiliations?
  • Do the great majority of modern-day ethnically “Jewish” Israelis identify one specific tribe from which they descend?
  • Is there any scriptural evidence to suggest that when Jesus visited the lost tribes of Israel after his resurrection and appearance to the Nephites (see III Nephi 17:4 in the Book Mormon), he made only one visit to one place and one people in the Americas?
  • Do we have any basis for inferring that after the majority of the Israelite tribes appeared to be lost to history, subsequent scriptural references to them still identified them by their Israelite tribal lineage, instead of referring to them by the names of the broader groups of people with whom they had assimilated?  I.e., might the scriptural references to the Gentiles, for example, be referring to both the Gentiles and the tribes of Israel interspersed among them?
  • In looking for the lost tribes to come from the land of the “north,” from which geographical frame of reference should we look northward?  Of equal importance, do the scriptures indicate they will gather exclusively from the north, or that they will come from other directions as well?  Why is the gathering from the north given scriptural emphasis?
  • Is the belief that the scattered Israelites are to gather to America in the last days scripturally well-founded, and is this gathering something in which all tribe members are likely to participate?

The latter-day gathering of the dispersed members of the House of Israel was prophesied by Isaiah about 2,700 years ago with these memorable words:

     And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

The envy of also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off:  Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together;  they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Edom; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.

Isaiah 11: 11-14

Jeremiah also spoke much of this gathering, stating that it would eclipse even the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt in magnitude:

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them; and I will bring them again into their  land that I gave unto their fathers.

Jeremiah 16: 14-15.  See also, Jeremiah 31: 7-8, 10-12.

Many centuries after Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jesus himself spoke plainly about the latter-day gathering back to the land of Jerusalem in his sermon to the Nephites:

And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together  in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father.

. . .

Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.

III Nephi 20:29, 33.

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi recognized the tremendous importance of  prophecies concerning a future gathering, and repeated Isaiah’s words in his own small plates.  It’s now found in II Nephi 21:11-12.  He also recognized that his own family’s departure from Jerusalem with Zoram and the family of Ishmael was a significant and historic part of the dispersal of the house of Israel, and he expounded on said dispersal.  From I Nephi 22 we read:

3 Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations.
4 And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away.                                                                               5 And since they have been led away, these things have been prophesied concerning them, and also concerning all those who shall hereafter be scattered and be confounded, because of the Holy One of Israel; for against him will they harden their hearts; wherefore, they shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men.

(Emphasis added)

Nephi introduced three concepts which are usually overlooked or forgotten by members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints when studying the lost tribes of Israel, things of which many non-Mormon Christians are also unaware.  First of all, Nephi doesn’t say that the “lost ten tribes” of Israelites had been led away to the lands in the north, as is commonly believed in Mormonism, but that the house of Israel, which includes all twelve tribes2 had been, and would be, scattered everywhere on earth, including the isles of the sea, and among all nations.  In fact, neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon contain any concept of the gathering of the “lost ten tribes.”  Second, not only would those people in the area of Jerusalem not know where all these groups went, but none of the Jews would know, not even prophets like Nephi himself.3  Third, the scattered tribes would be characterized not by their continuous adherence to their Israelite religion, but by their abandonment of it.  

It must be acknowledged that the assertions in this essay differ from traditional beliefs within Mormonism, and in the Christian world at large, regarding the “lost ten tribes.” This is generally because this essay’s source  texts, though available to all, are significantly different from those usually relied upon heavily by others.  Latter-day Saints are taught in their canonized Doctrine and Covenants that the “lost ten tribes” are to gather to America from the land of the north, and that this gathering will be directed and overseen by the president of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Doctrine and Covenants further instructs that the lost tribe of Ephraim, from which Joseph Smith believed himself descended, will be given richer blessings than the other lost tribes. (See footnote 3 for further information on LDS beliefs.)

This author agrees, of course, with the common understanding throughout Christianity that the Assyrians took their Israelite captives to Media, a province of Assyria to the northeast of Israel on the far side of the Euphrates River, in approximately 721 B.C.  The author also doesn’t dispute the fact that the prophecies concerning the latter-day return of exiled Israel describe them coming from “the north” most prominently among all the places from which they will come.  See II Kings 17:5-6; Jeremiah 16:15, 23:8 and 31:8.  But throughout Christianity, and Mormonism in particular, surprising reliance is placed on the writings of the unknown author(s) of the apocryphal book of Esdras II. This book is accepted by almost all scholars as having been inscribed after the death of the Roman emperor Nero in 68 C.E., which was  approximately eight centuries after the Assyrians carried away captive Israelites from Samaria.4  Esdras II is primarily a philosophical explanation of why God permits tragedy to befall his chosen people while non-Israelites, whom are not chosen by God as his people, still prosper.  The context of the book is a lamentation in the wake of the Romans burning the Jewish temple in 70 C.E.  In one small part of it, the book purports to describe where the Israelite tribes went when they migrated northward after being held captive by the Assyrians.  It claims that the ten tribes stayed together, and resolved before they departed to keep intact their devotion to the true religion from which they had strayed in Israel.  No mention is made of when they departed, or how they were able to do so without interference from the ruler of the empire.  They are said to have crossed the mighty Euphrates River by the Lord parting the water for them, as he had done with the Red Sea, at the river’s narrowest point. From there, the tribes are claimed to have headed north to a land that had never before been inhabited by man.  In this new place they are said to have succeeded in being religiously devout to the Most High.  The writer then assures the reader that these lost ten tribes will eventually return en masse and be reunited with the chosen people.  See Esdras II 13:40-48.

However, to Jews and Christians alike, Esdras is an apocryphal book, as opposed to a scriptural one, for many reasons.  Its writers claim to be one man–the Old Testament Jewish religious leader Ezra (Esdras is Greek for Ezra)–though its anachronistic content betrays its First Century A.D. origins.  In many respects it reads more like a wishful-thinking legend than history.  It contradicts several important aspects of Nephi’s summary of the tribes’ dispersal in the Book of Mormon, as well as Moses’ prediction that the Israelites would be scattered by the Lord “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 father have known, even wood and stone.”  See Deuteronomy 28: 64.  The writings of Esdras II have not been designated by the Lord as scriptural or authoritative, as opposed to, for example, the Book of Mormon, which Nephi proclaimed would contain the fulness of the gospel.  See I Nephi 15:13-14.  On the other hand,  the assertions in this essay are drawn  from biblical and Book of Mormon sources such as Moses, Isaiah, Nephi, Jesus himself, and from exhaustively chronicled events in the 20th century which no one disputes.  The reader is urged to consider the authoritativeness of the sources relied upon before deciding which views to believe.  But it should be remembered that the Jews have been notorious for not understanding their own ancient history correctly, and Christ upbraided them for it.  Not only did they historically ignore prophetic teachings and much that was negative about themselves, see Matthew 23:37, but they also showed a decided disinterest in the Jews/Israelites who had left them, who Jesus taught were “other sheep not of this fold.” See 3 Nephi 15: 12-20.  Thus the Lord never taught the Jews what became of the scattered tribes, or where they went.  The author of Esdras II was one of those Jews who didn’t know about the departures of Lehi or Mulek, or of the many other groups of Israelites that Jehovah led away from Palestine down through the centuries.  Because of this, his claim to know where the lost ten tribes had gone, and that they had remained faithful to the Hebrew religion, assumed false facts and reached erroneous conclusions.

Notwithstanding the obvious flaws in Esdras II’s account, Bruce R. McConkie, in an article entitled  “Lost Tribes of Israel” in his well-known book Mormon Doctrine, quoted from Esdras extensively, but failed to quote the contradictory information provided by Nephi.  McConkie seemed determined to bolster the notion that the gathering of the lost tribes of Israel will occur when they are beckoned by the LDS Church president to come from the land of the north, and the Esdras II account appears to serve those purposes better than the unequivocal verses of the Book of Mormon.5  In The Articles of Faith, another well-known LDS scriptural commentary, its author, former apostle James E. Talmage, also makes prominent mention of Esdras’ writings in adhering to the lost-ten-tribes-are-somewhere-in-the-north notion.  Though Talmage was conscientious enough to provide all Bible and Book of Mormon scriptures relevant to the issue, he made no attempt to address, much less reconcile, the contradictions inherent in the Esdras version.


To understand the latter-day gathering of the lost tribes of Israel, we may need to first correct some common notions about who remained in Israel when the tribes of Israel first began to be dispersed.

The conventional understanding of history is that at the time of the division of Israel into two separate kingdoms, Judah and Benjamin inhabited the southern kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes lived in the northern kingdom if Israel.  Rehoboam was king in Judah when this happened, and Jeroboam led the rebellion against Judah and became the northern kingdom’s first king.  We are further taught that the ten tribes in the north were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.  After being taken to the northern reaches of the Assyrian empire, they never returned to Israel and were lost to history.  The common view further holds that the  tribes of Judah and Benjamin resided in the southern kingdom of Judah until taken captive by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.  Furthermore, because a good number of people from these two tribes returned to Judea 70 years later when freed by Cyrus of Persia, we consider these two tribes to not have been lost.

However, the above conception is so overbroad, that if believed, may be more misleading than informative about the history and future of Israel.  A more meticulous scrutiny of the scriptures reveals that the “Jews” who inhabited the general Jerusalem area immediately before its Babylonian captivity in the early sixth century B.C., and whose descendants returned to that city-state 70 years later, were composed of most, if not all, of the tribes of Israel.

When the tribes of Israel first moved into the land of Canaan under Joshua and were assigned their respective geographical areas to inhabit, some of the tribes besides Judah and Benjamin were assigned to, and settled in, the southern land that later became known as the kingdom of Judah.  The tribe of Levi had been assigned cities throughout the original land of Israel, and many of these cities were within what later became known as Judah (see Numbers 35:1-8).

The tribe of Simeon was likewise within the boundaries of Judah.  Simeon’s area was described in the Bible as “within the inheritance of the children of Judah.” (See Joshua 19:1 specifically, and verses 2-8 generally; see also Map 5 of the “Maps” section of the LDS Bible.)  Some members of Simeon moved eastward into “mount Seir,” the land where Esau’s posterity lived.  (See I Chronicles 4:24-33, 42-43.)  Though they started out wholly within the south, it appears that at some point some of the tribe later settled in the northern kingdom of Israel.  We infer this because the Old Testament records that during the reign of the Judean king Asa in Jerusalem, some of Simeon’s descendants, along with others of Ephraim and Manasseh, migrated from the kingdom of Israel when they saw that Asa was redirecting himself and his kingdom to God.  (See II Chronicles 15:8-10.)  Later, during the reign of the Judean king Josiah, which began some 82 years after the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom, cities of the tribes of Simeon, Manasseh, Ephraim and Naphtali are mentioned in II Chronicles 34:6 as being under his rule.  (The migration to the south of Manasseh, Ephraim and Naphtali, as well as that of other tribes, will be discussed hereinafter.)  It seems justifiable, therefore, to say that the tribe of Simeon was at least as much a part of the kingdom of Judah as it was of Israel, and the descendants of Simeon were among the earliest to intersperse with the descendants of Judah and Benjamin.

In addition to the tribe of Judah, Benjamin, Levi and Simeon, the tribe of Dan was given land which, though initially west of Benjamin’s and Ephraim territory, formed the northern corner of the kingdom of Judah when the previously unified nation of Israel was split into separate northern and southern kingdoms.  The cities designated for Dan are set forth in Joshua 19:40-46 and 21:5, 23-24.  A look at Maps 5 and 9 of the LDS Bible shows that all of these cities were either within Philistine territory or the boundaries of Judah by the time of the division.  Later, however, Judges 18 relates how 600 men of the tribe of Dan journeyed north past the northern end of Israel and conquered the city of Laish, establishing it thereafter as the city of Dan.7  Nevertheless, there is no indication that the entire tribe of Dan migrated north to Laish to live there after it had been conquered, or that the aforementioned 600 men constituted the whole of the tribe.  In fact, the opposite inference is justified, since the taking of only one city would hardly seem to provide a territory for a whole tribe.8  It seems likely that some of the tribe, probably even a majority, remained in the original homeland and formed part of the kingdom of Judah when the country became two kingdoms.

We have seen that the geographical boundaries of Judah originally contained all or part of Judah, Benjamin, Levi, Simeon and Dan.   But clearly, by the time Jerusalem was overthrown, 388 years after the two nations had become separate, Judah had also acquired portions of almost all the other tribes as well.

When Jeroboam founded the northern kingdom of Israel and became its first king, he  quickly led it into idolatry.  (See I Kings 12-14, generally.) Thereafter, over the years, many descendants from the northern tribes in Israel migrated south into Judah because of their desire to worship the true god rather than participate in the idolatry all around them.  These migrations are mentioned as occurring during the reigns of the southern kings Asa, Hezekiah and Josiah.  The first two of these, Asa and Hezekiah, reigned in Judah before the Assyrians overthrew the northern tribes, thus allowing the northern tribes to mix and intermarry with the other tribes in Judea before their captivity.  In describing Asa’s reign, II Chronicles 15:8-10 states, as noted above, that because Asa abolished idolatry and hearkened to the Mosaic law, descendants from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon left Israel and settled in Judah “in abundance.”

Apparently, an even greater number came south during Hezekiah’s reign.  II Chronicles 30:11, 13 and 18 indicate that “much people” from the tribes of Asher, Manasseh, Zebulon, Issachar and Ephraim responded to Hezekiah’s invitation to come to Jerusalem and observe the Feast of the Passover in accordance with the Law of Moses.  Unlike the quoted scriptures regarding Asa’s reign, the latter scriptures don’t expressly say that the northern tribes came to Jerusalem to live, as opposed to coming to participate, in the Passover observances.  Much can be inferred from what is said, however.  The scriptures describing these pilgrimages make obvious that there was much intercourse between the tribes in Judah and those in Israel, and that a great many of those in the north were attracted to the southern kingdom for religious purposes.  Clearly, the religiously devout in Israel felt a kinship with their sister nation to the south, and it’s probable that, as in the time of Asa, they would be likely to migrate to Judah and intermarry with Judah’s descendants as they watched with dismay the growing religious perversions in their own country.

The following very important point regarding the overthrow of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. is often overlooked.  Not all members of the northern Israelite tribes were captured.  After Assyrian king Shalmaneser besieged the northern kingdom for three years, the final overthrow of Israel’s capital, Samaria, was accomplished by his successor, Sargon II.  On an inscription found in his palace, Sargon boasted:  “The city of Samaria I besieged, I took; 27290 of its inhabitants I carried away; fifty chariots that were among them I collected.”10  It may be assumed that the egotistical Sargon II was unlikely to underestimate the number of the Israelites he deported from their homeland, thus lending credibility to the conclusion that his numbers are accurate.  If Sargon II would have taken 100,000 prisoners from Israel, he would have said so, with pleasure.  Since all population estimates for the nation of Israel from that time period put the number at much greater than 27,000, it appears a smaller percentage of Israelites were exiled to Assyria than is commonly believed.  One explanation for this may be that both Shalmaneser and Sargon II concentrated their efforts on conquering and exiling the inhabitants of the city of Samaria, Israel’s capital, and probably its immediate surroundings, thereby leaving alone other Israelites they considered less valuable living in more rural areas of the country.  See II Kings 17:5-6.11 

Of those that remained behind, many continued to migrate to Judah, attracted again by the restoration of religious devotion to Jehovah taking place under King Josiah.  Josiah and the prophet Lehi in the Book of Mormon were contemporaries, since Josiah lived until 609 B.C.  During his reign, however, in what would have been approximately 100 years after the Assyrian captivity, the biblical record informs us that Josiah was supported in his religious devotion to God by the descendants “of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali. . . .throughout all the land of Israel.”  (See II Chronicles 34:5-6, 9.)  These verses are significant not only because they reveal the continued presence of these tribes in Israel a century after they were supposedly carried away captive and lost to history, but also because they affirmatively show their intermixing with those thought of as “Jews” living in Judah.  The Jews had, over the centuries, become a melting pot of the other tribes of Israel.  As Nephi made clear in the II Nephi 22:3-5 scripture quoted above, while the “more part” of the “tribes” (a term Nephi seems to use to denote smaller groups of people than all the descendants of one particular son of Jacob) had already been led away by 600 years before Christ, a minority remained still unscattered.

In fact, the only tribes about which we have no specific information indicating the degree to which they integrated with the kingdom of Judah prior to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are Reuben and Gad.  These two tribes had been assigned to, and had settled on, the east side of the Jordan River from the beginning of Israel’s conquest of Canaan.  (See Joshua 13.)  They therefore had been separated from the other tribes in Judah and Israel by this geographical boundary, and biblical writers appear to have paid less attention to them than to the other tribes in the following centuries.  We read of these two tribes and half of Manasseh having been taken captive by the Assyrians in I Chronicles 5:26, but the scriptures provide no evidence regarding the integration of Reuben and Gad with the Israelites in Judah prior to that time.

The facts above are very significant.  Even though members of the tribes of Israel had been taken hostage by Assyria in 721 B.C., many members of those tribes remained behind and continued to be mixed in together with the “Jews” of the southern kingdom. This means that over the centuries that followed, the people called “Jews” consisted of almost all of the tribes of Israel, and not just Judah and Benjamin.  When these Jews were later scattered down through the ages, and after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 C.E., the tribes from the north were scattered with them, having long since assimilated with them.  And, as the Jews have gathered in the last days, the tribes of Israel, which have been part of them since ancient times, have gathered with them.  This conclusion is bolstered by scriptures outside the Old Testament.


When God led away groups of Jews from the area of Jerusalem (as opposed to them being scattered by their enemies), thus causing many of them to be lost from the knowledge of Jewish historians, the groups themselves were composed of more than just Judah and Benjamin.  The Book of Mormon tells us that Lehi, who lived in the area of Jerusalem, was descended from Manasseh, son of Joseph (see Alma 10:3).  Interestingly, Lehi didn’t know his tribal lineage until he read it in the scriptures and genealogies written on brass plates he had acquired from a man named Laban in Jerusalem.  See I Nephi 5:10-16.

Although Lehi was descended from Manasseh, his son Nephi considered himself and his people “Jews,” see II Nephi 30:4 and 33:8.  This illustrates how broadly the term “Jew” should be construed in interpreting last-days prophecies about the return of the “Jews” to Jerusalem. Nephi also considered his abode in America an “isle of the sea,”  see II Nephi 10: 20, in partial fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy quoted near the beginning of this essay. It’s apparent that those living in the land round about Jerusalem considered themselves Jews regardless of their tribal ancestry.  In fact, it’s likely that specific tribal ancestry had become irrelevant in the southern kingdom of Judah.  If the prophet Lehi in 600 B.C. was unaware he came from Joseph through Manasseh until he read his genealogy in the brass plates that had been kept by someone else, it’s likely most other inhabitants of Judea in his time, and thereafter, were equally ignorant of their tribal blood lines.   Laban himself was also descended from Joseph (see I Nephi 5:16), which means he was either from Ephraim or Manasseh.  The descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh are presently considered two of the supposedly lost-from-history ten tribes, but the Book of Mormon corroborates the Bible in establishing that some descendants of these tribes were still in Jerusalem 600 years before Christ’s birth, the year that Levi was led out of that city.

During the early part of Jesus’s  ministry, Matthew 4: 12-13 states that he left Nazareth and went to the Galilee area, and “came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon [Zebulun] and Nephthalim [Naphtali].”  It may be that those areas carried still carried the names of the two tribes that originally settled there, without any actual descendants of those two tribes still remaining in those areas.  But it’s also at least as reasonable to interpret this verse as demonstrating that some descendants of these two supposedly lost tribes of Israel were still living in the area where they had first settled many centuries earlier, thus enabling them to preserve the old tribal place names.  This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that no other lands were still being called by their ancient tribal names except for Judah/Judea, where Jews descended from Judah were still known to live.

Similarly, the New Testament book of Luke mentions Anna the prophetess, who “departed not” from the temple in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time, and who was member of the tribe of Aser [Asher], another supposedly lost-to-history Israelite tribe.  See Luke 2:36.

The tribe of Levi should also not be considered one of the “lost ten tribes.”  Levi’s descendants had to remain among the people of Jerusalem to administer the ordinances of the temple there.  Therefore, the Bible specifically mentions the Levitical lineage of Zacharias and Elizabeth of Jerusalem (and of course their son John the Baptist) and Joses Barnabas of Cyprus.  See Luke 1:5 and Acts 4:36.  Moreover, that Levites were a prominent part of Jewish society is shown by the mention of them questioning John the Baptist, see John 1:19, and Jesus’ inclusion of them in his parable of the Good Samaritan, see Luke 10:32.

The Book of Mormon also describes a “choice seer” in the latter days.  Through this seer, a new book of scripture, called a “marvelous work and a wonder” containing the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, would come forth in the latter days.  We can now reasonably identify this seer as Joseph Smith, since through him the Book of Mormon was published in 1830.  The Book of Mormon declared this latter-day seer to be descended from the lineage of Joseph of old, the birthright son of Israel, in II Nephi 3:7-15, though it is not known whether his ancestors were among those taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. or that portion that remained behind in Israel thereafter.  We know from modern genealogical research that Joseph Smith’s ancestors came from the British Isles. This fact corroborates the biblical and Book of Mormon scripture quoted above that the tribes of Israel were to be scattered everywhere, and it suggests that some of them obviously migrated to the British Isles and the rest of Europe.  It also demonstrates that latter-day descendants of the “lost tribes” are integrated into, and indistinguishable from, the populations within which they live.  Discerning a person’s lineage from the lost tribes of Israel cannot be done by merely asking her about her genealogical line, or her name, or her religious persuasion.  In Joseph Smith’s case, though he was descended from the tribe of Joseph, he was also referred to as a Gentile, since it was the Gentiles through whom the Book of Mormon was prophesied to come forth.  See I Nephi 15:13-14; III Nephi 21:1-11.

It is instructive to note that neither Lehi, living 600 years before Christ, nor Joseph Smith, living 2,400 years later, was aware of his tribal descent until he discovered it in scriptures.  This forces the question of whether descendants of the lost tribes in the latter days should be expected to know their ancient tribal affiliations.  There is no Bible or Book of Mormon prophecy that suggests that the tribes gathering in the last days would know they were of Naphtali, or Asher, or Ephraim, or Simeon.  One might ask, unless genealogical records are kept going back four thousand years, how could they know?  Even if one knows her religion to be Jewish, does she know which tribe she’s from?  Is she certain her ancestors didn’t descend from Japheth, or Ham, or from a non-Abrahamic branch of Shem,12 and later converted to Judaism? Might not millions of people likewise be part of the prophesied gathering of Israel without specific knowledge of their own tribal affiliations, if they have any, or those of their neighbors?

Thus we see that the scattering of the “lost ten tribes” of Israel didn’t transpire the way it was described in Esdras II.  The group taken captive by the Assyrians by no means included all members of the tribes of Israel besides Judah and Benjamin.  The Assyrians took away just one of many groups of Israelites.  Those many scattered groups obviously did not stay together and keep intact their religious beliefs and observances from the Law of Moses.  Instead, they dispersed and mixed in among nations everywhere. Their tribal affiliations are now indistinguishable from the people among whom they live.  Accordingly, if we wish to determine if the lost tribes have gathered or are now gathering, we can do much more than seek to trace the history and movements of the Israelites exiled to northern Assyria.  Identifying the fulfillment of the prophesied gathering then becomes much easier.


It is the contention of this essay that the historic gathering of the lost tribes is mostly complete, and that its most momentous events have already occurred.  The evidence is strong that the gathering to Israel that took place leading up to and during the 1940s was of tremendous historical and scriptural significance.  It brought to pass the famous prophecy in the 11th chapter of Isaiah, and was one of the two most prominent fulfillments of the great predicted gathering of Israel in the Bible and Book of Mormon.

What happened in the 1940s that was so momentous? At the end of World War II, millions of Jews (which, as noted, consisted of descendents of most or all of the lost tribes) gathered to Israel from the four quarters of the earth.  In 1948, the nation of Israel  was founded, and a man named David, David Ben Gurion, became it first prime minister. Thereafter, between 1948 and 2002, 424,000 migrated to Israel from North Africa to the west, and 174,000 from the Americas farther to the west.  From lands north of Israel, 681,000 came from Europe, 60,000 from Turkey, 1,032,000 from the former U.S.S.R. excluding central Asia, and 115,000 from central Asia. From the  northeast and east came 32,000 from South Asia and 205,000 from Iraq and Iran.  From the south and southeast came 51,000 from Yemen and 80,000 from Ethiopia and South Africa.13 These regions include the four quarters, or corners, of the earth.  There has never been any other gathering like this one that fits so perfectly Isaiah’s prophecy.  Notice the places Isaiah said they’d come from: Pathros, Egypt and Cush describe the African places; Shinar and Elam and Assyria describe Iraq and Iran; Hamath is a famous city in Syria (part of Turkey in the 1940s), and the isles of the sea describe many places, including the Americas. The north countries described by Jeremiah in Jer. 31:8 and in Ether 13:11, from which the tribes would also gather, are geographic matches for Europe, Syria, Turkey, and the formerly Soviet part of Asia.

Similarly, recent history has shown that currently in the modern nation of Israel, Ephraim does not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim.  In other words, there no longer exist tribal factions and divisions (except political “tribes”) within the nation like those that divided the country anciently. Already, the Jews have flown upon the shoulders of the Philistines (Palestinians) to the west, spoiled Edom and Moab, and subdued the children of Ammon. This happened in the 1967 Six Days War, and has happened since.  [Edom, Moab and Ammon are all locations within modern-day Jordan.  “Ammon” refers to the Jordanian capital of Amman.]

These events were enormously significant to the Lord, as they fulfilled Jehovah’s ancient promises and restored to Israel a military strength it had not possessed for more than 3,000 years.This conclusion is shown decisively by the Book of Mormon. Note these words of Moroni, in Ether 13:11, concerning the latter-day gathering of Israel, and the people who, with their descendants, shall inhabit the millennial land of Jerusalem:

And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham.

We must therefore conclude that the historic physical gathering of the lost tribes of Israel, of which Isaiah and multiple Book of Mormon prophets prophesied, was to be to Jerusalem, not to North America, unlike what Joseph Smith understood and taught.  Old Testament prophets corroborated this conclusion in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah quoted hereinabove, and in Ezekiel 37: 21-22, and Amos 9:14, 15.  It is also consistent with the allegory of the olive tree, found in the Book of Mormon, which describes the dispersal and latter-day gathering of the house of Israel.  At the end of the allegory, the lord of the vineyard and his servant graft the branches from the mother tree, which have been previously been broken off and planted in the nethermost parts of the vineyard, and have grown up there, back into the mother tree from which they were broken off.  See Jacob 5:  52-74.  This symbolizes the temporal return of the scattered tribes back to their original mother land, Israel, as well as their spiritual return to the true religion from which they had strayed.  See also I Nephi 10:14, 19:16, and 22:12.

It is also noteworthy that this gathering to Jerusalem is shown by 1 Nephi 19:16 to include a gathering from “the isles of the sea,” which, as shown above, would include the Americas:  “Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth.”  This indicates that temporally speaking, the gathering of lost tribes to Israel from America is mentioned in scripture as is the spiritual gathering in America from scattered Israel.


At this point, it is useful to consider what evidence exists that the house of Israel had a numerically impressive presence in America.  We have already made mention of groups who came from Jerusalem to America 600 years before Christ—the descendants of Lehi, who was of tribe of Manasseh, and the descendants of Ishmael and Zoram, who lived in the Jerusalem area and were thus presumably of Israelite descent.14 

Mulek, a son of Zedekiah and therefore a descendant of Judah who had not been captured by the Babylonians, also came to America during this time.  Mulek’s group’s descendants, when discovered by the Nephites,  were “exceedingly” numerous, and had, like the Nephites and Lamanites, already been intermarrying with other native races in the Americas for the last approximately 400 years.  See Omni 1:17.  Moreover, the group of individuals who sailed to America with Mulek almost certainly included the descendants of other Israelite tribes as well since, as we have seen, those at pre-exilic Jerusalem were already of mixed tribal blood.

Thus Jewish/Israelite blood had always been spreading through the Americas at a rate that was beyond the ability of Nephite writers to chronicle.  The Book of Mormon only purports to be a record of those who stayed religiously faithful enough for their religious leaders to keep track of them.  For example, when Nephi left the land of first inheritance and migrated to the land of Nephi, and when Mosiah led the Nephites out of the land of Nephi to Zarahemla, both men left behind all Nephites who weren’t devout enough to want to follow them.  See II Nephi 5: 6 and Omni 1:12-13.  Those who stayed behind became lost to history.  Similarly, when the Lamanites and Nephites had first separated, it’s evident that the Lamanites immediately began intermarrying with native races, not only adopting their heathen culture and practices, but acquiring their skin color.  See II Nephi 5:19-25.

The Book of Mormon account of Sherem is also instructive on the issue of Israelite presence and influence in the Americas in the late sixth century B.C.  Jacob 7:1 states Sherem “came . . . among the people of Nephi,” indicating he was not already part of the Nephites, but from some other group, to dispute Nephi’s brother Jacob’s teachings about the coming of Christ.  “And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people,” according to Jacob 7:4.  He also argued that the law of Moses was the right way, and should be adhered to strictly, and that the coming of Christ wasn’t scripturally indicated.  Later, when struck down by God, he admitted that the coming of Christ was foretold by scripture, and confessed he’d been dishonest in professing his arguments to be scripturally sound.  See Jacob 7:1-19.  The question naturally arises, Where did Sherem come from?  He didn’t live with the Nephites, and given his scriptural knowledge, it’s highly unlikely he was of the Lamanites, who possessed no scriptures.  Neither did the Mulekites, who lived too far away for Sherem to be aware of  what Jacob was teaching.  Where would an Aramaic- or Hebrew-speaking scriptorian come from so early in Nephite history in America?  It’s reasonable to assume he was from some other Israelite group which neither Nephi nor Jacob saw fit to mention in the small plates of Nephi.  Perhaps neither of them were aware of Sherem’s background or people, or perhaps they were aware and mentioned them in the large plates of Nephi.  At any rate, it is apparent that much Israelite presence in America could have been growing in the Western Hemisphere without the Nephite keepers of the spiritual record knowing or writing about them.

Furthermore, when Jesus came to the Nephites, he told them he had to leave to visit the other lost tribes of Israel.  See III Nephi 17:4.  He did not say where those tribes were, but it’s not unlikely that some, or several of them were living in other parts of the Americas.  In fact, it is probable that some of them had gotten to America before Lehi’s group.  As noted above, Nephi declared that most of those God had led away from had already been led away before his own group left.  See I Nephi 22:4.

But there is another historical occurrence that contributed a great influx of Jews/Israelites to the Western Hemisphere.  In their paper “The Children of Lehi and the Jews of Sepharad,” authors D. Chad Richardson and Shon D. Hopkin recount the history of the Sephardic Jews who came to the Americas from Spain.15  The salient points are summarized as follows:

Following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem of 70 AD, the Jews scattered all over Europe and the Middle East, but the largest concentration of Jews in Europe came to reside in Spain.  (Sepharad is Hebrew for Spain.)  After centuries of persecution and forced conversions to Christianity under Romans and then German Visigoths, their situation greatly improved when in 711 AD the Muslim Moors of Africa overthrew the Germans.  For the next 600 years, the Jews prospered and multiplied.  By the 15th century, those of Jewish extraction (including a mixture of most or all Israelite tribes) in Spain numbered in the millions.  In fact, not only were there more Jews in Spain than in any other country of the world, it appears they outnumbered self-identifying Jews in the entire rest of the world.16 

As Catholic monarchs began reconquering the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors, Jews were pressured to convert to Catholicism or leave the country.  During this time, many Jews voluntarily converted, while others did so to protect their lives and property.  Nevertheless, as a result, they intermarried with Spaniards and became indistinguishable ethnically and religiously.  By 1492, all Jews in Spain were ordered by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to convert or leave Spain.  About half chose to convert, 150,000 left for Portugal, and other fled elsewhere.  Many of those who converted eventually rose to the highest echelons of church and state in Spain.  But the Spanish Inquisition resulted in intense pressure on those converted Jews to prove their conversion had been genuine and thorough.  In the 1500s, when the Portuguese instituted their own Inquisition, torture and execution had then become common in both countries.  The non-converting Sephardic Jews fled the Iberian Peninsula in droves, some going to Africa, and others to Turkey where Muslims were still in power.  But at least half, rather than leave, converted to Catholicism.17  Those who converted outwardly, but secretly retained their devotion to Judaism, came to be referred to by scholars as crypto-Jews.

Not surprisingly, in the 16th century and thereafter:

As the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers left for the Americas, they took with them substantial Jewish ancestry, produced by forced or pressured conversions over more than fifteen hundred years.  Additionally, in order to escape the Inquisition, many more recently “converted” crypto-Jews fled to the Americas, though the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions followed them there.  Despite the vigorous activity of the Inquisition, groups of secret Jews continued to arrive in Latin America from Iberia and other parts of Europe and persisted ins secretly practicing their Judaism.  The largest number of crypto-Jews went to Mexico (which then included the Southwestern United States) and to Brazil.  Boleslav Lewin estimates  that there were 30,000 crypto-Jew in the Spanish American colonies, while there were 10,000 in Brazil.  [David M.] Gitlitz stresses, however, “Presumably the number of assimilationist new Christians [conversos] was much higher.”18

Richardson and Hopkin continue:

Over the next two or three hundred years, the Inquisition and a gradual conversion process virtually eliminated the crypto-Jews as a category.  By the time the Latin American nations received their independence in the early 1800s, the Inquisition had been abolished and the great mestizo race (known as cholos in Peru) was formed in the Americas from the mixing of the Native Americans with the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers (with their substantial Jewish ancestry) . . .

[M]any of the same Gentiles who colonized the Americas were also to a considerable extent descendants of the tribe of Judah . . .[As many of them] subsequently intermarried with the Native Americans, they created a mestizo race that also mixed blood of Judah with Lehite seed of Joseph.  This mestizo race would eventually permeate Latin American society.19


We have seen that the term “Jew” was used by Nephi to include refer generically to  a member of the House of Israel, whether of Judah or not.  Nephi also spoke about the latter-day spiritual gathering of those same Jews:

Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.  And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind–and when that day shall come that they believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.  And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state.  Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

II Nephi 25:15-17

That the spiritual gathering of the Jews and the scripturally synonymous house of Israel is a much broader event than the physical gathering is demonstrated by the fact that it is described as taking place in the multiple “lands of their inheritance,” not merely their original homeland in Jerusalem.  Nephi said when the Jews were brought into the true “church and fold of God,” they would be “gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.”  (Emphasis added).  II Nephi 9:2. Later he added, quoting the Lord: “And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one.” See II Nephi 29: 14.

Jesus indicated to the Nephites gathered in the land Bountiful that the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon (a “great and marvelous work” among the Gentiles) to the house of Israel, the building of the New Jerusalem in the New World with Gentile assistance, the physical gathering of Israel, and the Israelites’ acceptance of Christ would all occur in the same general time period.20  III Nephi 21:1-27.  See also, II Nephi 10:7-9.   We thus see from the above scriptures that the spiritual gathering of Israel began at the same time as the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon in 1830.  Since that time, missionaries carrying the gospel message contained within the Bible, and the fulness of that message contained within the Book of Mormon, have fanned out around the globe, gathering many millions to accept Christ’s gospel.  The acceptance of Christianity has been most prominent in the Americas, the home of the New Jerusalem.  Moreover, descendants of the house of Israel have come to know not only the fulness of the gospel, but many who were not aware of their ancestry have come to learn that they are descended from God’s covenant people.  Other Gentiles who have accepted the gospel have learned that they too, are counted among the house of Israel by so doing, regardless of their specific ancestry.  See III Nephi 21:14-22; see also II Nephi 10:7-9.

Many readers will remember that Nephi prophesied that in the day that the Book of Mormon would go forth to the descendants of the house of Israel, the Jews would “begin to believe in Christ, and shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people.”  See II Nephi 30:7, and verses 3-8 generally.  They may have failed to see the strong evidence, set forth above, that this prophecy has been fulfilled.  Its most spectacular fulfillment in the Americas has been seen in the ubiquitous presence of Jewish ancestry among the millions of Latinos who have embraced Christianity.  To a lesser, but still significant extent, the Gentiles in Europe, so many of whom unknowingly possess Israelite/Jewish blood, have helped fulfill this prophecy to the extent that they have embraced Christ and his gospel.

Because of the above, it would appear that the spiritual gathering is mostly complete.  Obviously, this conclusion is based on these three major, previously unstated assumptions:  first, that the gathering we’re speaking of is that which is to happen before Christ’s second coming, not during the Millennium; second, that the rate of conversion to Christianity is in most places decelerating around the world; and third, that Jesus’s return is soon enough that the number of those individuals yet to accept his gospel is smaller than those who already have.


Joseph Smith taught that only the Jews would return to Israel, not comprehending that the term “Jew” implied more than merely the tribes of Judah and  Benjamin.  He also believed and taught, as described in footnote 3 above, that the lost ten tribes, which excluded Judah and Benjamin, lived together in the north, fully aware of their tribal lineages and led by prophets, and would physically gather to America.  The reality appears to be that all of the tribes would gather in both hemispheres, with the physical gathering primarily occurring in Israel and the spiritual gathering occurring to its most spectacular extent in the Americas, but also transpiring worldwide.  Though it is heretical within Mormon circles to say so,  it appears Joseph Smith’s teachings were informed by an incomplete understanding of the complexity of the subject of the gathering of the lost tribes.

In studying the Bible and Book of Mormon, the author feels that no Christian should make the mistake of deferring to someone else’s scriptural understanding in order to obtain his own, even if the deferred-to person is a revered church leader or reputed scriptorian.  Scripture study should be thoughtful, thorough, frequent, repetitive, and the conclusions of others should be independently verified.

That said, the purpose of this article is not to denigrate Joseph Smith.  Rather, it’s an attempt to shed light on a very important subject, so that readers may consider that prophecies they understood to be yet unfulfilled have already come to pass.  They should not be wondering where in the north the ten tribes live, or why prophesied gatherings to Jerusalem or America have been so long-delayed.  They should not wonder when the world will see the Jews accept Jesus as the promised Messiah in significant numbers.  They should glean from the scriptures that these things have happened.  More than anything, the reader should consider that the Lord’s Second Coming is perhaps nearer than previously thought, “even at the doors.”


1. See Tenth Article of Faith, in The Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1989), p. 61.

2. Many are confused as to how many tribes existed within Israel.  Jacob, or Israel, had twelve sons, and each became the head of a separate tribe.  If the tribe of the eleventh son Joseph is counted as one tribe only, there were twelve tribes, Benjamin being the twelfth.  But when the Israelites moved into Canaan and divided up the land among the tribes, Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, were each given a tribal inheritance of land, thus arguably increasing the number of the tribes to thirteen because Joseph was no longer just one tribe.  Ever since then, Ephraim and Manasseh have been treated as separate tribes. However, in that same land division, the tribe of Levi was not given its own territory, but was given cities within the boundaries of several tribal lands to share with the tribe inhabiting that area.  Thus there were twelve tribal territories, but thirteen different tribes.  Interestingly, when John in Revelation Chapter 7 named “all the tribes of the children of Israel,” for some reason he included Ephraim and Manasseh as separate tribes, but omitted the tribe of Dan.  See Rev. 7:4-8.

3. Non-Book of Mormon LDS scriptures teach that the lost tribes of Israel are gathered together in some unidentified, icy, “north countries,” that they are led by prophets, and are aware of their own specific tribal lineages. Furthermore, they will eventually gather to Zion, also known as the New Jerusalem, which will be built in America, by crossing a highway built across the ocean.  This gathering will be overseen by the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Among those to gather in the Western Hemisphere, Ephraim is taught as being the foremost of the tribes, and therefore destined to receive a “richer” blessing than the rest of the house of Israel when the process is finished.  The nature of this richer blessing is not explained.  See Doctrine and Covenants 110: 11 and 133: 26-34, and the aforementioned LDS Tenth Article of Faith, all of which passages are canonized Mormon scripture.  Mormon conceptions are heavily influenced by these verses, even though, as demonstrated in this essay, the doctrine contained therein is in direct conflict with scriptures from the Bible and Book of Mormon.  The author’s position is that the referenced Doctrine and Covenants scriptures have been mischaracterized as divinely inspired, and should not have been canonized, as they represent instead Joseph Smith’s insufficiently researched interpretation of the apocryphal book of Esdras II and selected ancient scriptures.  Of course, the author’s conclusion rests on the assumption (admittedly divisive within Mormonism) that Joseph Smith was not incapable of misrepresenting his views as revelations from God.

4. The Apocrypha: an American Translation, Edgar J. Godspeed, trans. (New York: Random House, Inc., 1959) Introduction by Moses Hadas, xxvi.

5.  Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1966), pp 455-58.

6. James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1924), pp. 325-26; see also pp. 314-44 and 513-14 generally.  On page 514 of the Appendix, Talmage quotes a prophecy he himself made in General Conference in 1916, wherein he prophesied that there were people living and present at the conference who would live to see the lost ten tribes gather, and bring their scriptures with them, which would chronicle the visit of the resurrected Jesus to them after he had visited the Nephites.  Sadly, Talmage’s prophecy was not fulfilled.

7.  See also Joshua 19: 47, which states that “the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem [Laish], and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword,  and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan after the name of Dan their father.”

8. From a reading of Judges 20, it appears that 600 armed men would be a small minority of a normal-sized tribe.  The chapter describes a battle involving 426,000 armed Israelites from all twelve tribes, 26,000 of which were from Benjamin.  This battle took place before men from Dan had departed to the north to overthrow Laish.  Dividing the total number of soldiers gathered for battle by 12 renders the average number of soldiers per tribe as 35,500.  While Old Testament numbers have been often suspected by many biblical scholars to be overstated when referring to numbers of soldiers, the same suspicion would apply to the account of Dan’s 600 armed men.  This reinforces the inference that the 600 armed men were a minority of the tribe.

9. The custom of allowing daughters from individual tribes to intermarry with men of the other Israelite tribes was already well established since the early days of Israel’s occupation of Canaan, as is demonstrated by a reading of the 21st chapter of Judges.     10. Herbert Lockmeyer Sr., Ed., Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 972.

11. While some scholars have speculated that Sargon II’s inscription failed to mention the number of captives that may have already been taken from Israel by Shalmaneser before his sudden death, thus understating the total number of Israelite captives carried away to Assyria, later Old Testament scriptures chronicling the reign of Josiah, together with Book of Mormon  scriptures, leave no doubt that notable populations from the northern tribes remained within Israel after the Assyrian conquest.  These scriptures are discussed in the next paragraph of the essay.

12. The author hypothesizes that the Bible doesn’t offer itself as the history of all humankind, but only follows the descendants of Adam, who was the father of the race called “man”, but wasn’t the first human.  It’s further hypothesized that Noah’s Flood was not a global event that wiped out all of humankind, but rather, a localized event which reduced Adam’s posterity, or “man”, to the families of Japheth, Shem and Ham.  If these theories are true, today’s individual could also have many other lines of descent from Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia or the Americas which weren’t originally traced to Noah’s sons.  These theories would also explain why the Hebrew writers seem to have a very limited view of world geography, being unaware of lands and peoples in the Far East or thousands of miles across oceans.

13. See map insert in Oct. 2002 National Geographic Magazine, “Middle East: Crossroads of Faith and Conflict,” also available for viewing online.

14. Erastus Snow (1818-88) a former LDS Church apostle, quoted Joseph Smith as having said that Ishmael, who traveled to the Americas in Lehi’s group and whose sons and daughters intermarried with Lehi’s children, was of the tribe of Ephraim.  Smith said he had obtained this information from the translation of the 116 pages of Book of Mormon text that were lost.  See Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855-86) 23:184-85.

15. D. Chad Richardson and Shon D. Hopkin, “The Children of Lehi and the Jews of  Sepharad” in BYU Studies Quarterly 53, no. 4 (2014), 147-67.

16. Ibid., p. 153.

17. Ibid., 157.

18. Ibid., 158-9.

19. Ibid., 161-2.

20. LDS readers are likely to believe that the New Jerusalem, which they have taught will be built in Jackson County, Missouri, has not yet been built, just as they don’t believe the lost tribes have already been gathered.  However, the author theorizes that the New Jerusalem has been built, and that it, like its Old World counterpart, is known worldwide as the headquarters of a well-known religion whose most prominent symbol is a famous temple.  Also like the old Jerusalem, from which Christ’s disciples dispersed to carry the gospel message, the New Jerusalem is the city from which missionaries were first sent to take the Book of Mormon to the descendants of Lehi, a branch of the house of Israel living in the Americas, and to all people everywhere.  And if those similarities were not clues enough, this city, like Jerusalem in Israel, is also found in the desert, not far from a freshwater river running into a large body of salt water.  The author believes the role this city shall play in the future is yet to be realized, but that it has been built.  Ironically, those who occupy it, and gather to it, have been unable to see its significance, believing that the New Jerusalem is elsewhere.


“How History Shows the Great and Abominable Church was Overcome by the Church of the Lamb,” essay posted on this website, by Scott S. Mitchell.

“Mormonism’s Current Practice of Giving Patriarchal Blessings,” essay posted on this website, by Scott S. Mitchell.

“Damage Done by Doctrinal Errors,” essay posted on this website, by Scott S. Mitchell.

“The Most Consequential Reason behind Doctrinal Errors Gaining Acceptance in the LDS Church,” essay posted on this website, by Scott S. Mitchell

“Apparently Erroneous Teachings Concerning the Last Days from Doctrine and Covenants 133,” essay posted on this website, by Scott S. Mitchell

“Erroneous Doctrine and Covenants Teachings Regarding the New Jerusalem,” essay posted on this website, by Scott S. Mitchell.

“Genetic Research: almost 25 percent of Latinos-Hispanics have Jewish DNA,” by Ashley Perry, Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2019.

Jesus’s Doctrine and Gospel versus Mormonism’s Teachings of Temple Priesthood Ordinances and Exaltation

(Note: The following essay will appear as Chapter 1 of a book currently being written by M.S. Brothers entitled Restoration II: Defending the Bible and Book of Mormon Against LDS Theology.)

It might come as a surprise to the average member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to encounter the assertion that the gospel taught by his or her church is in conflict with the gospel taught in the Book of Mormon. That which made the church famous and unique in 1830 when it was founded was the Book of Mormon, and the nickname “Mormon Church” is derived from that same book. Presumably, nothing should be more in line with LDS Church doctrine than the Book of Mormon itself. But in truth, the contrast between the two couldn’t be more pronounced.

Jesus’ biblical message regarding how to attain salvation and inherit eternal life, which he preached to the Jews in Israel, and then to some New World inhabitants whose history is chronicled in the Book of Mormon, bears little resemblance to current LDS teachings on the same subject. This stark doctrinal difference has been chosen as the subject of the first chapter because, of all the conflicts to be discussed in this book between Mormon theology and what Jesus himself taught anciently, this is the most fundamental and important.

Jesus’ message of salvation, as it fell from his own lips to his Jewish audience, was simple and straightforward. After delivering the Sermon on the Mount, in which he preached a new set of moral principles by which his disciples would be measured, Jesus defined who would be saved in the kingdom of heaven. It would be that individual who “doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven,” the same person who “heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them.” Matthew 7: 21; 24-25. Jesus’s apostles were later commissioned to go into all the world, teaching this same message, announcing that Jesus was the Son of God who had come to earth as a new lawgiver, had been crucified, and had resurrected, and that resurrection and redemption were now available to all mankind through him. Those who believed this message, repented and were baptized for the remission of sins would be saved. Matthew 27: 18-20; Mark 16: 16; Luke 24: 45-49.

The Book of Mormon in many ways is much like the Bible. It’s a record of God’s dealings with peoples living anciently in the Americas during a period which came to an end 421 years after the birth of Christ. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon narrative was dutifully written by religiously-oriented individuals who recorded general historical developments as well as the preaching of prophets as they attempted to keep their people close to God. As demonstrated below, its version agrees with the biblical version of Christ’s gospel, and appears to define and simplify it even further.

The Book of Mormon’s definitive statement of Christ’s “doctrine”, as Jesus himself calls it, is contained within an account of the resurrected Jesus descending out of heaven and appearing to a multitude of Nephites (a people descended from the house of Israel who left Jerusalem and came to the Western Hemisphere shortly before Judea fell to the Babylonians). On this occasion, some 2,500 men, women and children were gathered at a temple in the land Bountiful, somewhere in the Americas, approximately one year after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The account of Jesus’ visits and teachings, beginning in the 11th chapter of the book of Third Nephi (hereafter “3 Nephi”) constitutes the apex of the Book of Mormon narrative. The prophecies chronologically preceding this apex built up to it, and the teachings in the centuries thereafter referred back to it. It’s the climactic event precisely because while it lasted, it represented the kingdom of God on earth, though it was temporary. Whatever Jesus taught as immutable doctrine on this occasion could not be superseded by prior prophetic teachings, nor by those which would come later, for no teacher or prophet could ever be more authoritative than Jesus, the resurrected Son of God. The Book of Mormon records that Jesus emphasized his preeminence over all other teachers by declaring himself to the people gathered to the temple,

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the alight and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning . . .
I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole dearth . . . (3 Nephi 11: 10-11, 14)

After descending out of heaven, in full view of all who were gathered there, Jesus invited the multitude to come forth and thrust their hands into his side, and feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet, thus evidencing his crucifixion and resurrection. What did the “God of the whole earth” teach the gathered Nephites? He defined what he called his “doctrine”, and the process whereby one can “inherit the kingdom of God”. We find Jesus’ words in the following verses of the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi Chapter 11, with emphasis added to key phrases with italics, and in two crucial verses, italics and boldface:

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.                                                                                 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned . . .
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

Having defined his doctrine, Jesus then proceeded to teach the New World equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, the same moral code he had given to the Jews in Israel. For the most part, the sermon to the Nephites, found in 3 Nephi chapters 12-14, it is a word-for-word duplication of the one found in the Bible, with two important exceptions.1 When he had finished, Jesus repeated what he had told the Jews regarding who would fare well with God in the hereafter:
“Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day.” 3 Nephi 15: 1

On a subsequent occasion, as set forth in the following verses from 3 Nephi 27, Jesus further explained to his twelve disciples, whom he had chosen from among the Nephites, what his “gospel”2 consisted of. I have italicized one verse for emphasis:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the ccross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world . . .
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

In addition to Jesus describing precisely what his doctrine and gospel actually consist of in the verses quoted above, his words also display two salient features. First, the doctrine and gospel he announces are remarkably simple. Believe in his atoning sacrifice, repent of your sins, become as a little child, be baptized, and continue humbly as a little child in this mode, repenting when necessary, and you will be saved and inherit the kingdom of God. There are no extra ritual or ceremonial requirements, or “ordinances,” as Mormons call them, included in Jesus’ teachings. Baptism is the first and last physical ritual required.3

Nor does Jesus’ message contemplate any greater reward than to “inherit the kingdom of God.” If a greater reward than this were to be striven for, this occasion, where the Lord taught his doctrine to the Nephites gathered at the temple, would have been the occasion when he would have said so. As it stands, however, not only did Jesus not add extra requirements or rewards to his message of salvation and its corresponding promise of inheriting God’s kingdom, but nowhere in the Book of Mormon is inheriting the kingdom of God described as being more complicated than Jesus described it here.
The second salient feature is Jesus’ warning in 3 Nephi 11: 40, stated with unequivocal plainness, not to add to or subtract from the doctrine he enunciates; doing so “cometh of evil.” The existence of this warning creates a conflict with current Latter-Day Saint (hereafter “LDS” or “Mormon”) doctrine. As we shall see, LDS doctrine embraces a much more elaborate and ritual-heavy gospel than the one Jesus declared to the Jews and Nephites. So much has been added by Mormonism, in fact, that Jesus’ original teachings bear little resemblance to the church’s current theology.

Mormonism’s Departure from Biblical and Book of Mormon Doctrine

In modern Mormonism, baptism is taught as only the first of several ceremonies in which believers are urged to participate. In fact, Mormon theology ignores Jesus’ above-quoted warning to not add to his doctrine, and plainly, if unknowingly, trivializes the mere inheritance of the kingdom of God. The church replaces Jesus’ above-quoted promise of salvation with a far greater reward for which to strive—one never taught by the Lord in the Bible or Book of Mormon—exaltation and godhood. And to achieve exaltation and godhood, the believer must do much more than merely live the gospel Jesus taught the Jews and Nephites. Otherwise, Mormons are taught, mere baptism will only get you salvation—a disappointing consolation prize.
LDS theology teaches that to only be saved in the kingdom of God is to fall short of one’s potential, in much the same way as ending one’s education upon graduation from high school should fail to satisfy an individual bent on becoming an astrophysicist. Instead, Mormons who go on to participate in further ordinances do so to become gods. If they perform these rituals and keep Mormonism’s version of required commandments, they qualify to acquire the same powers as those currently held by God the Father and Jesus, and to perform the same function as gods to the worlds they will someday create.

To achieve this higher reward of exalted godhood, Mormonism adds to the requirement of baptism an elaborate list of ordinances, none of which can be skipped. However, not only are these rituals and ceremonies unmentioned and uncontemplated by the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, as stated above, they are clearly contra-indicated by those books. But Mormons justify adding layers of required ritual because of the faith’s embrace of teachings attributed to Joseph Smith, which Joseph Smith, in turn, claimed he received from God.4 Vague, nondescript references to those rituals are contained within another book Mormons have canonized as scripture, The Doctrine and Covenants. This book contains transcripts of revelations church founder Joseph Smith claimed to receive from God from the 1820s through the early 1840s, as well as a compilation of some of Smith’s personal teachings. As will be demonstrated herein, however, the teachings of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are worlds apart, and indeed, mutually contradictory.

With respect to exaltation and godhood, Mormon doctrine declares that after we die (“we” meaning every member of the human race), almost all of us wind up in one of three places. After we’re judged by God, we inherit either the Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial kingdom, depending on how well we performed during our respective earthly sojourns,5 with the Celestial being the highest. Attaining exaltation in the Celestial degree of glory, which is far more glorious than simply being saved in the kingdom of God, involves an individual becoming a god himself. An individual cannot attain this highest realm, where God the Father dwells, without participating in the aforementioned ritual ceremonies.

All but the first of such rituals are performed only in Mormon temples; they cannot be performed in mere meetinghouses. If a person dies without participating in the ceremonies himself, he cannot attain exaltation until and unless the rituals are performed for him by a living proxy, once again in a Mormon temple. These exalting ceremonies or ordinances, which are “higher” and more important than mere baptism, may only be performed by a Mormon holder of the “Melchizedek Priesthood.” They are as follows, in chronological order:

1. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands following baptism.

2. Being ceremonially washed and anointed, and declared clean from the sins of the    outside world.

3. Being given underwear garments to wear throughout one’s life, which the individual then dons in the temple. The garments contain symbols sown into them. The symbols represent reminders of principles of righteous living, which are explained to the individual during the ordinance.

4. Being given a sacred new name by which the individual will be known to God. The individual is admonished to keep the name secret until she repeats it to God during the ceremony described in the following paragraph. Eventually, she is taught, she will repeat her “new name” to God before entering the Celestial Kingdom.

5. Undergoing an elaborate “endowment” ceremony wherein individuals learn sacred signs, tokens and words, which they covenant not to disclose, and which they’re told will also be needed to enter God’s presence. There are four sets of signs, tokens and names, and each represents a separate covenant into which the person enters, promising God to live different aspects of a righteous life. The covenant-making is followed by the person repeating his or her newfound knowledge of the names, signs and tokens, and symbolically enacting entry into God’s presence.

6. Finally, and equally in contrast with the rest of Christianity, Mormons teach that no one can attain the highest realm of heavenly glory with God unless they are married, and such a marriage must be performed in a sacred temple. See Doctrine and Covenants 131: 1-4. The marriage itself is the fifth and crowning ordinance. It doesn’t guarantee exaltation, but without it, exaltation is impossible.6

Consequently, Mormon marriages are frequently not attended by family or friends of the bride or groom who would like to attend, because they’re not Mormons themselves, or if they are, they’ve been deemed unworthy for insufficient compliance with the Mormon version of the commandments. Without a temple recommend, which is a certification issued by an ecclesiastical leader attesting to a Mormon’s righteousness and worthiness, no person can attend a marriage in an LDS temple.

Amazingly, another larger group that’s not allowed to attend, are all persons who aren’t at least 18 years old, unless they’re the ones getting married, regardless of whether they’re the bride’s or groom’s siblings, and regardless of their personal righteousness. So, though someone twelve or older is allowed to perform baptisms for the dead in the temple, the “higher” ordinances mentioned above, including the marriage of a sibling, are considered too sacred for those of such young age, notwithstanding the Mormon emphasis on family togetherness. Such restrictions on attendance are, obviously, unheard of in the Protestant and Catholic worlds. Nor do they find any support in the Bible or Book of Mormon.7

As alluded to above, a further restriction is that these marriages, or “sealings” as Mormons call them, may only be performed by one holding proper Melchizedek priesthood authority. This claimed authority is the same high priesthood possessed anciently by the great high priest Melchizedek and by Jesus Christ himself.8  This authority, Mormons are taught, is today possessed solely by the LDS Church.  Doctrine and Covenants 132: 7 states that exclusive authority was given to LDS founder Joseph Smith to perform religious rites, and that any marriage or ceremony performed today under any religious or civil authority other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not valid or cognizable before God:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

This principle is so crucial to LDS theology that it may fairly be said to be Mormonism’s second most important claim.  The only more important one is the teaching that Joseph Smith was told by the Lord in his 1820 “First Vision” that all existing Christian churches were wrong.9 As such, these two tenets distinguish Mormonism from the rest of Christianity more than any other features, including the Book of Mormon.10

Although most of the rituals performed in Mormon temples are not laid out in LDS scriptures, what purports to be divine revelation on the requirement of Melchizedek Priesthood-performed marriages is contained in the aforementioned Doctrine and Covenants. Set forth below, in Section 132: 15-17, the contrast is made between those who are married by mere civil authority and those who’ve had their marriage sealed by proper priesthood authority. These verses purport to be the actual words of God spoken to, and revealed by, LDS founder Joseph Smith:

15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

[Italics added]

Thus LDS theology relegates those who are merely saved to dramatically reduced status—angelhood— in the kingdom of God, in comparison to those fortunate individuals whose marriage was performed by a Mormon high priest. The improperly married, and those who remained single, on the other hand, are left to minister as servants to their former peers who qualify to achieve godhood.11 Those in the first category are worthy of, and receive, “far more” glory than the those in the latter. Doctrine and Covenants 132: 20 goes on to describe the fate of the properly married:

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

It’s therefore no surprise that Mormon leaders stress, above all other things, the importance of getting married by proper Mormon priesthood authority. Current Mormon church president Thomas S. Monson, who is regarded by the faith as a “prophet, seer and revelator”, reaffirmed in 2004 an oft-quoted LDS maxim taught by apostle Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985): “The most important single thing that any Latter-day Saint ever does in this world is to marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority.”12

The point here is that Mormons teach requirements for living with God which are much more complex and ritual-laden than any taught in the Bible or Book of Mormon.

LDS Justification for Conflict between its Theology and the Bible and Book of Mormon

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are unlikely to encounter, at least from within LDS circles, the allegation that the gospel and doctrine in the Bible and Book of Mormon is at odds with church theology. It’s therefore somewhat, but not entirely, speculative to anticipate how a thoughtful Mormon would respond to the allegation. However, the most likely expected response, based on the author’s personal experience in never having heard any other response, is that Mormons believe in modern revelation, and through such modern revelation, many things are revealed to latter-day prophets which were withheld from ancient Christians in the times of the Bible and Book of Mormon. This response is indeed quite versatile, as it can be used as a convenient catch-all to justify all sorts of beliefs and practices which enjoy no ancient scriptural mention. Temple marriages and all other modern temple rituals, both for the living and the dead; eventual godhood for faithful church members; Melchizedek priesthood-holding apostles and prophets; a Mother in Heaven; polygamy in the next life; the baptism of eight-year-olds—all are modern LDS teaching which fall into this category. None of these, or many other modern Mormon ideas, for that matter, existed when the church was founded in 1830. They were all introduced by Joseph Smith, who purported them to be modern revelation.

However, the “modern revelation” defense becomes patently implausible when used to justify replacing Jesus’s core doctrine and gospel with a new one. Why? Because Jesus pre-empted such modification when he unequivocally said, as quoted herein above in boldface italics, that his doctrine, which he had just defined, could not be added to: Again, from 3 Nephi 11: 40:

And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

[Italics and boldface added for emphasis]

Jesus left no room for adding extra levels of heavenly rewards to his gospel doctrine, and especially not extra prerequisites for living with God in heaven. He didn’t preach inheriting the kingdom of God as a mere consolation prize to be upstaged by more impressive-sounding rewards. In fact, he expressly condemned such theology as ill-inspired and built on a sure-to-be-destroyed foundation. To suggest that Jesus’ definition of his own doctrine and gospel, as set forth in the Book of Mormon, could be contradicted and nullified by modern revelation, is to render meaningless his words. Such an assertion begs the question of why the Lord would say anything on this point in the first place, especially when, as Mormons acknowledge, he went to such great lengths to bring forth the Book of Mormon in the latter days and thus provide the earth with what he called “the fulness” of the gospel. The LDS position would then consist of this non-sequitur: “Jesus defined his simple gospel doctrine to the Nephites, declared it immutable, warned the reader not to add to or subtract anything from it, declared the Book of Mormon to contain “the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah,”13 preserved the book’s writings so they could be read by the latter-day reader, brought forth the book through miraculous means, and then within thirteen years of the Book of Mormon’s publication did exactly what he warned against: He revealed to Joseph Smith a gospel doctrine so altered from the original as to render it unrecognizable. Moreover, the Lord also omitted these extra levels of requirements and rewards from the Bible, knowing most of the future Christian world wouldn’t ever read the Book of Mormon, let alone the Doctrine and Covenants.”14

There are other clear indicators, besides what the author considers logical reasoning, that Jesus didn’t intend to replace what he taught the Jews and Nephites with what Joseph Smith added to Mormon theology after the church’s founding in 1830. For one thing, Jesus made clear to the Nephites that he had fulfilled and was now doing away with the Law of Moses, which had defined the Hebrews’ religion for almost 1,500 years.15 This necessarily meant that he was also doing away with the religion of ordinances in which the Law of Moses found its outward expression. In fact, when he explained his discontinuance of this form of worship, Jesus was standing in the presence of the Nephites’ temple,16 the sanctuary where rituals of the Mosaic Law were practiced. But he made no mention of the temple or the rituals practiced within it, except to say the Law of Moses, which informed all temple ceremonies, was fulfilled and would no longer be practiced. Thereafter, neither the temple nor the ceremonial religion of physical rituals was ever mentioned by Jesus or his successor disciples and prophets through the end of the Book of Mormon. If Jesus considered his gospel to consist of high priests administering a collection of temple ordinances, wouldn’t he have said so to the Nephites as he stood in the presence of their temple, especially since he knew latter-day readers would be scrutinizing his words in the book he himself was calling “the fulness of the gospel”?

In fact, so careful was Jesus to present to the latter-day reader a complete picture of his gospel, he interrupted a sermon to instruct the prophet Nephi to insert into the record a missing account of many other saints rising from the dead, following Jesus’s own resurrection, and appearing unto others.17  This instance is instructive. Clearly, the reality of the resurrection, and the joy associated with it, were indispensable elements of his own gospel. The reader needed to know exactly what the resurrection of Christ meant to ordinary people contemplating their own death or having lost love ones. If anything were left out of the Book of Mormon, it couldn’t be something this central and important. Everything true and important had to be set forth lest the reader misunderstand what mattered.

In this context, the absence of Joseph Smith’s priesthood ordinance theology in the Bible and Book of Mormon speaks volumes. The reader should judge for himself or herself the significance of the Lord omitting it from the fulness of the gospel.



  1. The notable exceptions come in 3 Nephi 12: 18-19 and 46-47, where the verses differ from their counterparts in Matthew 5 of the Bible. By the time his sermon was delivered to the Nephites, Jesus had already been crucified and resurrected, and thus had fulfilled the law of Moses, but this was not yet accomplished when he spoke to the Jews. His sermon to the Nephites therefore emphasized in the above-cited verses that he was replacing the Law of Moses with his own set of moral principles, a higher law of the heart rather than a checklist of outward observances.
  2. From a comparison of the statement of “doctrine” quoted from 3 Nephi 11 with the message contained within 3 Nephi 27, it appears that the words “doctrine” and “gospel” are used almost interchangeably, with much overlap in their substance, or, at the very least, are very closely related to each other. If there is a difference between the two concepts, it might be that “doctrine” consists of Jesus’ instructions to his followers on how to inherit the kingdom of God, whereas “gospel” is the good news that justifies the giving of those instructions.
  3. Though the reception of the Holy Ghost is characterized in current Mormon doctrine as a separate ordinance which is required to “confirm” a baptism, it was taught differently by Jesus. It was understood to be something that would happen to anyone who accepted his gospel, 3 Nephi 9: 20; 27: 20, not as a core physical ritual requirement validating a baptism. In fact, occasionally, both in the Old World and New World, groups of people received the Holy Ghost without having been first baptized, or even necessarily knowing what had happened to them. The Bible and Book of Mormon demonstrate a person’s reception of the Holy Ghost might best be characterized as a spiritual transformation which could take place through varied means. See Acts 10: 44-47 and 11: 15-17; Helaman 5: 34-50 and 3 Nephi 9: 20, respectively. Indeed, the apostles themselves had not received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; see Acts 2: 1-4. Alhough Jesus’ twelve Nephite disciples were instructed to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands upon those who had been baptized, as was the case in the Old World, the Book of Mormon contains no account of anyone else besides the twelve having been thereafter authorized to do it. After the twelve Nephite disciples died, no mention is made in the Book of Mormon of this ritual physical practice being continued by subsequent church leaders. Similarly, in the New Testament, only apostles were described as conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. See Acts 19: 1-6; Moroni 2: 1-3. However, it’s clear that the influence of the Holy Ghost continued to work upon and cleanse those in the church who embraced the gospel and were baptized, even if the process whereby it was received remains unknown to us. Moroni 6: 4. And, in one of the most famous passages in the Book of Mormon, Moroni urges all persons reading the Book of Mormon to ask God whether that sacred record is true, adding that by the power of the Holy Ghost the truth of all things will be manifest to those who ask with true intent. Such manifestation is considered a gift from God. Moroni 10: 4-19. Presumably, this gift of the Holy Ghost can be received by anyone praying about the Book of Mormon, regardless of whether they have yet been baptized. Nevertheless, Mormonism continues to teach that the gift of the Holy Ghost can only be obtained through a physical ordinance by the laying on of hands. See Pearl of Great Price, Article of Faith 4. The only proffered scriptural support for this Mormon teaching consists of Doctrine and Covenants 130: 23, which only states that a man may receive the Holy Ghost without it tarrying with him.
  4. I use the word “attributed” because the ceremonial practices performed by Mormons in their temples are not specifically set forth in any history published by the LDS church, nor are they found in Mormon canonical works. Today, a Mormon who participates in these temple ordinances is told (if he or she asks in the first place) that they were revealed to Joseph Smith by God, but unlike other reputed revelations, if a person wants to actually read how and when the specific ceremonies came into being, and what God’s actual words were, there is nothing published by the LDS church to read. These things are kept secret by the church.
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 76: 25-113. Compare I Corinthians 15: 35, 40-42, wherein Paul mentions the existence of celestial and terrestrial (but not telestial) bodies. Mormons cite to this scripture as biblical support for the teaching that resurrected beings will go to one of the named three degrees of glory when they are resurrected. A fourth place, where “sons of perdition” go, is reserved for the worst of the worst—those who knew the truthfulness of Jesus’s gospel through the witness of the Holy Ghost but nevertheless denied it.
  6. In Mormon doctrine, a person who remains single isn’t eligible for exaltation in the highest degree of eternal glory. For discussion regarding how those who never marry during their mortal lives can later qualify for exaltation, see discussions below under footnotes 11 and 12.
  7. Curiously, in most of the world, governments don’t afford legal recognition to marriages performed solely by ecclesiastical authority in Mormon temples. In such countries, couples must be married civilly before they can be sealed in the local Mormon temple. And of course, at such civil marriages, anyone can attend, whether Mormon or not. A growing movement within Mormonism advocates handling temple marriages in the United States the same way as in most foreign countries, with a civil marriage, attendable by all invitees who wish to attend, preceding the restricted-attendance temple ritual.
  8. See Hebrews 5: 5-10; 6: 20; 7: 11-28
  9. Joseph Smith’s First Vision is the subject of Chapter 2 of this book.
  10. The requirement of a marriage performed by proper Melchizedek priesthood authority applies to deceased couples as well as living ones. In fact, Mormons teach that those who were married without such authority and are now deceased are barred from exaltation until the matter is resolved back on earth. Accordingly, LDS individuals who desire to facilitate the exaltation of forebears and ancestors who fall into this category can perform all of the six ordinances previously described, as well as baptism, by proxy in the temples. More will be written about these teachings in Chapter 3.
  11. A gaping hole exists in Mormon theology concerning those members who unintentionally remain single throughout mortality. They’re taught by church leaders that someday in heaven they’ll be given a spouse if they’ve lived righteously on earth, and will thus remain eligible for godhood. Unfortunately, no scripture exists to verify this promise, or even address this subject, within Mormonism’s expanded canon of four separate books. Nor is Joseph Smith known to have spoken on the subject publicly or privately. Within Mormon orthodoxy, those who remained intentionally single in mortality are thought to have forfeited their chance for exaltation in the hereafter, though this view is also without specific scriptural support.
  12. Thomas S. Monson in New Era Magazine, Salt Lake City, Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, October 2004, p. 3
  13. 3 Nephi 15: 13-14
  14. Some Mormon apologists may defend Joseph Smith’s supplementation of the doctrine and gospel of the Book of Mormon by arguing that the Book of Mormon itself describes revelations from the Lord to the brother of Jared, which were to be kept hidden from the world and be revealed at some future latter-day time when the world is righteous enough to receive them. See Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, chapters 3 and 4, and chapter 5, verse 1, generally. This argument ignores several important facts. First, the sealed revelation to the brother of Jared was not described as being Jesus’ core gospel, but rather, information about the history and future events of the inhabitants of this world. Second, as already emphasized, Jesus himself had described the unsealed portion of the Book of Mormon which would come forth to contain “the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah.” Third, the ordinance-heavy theology introduced by Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the world history shown to the brother of Jared in Ether 3: 25-26, and Joseph Smith didn’t claim otherwise.
  15. 3 Nephi 15: 2-5.
  16. See 3 Nephi 11: 1
  17. 3 Nephi 23: 6-13

Erroneous LDS teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and LDS Church History Regarding Elijah and Redeeming the Dead

(Note to reader:  The following is an excerpt of a letter sent by M.S. Brothers to seven apostles of  the LDS church in early 2015.  No response was ever received.)

Acknowledging the actual extent of Joseph Smith’s fallibility allows us to consider some of his more important historical and/or doctrinal claims in a different light. For example, on the subject of Elijah, anyone who today accepts all of Joseph’s claims on face value must aver that Elijah the prophet appeared to him and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple in 1836 (see D&C 110:13-16), even though Oliver Cowdery wrote an exhaustive eight-page summary of the Kirtland temple events in the March, 1836 Messenger and Advocate, pages 274-81, but never mentioned this experience. (His account also failed to corroborate Joseph Smith’s claim recorded in D&C 110: 1-12 that Jesus, Moses and Elias had appeared and spoken to the two men during the same Kirtland temple events.)

In addition to the above, the LDS apologist must also defend the following propositions:

–That the purpose of Elijah’s coming was to restore the “priesthood keys” of the “dispensation” of turning the hearts (the Bible and Book of Mormon use the word “heart” instead of the word “hearts” found in the Doctrine and Covenants) of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.  This is to be believed even though none of the many references to Elijah in the Bible, and the one in the Book of Mormon, including the words of Jesus himself, mention him possessing any such priesthood keys, or the priesthood itself. The Bible and Book of Mormon nowhere teach, nor even hint, that prophets necessarily possess priesthood. (Ironically, Elijah’s holding of the Melchizedek priesthood is even contradicted by D&C 84: 25-28, which states that the Holy Priesthood was taken out of Israel’s midst with the departure of Moses. Since Elijah lived many hundreds of years after Moses, he couldn’t have possessed this priesthood if D&C 84 is accepted as reliable.

Second, that the aforementioned prophecy regarding Elijah didn’t refer to the coming of John the Baptist as a forerunner to Christ 2000 years ago, despite the fact that the angel Gabriel, and Jesus himself, straightforwardly taught that the mission of John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this prophecy. Malachi 3: 1-3, 4: 5-6; Matthew 17: 10-12; Luke 1: 13-17, 7: 24-27; see also Mark 9: 11-13. At no time did Gabriel or Jesus indicate that these prophecies would be fulfilled by a momentary appearance of Elijah to one man 1,800 years later.

Third, that Elijah only “held the keys” to this grand work, but that Joseph Smith and his followers were to do the actual work of said turning of hearts, instead of Elijah doing it himself, even though the Bible and Book of Mormon said the Elijah figure himself would do the work. See Malachi 4: 5-6; III Nephi 25: 5-6.

Fourth, that Elijah and Elias were two different people, and that Joseph Smith was visited by both of them on the same day in the Kirtland temple, see D&C 27: 6-9; 110: 12-15, even though no one in the history of the entire Christian and Jewish worlds, including Jesus, is known to have taught that these were separate individuals until Joseph Smith referred to them separately. No biblical writer or speaker ever mentioned a man named Elias when they weren’t speaking about Elijah. In fact, every New Testament mention of “Elias” turning the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers refers to prophecies about Elijah quoted from the 3rd and 4th chapters of Malachi. That’s why Jesus’ comment regarding the miracle “Elias” performed with the woman in Serepta and her cruse of oil was the same story as Elijah in Zarephath, the only difference being the New Testament quote from Jesus replaces Hebrew names with Greek ones. See scriptures quoted in preceding paragraph, as well as First Kings 17: 1-24 and Luke 4: 25-26.

As shown below, Joseph Smith demonstrated that he never figured out that the New Testament changed names such as Elijah and Isaiah to the Greek names Elias and Esaias, respectively; or that Jeremy was a New Testament form of Jeremiah. To him, each name referred to a separate man. The Old Testament doesn’t mention any person by the name of Elias, but Joseph Smith claims an Old Testament Elias appeared in person and “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham…”(D&C 110: 12). In D&C 84: 9-13, two men with Greek/New Testament names of Jeremy and Esaias are listed along with other men with Hebrew names, and are referred to as living in the time of Abraham. The problem is that in Abraham’s time, almost 2000 years before Christ, the Greek/New Testament names Elias, Esaias and Jeremy didn’t even exist. In fact, neither Greece as a nation nor the New-Testament-era Greek language existed then. But Joseph Smith, an unlearned man, didn’t know this. The evidence is very strong that, despite the divine assistance he’d received earlier through the Urim and Thummim and seer stone in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, his linguistic misunderstanding when he no longer possessed these divine instruments led to outwardly impressive non-revelations being represented as divine.

The following questions are therefore justified:  Before our church built its entire doctrinal structure of “redeeming the dead” through genealogy work and temple ordinances on the claimed coming of Elijah to the Kirtland temple, should not our former church leaders have studied and fully discussed the issues above? Shouldn’t someone have spoken up and quoted Gabriel’s and Jesus’ already-clear words about the Elijah prophecy? Shouldn’t someone have dared to say to Joseph, “Brother Smith, I think you’re interpreting the Bible incorrectly there.  According to Jesus, the Elijah prophecy was fulfilled with John the Baptist’s mission.”

Moreover, shouldn’t someone have mentioned that Joseph Smith had already quoted God to the effect that redeeming the dead was unnecessary, because God would judge all those who’d gone unbaptized during mortality on the desire of their hearts? See D&C 137: 5-9. Joseph’s brother Alvin had never been baptized, nor had anyone been baptized for him, but he was already dwelling in “the celestial kingdom of God” according to this LDS scripture.

Full discussion of the Elijah issue would also have revealed that Joseph Smith’s teachings in D&C 137 provided a view similar to that found in Moroni 8: 22-23 concerning the non-necessity for “work for the dead”:

22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.

(Emphasis added)

Given the staggering amount of Mormon teachings, labors and money directed at “redeeming the dead”, it seems fair to say that the failure of early church members to scrutinize Joseph Smith’s understanding and teachings on such seemingly small matters as the meaning of the Elijah prophecy in Malachi eventually led, unfortunately, to breathtakingly dramatic departures from sound gospel doctrine.

Apparently Erroneous Teachings Concerning the Last Days from Doctrine and Covenants 133

(Note to reader: the following is an excerpt from a letter sent by M. S. Brothers [a pseudonym] to seven LDS apostles in early 2015.  No response was ever received.  Also, while the gathering of the lost tribes of Israel is one of the topics briefly covered in this excerpt, that topic is fully addressed in a separate essay posted under the title “The Lost Tribes of Israel.”)

Joseph Smith produced a revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 133 which he claimed came from God concerning the events to transpire in the last days. The section repeats much biblical eschatology. But some of its text creates reasonable doubt regarding its authenticity in the mind of even the faithful believer because of the scriptural contradictions it creates. Verses 20 and 27, for example, indicate a highway is going to be “cast up in the midst” of the ocean to facilitate the return of the lost tribes. However, this already-implausible event is also made even more so, as well as unnecessary, by verses 23 and 24, which assert the earth’s land masses will no longer be separated by water, and the ocean will be driven back into the north countries when the lost tribes return. The reader of these things, while believing that God will of course accomplish anything he says he’ll do, justifiably wonders whether God actually said these things. This doubt seems to be justified for the following reasons:

First of all, since 1831, when the putative revelation was purportedly received, the prophesied events have not come to pass, and become more and more unlikely by the day. Airplanes have been invented, and hundreds of millions of people have come to America either to visit or to make it their home by sailing in boats or flying in airplanes. The prospects of building a highway across the two-and-a-half-mile-deep ocean, or of expelling the ocean to the north countries, now appear extremely unlikely.

Second, it’s also noteworthy that today, the overwhelming majority of converts to the church come from southern countries, not northern ones, but in Section 133 only the latter geographical area is mentioned in the text as the immigrants’ point of origin. D&C 133 seems to not anticipate the latter-day demographics of the church, apart from the modes of travel in our time.

Doctrine and Covenants sections 110 and 133 combine to create a third issue. It’s evident that Joseph Smith believed that the lost tribes were gathered and hidden in the icy north somewhere (see D&C 110: 11; 133: 26, 34), and that they knew they were descended from the Israelites. But Joseph’s beliefs on this subject are now no longer taught by the church. Presumably, this is because the northern regions of the earth are well known, and the ten lost tribes of Israel are no longer thought to be concealed there. But while the church doesn’t affirmatively teach the specifics of it, Joseph’s claimed revelation containing his belief remains in the form of an immutable quotation from God.

The fourth and most obvious indication that this revelation isn’t of God comes from D&C 133: 30, 34, which speaks of the tribe of Ephraim receiving a “richer blessing” than the other tribes after they’ve gathered to Zion. The gospel of Jesus Christ unequivocally refutes any notion that tribal lineage will determine the extent of an individual’s blessings among otherwise equally-righteous individuals. Instead, John the Baptist illustrated the meaninglessness of lineage to God when he taught in Luke 3:8 that God could “of these stones raise up children unto Abraham.” Peter taught God is no respecter of persons, Acts 10:35. And Nephi taught that God “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” II Nephi 26:33.

Erroneous Doctrine and Covenants Teachings Concerning Adam-ondi-Ahman

(Note to reader:  The following is an excerpt from a long letter written by M. S. Brothers to seven LDS apostles in early 2015.  No response to this letter was ever received.)

In connection with this subject, another purported revelation, D&C Section 116, declares another part of western Missouri, in Daviess County, to be Adam-ondi-Ahman, the place where Adam will come to visit his people. In April of 1838, while encouraging church members to gather to Missouri, Joseph Smith claimed the Lord revealed this to him, and later that year also claimed that this and the Far West area were the “land where Adam dwelt,” see History of the Church 3:45-46; D&C 107: 53, and D&C 117: 8. It’s also suggested in D&C 107: 53 that all the patriarchs through Methuselah also lived close enough to Adam’s western Missouri location that he could gather them together for a meeting shortly before his death. But Joseph’s claims, which appear in the Doctrine and Covenants in the first-person voice of God, appear to be contradicted both by the Bible and in the Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Moses, as well as by common sense.

According to Genesis 2: 10-14 and Moses 3: 10-14 in the Pearl of Great Price, the Hiddekel (which is identified by almost all biblical scholars as referring to the modern-day Tigris) and Euphrates rivers flowed out of the Garden of Eden to the east. Another river (“Pison”) flowed from Eden to the land of Havilah somewhere south of Israel where the Amalekites lived, and one more (“Gihon”) flowed from Eden to Ethiopia. Clearly the geography of the Middle East has changed somewhat since Adam’s time, since the river to Ethiopia is covered now by sea, or has dried up, and the river to Havilah appears to no longer flow. Still, since all the lands to or through which the rivers flowed can still be identified today as lands in the Middle East, and since the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates can still be located, the Garden of Eden can reasonably be said to have been located somewhere in the general area south of the Black Sea, several hundred miles north of Israel. Thus, if we assume that after leaving the Garden of Eden, Adam remained within 1000 miles of it, his habitation was nowhere near Missouri.  Instead, it was several thousands miles to the east of it, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

(As an aside, the explanation sometimes offered in church meetings for the distance between western Missouri and the headwaters of the Euphrates is that the earth’s formerly-joined land masses separated in the time of Peleg, “for in his days was the earth divided.” Genesis 10: 25. Thus, the explanation goes, modern geography is unreliable, because it doesn’t account for the geography pre-existing Peleg’s time. This explanation is without merit for two major reasons, even if you don’t count the reason, given by Mormon and non-Mormon scientists alike, that the division of the continents occurred millions of years before Peleg. The first reason is that the division being spoken of is shown by other surrounding scriptures to be one of political subdivisions and languages, not of land masses. The Peleg reference comes in the context of describing Noah’s posterity and where they settled after the flood. Seven verses after the Peleg verse, this verse is found: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” Gen. 10: 32. The next verse, Gen. 11:1, which backtracks chronologically, drives this point home: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” The “earth” being spoken of in all three quoted verses is without question people, not land masses. This “division” was beginning in Jared’s time around Babel, and was completed later in Peleg’s time. The second strike against the “Peleg” explanation is that a division of continents would undoubtedly have received much more biblical attention than one verse, if it were describing something of such magnitude as the land of the patriarchs suddenly sliding away to an unknown part of the world. And finally, if the Jaredites and Lehites were only being led back to the continent previously inhabited by their forefathers, certainly the Book of Mormon would have described it that way, just like the Bible described Moses leading the children of Israel back to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Instead, the destination of the Jaredites and Lehites was described, before Peleg’s time, as “a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth,” (Ether 1: 42) for which neither group had any other descriptive name. Lehi even commented that the land had been “kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations.” See II Nephi 1: 5, 8.)

But these contextual and geographical realities didn’t stop Mormons in Joseph Smith’s time from inferring, and then teaching, that the garden of Eden itself, as well as Adam’s home, had been in western Missouri, despite the contrary information in Genesis 2:10-14, Ether 1 and 2 and Moses 3: 10, 13-14. Today, over 175 years later, are we wrong to question, after considering all that we know on this subject, whether God actually revealed this to Joseph Smith?  Are we wrong to not believe that Adam is going to come again to Missouri for a big meeting before Christ comes, as Mormon doctrine holds? Does our church membership require that unless we regard Joseph Smith as doctrinally infallible, we are rebellious and lacking in faith? We have seen a charismatic LDS general authority in our own time fabricate many impressive and inspiring, but completely untrue, personal experiences.  And he was much better educated than Joseph Smith and had traveled the world. Could Joseph Smith not have done the same?

Erroneous Doctrine and Covenants Teachings Regarding the New Jerusalem

(Note to reader:  The following four paragraphs are an excerpt from a long letter written by M. S. Brothers to seven LDS apostles in early 2015 covering four separate doctrinal matters.  No response to the letter was ever received. However, fifteen years earlier, Scott Mitchell, a chief contributor to this website, had written an essay in the form of a letter to the two LDS apostles who had each previously served as the president of Brigham Young University.  His letter/essay expressed the view, set forth below, that history and scripture demonstrate Salt Lake City to be the home of the New Jerusalem.  This hypothesis was warmly received, and one of said apostles responded with a letter on behalf of both of them thanking and complimenting Mitchell on his thoughts and research and claiming both men had been benefitted thereby.  Then, in 2002, days before the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics began, Henry B. Eyring, in an interview with Associated Press correspondent Hanna Wolfson, declared Salt Lake City the New Jerusalem.)

Joseph Smith also claimed God revealed in several revelations that the New Jerusalem, or the city of Zion, was to be built in Independence, Missouri. See primarily D&C 57: 1-5 and 84: 2-5; see also 28: 9; 42: 9, 35; 45: 65-67 and 58: 7, 44-58. The words of these purported revelations were unequivocal, and didn’t say that the location for the city might change, depending on human cooperation. But as history shows, Independence and Jackson County didn’t become the place of the New Jerusalem, and objective observation tells us that it won’t happen in the future, either. To establish the city there today would require the displacing of some 2.3 million people who currently live in its metropolitan area. It would also entail the migration to that place of millions of saints who’d thereby lose their employment, the expenditure of many billions of dollars currently being used to run the church around the world, the moving of church headquarters from their current location in Salt Lake City, and most importantly, a reason to do all of this.

A neutral observer would identify four factors that indicate the church itself has given up on Joseph’s claimed Independence-is-New Jerusalem claim: the amount of money the church has spent in building up Salt Lake City, the building of a new temple a few miles from, but not on, the temple lot designated by Joseph Smith as the center of the New Jerusalem, the failure of the LDS Church to acquire ownership of the designated temple lot, and the lack of any plans to move the church’s headquarters back to Missouri. An even bolder commentator might note that more than 170 years have passed since anyone leading the church has claimed the Lord wanted the old western Missouri model to be actualized. Joseph Smith tried very hard to establish the New Jerusalem in western Missouri, but those efforts only resulted in the church being driven from that area and many lives being lost.

Furthermore, Jesus taught in 3rd Nephi 21:5-25 that the Gentiles who would bring the Book of Mormon to the Lamanites would also assist the house of Israel by building the New Jerusalem. The copies of the Book of Mormon that went to the Lamanites throughout Latin America were printed while Salt Lake City, not Independence, was being built up as a religiously-founded city to which the world could gather. And if we believe the land in the “top of the mountains” described as the Lord’s dwelling place in Isaiah 2: 2-3 provides physical descriptors of Zion/New Jerusalem, it’s immediately apparent that Jackson County, Missouri never did fit the bill. But the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants unequivocally declaring it such, though now apparently in error, remain canonized LDS scripture.

Explanations as to why the New Jerusalem was never established in western Missouri, despite the tremendous effort expended by the early saints to bring it to pass, are difficult to find today.  One answer is provided by some verses of canonized Mormon scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 124: 49-53, but it isn’t hard to see why Mormons are extremely reluctant to quote those verses.  Therein, the Lord purportedly explains that Independence failed to become the New Jerusalem because it was hindered by unrighteous enemies of the Church. [M. S. Brothers doesn’t accept this explanation as having come from the Lord.]  If these verses were doctrinally correct, it would mean the Lord’s ancient prophecies can be foiled by unrighteous men despite the righteousness of the Saints in attempting to bring them to pass.  Obviously, this proposition flies in the face of all other Mormon teachings about the immutability and certain fulfillment of the prophecies of God.  But this difficulty diminishes considerably if Mormons are willing to contemplate and accept that Joseph Smith was human enough to represent the New-Jerusalem-in-Independence as a “revelation” when God hadn’t actually revealed it to him.  With this approach, the idea becomes simply something Joseph much desired, but didn’t have divinely revealed to him.

As mentioned above, the author believes another city seems to be the probable candidate for the New Jerusalem.  This view, set forth in the following paragraph, is more fully stated at Footnote 20 of the essay “How Scritpure and History Show the Pre-Millennial Gathering of the Lost Tribes of Israel is Mostly Complete,” elsewhere on this website here.

LDS readers are likely to believe that the New Jerusalem, which they have been taught will be built in Jackson County, Missouri, has not yet been built, just as they don’t believe the lost tribes have already been gathered.  However, the author theorizes that the New Jerusalem has been built, and that it, like its Old World counterpart, is known worldwide as the headquarters of a well-known religion whose most prominent symbol is a famous temple.  Also like the old Jerusalem, from which Christ’s disciples dispersed to carry the gospel message, the New Jerusalem is the city from which missionaries were first sent to take the Book of Mormon to the descendants of Lehi, a branch of the house of Israel living in the Americas, and to all people everywhere.  And if those similarities were not clues enough, this city, like Jerusalem in Israel, is also found in the desert, not far from a freshwater river running into a large body of salt water.  The author believes the role this city will play in the future is yet to be realized, but that it has been built.  Ironically, those who occupy it, and gather to it, have been unable to see its significance, believing that the New Jerusalem is elsewhere.

The Feigned Revelation of Doctrine and Covenants Section 111

(Note to reader:  The following is an excerpt from a long letter written by M. S. Brothers to seven LDS apostles in early 2015.  No response to this letter was ever received.)

Even though most Doctrine and Covenants sections purport to contain the words of God spoken in the first person, events have unfolded in such a way so as to call into question whether a number of them came from God, or from some other non-divine source. D&C 111 is an excellent example. Its text contains what Joseph Smith claimed in 1836 was the word of God telling him, his brother Hyrum, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon to go to Salem, Massachusetts and obtain the “much treasure” which was there waiting for them. The church was heavily in debt at the time. A recent convert named Burgess had told Joseph of a house in Salem that supposedly contained a large quantity of money hidden in the cellar, and Joseph was determined to obtain it. The text of Section 111 makes clear that the treasure being sought is money, not converts. Therein, the four men are told specifically to “inquire concerning the ancient inhabitants and founders of this city,” (though all the city’s founders were long since dead by then) to obtain the money. Verses 4 and 5 contain this spectacular promise:

4 And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours.
5 Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them.

We know this claimed revelation, though it remains part of our canon, wasn’t from God. God’s promises always come to pass; the promises in D&C 111 never did. The four men obtained no money in Salem, and the church’s indebtedness problem only got worse. (See Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, pages 328-329.) This scenario was extremely similar to one that occurred a few years earlier, in which Joseph Smith claimed a revelation from God had directed him to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page were dispatched to accomplish this purpose. When their mission rendered no money, Joseph Smith was confronted with the question of why the revelation had failed. Joseph then explained that his revelation had been of man, not of God. See David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, pp. 30-31.