Aaronic Priesthood and Apostasy

The common way the apostasy is understood is in terms of the loss of priesthood authority. Priesthood seems the key thing that needed to be restored by Joseph Smith. Much of our conception of restoration is tied to rites and ordinances revealed by Joseph Smith and administered by the priesthood.[1] To my eye the most interesting question relative to the apostasy concerns the Aaronic priesthood. Was it removed from the earth?

The main arguments for it being lost come from John the Baptist restoring it to Joseph Smith in D&C 13:1 where it describes the prayer of this restoration.

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

The word “again” tends to presume it was taken. However this has been seen in different ways. Historically the Aaronic priesthood was just the keys to do various sacrifices and other activities in Israel and was passed down by lineage. Many apologists think that there was a rival priesthood on the Sons of Moses (see D&C 84) roughly corresponding to our notion of Melchizedek priesthood offices. The theory goes that this persisted in Israel in the School of the Prophets at least until the time of Elijah and Elias. It became lost by the time of the exile. While fragments of knowledge of this distinction survived the compilation and development of the Old Testament much of it was redacted and lost.[2]

The question then becomes whether this priesthood restored to Joseph was the Aaronic priesthood as understood by the Sons of Levi or a temporary way of administering in the Aaronic priesthood until “the Sons of Levi” are purified and able to offer up sacrifice again. In particular D&C 13 can be read in that way such that what John gave Joseph wouldn’t be taken away until the Sons of Levi were purified. That is until it wasn’t necessary to have non-Levites administer in these roles. There are numerous scriptures including in the D&C and Book of Mormon saying that the Sons of Levi will be so purified.

If they need this purification though, does that mean they don’t have priesthood until that purification happens? I recognize here that priesthood as a semantic matter is a bit muddled in the LDS thought. Here I’m using it more in the sense of keys of the priesthood rather than in some reified sense of priesthood as independent of practical structural authority. That is I just mean the permission to do something. For the Sons of Levi that means the sacrifices of the law of Moses. Did the apostasy take that permission away?

My guess is that it did not. I think the “purifying” means more an unification of Jewish religion with Mormonism that happens sometime in the future prior to the second coming. I don’t think we can say that if Judaism decided to start up sacrifices again that they would be doing that without permission. Those with a right to the priesthood in Judaism are still reasonably clear. There are even some groups trying to get ready for when that might happen. (This is still controversial within Judaism as I understand it) The Jewish view, as I understand it, is that the purity of the Levites is a ritual purity that has stopped only because the temple was destroyed and those rites are no longer practiced. That is the purification of D&C 13 and other scripture likely is just this ritual purification done by ritual as outlined in the Old Testament. It does not say they don’t have authority to do this just that since the diaspora by Rome, they have not done it.

Given this reading of D&C 13 and Jewish self-conception (Orthodox Jews see sacrifice as being restored by the coming Messiah) can we say there has been an apostasy of the Aaronic Priesthood? I don’t think so. As I said I think we should see the Aaronic Priesthood in our church primarily in terms of Melchezedek priesthood allowing people to function in those roles independent of being a son of Levi. (Much as presumably happened with the Nephites)

[1] There are some reasons to think the stereotypical way we associate priesthood and apostasy together are misleading. That’s not to deny the importance of priesthood keys just that the apostasy when examined closely seems a bit more complex. BCC had an interesting post on priesthood & apostasy relative to the first vision this week. I don’t want to get too much into the broader questions although there are compelling reasons to think anti-Catholic rhetoric by Protestants shaped the popular Mormon views of apostasy. Not necessarily always in ways that make sense with our own theology. Here though I want to try and keep it narrowed to the Aaronic Priesthood issues.

[2] According to the documentary hypothesis one of the four main religious movements in Israel was the Priestly one that emphasized Levitical priestly self-conceptions. Given their own views of theology they often contradict other traditions including the ones we’d associate with Lehi from pre-exilic times. If one accepts this view of canon development, at least in general terms, one should be careful with how the priestly source presents themselves in the Old Testament especially against the Sons of Moses or the idea of non-Levites doing sacrifice especially before Sinai. (As quite a few latter-day revelations attest)

21 comments for “Aaronic Priesthood and Apostasy

  1. ji
    1
    January 13, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    If there has not been an apostasy of the Aaronic Priesthood, as you suggest, then where is it? Why did John the Baptist confer the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph and Oliver?

  2. Clark Goble
    2
    January 13, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    I think I explained that in the above. It was given to Joseph preliminary to the later Melchizedek priesthood in that it allowed non-Levites to administer in that role. Even though at the moment we don’t do sacrifices although presumably that might be restored when the temple in Jackson is built – interpretations of that bit of eschatological theology vary. By that reasoning (which I hasten to add is speculative) once Levites become purified either by joining the church or more likely by ritual purification on their own terms then that Aaronic priesthood will be taken away. (That’s the clear reading of D&C 13 – that it will be taken away)

    By this reasoning Nephi and company were able to function in a similar way – although there are various other theories about Nephite priesthood. (We know little beyond what’s in Alma 12-14 for the most part)

  3. Visorstuff
    3
    January 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Clark, interesting post of ideas that I’ve pondered on for some time. Not sure if this is totally relevant, but D&C 68:19-20 comes to mind. The keys of the Aaronic Priesthood (IE Bishops are those who act in the place of the sons of Aaron) operates under the direction of the presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood – even if they are literal descendants. For example, in verse 20 which says that literal descendants of Aaron “must be designated by this Presidency…otherwise they are not legally authorized to officiate in their priesthood.” Having the right to hold the office and having the designation to act in the office are not the same. A recent example is Church Patriarchs. We used to have them on the general level, but while that right may be there, there is not a designation to act in that office currently. This doesn’t mean it won’t return, or that the right doesn’t continue, but it is not authorized. In a similar way Levites as a whole are not currently authorized in this dispensation to conduct the work of the Aaronic Priesthood. Unauthorization for them to utilize it was the taking away, and it will one day be re-authorized.

    By and large though the Church understandably emphasizes First Presidency control. That’s especially true after the apostasy after the ending of polygamy. There several people attempted to claim authority due to higher ordinances they claimed let them act independently. While most of the brethren today were born well after that era echos of the tensions persist.

  4. Clark Goble
    4
    January 13, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Yes I think that’d be so. Without looking it up as I don’t have access at the moment, but I seem to recall Joseph Fielding Smith writing on D&C 68 to that matter and that any Levitical priest taking up that role at the future temple would need to be approved.

    The more interesting question would be the future eschatological one of the Jerusalem temple rather than the Jackson temple. Could the Levites start up sacrifices again in a legitimate way independent of the First Presidency? (Or before even necessarily accepting the gospel) My guess is yes but who knows. Future events tend to surprise us and at the moment we see everything through the lens of a century of Correlation.

    The other issue I didn’t mentioned but like you was also thinking of was patriarchs. Patriarchs to the church are one thing but there is also the (mostly forgotten or neglected) history of the natural heirs who’s life were hid in Christ. There are different strains of theology dealing with the somewhat muddled history of the Patriarchal Priesthood – that goes well beyond the Patriarch to the Church. And of course that disappeared due to the actions of one particular Patriarch in the early 20th century.

  5. Bryan in VA
    5
    January 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    This topic is just loaded theologically. For starters, I highly recommend the book “Aaronic Priesthood through the Centuries” by Lee A. Palmer. See https://www.amazon.com/Aaronic-Priesthood-Through-Centuries-Palmer/dp/B0007DX5NY

    Anyway, regarding the “Sons of Levi”, they are not just those direct descendants of Levi, the son of Jacob. All faithful latter-day Melchizedek Priesthood holders are also sons of Levi. How is that, you ask? Well, D&C 84:33, 34 states

    33. For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

    34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

    Then in Exodus 2 we learn that Moses was a Levite. If you are a son of Moses, as faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders are, you are therefore a son of Levi by adoption. Palmer addresses this point on page 319 of his book.

    Also, the footnote in D&C 13 next to “Levi” also points us to D&C 84.

  6. Dave
    6
    January 13, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    As you said, there seems to be a lot of speculation about the idea of what happened to the Aaronic Priesthood during various time frames, and I’ve found that section 13 of the D&C has been open to many different interpretations. Some of the views and ideas you’ve mentioned in your article that (apparently) existed before now are some that I hadn’t heard mentioned before by anyone, but then, I’m not as well read as most of the people that comment on these articles, and some of those ideas will not be heard in any Sunday School or Priesthood lesson, because some of them are not doctrine.
    Something I found interesting was a pamphlet written by President John Taylor, and published by President George Q Cannon in 1899 “Items of the Priesthood, Presented to the Latter-day Saints.” I was also interested in some other quotes I read that were made about the information in Section 13. These quotes came from scriptures and brethren such as Malachi 3:1-3, “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, Section 4, Pp. 171-173, Elder John A Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations”, Chapter 6, pp. 245-47, D&C 84:23-37, Joseph Smith, “History of the Church”, 4:211, President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Doctrines of Salvation”, 3:93-94, “History of the Church”, vol. 1, pp. 358, and also, interestingly enough, the fact that there is more than one type of “sacrifice in righteousness” referred to by President Spencer W. Kimball, with reference to Malachi 3:1-3….“We have asked the members of the Church to further the work of turning the hearts of the children to the fathers by getting their own sacred family records in order. These records, including especially the “book containing the records of our dead” (D&C 128:24) are a portion of the “offering in righteousness” referred to by Malachi (3:3), which we are to present in His holy temple, and without which we shall not abide the day of his coming.” (Genealogical Society Seminar, BYU, Aug. 1977, pp. 34-35)

  7. Dave
    7
    January 13, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    I have a question Clark – when you said, “that disappeared due to the actions of one particular Patriarch in the early 20th century,” I didn’t understand what you meant. I guess I had never heard of that incident before.
    All I know about the Church Patriarch is that there was no male offspring to ordain at the passing of Elder Eldred G. Smith, and I was told that the growth of the Church was what brought about the need for “Stake” Patriarchs.

  8. Steve
    8
    January 14, 2017 at 12:56 am

    Eldred G. Smith had two sons. The decision to discontinue the position of Patriarch to the Church had nothing to do with a lack of male offspring in the lineage.

  9. Clark Goble
    9
    January 14, 2017 at 1:16 am

    Hi Dave, it’s been years since I read it last but Lost Legacy goes through the history. I’d like to see an other take on it since as I recall there’s a bit too much of a remnant of Weber hiding behind the scenes. (The whole charisma/institution distinction in religion) That said there were a lot of books from the same era with similar hypothesis about the centralization of authority. (institutional priesthood over more charismatic movements such as natural seers, rival authority with Patriarch and later second anointings, blessings of faith by women, etc.) It was a popular thesis in the 90’s but I’d like to see a lot of the topics revisited with perhaps more sophisticated theoretical scaffolding. (Which isn’t to deny the value of these books in the least)

    Of course I’ve been so swamped I’ve not been able to keep up on historical writings the last 10 years. (Small kids do that to one) So I’ve managed to embarrass myself several time missing prominent books I somehow forgot about or missed.

    The basic idea was the conflict between family authority with institutional authority. That said, the Smith’s continued to be pretty darn significant in LDS circles up through the early 70’s as did many other families. But that actually made the tensions perhaps a bit more significant especially in the era of correlation. There’s a lot going on in that era and the other problem was that the second to last patriarch had been in an ongoing homosexual relation with a young man in his 20’s. Eldrid Smith who actually was next linearly but was considered too young at the time. He was then call after Joseph Fielding Smith requested release. He was still single and held it until he was made emeritus in 1979. He actually lived to 100 and died only relatively recently in 2007. The Church (then still under Pres. Hinkley) never called anyone new to the position. Admittedly Hinkley died not long afterwards but Pres. Monson never called anyone either.

    How much of this is actually institutional conflict is up for debate. There definitely was conflict but I think there was also a bit of a mystery of what to do with the office. Eldrid basically gave patriarchal blessings to people where there weren’t stake Patriarchs. But at a certain point the institution became organized enough that was less of an issue. As you note the Church was so big that it didn’t make much sense. However given how significant Joseph treated the position in 1843 calling Hyrum’s position with it “the highest office in the church.” (Minutes of a Meeting, held May 27, 1843, MS. in Church Historical Department, as quoted in Quinn, “Mormon Succession,” P. 202) Of course this was partially so Joseph could step aside and set up the high priesthood with the temple and a political order with the Council of 50. The former is of course still with us with the temple ordinances and in a far more limited way second anointings. The latter just isn’t part of the church at the moment. (And was a quasi-secular organization) But even there things were a bit messy since D&C 124:124 blurs those two somewhat. Also entering into temple marriage was seen as entering into a patriarchal order.

    As I said there are these aspects of priesthood that don’t get talked of much. First natural heirs to the Levitical Priesthood. The Patriarchal Priesthood both through the line of Hyrum Smith but the more broader issue of Patriarchal Priesthood. There’s conflicting statements even in Nauvoo let alone in the early Utah period and then the 20th century. Throw in other things like the second anointing, and things get confusing fast. There are some excellent historical papers on this and I think things have gotten less tangled the last years. But I think there’s still a lot of mystery around all this. The best seeming theories aren’t necessarily correct in all this.

    Jonathan Stapley’s written some interesting stuff on all this trying to clear its all up. He’s very persuasive but I’m still not 100% sure he’s right event though he’s done the best job on the history IMO. His post on cosmological priesthood over at BCC from a while back is worth reading for a theoretical scaffolding to some of this.

    Anyway the patriarchal issues get really complex as you can tell. It’s not 100% clear how to interpret the various texts from the last years of Nauvoo here. You then have continuing evolution of the temple under first Brigham Young and then after the end of polygamy and the united order and the begging of correlation under Heber J. Grant. You have the various apostate groups claiming extra-institutional authority. You have correlation trying to reign in extra-institutional authority. Then you have the gay issue with the lineage based authority and it’s more limited tasks ceasing to make much sense.

    That complexity (which I’m barely touching upon) is why I didn’t get into those issues. I also didn’t get into the fact scriptural phrases like “heir according to the flesh” or other descriptions of lineage based priesthood are still common in Patriarchal Blessings. This was wrapped up in the idea popular at points in the 19th century of some people being descendants of Christ or being natural seers. Again that gets complex fast and I suspect the concepts are more than a little muddled.

  10. Clark Goble
    10
    January 14, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Bryan, adoption is an other theory I didn’t mention. However I think the more natural reading of D&C 84 isn’t adoption but simply functioning in their role. I didn’t go far into it but there are various extra-canonical ancient texts that suggest the Sons of Moses was a different priesthood with different roles. Yes Moses was a levite which is why the thesis is still somewhat controversial. Of course one might ask at a certain point what the real distinction between adoption and simply having the priesthood is. I’d say that one major difference i that with Aaronic priesthood today one doesn’t inherit it automatically from your father (or mother). That, at least structurally, suggests there’s still a major break with the Levitical priesthood as outlined in the OT. My son is given the aaronic priesthood but via the melchizedek priesthood and the keys of the bishop and not merely by lineage.

  11. January 14, 2017 at 2:26 am

    Another relevant thought that I come back to a lot when considering apostasy and priesthood authority is the Nephite experience. Apart from Lehi and Nephi’s rejection of (or, given that the priestly tradition may have been post-exile, perhaps even ignorance of) the priestly tradition’s Levitical-temple rules, we have the fascinating circumstance of Alma the Elder baptizing and setting up the first Nephite churches even though he was very possibly made a priest under wholly illegitimate circumstances. There’s no sense that the priesthood needed to be restored to him; he only had to begin exercising it properly. (There is the additional question of how much of his authority came from the two kings he operated under, but I’m not equipped enough either in ancient Israelite [or Nephite!] religion nor in the OT to speak intelligently on the subject.)

    I think this lends credibility to the Mormon interpretation you propose, Clark, of the Aaronic priesthood never having really been removed completely. I suspect this may not be the only case of its type, either, where such a credible claim could plausibly be made within the frame of Mormon theology.

  12. Bryan in VA
    12
    January 14, 2017 at 7:12 am

    @Clark #10, Of course there was a major break with the Levitical priesthood as outlined in the OT, the Bible says as much. Hebrews 7:12 states that the priesthood changed. Among those changes were the adding of the offices of bishop, teacher, and deacon. However, a significant hereditary component of the Aaronic priesthood remains today. Exodus 29:9 states:

    And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.

    “Perpetual” means forever, not until the law of Moses is fulfilled. The firstborn descendant of Aaron still has the right today to preside over the Aaronic Priesthood, if he is worthy. D&C 68:16, 17 states:

    16 And if they be literal descendants of Aaron they have a legal right to the [presiding] bishopric, if they are the firstborn among the sons of Aaron;

    17 For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood, and the keys or authority of the same.

    D&C 107:16 reiterates this right…

    16 No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant of Aaron.

    It goes without saying that the identity of the firstborn of Aaron has been lost to history since Onius III was slain. Fortunately, the First Presidency can identify this individual if it is the Lord’s will.

  13. Dave
    13
    January 14, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    OK then – didn’t know he had two sons – so for some reason then, he was assigned to emeritus status in 1979.

  14. Clark Goble
    14
    January 15, 2017 at 1:55 am

    The issue of Alma is very mysterious for the reasons you mentioned. How did the priests of Noah get called? Often we talk about pre-exilic theology especially relative to the Priestly and Deuteronomist traditions in Israel at the time of Lehi. We presume due to the way Lehi made sacrifices that he was from a separate tradition that the Deuteronomists trying to centralize cultic practice to the temple in Jerusalem. How the success of the Deuteronomists and the loss of the temple changed the evolution of the Aaronic priesthood isn’t clear beyond there being important changes.

    There are hints that allow one to speculate that there was something akin to a school of the prophets ala Elijah and Elisha that perhaps Jeremiah and Lehi belonged to. Perhaps it’s through that tradition rather than the central levitical tradition in Jerusalem that they drew their authority. Again Alma 12-14 is interesting here. But at a point one quickly realizes how speculative one has gotten. Adding to this is that Jeremiah’s and thus possibly Lehi’s connection to the Deuteronomists tradition is a tad more complex than it appears at first glance.

    The reality is we don’t have a clue what’s going on with Nephite priesthood either during the time of Nephi or centuries later at the time of Benjamin or Mosiah. Maybe the Nephites had levitical priests and we just don’t have it mentioned in our text. Maybe the people of Zarahemla despite having no records did have priests leading to changes in Nephite cultic practice. Maybe the Nephites functioned as priests the way Joseph and Oliver did. The best we can say is that Alma seems closer to our OT view of levitical priesthood than what Joseph setup.

  15. ji
    15
    January 16, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Help me understand — you are wondering if (a) the Aaronic Priesthood still exists in sons of Levi wherever they may live in the world, having been transmitted by male-line descent, (b) they cannot “legally” exercise that Priesthood within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints except under the direction of the First Presidency, but might be able to exercise it “legally” outside the church, and (c) John the Baptist’s conferral on Joseph and Oliver was really a limited Melchizedek Priesthood ordination?

  16. Clark Goble
    16
    January 16, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Yes that gets most of it.

    I think the answer to (a) is yes although some might disagree. It’s a bit moot given how Jews view the temple at present – awaiting the Messiah.

    The answer to (b) is more ambiguous and probably relates more to functioning within the church. For instance technically a descendent of Aaron can officiate in the Aaronic priesthood duties of a Bishop. Joseph Fielding Smith, whose writings I unfortunately have in storage after a basement flood, wrote on this. So I’m just going by memory there. Also there are other interpretations but I’d assume were the issue to pop up his opinion would count for a lot.

    For (c) I think that’s made explicit by Joseph Smith. “All priesthood is Melchizedek; but there are different portions or degrees of it…” (Jan. 5, 1841, William Clayton Account) So when we function in the Aaronic Priesthood it’s via the Melchezedek. The bigger question is whether this is temporary or not. I think D&C 13 can be read as saying it is. But again who knows for sure.

  17. joelmartin
    17
    January 17, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    I don’t understand how the Melchizedek priesthood disappeared. The Apostles ordained others into it. Why did those others not continue this chain of ordinations?

  18. Clark Goble
    18
    January 17, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    We don’t know. A very popular view is that they just stopped ordaining new apostles some time in the 1st century. When isn’t exactly clear. Nibley argues from Clement that very early on a lot of stuff (akin to how we see the Nauvoo inner circle teachings) simply wasn’t passed on. But really we just don’t know. Certainly there’s early stuff Mormons see as relating to divinization, higher temple rites, and the priesthood. Unfortunately it’s often ambiguous and hard to clearly separate from gnostic texts and the like.

    That ambiguity means a critic can always point to things like the Gospel of Philip with its sacred marriage in a mirrored room off from the Holy of Holies as a purely gnostic/platonic allegory and only accidentally the same as our temple marriage. Ditto with other secret teachings. It’s made complex simply because many breakoffs of Christianity tended to claim to have secret teachings the main body didn’t. Often they mixed in more Platonism of various forms combined with denial of key doctrines like the resurrection. So there are reasons it’s not as clear as it might seem.

  19. Jones
    19
    January 17, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    Thank you Clark Goble. This is one of the most interesting posts ever! It addresses questions I’ve pondered on for decades with little resolution. Thank you also to Bryan in VA for providing the suggestion for additional reading. I will check that out and welcome any other suggestions on what I could read to further understand the priesthood and keys of the priesthood.

  20. Clark Goble
    20
    January 17, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    For those interested Nibley’s main article on the subject is “The Passing of the Primitive Church.” It is in many ways quite dated, so one should be careful. And of course he has other writings on the subject. He also doesn’t really address the issue of the Aaronic Priesthood. But if you’re interested in one of the main broad theories of apostasy that’s a good source.

    There are other ambiguities I didn’t get to such as whether there will be a single blood offering by the Levites or whether it will as a practice be restored. Various GAs have differed on that point.

  21. Lurking and Late Mike
    21
    January 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    If you are going to make such a convoluted and detailed argument based on turning the definition of a single word (“again”) why not pick a better word? I would suggest we redefine the word “restore.”

    Traditionally, we have thought restore implies it existed in the past, was partially compromised and then returned to the original condition. We think of the restoration of the gospel as if it involves only the LDS church, when in fact a much larger restoration movement transpired around that time.(see wiki article on “restoration movement”)

    I can think of many topics in the LDS pantheon where this definition of restoration was once accepted but further light and knowledge has forced a refinement of the definition. One example should suffice.

    The 10th article of faith indicates a restoration of the ten tribes of Israel. What happened to the 10 tribes? In the early 19th century it was thought they were carried away into captivity but were able to preserve some sense of identity over generations and centuries the same way the children of Israel reportedly survived centuries in Egypt before being led to the promised land by Moses/Joshua. It was imagined that a migration of 10 large groups of people with Hebrew heritage and likely calling themselves the names we know would appear and greatly strengthen the LDS faith. A better understanding from the studies of antiquity of what the Assyrians did to captive people has emerged.

    From the Ancient History Encyclopedia:
    The Assyrian war machine was the most efficient military force in the ancient world…. The secret to its success was a professionally trained standing army, iron weapons, advanced engineering skills, effective tactics, and, most importantly, a complete ruthlessness which came to characterize the Assyrians to their neighbors and subjects…

    A phrase oft-repeated by Assyrian kings in their inscriptions regarding military conquests is “I destroyed, devastated, and burned with fire” those cities, towns, and regions which resisted…

    In some cases they carried away a few captives but they wanted to instill absolute terror in their enemies and were not foolish enough to allow their captives to retain any sense of a former identity. In most cases they completely exterminated their more stubborn enemies and the Israelites were among their most stubborn. A couple of tribes never did surrender. Can you image the anger and the violence they would have inflicted on the other captured tribes? Today we might call it ethnic cleansing and the Assyrians were as thorough as it gets.

    It is unlikely that any of the undoubtedly rare Israeli captive survived Assyrian slavery to reproduce children, let alone a community, except perhaps a few young women as sex slaves. Even then they would not be pure seed of Israel but polluted genetically like the Samaritans who were rejected as part of the House of Israel when the children of Israel returned from Babylon. The Babylonians were relatively nice in comparison to the Assyrians and I refer the reader to the Book of Lamentations for what “nice” meant in that ancient world.The 10 tribes are lost, completely lost and gone in every sense of the word.

    Today satellites have scanned the entire surface of the earth to the resolution of being able to read license plates (when I was in the military in the 1980’s, probably better today) and there are no intact tribes of people anywhere with a preserved identity as the original children of Israel. National Geographic writers and adventurers of every sort have visited and explored and stumbled over every acre of the earth.No 10 tribes of Israel have turned up. Soon almost every person on the globe will be on the Internet and if anyone seriously refers to themselves as a member of some lost tribe of Israel they will probably be in need of psychiatric care.

    Genetic tests also confirm migrations of people and exclude any large tribes of Hebrews waiting to be restored. An example of how powerful genetic tests can be are the Ethiopian Jews who claimed to be people of the book but were initially rejected by modern Israel until DNA tests show that they are probably about 50% Jewish, as their legends indicate. Their legends even claim they have the Ark of the Covenant. We have no other similar examples even close to this group of people.

    In desperate attempts to preserved the possibility that the 10 tribes could return, some Mormons have proposed that they will come back from other planets on space ships or that they live beneath the earth or the ocean. How they got there in the first place is left unexplained. These theories are not thought to be worthy of serious consideration, unless I am mistaken.

    So the restoration of the 10 tribes has been abandoned or rather taken on a new meaning. It will be a complete, new creation on an entirely different level. It might be happening right under our noses as the LDS church continues to grow and diversify. I think of it like the restoration of the body or the resurrection of a body that has been cremated and the ashes scattered in the ocean, 100,000 years ago. It is a physical impossibility. The Lord will call forth the elements and they will come together in some yet to be understood way to form a new body.

    The Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood is a relatively small, simple matter. I check yes to all the possibilities.

    PS. My wife is completing a Masters Degree in Theology in a Conservative Protestant Seminary. Not very many Protestants think there was an apostasy even though they reject the excesses of the Catholic church. She and the majority of Christian historians think you must be more than careful with Hugh Nibley when it comes to the early history of Christianity. He got the Book of Abraham wrong too. He and a host of other LDS writers on the topic are about as reliable, in her perspective, as our friend and her cousin Rod Meldrum. Just saying…

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