Battlestar Galactica and the Lost Ten Tribes

The re-imagined Battlestar series ended last year, and the DVD came out this past summer. But I was thinking of it the other day when someone mentioned the lost ten tribes of Israel.

How did I get from Battlestar Galatica (BSG) to the lost ten tribes?

Well, as many MSP probably already know, the original 1970s Battlestar series was created by Glen Larson who was also mormon. Or, at least Glen used some mormon doctrine in its creation.

The believing blog Millenial Star describes what the (older) series has in common with mormonism. Not the least of which was kobol, an anagram of kolob.

I confess I never saw the original series back in the day. But with the updated version – I was hooked. The tension between trying to figure out who the enemy was – and how to face that enemy while still staying true to your beliefs – all fascinating topics. The series had great characters as well, particularly female characters.

Nonetheless, I was surprised when someone mentioned that the lost ten tribes of Israel were not only the ancestors of the Native Americans, but also that Joseph Smith was rumored to have said some were living on a distant star.

In all my years as an active LDS, I never heard anything like this. I remember hearing that the ten tribes were “lost”, and would eventually be reunited – but nothing about where they specifically were located. I did know that people received patriarchal blessings, and their tribe would be revealed there (most people I knew were from Ephraim).

It turns out that Joseph Smith was rumored to have said this – but it sounds to me like hearsay.

I found a good description of the rumor here at a website called “holy fetch” (a site debunking mormon faith promoting rumors by an active LDS member).

In thinking about the updated BSG series, it makes complete sense that one could use the “ten tribes on another planet” rumor/belief as a springboard for the story. The story line (I don’t think I’m giving too much away) is that there are twelve colonies who have escaped the destruction of their planet(s) and are trying to find their way back to Earth (home).

I haven’t been an active mormon for quite some time, and I still find myself surprised by some things that are doctrine (or rumored to be doctrine).

It’s just another reason for some sort of official review of these types of things where it would be clear that something is doctrinal, and something was just Joseph Smith “speaking as a man”.

In this instance, I don’t think an apology is necessary – just some clarification.

If nothing else though, it definitely spawned a great television series…

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8 Responses

  1. profxm says:

    I’ve heard this as well. I also heard that the Lost Ten Tribes were at the North Pole.

    I’m definitely interested in someone tracking these rumors down. Where did they start?

    Oh, and the new version of Battlestar Galactica rocked! But if you want a totally trip flashback to your days as a temple endowed Mormon, you need to watch the marriage episode from the Original Battlestar series – they have groovy handshakes, nifty clothes, and odd utterances. It’s some funky stuff! Little does the world know that they’ve seen a Mormon temple wedding on primetime TV (though recast in space).

  2. kuri says:

    I haven’t heard the living on another planet thing, but like profxm, I’ve heard people say they believe the Ten Tribes live under the North Pole or at the Center of the Earth (having gotten in through the North Pole or something).

  3. aerin says:

    Thanks Profxm and kuri for your comments.

    And I just saw this link on mormonmatters. Holland denounces past teachings.

    So it appears that there is some effort to go through some of these past statements, this past quote doctrine unquote and repudiate it.

    I think it does need to be clear and unequivocal (and specific). Define exactly what the folklore was, what impact that had on people and their lives. Because it had quite an impact on people’s lives (to my mind).

    In my research about this – I found that there was lots of speculation about the ten tribes around the 1820s, and a book called “Views of the Hebrews” had been written around the same time, about this topic. I need to read the book – but many have argued that Joseph Smith was not so interested in finding out where all the ten tribes had disappeared to (unlike other questions of where the Native Americans had come from).

  4. kuri says:

    There’s a long and rather fascinating entry under “Lost Tribes of Israel” in Mormon Doctrine. Although it says nothing about the North Pole, after first stating that we don’t know anything about “the location or condition of that part of teh Ten tribes who went into the north country,” it gos on with the apocryphal account of the 10 Tribes escaping from Assyria (2 Esdras 13:40-47), segues into 19th century apostle George Reynolds explaining how they must have headed north (thus explaining the “blood of Ephraim” found in Northern Europe), followed by McConkie stating that they were still “a distinct people” visited by Christ after his ministry to the Nephites, and concluding with a 1916 prophecy by James Talmadge saying that the 10 tribes will come forth with their own records that will take their place alongside the Bible and the Book of Mormon and be read by “some here present.”

    So my reading of McConkie is that he didn’t think they were necessarily still recognizable as a group, but that their descendants were still around, and that the Lord would reveal them (“they are not lost unto the Lord”) along with their scriptures and they would then “return” to the fold under the guidance of the LDS Prophet.

  5. chanson says:

    My memories of what I learned about the Lost Ten Tribes are pretty vague. I’m pretty sure I was taught some variant of the Mormon Doctrine story that Kuri recounts in #4. I never watched “Battlestar Galactica”, though, so I wasn’t aware precisely how the Mormonism fit in.

    I was hoping that Andrew S. would comment on this thread and explain a little about his father’s beliefs. I remember him once mentioning that his dad’s eclectic beliefs included some things from “Battlestar Galactica”…

  6. Wayne says:

    I remember my dad telling me a story about an Mormon guy being somewhere in Utah and being abducted by aliens. He gets taken up to a cigar shaped space ship, one of 12 (double parked, no less). Basically, the aliens were human; one of the leaders tells the Mormon guy that they (the inhabitants of the 100% Cuban space ships) are the lost tribes of Israel and…wait for it…the Mormon church is true.

  7. It looks like several sources report having heard Joseph Smith say that the ten tribes lived on a portion of the Earth that had broken off and would be rejoined to the Earth when the tribes are gathered in.

    This doctrine was well enough known to make it into the 1891 hymnal (originally a poem by Eliza R. Snow published in Millennial Star v. 13, no. 17 in 1851):

    Thou, earth, wast once a glorious sphere
    of noble magnitude,
    And didst with majesty appear,
    among the worlds of God.

    But thy dimensions have been torn
    asunder, piece by piece,
    And each dismembered fragment borne
    abroad to distant space.…

    And when the Lord saw fit to hide
    the “ten lost tribes” away,
    Thou, earth, was severed to provide
    the orb on which they stay.…

    A ‘restitution’ yet must come,
    that will to thee restore,
    By that grand law of worlds,
    thy sum of matter heretofore.

    And thou, O earth, will leave the track
    Thou hast been doomed to trace;
    The Gods with shouts will bring thee back
    To fill thy native place.

  8. BTW, I clipped out some parts of the hymn that implied that the City of Enoch was also on a planet that had been severed from the Earth.

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