Friday, April 18, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Fourteen: Joseph Smith A Descendant Of Abraham And Its Significance

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Fourteen: 
Joseph Smith A Descendant Of Abraham And Its Significance© 

Nearly everyone, certainly nearly every Latter-day Saint, knows that God promised the ancient patriarch Abraham “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”(1) Subsequently, many people understood this to be fulfilled through Christ who was the ultimate “seed” of Abraham. But the Book of Abraham contains a verse which expands our understanding of this promise.  It reads:
“... in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of eternal life.”(2)
Based on this understanding, John Taylor, Parley P. Pratt, and probably others taught that the leaders of God’s true Church have been descendants of Abraham. The patriarchs Isaac, Jacob, Joseph; the prophets, Moses and Aaron and on down through the Old Testament; especially Jesus the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world, his Twelve; the Nephites and the Nephite Twelve, were all descendants of the great patriarch/prophet Abraham,(3) because it was his lineage which had the rights to the priesthood of God and thereby the right and obligation to preach the true Gospel which would bring the blessings of salvation and eternal life to the world.

Insofar as I know, no founder of a major Christian religion other than Joseph Smith claimed to be a descendant of Abraham, and thereby to have the rights to the priesthood as a fulfillment of the promises to Abraham that his “seed” would bless all the families of the earth. In fact as I said above, most Christian leaders have been content to see the complete fulfillment of these promises (as found in Genesis), in Jesus Christ. They had no reason to think otherwise, therefore, they have given no concern to their own ancient lineage.

I’m not sure how much Joseph Smith understood this principle at the outset of his ministry either,(4) but the Lord understood it and revealed line upon line the significance of the Abrahamic lineage as the Restoration progressed. True to form we discover that Joseph Smith, the great prophet of the Last Dispensation, was in the direct lineage of Abraham as he should have been in order to have the right to the priesthood which was his authority to preach the true gospel according to Abraham 2.

In 2 Nephi 3 we learn some interesting facts.  Lehi tells his son Joseph that they (Lehi and Joseph) were descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt and was the birthright son of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham (v. 3). Moreover, Joseph of Egypt obtained a special promise from God “that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel...a branch which was to be broken off; nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord (v. 5). He also saw that “A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins” (v. 6). He went on to give at least a dozen and a half prophecies about various aspects of the work this “choice seer” would perform for the Lord (See vss. 5-18). Of course that “choice seer” was the Prophet Joseph Smith, but so far as we know he himself never commented on these verses!

Joseph Smith’s Abrahamic lineage is confirmed in other revelations which he received throughout his life.  The most important is found in D&C 132:30-32 which reads:
30) Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins–from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph– which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them. 31) This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham....  32) Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham....
It does not seem insignificant or coincidental that as part of the Restoration of the fulness of the Gospel we should learn that the rights to the Melchizedek Priesthood belonged to the chosen and elect family of Abraham, particularly the birthright tribe of his great-grandson Joseph, this being new information added to the numerous iterations of God’s promises to Abraham in the book of Genesis. And further, that this priesthood was necessary to preach the gospel which would bring salvation and eternal life to God’s children. As with nearly everything else in the life and ministry of Joseph Smith, it is vastly important to learn that God had prepared him from the premortal life(5) to be born through this lineage (thus Joseph in Egypt could see him in vision), and that during Joseph Smith’s life the Lord would again and again emphasize his lineage as a significant factor of his divine calling, something no other founder of a major Christian church, intentional or otherwise, could or did claim.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!
Lets think together again, soon.


1. Gen. 12:3 and 28:14 to Jacob.  See also Gen. 18:18 where Abraham is told that in his seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed.  Compare Gal. 3:8; Gen. 22:18; 26:4, Abr. 2:10 and D&C 110:12.

2. Abr. 2:11.

3. See John Taylor in JD 22:304-305, discourse of 28 August 1881, and Parley P. Pratt, “Heirship and Priesthood,” in JD 1:256-263, esp. 261, discourse of 10 April 1853.  Pratt notes that Melchizedek and others who preceded Abraham held the Melchizedek Priesthood.  His argument and mine pertain to “those who have lived since the older branches passed away, and since the transfer of the keys to Abraham and his seed.”

4. On the night of 23 September 1823 Moroni quoted Isaiah 11 to Joseph Smith which we know from subsequent revelation had a “hint” about Joseph’s genealogical origins.  If he engaged Moroni in a discussion about the meaning of this, which I believe there is evidence for, then he may well have understood very early the principles discussed in this essay.  We will consider these things in a future blog.

5.  Brigham Young said, "Joseph Smith, junior, was foreordained to come through the loins of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and so on down through the Prophets and Apostles; and thus he came forth in the last days to be a minister of salvation, and to hold the keys of the last dispensation of the fulness of times."  JD 7:290, discourse of 9 October 1859.


  1. Dan, thanks for trying to explain this. The idea that Joseph Smith Jr was in any interesting sense of the word a blood descendant of Abraham is one of the most confusing concepts for non-LDS Protestants to puzzle out. (Daniel Ludlow 1991 Ensign article has also been a great help.) I am still not sure I gronked all of it, though. Esp, given Paul's statements in Galatians 3, esp. 26-29, it seems superfluous. By having accepted the Gospel, I am part of the seed of Abraham already. If Paul is right, neither the Book of Abraham quote nor D&C 134 (which is a tricky one anyway), seem to add anything.
    Perhaps you could clarify this for me. Thanks!

    1. Robert, thank you for reading this short essay and for your question. Mormons have a statement similar to Gal. 3:26-29 in D&C 84:32-33. Much could be said about the matter, but in interest of simplicity (and not writing a second essay), I suggest that for us the matter revolves around the priesthood, but in this case I am concerned only about the priesthood held by Joseph Smith, not the saints in general. As you may know, priesthood authority is vital to the Mormon concept of the Restoration of the Gospel. Verses 33-34 of Section 84 says “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining of these two priesthoods [Aaronic and Melchizedek] of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.” I think you may agree that this does “add” something to what Paul said in Galatians.

      One might ask the same question about Jesus being the “king” as you have done here about Joseph Smith. One iteration of the Abrahamic promises given to Jacob in Gen. 35:11 says “kings shall come out of thy loins...” Possessing the gospel, according to your view of Gal. 3, Christ would be a king by virtue of being a Christian heir to the promises made to the Fathers. Moreover, John in Revelation sees the Saints wearing crowns and sitting upon thrones. Yet two of the evangelists felt some importance in establishing his right to be the king by his lineage. I think exactly the same thing is happening in the case of Joseph Smith. As the Prophet of the Restoration of primitive and pristine Christianity, for whatever reason, God felt it was necessary for the Saints to know that Joseph Smith was a legitimate heir to the Priesthood by his birthright. Three scriptures not mentioned in the above essay may give further emphasis to this point. In our Book of Abraham it is made clear that one of the Patriarch’s great quests was to possess the priesthood which he knew he had a “right” to by virtue of his lineage. (See Abr. 1:2-4). Second, when he received the covenant, the same Book of Abraham makes it clear that one of the things included in those promises was the “right” his “literal seed” held to receive the priesthood, and thereby bless the earth. (See Abr. 2:11). Finally, in December of 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation which told him that he and others involved in the restoration were “lawful heirs” to the priesthood because of their lineage. (See D&C 86:8-10)