The Withering Lamanite Rose and The Meaning of Truth

Something bothered me about the recent LDS article on DNA and the Book of Mormon but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. That, coupled with the fact there were about 20 different takes on it in outer blogness the Sunday it released, kept me from putting keyboard to the inter webs till now. Over and the article rolled around in my noodle as I tried to figure out what was bugging me. Then I realized it, the Lamanite promise that they would blossom like the rose has been washed into the past along with all the other doctrines that the church is so readily disavowing these days.

“The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation…. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same Hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”

– Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, Oct. 1960

Why does this matter to me? Probably because it affects a brother I had once, a foster brother I suppose you would have called him. His name was Kim, he came from the Indian reservation. Our family welcomed him into our home with loving arms.  He was part of a church sponsored Indian placement program. It was to help them blossom as the rose; it was a BIG deal during my formative years as you can see by this Ensign article. Eventually Kim went back home, I don’t remember why. I don’t know if that program was temporary or not and I don’t know if living with us for the time he did affected him or not; I do know it was the first time I was exposed to a very different culture than my own. Things that were normal to him seemed odd to me. That was a good thing, I think I realized then what Ben Kenobi meant when he gave Luke this advice after he found out that his mentor had lied to him about his father being dead.

Obi-Wan: Your father… was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and “became” Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.

Luke: A certain point of view?

Obi-Wan: Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Kim liked to sleep in and moved slowly, something that in his culture was normal. To us it just seemed lazy. We tried to make him ‘better’ by instilling our values. Looking back now I realize that being taken from your home and placed with strangers was likely very upsetting. You see my point of view has changed. My point of view then was Kim was a Lamanite and we needed to help him blossom. Nowadays though it’s all different, the curse of skin color has been completely disavowed even though it is canonized in LDS scripture  as the word of God. The DNA article seems to say there weren’t really that many Lamanites to begin with, and besides we couldn’t even tell anything by DNA anyways. (Other than the fact we trust DNA in our courts to convict people and prove fatherhood) For a missionary that preached the gospel to the Mayan version of the Lamanites this pulling back is a big deal. You see the Lamanites weren’t just the the American indians, by the end of the 80’s they were all the natives in Central and South America as well. We preached to them that they were the ones in the promise, the ones to blossom as the rose. We didn’t know back then that there wasn’t a stitch of Jewish DNA in the whole lot of them. The apologists that came up with this latest article would have been better off trying to say the BoM meant DNA when it said skin color and that is what God was going to change in the Lamanites.

Unfortunately though, the recent changes to the scriptures had already set the course of downplaying the impact of Lamanites in society today. For the love of Fridge there was even a Lamanite Apostle at one time in the church till he was kicked out. These days we get the uber white Utchdorf instead of a little color at general conference.  Lamanites have gone from being all the Indians everywhere 1 to we aren’t really sure any trace of them is left. The DNA article says the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim all these indians were progeny of the Lamanites, and they are sorta right, It was in fact the prophet that gave us the book that made that claim as you can see by what is written in his journalI just don’t see any way around it, the simple fact appears to be as far as the church is concerned. The Lamanite rose is withering.

So what does this have to do with truth? Well that takes us back to Obi Wan. It depends on your point of view, from the current church’s point of view, with all these essays, they are trying to come clean as fast as they can. I’m confident there are many honest upright leaders in the church today that are hopeful of doing this as smoothly as possible while at the same time trying to not upset stalwart members testimonies. I am sure from their point of view it is the only way they can approach the topic. Because for them the church is true, messed up, screwed up sure, but true none the less.

From another point of view though, they aren’t coming clean fast enough; as you can see by the recent lawsuit and this open letter:

http://www.mormonopenletter.com

It invites all to register their concerns for more truth and openness in the church (nearly 1000 signatures at the time of this post). From their point of view things like tithing and how it is used is a big deal in terms openness. My thoughts are if the church wants to hold onto its members that stay for the good works it does even if they have a different take on the doctrine it proclaimed, well then they will have to get more open about the truth and they can’t move fast enough. You see information travels fast these days. So fast that when the doctrine follows society and scientific knowledge you can’t rely on the memory hole for it to disappear down and pretend like it didn’t happen. Truth depends on your point of view, Obi Wan was right Fridge bless him.

obi wan

Sure you can say you that DNA evidence isn’t all the important, you can downplay the role of the Lamanite in today’s church, you can take the stance that the church really isn’t sure what Lamanite blood or DNA exists today and that it was some sort of small community swallowed up whole by the other inhabitants of the Americas. In essence you can say the Lamanites as a people don’t really exist anymore… That is one point of view.

Here’s another one, I had a brother named Kim, he was a Lamanite, I’m pretty sure he existed.

 

 

  1. Just a few more links if you like to research as much as me 🙂 )

    http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_lamaniteplacementprogram.html

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/07/lamanites-and-the-church?lang=eng

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1976/04/the-lamanites-must-rise-in-majesty-and-power?lang=eng

    Joseph Smith Journal on Moroni’s first visits:

    He told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to me.

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Lamanites/Relationship_to_Amerindians/Statements/19th_century

    I looked for this on the JSP website, they haven’t published these journals yet, look here under later journals http://josephsmithpapers.org/the-papers

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