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42 Questions


Question 33

If genealogy is so important, why does the New Testament twice condemn seeking after genealogies, and why is The Book of Mormon silent on the subject altogether?  (See 1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9).

Response:   by Malin L. Jacobs

If genealogy is condemned by the Bible, or even merely unimportant, why does it contain genealogy at all, especially Christ’s (Matt 1:1-17, Rom 1:3).  The Old Testament is replete with genealogy, beginning with Adam’s family and continuing to Noah and his sons (Gen 4-5).  Cain and Abel’s descendents are also included (Gen 4).  Genesis 10 is devoted to listing the primary descendents of Noah’s sons.  Chapter 11 includes the line from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham.

In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul is not condemning genealogy per se.  Indeed, Paul notes that not only is he an Israelite, but also that he is from the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11: 1).  He therefore must have learned his own ancestry, something that he is unlikely to have mentioned in Romans had he thought that God condemned either his finding or knowing that information.

Timothy 1:4 states that what is to be avoided are “fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions. . .” [KJV, emphasis added]

For most English readers, modern translations are more easily understood:

“. . .myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation. . .” [NASB]
“. . .myths and endless genealogies.  These promote controversies. . .” [NIV]

According to the Bible, the problem is the controversies and speculation that may arise from genealogical research.  Indeed, some research is devoted to finding connections between the one sponsoring the research and a supposed famous or royal ancestor.  The desire to connect oneself to famous ancestors can incline one to accept feeble evidence, ignore contrary evidence, and increase one’s gullibility about one’s family connections.  In addition, if one does find such a connection, one may become haughty and look down his nose at “lesser” people.  So-called “Blue Blood” is no better or worse than “peasant blood.”  Ultimately one’s ancestors neither increase nor decrease one’s standing in God’s eyes.

The purpose of LDS genealogical research is not to tie oneself to famous people (though such discoveries do happen), but to find one’s ancestors, be they kings or horse thieves, for the purpose of performing vicarious gospel ordinances for them.  A side benefit is, to the extent possible, learning one’s family history, which is also not condemned by the Bible.

Contrary to the assertion of the critic, the Book of Mormon is far from silent about genealogy.  In 1 Ne 3:2 Lehi instructs Nephi and his brothers to return to Jerusalem and obtain the brass plates from Laban.  Two reasons are noted for obtaining these plates:  To obtain the record of the Jews; and to obtain Lehi’s genealogy (1 Ne 3:3).  Nephi wrote that his father found his genealogy on the plates and also discovered that he and Laban were both descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt (1 Ne 5:14-16).

Genealogical information is spread throughout the Book of Mormon.  Nephi started keeping the records of his people and gave them to his younger brother, Jacob (Jacob 1: 1-2), who gave the records to his son Enos (Jacob 7:27).  Enos gave the records to his son Jarom (Jarom 1), who gave them to his son Omni.  Omni noted that a primary purpose for keeping the records was  “. . . to preserve our genealogy. . .” (Omni 1, emphasis added).

Omni gave the records to his son, Amaron (Omni 3), who gave them to his brother Chemish (Omni 8), who gave them to his son Abinadom (Omni 10).  Abinadom notes (Omni 11) that the records kept by the kings also included genealogical information.  Abinadom passed the records to his son, Amaleki (Omni 12), who lived during the reign of King Benjamin.

King Mosiah and his people fled the land of Nephi and found the people of Zarahemla.  King Zarahemla gave Mosiah his genealogy (Omni 18).  Coriantimr was the last of the Jaredites (whose record is the book of Ether), who lived with the people of Zarahemla for nine months.  The records of the Jaredites contained genealogical information (Omni 22; Ether 1:6-33).

The above references only sample the genealogical contents of The Book of Mormon.  To say that the Book of Mormon is silent about genealogy is simply wrong.  It seems amazing that critics could read the Book of Mormon and remain unaware of all the genealogical references it contains.