The Ishmaelites in the Book of Mormon are the descendants of Ishmael, whose family journeyed with Lehi’s family from Jerusalem to the promised land. Ishmael’s progeny eventually aligned with Laman, Lemuel, and their descendants, merging into the larger group collectively known as Lamanites. This occurred after initial friction between Nephi and his brothers Laman and Lemuel, resulting in a split where the Nephites followed Nephi, while the Lamanites followed Laman and Lemuel, along with the sons of Ishmael (1 Nephi 7:6; 18:9). Over time, the distinct identity of the Ishmaelites as a separate group within the Lamanite coalition faded, and the specific designation “Ishmaelites” was seldom used (Jacob 1:13-14; Alma 43:13; 47:35; Mormon 1:8-9).
The scriptural record indicates that the Ishmaelites were part of the Lamanites’ rejection of the gospel and were identified as such during a period of significant division among the peoples of the Book of Mormon. They willfully rebelled against the teachings of Christ and perpetuated a tradition of unbelief among their children (4 Nephi 1:38). Despite this legacy of rebellion and apostasy, doctrinal revelations assert that the Ishmaelites, along with other Lamanite descendants, are promised the future blessing of receiving the knowledge of a Savior through the Book of Mormon (Doctrine and Covenants 3:16-20). This promise suggests a future restoration of the gospel among their descendants.