Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, August 26

“Critique of FAIR Website’s Book of Mormon Article: ‘Lamanite Curse'” by grego

“Critique of FAIR Website’s Book of Mormon Article: ‘Lamanite Curse'”

grego
(c)2009

This is a critique of the FAIR website’s article, “Lamanite curse”, found at: http://en.fairmormon.org/Lamanite_curse .

FAIR Article:
“Criticism
* Critics claim that the Church believed that Lamanites who accepted the Gospel would become light-skinned.
* “Mormon folklore” claims that Native Americans and Polynesians carry a curse based upon “misdeeds on the part of their ancestors.”

grego: Well, I also don’t believe either of those, but the article doesn’t answer them as much as it tries to do other things…

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FAIR Article: “The Book of Mormon, however, sometimes does call the mark a curse, as shown in Alma 3:6-7.
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. 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 3:6-7 (emphasis added)

Although this passage refers to the mark as the curse, it later makes a distinction between the curse and the mark. These passages also indicate that the curse was applied prior to the mark. [2]”

grego: Whoops, one passage is not “sometimes”. However, if other references had been given, that would be “sometimes”.

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “What is the curse?

Tvedtnes suggests that curse applied to the Lamanites was that they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Nephi states:

Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence. 2 Nephi 5:20

A group of Nephites who joined the Lamanites illustrates. Their skin color was not changed because of their rejection of the Gospel but the curse was applied to them. Hugh Nibley describes the situation of the Amlicites:

Thus we are told (Alma 3:13-14,Alma 2:18) that while the fallen people “set the mark upon themselves,” it was none the less God who was marking them: “I will set a mark upon them,” etc. So natural and human was the process that it suggested nothing miraculous to the ordinary observer, and “the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves; . . . it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them” (Alma 3:18). Here God places his mark on people as a curse, yet it is an artificial mark which they actually place upon themselves. The mark was not a racial thing but was acquired by “whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites” (Alma 3:10);[3] (emphasis added)”

grego: Notice this part carefully, because it is a “hook”: “So natural and human was the process (note this is talking about the mark on the Amlicites, not the Lamanites) that it suggested nothing miraculous to the ordinary observer, and ‘the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves’. Here God places his mark on people as a curse, yet it is an artificial mark…”
We will see this nice illusory transition in the next section—be prepared, or you will miss it!
We suddenly have a conclusion that the mark was not racial, though it’s uncertain if this refers to the Amlicites or to the Lamanites. Perhaps the confusion is intended?

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “What was the mark?

As shown above, the mark may vary from group to group. The Amlicites marked themselves, and this was taken by the Nephites as a sign of divine “marking.”

Many LDS have traditionally assumed that the “mark” was a literal change in racial skin color.”

grego: There it is!! Did you see the magic trick? From the marking of the Amlicites, to others, to the marking of the Lamanites—even though there is no connection between the two in the Book of Mormon, the author (Brant Gardner, I guess, right?) wants you to imagine that there is one, even if it is just based on “common sense” type imagining.

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FAIR Article: “There are certainly verses which can be read from this perspective. A key question, however, is whether modern members read the Book of Mormon’s ideas through their own society’s preoccupations and perspectives. American society was (and, to an extent, continues to be) convulsed over issues regarding race, especially black slavery and its consequences.

As a result, nineteenth- and twentieth-century members may have read as literal passages which were far less literal to the Nephites.”

grego: This is the ultimate cop-out that FAIR uses for some explanations: “presentism”. What it often actually means is, “Since the interpretation given doesn’t suit my purposes, I will find a reason to nullify it, and then present *my* (modern-day—but don’t remember that!!) interpretation in its stead.
It also has what I’ll refer to as Americanism. How do people in other societies *other than America* interpret the passages? If you guessed, “Literally”, “racially”, or something similarly, you would be pretty correct.
So much for that line of reasoning…

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Douglas Campbell has completed an exhaustive review of all such references in the Book of Mormon.[4] He found that there were twenty-eight usages of the word “white” or “whiteness” in the Book of Mormon. He divided them into several categories:
1. Clothing: symbols of purity or cleanness
2. Fruit (of tree of life): luminosity or holiness
3. Stone (clear and white): literally white stones are not clear, they are opaque. Thus, white is again a term for holiness or luminosity
4. Hair (black or white): a single mention (based on the KJV Sermon on the Mount) uses the term as an allegory or symbol
5. Jesus, his mother Mary, or those made pure by him: exquisite, radiant, awe-inspiring
6. Gentiles: all Gentiles, thus not about skin color but beautiful, pure, and righteous
7. The saved: pure, holy, without spot
8. As a pair of contrasts (black and white, bond and free): sets of opposites
9. Nephites: See below

Thus, virtually all other uses of the white/black terminology reflects symbolic or spiritual states, not literal color.”

grego: This is an example of what I would call extreme playing with semantics—reading and interpreting the meanings so that they fit a predetermined, boxed, structure.
Let’s see…
1. White clothing—while symbolizing purity—is what color? White. Good.
2. What color is the fruit? White. Good.
3. The definition here for “white stone” is forced. I have seen white clear stones (in fact, I own one). It is clear, and it is white, but it is not holy (I’ve tried, but I can’t see anything… ;) )
4. Hair is what color here? Black (younger), white (aged). Good.
5. I’m glad FAIR has confirmed that Mary did not have white skin, but was very dark. (Can I order that vision too? Which page is that in the Church catalog?)
6. So by that reasoning, all Gentiles are “beautiful, pure, and righteous”?? Clear problem here…
8. So, as a pair of contrasts, Nephi just indiscriminately picked “black and white” to go along with and “bond and free” and “male and female” ? Are “bond and free” and “male and female” *also* completely symbolic?

Let me add something here that might be helpful to see and remember, from http://anthropology.si.edu/goddard/redskin.pdf:
“For example, both James Madison and Black Thunder, who used red and white as racial terms (see below), also used red (or bloody) and white to symbolize war and peace, clearly intending no linkage between the two idioms (Stagg et al. 2004: 175–177; Boilvin 1816).”

Ok, my research wasn’t quite “exhaustive”, but it did take a minute or two.

Here’s another thing: the mark follows many of the above examples, in that not only was it symbolic, it was *also* a physical color:
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.
Try making sense of *that* verse when thinking “skin of blackness” is a metaphor!

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FAIR Article: “It is likely that Nephites would not have had the modern American “preoccupation” with skin color, and so would not be burdened with our tendency to see references about skin to automatically imply race.”

grego: And here is a presentist interpretation about skin color and the Nephites, just like I warned about a few paragraphs ago.
Why would it be “likely”? Is there anything FAIR knows about the Nephites that allows that comment? Because I can’t see that in the Book of Mormon, and in fact, I find verses to the contrary (I show them below.) References, please, FAIR, to back up this statement?

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Thus, concludes Campbell:

White-skinned Nephites and black-skinned Lamanites are metaphors for cultures, not for skin colour.”

grego: Nice conclusion; many have concluded many things from the Book of Mormon. While conclusions are nice, I really prefer evidence and proof. Which, unfortunately, are missing from the argument.

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “The church teaches that the descendants of the Lamanites inhabited the Americas when Columbus arrived. But Lamanites are not black-skinned; they are not even red-skinned.”

grego: First, is anyone sure that is Columbus?
Second, where are the descendants of the Lamanites in the Americas?
Third, I would like to know how one assumes that the Lamanites met by Columbus (is that what was inferred?) looked the same as the ones that were from close to 600BC.
Fourth, I would like to know if they were the same color as the Lamanites in 231 AD, and 400(+ -) AD; and that those from 400(+ -) AD had the same dark skin mark as those of 580(+ -) BC. Keep in mind the conversion of the Lamanites (Helaman 5+), the remaining of the people after the great destruction before the coming of Christ, the numerous Nephite dissenters and deniers among them and their intermixing, etc.
References, FAIR?

Next, I will plead a case of presentism and Americanism: “black” does not necessarily mean “black”, but means “dark”. “Blacks”—in America—usually doesn’t refer to people who are the color of pitch-dark black, or even black; most I know are a much lighter shade; even brown. It would have made, and would make, much more sense—for smart modern advanced Western Americans—to call them “Browns” instead, but… didn’t happen, eh? Is it possible something similar happened to the Lamanites, too? Does the Book of Mormon ever state after 3 Nephi, for example, that the Lamanites had “skins of blackness”?
As another example, Chinese say they have “black eyes”—when in fact, they have brown eyes.
See also Jacob 3:9, Alma 3:6.
And yes, many people in the Americas Indians were dark-skinned.

If Indians aren’t red-skinned, why did they call themselves “red-skinned” (http://anthropology.si.edu/goddard/redskin.pdf, p.3)? And, as you see in that reference, why did one use “Whites” and “Black”? Or, are you talking about other Indians that are just dark-skinned?:
“As an example Robert Vézina (pers.comm., 20 February 2005) cites Jean-Bernard Bossu (1768: 60), who quotes a Natchez elder as referring to ‘tous les hommes rouges,’ explaining that, ‘C’est ainsi que ces Sauvages s’appellent pour se distinguer des Européens qui sont blancs, & des Africains qui sont noirs.’ In the translation of Seymour Feiler (Bossu 1962: 39) this is ‘all the red men,’ with a note: ‘This is what the Indians call themselves to distinguish themselves from the Europeans who are white and the Africans who are black.'”

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “As the ‘skin of blackness’ is a metaphor, so too is the white skin of the Nephites.”

grego: Woah!! Where in the FAIR article was it ever shown that “‘skin of blackness’ is a metaphor”??
And where did that linked conclusion come from?

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Perhaps 3 Nephi 2:15-16, in which the Lamanites have the curse taken from them, fulfills 2 Nephi 30:6. In these verses the Lamanite has become ‘white and delightsome’ not ‘pure and delightsome.'”

grego: Yes, no doubt Jesus prophesied a prophecy that a past occurrence already fulfilled… Get a clue, folks! ;)

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FAIR Article: “I do not believe the Lord changed their physical skin to white in the twinkling of an eye. These Lamanites…became cultural Nephites.”

grego: Your belief has no bearing on this. We are looking at the text, and maybe even more, but we are not tapping into your belief, to find out what really happened.
I missed “twinkling of an eye” in my Book of Mormon—can FAIR provide a verse, please?
Yes, they likely did become cultural Nephites. And…?

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Some things better explained by this model

There are also instances in which skin color does not play a role, when it should—if the skin color change is literal and noticeable. This should suggest that the literal skin model may be inadequate, since it makes nonsense of a few textual passages.

For example, Captain Moroni wanted to portray his men as being ‘Lamanites’.”

grego: This example was already explained away and shown to be wanting in a few different ways on the FAIR discussion board (mormonapologetics.org; search “Lamanite skin color”). I wonder why those same arguments are not mentioned and countered here for purposes of building credibility for the FAIR article? Is it very scholarly, or honest: to ignore known (and public!) credible counter-arguments that obliterate your point of view?

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “He searched among his troops for someone descended from Laman, and found someone. Moroni sent this man with a troop of Nephite soldiers, and he was able to deceive the Lamanites:”

grego: The writer would have you believe that “a troop of Nephite soldiers” means “white men”, while the text never says that. Not only that, one writer on the discussion board thread already noted that the Book of Mormon is unclear that the antecedent to “his” is Moroni; it could very well be Laman.

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FAIR Article: “Now the Nephites were guarded in the city of Gid; therefore Moroni appointed Laman and caused that a small number of men should go with him. And when it was evening Laman went to the guards who were over the Nephites, and behold, they saw him coming and they hailed him; but he saith unto them: Fear not; behold, I am a Lamanite. Behold, we have escaped from the Nephites, and they sleep; and behold we have taken of their wine and brought with us. Now when the Lamanites heard these words they received him with joy…(Alma 55:7-9.)

If skin color is the issue, then a single Lamanite with a group of Nephites should be easy to spot. But, in this case, it is not. Why, then, the need for a Lamanite at all in Moroni’s plan?

A “native” Lamanite was probably needed because there were differences in language or pronunciation between cultural Nephites and Lamanites (compare between Ephraim and others’ ‘shibboleth, Jud. 12:6). Note that the Book of Mormon says that “when the Lamanites heard these words,” they relaxed and accepted the Lamanite decoy with his Nephite troops. What they could see had not changed, and surely if a dark-skinned Lamanite shows up with a white-skinned bunch of Nephites, they would be suspicious not matter what he says. But, if Nephites and Lamanites are indistinguishable on physical grounds if dressed properly, then their sudden reassurance when a native Lamanite speaks is understandable.

This fact was probably obvious to Mormon and Captain Moroni. The text does not spell it out for us (since it was obvious to the writers), but the clues are all there for the careful reader.

This passage is nonsensical if literal skin color is the issue. It makes perfect sense, however, if Nephites and Lamanites are often physically indistinguishable, but have some differences in language which are difficult to “fake” for a non-(cultural)-Lamanite.”

grego: So… why is it “nonsensical”, and where are all those “clues” for the “careful reader”? What a loaded sentence! How about this: “The text does often spell out Lamanite skin color for us (and it was obvious to the writers), and the clues are all there for the non-careful and the careful reader”.

I see many problems with this interpretation of events, and in fact, a literal skin color interpretation seems to make more sense.

What is happening here is that the article writer is ignoring clear cases of the text, in favor of one episode that, through contrived personal interpretation and reasoning, provides evidence to the contrary. Hmmm… Trying to figure out which one I’ll be persuaded more by…

So, let’s see if there is any other way to read this…
Laman says, “I’m a Lamanite”—the native language being the important thing, especially since the setting is not bright daylight anymore. When Laman gets there, and interacts with the Lamanites, they see that he *is* a Lamanite.

What about the others with Laman, then? Perhaps they are all dark-skinned Lamanites (which the reading allows just as much, if not more, than the proposed interpretation by the article writer).
But, there are still other options. Has no one at FAIR seen “7 Years in Tibet”? The others could very easily be painted in coal, mud, clay, berries, etc., and/or be wrapped up.
Or yet, they were rebel Nephites (like Amlicites, Amalickiahites), where at most a temporary mark on the forehead would do the trick.
Note that Laman never says, “*We* are Lamanites”. He says, “*I* am a Lamanite. Behold, *we* have escaped…” Why the change in sentence subject?

Besides, the main thing is, they have wine! Note also that while FAIR would have you believe the Lamanites relax after hearing “I am a Lamanite” (here is the quote: “Note that the Book of Mormon says that ‘when the Lamanites heard these words,’ they relaxed and accepted the Lamanite decoy with his Nephite troops.”) that is not necessarily true. Take a look:
Alma 55:8: And when it was evening Laman went to the guards who were over the Nephites, and behold, they saw him coming and they hailed him; but he saith unto them: Fear not; behold, I am a Lamanite. Behold, we have escaped from the Nephites, and they sleep; and behold we have taken of their wine and brought with us.
Alma 55:9 Now when the Lamanites heard these words they received him with joy; and they said unto him: Give us of your wine, that we may drink; we are glad that ye have thus taken wine with you for we are weary.

What words made the Lamanite guards “[relax] and [accept] the Lamanite decoy? Was it, “I am a Lamanite”? Or was it, perhaps, “[the Nephites sleep and we] have taken of their wine and brought with us”?
Verse 9 would have me believe it was the latter, *not* the former.

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Is the lifting of the curse associated with a change in skin color?

The Lamanites are promised that if they return to Christ, that “the scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes:”

And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.
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 pure and a delightsome people.2 Nephi 30:5-6

At the time that this statement was made by Elder Kimball, the Book of Mormon did indeed say “white and delightsome.” This passage is often quoted relative to the lifting of the curse since the phrase “white and delightsome” was changed to “pure and delightsome” in the 1840 (and again in the 1981) editions of the Book of Mormon. The edit made by Joseph Smith in 1840 in which this phrase was changed to “pure and delightsome” had been omitted from subsequent editions, which were actually based upon the 1837 edition rather than the 1840 edition. …

It seems evident from the passage in 2 Nephi that the lifting of the curse of the Lamanites was the removal of the “scales of darkness” for their eyes.”

grego: They shall also be a “pure and delightsome” people. Why cut “scales’ apart from “pure and delightsome”, then choose just one? Is that because it fits in with what the article writer would want us to believe?

There is no Book of Mormon reference noted in this FAIR article that says the “scales of darkness” or anything else mentioned is the lifting of the mark or curse.
Any references to make this “evident”, would be appreciated.

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “It is sometimes indicated that Lamanites who had converted to the Gospel and thus had the curse lifted also had the mark removed. If the mark was more in the eyes of the Nephites than in a physical thing like actual skin color, its removal is even more easily understood.

And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year. 3 Nephi 2:15-16”

grego: First of all, “sometimes indicated” is not true. The removal of the mark is recorded only once. It is not recorded when the Anti-Nephi-Lehites join, nor about their sons who fight with Helaman, nor in Helaman 5 when so many Lamanites are converted and more righteous, as a people, than the Nephites, nor anywhere else—only in 3 Nephi 2.

Whether something is easier to understand or not, doesn’t make it truer or not, right? Is someone limiting God’s ability to work a miracle?

“If the mark was more in the eyes of the Nephites than in a physical thing…” Are we to also understand that the mark of the Amlicites upon their foreheads was “more in the eyes of the Nephites than is a physical thing”? Once more, this metaphorical thinking brings many problems with it…

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FAIR Article: “As with the invocation of the curse followed by the application of the mark, this passage indicates that the curse was revoked and the mark was removed when the Lamanites’ skin “became white like unto the Nephites.” The Book of Mormon makes no mention of any change in skin color as the result of the conversion of Helaman’s 2000 warriors, yet these Lamanites and their parents had committed themselves to the Lord, and were often more righteous than the Nephites were.

Thus, although a change in skin color is sometimes mentioned in conjunction with the lifting of the curse, it does not appear to always have been the case.”

grego: As mentioned above, it wasn’t the case, other than in this case.

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “And, as discussed above, it may well be that Nephite ideas about skin were more symbolic or rhetorical than literal/racial. This perspective harmonizes all the textual data, and explains some things (like the native Lamanite and his band of Nephite troops deceiving the Lamanites) that a literal view of the skin color mark does not.”

grego: Once more, this is given as a way to “[explain] some things”. I would like to ask, FAIR, *what* “things”, exactly, are explained by this way of reasoning?
Once more, there is only one example given—Laman, in Alma 55—not many. (And that’s a bad example…)

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Chapter headings modified in the 2006 Doubleday edition of the Book of Mormon

This perspective is perhaps reinforced by some recent changes in the Book of Mormon’s modern chapter headings.

These headings are not part of the translated text and were never present in the 1830 edition. The most significant expansion of chapter headings occurred in the 1981 edition of all of the Standard Works. Changes made in the chapter headings of the 2006 Doubleday edition reflect the view of the curse being a separation from the presence of the Lord, rather than a “skin of blackness.”

Note the following two changes to the chapter headings between the 1981 and 2006 (Doubleday) editions (emphasis added):
Chapter 2 Nephi 5
1981 (Official LDS Church Edition) Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.
2006 (Doubleday Edition) Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cut off from the presence of the Lord, are cursed, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.

Mormon 5
1981 (Official LDS Church Edition) The Lamanites shall be a dark, filthy, and loathsome people
2006 (Doubleday Edition) Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites will be scattered, and the Spirit will cease to strive with them”

grego: “Changes” might “reflect the view”, but the text already explains it.
I’m not sure how this whole section supports anything, really.

-=-=-=

FAIR Article: “Conclusion

Although the curse of the Lamanites is often associated directly with their skin color, it may be that this was intended in a far more symbolic sense than modern American members traditionally assumed.

The curse itself came upon them as a result of their rejection of the Gospel. It was possible to be subject to the curse, and to be given a mark, without it being associated with a change in skin color, as demonstrated in the case of the Amlicites. The curse is apparently a separation from the Lord. A close reading of the Book of Mormon text makes it untenable to consider that literal skin color was ever the “curse.” At most, the skin color was seen as a mark, and it may well have been that these labels were far more symbolic and cultural than they were literal.”

grego: A much better closing. Overall, though, the article seems disoriented, loose, and in need of much revision.
“Symbolic”? No, it’s actually real. “Black” translated as meaning pitch-dark black for the entire existence of the Lamanites? Ok, I can see problems with that—and it’s been shown.

-=-=-=
grego: The first part of my critique is done.

Here’s another question: How would intermarrying with natives (as Brant Garnder and many FAIR members believe happened) affect the skin and physical features, especially 1,000 years later? Would that affect episodes such as Laman’s?

Now, let’s look at a few verses that FAIR didn’t manage to put in this article…

***
2 Nephi 5:20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.

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.

grego: Being cut off is the curse, and they were cursed, “because of their iniquity”. Then, it follows, “wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome”. If were to read this solely symbolically, as FAIR does, what do we make of that? I can’t make anything of that symbolically, because how could they be “righteous” (FAIR’s symbolic interpretation) after “their iniquity”? Were the Lamanites righteous before the separation and complete cursing? The” loathsome” part is due to the curse, yet we will see in other parts of the Book of Mormon that some of the Nephites connected the skin color to it.

***
Jacob 3:3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.

grego:
Some of the Nephites are not “pure in heart” (righteous), but are “filthy” (symbolic of wicked); the curse is recalled; the Lamanites are not “filthy like unto you” (“filthy to you on the outside, but not filthy like you on the inside due to clearly choosing deep sin”), even though they are under the curse of being cut off from the Lord.

***

Jacob 3:5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you [due to fidelity];

Jacob 3:7 …and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers…

Jacob 3:8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.

Jacob 3:9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

Jacob 3:10 … remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

grego: Jacob ties in outer filthiness of the Lamanites to the inner filthiness of the Nephites.
He also ties in the physical colors of the Nephite vs. Lamanite skins, with a symbolic color of their skin at the judgment day.
Neither construction is pure symbolism.

Lamanite iniquity, cursing, filthiness, and black (read “dark”) skin mark—all literal/ seen by the natural eye—are from their ancestors.
Nephite iniquity, cursing, and white skin that is symbolically black (read “light to the physical eye, but symbolically dark/ wicked”)—all seen by the prophetic eye—is from themselves.

Jacob was basically chastizing the Nephites for hypocrisy. They judged the Lamanites on outward appearances, but ignored that inwardly, they appeared worse.

***
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.

grego: A verse that supports “black” to be read as “dark”, not literally pure black. Clearly, the dark skin is the mark of the curse.

***
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.

grego: After the cursing, the mark was put on everyone, not just the fighting men.

***
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 3:13 Now we will return again to the Amlicites, for they also had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads.

Alma 3:14 Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.

Alma 3:15 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also.

Alma 3:16 And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed.

grego: Mingling with the Lamanites made one called a Lamanite, being cut off from the Lord, and having a mark set upon oneself. However, it seems that the marks are different for the original Lamanites and “additional” Lamanites.

***
3 Nephi 2:15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;

grego: The curse was removed, *and* the skin became white. This is the only instance. If the mark were only symbolic of the curse, why didn’t it happen with the Anti-Nephi-Lehites? Why didn’t it happen with other converted Lamanites, at other times?

Summary:
*Is “darkness” symbolic in the Book of Mormon? Usually.

*Is it possible that the Lamanite mark was symbolic? No.

*Was a literal dark skin the mark for all the Lamanites? No.

*Was light skin a mark for a Lamanite who had the curse removed? Rarely (only one recorded instance).

*In that one recorded instance, was there also a cultural and political joining of Lamanites to Nephites that had never seemed to happen to the same extent before? Yes, there was.

*Was a literal dark skin pigmentation the mark for the original Lamanites? Likely. To say the least, there was surely some physical, not symbolic, mark on the Lamanite skin.

*Could the original dark skin Lamanite mark have come from intermarriage? No, definitely not. There are many reasons:
1. The mark came upon the first generation, not just the future ones (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.).
2. Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael were already married (see: 1 Nephi 16:7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife. 1 Nephi 18:9 And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days, behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.).
3. Jacob preached that the Lamanites were monogamous and faithful.

*Could the skin color have come from some other physical source/ reason? Ah, good question…

These additional unmentioned verses sustain the conclusion that the mark was not metaphorical/ spiritual, but literal/ physical.

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2 Comments »

  1. Hey, you have very carefully argued that the Lamanites’ curse was a physical attribute and not just a symbolic metaphor. That’s how I see it too, and this is making my testimony weak. How can you reconcile this argument with a God that loves us all equally? A God that is not racist… I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    Comment by nina — 2017, May 17 @ 7:16 am

  2. I think this sums it up better: “Clearly, the dark skin is the mark of the curse.”

    It’s also important to remember this part: the cursing and mark came upon those who willingly rebelled against God, and their children–God knowing that those who willingly rebelled would teach their children to rebel against God and those who hadn’t.

    But the fact that rebellious Nephites didn’t become dark, and righteous Lamanites didn’t become white, shows even in the Book of Mormon that skin color was not a sign of (especially personal) righteousness or wickedness.

    Other than sunbathing Americans, all over the world (even in Asia) it’s a very general truth that white>dark skin. I have seen it in every country I’ve been in, and while I wouldn’t call it racism, it’s related.

    It’s also generally accepted that white>dark skin, economically.

    It’s not just a White/ Black thing, either. Even areas and countries are divided. These skins are not just two categories, but a spectrum of darklight.

    No, it’s not fair, and it’s not God-like for humans to discriminate on a physical characteristic.

    But it happens for other things, too. If you are beautiful, you will be discriminated against much less than if you are ugly. Taller and stronger men will be promoted much more than shorter and weaker men. How many fat women have you seen on a catwalk? Etc. And you could say much of those things are passed down from parents to children, too. I was discriminated against because my nose was too big. Blame my genes, lol.

    This also happens with social aspects. If you look the part, you will be discriminated much less than those who don’t look the part. If you play the part, you will gain much quicker acceptance than those who don’t. Etc.

    And it happens in just about all other areas, too, like economical acceptance and discrimination, lingual acceptance and discrimination, etc.

    I think it all goes back to “where much is given (even in the eyes of man), much is expected”.

    And disciples of Jesus Christ are to overcome their personal biases and prejudices of all forms, but especially of outer things that people don’t have control over. Jesus Christ will not judge people–not even Laman and Lemuel–on their skin color, nor any other physical attribute. (It will enter into play in the judgment in other areas, as Jacob admonishes the Nephites.) None of us will be judged for what we couldn’t control, so to say. Even on the basis of what we often assume to be “signs” of faithfulness, there will be righteous judgment. A woman will not be judged by how skinny or fat she was, but on how healthy she tried to keep her body and make it a temple, especially using it to perform works of righteousness; and so forth.

    I hope the scriptures at the end of the article help.

    The Nephite and Lamanite prophets wrote to the latter-day Lamanites, filled with faith, hope, and charity, and knowing the time would come that they would, as Lamoni and his father and their followers, come to understand the false traditions of their fathers and be converted to Jesus Christ. Blessings can be cursings, and cursings can be blessings.

    Comment by grego — 2017, May 28 @ 3:45 am


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