Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Book of Mormon 10/18

I had heard that the LDS Church used to be a racist organization, and that they denied black people the priesthood until about the time of desegregation. Mormons to my knowledge have always denied these allegations. But now I see where they come from. From reading the BOM, I got the impression that the author considered white skin to be beautiful and black skin to be loathsome.
And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin and she was exceedingly fair and white. (1 Nephi 11:13)

And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. (1 Nephi 13:15)

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. 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 5:21-22)

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

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 3:6)

And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites. (3 Nephi 2:14-15)
I went to Yahoo Answers and posted a question about this. I said, "Do you believe that black people are under a curse? Do you believe that being black is a bad thing? Is it a punishment from God? Do you believe that being white is better than being black? If not, why would God curse Lamanites by making them black, and reward them by making them white?"

All of the Mormons denied that blackness was the curse. Instead, black skin was just a sign that allowed the Nephites to tell who was cursed so they could distinguish between the two people's.

Alma 3:6 explicitly says that the dark skin was the curse. Jacob 3:8 also seems to present a strong case that blackness was the curse. Rather than talking about black and white, it talks about degrees of whiteness in proportion to sin. And Jacob 3:8 is a warning, as if being white is more preferable to being black. And 2 Nephi 5:21-22 seems to clearly indicate that whiteness is delightsome while blackness is loathsome. It explicitly says that God made the Lamanites black so that "they might not be enticing unto my people." Clearly, God was counting on the Nephites to be racists. Or, if not racists, at least to not be very attracted to black people. It was not simply so the Nephites would know who the cursed people were. But judge for yourself.

If blackness was not the curse, then what was the curse?

It would not be surprising at all if this point of view about black people came from the mind of somebody living in America in the 1800's. People used to say that black people were under the curse of Ham. According to this article in Wikipedia, "This racist theory was widely held during the 18th-20th centuries, but it has been largely abandoned since the mid-20th century." There are still people today who believe that theory. I met one just five years ago. It looks to me like Joseph Smith simply inserted a popular myth into his book.

Part 11

6 Comments:

At 6/27/2009 2:11 PM , Blogger Paul said...

The black = cursed/inferior conclusion seems to be the plain reading of the text. If there was something else going on, then it has been poorly communicated by the author.

Another question would related to what happened in the "1978 Revelation" when blacks were given access to the temple and the priesthood. It seems clear that they were denied it due to the curse they were under (specifically the Cain Curse). In 1978 was this curse lifted or just the restriction? If the curse was lifted, then why are they still black? If not lifted, then blackness can still be described as an accursed condition.

Now, this "racist" legacy of the LDS Church does not invalidate it. It could be possible that they actually have the origins of black skin correct and we just perceive it as racist. (The Christian church certainly has its own apparently "sexist" theology to deal with.) However, we should at least be able to honestly dialog about it.

BTW, I've also met someone who believed the racial curse theory. He learned it in his small-town Mississippi church, or at least within that church community. But I have never heard it even hinted at in any of my historical theological travels.

 
At 6/27/2009 2:30 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Maybe it's a Mississippi thing. The person I heard it from grew up in East Texas, but she was born in Mississippi, and her parents are from there.

 
At 7/04/2009 5:14 PM , Blogger jacob said...

Hi, I notice that you are discussing the throne of God. We have been led to believe by our ancestors that when Jesus was resurrected he went up to a throne in heaven. However I just read a fascinating book by the New Testament scholar Stephan Huller that in earliest Christianity that the original gospel writer (St. Mark) might have had a physical throne ON THIS EARTH in mind - one which originally sat in Alexandria and which he rediscovered in Venice - see the photos of the object in the Basilica di San Marco which Italian sailors stole from the Church of St. Mark in Alexandria along with the body of St. Mark in 828 AD - see photos of the throne here - http://www.therealmessiahbook.blogspot.com.

The point of Huller's book is that St. Mark was the first Pope and that Jesus ruled 'on his right hand' as he sat on this throne (it is a universally acknowledged - albeit ignored - fact that the title 'Papa' or Pope was originally associated with St. Mark rather than St. Peter and with Alexandria rather than Rome; the bishop of Rome only acquired the title after the fifth century).

I was really fascinated by this book. It wasn't anything like what I had been taught in Sunday school. It really made me think and learn about the language that Jesus and the original gospel writer (St. Mark) spoke.

For instance in Hebrew or Aramaic (the language of Jesus) there would be no way to distinguish the concepts of 'divine throne' or 'heavenly throne' - i.e. it would be easy for white Europeans to get misled or confused (like the Gospels of Matthew and Luke speaking about 'the kingdom of heaven' and 'God' even though the Aramaic would be one and the same).

It is an amazing book and here is some background information on the author http://www.stephanhuller.blogspot.com/

Just thought I would pass this along

Peace

Jacob

 
At 8/09/2010 9:34 PM , Blogger wi said...

Joseph Smith was not very original in introducing this concept of 'cause and effect' or 'rewarding or punishing' as a means of enlightening or educating his audience. God did the same to Adam and Eve after a famous supper in the Garden of Eden which many, even, today, accept without much protest as to it's veracity or it's inherent value as a guide to happiness in the conduct of one's life. Has the God of Adam and Eve changed? Would that same being who apparently, spoke to Adam and Eve as I am speaking to those who are only reading my words, have rewarded a man and woman, or for that matter, punish them in the like manner on the 10 of August 2010? If I am not able to extract wisdom from such an unlikely source as a tale about a man and a woman eating an afternoon meal in a different setting and time to that of my own lifetime then how can I possibly hope to gain beneficial knowledge from anything else that I read, let alone what someone might tell me with his own voice. If I then assert such a tale as this so called 'Adam and Eve' story to, therefore, be "true" even though I use my own language and idiom does that make it fraudulent to someone who might read it in another country or language other than my own? If I were then to submit to being murdered for refusing to retract this so called 'tale' of very questionable origin, would this behaviour in any way detract or weaken the inherent value or wisdom of my fantastic tale in any way?

 
At 10/26/2011 4:21 PM , Blogger Tyson said...

I'm finally to number 10.

I guess I would first say that in the Book of Mormon the Lamanites or black skinned people actually become more righteous than the Nephites white skinned.

In the front of the Book of Mormon we also find a title page written by Moroni who is the final prophet in the book. Moroni wrote that the Lamanites are a remenant of the house of Israel. He also describes that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is show this remanent that they are not cast off. Various other prophets in the Book of Mormon itself said the same thing about the Lamanites. They were to be remembered by the Lord and brought back into the sacred covenants.

Black skin is not the curse. The curse was the removal of priesthood authority because of unrighteousness. Just as Abraham was given circumcision as a token to differentiate those of the covenant from those not of the covenant (Gentiles). At one time there were no gentiles and people of the covenant. If all came from Adam and Eve, a seperation occured somewhere. This is often associated with Cain, but I would assume that Cain wasn't the only one who removed himself and his family from the covenant.

The bible is pretty clear that God intented certain households to maintain the priesthood and ordinances of the gospel. At the same time, it is his decision of who and when this change will occur. For the gentiles it was with Peter as he received revelation to initiate such a change.

As in interesting note, the whole black is the curse was used long ago as justification for slavery. Early records show that mideastern cultures developed the idea and then it spread through out the abrahamic religions.

 
At 10/26/2011 4:43 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Black skin is not the curse.

But Alma 3:6 says it was the curse.

The curse was the removal of priesthood authority because of unrighteousness.

Where does the BOM say that?

As in interesting note, the whole black is the curse was used long ago as justification for slavery.

Yes, I suspect that's where Joseph Smith got the idea.

 

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