“If any of the Gentiles will believe, we will lay our hands upon them that they may receive the Holy Ghost, and the Lord will make them of the house of Israel. They will be broken off from the wild olive tree, and be grafted into the good and tame olive tree,and will partake of its sap and fatness. … It is so with the House of Israel and the Gentile nations; if the Gentiles are grafted into the good olive tree they will partake of its root and fatness.” 1
Joseph Fielding Smith
Latter-day Saints pride themselves because they are of Israel; but they are also of the Gentiles. We are the descendants of those members of the house of Israel who were scattered among the Gentiles to be a blessing to the Gentile nations and make them of the blood of Israel through the gospel. The scattering of Israel among the nations was not intended merely as a punishment, but as the leaven which would leaven the Gentile nations and make them of the blood of Abraham, according to the promises given to Abraham. The Book of Mormon came by way of the Prophet Joseph Smith, a descendant of Ephraim, yet it came “by way of the Gentile,” and in the time of the Gentiles. 2
Nearly all of the Latter-day Saints are of Gentile ancestry as well as being of the house of Israel. . . . In this Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, the gospel came first to the Gentiles and then is to go to the Jews. 3 However, the Gentiles who receive the gospel are in the greater part, Gentiles who have the blood of Israel in their veins. There is a very significant statement in the words of Moroni as recorded on the title page of the Book of Mormon that it was: “To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.”
How did the Book of Mormon come forth? By the hand of Joseph Smith. Yet we read in the Book of Mormon 4 that Joseph Smith is the descendant of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brethren, nevertheless he came by “way of the Gentile,” according to Moroni’s prediction. In the Book of Jacob, chapter five, in the Book of Mormon, we have one of the most remarkable parables ever written. It is the teaching of the Prophet Zenos and is related by Jacob. In this parable the house of Israel is represented as a tame olive tree which the Lord planted in his vineyard. The time came when the tree began to decay and the Lord pruned and nourished it, but the top began to perish. 5 This is a very interesting parable. It reveals to us the fact that the Lord in scattering Israel to all parts of the world caused the branches of the tame olive tree and the wild olive tree, that had been grafted to bring forth fruit, while the main branches of the original olive tree had withered away.
The interpretation of this parable, and we have presented only a fragment of it, is a story of the scattering of Israel and the mixing of the blood of Israel with the wild olive trees, or Gentile peoples, in all parts of the world. Therefore we find in China, Japan, India, and in all other countries that are inhabited by the Gentiles that the blood of Israel was scattered, or “grafted,” among them. Therefore in this day of gathering the Lord is fulfilling his purposes and is calling back into the fold of the True Shepherd, the children of Abraham. 6
Question: “My companion and I were discussing the lineage of the Israelites. I am a full blood Chinese, and have thought much of my lineage as mentioned in my patriarchal blessing. When I told my companion that my blessing said ‘You are of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Ephraim,’ he commented that I must not be pure Chinese. Since he has made such a statement, I have thought much about what is mentioned in the blessing. I will be grateful if you will inform me as to the relationship between races: Chinese, French, German, and others. I am particularly interested in this because I interpret the lineage literally and not as an adoption.”
[Part of President Smith’s answer was as follows] All of this was to come on Israel as a punishment for their wickedness. However, the Lord never punishes his people without turning that punishment into some blessing in the end. The scattering of Israel became a blessing to the Gentile peoples among whom they were dispersed, for the Israelites mixed with the people thus bringing the Gentiles into the benefits of the blessings that had been promised to Abraham and his seed after him. . . . Nearly all of the Latter-day Saints are of Gentile ancestry as well as being of the house of Israel. . . . Therefore we find in China, Japan, India, and in all other countries that are inhabited by the Gentiles that the blood of Israel was scattered, or “grafted,” among them. Therefore in this day of gathering the Lord is fulfilling his purposes and is calling back into the fold of the True Shepherd, the children of Abraham. They are largely of the tribe of Ephraim, for Ephraim was given the blessing of standing at the head in the last days:
And they, [that is, returning Israel,] shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
And the boundaries of the everlasting hills, shall tremble at their presence.
And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. (D. & C. 133:31-33.)7
The parable of Zenos, recorded by Jacob in chapter five of his book, is one of the greatest parables ever recorded. This parable in and of itself stamps the Book of Mormon with convincing truth. No mortal man, without the inspiration of the Lord, could have written such a parable…It is simple and very clear to the minds of those who earnestly seek to know the truth…In brief, it records the history of Israel down through the ages, the scattering of the tribes to all parts of the earth; their mingling with, or being grafted in, the wild olive trees, or in other words the mixing of the blood of Israel among the Gentiles…This remarkable parable portrays how, as branches of the olive tree (Israelites) were carried to all parts of the earth (the Lord’s vineyard) and grafted into the wild olive trees (the Gentile nations)…Today Latter-day Saints are going to all parts of the world as servants in the vineyard to gather this fruit and lay it in store for the time of the coming of the Master. This parable is one of the most enlightening and interesting in the Book of Mormon. How can any person read it without feeling the inspiration of this ancient prophet?8
“Every person who embraces the gospel becomes of the house of Israel. In other words,they become members of the chosen lineage, or Abraham’s children through Isaac and Jacob unto whom the promises were made. The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph. Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as heirs.” 9
3 Nephi 16:7-8
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.
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;
“Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.”
1 Nephi 13:23
“. . .they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.”
3 Nephi 21:12
“And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, . . .”
3 Nephi 23:2
“For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.”
D&C 107:33, 97
“The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.”
“And these seventy are to be traveling ministers, unto the Gentiles first and also unto the Jews.”
”Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to?
He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.
What are we to understand by Zion loosing herself from the bands of her neck; 2d verse?
We are to understand that the scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen; which if they do, the promise of the Lord is that he will speak to them, or give them revelation. See the 6th, 7th, and 8th verses. The bands of her neck are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles.”
Bruce R. McConkie
”The times of the Gentiles is that time or era, that expanze of time or years, during which the gospel goes to the Gentiles on a preferential basis. In Jesus’ day the goespel was offered first to the Jewish kinsmen; only later was it preached in Gentile ears. In our day it has been restored to the Gentiles, meaning to the non-Jewish people– people, however, who are of the house of Israel. It is now being taught on a preferential basis to Gentiles, or non-Jewish people, for, as Paul said, “blindness in part is happened to Israel, unto the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” 1011
The term Jew is a contraction of the name Judah, but the Jews are not the members of the tribe of Judah as such. After the reign of Solomon, the Lord’s people divided into the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Nearly ten tribes served Jeroboam in Israel and two and a half tribes served Rehoboam in Judah. The Levites were scattered among all the tribes. Judah, Simeon, and part of Benjamin comprised the kingdom of Judah. In actual fact, and considering blood lineage only, both kingdoms had in them people from all of the tribes. Lehi, who lived in Judah and was a Jew, was of the tribe of Manasseh. The Jews were nationals of the kingdom of Judah without reference to tribal ancestry. Thus the descendants of Lehi, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, were Jews because they came out from Jerusalem and from the kingdom of Judah. (2 Ne. 33:8.)
The Jews today are also those whose origins stem back to the kingdom of their fathers. Clearly the dominant tribe—dominant, however, only in the sense of political power and rulership—was Judah. As to the bloodlines, who knows whether there are more of Judah or of Simeon or of Benjamin or of some other tribe among the Jews as we know them? Paul, a Jew, was of the tribe of Benjamin. The name Judea, now used as a noun, is actually an adjective meaning Jewish and is the Greek and Roman designation for the land of Judah.
Since the Ten Tribes were taken into Assyria and lost from the knowledge of their fellows more than a century before the Jews went into Babylonian captivity, the prophets began to speak of Jews and Gentiles and to consider as a Gentile everyone who was not a Jew. This classifies Ephraim and the rest of scattered Israel as Gentiles. Everyone, in this sense, who is not a Jew is a Gentile, a concept that will enable us, in due course, to set forth what is meant by the fulness of the Gentiles.12
“We have heretofore identified the Jews as both the nationals of the kingdom of Judah and as their lineal descendants, all this without reference to tribal affiliation. And we have said, within this usage of terms, that all other people are Gentiles, including the lost and scattered remnants of the kingdom of Israel in whose veins the precious blood of him whose name was Israel does in fact flow. Thus Joseph Smith, of the tribe of Ephraim, the chief and foremost tribe of Israel itself, was the Gentile by whose hand the Book of Mormon came forth, and the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have the gospel and who are of Israel by blood descent, are the Gentiles who carry salvation to the Lamanites and to the Jews.” 13
- Journal of Discourses,2:269.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers To Gospel Questions 1:140
- D&C 19:27
- 2 Nephi 3:7-15
- Jacob 5:7-9, 14, 17
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers To Gospel Questions 4:38-41
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 4: 36-40.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:142
- Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 3:246.
- Romans 11:28
- Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, Vol. 1 FOOTNOTES, p. 97
- Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 221.
- McConkie, Millennial Messiah, p 233