3 Nephi Chapter 16
1 And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.
2 For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.
3 But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them.
verse 1-3 It seems likely that the Lord here refers to the ten lost tribes of Israel. Between 732 and 722 BC the armed forces of Assyria carried away captive the major part of the northern Kingdom of Israel which was inhabited by the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel, including the tribe of Joseph, the tribe from which many of us-in the Lord's Church today-have descended. Subsequently we have referred to the descendants of these ten tribes as being "lost."
Certainly some of them, and perhaps all of them, were scattered about among many of the earth's nations. However, there is some scriptural evidence to suggest that perhaps a distinct group of the descendants of these lost tribes still exists somewhere, and that they have their own prophets and their own scripture. Verse 3 is an example (see also 2 Nephi 29:13; 3 Nephi 17:4). Is it really possible that such a group still exists? And if so, where?
As one reads the scriptural descriptions of the dramatic return of the ten tribes in the latter days, one cannot help but wonder if these passages of scripture are describing a discrete and sizable group of Israelites who will return en masse rather than part of a piece-meal gathering in of widely scattered Israelites from among the peoples of the earth. The Bible suggests, for example, that their return will be so spectacular that it will make the crossing of the Red Sea pale by comparison. Jeremiah says the Lord will lead the seed of Israel "out of the north country" and then comments: "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" (Jeremiah 16:14-15).
In latter-day scripture we read: And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves (D&C 133:26). Here we learn that wherever the ten tribes are, they have prophets among them who will lead them in their gathering. The record then continues: "And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep" (D&C 133:27).
Isaiah suggests that this miraculous highway may be the result of the drying up of the great deep, similar to the way the Lord parted the waters for Moses and allowed the Israelites to walk over on dry land. He says: "Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?" (Isaiah 51:10).
Apparently the returning Israelites will fill up the Western Hemisphere. Joseph Smith said one of the principal reasons the wicked will be cleansed from the earth is to make room "for the lost tribes of Israel from the north country" (TPJS, 1973 ed., 17).
Modern revelation indicates that the massive immigration pouring across the Lord's mighty highway will saturate all of the arable land and require the settling of both deserts and barren regions. To solve this problem, the Lord says: "And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land" (D&C 133:28).
The Lord says these returning multitudes will bring with them vast treasures of precious things that will be turned over to the priesthood in the New Jerusalem, no doubt for the embellishment of the temple and beautifying of the great new capital city: "And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants" (D&C 133:30).
Apparently some day we will have access to the historical records of the ten tribes. The Lord told the prophet Nephi: "For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it. . . . And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel" (2 Nephi 29:12-13).
In Deuteronomy 31:4 Moses addresses scattered Israel and implies that a part of scattered Israel may even be located somewhere outside of this earth: "If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee" (Italics added).
A possible extra-terrestrial location of this group is also suggested by Jesus's proclamation: "He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31, italics added). Perhaps Jesus's phrase "from one end of heaven to the other" corresponds to Moses's "out unto the outmost parts of heaven."
Prophets have suggested that the ten tribes will be gathered in from "the north countries." One verse of scripture suggests that "north countries" refers to a place beyond the four corners of the earth: ". . . being gathered in from the four corners of the earth, and from the north countries" (Ether 13:11). Brigham Young said: "The ten tribes of Israel are on a portion of the earth-a portion separate from the main land" (Brigham Young, quoted by Matthais F. Cowley in his book, Wilford Woodruff, 448). All who read the scriptures are familiar of the concept of God's technique of removing large bodies of people from the earth to some place especially prepared for them. The classic example is the City of Enoch: "And Enoch . . . built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion . . . and lo, Zion in process of time was taken up into heaven" (Moses 7:19-21). The City of Enoch was taken up and perhaps even that portion of earth on which the city was located.
Brother Cleon Skousen has also drawn upon the apocryphal Old Testament book of Esdras for some other suggestions regarding the lost ten tribes (personal communication). Before listing those suggestions, perhaps it would be appropriate to mention a few things about "the apocrypha."
In the King James Bible Joseph Smith used to create his inspired revision, there were fourteen books between the Old Testament and the New Testament known as the Old Testament Apocrypha. Most latter-day saints are not familiar with the apocryphal Old Testament books because they were eliminated from the King James Bible and all protestant Bibles in the early 1800s. They are still present in some Catholic Bibles, though there is some skepticism over their authenticity among the leadership of the Catholic Church. Today, if one is interested, these books are available and may be easily found and purchased.
When Joseph finished his inspired revision of the Old Testament, he inquired of the Lord on March 9, 1833, as to whether or not he should translate or revise these apocryphal books. The Lord in D&C 91 gave him, in essence, the following answer which is the position of the Church on the Apocrypha:
1. These books contain many things that are true, and they are mostly translated correctly.
2. There are also many things contained therein that are not true but are the false traditions of men.
3. There is no need to revise the Apocrypha.
4. Any member of the Church may read the Apocrypha, but he should make certain he has the Spirit with him to help him discern what is true from what is not.
We have come to apply this counsel more widely than to just the Apocrypha. For example, is it all right for a church member to read the Dead Sea Scrolls and accept as true those things which are witnessed as such by the Spirit? Yes, indeed!
There are literally hundreds of pieces of ancient literature that have been discovered. They are as old as the Old Testament books in our Bible. We do not accept them as canonized scripture, but certainly acknowledge that they may contain some truths.
Now, back to the book of Esdras. It indicates that the ten tribes, after they had been taken captive into Assyria, eventually decided to migrate north to a land that had never before been inhabited:
Those are the ten tribes, that were carried away prisoners out of their own land at the time of Osea, the king, whom Salmanasar, the king of Assyria, led away captive, and he carried them over the waters [Euphrates and Tigris Rivers] and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves that they would leave the multitudes of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt.
Anglo-Saxon tradition suggests that this people originally lived in large numbers around the Black Sea until the first century BC. They then migrated en masse to the north about 65 BC. As a result of this migration they eventually settled in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Holland, England, and France (Sharon Turner, The History of the Anglo-Saxons, volume II, 19).
According to Esdras, at some point in time the ten tribes divided into two groups. It would appear that the more spiritual elements were quickened sufficiently to be transferred to a location, perhaps the "outmost parts of heaven" referred to by Moses who promised they would also be gathered back in the due time of the Lord. The fragments of the ten tribes who were not taken became dispersed among the nations of the earth. These also must be eventually gathered out from among the nations.
Some LDS authors have spoken directly against the notion that there are descendants of the ten tribes together in a body waiting for the instructions to return. One such author is Joseph Fielding McConkie who refers to such an idea as "another classic Mormon myth." He teaches that the ten tribes have simply been scattered among the nations of the earth (Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, [Deseret Book, 1998], 128-31). Brother McConkie argues that the scriptural records the ten tribes will bring with them as they are gathered in the latter days are the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has also argued against the idea that there exists a cohesive group of the ten lost tribes. If the reader is interested in Brother McConkie's discussion of this topic, see his book Millennial Messiah (215-17, 326).
4 And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.
verse 4 The Lord commands that his teachings during this visit to the Nephites be written down and included in the Book of Mormon record. The Lord then proclaims that if the Lord's apostles in the Old World do not inquire of the Father about the peoples of scattered Israel and write a record of these scattered Israelites in the New Testament, then the Book of Mormon-"these sayings which ye shall write"-will inform the scattered remnants of the Jews about the peoples of scattered Israel. We have no record that the Old World apostles ever wrote such a record. The Book of Mormon will be distributed to the scattered tribe of Judah by the Gentiles-the inhabitants of the great Gentile nation-the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus, the world could, in these last days, be made aware of the scattered remnants of the Lehites and the lost ten tribes from the Book of Mormon. We are, therefore, indebted to the Book of Mormon for its singular ability to enlarge our comprehension of the Savior's worldwide mission and personal visits to the various groups of Israel-the Nephites and the lost ten tribes, as well as the Jews.
This dissemination of the Book of Mormon by the great Gentile nation will occur at a time spoken of in the scriptures as the "times of the Gentiles" or the "fulness of the Gentiles" when the "Gentiles" in the great Gentile nation will have and will promulgate the fulness of the gospel (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 15:13). The "times of the Gentiles" will also be a time of universal apostasy and much wickedness. The "fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles" will be shortly before the Lord's second coming when the gospel has been preached in all of the gentile nations of the earth and the people in those nations have had the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel message. This time will be followed by a brief period when the gospel will be preached to the Jews (D&C 45:51-53).
5 And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfil the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.
verses 5 In verse 4 the Lord seems to refer to the latter-day gathering of the tribe of Judah. In verse 5 he generalizes and refers to the gathering of all the scattered remnants of the house of Israel. For a review of the concept of the gathering of Israel, see the introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 20.
6 And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.
verse 6 Keep in mind that in general, in the Book of Mormon, the word Gentiles refers, in some measure, to all peoples other than Jews. Likewise, in the following verse, the phrase "house of Israel" refers, to some extent, to the Jews.
7 Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.
verses 6-7 The Lord commends the saints of his latter-day Church-the Gentiles. The fulness of the gospel will be made known unto them.
8 But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles-for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them;
9 And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them-
verses 8-9 The Lord sounds an ominous warning to those among the latter-day Gentiles in the United States of America who are unrighteous or "unbelieving." The Father has been merciful unto them "notwithstanding" their unrighteousness. Because of the Father's judgments against Israel, these unrighteous Gentiles have been allowed to smite and afflict the remnants of the house of Israel, including the Native Indians, particularly of Central America, and perhaps to some extent the Jews. Implicit in this verse is the fact that the unrighteousness among the latter-day Gentiles will not be long tolerated.
10 And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
verse 10 The resurrected Christ follows the Father's command to proclaim to the Nephites, so that they can write his words into the Book of Mormon record, a warning to the latter-day Gentiles. In the latter days, some of the Gentiles-very possibly inhabitants of the United States of America-will be lifted up in pride above all other nations of the world and will be guilty of many forms of sin and abominations. Unless these latter-day Gentiles repent, the gospel will eventually be taken from among them. This will likely occur after the day of the Gentiles has been fulfilled or completed at the beginning of the Millennium.
"priestcrafts" For a specific definition of this colorful word, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 10:5.
11 And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.
12 And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.
verses 11-12 During this latter-day period, the Lord will renew his covenants with the house of Israel which has been gathered. The reader should again be reminded that in the latter days, the more righteous among the "Gentiles"-those to whom the gospel has been restored-are actually descendants of the tribes of Israel. Likely, many of the latter-day Gentiles who reject the gospel are not lineal descendants of Israel.
13 But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
verse 13 "if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me" This verse suggests that some of the latter-day Gentiles whom the Lord is warning are members of the Lord's Church, or at least were once members of the Church-particularly the phrase "repent and return to me." In D&C 112:24-26, we read: "Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord" (D&C 112:24-26).
14 And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.
verse 14 Initially the wicked Gentiles of the latter days will be mercifully protected by the Lord, in spite of their sinful ways. The Lord will, for a time, prevent his people, the house of Israel, from doing them harm. In the following verse, however, we will learn that eventually the house of Israel will gain a victory over the apostate Gentiles.
15 But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
verse 15 "I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down" This interesting statement by the Lord is a recurring theme in the Savior's teachings among the Nephites (see also 3 Nephi 20:16; 3 Nephi 21:12; Mormon 5:24). It has engendered considerable discussion as to its meaning. Some have suggested that it prophesies of a major "Lamanite" uprising against the people of the United States. It seems more likely that this sentence describes a happening to occur in the latter days, and represents a time when the righteous souls of the house of Israel, will rend their Gentile enemies, like a "young lion among the flocks of sheep" (Micah 5:8-14). This episode will be the culmination of Israel's ultimate victory over its foes. This victory will come when the Savior returns and the wicked are destroyed.
"they shall be as a salt that hath lost its savor" Again, referring to the wicked Gentiles of the latter-days, this phrase provides additional evidence that the Lord's warning includes Church members. A modern revelation clearly indicates that it is only those who have received the covenant gospel who can become the salt of the earth: "When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men; They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men" (D&C 101:39-40).
Again, it should be noted that those Gentiles outside the lineage of Israel who join with the Church of Jesus Christ and remain faithful are adopted into the house of Israel and become the people of the Lord.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Blessings once offered become cursings if they are rejected. The Gentiles will be given great opportunity, but if they "sin against" the gospel and treat it lightly, they will lose it and have to bear the consequences.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me-that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance.
verse 16 The United States of America is the promised land for the scattered ten tribes of Israel, especially the tribe of Jacob (see also the commentary for 2 Nephi 1:5).
17 And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say:
verses 18-20 The Lord quotes Isaiah 52:8-10 which will be fulfilled after the Lord appears in glory, cleanses the earth, gathers his people from the four quarters of the earth, and establishes Zion, a society of the pure in heart. Then all shall see the salvation of God. And then the earth shall rest (see Moses 7:60- 64).
18 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
verse 18 "thy watchmen" It was traditional in Palestine to place watchers or guards on the walls of the cities to observe those who approached.
"thy watchmen shall lift up their voice" Symbolically, the watchmen are priesthood leaders who keep watch over the Church and call out the good news of redemption.
"with the voice together shall they sing [a new millennial song entitled] when the Lord shall bring again Zion" The words of this song are given by the Lord in D&C 84:99-102:
The Lord hath brought again Zion;
The Lord hath redeemed his people, Israel,
According to the election of grace,
Which was brought to pass by the faith
And covenant of their fathers.
The Lord hath redeemed his people;
And Satan is bound and time is no longer.
The Lord hath gathered all things in one.
The Lord hath brought down Zion from above.
The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.
The earth hath travailed and brought forth her strength;
And truth is established in her bowels;
And the heavens have smiled upon her;
And she is clothed with the glory of her God;
For he stands in the midst of his people.
Glory, and honor, and power, and might,
Be ascribed to our God; for he is full of mercy,
Justice, grace and truth, and peace,
Forever and ever, Amen.
"they shall see eye to eye" Unity is one of the key characteristics of Zion. Moses recorded: "The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind" (Moses 7:18). Joseph Smith said, "What if all the world should embrace this gospel? They would then see eye to eye, and the blessings of God would be poured out upon the people, which is the desire of my whole soul (HC, 5:259).
Alvin C. Rencher shared a story that illustrates the value of working together:
A horse-pulling contest in Canada illustrates the effect of synergism especially well. The people put weights on a flat bed wagon, and a single horse pulled it a measured distance. They added 1,000 pounds at a time, until the horse could no longer pull it. The winner pulled 9,000 pounds, and the runner-up pulled 8,000 pounds. Out of curiosity, someone suggested putting those two horses together. When they hitched both horses to the wagon, they pulled 31,000 pounds. Working together the horses pulled more than three times the weight the best of them could pull alone ("Unity Through the Power of Charity," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi Through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, 266).
19 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
verse 19 "Break forth into joy, sing together" All the righteous will join in chorus.
"ye waste places of Jerusalem" This expression refers to the ancient ruins of Jerusalem about to come alive again as Israel gathers there.
"for the Lord hath comforted his people" The comfort comes in the form of redemption and a restoration to the Lord's promises.
"he hath redeemed Jerusalem" Jerusalem will be set free from captivity, both physical and spiritual.
20 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.
verse 20 "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations" This expression has its origin in the Hebrew practice of throwing back the cloak from his right arm so that it does not produce an impediment in combat. At his second coming, Christ will make bare his arm when he shows forth his power for all to see.
"in the eyes of all the nations" All the world will know of his salvation, meaning the victory of our Lord over the forces of evil and corruption. The same idea is then repeated: "and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."