Over the years a handful of Mormon authors have written books tracing the lost ten tribes of the House of Israel to Europe and America. Yet the Mormon religion is better-known instead for teaching that the American Indians are the lost Israelite tribes. How do some authors reconcile these two opposing views?
Mormon author, Dr. Vaughn Hansen, produced two editions of a short 117-page book originally titled, “Whence Came They?” It was first published in 1993 and reprinted in 2011 with the new title, “Israel’s Lost Ten Tribes: Migrations To Britain and the United States.” Although a Mormon apologist, he gives very little information to substantiate a British-Israel basis for Mormonism. Instead, most of his information is copied from a good number of British-Israel books and articles. There are many pages devoted in particular to relating the information in W.H. Bennett’s excellent “Symbols Of Our Celto-Saxon Heritage,” which is available from CBIA (www.migrations.info). In fact, thirty illustrations from Mr. Bennett’s book are reproduced (without seeking permission, although due credit is given). Over half of the references and a majority of the facts given in Dr. Hansen’s book are quoted from well-known British-Israel authors. So, what is the Mormon basis for British-Israel belief?
Dr. Hansen relates that it is formal Mormon doctrine that no one really knows where the lost tribes are. Quoting from the Book of Mormon, “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.” (1 Nephi 22:4) Despite the statement that no one knows, some Mormon authors seize on the statement that the lost tribes were to be found in the isles of the sea and postulate that this must be Britain.
Mormon scholar Derek Cuthbert stated, “Yes, the blood of Israel is richly concentrated in these [British] islands and the promised blessings will all be fulfilled.” (The Second Century: Latter-day Saints in Great Britain, Derek A. Cuthbert, 1937-87, p.194) The Genealogical Society of Utah supposedly traced the pedigree of Mormon founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, back to three illustrious personages: Anna, cousin of the Virgin Mary, the early Norse god-hero Odin, and Antenor, “chief prince of Ephraim.” The claim has also been made that Joseph Smith was descended from both houses of Israel.
The lost tribes’ connection to Britain is also expanded in other ways. Joseph Smith was quoted by his followers as saying that the New Testament Apostle John was then ministering in 1831 (!) among the lost tribes in Britain to prepare them for their return to Canaan. (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, B.H. Roberts, 1:176) Mormon Apostle Heber C. Kimball, in fact, claimed that several Biblical prophets had ministered in England. (Derek A. Cuthbert, p.197) Without dwelling on the numerous curious such examples, it is not an exaggeration to simply say that Mormon writings are replete with rather fanciful and historically unreliable claims that British-Israel believers would definitely not approve, including a claim that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri!
The Book of Mormon states that remnants of the House of Israel fled Jerusalem about the time of the fall of Jerusalem (circa 600 B.C.), came to America as “Nephites,” and were ministered to by Christ after His resurrection. These Nephites were a white people who were later exterminated by a dark people, also Israelites, the Mormons call the Lamanites. Of course, the ten-tribe House of Israel was removed from Palestine between 732 and 676 B.C., so Hebrews fleeing Jerusalem during the later Babylonian conquest would have to be of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, not ten-tribe Ephraimites. From what I can tell, this historic error in the Book of Mormon is simply ignored by their adherents.
Dr. Hansen states that the Book of Mormon is a witness of the visit of Christ to America as reported in 3 Nephi chapters 11 to 27. These chapters, however, have very little to say about such a visit. They constitute mostly a hodge-podge of passages of Scripture (specifically the King James 1769 version) strung together with additional non-biblical material inserted in-between. Christ is depicted as choosing twelve new disciples and the Hebrew ten-tribe exiles are divided into twelve groups, not ten as might be expected.
Despite Joseph Smith’s statement above of a return to Canaan, the Book of Mormon in the “America” chapters instead says that America is “the land of your inheritance.” (3 Nephi 15:13). Israel will be regathered not to Palestine, but America. (20:13-14) Believers shall come and build New Jerusalem in America. (21:23) Christ came twice to America to witness to the exiles. (26:15) Mormon scholars admit that over time Joseph Smith changed his historical and doctrinal views on a number of subjects, which resulted in numerous contradictions in the various Mormon writings, including important subjects such as the Godhead. (ref: The Changing World of Mormonism by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)
There is a somewhat universalistic element in Mormon teaching. The Book of Mormon states that the ten-tribe House of Israel was scattered to the four quarters of the earth. (3 Nephi 16:5) Yet for years many Mormons have believed that the lost tribes of Israel were hiding out at the North Pole (!), due to the peculiar wording of the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants (133:26), which states, “And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance …and the ice shall flow down at their presence.” Contradicting that prophecy was the Mormon Prophet Zenos who stated that the lost tribes were divided into four parts, not counting the tribe of Judah in Palestine. (Book of Jacob) Some influential Mormon scholars believe that the four branches of the House of Israel are Scandinavia, Britain, Tahiti-Polynesia, and the North and South American Indians. (House of Israel, E.L. Whitehead, p.563)
An obvious question is how peoples with dissimilar genetic DNA can all be close relatives? DNA testing was unknown when the Mormon holy books were written, and such differences were considered only a matter of skin color. Mormon doctrines addressed this by claiming that the darker races were originally white but were cursed with dark skin due to their sins. (1 Nephi 12:23; 2 Nephi 5:21, 23; Alma 3:6) Yet Mormons believe that the darker races will one day repent and God will turn them into “a white and delightsome people.” (2 Nephi 30:6; 3 Nephi 2:15)
The Mormon view of the lost tribes can therefore not be confused with British-Israel belief, even though a few of their authors copy liberally from B.I. sources. Mormon doctrines vary significantly from orthodox evangelical and Biblical teachings, and their concept of the lost tribes of Israel being of several widely different racial groups flies in the face of fact and reality.