Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile
12 Iyar 5766 / May 10, 2006  

Hopi descendants have 'greatness' in common with family of M'nashe

From the Torah, we learn that M'nashe, son of Joseph is destined to be an 'ohmmm gah-dohl (great people).  Descendants of M'nashe lived in great numbers in the sacred region bounded by the great Pacific, the great Gulf of Mexico, the great Colorado River and the grand Rio Grande. They did so at the same time as the Hopi. In fact, the descendants of Laman ben Lehi ben M'nashe ben Yoseif  have so much in common with the Hopi that they must be either their ancestors or a family assimilated with the most ancient Hopi.

Pearls of great price

Engraven in brass is the geneaology of Lehi ben M'nashe ben Yoseif. The record translated in the Book of Mormom with all theology aside, states Lehi to be a prophet descended from the House of Joseph. He had lived in Jerusalem1 all of his life until the first year of King Zedekiah, when he was directed by God to prophesy the doom of Jerusalem and exile of the Kingdom of Judah ... not a popular task for a Joe.  The Kingdom of Israel, which included his ancestral inheritance, had already been exiled to Assyria.  Lehi fled with his family toward Egypt and pitched his tent in a valley at the mouth of the Red Sea. Observing how a nearby wadi emptied into the sea's mouth, Lehi named it Laman after his firstborn and prophesied "... that you might be like this wadi, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness."

Lehi's sons brought with them to the New World the precious geneaology which their father had charged them to purchase at any cost2 from a fellow Joe living in Jerusalem. They also had brass plates of the Torah of Moses, that fountain of righteousness. Curiously, the later Hopi migrations -- like the Wadi Laman -- would continually return to the Four Corners area of Southern Colorado and Utah and Northern Arizona and New Mexico. For reasons not easy to explain but evident from the experience, these are the holy precincts of the Hopi from which the migrations began.

The history of this family of M'nashe, also chronicled on brass, details that Lehi's sons arrived from Egypt via ship after island-hopping across the Pacific in 590 BCE. The record locates the Lamanites, who true to their M'nashe fate (explained below) had long "forgotten" and abandoned the Torah. They are observed dwelling in large numbers in the Southwest as early as 178 BCE and continuing through 400 CE.  A sandstone-lined storage pit containing yucca-fiber sandals, jewelry, food and finely woven baskets dates the earliest known Hopi occupation to 217 CE, although the Hopi are believed to have been in the region at least 200-300 years earlier.

A vision of peace

The translation of a diary of Nephi, the youngest son of Lehi, was continued by successive generations of Nephites. It contains numerous descriptions of their Lamanite brothers over roughly an 800-year period. Their dress and manner is described as uncivilized from 421 BCE until the last record of the Nephites in 420 CE. They are described as "wild, ferocious, blood-thirsty, feeding upon beasts of prey, dwelling in tents and wandering about in the wilderness naked except for a loincloth, heads shaved, skilled with bow and arrow and scimitar and ax, eating only raw meat."

According to the Nephite account, by 178 BCE, "the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the LORD."

Yet, between 90 CE and 77 CE, seven cities of the Lamanites -- as it is also written of the Hopi -- buried their weapons of war and became a peaceable people.  The name Hopi is equivalent to the Hebrew Shalom. According to Frank Waters in his, Book of the Hopi, it means peace.  A Nephite declared the fate of the Lamanites in the 1st Century. He wrote, "... they shall be driven to and fro upon the face of the earth, and be hunted, and shall be smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge ... yet, the LORD shall be merciful to them."

The 'forgotten' people

Ironically, the name M'nashe in Hebrew comes from the verb which means "to forget." Joseph so named his eldest after God had caused him to forget all of his hardship and his brothers' treatment of him. For the descendants of M'nashe to live up to the name of their tribe in that context, they also would some day be caused to forget their hardship and the continual wars with the other sons of Lehi. Today, we have only their geneaology and history from the diary of their enemies.  In the space of 1400 years, from the last entry in the diary started by Nephi until the plates were given to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s, no one knew this once righteous family of M'nashe existed or where they might be found.

An old Native American proverb:

"Man knows himself completely until he first compromises. The more he compromises the more he takes in that which is not him. Soon he forgets who and what he is. He becomes his name rather than receiving the name that is him."

Applied to the family of Lehi ben M'nashe ben Yoseif and if the translations of the brass plates in the Book of Mormon are correct, the Lamanites became "forgotten" when they forgot the LORD their God, the God of Israel and His Torah. They became savage and forgot who they had been; descendants of a righteous prophet from the House of Joseph.

Maggid ben Yoseif

1 I questioned whether Joes would be living in Jerusalem at any time after the split of the kingdom into the House of Israel and the House of Judah given the animosity, enmity and vexations between Joes and Jews. The prophecy of Azariah in 2 Chronicles 15 describes descendants of the House of Joseph living as guerim "sojourners" or possibly "resident aliens" with Judah and Benjamin during the reign of the Judahite king known as Asa.   The text is unclear whether they resided in the regions of Benjamin and Judah along with the descendants of Simeon (whose inheritance was certain cities within Judah) or whether they resided in their own tribal regions and were loyal to Asa, king of Judah.  But it is notable that in 2 Chronicles 15, these descendants of Joseph -- after the split of the two Kingdoms but before the exile of the Northern tribes -- comprised a Rov or majority of the population at that time for King Asa.  In light of this fact, it is reasonable to think that some "Joes" resided in Jerusalem and had geneaological evidence for the sake of their inheritances.

2 Lehi knew the Torah. He knew judgments were about to descend upon Judah as they had earlier on Israel. He knew he would have to go into exile but he also knew that his descendants would one day at a future Year of Jubilee (when ancestral lands revert to their ancestral families) return to the land promised M'nashe by his adopted father, Jacob. To do so, they would require this geneaology.