Note: I suppose I could have gone further with this exposition, but I’m trying to keep my posts down in size. Hopefully, there is enough here to generate a lively discussion, or at least give food for thought. Click the links to see the scriptural references.
An overlooked prophecy
I like to think of the tribe of Ephraim as the Gentile dumping ground. If you are a Gentile that joins the church of Christ, chances are pretty good that when you get your patriarchal blessing, you’ll be given the tribal lineage of Ephraim. This, of course, fulfills prophecy, as Ephraim was blessed by Jacob (father of Joseph who was sold into Egypt) to become a multitude of nations (Gentiles).
However, there is a prophecy spoken by an angel to Nephi that indicates there will come a time when the Gentiles that repent will be put into the tribe of Manasseh:
And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks—and harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded. (1 Nephi 13: 40-42 & 1 Nephi 14: 1-2)
First to be last and then last to be first
Manasseh was the firstborn, elder son of Joseph, while Ephraim the next born, a younger son. However, Ephraim was blessed with the birthright and was made greater (in number, as the Gentiles would be put into his tribe) than, and set before (or made first over), Manasseh. Nevertheless, both Manasseh and Ephraim had the charge of pushing the people together in the last days (the gathering).
Today, the Gentile Ephraimites are still first over (or set before) Manasseh, meaning that it is the tribe of (Gentile) Ephraim that leads in the church and that is more numerous than Manasseh, which takes a secondary place among church membership, assisting the Gentile Ephraimites in all things. In fact, any non-Gentile converts (actual seed of Israel) that come into the church also act as assistants to the Gentile Ephraimitish leadership.
However, the angel’s prophecy is such that at some future point in time—specifically, in the words of the angel, “in that day that [the Lamb of God] shall manifest himself unto [the Gentiles] in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks”—the Gentiles that a) “shall hearken unto the Lamb of God” and b) “harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God” will be numbered among the tribe of Manasseh. The angel also says, “yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel.” As the tribe of Manasseh is also numbered among the house of Israel, both enumerations fit. So, when the Gentiles are numbered among the tribe of Manasseh, they are also automatically numbered among the house of Israel.
This is a future prophecy
My understanding is that this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. It means that when the marvelous work and a wonder takes place (read the rest of 1 Nephi 14), and new records are brought forth through the Gentiles, to the Gentiles, and then taken to the remnant of Jacob (the seed of Lehi, which are Manassehites), most Gentiles will reject them. There will be some Gentiles, though, that will accept the records, and these will be numbered among the tribe of Manasseh. These Gentile Manassehites will then assist the remnant of Jacob in America (the real tribe of Manasseh) in building Zion and gathering the house of Israel. (It is real Israel that will build and gather, while grafted-in, adopted Israel—the Gentiles—will assist them, and not vice versa.) Thus, the first (Ephraim) shall be last and the last (Manasseh) shall be first.
Numbering is a future, tribal event
The Ephraimitish Gentiles, meaning those Gentiles whose patriarchal blessings indicate they pertain to the tribe of Ephraim (which fulfills prophecy), who repent after these new records are revealed will be numbered among the (now functioning) tribe of Manasseh, along with the non-Ephraimitish Gentiles who repent. Currently, although our patriarchal blessings indicate tribal affiliations, none of the LDS function as bona fide tribes, nor have any of them been numbered among a tribe. Numbering is a future event that pertains to bona fide, functioning tribes. This is why in General Conference, when the church numbers are given, we never hear an enumeration of any of the tribes that make up the church membership. Instead, we are told how the church membership is a “united nation,” such as President Uchtdorf recently told LDS at a multi-stake conference.
Destruction among the unbelieving Ephraimitish Gentiles
When the angel’s prophecy that “the house of Israel shall no more be confounded” comes to pass, real Israel, the remnant of Jacob (the real tribe of Manasseh) shall go through the unbelieving Ephraimitish Gentiles (who are not numbered among the seed of Lehi, as they do not believe the new records) as a lion among flocks of sheep, treading them down and tearing them in pieces. They shall literally be cut off from among the people for rejecting Christ’s words. These slated-to-be-destroyed people will not be the unbelieving Gentiles who never had the gospel, but the salt that has lost its savor (see 3 Nephi 16: 15 and D&C 101: 39-40), meaning Gentiles who have already entered into the covenant relationship with Christ.
What of real Ephraim and the other real tribes?
They will also play a part in the last days, but as for us Gentiles, there are only two tribes with which we have anything to do: first Ephraim and second Manasseh and then (later) first Manasseh and second Ephraim. But, although Manasseh will get thousands injected into it from the Gentile converts, when the real tribe of Ephraim returns and functions tribally, the nations of the earth that repent during the ensuing preaching of the word (found in the new records) will be adopted into and numbered among Ephraim, fulfilling the prophecy (of Ephraim being more numerous than Manasseh) a second time.