Mormon view of the House of Joseph

The House of Joseph (sometimes referred to as the Tribe of Joseph) were the Old Testament tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Both of these tribes were descendants of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who are both first mentioned in Genesis 41:50-52. In Genesis Ephraim and Manasseh are taken to see a dying Jacob, who blesses Ephraim (the younger son) with his right hand and Manasseh with his left hand (see Genesis 45:14-19 KJV).

The house of Joseph is mentioned in the Bible several times, notably in Numbers 13:11; Deuteronomy 27:12; Judges 1:22-35; and Ezekiel 47:13. There is also an allusion to the house of Joseph in Psalms 80:1.

Both the Samaritan sect and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) claim Joseph as one of their ancient tribal patriarchs. In Latter Day Saint interfaith relations with Jews, the LDS Church sometimes calls its people "Joseph", whilst calling the Jews "Judah", emphasizing beliefs of close kinship and mutual sacred covenant. Latter Day Saints do not believe themselves to be exclusively descended from these specific tribes, but in their use of names they associate themselves most closely with specific dominant tribes. No denomination of Judaism affirms the Samaritan or LDS beliefs, nor similar beliefs adhered to by anyone else.

Book of Mormon genealogy

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi (Hebrew לחי Léḥî / Lāḥî "jawbone") was an ancient prophet who lived around 600 BC. He was an Israelite of the Tribe of Manasseh. Lehi and his family lived in Jerusalem in the Kingdom of Judah under the reign of King Zedekiah. Lehi also held other property, perhaps outside the city of Jerusalem. Some have suggested that he was a merchant. Lehi had six sons: Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph; and at least two daughters, who were not named in the Book of Mormon. Lehi's sons are said to be characteristically Ephrathite, though it is uncertain what this means or why this would be; Some LDS church leaders have suggested that Lehi's wife Sariah may have descended from Ephraim, which is historically considered a half-tribe, as Ephraim and Manasseh were twin sons of Joseph. Joseph Smith is reported to have said that in the Lost 116 pages Lehi's friend, Ishmael (not to be confused with Abraham's son Ishmael), who joined Lehi in escaping Jerusalem, was revealed to be a descendant of Ephraim. Lehi's sons marrying Ishmael's daughters would then explain why their descendents could have belonged to either the Tribe of Ephraim or the Tribe of Manasseh.

Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, Lehi escaped with his family, along with his friend Ishmael and his family, and another man named Zoram. Together, Lehi led them south down the Arabian Peninsula until they reached a fertile coastal region they named Bountiful. There, they built a ship, and sailed across the ocean to the Americas. Lehi's sons Nephi and Laman are said to have established themselves and to have founded Israelite nations: the Nephites and the Lamanites.

The Palestinian town of Khirbet Beit Lei ("The Ruin of the House of Lei") is purported to be the location of the ancient home of Lehi, although there is only problematic and circumstantial evidence to support it. Very few FARMS scholars and other Mormonism historians will definitively tie the two together because of the lack of evidence.


In The Book of Mormon, a Lamanite is a member of one of three main tribes described in the book. The other two tribes are the Jaredites and the Nephites. The Lamanites, together with the Nephites, are described as descending from the family of Lehi, a wealthy Jewish merchant, who traveled from the Middle East in 600 BC to the Americas by boat. Nephites descended from the youngest son, Nephi, while Lamanites descended from the elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel. Lehi carried family genealogical records as well as scriptural records recorded on "brass plates" with them, and declared that his lineage was from the tribe of Manasseh. He later prophesied (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 3) that a latter-day Joseph, son of Joseph, who would also be a descendant of the house of Joseph, would do a great work that would be a blessing to Lehi's descendants. Latter-day Saints believe that this prophecy was fulfilled by Joseph Smith through translating the Book of Mormon, organizing the restored Church of Jesus Christ, and doing missionary work among latter-day descendants of the tribes of Israel, particularly Ephraim and Manasseh.

According to the Book of Mormon there were many interactions between the Lamanites and the Nephites. Activities from war to trade to proselytizing were used by each one on the other to varying degrees and at different stages in their histories. The actual ethnic make up of each group seems to have shifted as the story progresses. The Lamanites initially are given a darker skin color from God due to their rebellion. At one point in the book the Lamanites and Nephites coexist for two centuries in peace (from circa AD 30 until 230) Shortly after this period of peace and cooperation between the two begins to decline along with a reestablishment of economic class distinction in both groups. Some time after AD 400 the Nephite culture and most if not all of its people were destroyed in a series of large wars between the Lamanites, Nephites and a renegade organization of robbers known as the Gadianton Robbers.

Theories about modern descendants of Lamanites

Many Mormons consider Native Americans to be descendants of the Lamanites. Officially, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appears to accept this position. The introduction to the Latter Day Saint (LDS) edition of The Book of Mormon states, "[T]he Lamanites are among the principal ancestors of the American Indians."[1] However, an alternate interpretation of this text could imply that the Lamanites are only the most notable (religiously) of the ancestors of the American Indians instead of claiming to be the only group of ancestors from which modern-day American Indians descended.

However, this position of the Lamanites being the only ancestors of the American Indians is controversial. Based on genetic and archeological data, mainstream scientists have concluded that Native Americans are descended from the prehistoric inhabitants of East Asia, although mixed genetics are not precluded by either science or LDS doctrine. Thus, some Mormon scholars view Lamanites as (1) one small tribe among many in the ancient Americas, the remainder of whom were not discussed in The Book of Mormon although they were implied or, (2) a tribe that intermarried with indigenous Native American cultures. (3) Those Native Americans who share the Haplogroup X Gene.

An alternate belief would be that they are fictional characters intended to portray an allegory (see similar debate regarding the Old Testament Book of Job). The Book of Mormon prophesied of great pillage and destruction by those who would find the Lamanite descendants and dominate them before a final period of "carrying them upon their shoulders," implied as bringing them the fulness of the gospel and a pattern of free government. Links to various commentaries are listed on the official church website, although not official church positions.[2][3]

Joseph Smith and the Church of Christ

After translating the Book of Mormon and publishing it in 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr. asked five associates to join in officially incorporating the Church of Christ on April 6, 1830 in the company of some 56 men and women in Fayette, New York. After suffering under persecution in several states, including a government-ordered expulsion from Missouri and the assassination of Joseph Smith by a mob in Illinois, Brigham Young was called to succeed Joseph Smith and led the Mormon pioneers to settle a large area now encompassed by the state of Utah and parts of Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Modern day House of Joseph

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church), is the largest and best known denomination within the Latter Day Saint movement (a form of Christian Restorationism). The Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and claims through inspired patriarchal blessings to its members throughout the world that many of these are descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, with the tribe of Ephraim holding a responsibility of leadership and a leading role in missionary work in the last days. The LDS Church believes that scattered descendants of Ephraim from Europe, Scandinavia, and other parts of the world have been led by the guiding hand of God to settle in the Americas, along with the descendants of the Lamanites and others, and that the Americas are a "promised land" of liberty for those who have been led there.  

The LDS Church also teaches that the gathering of descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh in the Americas fulfills the prophecy of Jacob that "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:"(Genesis 49:22) wherein the "wall" of the "well" is understood to symbolize the oceans separating the American continent from Eurasia.

See also


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