Book of Mormon/Stick of Ephraim

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    Book of Mormon: Stick of Ephraim


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?

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


Detailed Analysis

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.

Further reading

External links

  • Keith Meservy, "Ezekiel's Sticks and the Gathering of Israel," Ensign (February 1987), 4–14. off-site
  • Brian E. Keck, "Ezekiel 37, Sticks, and Babylonian Writing Boards: A Critical Reappraisal," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 23 no. 1 (1990), 126–138. (A response to Meservy's 1987 Ensign article.) off-site
  • Kevin Barney, "Ezekiel's Sticks,", 26 January 2006 off-site
  • John L. Fowles, "The Jewish Lectionary and Book of Mormon Prophecy," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994): 118–122. off-site wiki

Printed material

  • Keith Meservy, "Ezekiel's 'Sticks'," Ensign (September 1977), 22–27.
  • Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),311–328.

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