About Those “Other Sheep” …

In 3 Nephi 16:1-3, Jesus proclaims:

And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister. For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them. But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them.

Is there any passage of scripture that has led to more bizarre speculations than this? Who are those “other sheep”? And should we care?

With regard to the bizarre speculations, think hollow earth. (See also here.) This sort of wackiness is inspired by a real quandry, namely, the promise of another civilization that has seen the resurrected Jesus and presumably kept a record of his visit.

About that record … assuming the “other sheep” made a record of Jesus’ visit, I presume the record is lost, just as the Book of Mormon was lost to the ancient peoples on the American continents. That is, other than the hollow earth gang, I assume that none of us is searching for an insular group of people who are living by an ancient record unknown to the world at large.

Now, about those “other sheep” … they are identified as the “lost tribes of Israel,” (3 Nephi 17:4) and many have imagined these people as a cohesive group, sort of like the Jews of Ethiopia. The search for such a group in an ever-shrinking world has led to desperate theories like the hollow earth, but other theories still abound. Some people remain intrigued by references to people in the “regions of ice” above continental Europe (Lapland?), but nowadays the fashionable location seems to be Mongolia. (The missionaries in our mission tell of patriarchal blessings in Mongolia in which people are being identified with one or another lost tribe.)

Of course, the existence of members of the lost tribes in Mongolia or Russia does not necessarily mean that they are a cohesive society. But if they are just scattered remnants, I wonder why the Lord would make them such a prominent part of the latter-day scene. If it weren’t for the Tenth Article of Faith and supporting scriptures, I would be happy to abandon all thought of the lost tribes, but those sources force me to ponder this topic from time to time, and I confess that the topic makes me uncomfortable. What is the importance of bloodlines in sharing and receiving the Gospel? The part of my patriarchal blessing that identifies my tribe has always seemed odd to me, and I have never been sure why I should care. If we are all “one fold,” why draw such lines? My impression is that tribe-talk has been much reduced in the modern Church, though that may be wishful thinking on my part.

25 comments for “About Those “Other Sheep” …

  1. I can’t believe you’re characterizing the respected hollow earth theory as “bizarre.” My goodness. You probably don’t believe in Lizard-men, either.

    But just ask yourself, who’ll have the last laugh when the Lizard Men of the Lost Tribes rise up from their hidden Atlantis bases in the center of the Earth to enslave mankind? I will, I tell you! Mwahahaha!

  2. A voyage to the hole at the top of the earth is being chartered by a company out of Provo:


    Why do people fall for this stuff?

  3. Hey, you never know. Everybody thought Christopher Columbus was crazy to sail around a flat world!!

    OK, that is just crazy. I went to the link above and cannot imagine that anybody could believe that. Count me as one of the guys that laugh at Chris Columbus as I am sure that the other tribes are not inside our hollow earth.

  4. Well, as everyone knows, Jesus went to England:

    “And did those feet in ancient times
    “Walk upon England’s mountains green
    “And was the Holy Lamb of God
    “In England’s pleasant pastures seen?”

  5. On a more serious note, I’m reading Collapse right now, and the notion of a society’s implosion (like what occured in the Book of Mormon) seems to be a more probable explanation. While the strict nature of Judaism allowed them to maintain a cultural identity, with the removal of these rules and laws, the effects of apostasy would probably include the absorption of any survivors into the surrounding population.
    I’ve heard more speculation on the polynesian islanders in this regard than the hollow earth. I have a hard time accepting the British Israelite theory.

  6. When I was a boy, I was into the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels. I read all 30 some odd of them. One of them, as I recall, had its setting in the hollow interior of the earth. I thought it was pretty cool that when you looked off to the horizon, instead of the land gradually dropping off from view, it gradually ascended up towards the sky.

  7. Kevin: I’ve been to the center of the hollow earth. It looked a lot like Provo.

  8. There was a similar mystery surrounding Star Wars back when we only had episode IV, and then IV, V, and VI.

    Had Joseph Smith’s first books (BoM, Book of Commandments, BoA) been as profitable as Star Wars, and his lifespan longer, maybe we would have found out this and other mysteries. He really should have retained merchandising rights.

    I’ve always wondered this too and mildly anticipated discovery or translation of other records of other sheep. Or at least, I always did growing up. Any more, I wearily think that it may be a long time before Church leadership (including the Leader Himself) feels the need and the boldness to let other records come forth, Besides, aren’t we supposed to be faithful as a Church to some covenants first?

    *Sigh.* I think with exception of nations/mission fields in the Americas (or anywhere with a specific, widely accepted BoM claim) that the MTC is a hotbed of speculation that the ‘other sheep’ included the people wherever they are going. Anyone else experience that?

  9. I think the literal gathering of Isreael will happen when the flying saucers come down and blow up the Capitol Records bulding, the White House, and the Empire State building simultaneously. I guess that’ll also qualify as Armageddon and I think when it happens it will have a Deep Impact on all of us.

  10. Abraham Mansfield, my great-grandfather, wrote a couple of books about his experiences with the seven-foot tall Lemurians he met beneath Mt. Shasta in 1931 who travel hundreds of miles through gold-lined lava tubes. The College of the Siskiyous Mt. Shasta Collection has dozens of books on the Lemurians. Of Mansfield’s The Golden Goddess of the Lemurians, the library’s bibliography reports “The book as a whole is hard to define; it appears to be the product of shear imagination and uncritical legend jumping.” Someday, I’ll have to visit Yreka and read it.

  11. Ronan (#4),
    Re your aside, consisting of quote from William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem.” You probably think, I as do, that the poem does not categorically assert that Jesus visited England in the flesh (even though some people may think he did). I certainly hope it isn’t a part of the “hollow earth” theory! To me, the poem eloquently expresses a longing for the presence of the Lord, a condemnation of all the telestial conditions we tolerate in our society, an intense commitment to doing all we can to help the Lord’s cause, and a total faith in the Second Coming.
    The complete poem, with an organ playing the music written for it (which is used in the film “Chariots of Fire”) is found at: http://www.angelfire.com/pa3/OldWorldBasic/Jerusalem.htm

  12. RoAnn: Thanks for giving me different eyes through which to see that poem. I must confess, I’ve not thought about it much, just enough prior to this to dismiss the poem and the idea out of hand. I have to read it differently now, and much better.

  13. I had a conversation with our stake patriarch about this stuff once upon a time back in the eighties. This brother was an accomplished physicist and well known in his field. He worked for TRW and was instrumental in developing the chemical laser that was to be used in the SDI effort. This brother said he knew some of the boys working on Project Blue Book and that they had irrefutable evidence regarding UFO’s. We talked (that is he talked and I listened–not with out some interest mind you) for two hours on the subject. He spun out a theory dealing with the return of the lost tribes that was more fantastical than any Sci-Fi I had read to date. (and I had read a fair amount) He verily believed (he has since passed away) that the return of the lost tribes would be the arm of the Lord falling upon the nations–that they would return to the earth as an invasion from from space. Amazing stuff. It took me a while to shake it from my mind. I guess that’s what I get for trying to sell him Amway. That said, I’m happy to report that I have long since overcome both Amway and the Project Blue Book theory of the return of the lost tribes.

  14. Given Blake’s interest in John Milton (the Jerusalem poem is part of a longer work “Milton”), and Milton’s seminal themes of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, it could well be Blake was referring to England as having been part of the original Garden of Eden, where Christ might have walked.

    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England’s mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark Satanic mills?

    Bring me my bow of burning gold!
    Bring me my arrows of desire!
    Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England’s green and pleasant land.

    The musical setting is glorious. And the final stanza recalls, in indomitable poetic fashion, John Taylor’s, “The Kingdom of God or nothing!”

  15. “Jerusalem” is sacred stuff. I should say that there are a bunch of people in England who believe the legends that Jesus came as a boy to Cornwall with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. It’s probably hogwash, but it does help fuel “British Israeliteism”, something that has tacit support among Mormons (how else can Joseph Smith be a “pure Ephraimite” if it wasn’t carried by his English blood?!)

    Don’t take me as a believer on this point, but it does stoke my national pride now and again, and “Jerusalem” is a stirring call to build Zion.

    Of course, one does have to account for the spectacular success of Mormonism in the 1830s and 40s in England. It was Joseph who said that “prophets once walked that land…..”

  16. Yup, def. the most bizarre scripture; as long as you are excluding the Follett discourse re: Godhood. That has much crazier speculation.

    Given latter-day Genocide; and scriptural records indicating previous genocides (in the Bible, the People of Jared, etc.), it seems far more likely that the other tribes where not just socially and culturally; but physically destroyed.

  17. Wow! I hadn’t heard the hollow earth theory since high school seminary circa 1980! Glad to know it’s still around.

    Oh – my teacher didn’t endorse it — just listed it among the wild theories he’d heard. The only other one I recall involved an inhabited asteroid, taken from where the Gulf of Mexico now is.

  18. “and should we care?”

    i’ve always been struck by how people in the book of mormon could care so deeply about stuff that would happen hundreds, even thousands, of years in the future. if we care at all about this sort of thing–and i’m with you, i’m not sure how to do that in practical terms–it would probably be similar to the way nephi cared about stuff that would happen 2600 years after he died.

  19. couldn’t we just point a satellite at said location of the entry into the hollow earth? I’m too lazy to walk there, really.

  20. History is filled with the story of a lost sheep and the hope of future restoration. Mythology is even richer in these descriptions. For me the lost 10 tribes of Israel are sort of a classical case of a lost people.

    One thing to keep in mind about the 10 tribes is how they were actually lost in the first place. I am not an expert on ancient civilizations. But it is my understanding that the Assyrians who conquered them were a vicious group of people who practiced a thorough scorched earth policy. I heard somewhere that Assyrian soldiers were not paid until after the battle and only so much for each head they cut off. Men, women, and children. Assyrian or otherwise. So if you were in the thick of it and some of your comrades fell by the sword, you whacked off their heads too for extra pay. If you didn’t whack at least one head off, you got no pay and you might starve and thence become a source of military pay for the next guy. The Assyrians did not herd the Israelites back home individually or as a group as might be depicted in some epic film of my imagination. This would require feeding them and guarding them and the Assyrians were not inclined to do it. The Assyrian armies completely anniliated the people they conquered including the Israelites.

    It is my understanding that the only Israelites who survived the Assyrian firestorm fled to the safety of Jerusalem (the Mountain of the Lord) which was an extremely secure military stronghold. Joshua and his successors in the Book of Judges never conquered Jeruslem for Israel. It wasn’t until the time of King David and his more creative or inspired approach to warfare that Jeruslem fell and this is one reason why Jerusalem is called the City of David. And so Jerusalem held against the Assyrians, barely.

    A few generations later the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem 2 or 3 times and they are thought to have been much more benign than the Assyrians. But more effective. The Israelites thought they could not be conquered and they were almost right. The Babylonians led some few of the survivers back home into captivity unlike the Assyrians, and life was not too bad for some of them. For example Daniel or Shadrack, Meshack, and Abindigo. Not bad at all if you could get along with hungry lions and didn’t mind getting baked in a fiery furnace, etc. You can read about the horrors of this more benign Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in the Book of Lamantations; mothers so desperate that they ate their own children and so forth, but at least they survived to write.

    The only possible survivors of the Assyrian conquest would be cute little teenage girls who were worth more alive as sex slaves to brutal Assyrian soldiers willing to cut off the heads of their own fellow soldiers than they were worth dead. You can imagine the horror of their life if they were allowed to live. A few might have been able to produce children in abject slavery and so forth. But they would have lost their history of who they were in a single generation and the next generations had to survive the down fall of Assyrian which was unpleasant to say the least, considering how they had treated everyone else. The few girls that they raped and impregnated and left to starve in Palestine became the ancestors of the hated Samaritians some 700 years later in New Testament times.

    I think these Biblical stories have symbolic meaning. First, If you want to survive the temptations and the turmoil of the last days you have got to flee to some place safe like Jerusalem. Maybe not physically safe, since I don’t think Salt Lake City or Provo is much better than a variety of other similar American cities. But somewhere spiritually safe in your mind. The temple might be a good modern symbol of the safety of Jerusalem but even that is not guaranteed. Jerusalem did fall. Again and again.

    Second, the entirely lost state of the 10 tribes is also symbolic, in addition to historic. The 10 tribes are lost in every way that we can imagine. More than physically and spiritually lost. But God will save a reminant of them in some miraculous way that we have not considered. To me this means that no matter how lost you think you might be, or how messed up your life has become, that you and I are not as lost as those 10 tribes. And God can certainly save us if he can save some of them. The utter loss and promised literal restoration of the 10 tribes is the symbolic representation of the miracle of the Atonement of Christ.

    These two symbolic events are paradoxical if you think of it. Prevention and Redemption. (Why do I need to repent if I am keeping the commandments?) But most truth is paradoxical at the deeper levels.

  21. Mike:

    Terrific post. Where can I go to read up on more of that stuff?

    Also, you said “But God will save a reminant of them in some miraculous way that we have not considered,”

    Perhaps the salvation of the other tribes will be similar to the salvation of the tribe of Joseph. Lehi was led away in a way that is completely unrecognized by recorded world history, and thereby the remnant of Joseph was preserved.

  22. Response to Richarde

    I am just a dabbler. I read widely but not deeply. I started out with Deseret book publications when I was young. I have been known to slip into Christian Book stores. I took Archeology magazines for a while. Harpers Bible commentary is another good source, although I can only pretend to have my mind around it. All night discussions while camping with non-LDS parents of boys the same age as my son who have read widely is also very educational.

    I agree with the last part of your post. Just think about how completely unlikely and outrageous the story of Joseph Smith and the Restoration is on the surface. How many time do you think I have told that story with a straight face to a genuine friend and had them look at me and say something like: “..and you actually believe all of that?”

    Probably no worse than the Old Testament.

  23. norm: You said “Had Joseph Smith’s first books (BoM, Book of Commandments, BoA) been as profitable as Star Wars, and his lifespan longer, maybe we would have found out this and other mysteries. He really should have retained merchandising rights.” Unfortunately, that would’ve meant the RLDS would be richer than us. :-)

    Interesting idea about Lehi escaping our of radar so to speak. Makes prophecies about his descendants even more important insofar as literal lineage is concerned (however many individuals with actual Lehite DNA passed on their genes.) But don’t forget that God is also of stones able to raise up seed to Abraham. The Law of Adoption is an important part of the miracle of the restoration of the House of Israel.

  24. I have no problem with Jesus visiting England or any other Place, Planet, moon, Sun, Solar system, or Galaxy that he created. Its no big deal, when you know what you are doing. Jesus Christ who is Savior of all worlds that were created by the workmanship of his hands, has sheep everywhere. He said he had other sheep, He didin’t say how many and he didn’t say where. We tend to think in terms of our own planet of course but the Universe is a big place and we are one grain of sand. The powers of heaven are over them all.

    But less I digress to much, I was raised around sheep, from my youth. I know something about sheep group mentality. I know how they respond to their shepherd. I know what happens when blood thirsty dogs get into them, how they will follow a sheep bell, the bell they get accustomed to, that they hear the loudest. I know how easilly they can get confused, and how easily they can become lost. Only a shepherd can find his sheep because only a shepherd knows how they think. Did a few sheep get lost in turkey, Russia, Mongolia, England, and a hundred other places…sure, easily.

    The 10 tribes can be as easily lost from the minds of man as say the Jewish descendants of King Zedekiahs son who came to the Lands of the America’s with the Mulekites. How many Jewish descendants did he have that are lost to us today among the Lamanites. Think of it, a whole culture infused with a genetic Jewish link to the throne of David literally, and all because he happened to come here, probably with other Jewish folks, and we call them Mulekites. These lost Jews among the Lamanites are joining the kingdom of God in great numbers, because they hear the call of the shepherd who prepared a Book for them, a book that speaks to them, intimately, deeply, a bell they hear and want to follow.Think that literally there is a kingdom of Jews among the kingdom of God now who will help build a New Jerusalem, and restore a temple in old Jerusalem, who are now being nurtured in the ways and admonitions of the Lord. And many non Jewish members of the church may not be aware of it. Still lost to some but not to God and not to his servants! Yes a nation shall be born in a day when when comes and they behold the wounds in his hands and his feet, but today there are Jewish/Lamanite descendants who are already apart of that nation and who completly understand the wounds in His hands……

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