To Laura: A Rebuttal and a Revisit with the Sephardic Jews and the Melungeons and the Mormon Pioneers

Note: When I began my rebuttal to Laura’s comment , I meant for it to be a comment, but realized it was a post instead…

Jewish Star on SLC Tabernacle


When our people, the Sephardic Jews, left Spain, during the 400 years  of the Inquisition, they numbered from ¼ to ½ million people.  A large population of highly educated skilled individuals just did not go POOF into the night!

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Sephardic Jews and the LDS Connection: The Gathering

Because of my late husband Mike’s and my DNA tests, the name clues I have found in our genealogy, and  our inherited Sephardic Jewish autoimmune disease , the perception of our  ancestral Mormon pioneers as a group of British and other Western Europeans; is now clarified, as a gathering of multicultural peoples living amongst native Western Europeans.  I believe the glue that holds together the diverse genetic background of our ancestors is Judaism.

As “strangers in a strange land”, the devout Jew, crypto, and converso were tossed to and fro on the waves of uncertainty. Never feeling secure in their host environments; knowing their fate, lives, and fortunes could change on the whim of the Christian or Muslim majority; their support system was fractured and faith wavered. The Converso/Crypto Sephardim (Mediterranean Jews), Mizrahi (Asian Jews) and Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descendants  who were disassembled by the tolerance of Protestantism, persecution, poverty, and false messiahs; had all been prepared by God, to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hardly think my Mormon pioneer ancestors are all that unique. Many of  the classic Melungeon/ Sephardic names are familiar to me. I have glanced at a few of the early families in the church and I see Sephardic Jewish given and surnames among them.


Salt Lake Tabernacle Star of David

Because of my research, I bear a strong witness to what Joseph Fielding Smith said:

The Lord said He would scatter Israel among the Gentile nations, and by doing so he would bless the Gentile nations with the blood of Abraham. Today we are preaching the gospel in the world and we are gathering out, according to the revelations given to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and and the other prophets, the scattered sheep of the House of Israel. These scattered sheep are coming forth mixed with Gentile blood from their Gentile forefathers. Under all the circumstances it is very possible that the majority, almost without exception, of those who come into the Church in this dispensation have the blood of two or more of the tribes of Israel as well as the blood of the Gentiles. Joseph Fielding Smith Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 volumes, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-66, 3:63

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Sephardic Jews and the LDS Connection: Utah History Encyclopedia Is Wrong- Joseph Smith Was Right, Orson Hyde Is of Jewish Ancestry

hydeI believe investigating the history of the Crypto and Converso Sephardic Jews has the capacity to impact how we view the history of the Church. For example, from the Utah History Encyclopedia, published by the University of Utah:

There is a popular myth that Orson Hyde was of Jewish ancestry, but careful investigation has uncovered no evidence this is true.

In contrast, an excerpt from the book by Ivan J. Barrett Joseph Smith and the Restoration:

In 1832 only a handful of Jews lived in Palestine, and those who did had no rights under Turkish rule. The roots of Zionism in the Jewish communities of Europe were barely stirring and the thought of Jews gathering at all was virtually unheard of let alone a return of the Jews to the Land of Palestine.  But from that very time on, the spiritual stirrings of the Zionist movement began in earnest. God was about to give special ‘key’ to modern prophets as he had done with ancient ones; ‘keys’ to move the nations. In 1831, only a year after the Church was organized by Joseph Smith, another young man with a prophetic call by the name of Orson Hyde, age 26, of JEWISH ANCESTRY, was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by the Prophet Joseph Smith.  When Joseph laid his hands on the head of Orson Hyde he gave him a unique blessing where in he prophesied the following: “In due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem, the land of thy fathers, and be a watchman unto the House of Israel; and by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering of that People.”

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Part IX Sephardic Jews and the LDS Connection: The Great Melungeon Migration

After my article DNA Mormons? published in Sunstone, I was introduced to Marylee Mitcham thru Dan Wotherspoon. Marylee brought me back to the Melungeons,  I had investigated several years earlier. She told me of recent updates in Melungeon studies. Researchers had expanded the definition of Melungeon  to include tri-isolate groups in  Northern Georgia. Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Upstate and Long Island New York.   Now the possibility of our Melungeon-type ancestry seemed quite plausible.

I read up on the latest information and easily digested the new theories. After all, I had several years of getting comfortable with the idea of our ancestors as an European/Amerindian/African mix. We had ancestors who came to America in the 1600’s; so it was likely our DNA was a mixture  of European, Amerindian and African. We were mystified about the additional Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian DNA.

Later Marylee called to tell me she had  even more exciting news that my possible Melungeons were also Sephardic Jews.  I had never heard of Sephardic Jews, and was only vaguely aware of the Spanish Inquisition.  Dear Marylee persisted; so to placate her I conducted the “Uncle Carmi Test”.

Rhoda Benson daughter of Carmi Benson

Rhoda Benson daughter of Uncle Carmi Benson

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Part VII Sephardic Jews and the LDS Connection: The First Thanksgiving or Sukkoth in America

The first recorded evidence of a Jewish presence in England were the Jews of Normandy, who came with William the Conquerer, in 1066 AD.   The Jews in England flourished  and dispersed themselves into the towns of medieval England. The English communities which had  a  large Jewish population, large enough to sustain a synagogue were:  Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Colchister, Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford, Lincoln, London, Northhampton,Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Stamford, Winchester, Worcester and York.

Unfortunately peace for the English Jews was short-lived; beginning in 1189, massacres and anti-Jewish riots began.  In 1290, the Jews were expelled from England. Elizabeth Hirschman in When Scotland was Jewish proposes many of the Jews emigrated to Scotland where they joined Scottish Jews who had already established a presence a few centuries earlier. Thus the Jews in Scotland and few remaining Jews in England learned a valuable lesson which was to assimilate as a protective measure against losing their fortunes and their very lives.

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