Return to About Mormons home
by Brian L. Smith
Ephraim was the son of Joseph and Asenath and the younger brother of Manasseh (Gen. 41:50-52). According to the Bible, when Joseph brought his two sons to his father, Jacob, for a blessing, Ephraim received the birthright blessing in place of Manasseh (Gen. 48:13-20), one of the departures noted in the Bible from the custom of bestowing on the firstborn son the special privileges that belonged to him by right of primogeniture. The Lord continued to acknowledge Ephraim's blessing centuries later when he said, "I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn" (Jer. 31:9; cf. 1 Chr. 5:1-2). Ephraim's descendants will continue in significant roles. The Book of Mormon records that Joseph of old "obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord" (2 Ne. 3:5). Further, a "choice seer" would arise from Joseph's descendants who would "do a work for the fruit of [Joseph's] loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I [the Lord] have made with thy fathers" (2 Ne. 3:7). Many Latter-day Saints believe that they are of the branch of Ephraim, of whom Joseph prophesied (2 Ne. 3:5-16; D&C 133:30-34) and that the Prophet Joseph Smith is the "choice seer" (3 Ne. 3:6).
Because of their rebellion against the Lord many centuries ago, Ephraim's descendants were scattered among the Gentile nations, along with members of the other tribes, beginning with the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel c. 722 B.C. (2 Kgs. 17:5-6; see also Israel: Scattering of Israel and Israel: Lost Tribes of Israel)
In the last days, Ephraim's descendants have the privilege and responsibility to bear the message of the restoration of the gospel to the world and to gather scattered Israel (D&C 113:3-6). "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent" (A of F 10; cf. Deut. 4:27-31; 28; 29; 30; 3 Ne. 20-21). The keys of gathering Israel were committed to the Prophet Joseph Smith by Moses on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110:11). Many of Ephraim's descendants are being gathered first, for they have the responsibility of preparing the way for the gathering of the other tribes (D&C 113). "And they [others of the tribes of Israel] shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants 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, and they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy" (D&C 133:30-33; see also Israel: Gathering of Israel).
One of the tools to be used in the gathering is the Book of Mormon, also known among Latter-day Saints as the stick of Joseph or the stick of Ephraim (Ezek. 37:15-19; 2 Ne. 3:12; D&C 27:5). It is to play an important part in convincing Lamanites, Jews, and Gentiles that Jesus is the messiah and that God does remember his covenant people (See Book of Mormon: Title Page).
For Latter-day Saints, identification of a person's lineage in latter-day Covenant Israel is made under the hands of inspired Patriarchs through patriarchal blessings that declare lineage. Elder John A. Widtsoe, an Apostle, declared, "In giving a blessing the patriarch may declare our lineagethat is, that we are of Israel, therefore of the family of Abraham, and of a specific tribe of Jacob. In the great majority of cases, Latter-day Saints are of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe to which has been committed the leadership of the Latter-day work. Whether this lineage is of blood or adoption it does not matter" (p. 73; cf. Abr. 2:10).
The patriarchal blessings of most Latter-day Saints indicate that they are literal, blood descendants of Abraham and of Israel. Those who are not literal descendants are adopted into the family of Abraham when they receive baptism and confirmation (see Law of Adoption). They are then entitled to all the rights and privileges of heirs (TPJS, pp. 149-50). This doctrine of adoption was understood by ancient prophets and apostles (e.g., Rom. 11; 1 Ne. 10:14; Jacob 5; cf. D&C 84:33-34).
(See Basic Beliefs home page; The Holy Bible home page; People in the Bible home page)
McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness of the Articles of Faith, pp. 541-75. Salt Lake City, 1985.
Smith, Joseph Fielding. DS 3:244-64.
Widtsoe, John A. Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 72-77. Salt Lake City, 1943.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Enoch
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
All About Mormons