Israel! Do You Know?

LeGrand Richards (1886-1983) wrote the book Israel! Do You Know?, published by Deseret Book in 1954. The paperback edition was published in 1990.

Richards was an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This church was organized in 1830 in New York. Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was the first prophet of the church.

Richards presents a masterful synthesis of scriptural prophesies regarding the restoration of the House of Israel in the latter days, drawing upon the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

Israel is another name for the Biblical prophet Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. The Lord promised Abraham that through his seed all the families of the Earth would be blessed. (Genesis 17, Acts 3:25).

The House of Israel consists chiefly of the tribes of Joseph and Judah, with Joseph often represented by Ephraim, who was Joseph’s son. The remaining tribes play lesser but still important roles in the unfolding saga of Jacob’s family.

Richards gives an account of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. He also discusses Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon and other key events which are described in the Doctrine & Covenants and in the Pearl of Great Price. He explains that the Bible is the “Stick of Judah” and that the Book of Mormon is the “Stick of Joseph” referenced in Ezekial 37:16-20.

Richards shows that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints represents the gathered, or gathering, tribe of Joseph, or equivalently Ephraim.

Within a comprehensive set of teachings, Richards set forth eight particular prophesies which are to be fulfilled in the latter-days:

1. Gathering of Jews to Jerusalem ( Isaiah 11:12, Zechariah 2:10-12, Doctrine & Covenants 109:61-64).

2. Preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews via the Gentiles, or Tribe of Joseph (Book of Mormon Title Page, Mormon 5:12-14, Doctrine & Covenants 133:8).

3. Jew’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as the true Messiah (2 Nephi 10:5-7, 2 Nephi 25:15-20, 2 Nephi 30:7, Zechariah 13:6, Doctrine & Covenants 45:51-53).

4. Construction of a third temple in Jerusalem (Orson Hyde’s Dedicatory Prayer 1841, Wilford Woodruff Prophesy 1879).

5. Two prophets raised up to preach in Jerusalem (Revelations 11, Doctrine & Covenants 77:15).

6. Unification of the tribe of Joseph with the tribe of Judah (Isaiah 11:13, Ezeki e l 37:21-23, Jeremiah 3:18 ).

7. The Nephites and Jews shall have the words, or scriptures, of the lost tribes of Israel (2 Nephi 29).

8. Latter-day Saints will build a temple and City of Zion in Independence, Missouri (Doctrine & Covenants 57:1-3, Tenth Article of Faith).

As of the year 2015, only the first of these prophesies has been fulfilled to any reasonable degree.

President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, effectively gave a status report concerning some of these prophesies in the October 2005 Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

I recently recalled a historic meeting in Jerusalem about 17 years ago. It was regarding the lease for the land on which the Brigham Young University ‘s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies was later built. Before this lease could be signed, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, agreed with the Israeli government on behalf of the Church and the university not to proselyte in Israel. You might wonder why we agreed not to proselyte. We were required to do so in order to get the building permit to build that magnificent building which stands in the historic city of Jerusalem. To our knowledge the Church and BYU have scrupulously and honorably kept that nonproselyting commitment.

(End of Faust’s quote)

Furthermore, Jewish leaders have objected to Holocaust victims’ names being used in Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies. As a result, The Church has removed some 380,000 names of Holocaust victims from display in its public database known as the International Genealogical Index, or IGI, which is freely available to researchers on the Internet. (Reference: LDS Press Release, Mormons, Jews Set Up Group to Study Concerns, 11 April 2005)

An article published in the Deseret News, Saturday, March 31, 2007, by Marshall Thompson of Associated Press noted some progress in the relationship between the LDS church and Jews but also cautioned:

Israel has laws against missionary work, and for many here, proselytizing is dangerously close to the forced conversions European Jews endured for centuries. To respect cultural and historical sensitivities, BYU students sign a pledge not to speak about their religion while in the Holy Land.
Still, some Israeli officials can’t shake their suspicions about a religion that has more than 50,000 full-time missionaries seeking converts around the world.
“We must remember that the Mormons have a strong belief in missionary work,” said Mina Fenton, an Orthodox member of Jerusalem’s city council. “They have big, big money and they buy things. I call it the money crusade against Jews.”

Furthermore, the LDS Church does not currently offer a Hebrew translation of the Book of Mormon, although it does so in many other languages. Type “Book of Mormon” into the following website to view available languages:

Reviewer’s Editorial Comments

An earnest student of the scriptures is left greatly perplexed and melancholy that such precious prophesies have been rendered utterly dormant by mankind’s neglect and unfaithfulness.

Richards felt certain in 1954 that these prophesies would soon be fulfilled. They may yet be fulfilled. In the meantime, the message of Richards’ book is as heartbreaking as it is enlightening.

An appropriate postscript to Richards’ book would be the warning found in Doctrine & Covenants 82:10:

I, the Lord, am bound when you do what I say; but when you do not do what I say, ye have no promise.

The Jews are ultimately responsible as individuals and as a tribe for their decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Those of us who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, must ask ourselves whether we are doing all that we can to bring to pass the fulfillment of these prophecies. Are we praying and fasting for the Jews? Are we donating to Jewish charities? Are we extending a hand of ecumenical fellowship to the Jews?

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Psalms 122:6

– Tom Irvine

Hebrew Book of Mormon Translation

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