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Gospel Q&A: Why Are Members of the Same Family Sometimes from Different Tribes of Israel?

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Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “Why are members of the same family sometimes from different tribes of Israel?”

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President Nelson has told the youth of the world:

“My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing.

“This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.”

With this thrilling declaration from a prophet of God, there has perhaps never been such interest in the Church or in the world regarding our lineage as part of the tribes of Israel.

President James E. Faust (formerly of the First Presidency) taught, “It makes no difference if the blessings of the house of Israel come by lineage or by adoption.” Whether we are literal descendants of Israel or adopted into its family through covenants, we are all part of the House of Israel.

How, though, could literal descendants of Israel in the same birth family come from different tribes of Israel? President Faust answered it this way:

“Some might be disturbed because members of the same family have blessings declaring them to be of a different lineage. A few families are of a mixed lineage. We believe that the house of Israel today constitutes a large measure of the human family. Because the tribes have intermixed one with another, one child may be declared to be from the tribe of Ephraim and another of the same family from Manasseh or one of the other tribes. The blessing of one tribe, therefore, may be dominant in one child, and the blessing of another tribe dominant in yet another child. So, children from the same parents could receive the blessings of different tribes.”

Have you ever seen the results of siblings’ DNA tests? explains why siblings from the same parents can have differences in their DNA results.

“All the genes passed on to siblings come from the same gene pool (that is, the genes of both parents), so each ethnicity passed on to children must be present in one or both parents as well. However, some siblings may inherit ethnicities from their parents that others don’t, and it’s likely that each sibling will inherit different amounts of ethnicities from one another.”

Similarly, after so many generations of intermixing within the tribes of Israel, it is likely that many of us have strains of multiple tribes of Israel, but that one of these tribe’s traits is more dominant, thereby providing us with that tribe’s blessings and responsibilities.

Just as two children from the same parents may differ in eye color, skin color, height, size, shape, etc., so can two children of the same parents differ in which tribe of Israel is most dominant.

A Stake Patriarch agreed and expounded on President Faust’s explanation:

“By inspiration from the Spirit, the patriarch declares the tribe through which you will receive these blessings. This lineage is not determined simply by your race or nationality. Members of the same genetic family can be from different tribes of Israel. This lineage often has to do with your responsibilities in the Lord’s kingdom. Many members of the Church are of the lineage of Ephraim, Manasseh, or Judah, which are the most common tribes of Israel at this time in our progress of preaching the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”

The Guide to the Scriptures describes why we hear less of others of the twelve tribes of Israel.

“The ten tribes of Israel made up the northern kingdom of Israel and were carried away captive into Assyria in 721 B.C. At that time they went to the ‘north countries’ and became lost to the knowledge of others. In the last days they will return.”

This prophecy is being fulfilled! The “lost tribes” are being gathered now! This is the great work President Nelson has charged us to fulfill—to bring in and gather Israel.

Many of us in these last days are of the tribe of Ephraim. This is not a coincidence, but preparation for fulfilling the work of gathering Israel in the last days.

“In the last days the tribe of Ephraim has the privilege of carrying the message of the Restoration of the gospel to the world and gathering scattered Israel (Deut. 33:13–17). The time will come when through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Ephraim will have a leadership role in uniting all the tribes of Israel (Isa. 11:12–13D&C 133:26–34).”

Sister Wendy W. Nelson spoke of her personal witness that this gathering is taking place right before our eyes.

“When I stepped to the pulpit to speak, I found myself saying something I’d never anticipated. I said to the women: “I’d like to get to know you by lineage. Please stand as the tribe of Israel that represents the lineage declared in your patriarchal blessing is spoken.”

“Benjamin?” A couple of women stood.

“Dan?” A couple more.

“Reuben?” A few more stood.

“Naphtali?” More stood.

As the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were announced—from Asher to Zebulun—and as the women stood, we were all amazed with what we were witnessing, feeling, and learning.

How many of the twelve tribes of Israel do you think were represented in that small gathering of fewer than 100 women on that Saturday in Moscow?

Eleven! Eleven of the twelve tribes of Israel were represented in that one room! The only tribe missing was that of Levi. I was astonished. It was a spiritually moving moment for me.

Immediately after those meetings my husband and I went directly to Yerevan, Armenia. The first people we met as we got off the plane were the mission president and his wife. Somehow, she had heard about this experience in Moscow, and with great delight, she said, “I’ve got Levi!”

Just imagine our thrill when my husband and I met their missionaries the next day, including an elder from the tribe of Levi who just happened to be from Gilbert, Arizona.

Now, when I was a little girl attending Primary in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, I learned that in the last days—before the Second Coming of the Savior—the twelve tribes of Israel would be gathered. That truth was thrilling to me and, at the same time, quite overwhelming to wrap my mind around. So imagine what it was like for me to be with members of all twelve tribes of Israel within one 24-hour period of time!”

These are the last days. The gathering of Israel is now. As we bring in our brothers and sisters of all tribes, we are preparing the earth for the return of the Lord. What could be more important or more thrilling than that?

Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.

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Rebecca Wright
Rebecca Wright
Becca loves audiobooks, dark chocolate, singing, hiking, walking,  going out with her husband, and raising their chickens and children. She still wants to meet her hero Sheri Dew, see flowing lava and a blue whale in person, and uplift others with her words.

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