FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Book of Mormon/Stick of Ephraim
The Book of Mormon and the Stick of Ephraim
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: How is it that the prophesy of the sticks found in Ezekiel 37 is fulfilled in the Book of Mormon if Lehi and Nephi are descendants of Manasseh and not of Ephraim?
- Franklin D. Richards (1896): "Brother Joseph, how is it that we call the Book of Mormon the Stick of Joseph, in the hands of Ephraim, when the book itself tells us that Lehi was of the lineage of Manasseh?"
- Joseph Fielding Smith (1957): "It is true that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh...Ishmael, who was the other founder of the colony, was a descendant of Ephraim"
- Orson Pratt (1850): "the Lord took one of his sons, whose name was Mulek, with a company of those who would hearken unto His words, and brought them over the ocean, and planted them in America"
Question: How is it that the prophesy of the sticks found in Ezekiel 37 is fulfilled in the Book of Mormon if Lehi and Nephi are descendants of Manasseh and not of Ephraim?
One of Joseph Smith's early revelations makes the connection between the Book of Mormon and Ezekiel's "stick of Ephraim"
Latter-day Saints have historically interpreted Ezekiel 37:15–17 as being a prophecy of coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days. Elder Boyd K. Packer explained it this way in General Conference, October 1982:
I must tell you of a work that has moved quietly forward in the Church virtually unnoticed. It had its beginning in Old Testament times and is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Ezekiel, who wrote:
"The word of the Lord came...unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand."
The sticks, of course, are records or books. In ancient Israel records were written upon tablets of wood or scrolls rolled upon sticks. The record of Judah and the record of Ephraim, according to the prophecy, were to become one in our hands. Two events connected with the fulfillment of the prophecy were centered in print shops.
One of Joseph Smith's early revelations makes the connection between the Book of Mormon and Ezekiel's "stick of Ephraim," so we are bound to this interpretation in some form:
...the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim. (D&C 27:5.)
Since the Book of Mormon makes clear that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh, brother of Ephraim (Alma 10:3), it is less than straight forward to identify it as the "stick of Ephraim". Nevertheless some LDS general authorities have made such an attempt. Orson Pratt claimed another ancestor of the Book of Mormon peoples, Ishmael, was an Ephraimite in 1850. The late reminiscences of Franklin D. Richards and Erastus Snow attributed this teaching to Joseph Smith and the missing 116 pages. Joseph Fielding Smith additionally emphasized that Joseph Smith was a descendant of Ephraim and noted that this fits well with the alternative phrasing found in v. 19 of "the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim."
In context, this portion of Ezekiel's record is a prophecy of the restoration and reunification of the divided house of Israel. Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley of dry bones that are miraculously reassembled with flesh, and the breath of life returns to them (37:1–10). The Lord promises Ezekiel that he will raise the people of Israel from the dead and give them rest in their own land (11–14). The Lord then gives the prophecy of the sticks (15–20). He explains the sticks represent the restoration of Israel to their homeland and reunification of the formerly separated nations of Judah and Israel (Ephraim) (21–22). They will live God's law, be purified from unrighteousness, and be ruled over by the heir of house of David (23–28).
So what does the Book of Mormon have to do with the reunification of Israel and how does Lehi, descendant of Manasseh, fit into a prophecy of a "stick of Ephraim"?
For Latter-day Saints this is an example of "likening the scriptures unto ourselves," as Nephi suggested (1 Nephi 19:23). The Book of Mormon is the restoration scripture for modern-day Ephraim—the people of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and a message that they take to the world so that Israel may be gathered a final time in preparation for the second coming of the Lord.
Although Ezekiel was speaking directly of reunification, Latter-day Saints have applied their own modern application of this passage as it relates to the Book of Mormon's role in the restoration of the gospel and the gathering of Israel.
Franklin D. Richards (1896): "Brother Joseph, how is it that we call the Book of Mormon the Stick of Joseph, in the hands of Ephraim, when the book itself tells us that Lehi was of the lineage of Manasseh?"
As cited in B. H. Roberts's 1909 New Witnesses for God, vol. 3
One day in the autumn of that year, (1843) as I was passing near, (the "Nauvoo Mansion") it being in warm weather, I observed the door standing open and the Prophet Joseph inside conversing with one of the brethren, leaning against the counter. It being a public house, I ventured to walk in, and scarcely had more than time to exchange usual civilities, when this brother said: "Brother Joseph, how is it that we call the Book of Mormon the Stick of Joseph, in the hands of Ephraim, when the book itself tells us that Lehi was of the lineage of Manasseh? I cannot find in it about the seed of Ephraim dwelling on this land at all."
Joseph replied: "You will recollect that when Lehi and his family had gone from Jerusalem out into the wilderness, he sent his son Nephi back to the city to get the plates which contained the law of Moses and many prophecies of the prophets, and that he also brought out Ishmael and his family, which were mostly daughters. This Ishmael and his family were of the lineage of Ephraim, and Lehi's sons took Ishmael's daughters for wives, and this is how they have grown together, 'a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth.'
"If we had those one hundred and sixteen pages of manuscript which Martin Harris got away with, you would know all about it, for Ishmael's ancestry is made very plain therein. The Lord told me not to translate it over again, but to take from Nephi's other plates until I came to the period of time where the other translation was broken off, and then go on with Mormon's abridgment again. That is how it came about that Ishmael's lineage was not given in the Book of Mormon, as well as Lehi's."'—Franklin D. Richards, The Contributor, Vol. XVII, p. 425.
Joseph Fielding Smith (1957): "It is true that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh...Ishmael, who was the other founder of the colony, was a descendant of Ephraim"
From Answers to Gospel Questions 3:197–98
Question: "Our missionary manual gives us the Bible quotation Ezekiel 37:15-20 as a prophecy concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and calls it ' . . . for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.'
"Amulek, in giving his genealogy in Alma 10:3, says that Lehi was 'a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.'
"How can we reconcile these two passages of scripture?"
Answer: It is true that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh (Alma 10:3), but the Nephites were just as much the descendants of Ephraim, for we know that Ishmael, who was the other founder of the colony, was a descendant of Ephraim. This we learn from the Prophet Joseph Smith, but it is not so stated in the Book of Mormon. This information was contained in the 116 pages of lost manuscript which was not re-translated into the Book of Mormon.
You are aware of the fact that the sons of Lehi married the daughters of Ishmael.
JOSEPH SMITH WAS A DESCENDANT OF EPHRAIM
Ezekiel 37:19 reads as follows:
Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and they shall be one in mine hand.
Now if you will carefully analyze this verse, you will discover that it positively states that this "stick" which is the "stick of Joseph," thus covering both tribes, is "in the hand of Ephraim." The record, after its presentation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, was placed in the hand of Ephraim, for Joseph Smith was of Ephraim.
There is no reason for us to attempt a reconciliation. The Book of Mormon is as much the stick of Ephraim as it is of Manasseh, because both Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph. The record of Joseph is now in the hand of Ephraim. So far as the fulfilment of the prophecy is concerned, it becomes the record of Ephraim, for the Latter-day Saints are, in the main, of Ephraim.
There are many statements in the Bible of similar nature to this, but they all make sense when the proper inspiration is received.
Orson Pratt (1850): "the Lord took one of his sons, whose name was Mulek, with a company of those who would hearken unto His words, and brought them over the ocean, and planted them in America"
Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, no. 6 (Liverpool, England: 15 October 1850): 91–92.
29.—Ephraim, the Lord's first-born, shall be like a mighty man, and his heart shall rejoice as through new wine; for he shall crown the tribes of Israel with glory, and his birthright shall never be wrested from his hand; his dwellings shall be in the fat valleys, and his seed shall cover the hills; he shall put forth his branches in all directions, and many shall repose in the shade thereof; with him is the key of hidden mysteries—the mysteries of ancient times; he shall unlock the sacred archives of heaven, and the skies shall pour down righteousness, like rain; the bowels of the earth shall open, and shall disclose the wonders of ages unknown. By him Zion shall be built, and her dwellings shall be encircled with glory; her light shall be as the sun, and her beauty as the morning; her tabernacles shall be as the dwelling places of the Most High, and in her palaces kings shall arise and worship; her children with one heart shall look upward, while the Zion that is above shall look downward; then the heavens and the earth shall meet, and all the creations shall shake with gladness; then the union of all dispensations will be completed, and the royal families of heaven and earth will be one from henceforth, even for evermore. This is the blessing of the children of Zion, and the glory of Ephraim the Lord's servants. The children of Manasseh shall assist Ephraim, and in all his glory they shall be glorified.
30.—The records of Manasseh in the hands of Ephraim shall gather out the Lord's elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other The Book of Mormon is the record of Manasseh; it is now in the hands of Ephraim, who have been for many generations, as the Prophet Hosea said, "mixed among the people." By them will the Lord "push the people together to the ends of the earth," even by the children of Ephraim, who is the Lord's first-born in this great latter-day work The American Indians are partly of the children of Manasseh; though many of them are of Ephraim, through the two sons of Ishmael, who came out of Jerusalem six hundred years before Christ, and some of Judah, through the loins of David and the kings that reigned over Jerusalem. When Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon, the Lord took one of his sons, whose name was Mulek, with a company of those who would hearken unto His words, and brought them over the ocean, and planted them in America. This was done in fulfillment of the 22nd and 23rd verses of the seventeenth chapter of Ezekiel, which read thus: "Thus saith the Lord God, I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it: I will cross off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent; in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit and, be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell." By reading this chapter, it will be seen that the Jews were the "high cedar," that Zedekiah the king was the "highest branch," that the "tender one" cropped off from the top of his young twigs, was one of his sons, whom the Lord brought out and planted him and his company upon the choice land of America, which He had given unto a remnant of the tribe of Joseph for an inheritance, in fulfillment of the blessing of Jacob and Moses upon the head of that tribe.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here