Guest Post: Were the wise men Nephites (and Lamanites)?

Guest Post: Were the wise men Nephites (and Lamanites)? December 23, 2009

This is something my friend Mike M. put together. He is a serious social scientist who says that I can just describe this as the “crazy ramblings of some kook you knew in Rexburg.” While I knew many kooks in Rexburg, I had not considered Mike to be one. Anyways, here is something fun for Christmas:

Were the wise men Nephites (and Lamanites)?

By Mike M.

Here’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while . . .

Who were the “wise men” mentioned briefly in Matthew Chapter Two? There are many
plausible theories, but I would like to suggest a particularly intriguing possibility: perhaps the wise men were descendents of Lehi who travelled to Jerusalem from the western hemisphere.

The Book of Mormon offers some tantalizing clues to support such a notion. First, Lehi’s posterity in the New World had been looking forward to the coming of Christ for centuries. It makes sense that representatives from a righteous branch of the House of Israel would be allowed to witness the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah.

Nephite and/or Lamanite representatives also likely had the means to return to Jerusalem.

Approximately fifty years before the birth of Christ, Hagoth was building “exceedingly large ships” and sailing the “west sea” with large numbers of people (Alma 63: 5). And with the Brass Plates and the records of Lehi and Nephi, these representatives would have had some knowledge of Old World geography

Interestingly, the star that the wise men followed is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old or New Testaments. But righteous Nephites and Lamanites in the New World had been looking for just such a sign of Christ’s birth as a result of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecies.

The moniker “wise men” is also intriguing. Approximately two years before the Savior’s birth, we read in Helaman 16: 14 that “. . . angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year the scriptures began to be fulfilled.”

Finally, in terms of the gifts presented to Jesus, we know from the Book of Mormon that gold was had among the Nephites and Lamanites. And the travelers could have acquired frankincense and myrrh after their arrival in the Old World, particularly of they attempted to retrace the route of Lehi through Arabia.

But who, specifically, among the Nephites and Lamanites might have made such a trek back to the land of their forefathers? One possibility is Nephi (son of Helaman, father of the Nephi who was present at the time of Christ’s visit to the New World). Nephi’s ministry spanned the two decades before Christ’s birth. Nephi testified valiantly of the coming Messiah, and the Lord granted him the sealing power as a result of his righteousness and faithfulness (Helaman 10: 4, 5). Yet Nephi was not present when the long-awaited sign of Christ’s birth finally came. 3 Nephi 1: 2 states: “And Nephi, the son of Helaman, had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates of brass, and all the records which had been kept, and all those things which had been kept sacred from the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem.” Then in the next verse Mormon adds cryptically that Nephi “departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth . . .” Nephi’s disappearance is so noteworthy that Mormon mentions it again in the next chapter: “And Nephi, who was the father of Nephi, who had the charge of the records, did not return to the land of Zarahemla, and could nowhere be found in all the land” (3 Nephi 2: 9).

A possible traveling companion of Nephi was Samuel the Lamanite. Following Samuel’s bold declarations upon the walls of Zarahemla (declarations which included the signs of Christ’s birth), he “cast himself down from the wall, and did flee out of their lands” (Helaman 16: 7).

Mormon indicates that Samuel began to preach and prophecy among his own people, but interestingly “. . . he was never heard of more among the Nephites . . . ” (Helaman 16: 8).

It seems appropriate that Nephi and Samuel, two prophets who had faithfully testified of the coming Christ in the years before his birth (and perhaps a few other travelling companions), would be permitted to journey back the “land of Jerusalem” to personally witness the young Jesus.

I don’t claim to know that this actually happened and I may be way off, but it’s fun to consider the possibility that the wise men came from the Americas.

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