Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Book of Mormon on Racism

Critics and Enemies of the LDS Church falsely claim that the Book of Mormon is racist. Our enemies claim this is because the book deals with darker and lighter-skinned peoples called the Nephites and the Lamanites. It just so happens that at the start of the Book, the lighter-skinned melanin-deprived people were the more righteous people. But if you stop there and claim racism, you miss out on the what is a major theme of the entire work of scripture.

Yes, the Book of Mormon deals with race. And why shouldn't it. Racism and tribalism have been an issues that mankind has dealt with from the beginning of time. But hopefully readers of the Book of Mormon will read the Book of Mormon carefully enough so that they can appreciate what God really has to say about race and racism in the Book of Mormon.

1. When Lehi's family arrive from Jerusalem to the Americas, they are a very small group in comparison to the Jaredites who had already been living on the continent for over 1000 years. The Book of Mormon says the Jeradite civilization was destroyed, but that doesn't mean every last Jaredite went extinct or that there weren't other groups living in the Americas. What it means is that those that remained ceased to be any type of cohesive civilized society and reverted back to a primitive hunter-gatherer aboriginal state.

2. Upon arriving in the Americas, Lehi's family divided up into what are referred to as the Nephites and Lamanites. The Nephites were more righteous at the start and retained the civilizing practices of religious observance, literacy, agriculture, and industry. The Lamanites, on the other hand, rejected God and rejected all of the civilizing practices that the Nephites maintained. The Lamanites, like the Jaredites before them, reverted to a aboriginal hunter-gatherer subsistence lifestyle.

3. It is apparent that the Lamanites likely intermixed with the other hunter-gatherer aboriginals and through extreme sun exposure, and genetic inheritance patterns had a darker skin color and higher melanin pigment content than the Nephites who bring Middle-Eastern themselves were likely also very olive-brown complected themselves.

4. Due to envy and continual war, both the Nephites and the Lamanites suffered from learned racism that was continually passed down from generation to generation.

Nephite view of the Lamanites

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."

Alma 26:24 "For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.
25 And moreover they did say: Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us."

Lamanite view of the Nephites:

Mos 10:12 "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;
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, . . .
15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.
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."

5. But, despite the Nephites view of the Lamanites and visa versa, this was not Gods view. Gods view on race is explained in the following scriptures:

Prophet's view of the Lamanites:

Jacob 3:7 "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."

God's view of race, ethnicity, gender:

2 Ne 26:33 "For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

7. In reality, the dark skin is not the curse of Laman and Lemuel but rather a mark the Nephites associated with the curse.

Alma 3:6 "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers,
7 . . . and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women."

8. The real curse of Laman and Lemuel is specifically explained as the curse of inequality due to sin.

Alma 28:13 "And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men."

9. The major theme of the Book of Mormon is not just about the cursing of Laman and Lemuel. Rather, the Book of Mormon is more specifically about how the Atonement of Christ has grace and power to overcome the curse of inequality due to sin.

Thus we see a slow and steady process by which the Lamanites are first taught in the language of the Nephites and many are taught to read and write. The Lamanites are also taught civilizing principles of agriculture, husbandry, and industry. At one point the Book of Mormon says that the Lamanites engaged in free economic trade with the Nephites. The Lamanites were then prepared to receive missionaries who could then use the scriptures, and the power of the Holy Ghost to convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers.

Alma 26:3 "Behold, . . . our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God."

10. By the end of the Book of Mormon, the faith and devotion of the Lamanites exceeds that of the Nephites. Converted Lamanites are praised for their continual faith and steadfastness toward God.

Alma 27:27;30 "And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end. . . And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord."

3 Ne 6:14 "And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; . . . save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord."

It is unfortunate that there are those who have failed to read the Book of Mormon carefully enough that they miss out on its beautiful message. First, that all are alike unto God and that he really is no respecter of persons. 2. That the grace and power of the atonement has the power to overcome the curse of inequality due to sin. And 3. That no one is beyond the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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