July 10, 2011
Book Review: Mormons and the Gathering of Israel
Readers of this blog know that I love to profile Mormons who are actively engaged in reaching out to Jews. Leslie Pearson Rees is a great-grandmother who has spent 40 years studying the lost tribes of Israel during her travels around the country and in Africa. I’ve just finished reading her labor of love, the book “Ye Have Been Hid: Finding the Lost Tribes of Israel,” and plan to recommend it to Mormons and non-Mormons who want a primer on LDS beliefs concerning the House of Israel.
The concept of covenant Israel is an eternal one for Mormons, and Leslie presents the scriptural record of Israelites in a clear and logical way. The title of the book comes from a scripture in the LDS book Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 86:9) that addresses the “lawful heirs” of the covenant who serve as a “light unto the Gentiles.” This topic is of great interest to Mormons, who believe that they are members of the House of Israel and receive blessings from “patriarchs” that assign them to an Israelite tribe through which they will receive their ultimate spiritual blessings.
The author begins by giving the LDS understanding of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. She correctly points out that these promises were extended to all Israelites, not just to members of certain tribes. After analyzing the division of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms and the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities that forever changed the course of Israelite history, Leslie answers the question “Who is of Israel?” with the following statement: “While those of Judah are most definitely a part of the whole House of Israel, not all of the House of Israel are of Judah.”
Undoubtedly the most interesting chapters of the book for non-Mormons are those dealing with the Israelite themes in the Book of Mormon and the latter-day gathering of Israel. Leslie also presents an interesting take on the LDS understanding of the term “Gentile” in scripture. I especially appreciated her discussion of the oft-misunderstood scripture in Jeremiah (16:16) where God promises to send “fishers” and “hunters” to gather scattered Israelites from the nations of the world. Some Evangelical pastors have erroneously hinted that this verse refers to monsters like Hitler, and I was pleased to read an informed LDS viewpoint on the verse.
The second part of the book recounts various histories and legends relating to Israelites from around the world, many of which will be familiar to Jews who have an interest in the subject.
The author has a great love for Israel and the Jewish people, and it shows on every page of this book. I enjoyed meeting her earlier this year in Salt Lake City, and hope that many non-Mormons will take the time to read her book in order to gain a greater understanding of our beliefs concerning the House of Israel. Yasher koach, Leslie.