Zarahemla: Its' Meaning, History and Symbol ....

The name Zarahemla has a prophetic meaning. There were many prophets, kings and great men in Hebrew history whose name began with Ze or Za. This originally meant descendant of. There are two Hebrew words to consider. Zara, the name given to Judah's son, means the seed; the true seed. Its root has several potent meanings: to thrash; to scatter; to sow; to plant; a male son, hence a son. Another Hebrew word is rahem. This word means the womb, the seat of love and emotion. Hence, za re hem is a loved son of my womb. The la at the end of the word negates, or cancels. Put together the word Zarahemla means a son of my womb, forsaken of love, scattered without mercy.

                            Za                                  Rahem                                                   La

                        My son             Of my womb taken away, loved              scattered without mercy

Zarahemla is used two times in the Bible, Deuteronomy 13:18 and Isaiah 47:6. The word has significant implications and prophetic meanings for Restoration believers.

Zarah was the eldest son and rightful heir to the blessing that Jacob gave Judah. While he was the first to breach his mother's womb by extending his hand, his twin brother, Pharez, came out first. The midwife knew which child was the firstborn because she had tied a scarlet thread around Zarah's exposed hand before it disappeared into the womb. Since the boy with the scarlet thread was the chosen seed, the midwife named him Zarah. The birth of Zarah and Pharez symbolized the breach caused when Pharez's descendants achieved the throne before the rightful seed reigned over Israel. David was a descendant of Pharez.

Zarah had five sons. Descendants of two of Zarah's sons, Calcol and Dara, perhaps along with other members of Zarah's family, left the Hebrews before the Egyptian exodus and populated some Grecian isles and the coasts of Turkey. Surviving histories do not reveal the reason for this separation. Later generations of these exiles migrated to Spain and, then, Ireland, scattering the chosen seed along the coasts of the known world and fulfilling the meaning of the word Zarahemla.

Israelites inhabiting the Promised Land knew about the dispersed Hebrews. Solomon traded with his brethren in Tarshish, a city on the Atlantic coast of Spain, and imported tin from Britain. When Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and executed King Zedikiah's sons, he ended the reign of Pharez's descendants. Although he took Zedikiah to Babylon, he left the king's daughters with Jeremiah. Contained within that group of women were all nursing infants from the king's household. One of those infants was Mulek, an unweaned son of Zedikiah and, therefore, a descendant of Pharez. Mulek means belonging to the king. Ezekiel prophesied that tender twigs would be preserved on eagle's wings. One of those twigs was Mulek. Another was Tea-Tephi, a daughter of Zedikiah. Jeremiah took them to Egypt and then Ireland, where he wedded Tea-Tephi to Eochaidl, the Heremon, a descendant of Zarah. Afterwards, he crowned Eochaidl king. God had not forgotten the ancient blessing, nor had he abandoned his scattered seed. When Jeremiah gave the scepter to a descendant of Zarah, God healed the breach that Pharez caused and showed that the name Zarahemla implied an eventual refuge for God's people.

At some point during Mulek's travels, probably after Eochaidl was crowned, he and his supporters left the Israelite colony in Ireland and sailed west, arriving in Central America. They still considered themselves the chosen seed, rejected without mercy and scattered to the end of the earth. The word Zarahemla so exactly described their condition that their kings took the word as their title. They even named their capitol with the word.

God did not forget the Mulekites, but showed his favor to them by joining them with the Nephites, a more righteous group of Hebrews whom God led to America from Jerusalem just before Nebuchadnezzar subdued it. While the Mulekites did not enjoy political power after their union, for the right to reign now rested with the descendants of Zarah, their capitol, Zarahemla, once it was nurtured by true religion, became the center of Nephite culture. After his resurrection, Jesus visited the Nephite-Mulekite nation, showing that he will save all scattered Israel. Their record, the Book of Mormon, contains the Savior's teachings and is the standard around which all latter-day Israel will eventually rally.

Although the church in ancient America, as well as the church among the Gentiles, apostatized shortly after the Savior's earthly ministry, Jesus restored his church in this last dispensation. He commissioned Joseph Smith, Jr., a descendant of Tea-Tephi and Eochaidl to call the Lord's people to true religion and prepare the world for his return. Unfortunately, those saints initially gathered into the gospel proved too disobedient. God rejected the church of that day and scattered its members. Zarahemla Branch was among the numerous severed branches. It had been recently established as a place of worship for those saints sent to hew timbers for the Nauvoo temple. Their name typified the condition endured by the dispersed saints in that dark and cloudy day. It also witnessed that God would remember and comfort his people. Proclaiming that the seed of Joseph Smith, Jr. would rescue the church and return the saints to the land of Zion, they invited others to wait until the Lord brought forth Joseph's son. Meanwhile, they preached the gospel, courted young Joseph, comforted the saints, and helped heal the breach fragmenting the church at that time.

When Joseph III accepted the presidency, the Reorganized Church flourished. Under his direction the quorums reassembled, the residue of believers gathered, and the church stabilized. Elders again announced gospel tidings on isles and continents, while spiritual gifts frequently edified the assemblies of the saints. However, insidious voices gradually enticed many to worldly philosophies and private interpretations until division overtook the church. Today, it lies changed. Many saints scattered around the world are confused or alienated, struggling to maintain fading hopes for a literal Zion. Even the seed of Joseph seems to have abandoned its responsibility to lead the church. The word Zarahemla certainly describes our day.

Just as God remembered his people exiled in Ireland and those scattered to America -- just as he prospered the saints at Zarahemla, Beloit and Palmyra -- he will comfort his church today. The great latter-day work began by Joseph Smith will triumph. The seed of Joseph will yet lead the church. The testimony of the Spirit says that soon a literal descendant of Joseph Smith will ascend the presidency of the Reorganized Church according to the lawful pattern. Then, the church will be cleansed and the fullness of the gospel, especially as contained in the Book of Mormon, will be received by all latter-day Israel. Until that happens, the saints' duty is to faithfully discharge their responsibilities: that is to live charitably and circumspectly, to worship the heavenly Father in the name of the Savior and observe his ordinances, and to bear witness of the divinity of the restored gospel and the certainty of Zion's establishment. God will yet build his holy temple. Perhaps he is now preparing each timber -- purifying the saints into lively and well fitted stones, worthy to inhabit the physical edifice when it is constructed. We at Zarahemla Branch dedicate our efforts to preach the restored gospel, to pray for the cleansing of the Reorganized Church and the appearance of the seed of Joseph, and to help heal the breach fragmenting the church, knowing that he who scattered Israel will gather her and give her rest in the holy city, even Zion the beautiful.