I served a mission in Guatemala. I whole heartedly believed I was in Book of Mormon territory! Preaching to the Lamanites in their native tongue of K’ekchi.
For those of you that may not know about the Book of Mormon, it is a story of two groups of people; They fight wars, build great nations and worship God, all sorts of great stories of faith, redemption, even subterfuge and war. It spans 1000 years, starting about 600 BC and tells of a family that left Jerusalem and ended up in the Americas.
One fundamental theme running through the book is an ongoing war between the good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are the Lamanites, named such after following Laman and Lemual (the rebellious bothers) and not walking the path of God.
They are generally annoyances in the side of the folk known as the Nephites. Named after, you guessed it, Nephi! Nephi isn’t a lazy good for nothing gomer like his brothers though, he is a spiritual giant. He does exactly what God wants done, when he wants it done. He is even willing to chop off a guys head and impersonate him because the spirit of God told him to.
In summary, you have a family feud that results in some people following Nephi and others not so much. The lord didn’t like how these Lamanites were acting and told Nephi this. Rather than me summarizing I think you should read it for yourself.
In the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi chapter 5 it says:
20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will anot hearken unto thy words they shall be bcut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were ccut off from his presence.
21 And he had caused the acursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair andbdelightsome, that they might not be centicing unto my people the Lord God did cause a dskin of eblackness to come upon them.
22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall bealoathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.
23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that amixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.
24 And because of their acursing which was upon them they did become an bidle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.
25 And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to astir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction.
Did you catch that? The lord cursed the Lamanites, gave them a black skin like the color of flint. Made sure they were loathsome to the exceedingly fair and white Nephites. He even made sure that if you hooked up with a Lamanite you’d have little flint colored babies too. Once cursed they got all lazy and became a scourge to the good people that did what God wanted.
Over the next 1000 years recorded in the book these two factions fought back and forth. Sometimes the Lamanites were even the good guys, especially when the Nephites got prideful. But eventually the Nephites were wiped completely out, only the darker skinned evil Lamanites were left, there was still hope though. They were told if they repented they would eventually blossom like a rose and become white* and delightsome people. They just had to do what God wanted. One of the overriding morals of the story in the Book of Mormon is God curses you when you don’t do what he wants you to. In this case he cursed them with a skin of blackness.
Ok so by now you are wondering why the lesson on this book? I promise I will get to that, but first understand, on my mission I taught the people that I thought were the Lamanites above, the ones that were promised if they came back to the truth they would blossom like the rose and become less tan and more delightsome. I had the truth for them too. I believed it to the core.
Now to my point. There are some people that read those passages and say they are racist, I didn’t think so back then. You see the way this doctrine was explained to me was that this whole skin color thing was part of a greater plan that started in the preexistence (the life we lived before this one). When we were up in heaven before being born I learned one third of us followed Lucifer and two thirds of us followed Jesus. Those two thirds are everyone that has or ever will live on earth. (what happened to the followers of the light bringer is a whole other topic)
Now since everyone is different I was taught not everyone was as valiant as everyone else in our pre-earth life. The Book of Abraham even specifically says there were some noble and great ones, lending credence to this understanding. If there were more valiant spirits, then that meant some were less valiant. It was also explained to me that some were just not ready for the responsibility of holding the priesthood here on earth, they chose not to have it in the life before this one. I suppose some where just plain female too 🙂 but again I digress. Given this understanding it made sense to me that God might color a people with his skin crayons. By doing so he made it easy for us to understand who got what in this life. I felt if a guy before this life didn’t cut the mustard or just didn’t want the responsibility of holding God’s sacred priesthood who was I to second guess that? It was either Gods, or that persons prerogative. Also there was a great plan in execution as well. I was taught that eventually all those (male)souls that didn’t deserve or didn’t want it would have come to earth. Once all of them were born, grown old and passed on, it would be at that point God would give the black people the priesthood (well the males at least). This happened when I was 7 years old, cheers were heard all around. 12 years later I was teaching the poor cursed remnant of the Lamanites telling them the good news! Your time to blossom is now! I felt like I was fulfilling prophecy. I hope you can see how in light of this greater plan I didn’t believe these passages to be racist at all.
Fast forward another 25 years and this happens. The church that I preached for makes this declaration in the linked article posted last week.
“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”
Please let me draw your attention to the first sentence:
“the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse…”
Say what??? Isn’t that exactly what the Lord did when he was talking to Nephi? Didn’t the lord himself divinely curse the poor Lamanites with a skin like flint?
Then it says:
“…or that it reflects actions in a pre-mortal life”
Which completely eliminates the way I was able to view those scriptural doctrines as non-prejudicial. In one swoop, not only is the scripture called into question, but the justification for it being in the book is completely destroyed. The statement from the church goes on to say it condemns these racist doctrines unequivocally. Leaving no room for misunderstanding their stance on this. Racism is bad, even in the past, even if it was Nephi’s theory as to why people are black and considered a scourge.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy as a clam that the church is trying to put the racist stuff behind it and look to the future. But, didn’t they just disavow the very foundational book that the church was built on? The Book of Mormon is why we are called Mormons after all. It is a story of white guys and flint guys, good guys and bad guys, blessed guys and cursed guys. I mean the whole book is based on these two groups. I can’t imagine how the story would read if you took out the references to colors and curses.
Maybe that is the long term plan, maybe in 50 more years that book will be just an allegory, a remnant of the past as taught by female priesthood holders. Maybe they are saying the entire Book of Mormon was just a theory of some guy. Or maybe this is all just a ruse to appease the masses and win more converts while deep down inside the leaders still believe that God will curse the evil apostate with a dark skin for causing the church grief.
Speaking of which, do I look more tan to you?
*Pure in the post 1987 version of the book
In case you were wondering if this release was approved by the leaders of the church, Apologist Mike Tannehill recently called the church headquarters upset for the very reasons posted here, he was assured this release was approved by the presidency and council of the 12.
I feel compelled to reply to this: “Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy as a clam that the church is trying to put the racist stuff behind it and look to the future. But, didn’t they just disavow the very foundational book that the church was built on? The Book of Mormon is why we are called Mormons after all. It is a story of white guys and flint guys, good guys and bad guys, blessed guys and cursed guys. I mean the whole book is based on these two groups. I can’t imagine how the story would read if you took out the references to colors and curses.”
If you removed colors and curses (great alliteration, BTW) from the Book of Mormon, I dare say you’d have the exact same story. And by disavowing racist content, which in fact isn’t central to the book’s narrative project (which I’ll discuss below), the church isn’t, in fact, disavowing its founding text.
The Book of Mormon, at core, is about one main thing: The Abrahamic Covenant. God made a promise to Abraham that he’d have three things: (a) a promised land, (b) posterity, (c) and a relationship with God (i.e., a covenant relationship with God). By extension, and through Moses, God made this same covenant with the entire House of Israel.
Then, of course, in roughly 600 BC, Israel, the Promised Land, fell to Babylonic forces. The entire House of Israel were thus left wondering whether God had failed them (i.e., failed to keep his Abrahamic covenant promises).
That, then, is the context and setting for the BoM. The main point of the BoM, therefore, is to show the House of Israel that God’s promise(s) to Abraham (and them) were, and are being, fulfilled w/r/t at least these BoM people — i.e., to various descendents of Joseph, Israel’s son.
What complicates the Abrahamic Covenant narrative that I’ve outlined, of course, is that the BoM (as you rightly describe above) is the story of one family who fractures into warring halves and whose descendents create a society that, by the narrative’s end, devolves into genocide. So much for happy endings.
Yet, if you look at the BoM’s stated purpose (the Title Page), you’ll see that it conceives of itself (and let’s agree to set aside intentional fallacies for the nonce) as a message and sign from God that His/Her/Its Abrahamic Covenant is in full force. And that, moreover, the covenant applies not just to the House of Israel but to all of human creation (i.e., to “Gentiles”), as well. That latter caveat is hugely important, BTW, for resolving many if not most of the complaints that God is unfair or unjust or racist or “changed his mind about black people,” etc. In other words, the BoM’s update of the Abrahamic Covenant shows that God’s original (or total or complete) plan concerns all of humanity. Period. No exceptions.
In other words, the BoM’s message is this: God’s salvation is a gift for all. God’s so-called Chosen People(s) are synecdoches for humanity as a whole. In other words, all of humanity is “God’s chosen people.” But God, of course, being greater (i.e., more intelligent, developed, evolved) than all of us, has to unfurl that plan piecemeal.
And that skin color, as you note, is irrelevant when it comes to judging the worth of a human soul. Likewise, skin color is irrelevant when it comes to the BoM’s quote-unquote meaning.
All that being said, you will doubtlessly find among what I’ve written a variety of things to quibble with. I won’t be offended. I haven’t staked my life on this post. I’m happy to discuss, etc.
Ok for the moment lets assume (as I believe you do) that the book of mormon is an accurate history of people in the americas. Now if that is the case, then if follows that God did do all the things in the book, abrahamic covenant, etc, etc. Given that back drop, here is my question.
If skin color is irrelevant…. then why did God curse them and make sure it was recorded in the book? If God knew that someday in the future that his church would have to disavow this embracing racist doctrine, then why did he make it a racist thing in the first place?
As for the story… it is entirely about one faction being cursed for not doing what God wanted, and the other faction being blessed for doing what God wanted. When people didn’t do what god wanted they were cursed were they not? The entire storyline depends on the original curse and to some extent the skin color that was a result of that. That is how you knew they were the ‘bad guys’ Now I will grant you that there is a story of redemption where the bad guys became good guys and vice versa. This story led to me believing all the indians were in fact Lamanites (Nephi’s cursed brothers, just incase you forgot the story. 🙂 ) that were recovering from this cursed life and would someday blossom as the rose. For the life of me I can’t think of anything that you can point at that says they have blossomed as a rose. (unless you think casinos on reservations are a sign of blossoming into something pretty)
I get that you look at other parts of the allegory and come up with a meaning to make it all still make sense to you, but I totally disagree that the story wouldn’t change without the colors and curses in it. Think about it, if there wasn’t a faction that due to their unbelief hadn’t been cursed by God, there wouldn’t be much of a story there. Good stories need conflict, even bad stories need it too. Even if they were still bad guys, you are saying that that story would be the same if God wasn’t upset with the lazy, sneaky, good for nothing lamanites? (paraphrasing 2 Nephi 5:25) For Fridges sake you’d have to delete most of that chapter to take out the colors and cursings! Considering that that chapter sets the tone for the warring factions later on I see it as very relevant.
Now while I agree that skin color is irrelevant to the worth of a soul. I can’t agree that it is irrelevant to the Book of Mormon, and here is why. That book is considered foundational scripture. It is according to the LDS church, the ‘most true book on earth’ If that book is true, then it follows that God, thought it right to curse and mark people via their skin color. To disavow that clear message in the book, is to disavow either:
A) the God of that book as a being that wasn’t willing to use race to disgust who was and wasn’t blessed by him on the planet
B) the book is wrong about a very fundamental thing that is woven into the entire story. (which kinda shoots in the foot in terms of being the most true correct book on earth)
If you think that God isn’t the kind of person that will mark the worth of a soul by using skin color (which seems to be the case to me), then you have to align more with option B) and given your explanation above that seems to be the camp you fall in, a sort of its-still-a-good-story-of-redemption-even-if-some-of-the-facts-are-mixed-up sorta way.
Now of course the realization that the BoM can’t really meet the claim of being the ‘most true’ book can be difficult. Shelf breaking even. Because if it is just good allegory and teaches a good message, well maybe it was never really a legit history at all but instead just a story that captured the imagination enough to build a church on.
First.I really have to say I very much enjoy your sense of irreverent humor and sarcasm(I have a very dark sense of humor myself .Hey not my fault God made me this way tongue in cheek).I stumbled across your site and have been reading most of the day(bored at work).It’s well written thoughtful and very insightful.Thank you.I have been out of the church for many years but only recently have discovered why I felt like I did(as I have also researched it a lot in recent years).It has been an amazing discovery.Sad to think the only reason the church is publishing explanations of their history is because they have to.They should have and could have done this before and then if people choose to join then at least they have the facts and not some white washed version.Anyway just wanted to say thanks to you and all the others who have shared their stories and insights.
Thank you for writing this blog. I was lucky enough to stumble across your Young Women’s program post, and now I can’t stop reading. With there being so much racism in the Book of Mormon and yet the church changed it’s mind about black people, I have hope that they’ll change their mind about gay people, too. I can’t think of nearly as many anti-gay scriptures as there are anti-black, and that leads me to believe society has more sway on doctrine than “God” does.
There are lots of signs that the church is becoming more progressive, that I applaud. Due to the fact there are a lot of very nice, good, wonderful people in the church in a lot of ways it can be a very good club to belong to, they do have to let go of those past claims of ‘the prophet speaks thinking is done’ stuff though. That is the bit that allows for the abuse by the few that have power over the many.
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First of all the book of mormon is a fraud.
Book of Mormon fraud – Book of Mormon fraud review
The evidence indicates that the Book of Mormon is in fact an amalgamation of ideas that were inspired by joseph’s own environment(new) and themes from the Bible…
Take a look ..
A few more scriptures for consideration
“…the Lord shall curse the land with much heat…and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.” (Moses 7:8)
“And Enoch also beheld …the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it were the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not a place among them.” (Moses 7:22)
“Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land. The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden. When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land…” (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:21-24, 26c)
“…he [God] said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou was chosen before thou wast born…And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate…” (Abraham 3:23, 26)
“…after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” (I Nephi 12:23)
“…Behold, they had hardened their hearts against him…wherefore, as they were white, and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their sins.” (2 Nephi 5:21-22)
“And the skins of the Lamanites(4) were dark…which was a curse upon them because of their transgression against their brethren…therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them. And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people…” (Alma 3:6,8)
“And then shall they [Lamanites] rejoice…and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people” (2 Nephi 30:6, 1830, 1920, and 1977 editions)
Your comments sound very racist from you saying if you married with flint God would make sure your kid was flint to saying Do I look more tan to you? Stop the ignorance. (White lady married to a black man and we have 2 kids together).
According to Mormon scripture and prophets in the past kids from interracial marriages are as cursed as their parents.
read this, it is the origin of the quote from BY in the church article where they claim he predicts blacks getting the priesthood some day. decide for yourself if it has been taken out of context the way the church refers to it.
I didn’t say it, just repeated what scripture says. I personally do not believe is inspired or the word of God anymore. I did at one time till I realized how illogical it all was and came to the conclusion that I had been wrong thinking the church was true.
As for the last line, if you missed it, this is sarcasm pointedly accenting the scripture that curses people for fighting agains the church which many will see this post as doing. I use sarcasm to make a point. Racist attitudes of the church in the past are wrong. The church now agrees with that, but in so doing tacitly admits its own scriptures are wrong.
If you took my sarcasm seriously I apologize, it was not my intent to demean any mixed marriages or anyone of any race. Only to point out the factiousness of the truth claims made by the church.
Maybe they can re-write the entire book of mormon, leaving out all the stuff that is racist; oh but then the story doesn’t make any sense, does it?
good work IceMan. You pointed out how idiotic the entire thing is and how the church can’t be honest to save their lives. Central America is a great place, I wish the Mormons would leave it alone already
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