The Book of Mormon teaches us that the Lamanites were cursed by the Lord with a skin of darkness (blackness) because of their sins and so that they would not be attractive to the Nephites. On some occasions, when Lamanites converted and became righteous their skin became whiter. This doctrine was commented on in recent times by President Spencer W. Kimball who noted the lightening of the skins of ‘Lamanites’ (American Indians and Polynesians) in one of his talks. Now I ask you is this the ‘word of God’? Did God use skin colour as a differentiator?
As a young primary child, & also in Seminary, I was taught that God did this. He also did it with Cain and his descendents. So the apparently racist teachings of Brigham Young etc. with regards to Blacks & the Priesthood seem to have their foundation in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith’s understanding of the book of Genesis.
However, according to science, skin colour is a product of genetics and climate on pigmentation of the skin. Any white person can become dark by sunbathing but the colour change is not permanent. A black person does not become white by being righteous.
If it is possible (and ethical) to change the colour of a person’s skin in an instant (and then change it back when they become righteous) then it would indicate the Book of Mormon is true in this regard. However, I am of the opinion that any educated, ethical person would consider this doctrine untrue/false. I’ve yet to have anyone explain to me how this doctrine can be true rather than misinformed 19th century thinking. “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, that 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.” (2 Nephi 5:21).
I believe in being scrupulously honest. My loyalty has always been to the truth.
As a young Latter-day Saint child and teenager I was taught, and believed fervently that The Book of Mormon tells us the true origins of the American Indian. I was taught that they are descendants of Lehi and his family who left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. I believed this doctrine completely & in fact even taught this myself to investigators as a full-time missionary in England in the 1980s.
“And Lehi and his family became the ancestors of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea, for in the middle of their history there were those who left America in ships of their making and went to the islands of the sea.” – Spencer W. Kimball/Ensign July 1971 “The term Lamanite includes all Indians and Indian mixtures, such as the Polynesians, the Guatemalans, the Peruvians, as well as the Sioux, the Apache, the Mohawk, the Navajo, and others. It is a large group of great people.” – Spencer W. Kimball /Ensign July 1971
Yet I am really concerned that science is proving the opposite to be the case. I’m discovering now that anthropologists have maintained for decades that the American Indians came to North America via the Bering Strait some 15,000 – 30, 000 years ago.
Even worse for my cognitive dissonance was discovering that recent DNA studies have conclusively proven the American Indians are not descendents of Lehi and his family.
I understand the title page to the Book of Mormon has even been amended in this regard in recent years from saying that the Lamanites are the “principal ancestors” of American Indians”, Lamanites are now……“among the ancestors” of the American Indians. (The original phrase and the changes are noted in bold for emphasis).
I am concerned that members of the Church are having to choose between their loyalty to the truth (factual scientific evidence) and their beliefs in their sacred scriptures.
How does one reconcile this?
I’m sure most of us trust the science which saves our lives in modern medicine. We trust the science which permits us to drive or cars and fly across continents. We trust the science which permits us to have discussions on the phone & to share things on Facebook. Genetic research is considerable and very robust & is the basis for lots of exciting & successful medical treatments.
It’s intriguing that as a Church in the past we used the scientific evidence of the time to back our claims about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I certainly remember showing the movie ‘Ancient America Speaks’ to my investigators whilst serving as a missionary for the Church which went in to great lengths to try to convince the viewers that the evidence proved the claims in the Book of Mormon. Yet once that evidence is disproven the Church stopped citing that evidence.
Now, tragically the story has changed to “all you need is faith!” And “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
On the other hand scientific knowledge doesn’t usually get replaced, but added to and modified, becoming stronger with more and more evidence.
I would expect more acknowledgements of previous errors in Church teachings in the future as further scientific research pushes the supernatural claims of Mormonism to the brink of credibility and beyond.
The correct & honourable thing to do as an honest person is to keep asking questions in order to discover truth.
I once believed in the power of the atonement. I taught it very powerfully with personal testimony as a bishop for seven years. My focus was very much on the Saviour that I believed in. Full of compassion and love.
I now realise there are certain subconscious psychological processes which facilitate a shame/guilt complex making us feel dependent on someone else to overcome our insecurity. Then when we feel the relief of the weight of guilt and shame being removed we feel an automatic sense of loyalty and devotion to the perceived ‘saviour’ and an automatic subconscious urge to reciprocate.
It is common to most religions around the world and is not at all unique to Mormons.
Gladly I’ve discovered this is pure fantasy. It is a method used to keep all believers in obeisance and control.
Once the plot is discovered one feels completely free of the artificially induced guilt and shame.
I wish all people could experience the sense of relief & freedom which comes from understanding this.
The more we understand the workings of the mind, the more we understand ourselves.
I recommend a wonderful book called ‘The Believing Brain’ by Michael Shermer, which looks at the evidence for how our minds work & how human beliefs are formed.
I see no evidence for such a thing as ‘spiritual knowledge’. It’s just explained very simply by how our minds work.
All beliefs are either justified by evidence or unjustified.
All humans across the world are similar. We all want what is best for us and our families and friends.
We all want to be happy.
More often than not that involves some desire to live after we die so we can be together with our loved ones.
It is perfectly understandable and normal to want to do that.
Most people around the world have been born into cultures with some form of religious faith. Often a theistic faith.
They all have one thing in common. Absolute surety that their particular belief system is true. They are just as convinced of it as I was, or any Mormon is.
What makes us happy is believing we know that our particular religion is the one and only true religion.
The human mind abhors insecurity and uncertainty and our subconscious minds will convince us that what we believe is absolutely certain.
Every religion believes that theirs’ is the one true faith.
It would do everyone a lot of good to try to understand what it is that makes another religion false.
Then use that knowledge and research methodology on their own religion.
The common consensus is that people believe what they want to believe. And as long as anyone from any religion, including Mormon, continues to ‘want to believe’, then no-one can convince them otherwise.
“The eye only sees what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” ~ Henri Bergson
Most people do not want to face the insecurity of questioning their own belief system.
I did – And have never been happier!
My motto now is to Question Everything!
To hit the Nail on its Proverbial Head we need to ask the question:
“How do Latter-day Saints come to ‘know’!”
How does any religious person ‘know’ their particular religion is true?
We need to become aware of Epistemology!
Put simply it is: How we come to know things.
That is now one of my keen interests. The psychology of belief.
Everyone in every religion should be taught how to understand how their own minds construct beliefs.
In fact, everyone in the world, whether religious or not should be taught how to think and how to question rationally.
One lesson I’ve learnt after 47 years as a Mormon is not to trust my own thoughts and feelings.
The truth doesn’t care how you feel about it. Some truths will make you happy, others will make you upset or annoyed.
Our reaction to any piece of information is not a reflection on the accuracy or truthfulness of that information.
Don’t believe something just because it makes you feel good.
As an aside. I still get the wonderful warm peaceful feelings of ‘the Spirit’ like I used to as an active Latter-day Saint, but now I realise what it is. My wonderfully powerful subconscious mind, just like everyone else in the world.
And I don’t have to go around believing that our skin colour has anything to do with the righteousness or valiance of our ancestors.