Book of Mormon Article | “Nephi and Jacob’s ‘Isles of the Sea’ Others versus Modern Prophets’ Hagoth and Polynesians: Time to Re-evaluate ‘Descendants of Hagoth’/ ‘Lehites’/ ‘Lamanites’ (Like with Blacks and the Priesthood Ban)?”
Summary: Quotes from modern prophets and leaders about Polynesians being Lehites, descended from Hagoth; quotes from Nephi and Jacob about house of Israel (and the Nephites) already being on “isles of the sea” 500 years before Hagoth; did someone start out with the right idea, but everyone reach the wrong conclusions?; is a re-evaluation in order?
WARNING to LDS: This article might be somewhat heretical, especially if you believe that prophets are always acting as prophets, even in LDS things.
From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, one reads:
The belief that POLYNESIAN ANCESTRY INCLUDES BOOK OF MORMON PEOPLE can be traced back at least to 1851, when George Q. Cannon taught it as a missionary in HAWAII (he was later a counselor in the First Presidency). President Brigham Young detailed the belief IN A LETTER TO KING KAMEHAMEHA V in 1865. Other Church leaders have since AFFIRMED THE BELIEF, some INDICATING THAT AMONG POLYNESIAN ANCESTORS WERE THE PEOPLE OF HAGOTH, who set sail from Nephite lands in approximately 54 B.C. (cf. Alma 63:5-8). In a statement to the Maoris of New Zealand, for instance, President Joseph F. Smith said, “I would like to say to you brethren and sisters…you are some of Hagoth’s people, and there is NO PERHAPS about it!” (Cole and Jensen, p. 388.) In the prayer offered at the dedication of the Hawaii Temple, President Heber J. Grant referred to the “descendants of Lehi” in Hawaii (IE 23 [Feb. 1920]:283).
Ok, that’s a pretty benign paragraph, typical of Encyclopedia of Mormonism articles. Let’s see how that stands up against actual quotes from LDS Church leaders.
President Heber J. Grant, at the Laie HAWAII Temple dedication November 27-30, 1919, said:
“We thank Thee, that thousands and tens of thousands of the DESCENDANTS OF LEHI, IN THIS FAVORED LAND, have come to a knowledge of the gospel, many of whom have endured faithfully to the end of their lives.”
President David O. McKay, at the Hamilton NEW ZEALAND Temple dedication on April 20–22, 1958, said:
We express gratitude that TO THESE FERTILE LANDS THOUGH DIDST GUIDE DESCENDANTS OF FATHER LEHI, and hast enabled them to prosper, to develop and to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among mankind.
Gordon B. Hinckley, at the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple dedication, August 9-11, 1983, said:
“We thank Thee for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon with its record of THE FOREBEARS OF THE PEOPLE OF TONGA.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in the rebuilt Apia Samoa Temple dedicatory prayer on September 4, 2005, said.
“In these ISLANDS OF SAMOA, Thou hast remembered Thine ancient promise “UNTO THEM WHO ARE UPON THE ISLES OF THE SEA” (2 Nephi 10:21).”
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, at the dedication of the NEW ZEALAND Temple, April 20, 1958: ” . . . Here are two great strains of the house of Israel and the children of Ephraim from the isles of Britain, and THE CHILDREN OF LEHI FROM THE ISLES OF THE PACIFIC.”
Hugh B. Brown, praying at the end of the cornerstone laying ceremony at the New Zealand Temple, said:
“We humbly thank Thee that this building is erected in this land, so that those faithful MAORIS WHO CAME HERE IN EARLY DAYS, DESCENDANTS OF FATHER LEHI, may be remembered by their descendants…”
Mark E. Petersen said: “…the POLYNESIAN SAINTS are characterized by a tremendous faith. Why do they have this great faith? It is because THESE PEOPLE ARE OF THE BLOOD OF ISRAEL. They are HEIRS TO THE PROMISES OF THE BOOK OF Mormon. God is now awakening them to their great destiny.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1962, p. 112)
Mark E. Petersen said, in 1962 general conference:
“As Latter-day Saints WE HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT THE POLYNESIANS ARE DESCENDANTS OF LEHI AND BLOOD RELATIVES OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS, despite the contrary theories of other men.”
Robert L. Simpson – “I would like, in making reference to these wonderful people from NEW ZEALAND—ESPECIALLY THE MAORI FOLKS HERE TODAY—to turn to Alma 63:5-8, and read a very significant quotation. It talks about a man called Hagoth, a man who set sail from these Americas many centuries ago. (quotes Alma 63:5-8).
“I would like to tell you young people that in a great gathering of Polynesians held right in Salt Lake City just prior to 1915, a prophet of the Lord, President Joseph F. Smith, addressing a group of Polynesians who had come to Salt Lake City to participate in their temple endowment work, made the statement that without a doubt this man Hagoth and his company were the progenitors of the Polynesian races, and that this migration was the beginning of the Polynesian population in the South Pacific.
“Now up until very recently men of science have said, no, the Polynesians have come from the Malay States, they have come from the African, from the Asian side, and they have migrated from a westerly direction to the Polynesian islands-not from the Americas. This has been popular thinking until about 1940, when a very bold scholar by the name of Thor Heyerdahl made the observation that indeed these people must be from the Americas. He set out to prove this by building some balsa rafts on which he set himself adrift off the shores of South and Central America. He and his companions drifted for about one hundred days, and depending only on the prevailing tides and winds of that area, they found themselves cast upon the shores of these South Pacific islands, not far from Tahiti. It seems rather significant that all of a sudden scientific opinion began to change and Thor Heyerdahl, since that day, has presented additional evidences that have further made it a very important consideration-that the Polynesians did originate from the Americas.
“Now the Maoris themselves have something to say about this theory. They all have the same answer to the questions, ‘Where did your people come from? Where did you originate?’ The answer is always the same:
‘I haere mai matou I tawhiti nui, I tawhiti roe, I tawhiti pamamau I te hono I te wai e rua.’ (‘We came from a great distance, from a still greater distance, from a very, very great distance, from the joining place of two great waters.‘)
“Perhaps by the narrow neck of land that separated the two great seas, the narrow neck of land which led into the land northward. This is Maori tradition and I want to tell you that those who have joined the Church believe without reservation, that these things I have told you are part and parcel of Mormon doctrine. (BYU Speeches of the Year, April 4, 1962, p. 6.)
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “President Joseph F. Smith, the president of the Church reported, ‘YOU BRETHREN AND SISTERS FROM NEW ZEALAND, I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE FROM THE PEOPLE OF HAGOTH.’” (New Zealand Area Conference Report, 20–22 Feb. 1976, p. 3).
President Kimball quoted President Joseph F. Smith: ” `I would like to say to you brethren and sisters of New Zealand, YOU ARE SOME OF HAGOTH’S PEOPLE, AND THERE IS NO PERHAPS ABOUT IT!’ ”
President Spencer W. Kimball in a 1976 address to Samoan members: [President Kimball read the account of Hagoth in the book of Alma and then said]: “And so IT SEEMS TO ME RATHER CLEAR THAT YOUR ANCESTORS MOVED NORTHWARD AND CROSSED A PART OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC. You did not bring your records with you, but you brought much food and provisions. . . .”
Personally, those quotes are much, much stronger than what the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article alludes to. And that’s A LOT of comments compared to what we have about other peoples, places, and prophecies.
I don’t know how or why, but somehow LDS Church leaders, who to this day still do not even know (or at least haven’t revealed) where the Book of Mormon Nephites and Lamanites lived, or where Hagoth/ the ships sailed from, or where the real main Lamanites are today (Guatemala? Nicaragua? Peru? Mexico? Arizona? scattered all over North, Central, and South America? Malaysia? an isle of the sea?)—were able to come out with so much prophecy about not just the lineage, but the origins of all the Polynesians—which has not once ever been presented as a revelation on the topic, and often seems like conjecture or a misunderstanding of what came before (though without knowing the content of the Cannon and Young teachings, it’s harder to say, of course).
Who, exactly, was President Smith talking about when he said “all the Polynesians”? Does that mean: Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand?
Does that also include Fiji, French Polynesia, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands?
Vanuatu, Kiribati? New Guinea and the Solomon Islands?
Everyone on the isles of the South Pacific?
What about other Lehites and Lamanites?
Of the modern Lehites and Lamanites (outside of the Polynesians), LDS Church prophets, leaders, and publications have commented that they are all over the Americas. Here are a few quotes about that:
“Church News” (http://kennedy.byu.edu/academic/las/resource/pdfs/church_news.pdf ) articles have multiple references—spanning decades—to Lamanites being in North, Central, and South America.
Spencer W. Kimball said, at the 30 October–2 November 1978 dedication of the São Paulo BRAZIL:
“We thank Thee that Thou didst bring FATHER LEHI AND HIS FAMILY TO THIS LAND OF PROMISE and Thou didst establish Thy people, the Nephites and the Lamanites and their Book of Mormon.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, at the Cochabamba BOLIVIA Temple dedication on April 30, 2000, said:
“We remember before Thee the SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF FATHER LEHI. Wilt Thou keep Thine ancient promises in their behalf. Lift from their shoulders the burdens of poverty and cause the shackles of darkness to fall from their eyes. May they rise to the glories of the past. May they recognize their Redeemer and be faithful and true Saints of the Most High. May they seek learning out of the best books (see D&C 88:118). May the enlightenment of education bring new and wonderful opportunities into their lives.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, at the Lima PERU Temple dedication January 10-12, 1986, said:
“We are particularly mindful this day of the SONS AND DAUGHERS OF LEHI. They have known so much of suffering and sorrow in their many generations. They have walked in darkness and in servitude. Now Thou hast touched them by the light of the everlasting gospel. The shackles of darkness are falling from their eyes as they embrace the truths of Thy great work. Surely FATHER LEHI HAS WEPT WITH SORROW OVER HIS POSTERITY. SURELY HE WEEPS TODAY WTH GLADNESS, FOR IN THIS HOLY HOUSE there will be exercised the fullness of the priesthood to the blessing, not only of those of this and future generations, but also to the blessing of THOSE OF PREVIOUS GENERATIONS.”
President James E. Faust – 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, said:
“LATIN PEOPLE have a special quality of softness and graciousness and kindness. They are a great people—THEY ARE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF FATHER LEHI, and they have believing blood. They are a beautiful people, inside and out.” (Aug 7, 1999 Church News – Guayaquil Ecuador Temple dedication: ‘A wondrous day’ for members)
Thomas S. Monson, dedicating the Buenos Aires ARGENTINA Temple in January 17-19, 1986, said:
“Wilt Thou, our Father, continue to bless the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and LIKEWISE THE DESCENDANTS OF LEHI AND NEPHI, that the promises contained in the Holy Bible and in the Book of Mormon may be brought to fulfillment and our homes and families blessed abundantly.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, dedicating the Snowflake Arizona Temple, March 3, 2002, said:
“We are grateful that this Thy house will be available to the sons and daughters of Lehi who live nearby. Let the scales of darkness fall from their eyes and bring a fulfillment of the ancient promises made concerning them. May this house become a hallowed sanctuary for many of these, our brothers and sisters.”
Clate W. Mask, Jr., a Seventy, said:
“Today, many of their descendants are reading about this in their own copies of the Book of Mormon and are choosing to follow Christ. I love meeting the CHILDREN OF LEHI in spotless white in the numerous temples in the MEXICO SOUTH AREA, where I am currently serving. I feel as President Gordon B. Hinckley did at the dedication of the GUATEMALA CITY temple:
‘Thou kind and gracious Father, our hearts swell with gratitude for thy remembrance of the SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF LEHI, the many generations of our fathers and mothers who suffered so greatly and who walked for so long in darkness. Thou hast heard their cries and seen their tears. Now there will be opened to them the gates of salvation and eternal life’ (Guatemala City Guatemala Temple dedicatory prayer, in “Their Cries Heard, Their Tears Seen,” Church News, 23 Dec. 1984, 4).
I have seen HUMBLE DESCENDANTS OF LEHI come down from the mountains to that temple and openly weep as they stood there in awe.” (As reported in http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=d9e1d9cbdb01c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD )
Might there be a connection between “all the Polynesians” and what might be termed “all the American Lamanites”? As science was at odds with “all the American Lamanites” and the word “principal” in the phrase “principal ancestors” gets dropped from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon—another non-formal writing—what happens when science is also very much at odds with the non-formal revelation “Hagoth” origin of Polynesians? (Believe it or not, I typically believe prophets over science most any day.)
So is it possible that “all the Polynesians” might not descend only or even primarily from the Hagoth sailings?
What does the Book of Mormon say about those upon “the isles of the sea”?
Here are the verses:
1 Nephi 19:10 …the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself…according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a SIGN GIVEN OF HIS DEATH unto THOSE WHO SHOULD INHABIT the ISLES OF THE SEA, MORE ESPECIALLY GIVEN UNTO THOSE WHO ARE OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.
1 Nephi 19:11 For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall VISIT ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AT THAT DAY, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.
1 Nephi 19:12 And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and BECAUSE OF THE GROANINGS OF THE EARTH, MANY OF THE KINGS OF THE ISLES OF THE SEA shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The GOD OF NATURE SUFFERS.
1 Nephi 19:16 Yea, then will he remember the ISLES OF THE SEA; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth.
1 Nephi 21:8 Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O ISLES OF THE SEA, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
1 Nephi 22:3 Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations.
1 Nephi 22:4 And behold, there are MANY WHO ARE ALREADY LOST FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF THOSE WHO ARE AT JERUSALEM. Yea, the MORE PART OF ALL THE TRIBES HAVE BEEN LED AWAY; and they are SCATTERED TO AND FRO upon the ISLES OF THE SEA; and whither they are NONE OF US KNOWETH, save that we know that THEY HAVE BEEN LED AWAY.
1 Nephi 22:5 And since they have been led away, these things have been prophesied concerning them, and also concerning ALL THOSE WHO SHALL HEREAFTER BE SCATTERED AND BE CONFOUNDED, because of the Holy One of Israel; for against him will they harden their hearts; wherefore, they shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men.
2 Nephi 10:8 And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the ISLES OF THE SEA, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.
2 Nephi 10:20 And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and WE ARE UPON AN ISLE OF THE SEA.
2 Nephi 10:21 But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are UPON THE ISLES OF THE SEA; wherefore as it says ISLES, THERE MUST NEEDS BE MORE THAN THIS, AND THEY ARE INHABITED ALSO BY OUR BRETHEREN.
2 Nephi 10:22 For behold, the Lord God HAS LED AWAY FROM TIME TO TIME FROM THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, ACCORDING TO HIS WILL AND PLEASURE. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also.
2 Nephi 29:7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are UPON THE ISLES OF THE SEA; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
The above scriptures by Nephi and Jacob (especially 1 Nephi 19:12, 1 Nephi 22:4, 2 Nephi 10:21-22) make it *absolutely clear* that the house of Israel had already been scattered on the isles of the sea BEFORE the time of the Nephites—though it’s not clear what peoples they were nor where they were.
It’s also absolutely clear that there would be many kings on the isles at the time of the Lord’s death, who likely would not have the full knowledge of the gospel anymore (which would also likely point to not having scripture).
This was all 500+ years before Hagoth had even set sail!
Also, Jacob says (2 Nephi 10:20) that they (the Nephites) were themselves were “upon an isle of the sea” (North America? Central America? South America?)
I don’t doubt that most faithful LDS believe that Polynesians are descendants of the house of Israel (which fits in quite well with what Nephi and Jacob wrote). But why? Because of the teachings of Nephi and Jacob? Or, as some LDS leaders have said, because of their great faith? Are then the Saints in Africa also true descendants of Lehi and the house of Israel, because of their great faith, especially in the face of great adversity and tragedy? I believe the reason leaders have spoken what they have spoken is mainly because of what they have interpreted or understood from the Book of Mormon.
Was Nephi and Jacob’s “of the house of Israel”, and other primary (as in first) modern prophets’ meanings, misinterpreted/ misunderstood by later prophets, perhaps stumbling on the Hagoth story in the Book of Mormon, to become “of the house of Lehi”?
Was inspiration/ revelation: “Polynesians are true descendants of the house of Israel” given to prophets, but without a reason why; and then that “why” filled in because of what would be better termed “feeling” or even “speculation”—rather than by revelation—to become “Polynesians are from the Hagoth sailing”? (As an example, my wife and I (mostly my wife) just finished moving things all around on one floor of our house, because my wife wanted it that way—even though her reasons were all wrong or illogical; until the end, when she finally figured the real reason why, and all the work was worth it…)
If President Smith was correct, that the Hagoth event was the origin of all the races of the Polynesians, then that also importantly means Nephi and Jacob are not talking about any of the Polynesians in some of their teachings and prophesyings. Nephi and Jacob are talking about Others—people of the house of Israel who had been on the isles of the seas for over 500 years, before Polynesians. Once more, though, who and where is unknown…
Or is is possible that Hagoth et. al. might have—relying on Elder Peterson’s remark, that the Polynesians are related to the American Indians—as the Lehites, mixed with other ancestors of the Polynesians, but weren’t necessarily the “principal” ones of every single Polynesian land and people?
If the Lehites are the ancestors of all the Polynesians, does that mean they spread out over the entire Pacific and overthrew or interacted and intermarried with all these other peoples from the house of Israel that Nephi and Jacob mention? But why would the Lord lead away many from the house of Israel, only to have them destroyed or overcome by Lehites? Or was it all through intermarrying?
Are we looking at a coming re-evaluation of “Polynesians-as-modern-Lehites” status, just like we saw with the Lamanites as “principal” ancestors of the American Indians, and descendants of Cain (Canaan/ Ham) and the priesthood situation?
Personally, I see much more likeness between American Indians and “aboriginal” Filipinos, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Southern Asians, for example, than between American Indians and Polynesians.
If so many others on the isles of the sea are Israelites—according to Nephi and Jacob, and as I believe—when will the work among these people commence and be strengthened?
Why were Polynesians singled out above all other peoples on “the isles of the sea” as not only of the house of Israel but also as descendants of Lehi, and blessed with so many blessings from the LDS Church’s labors; while up to now all other “isles of the sea” peoples, have been, more or less, left out—even those of the “house of Israel”?
Is it because of the Polynesians’ faith and conversion success rate, or because of revelation?
Any insight into any of the statements or questions?