Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “Who are from the tribe of Manasseh today?”
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An understanding of the gathering of Israel is important for all Latter-day Saints—President Russell M. Nelson called it “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth.” He continued, “That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty.”
As we strive to engage in this work, we will naturally have a fascination with the lore surrounding the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. What do we know and how does it help us prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord?
Who are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel?
The great patriarch Jacob of the Old Testament, son of Isaac and Rebecca, grandson of Abraham and Sarah, was given the name Israel by the Lord. He went on to have 12 children among his wives, who would become known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel. They are:
Joseph’s story in Egypt is well-known and recorded in the latter half of Genesis. He married a high-born Egyptian woman named Asenath and had two children, Manasseh and Ephraim. Though they were the grandsons of Jacob, the patriarch adopted and blessed them as if they were his own sons so that they might share in his inheritance equally. This was done in part because the eldest son, Reuben, had transgressed. Joseph and his sons received a double portion. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh would go on to become “half-tribes.”
These descendants of Jacob would form their own kingdom of Israel, eventually divided into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. The northern kingdom consisted of 10 tribes and was known as Israel. The southern kingdom consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and was known as Judah. What happened to these kingdoms and who became the lost ten tribes?
Here’s what we learn from the Bible Dictionary:
The northern kingdom soon went into apostasy and adopted many practices of Baalism, notwithstanding the ministries of such great prophets as Elijah and Amos. After a history of over 200 years and a series of 19 kings, the kingdom was captured by the Assyrians and the people were carried away captive into Assyria. They have therefore become known as the “lost ten tribes.”
The tribes of Benjamin and Judah have survived and consist of the Jewish people today, being “allowed to return to their homeland after the Babylonian Exile.”
What Happened to the Tribe of Manasseh?
So, what happened to the lost ten tribes, and for this question, the tribe of Manasseh?
Most historians believe that the conquered tribes assimilated into the cultures of their captors. The scriptural evidence makes this conclusion clear. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon have clear prophecies that the tribes would be scattered through all the nations of the earth.
Deuteronomy 4:27 states, “The Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you.” In 1 Nephi 22:3, we read: “Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations.”
There is some anecdotal evidence that Joseph Smith may have stated a remnant of the lost tribes are near the north pole, but that evidence is second hand and there is no verifiable proof such a thing was taught or said. Some of this speculation comes from a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants 133, which reads:
And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie once wrote, “There is something mysterious and fascinating about believing the Ten Tribes are behind an iceberg somewhere in the land of the north, or that they are on some distant planet that will one day join itself with the earth, or that the tribe of Dan is in Denmark, the tribe of Reuben in Russia, and so forth. A common cliché asserts: ‘If we knew where the Lost Tribes were, they would not be lost.’ True it is that they are lost from the knowledge of the world; they are not seen and recognized as the kingdom they once were; but in general terms, their whereabouts is known. They are scattered in all the nations of the earth, primarily in the nations north of the lands of their first inheritance.”
He also stated, “And then, at the appointed time and at the direction of the President of the Church, who holds the keys of the gathering of Israel and the leading of the Ten Tribes from the land of the north, at least representative and appointed portions of the Kingdom of Israel shall go from the lands north of Palestine back to their ancient inheritance, to the very soil promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an everlasting inheritance.”
Who Claims to Be From Manasseh Today?
Though we can’t be sure of the specifics, there are some groups today that claim heritage from the lost ten tribes. The Bnei Menashe, a community from various parts of Southeast Asia, and the Samaritans claim many of their descendants are from the tribe of Manasseh. Other claims are made by other groups for other tribes throughout the world. There is no concrete way to support these claims.
We also learn from the scriptures that the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh.
Hopefully, by learning more about the lost ten tribes, we can gain an understanding of our own spiritual heritage and the importance of inviting others to come unto Christ.
Disclaimer: While all of our answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, we do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We don’t believe any of our answers are comprehensive.