There are 6 thoughts on “Gentiles in the Book of Mormon”.

  1. The Book of Mormon generally distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles/non-Jews (2 Nephi 25:15). Gentiles as non-Jews say things like: “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible” (2 Nephi 29:3,6); the Lord comments: “they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews” (29:4). Converted Gentiles are to be numbered with the covenant people (2 Nephi 30:1-4, Jacob 5). This is a late pre-exilic use of the word.

    The word “gentile” is based originally on usage at Mari and is a West Semitic loan-word in Akkadian gâʼu, gāwu “group” = Hebrew gôy “nation; gentilic unit; military unit” (Joshua 5:6). Abraham is prophesied to become “a great nation” gôy gādôl (Genesis 12:2), and “the father of many nations” hămôn gôyîm (Genesis 17:4,6). Tawil, Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew, 64, citing Speiser, JBL, 79 (1960):157-163; Malamat, JAOS, 82 (1962):143:3.

  2. For a layman such as me, this was a marvelous article, bringing to us yet more internal proofs of the veracity of the Book of Mormon and a much more complete understanding of the meaning of the term, “the gentiles.” I took a number of quotes and included them in my Gospel Library as links. I wish there was room to include the whole article.

    Though, in reality, a testimony of the Book of Mormon can only come from a personal spiritual witness, these internal proofs offer powerful, wonderful support. The more I study the book the more I love the doctrinal richness of the text. Far from being a pastiche of references from the Bible, as claimed by some of my mainline Christian friends, it is a stand-alone revelation from God. How can anyone doubt? Many congratulations to the authors.

  3. I much enjoyed this article for a variety of reasons. While the overall point is to illuminate stylometric differences in the way Book of Mormon speakers express their messages concerning the Gentiles (or fail to even mention them), the article also performs the ancillary function of at least partially clearing up some doctrinal misconceptions. One such common misconception is what the word “Gentiles” actually means. For example, some readers have puzzled over how Joseph Smith could be a choice seer descended from Joseph of old, and still be a Gentile for Book of Mormon classification purposes. The article touches on this point just enough to show the two classifications aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Along those same lines, I would like to see some article devote a few words, even if only in a footnote, to the Book of Mormon meaning of the term “Jew” or “Jews.” LDS readers often confuse this term with the idea of descending from the tribe of Judah (perhaps because of the influence of tribal descent declarations in their patriarchal blessings), and fail to remember that Lehi’s descendants considered themselves Jews, even though they discovered early on that they were from the tribe of Manasseh. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but the topic belongs in a broader discussion about the tendency among Bible and Book of Mormon historians to classify people into enormously broad multi-ethnic groups, without regard to the specific ancestral lines from which they sprang.
    Hence, being a Nephite didn’t necessarily mean you descended from Nephi, and even less did being a Lamanite mean you descended from Laman or Lemuel or anyone else in Lehi’s party. It might also explain why Book of Mormon writers didn’t bother to tell us the lineage of Ishmael or Zoram, or of Sherem, a man who particularly sparks our curiosity. We also wish to know who exactly was in Mulek’s party besides those of the tribe of Judah (Phoenicians, perhaps?), and whether the other lost tribes Jesus visited were also in the Americas.

    But the writers of scripture didn’t seem to care as much about these things as we do today. They seem to all agree with John the Baptist’s teaching that God could “of these stones raise up seed unto Abraham,” but descent meant nothing to the Lord in terms of ensuring salvation. They also appear to have agreed with Nephi, who said in 2 Ne. 26:33 that “all are alike unto God.”

  4. I would like to suggest that the Book of Mormon is a more nuanced definition of “gentile” than simply “non-Jew” as suggested. While that works in the Old World context, it is left behind to remain in that context.

    In the New World, there isn’t “non-Jew” as a category, but “non-Nephite.” The term “Lamanite” fulfills that function in the New World. When the focus is on the New World, references in prophecy to “gentiles” refers to non-Jews of the Old World. Thus, the definition is similar, but divided into the two hemispheres and seen in relation to Nephites, not Jews. Both Lamanites and Gentiles are non-Nephites, but when Gentiles is used, it discusses events related to peoples from the Old World. When those people come to the New World, they form a different category of “other.” They are both non-Nephite and non-Lamanite. The continue to be Gentiles even when they are upon the land of promise. However, the continue to be distinct from Lamanites in prophecy.

    This gives us another reason why we see the particular distribution of the word “gentiles” in the various books. We see the term only when there is prophecy dealing with the last days when Old World Gentiles first receive the Bible, and later when they arrive in the New World. During Book of Mormon times, there are no gentiles among the inhabitants of the New World. Peoples of the New World are not Gentiles, they are Lamanites.

  5. Gentiles is another lexical usage that is found exclusively or primarily in the second part of the 1829 dictation but not in the first part. There are syntactic markers as well, such as archaic subordinate that usage, which is quite heavy in Dictation 2 but hardly found in Dictation 1. (The complex change in linguistic character occurs at about 3 Nephi 9.)

    Which brings us to the quote of 1 Nephi 15:13, now missing a subordinate that and with a contraindicated passive verb phrase that wasn’t there originally. It’s currently a more difficult reading than the original dictation language, which is:

    in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief,
    yea, for the space of many years and many generations,
    after that the Messiah hath manifested himself in body unto the children of men,
    then shall the fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles,
    and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed.

    [*Chart 1 has a typo; “Instances” would be better than “Usages” in Chart 2.]

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.

Close this window

Top of Page

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This