Remnant, part V

A few additional statements by Joseph Smith and others add weight to the identity of the existing American Indian population at the time of the prophecies given to Joseph Smith.

When Joseph and Oliver went to seek answers about baptism on May 15, 1829, they explained the motivation for the inquiry. They report they were inspired “after writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent.” (Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 1, p. 15, October 1834.)

“The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians,” Smith wrote to N. C. Saxton, editor of a Rochester, New York, newspaper. “The land of America is a promised land unto them,” where they would be instrumental in building a New Jerusalem. [Taken from Ronald Walker’s paper: Seeking the Remnant; one of the first publications to take the role of the remnant found in the American Indians as a serious matter of study.]

On their mission to the Lamanites, Oliver and Parley were interviewed by newspapers as they went on their journey. The Telegraph published in Painesville, Ohio, on 16 and 30 November 1830, made the following mention about Oliver’s interview: “He proclaims destruction upon the world in a few years. We understand that he is bound for the regions beyond the Mississippi, where he contemplates foundinga ‘City of Refuge’ for his followers, and converting the Indians, under his prophetic authority.” Cowdery also reportedly spoke of an about-to-rise Indian prophet, who would bring these events to pass. 

Parley Pratt’s autobiography discusses the Mission to the Lamanites. He describes how the missionaries didn’t even hesitate in their mission after their tremendous success at Kirtland. They changed the entire center of gravity for the Church by the Kirtland conversions. But they retained their focus on the target of the remnant, whom they had been sent to teach. This was the first organized missionary effort after the organization of the church, and the target was the Lamanites. The priority and focus was remarkable, when you consider the abundance of potential white converts all around the tiny start-up church. It gives some indication of how important Joseph regarded the Lamanite remnant to be as an obligation for the restored church. 

Winter did not slow their journey toward the western frontier and border with the relocated American Indian tribes. Here’s a brief excerpt from Parley’s writings:

“We halted for a few days in Illinois, about twenty miles from St. Louis, on account of a dreadful storm of rain and snow, which lasted for a week or more, during which the slow fell in some places near three feet deep.  …In the beginning of 1831 we renewed our journey; and, passing through St. Louis and St. Charles, we traveled on foot for three hundred miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow–no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keeness which would almost take the skin off the face.  …We often ate our frozen bread and pork by the way, when the bread would be so frozen that we could not bite or penetrate any part of it but the outside crust. 

“After much fatigue and some suffering we all arrived in Independence, in the county of Jackson, on the extreme western frontiers of Missouri, and the United States.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 40.)

Parley’s account continues and explains how two of the missionaries took employment as tailors in Independence while the others crossed the boundary and “commenced a mission among the Lamanites, or Indians.”  (Id. p. 41.) They taught the Shawnees, then the Delaware, including the chief over ten tribes of Delaware. The sermon delivered to the gathering called by the chief, delivered by Oliver Cowdery, is set out on pp. 42-43 where it is clear Oliver understood the Delaware were descended from the Book of Mormon people. The chief replied: “We feel truly thankful to our white friends who have come so far, and been at such pains to tell us good news, and specially this new news concerning the Book of our forefathers; it makes us glad in here–placing his hands on his own heart.”

Although the Indian reaction was favorable, the Indian Agents were alarmed at the Mormon success.  In particular they did not want the upstart religion to gain a foothold among the relocated Indians, and began to interfere with the missionary efforts.

Of interest to us, however, is Oliver’s mention of the Rocky Mountains as the ultimate destination of the missionary effort, to be “with the Indians.” (The Telegraph, Plainsville, 18 January 1831, cited by Walker, above, on p. 9.) Walker writes: “Smith gave a revelation requiring Sidney Gilbert to open a store in western Missouri that would allow ‘clerks employed in his service’ to go unto the Lamanites and ‘thus the gospel may be preached unto them.’ He also issued a confidential revelation that presaged the introduction of plural marriage. This latter statement promised that the elders would intermarry with the native women, making the red man’s posterity ‘white, delightsome, and just.'” (Seeking the Remnant, p. 10, Citations omitted.)

This early focus on the duty to find and preach to the remnant was not a passing concern. It was far more central to the early efforts than we realize as we review the events today. Today the view of the Lamanite remnant’s role is, if anything, superficial.  To the earliest converts, they were central. They would remain a focus of interest throughout not only Joseph’s life, but also into the early part of the western migration. Indeed, the western movement of the church itself was related to locating the remnant.

Now there are a number of prophecies given in the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants which relate to why the remnant were a priority for Joseph Smith and the early church of this dispensation. The further we get from those times, however, the more we seem to forget the underlying reasons. We have become so successful as an organization, and prosper in every economic, political and social measure that it is hard to remember things. When Presidential candidates, the leader of the United States Senate, the Ambassador to China, business and educational leaders are members of the church, we do not relate as well to the promised cataclysms. Where once we may have welcomed destruction to end our persecutions, now we fear what we would lose. Our former poverty made us fear nothing in the destruction of the world, but now we have a great deal to lose and therefore we want to continue as we are. We have even redefined the term “remnant” to mean us, the Latter-day Saints, as if redefining it will remove the prophetic threat posed to the gentiles. (See Children of the Covenant, May, 1995 Ensign, the General Conference talk by Russell M. Nelson; in particular the interpretation given in footnote 15.) The careful distinctions between the remnant of the Book of Mormon on the one hand, and the gentiles on the other, has been forgotten, or altogether lost in our modern teachings. But that does not alter what Nephi or Christ meant in their prophecies that we still read in the Book of Mormon text.

We’ve worked to establish a basis for understanding the distinctions for several months now. With that foundation we will continue our search for understanding where we find ourselves in history, what group we are identified with and what we should expect in the coming calamities.

Onward, then…

14 thoughts on “Remnant, part V

  1. When I wonder who I am to be identified with, I look at my patriarchal blessing, and I see this: (I’m glad this is anonymous).

    “You did indeed prove yourself in the pre-existent world and you were privileged above your brethren to come to this earth through a royal heritage. For, thou art of the royal lineage of the House of Israel, of the loins of Ephraim, he who has been appointed to gather out the remnant of the chosen of the Lord, and to bring to knowledge, the Gentile, of the Plan of Salvation,” etc.

    Doesn’t sound like I am either the remnant or the Gentile–just Ephraim??? (I should also point out that I am a convert.)
    I assume most peoples say something to a similar effect, except that I have a son-in-law who is Manasseh.

  2. And even if the church has forgotten or repudiated the North American Indians, God has not forgotten them, and the promises made to them in the Book of Mormon will be fulfilled in the Lord’s due time. No doubt that other “remnants” from other lost tribes of Israel will also be remembered, found, and brought back too; but they are NOT our “Lamanites.” If you take the time to study the history and plight of our Native American brothers and sisters (late 1600’s down to today), you quickly see in hindsight, what Nephi and others saw with foresight. It’s a heart wrenching story. And perhaps most sad of all to the readers of this blog, is how we as Latter-day saints have totally failed these people.

    The Church has closed most of its “Indian” missions, and the former Elders and Sisters who once served them as missionaries are getting old now. Yet, from among those who love our Lamanite brethren, a cadre of servants are going about quietly doing a good work for these great people of promise; anticipating a better day when the “great and marvelous work” will be accomplished in their behalf. Thank you Denver for addressing this forgotten but most important matter.

  3. Patriarchal blessings focus on the positive aspects of one’s potential. Even if you only have one small drop of the blood of Ephraim in you, you can respond to it and through the power of the Holy Ghost enable it to overcome the rest. This fact enables Patriarchs to talk so positively in response to their promptings.

    The first Gentile you may bring to the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation could be those parts of yourself that are Gentile.

    If, through your faithfulness, you are true to the blood of Israel within you, your identification with the House of Israel will be sealed upon you and you will be able to join the Remnant.

    We assume we are already sealed as Israel all the time because we forget the clause “through your faithfulness” which is the crucial piece which is needed to bring us through this crucible of being identified with the Gentiles at the moment. That clause is always implied with Patriarchal Blessings, but not included always in the text.

    You must first consider yourself as if you were already sealed as Ephraim’s in order to achieve it with more substantial proofs.

    Rise up to your heritage! Make it true in very deed!

    Those are my thoughts.

  4. We should keep in mind that regarding our failures to redeem the “Remnant” of the Lamanites that we have only been at this a mere 180 years (two 90-year old persons living back-to-back), and the Nephite’s were unsuccessful at this for most of their 1000 year history, with few exceptions. The Ron Walker paper (which Denver referred to) illustrates the fervor with which Joseph Smith and others attempted to bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the gospel, but in the main, they were mostly unsuccessful. The same applies to the early Utah “Indian” missions. The missionaries had zeal, just not much success.

    It seems we are in need of a major dispensational event such as that conducted by the sons of Mosiah. Someone truly commissioned by the Lord to do this great work among the Indians who will be welcomed by them, and accepted by them. To date, that mission leader (or leaders) have not arrived on the scene, yet we have consummate faith in the promises extended to this people of promise. One wonders as to God’s itinerary in this matter? The blossoming of this “rose” should be a great event to observe.

    I happen to be good friends with three former “Indian” missionaries; one served the Navaho, the other two the Lakota. All have phenomenal stories to tell and their hearts yearn and ache for these people. These former missionaries have had wondrous spiritual experiences in recent years which give them hope regarding the future redemption of the Lamanites. It’s fabulous that this otherwise ignored topic is being addressed. One would like to see Nephi’s prophecies fulfilled soon!

  5. Two questions for anyone who knows:

    1) Besides the Am Indian being descendants of Lehi, are the Hispanics also recognized as his descendants? I’ve always thought/hoped they were. Am I mistaken?

    2) I can’t, at all, begin to understand why we don’t have thousands of missionaries working among the Am Indians now? Any ideas?

  6. Dear Bro. Zang,

    The patriarchal blessing of AnonymousNV, like so many patriarchal blessings, is emphatic, uneqivocal, and authoritative in pronouncing the recipient to be of the lineage of Ephraim. There is no need to resort to lawerly contortions to explain away these patriarchal pronouncements. They are what they are.

    What they are not is God telling us we are more special than in fact we are, in order that we will feel good about our prospects. His approach is always the opposite: telling us that DESPITE our privileges, we will fail if we are not very careful.

    So, we have a conundrum. Either all the patriarchs for the last hundred and fifty years have been wrong, or Bro. Snuffer is wrong, or there is some way to reconcile these (seemingly) contradictory views of the heritage of the latter-day saints.

  7. I only claimed them as my thoughts. Patriarchal blessings are best left to the interpretation of the individual. But, taking it out of context from the AnonymousNV’s personal blessing, and applying it to all of us in similar situations, I ventured to “liken” as Nephi spoke about. I don’t claim that is the true interpretation as penned by the original Patriarch. Fair enough?

  8. To Everyone Else: It is the General Authorities who have always stated we have more than one blood-line in us. I was elaborating on that theme. Which bloodline will we respond to? Will we heed the words of our Patriarchs, or the voice of Babylon?

    General Authorities have always said that blessings are conditional. Is not lineage declaration a blessing? Particularly if we have many bloodlines in us? Is not identification with a chosen bloodline out of all of our corrupt ones a blessing that is just as conditional as the other blessings contained in the document?

    The eternal marriage sealing blessing is quite emphatic, too, yet it is conditional. There is no reason to be non-lawyerly when dealing with Divine Law that is explicit in its conditional aspects.

    Shall we fault God for being optimistic in a blessing He inspires Patriarchs to give, even if it is conditional until sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise?

    Shall any earthly condition earned from pre-existent efforts continue into the next life unless sealed by this same Holy Spirit of Promise and reconfirmed? Yet a Patriarchal Blessing in and of itself, according to Church leaders, does not seal what it says unconditionally, even if it does reconfirm things positively.

    Yet the value of that reconfirmation can’t be understated, even if it is conditional for now. I think we’ve had a lot of discourse on the word “conditional” already, don’t you think? It still fits, if you can see it. How is that for lawyering?

  9. It seems to me that it is possible to belong to both groups (House of Israel, of the loins of Ephraim and Gentiles) as we are classified differently at different times under different circumstances.

    As I look at the Title page of the Book of Mormon, it is hard not to feel I am a Gentile as Joseph and Pres Packer have said.

  10. Back to addressing Gordon: I really like the spirit of your statement: “or there is some way to reconcile these (seemingly) contradictory views of the heritage of the latter-day saints.”

    That is usually the case with these sorts of things. Good thought! Thanks for that part for clarification.


  11. Donald,

    The link to The Telegraph was not meant to be specific, just a general location to rummage around on. In light of your comments, I reviewed the link and decided to remove it so as not to distract people in looking for the exact location of every citation. Nor did I want to be linking incorrectly.

    Your comments were useful, not inappropriate.

    Thank you


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