Book of Mormon: Real or Imaginary–Brant Gardner and David Bokovoy’s Claim of Mormon’s Bias against the Lamanites? Part 2
First, why would Mormon have a bias, especially towards the early Lamanites?
He lived at a time when the Lamanites are not the original Lamanites, except that they follow the same principles of rejecting the truth and teaching their children to hate the truth and those that accept it. In fact, at the time of his writing, the original Lamanites don’t seem to have been in existence for four hundred years or so; and for some years before that, the Lamanites were more or less more righteous than the Nephites.
If anyone had a bias, it was likely the early writers. But is any bias evident in *their* writings?
Where are the Lamanites described negatively in the Book of Mormon?
Following are negative descriptions of the Lamanites. Descriptions are both physical and based on action, and from the Nephite perspective. Note that descriptions *cannot* be correctly labeled “biased” if they are true! Note that these descriptions also come about because of curses that the people brought on themselves (and though the children bore the curse and mark in life, they won’t in eternity). Note also that there is not a causal relationship of “mark –} curse”; it’s the other way around.
Here are many of the examples of negative descriptions:
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, 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 5:22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.
2 Nephi 5:23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.
2 Nephi 5:24 And because of their cursing (grego: note the wording and the difference: “cursing”, not “mark”) which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.
Alma 3:5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.
Alma 3:6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
Alma 3:7 And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women.
Alma 3:8 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, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction.
Alma 3:9 And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.
Alma 3:10 Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him.
Alma 3:19 Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.
Jacob 7:24 And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain, for *they delighted in wars and bloodshed*, and they *had an eternal hatred against us*, their brethren. And they *sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually*.
Enos 1:11 And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and *I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites*.
Enos 1:13 And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him–that if it should so be, that my people, the Nephites, should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed, and the Lamanites should not be destroyed, that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites; even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that *it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps*, they might be brought unto salvation–
Enos 1:14 For *at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith*. And *they swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers*.
Enos 1:18 And the Lord said unto me: *Thy fathers have also required of me this thing*; and it shall be done unto them according to their faith; for their faith was like unto thine.
Enos 1:20 And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; *their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us*.
Jarom 1:6 And they were scattered upon much of the face of the land, and the Lamanites also. And they were exceedingly more numerous than were they of the Nephites; and they loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts.
Ok, even in our times, if someone can show that running around naked in society is a mark of class, let me know…
The Nephites tried to teach the Lamanites, but the Lamanites tried to kill them. Many less-than-desirable habits are listed; is there any reason why we must believe this is opinion instead of description? I mean, most people have no problems with calling Hitler all kinds of derogatory things, even though they have no first-hand information or experience whatsoever; yet these writers did have first-hand information–they had been among the Lamanites to preach to them, they fought with them, they likley observed them and had run-ins with them, etc.
Mosiah 24:7 And thus the Lamanites began to increase in riches, and began to trade one with another and wax great, and began to be a cunning and a wise people, as to the wisdom of the world, yea, *a very cunning people, delighting in all manner of wickedness and plunder, except it were among their own brethren*.
Mosiah 25:11 And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.
Here is one of many examples of how the Nephites were usually better prepared for war than the Lamanites:
Alma 43:20 Now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea, all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites;
Some apologists have claimed that the incidents of getting drunk and having bad things happen attest to a Lamanite bias.
The Lamanites get drunk here:
Mosiah 22:6 Behold the back pass, through the back wall, on the back side of the city. The Lamanites, or the guards of the Lamanites, by night are drunken; therefore let us send a proclamation among all this people that they gather together their flocks and herds, that they may drive them into the wilderness by night.
Mosiah 22:10 And king Limhi caused that his people should gather their flocks together; and he sent the tribute of wine to the Lamanites; and he also sent more wine, as a present unto them; and they did drink freely of the wine which king Limhi did send unto them.
Alma 55:13 And it came to pass that they did take of the wine freely; and it was pleasant to their taste, therefore they took of it more freely; and it was strong, having been prepared in its strength.
Alma 55:14 And it came to pass they did drink and were merry, and by and by they were all drunken.
(and possibly this one:
Alma 47:18 And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died).
But then, on the other hand, the Nephites don’t fall for the tricks:
Alma 55:30 And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.
But there’s a reason why, and it’s clearly given to us:
Alma 55:31 But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.
Alma 55:32 And they were thus cautious that no poison should be administered among them; for if their wine would poison a Lamanite it would also poison a Nephite; and thus they did try all their liquors.
Not only that, the Nephites did it first–were they going to fall for their own trick? And the two Lamanites stories have a long time between them, and are in different circumstances.
Is that so hard to understand? Must there be a bias there?
Well, what about getting lost? Of course Mormon wrote that to show how stupid the Lamanites were:
Mosiah 22:16 And after they had pursued them two days, they could no longer follow their tracks; therefore they were lost in the wilderness.
So what is one to make about this?:
Mosiah 8:8 And they [Nephites] were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.
Hey, Mormon even writes about this *twice*:
Mosiah 21:25 Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness.
I guess because Mormon and the original writers cite no anthropological study in the Book of Mormon when they give these descriptions and write these happenings, Gardner, Bokovoy, and others assume that it had to be opinion and what the Nephites imagined, but didn’t really know. Where is the basis for this assumption? Well, because older historians were like that, unlike now” type of stuff. Faulty. Once more, assumptions and speculations–“since most swans in that pond are white, of course Mormon was a white swan, too”. Wait… modern historians write without bias? History books and newspapers are written without bias? No, no.
Are there any clear first-hound accounts in the Book of Mormon itself about dealings with the Lamanites, where the Lamanites are decribed in a negative light?
Yes, here are some (second-hand summary of a grandson, then first-hand accounts of Limhi):
Mosiah 7:21 And ye all are witnesses this day, that Zeniff, who was made king over this people, he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers, therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff, and having yielded up into his hands the possessions of a part of the land, or even the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom; and the land round about–
Mosiah 7:22 And all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us, or our lives.
Mosiah 9:1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them–but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
Mosiah 9:4 Nevertheless, after many days’ wandering in the wilderness we pitched our tents in the place where our brethren were slain, which was near to the land of our fathers.
Mosiah 9:6 And I went in unto the king, and he covenanted with me that I might possess the land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom.
Mosiah 9:7 And he also commanded that his people should depart out of the land, and I and my people went into the land that we might possess it.
Mosiah 9:8 And we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city, yea, even the walls of the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom.
Mosiah 9:10 Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage, that he yielded up the land that we might possess it.
Mosiah 9:12 Now they were a lazy and an idolatrous people; therefore they were desirous to bring us into bondage, that they might glut themselves with the labors of our hands; yea, that they might feast themselves upon the flocks of our fields.
Mosiah 10:12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this–Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
Mosiah 10:17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
Mosiah 10:18 For this very cause has king Laman, by his cunning, and lying craftiness, and his fair promises, deceived me, that I have brought this my people up into this land, that they may destroy them; yea, and we have suffered these many years in the land.
Note that king Limhi wanted to be friends with the Lamanites; he fought to the death against those who wanted to kill them, at first, and did what he could to keep his people from attacking the Lamanites.
Did the Lamanites always keep their word, or are there instances where they are sometimes deceitful for gain? Here’s the experience Alma the elder and his people had (can we trust Alma the elder?):
Mosiah 23:36 And it came to pass that the Lamanites promised unto Alma and his brethren, that if they would show them the way which led to the land of Nephi that they would grant unto them their lives and their liberty.
Mosiah 23:37 But after Alma had shown them the way that led to the land of Nephi the Lamanites would not keep their promise; but they set guards round about the land of Helam, over Alma and his brethren.
The Strongest Witnesses
Nothing, however, beats the strongest witnesses: the Lamanites themselves, missionaries who had spent 14 years among them, and the Lord. Here’s a look:
Alma 17:4 And *they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites*…
Alma 17:13 …they separated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken.
Alma 17:14 And assuredly it was great, for they had undertaken to preach the word of God to *a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands*.
Alma 17:15 *Thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols, and the curse of God had fallen upon them because of the traditions of their fathers*; notwithstanding the promises of the Lord were extended unto them on the conditions of repentance.
The Lamanites admit to their situation as described by the Nephites:
Alma 17:28 Now the servants of the king began to murmur, saying: Now *the king will slay us, as he has our brethren* because their flocks were scattered *by the wickedness of these men*…
Alma 17:35 “*[the Lamanites] delighted in the destruction of their brethren*; and for this cause they stood to scatter the flocks of the king.
Alma 18:2 “[the Lamanite king said:] Behold, is not this the Great Spirit who doth *send such great punishments upon this people, because of their murders*?”
Wow. This is huge right there. Ammon remembered one command and performed it, and it astonished the Lamanite king so much he thought Ammon was God:
Alma 18:8 And it came to pass that king Lamoni inquired of his servants, saying: *Where is this man that has such great power*?
Alma 18:9 And they said unto him: *Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots*, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land.
Alma 18:10 Now *when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them*.
Alma 18:11 Now I surely know that this is the Great Spirit, and I would desire him that he come in unto me, but I durst not.
Alma 23:3 “that his (the Lamanite king’s) people might be convinced concerning *the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness*.
More from the big Lamanite king (Lamoni’s father):
Alma 24:7 Now, these are the words which [the Lamanite king] said unto the people concerning the matter: I thank my God, my beloved people, that *our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren, the Nephites, unto us to preach unto us, and to convince us of the traditions of our wicked fathers*.
Alma 24:9 And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence (with the Nephites) *we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed*.
Alma 24:10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, … that he hath forgiven us of those *our many sins and murders which we have committed*…
Alma 24:11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (*as we were the most lost of all mankind*) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed…
What does Samuel *the Lamanite* say?:
Helaman 15:4 But behold *my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually, and this because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers*.
(It is very possible that when these Lamanites left to the Nephites, they took their records/ history with them. It is also probable that there was more on the plates that Mormon did not include.)
So, it’s very clear that chances were much better that Mormon and the other Book of Mormon writers were very accurate in their descriptions of the Lamanites, than that they were operating under false assumptions.