Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, January 25

“Racism in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 5?” by grego

Racism in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 5?

(c) 2010

Some would say that these verses show racism in the Book of Mormon:
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.
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.
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.
24 And because of their cursing 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.

Sorry to be a little technical, but technical is what it has to be…

Being that the leaders of the Lamanites and the Nephites were literal brothers, I’m not sure “race” is even a suitable term.

“Dark skin as a bad thing to God” is not appropriate, either, as it had to do with the Nephites, not God, and it was done as an appropriate physical representation of a metaphor the Nephites and Lamanites understood, and likely to additionally remind the Nephites (not the Lamanites) of the reason to not intermarry with the Lamanites.

“Creating a distinguishing mark that the Nephites would find non-enticing” would probably be most appropriate as a description of what’s going on.

Is that racist? I can’t see how, unless you were reading into it, as it clearly relies on cultural attraction of Nephites. Had the Nephites originally been dark, and darkness were a symbol or metaphor of righteousness in their culture, it is possible that the mark put on the Lamanites by God, would have been to have white skin…

It’s also essential to distinguish between the “mark” (dark skin) and the “curse/ cursing” (cut off from God, resulting in being an idle people, etc.) (see Alma 3 for this clearer discussion on mark and curse).

Well, the critic might say, what about this part?:
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.
And that verse comes right after talking about the dark skin (verse 21)!

Correct, it does. However, it also comes right before the verse talking about the curse (not the mark/ dark skin) (verse 23).

Also, note in that verse that the “loathsome”ness would be there unless the Lamanites repented; and in the Book of Mormon, in more than one place, the Lamanites *do* repent, they become industrious instead of idle, but their skin color does not change; so that “loathsome”ness is talking about the curse, not the mark/ dark skin.

There are a few other places in the Book of Mormon that other things are said:
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…
6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.
7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?
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.
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*.
10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, 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.

Jacob is clear here talking about the dark-skinned Lamanites: don’t treat people negatively because of their skin color; the part that matters when we stand before God is the purity of our hearts, and why/ why not.

Other prophets (Alma in Alma 9, Nephi in Helaman 7, and Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 15) all talk about the decadent state of the Lamanites being their fathers’ fault, and that the Lord will preserve them and bless them later.

These promises are for the Lamanites before Jesus Christ’s coming, and the Lamanites afterwards (these were two different groups).

Note that there were always Nephites who left, went over to, and at least sometimes married the Lamanites, and from the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi on, some converted and/ or peaceful Lamanites among the Nephites.

Take care!

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