White and Delightsome or Pure and Delightsome? (Cognitive dissonance 2)

James accountability, apologetics, apostasy, Bible, blacks, book of mormon, burdens, conference, correlation, Culture, curiosity, Discrimination, faith, families, Folklore, historicity, lamanites, LDS, LDS lessons, Leaders, Logic, Mormon, mormon, Nephi, plan of salvation, questioning, race, righteousness 60 Comments

I’m 1/16 th Chippewa and don’t even look a little Indian! I figure from my knee down is pure Chippewa and  for whatever reason  I am pretty proud of that. In the afterlife if possible I would like that section preserved if God sees fit.  Below is my Great Grandmother and Grandmother — you can see even from one generation to the next how things change.

I would also like to see my ancestors who are pure Chippewa with all their beautiful dark skin and get to know them as they were living on the earth before God changes their skin colour to white.

We have met an Elder who the sisters of all ages seem to swoon over — he is half Tongan and half Hawaiian. There is no other way to put it but he is a lady killer! We discussed this subject, and it doesn’t seem to bother him if the doctrine does literally mean white and not pure.  He doesn’t mind if he becomes white in the afterlife. It seems to disturb me more than it does him. It’s something he and his family have come to grips with.

I guess I better get down to what has caused my dissonance.   Here are some statements by the prophets about a Book of Mormon passage found in 2 Nephi 30:6 regarding a change Lamanites would experience if they embraced the Book of Mormon.  In every edition save one (1840), the words “white and delightsome” were used.  In the 1981 edition, the editors reverted to the 1840 edition’s “pure and delightsome” wording.

Prophet Statements

President Brigham Young
“You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation …When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people.” (Journal of Discourses 7:336)

W.W. Phelps to Brigham Young quoting Joseph Smith:

“It is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites that their posterity, may become white, delightsome and just.'” In the 8 December 1831 Ohio Star, Ezra Booth wrote of a revelation directing Mormon elders to marry with the “natives.” (Sunstone, November 1993, footnote #5, pg. 52)

Apostle Spencer W. Kimball

“I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today…. 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….These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness.” (Apostle Elder Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference Address, April 1, 1967)

2 Nephi 5:21

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly 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.”

3 Nephi 2:12-15 teaches that dark-skinned Lamanites who converted unto the Lord had their curse taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.

“White” versus “Pure” (Maxwell Institute)

According to the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, Nephi, speaking of the latter-day restoration, discussed the future conversion of Lehi’s descendants: “And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; 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 a delightsome people” (2 Nephi 30:6). In 1840 the Book of Mormon was “carefully revised by the translator,” Joseph Smith, and in that edition the expression “white and delightsome” was changed to “pure and delightsome.” This change seems to reflect the Prophet’s concern that modern readers might misinterpret this passage as a reference to racial changes rather than to changes in righteousness. Possibly his sojourns in Ohio and Missouri had altered his perspective of the racial connotations of the term white in the contemporary United States, particularly among slaves and slaveholders. He may not have gained much understanding of this matter during his upbringing in New England and New York State, where slavery was not as common.

Unfortunately for subsequent Latter-day Saint interpreters, following the Prophet’s death the changes in the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon were not carried over into subsequent printings, which were instead based on an edition prepared by the Twelve Apostles in Great Britain after a copy of an earlier edition. The apostles, being in England, were not familiar with the 1840 edition. Consequently, Latter-day Saints did not reap the benefit of the Prophet’s clarification until it was restored in the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon.  Some critics have been fond of citing statements of earlier Latter-day Saint leaders, who once interpreted 2 Nephi 30:6 to mean that conversion leads to a change of skin color; however, to use such statements today is anachronistic at best and disingenuous at worst since these statements were all expressed previous to the 1981 correction and merely echo a misinterpretation of the Book of Mormon text rather than the authoritative text itself. Moreover, a change in Lamanite skin color was clearly never intended by the “white/pure and delightsome” passage that the Prophet Joseph modified because it does not refer to the Lamanites at all, but to the Nephites and Jews in the latter days who turn to Christ (see 2 Nephi 30:1—7).

But is the Prophet’s change from “white” to “pure” justified in the scriptural context? The answer is yes. The terms white and pure are used synonymously in Daniel 7:9, Revelation 15:6, and Doctrine and Covenants 110:3. They are also found together in a number of passages where they clearly refer to those who are purified and redeemed by Christ (Alma 5:24; 13:12; 32:42; Mormon 9:6; D&C 20:6). Similarly, Mormon expressed the hope that the Nephites “may once again be a delightsome people” (Words of Mormon 1:8).

Poll

[poll id =”146″]

[poll id = “148”] [poll id = “149”] [poll id = “150”]

Where I have dissonance or questions

  1. Is from how I understand the Book of Mormon and statements of past prophets contradict our view of it being pure today.
  2. There has been no church conference talk that I am aware of clarifying the teachings of the past prophets i.e. President Kimball white vs pure. Many members I would suggest aren’t clear on our past beliefs and our current progressive belief on pure.
  3. If these were president Kimball’s own personal views why haven’t the church come out with a statement expounding on this?
  4. As a church, are we resolute that this was a clarification of the word white — never meant to refer to a person with dark skin pigmentation who would turn white upon a conversion to the gospel; but referring to a cleaner state of heart? This hypothesis in my mind fails to make clear other passages in the Book of Mormon that still make a connection with “iniquity” and skin color. See, for example, 2 Nephi 5:21 as well as past prophet statements.
  5. Why did it take God 140 years to clarify this misunderstanding?
  6. If we quote what President Kimball said in 1967 conference would we be considered anachronistic today?
  7. Is FARMS saying Apostle Kimball’s views are out of date , old fashioned, obsolete?

Comments

comments

Comments 60

  1. I think the quote from the Maxwell Institute is referring to critics who use Pres. Kimball’s statement as being disingenous and/or anachronistic. However, I think his views reflected personal opinion and experiences which he believed he had. I don’t believe that accepting the gospel will change skin colour.

    The connection between iniquity and skin colour is linked with the views held by people at that time (i.e. the writers of the BoM). I think that they reflect specific views on the mingling of races through marriage and Israelite notion of marrying within the covenantal community. I think it is a small leap to associate change in skin colour with the process of marrying and having children with some who has a different skin colour. From this it is wholly reasonable to assume that they retrospectively constructed the association between losing God’s blessings and the change in skin colour.

    I think alot of this depends upon how we read the BoM text. I do think that people within the Church and also the hierarchy of the Church could be better at making it clear when something is personal opinion.

  2. I remember being chased off a doorstep by a college professor in Fredricton, New Brunswick, who we’d taught a first discussion to but then had read the BofM as far as the white and delightsome and dark and loathsome parts. It was the first time I’d been shown the other side of what I’d accepted as conventional wisdom. At this point in my life I don’t think it took God 140 years to clarify the misunderstanding. It wasn’t his doing or his fault and trying to involve him in man’s mistakes is a bit unfair, IMO. No president or other GA of the church is going to preface his comments with a disclaimer about something being opinion. They’re in the business of speaking authoritatively and with what they feel is the inspiration of the Spirit, which means it’s up to us, history and FARMS to judge after the fact.

  3. Post
    Author

    Thanks Rico for your comment’s your comment below

    “I think alot of this depends upon how we read the BoM text.

    “…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 a delightsome people.”

    “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly 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.”

    I think the majority of the church is going to take it to mean exactly what it says!! Not unless your leaders were Nibley 🙂

    I do think that people within the Church and also the hierarchy of the Church could be better at making it clear when something is personal opinion.”

    Wouldn’t this below be considered almost scripture as it was given during a General Conference?

    Apostle Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference Address, April 1, 1967.

    “I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today…. 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….These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness.”

    – Apostle Elder Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, 196

  4. James
    I think it’s a great question you bring up. Unfortunately, I have no real good answers. I agree with Aaron that the connection between skin color and iniquity is old (much older than the BoM even). That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it’s the way we humans tend to be – exclusionary!

    For me, I just have to accept that in this case I think it highly unlikely that this was God’s will. For me, the church just got it wrong this time. Are they wrong about other things? Yes, in my opinion, they are. Will they be wrong about things in the future? Yes, they will be. But such is the nature of revelation, churches, organizations, spirituality, etc.

  5. Here is another way to look at it. That is of “Countenance.” We can visibly see the difference on people depending on their mood. If they are happy, we detect a “bright” countenance. If they are depressed or upset, we can see a “dark” countenance. This is irrespective of skin color. I’ve seen it in people of all colors and hues.

    Perhaps this is the phenomena being spoken of, not an actual change in skin color. That, I’ve never seen. Other than summer tans, that is.

    It is just not being articulated in the same way.

  6. Post
    Author

    “If they are depressed or upset, we can see a “dark” countenance. This is irrespective of skin color. I’ve seen it in of all colors and hues.”

    Thanks Jeff I think this would be a good one to give to FARM or FAIR!!:) In my heart of hearts I don’t think that is what President Kimball meant

  7. James,

    I would tend to agree with you that Pres. Kimball wanted to see a distinct color change because that is what he believed. I was only sayin’ he might have mistaken it for a “change in countenance.”

  8. Jeff #6:
    I don’t disagree with your description of a change in countenance. I’ve seen that, too. But the problem comes in because (at least) two prophets, Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball, have interpreted this scripture as specifically meaning a change in skin color. Are we to reject these prophets’ teachings, or not?

  9. Post
    Author

    4 JMB
    “Yes, in my opinion, they are. Will they be wrong about things in the future? Yes, they will be. But such is the nature of revelation, churches, organizations, spirituality, etc.”

    JMB I appreciate your thoughts! Unfortuanatly our church doesn’t have such a Nuance approach to revelation its not kind of hit the bulls eye most of the time! It’s more black and white and if it appears to be wrong to some we have FAIR and FARM to help us through it

  10. Post
    Author

    9 “Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball, have interpreted this scripture as specifically meaning a change in skin color. Are we to reject these prophets’ teachings, or not?”

    We might reject them but the church won’t publicly say it was wrong in conference it would damage the prohetic mantle!!

  11. James in response to your questions. I think your right about some people in the Church, but they obviously read the BoM differently to me. I would not want to be part of a community that had a unitary method for expounding/reading our ancient texts.

    Regarding the personal opinions of leaders and GC. I am sure I am opening myself up to some confounding quotation but I do not accept GC addresses as scripture. Even if I did that still does not mean that as scripture they infallibly represent the word of God to man, just as our canonised scripture does not do that, in my view.

    I think that another important question here is why did JS change the word and why did no one else pick up on it till 1981.

  12. Yes, Aaron, I do think that is an important question. It’s no small change, it addresses a very important doctrinal point.
    I’d be interested to know if any of the prophets or apostles, or even GA’s speak to this question on the side of the “pure” meaning.

  13. I don’t recall if the medical profession has officially repudiated leeching, but I bet it’s not done much anymore.

  14. RE:#14

    Leeches are still used to reduce swelling from certain reconstructive surgeries like reattachment of an external ear. Nothing about it to be repudiated. They just have specialized uses now. I think I may have missed something but there it is.

  15. James and BiV, #9/11

    I am not sure if the prophetic mantle gets damaged if these statements are “corrected.” it certainly is not what the Church teaches now. I suspect if we went all the way back to the beginning of time and “corrected all the wrong things spoken out of the mouths of the prophets, we’d have a pretty long list.

    Anyone ever heard of a guy being swallowed up by a fish or whale and live to tell about it?

  16. Post
    Author

    Rico 12

    “I think another important question here is why did JS change the word and why did no one else pick up on it till 1981”

    A lot of people are under the impression that the original 1830 edition contained the words “pure and delightsome”, and authors like Eugene England have stated this supposed “fact” in articles published by credible periodicals like Dialog, and what-not.

    However, the very first edition of the Book of Mormon to contain the phrase “pure and delightsome” was the third edition, published in 1840.

    What happened, in a nutshell, is this: By 1837, the first edition was “sold out”, or given away, and a second edition was printed. In 1839, JS sent the Quorum of the 12 to England on missions. By December of 1839, the second edition was depleted. There were some delays in getting funds, but by October of 1840, Ebenezer Robinson published the 3rd edition in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was this edition that changed the words to “pure and delightsome”.

    However, about the same time, the Quorum of the 12, desperate for Book of Mormons to hand out to the people of England, decided to print their own in England, and did so, faithfully reproducing the second edition — in this case, retaining the words “white and delightsome”.

    So, now, there were two different versions of the Book of Mormon — an English version and an American version. No other edition published by the Utah branch of the Church contained the phrase “pure and delightsome” until 1981, when it was changed back to the 1840 Cincinnati version.

    However, James Wright, a non-Mormon publisher in New York City, printed a commercial version of the Book of Mormon, and for some reason, based it on the 1840 edition, thereby including the phrase “pure and delightsome”. Wright’s version originally had an “anti-Mormon” preface regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon, and didn’t sell well. He had printed — but not bound — about 4,000 copies. So, what to do with them?

    Wright decided to turn them into a pro-Mormon edition, re-wrote the introduction, and sold the entire printing to an LDS splinter group. This edition eventually became the basis for the RLDS’s first edition of the Book of Mormon. Later, in 1908, the RLDS church changed the wording back to the original 1830 edition’s “white and delightsome”, noting in that preface, that the words “white and delightsome” were, in fact, Joseph Smith’s original wording.

  17. GBSmith,

    that is what I thought, but didn’t know how they were still being used. But it is certainly not regarded as a general treatment like in Washington’s day. Has that being officially repudiated? Anyway, you get my point.

  18. Post
    Author

    Jeff 16

    I am not sure if the prophetic mantle gets damaged if these statements are “corrected.” it certainly is not what the Church teaches now. I suspect if we went all the way back to the beginning of time and “corrected all the wrong things spoken out of the mouths of the prophets, we’d have a pretty long list.

    Anyone ever heard of a guy being swallowed up by a fish or whale and live to tell about it?

    Jeff in my mind were not any old church! If were hit and miss on these big issues then we are no different to any other church. I do think the guy being swallowed up by a fish or whale and live to tell about it is an Allegory but many members won’t see it that way and will look for scientific proof to prove its right.

  19. James, yeah I am aware of the History of how this happened, but it does not answer why? I think this depends on whether you believe JS translate the BoM or not and then whether you see this involving a tight or loose control process. I think it fair to say that JS wanted it to be pure, but why? I am not convinced by the argument cited above.

    On BiV #19 question. I think SWK, BY and the BoM are all wrong.

  20. James #17:
    Royal Skousen says the following about Book of Mormon editions:

    3. 1840: 2,000 copies; published for Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith (by Shepard and Stearns, Cincinnati, Ohio), Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith compared the printed text with the original manuscript and discovered a number of errors made in copying the printer’s manuscript from the original. Thus the 1840 edition restores some of the readings of the original manuscript.

    If this is indeed the case, I think Aaron is correct in saying that “pure” was the original intention of JS in that particular passage. This, however, does not solve the cogdis of the other two above cited passages.

  21. There are two choices here: (1) admit that revelations produced by Joseph Smith contain racist teachings; or (2) say that the revelations of Joseph Smith were not racist, but that Church leaders misinterpreted Joseph Smith’s revelations in a racist manner. It’s clear that apologists prefer the latter option.

    In my opinion, option #1 is correct: revelations produced by Joseph Smith contain racist teachings. If the curse mentioned in the Book of Mormon does not apply to skin color, then how on Earth do we explain 2 Nephi 5:21, which makes clear that the curse applied to the Lamanites’ SKIN: “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly 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.”

    In my opinion, Church leaders’ subsequent statements reflecting their belief that the BOM curse applied to SKIN color were not a “misinterpretation” of the Book of Mormon at all; rather, those Church leaders’ statements were perfectly consistent with what the Book of Mormon text plainly says: “skin of blackness”.

    Joseph Smith again linked divine cursing with dark skin color in his “translation” of Moses (which he admittedly produced without consulting any ancient manuscripts): See Moses 7:22: “the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them”.

    The bottom line: Joseph Smith’s revelations contain racist views about dark skin color (i.e., that it is a divine curse) that reflected the common racist views of 19th Century America, i.e., that God cursed wicked people with skins of blackness that they might not be enticing to the righteous. Of course, this is too uncomfortable for Mormons to admit, because if this be the case, then it calls into question the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses “translations”.

    Accordingly, apologists take option #2: they tell us that the original teachings were not racist, but that subsequent racist Prophets, Seers, and Revelators “misinterpreted” the supposedly non-racist text of the Book of Mormon in a racist way. That option is slightly less distasteful than the truth (i.e., #1), but it ignores the 2,000 pound elephant in the room:

    How could God’s Prophet, Seers, and Revelators, his exclusive holders of Priesthood Keys, teach and promote a racist interpretation of the Book of Mormon text for well over 100 years? Are they not the Special Witnesses who are charged with saving us from error and directing us to God’s truth?

    In my opinion, we would all do better to acknowledge the truth that is staring us in the face, but that is so difficult to admit: Joseph Smith’s revelations contain racist teachings that reflect the racist beliefs prevalent in 19th Century America (i.e., that people with dark skins belong to a cursed lineage, such as the Lamanites or posterity of Cain).

    If apologists can feel comfortable admitting that Prophets, Seers, and Revelators from Brigham Young to Spencer W. Kimball “got it wrong” in promoting a racist “misinterpretation” of the Book of Mormon and yet are still somehow Prophets, then why not just take the additional baby step of admitting that Joseph Smith likewise sometimes “got it wrong” in his revelations, and yet was still somehow a Prophet? (Rhetorical question: they are unwilling to do this because it undermines the authenticity and accuracy of the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses “translations”.)

  22. BiV,

    “Are you sure this is not what the Church teaches now?”

    Yes, I am sure of that. I’ve not heard a modern leader use that interpretation of a literal change in skin color. if in reality that skin color were an indication of righteousness than the lightest people would be the most righteous and the darkest, the least. And that is certainly not true. So it behooves us to fully understand the scripture and not jump to a conclusion about its meaning.

    Just as Joseph Smith received further light and knowledge from 1830 to 1844, why not we? and our leaders?

  23. #24. I’m not sure that gives us the full spectrum of options. Personally, I believe #1 is true, but I’m not sure “Joseph Smith’s revelations contain racist teachings that reflect the racist beliefs prevalent in 19th Century America” is our only option. Couldn’t it be possible that Joseph Smith’s revelation contains racist teachings that reflect the racist beliefs prevalent in New World Nephite culture, circa 550 BC?

    Maybe it was the Nephites who were racist. Perhaps they saw indigenous, idolatrous people all around them, Laman and Lemuel intermarried with those people, and the Nephites recoiled in their own innate prejudice at the resulting darker skin? I’m not saying that this excuses their racism. It’s still racism. But I’m always surprised that this option is overlooked.

  24. Jeff, you’re right, leeches as a cure for what ails you went by the wayside with puking, purging and bleeding.

    As to the association of skin color and worthiness Armand Mauss and Lester Bush published a lot of good information on what was assumed to be conventional wisdom on race. I don’t think saying BY and SWK were wrong on this changes much of anything of what they did as prophets and presidents. If you get stuck on an all or nothing viewpoint, you’re bound to be left with nothing.

  25. Andrew #24, you’re reducing this to an either-or, and that’s a bit simplistic, no? We come to ancient texts with so much modern interpretive baggage that it’s difficult to set it aside and see what’s actually there.

    “How could God’s Prophet, Seers, and Revelators, his exclusive holders of Priesthood Keys, teach and promote a racist interpretation of the Book of Mormon text for well over 100 years? Are they not the Special Witnesses who are charged with saving us from error and directing us to God’s truth?” Is this rhetorical exaggeration? Since when in any time period have God’s prophets been culture- and context-free, speaking and propagating nothing but the Divine Script delivered to them? I don’t find your reductionist and mind-reading comments terribly useful for actually understanding these passages or their interpretive history.

  26. http://en.fairmormon.org/Polygamy/Lamanites_to_become_%22white_and_delightsome%22_through_polygamous_marriage

    FAIR has a treatment on this subject. If the W. W. Phelps recollection of a revelation is to be given any creedence at all, it suggests that one early idea in the Church of how Native Americans were to become white and delightsome is precisely through interracial marriage. I have no idea of how far that should be taken, but it is one theory that was historically in the Church about this subject (the plural marriage part of it aside).

  27. “Couldn’t it be possible that Joseph Smith’s revelation contains racist teachings that reflect the racist beliefs prevalent in New World Nephite culture, circa 550 BC?

    Maybe it was the Nephites who were racist. Perhaps they saw indigenous, idolatrous people all around them, Laman and Lemuel intermarried with those people, and the Nephites recoiled in their own innate prejudice at the resulting darker skin? I’m not saying that this excuses their racism. It’s still racism. But I’m always surprised that this option is overlooked.”

    Interesting. I’ve considered that possibility.

    The problem is that Mormon was inspired in making his selection from the Large and Small Plates. He is said to have not included the “hundredth portion” of the total records.

    Why would God inspire Mormon to include a racist false doctrine as one of the handful of things that absolutely had to be passed on? When the Church in these latter days decides that one of its past doctrines was in error, it doesn’t perpetuate it — it buries it quietly and, if asked, says “that’s in the past; let’s move on.”

    Of course, God’s ways are not our ways (the universal solvent of reason-based objections to religious doctrine), so there’s really no point in even asking the question if you’re a consistent fideist.

  28. Why did it take God 140 years to clarify this misunderstanding?

    He didn’t. “All things are present before [the LORD].” He fixed it at the same time it happened. In his “present.”
    😉

  29. There is no such thing as racist doctrine. The Lord is no respecter of persons. So, what you have is racist people noncomprehending the Lord’s true doctrine. In fact, I would not even go as far as using the word racist. It’s a stupid word invented recently as a pejorative and an accusation against any sort of comment involving race. Whether true or not. As such it has lost its meaning.

    In most cases, you have people, whether in Nephi’s time, or BY or SWK reflecting a societal belief and projecting it toward their religion. Looking at their lives, words and deeds in totality does not reflect hatred toward a group based on race. Statements which are judged as inappropriate for this time, definitely, yes! But for their time, probably not.

  30. #30. You’re still equating “inspired” with “100% objectively correct.” Mormon said himself that his writing sucked. The Book of Mormon is pretty clear that if there are errors, they are the errors of men. But those men were inspired by God.

    What does inspired even mean? Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” was “inspired” by the American Revolution. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that it had anything to do with it whatsoever.

    The point is… this issue isn’t “black or white.” Hard dichotomies like that make for volatile blog posts, of course, but not too much in real life is really one or the other.

  31. All three options presented in the comments have a strong degree of legitimacy and likelihood, actually. To me, the key is to recognize that fact and then, in the overall context of the message I want to take from the whole, pick whichever option seems most likely to me. Am I “correct” in this approach? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, I’m sure – but it’s about all I can do.

    Fwiw, I happen to go with Arthur’s #3. Based on the totality of the text, I am positive that the Nephites were racist – or, for Jeff, biased strongly against the Lamanites. I’m also positive that the Lamanites intermarried with indigenous populations (just as the Nephites mixed with the Mulekites) – and I reach that conclusion mostly based off of the comparative population statements in the BofM. Combine those two beliefs, and I think the likelihood that the statements represent an accurate statement of the belief of the compilers of the BofM is certainly as least as high as the other two options – and higher, imo.

    If anyone is interested, I wrote the following post that references BofM racism back in 2007 on my personal blog: “Reflections from a Mixed-Race Family (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/09/reflections-from-mixed-race-family.html).

  32. Oh, and to make it crystal clear, I don’t believe every statement and belief recorded in the BofM is the inerrant word of God – and the book itself agrees with that statement.

  33. Here’s an interesting comparison of 4 early BoM editions showing the passage in question:

    http://img687.imageshack.us/img687/8900/whitepure.jpg

    From what I’ve heard (but can’t support with facsimile evidence,) the original manuscript read “pure,” and “white” was introduced when Oliver Cowdery copied the text onto the printer’s manuscript. Joseph Smith had the original manuscript when he re-edited the 1840 edition (thus the change), and it is unclear if that part of the original manuscript survived long enough to be consulted for the current 198x edition. The “white” error from the printer’s manuscript seems to have been perpetuated in all other early editions, including the Palmyra, Kirtland, Liverpool, and 1920 SLC editions.

  34. As for Lamanites and Nephites marrying indigenous populations, I would say that is indeed the case, otherwise Mormon would not have stressed so much that he is a PURE descendant of Lehi.

    3 Ne. 5: 20
    I am Mormon, and a pure adescendant of Lehi. I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, (and no one knew it save it were himself and those whom he brought out of that land) and that he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls.

  35. #32: “In fact, I would not even go as far as using the word racist. It’s a stupid word invented recently as a pejorative and an accusation against any sort of comment involving race. Whether true or not. As such it has lost its meaning.”

    You’re only saying that because you’re clearly a horrible awful racist. And probably a cannibal, too.

    The idea that dark skin is so inherently “loathsome” that God would use it to curse his enemies, though, would probably count as “racist” even under the original understanding of the word, not just under the modern sense which has expanded to include pretty much everything that’s not an actual plank of the Democratic Part platform.

    #33: “You’re still equating “inspired” with “100% objectively correct.” Mormon said himself that his writing sucked. The Book of Mormon is pretty clear that if there are errors, they are the errors of men. But those men were inspired by God.

    What does inspired even mean? Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” was “inspired” by the American Revolution. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that it had anything to do with it whatsoever.”

    That’s true. “The Patriot” blew chunks all over the landscape. Darn near walked out at the heavy-handed cartoonishness of it all. But for heaven’s sake, can’t the Almighty afford a little better quality control? “Get me re-write!” Surely in any of the competing accounts of the methods by which the Book of Mormon was translated, the Lord could have gently inspired either the translator or the abridger to leave the “dark and loathsome” part out, if that was his will.

    The Book of Mormon is profferred as “the most correct of any book.” If it is not, in fact, the Lord’s will that we believe that God hit the Lamanites with dark skin, intended as a curse,” then that’s a pretty substantial error that got left in there.

  36. If the Lamanites got dark skin through intermarriage, then it was indeed their iniquity that brought them dark skin. They were marrying into an idolatrous nation. I don’t think it was God’s will that they do this, but I do think that God invented genetics. So if that’s how they got dark skin, then it would be easy for Mormon to conclude that the dark skin was a reminder from God that they had transgressed their covenant and gone the way of the world. Throw in a bit of normal human prejudice/racism/bias and the Book of Mormon account makes pretty good sense if you ask me. So no, God didn’t “hit” the Lamanites with dark skin, it just appeared that way to Mormon.

    IF that’s what happened. I think we learn MORE about humanity from this particular imperfection being in the record than we would have without it.

  37. I think we have to accept that sometimes we (mormons) are wrong. The church isn’t perfect. Some people say incorrect things or teach false teachings (I hear it every Sunday).

    Placing an expectation on God to make sure every word spoken or written by prophets is acceptable to all generations of societal definitions is unrealistic to me.

    Does anyone know of historical evidence that there were protests against the church for racism in Joseph Smith or Brigham Young days? I think polygamy was the issue, not race, right? Certainly there were race issues in SWK days. From what I read, it seemed like Joseph Smith seemed to preach more tolerance of race and ordaining the priesthood upon black men. BY, not so much based on the quotes I hear. But back in their day, were they racist or just products of their time and generation?

    So maybe we just accept it isn’t right by today’s standards and good thing for continuous revelation to correct it. Its difficult, but is it possible we can accept past prophets weren’t perfect and it just wasn’t on the top of God’s list of things to do to clarify and teach at the time because of the people who lived at that time and what they needed to hear and what they didn’t? My opinion is that God doesn’t dictate word for word to prophets. He teaches them correct principles and lets them govern themselves and the church as best they can to their capacity as laborers in the vineyard, and then checks in every once in a while to see how much the teachings need to be corrected and pruned.

  38. Nitsav,

    “Andrew #24, you’re reducing this to an either-or, and that’s a bit simplistic, no? We come to ancient texts with so much modern interpretive baggage that it’s difficult to set it aside and see what’s actually there.”

    Actually, you’re completely right. It doesn’t have to be either-or, there is another possibility: (1) the racist text of the BOM does not reflect God’s truth AND, (2) the subsequent prophets’ racist readings and applications of the BOM’s racist text do not reflect God’s truth, AND (3) the apologists’ explanations that try to wriggle free from #1 and #2 are also wrong. Thanks for helping me see it doesn’t have to be either-or.

    “How could God’s Prophet, Seers, and Revelators, his exclusive holders of Priesthood Keys, teach and promote a racist interpretation of the Book of Mormon text for well over 100 years? Are they not the Special Witnesses who are charged with saving us from error and directing us to God’s truth?” Is this rhetorical exaggeration? Since when in any time period have God’s prophets been culture- and context-free, speaking and propagating nothing but the Divine Script delivered to them? I don’t find your reductionist and mind-reading comments terribly useful for actually understanding these passages or their interpretive history.”

    Again, I can’t see how you could possibly call that a rhetorical exaggeration. Perhaps you have never heard what we teach children to sing: “Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, don’t go astray! Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, he KNOWS the way!” No asterisks, footnotes, disclaimers, caveats, or subtle “nuances” in there. Gosh, I can’t figure out where we Mormons get the idea that God’s prophets are “culture- and context-free, speaking and propagating nothing but the Divine Script delivered to them”. Perhaps we should notify Salt Lake of that fact and modify the children’s song thusly:

    “Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, don’t go astray!”

    “Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, he KNOWS the way, except when he tells us he’s speaking for God but is unwittingly speaking as a man influenced by the cultural prejudices of the time and context in which he lives” — but that’s kind of a mouthful, no? Yes, far better keep the message simple and blame the Primary children when they grow up and fail to understand the “subtlety” and “nuance”.

  39. Post
    Author

    Sorry just got back and its almost 1:30 in the morning here so will respond in the morning.
    31 what in the L are you talking about!!

  40. “The nephites were the racists”…wait…what? So some of you reject Andrew’s #1&#2 in favor of a belief that the nephite “prophets” were the racists? So you dont like the idea of JS being a racist and dont want to admit that subsequent LDS prophets might have been racists but are comfortable admitting that THE prophets god called to write the BOM (you know, all the “plain and precious” truths that needed to be restored) were the racists and that is how racist teachings crept into LDS doctrine…How does this let god off the hook?

    So, now instead of JS (and subsequent prophets) just being products of less tolerant times, you come up with rationalization in which god actually called racist men and allowed them to put their racist views in his definitive work of scripture. I thought the 2 options presented above were a bit tough to swallow but you guys are now suggesting that the prophets who god chose to pen the foundational text of the entire LDS faith (and his “restored” church) were racists and were allowed to express their racist views while writing the BOM…so, do you believe God is a racist for allowing these views to be documented in the BOM? How do you explain the priesthood ban if the nephites were the racists in this scenario?

  41. plale,

    You’re making way too much sense here. I predict a retreat to the age-old fallback position: there’s no good explanation, so these racist words must have been put in the BOM text simply to provide an Abrahamic test of our faith, i.e., to see if we will believe in something that makes no sense just to prove to God that we have enough “faith” to believe it anyway.

    Whether such an “Abrahamic test” reveals that we are putting our trust in God and not in men, rather than the other way around, is, of course, left open to debate.

    Also left open to debate is the obvious question of why God would ever want to encourage and reward that sort of “faith” — or why he would ever consider that brand of “faith” to be a “virtue”.

    When the FLDS are taught to believe in things despite all logic and reason to the contrary, we call it mind control.

    When the LDS are taught to believe in things despite all logic and reason to the contrary, we call it faith.

    “Isn’t it wonderful?”

  42. #46. I didn’t know the purpose here was to let God “off the hook.” I never rejected Andrew’s dichotomy. For members of the Church like me who see the Book of Mormon as a perfect history of imperfect people, the racist tendencies in the book just simply don’t bother me. I think the Nephite prophets had racist tendencies, and I think Joseph Smith and Brigham Young may have, too. I think, deep down, I have racist tendencies… and so does everyone else. But it gives us something to overcome and learn from. This was a book written by the hand of Mormon, not a book written by the hand of God. That book doesn’t exist. We even have four books written about Jesus’ life and no book written by Jesus. Why would God allow imperfect men to tell His story? So we can try our best, work hard, and learn from our mistakes. So God wasn’t just going to correct all Mormon’s mistakes in the translation, because then what was the point in getting Mormon to write anything at all? Why didn’t God just reveal a book of every possible question and answer straight to Joseph Smith in perfect Adamic language so we can all get it right the first time?

    I don’t fully accept a 600 BC conception of mathematics or medicine, and I don’t accept a 600 BC conception of God. I do believe that Nephi and Moroni were inspired men and were on to many truths (in the same way that Pythagoras and Aristotle and Hippocrates were on to many truths too). But do I accept everything in their accounts? No. We’ve learned a lot since then. We’ve had to refine many of our ideas. Sometimes it meant taking things the wrong way (or too far in one direction) and seeing the problems associated with that. Similarly, I would take 2500 AD math or medicine over 2010 AD math or medicine any day. But we’re not there yet, either. We haven’t progressed enough to receive that knowledge.

    So no, Andrew, I don’t see the Book of Mormon as something defying logic that we’re forced to lay down our senses of logic for. Not as an Abrahamic sacrifice. I see it as a jumping-off-point. An inspired book that got many things right that we can use in our own quest for spirituality. But we can’t use it to solve all our problems. We can only use it to open our spiritual eyes to the truths BEYOND the simple, imperfect words on the page.

    What I sense is that you feel that if there’s a God, he’s going to swoop down and give us a perfect book with perfect answers to every problem and keep us from doing anything racist or unkind or violent so we never have to make mistakes. I say the opposite. If there’s a God, he’s going to let us make mistakes on our own (racist, unkind, violent, etc.) and see if we learn from them and move on. The point of living is to see what we’re capable of ON OUR OWN, with minimal help from above. Sure we have the spirit and prophets, but when you reach the judgment bar of Christ, you won’t be able to point at anyone or anything… prophet, relative, or book… to excuse you for your choices.

    Besides, it’s like the prophets are the only people on Earth who are denied the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. That sounds like a wasted life to me. That’s why I just don’t get this all-or-nothing attitude.

  43. I don’t want to change the focus here, but IMO saying that the BoM can’t be true because it has racist statements is like saying that the Bible isn’t true because it has sexist overtones and even men favoured of God are shown to treat women like chattels. Do we discount its authenticity on that basis?

    I agree with Arthur. These books that we can glean knowledge from on our road to spiritual enlightenment are not penned by God. Not every word is edited by God and there may be some facts that are documented that have passed through the cultural and societal filters of the authors. The content cannot help but reflect these.

  44. White people aren’t actually white. So, should if we are supposed to be white, wouldn’t we all have to change color?
    Your comment about you being more uncomfortable than your half Tongan half Hawaiian friend, made me think of the article I read in Nurtureshock about non-racist white people being way too uncomfortable about race and unable to discuss it properly with their children.
    I think if we look different, we will all look different ala Community’s human being mascot (just kidding). What I really mean is that I choose to think that if “white” means something literally in that context, than my skin isn’t white– it is peach with a lot of brown flecks, I am unsure whether to count all the visible blue so my skin would have to change just like everyone else’s.

  45. Anyone ever heard of a guy being swallowed up by a fish or whale and live to tell about it?

    Yes, check out this article. Quoting from LDS Sunday School.org,

    There have been other modern day reports of men being swallowed by fish and living to tell the tale. Edward B. Davis, Associate Professor of Science and History at Messiah College, in Grantham, PA came across an article describing a man off the Falkland Islands who had been inside the belly of a sperm whale for 36 hours due to a fishing/whaling accident. Even after 36 hours, he was found alive and an excerpt of the account can be read at the link here. This inspired him to find more information.

    The link also references a second man who was swallowed by a shark in the English channel. Two days later, his fellow sailors found and killed the shark. When they opened it up, they found their unconcious friend alive and took him to a hospital. A newspaper article entitled “The Jonah of the Twentieth Century” is dated from the 1920’s or 1930’s and is also contained in the same link here.

    The links are found at this website:
    http://www.asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/1991/PSCF12-91Davis.html

  46. Projecting racism onto Nephite authors gives us one more anachromism to deal with. Ancient people cared about ethnicity and tribal affiliations, but discriminating on the basis of skin color and race fits better in a 19th or 20th century context.

  47. @ #38,

    That doesn’t necessarily follow. Other possibilities are that 1) Mormon was only emphasizing that he wasn’t a descendant of Mulek or Zoram, or 2) Mormon’s use of “pure descendant” means something other than “only descended from.”

    If the descendants of Lehi had a negligible genetic impact on a large, preexisting gene pool as FARMS currently claims, it would not have been possible for there to be any “pure descendants” of Lehi after nearly 1000 years of coexisting with the natives. Alternatively, if Mormon really was a “pure descendant” in the sense that you mean, in order for that to be possible, then interbreeding couldn’t start until much later in BofM history, allowing ‘pure descendants’ of Lehi to multiply for centuries prior to interbreeding. If that’s the case, then there would be a significant genetic impact by this population once they did start interbreeding.

  48. 2 Nephi 5:21. Let me suggest that the skin of darkness may simply be metaphorical. There are some interesting bible passages on skin of blackness. I think Lamentations in particularly interesting.

    In Job 30, Job speaks of his black skin. In Joel 2:6 we read of faces gathering “blackness” because of the horror of war and desolation in the day of the Lord’s coming. In Jeremiah 8:21, Jeremiah says he is “black” because of the pain he feels for the house of Israel. Nahum 2:10 speaks of “blackness” befalling Nineveh because of destruction. In Lamentation 5:10, Jeremiah speaks of Israel being “black” in skin because of famine.

  49. authur, dmac…please see beerdudes post as he hit the nail on the head…the sheer amount of rationalization and over analysis is making my head spin…Either the god you believe in accepts and endorses racism, or he doesnt – the “he allows imperfect men to do imperfect things” only goes so far if God is actually in charge. If he is too weak to keep the racist views of the men he calls as his “prophets, seers and revelators” and mouth-pieces, here on earth, out of his “restored truths”, then what good is he?

    I can actually find religions that dont have racist (polygamous, occultist, masonic, etc) foundational doctrines that teach the same fundamental “truths” as the LDS church. Mormons claim to have the MOST truth and also claim to be a restoration of Gods one true church but somehow its foundational text, founding prophets and subsequent leaders teach racism (among other crazy things) as gods word and “truth”. People believe this stuff – are they mislead (unlike you who can “discern” gods word from prophetic opinion)? should they question the teachings of the “prophets” that claim they speak for god? I am not sure what you are proposing here as it looks like your god either endorses these teachings OR he sits back and lets people accept these teachings without intervening to correct his chosen “mouthpieces” – I dont know which option is more disturbing…Tell me again why god would allow his mouth pieces to endorse and preach racism because that seems ridiculous to me.

    BTW – Appealing to the bible is meaningless to me.

  50. Apparently whoever wrote the LDSSundaySchool.org article didn’t read very far into Davis’s article, because about halfway through Davis concluded that the story wasn’t true:

    I realized then with finality that there simply was no whale at the end of my line, indeed that there never had been a whale, and that all of this was no more than a fish story, albeit a dandy. It had been good enough to fool apparently sophisticated folk like Henri de Parville, Sir Francis Fox, Julian Barnes, and the authors and editors of some highly respected biblical commentaries. But in the end, when traced back to the source, each reported sighting turned out to be just another chimera, just another version of the original spurious newspaper account. Precisely how the story began, and who started it, may never be known with any certainty at this juncture exactly a century later.

    Regarding the shark story, he concludes that “the stories are so much alike that I am convinced they represent variants of the same original fish story.”

  51. what if your head is shaped like a peanut? Chances are pretty good that even if you are a follower of Christ, if you have a kid with someone whose head is also shaped like a peanut then that kid is going to have a peanut shaped head. Or maybe not. Maybe your head is shaped like a peanut because it got stuck in the throat of a narwhal or something. Maybe the older Native Americans looked darker than their daughter because they spent more time outside. My Grandfather looks Mexican. Probably the big question is why did certain races of people end up with darker skin in the first place and where did Asian people get their eyes from.

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