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The Latter-day Jewish Restoration


The Latter-Day Jewish Restoration


The writer explores theological grounds for the Jewish resettlement of the Land of Israel, including the idea of a major influx of Jewish immigration yet to occur. He discusses the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, its spiritual purpose and how its construction might come about within the current political climate of the Middle East. A Mormon perspective, as seen through the eyes of the tribe of Ephraim (which too has been gathering) throws the prophetic light of probability on issues that, to humanity at large, may at present appear implausible.


The Jewish Return to the Land of Israel

The modern miracle that is the State of Israel, which David Ben Gurion and his associates declared its own land and nation in 1948, attests to the hand of God operating to restore his covenant people the Jews. The collective pioneer spirit that animated Israel’s Zionist founders consisted of more than the sum total of their individual aspirations in establishing the Israeli nation. In many ways it paralleled an earlier rebuilding of the Promised Land at the time Jewish groups returned from Babylon to restore Jerusalem and its temple: “Then rose up the heads of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites with all those whose spirit God had raised up” (Ezra 1:5). God’s “raising up” the spirits of the Zionist pioneers was abundantly manifested in their idealism, enthusiasm, and devotion in taking on the task of transforming a barren and desolate land into a garden Paradise—draining swamps, creating irrigation systems, cultivating farmland, planting forests, and constructing housing.

Indeed, from the inception of the Zionist movement in the late 1800s, when religious Jews opposed resettling the Land of Israel on the basis that secular Zionists Jews were usurping the prerogative of the Messiah to lead their return, a higher power appeared at work in favor of Theodor Herzl and his associates. Although small religious communities had settled centuries earlier in the learning centers of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, and Tiberias, these pockets of Jewish presence could not be deemed a significant historical movement or a fulfillment of prophecy. Later, when religious Jews saw the success Zionist Jews were having, they joined the migration, conceding that even this was a mitzvah—a “commandment”—if perhaps the only one secular Jews observed. It remains unclear, however, just where in holy writ God “commands” and not just encourages Jews to return to the Land as that idea properly applies to Israel’s endtime exodus from a centuries-long exile (Isaiah 11:10–12; 43:5–8; 52:11–12). 

Scriptural References about Joseph and Judah

Many references to Joseph and Judah appear in Jewish and Mormon scriptures, most of them prophesying Israel’s latter-day restoration and the dynamics of the relationship between these two divisions of the original twelve-tribed kingdom of Israel. They include the patriarch Jacob’s blessings upon his sons before his death, the Hebrew prophets’ predictions of Israel’s gathering and reunification, Book of Mormon predictions of Israel’s scattering and restoration, and revelations received by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith on the role of the tribe of Ephraim.

The Tribes of Israel

THE LOST TRIBES

722 years before the birth of Christ, the armies of the Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Israel (the land of the ten northern tribes) and carried the inhabitants off into captivity. The Kingdom of Judah in the south, was barely spared from the same fate by the strenuous efforts of the prophet Isaiah and their righteous king Hezekiah (and some large-scale, last minute repentance). Little more than 100 years later, the Assyrians, in turn, were conquered by the Babylonians. When their Assyrian overlords were subjugated, however, the Israelite “exiles” did not return as they were, by this time, already lost to history.

Orson Hyde’s Dedicatory Prayer of the Holy Land

In 1840, in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to Palestine to dedicate the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. The Jewish return to Palestine and latter-day restoration was a prominent theme in the Book of Mormon and in Joseph Smith’s divine revelations. Orson Hyde’s long and arduous journey from Nauvoo to Palestine included stops in Amsterdam and other European capitals, where he sought to persuade Jewish rabbis that the time had come for Jews to resettle their land.

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