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TheQuestioner

Darker skin from iniquity?

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Charlemagne:
Somebody must have said this (I haven't had time to read all the posts), but why is dark skin used for iniquous people in the Book of Mormon as metaphor any less racist than interpreting the Book as saying God literally cursed bad people with dark skin?

You seem to have missed most of this thread. The terms are usually black and white, with black indicating unrighteous and white indicating righteous. Those ascriptions are pretty common.

The issue of racism is quite apart from questions of how these terms are applied to "skin." As with virtually all ancient peoples, the Nephites were racist. It would be anachronistic for them not to be. However, their prejudices are seen in their catalogue of "qualities" of the Lamanite (nearly naked, eat wild meat, live in tents, etc.). The black/white dichtomy follows religious beliefs - not racial (ergo not racist).

And I think that the views the Nephites had of the Lamanites would be affected by the Lamanites they had most contact with: those living in the wilderness.

While most Lamanites may have dwelt in cities, those in the wilderness surrounding the Nephites seemed to dwell in tents, etc, just as the Nephites write about in the BoM. When Capt Moroni clears the wilderness of Lamanites, we don't see Nephites taking over their cities, but starting new ones.

These Lamanites that dwelt in the wilderness were clearly the trailer-park trash of the era; or perhaps the beach-combers that slept on the sand, ate the cocoanuts that fell from the trees, and did little else.

Seeing an occasional dirty, unbathed and lazy person that lives in a certain lifestyle can shade the views one has on all individuals connected with them.

For example, if the only black people we ran into were hip-hop rap stars, we would possibly believe all blacks fell into such a stereotype, not realizing that there are Black Americans like Bill Cosby that totally go against such a stereotype. (Unfortunately, many whites today have such a view of blacks).

Given there was limited access/trade between Nephites and Lamanites during most of their years in the Americas, it isn't surprising to see that the Nephites looked at the closest examples they could find and wrote about their stereotype of Lamanites.

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It is important to distinguish the events in the Book of Mormon from 19th Century racism. :P

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Also, if "dark skin" is simply a metaphor, then why are the lamanites today literally dark skinned?

If you are referring to South Americans, I would not call various shades of brown complexions "dark" anymore than I would call a causasian with a good suntan "dark". I find this kind of discourse offensive...and I find it bizarre that those who deride "racism" are those trying the hardest to make sure others maintain distinctions based on skin color.

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Except that Nephi himself described his people as being as white as Americans.

1 Nephi 13

Nephi sees in vision: the church of the devil set up among the Gentiles; the discovery and colonizing of America; the loss of many plain and precious parts of the Bible; the resultant state of gentile apostasy; the restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the building up of Zion. [between 600 and 592 B.C.]

14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

15 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.

Try reading those verses without ethnocentric American eyeglasses. Assume, for just a moment, that what Nephi saw was the Spanish conquest of Central America. The scattering and destruction that went on was quite amazing. If the olive-skinned Spanish were "exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain," what does that say about the Nephites?

-Allen

I'm looking at those verses from a Gospel Doctrine class perspective. 1 Nephi 13 is where Nephi sees the future of the promised land. Put it in context:

10 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren.

The gentiles are across the waters from the Lamanites

11 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.

12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and awrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

This is the vision of Columbus

13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

After Columbus, more colonists arrive in the new land.

14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

15 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 cbeautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

The colonists scatter the natives and settle the land.

16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

The mother gentile is Great Britain, and they went to war with the colonists.

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.

The colonists win the Revolutionary War through the power of god.

20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

The colonists had lots of Bibles.

That's how I read it, and how it has been taught to me. Of course, it could be about Mexicans, but I've never heard that before.

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Also, if "dark skin" is simply a metaphor, then why are the lamanites today literally dark skinned?

If you are referring to South Americans, I would not call various shades of brown complexions "dark" anymore than I would call a causasian with a good suntan "dark". I find this kind of discourse offensive...and I find it bizarre that those who deride "racism" are those trying the hardest to make sure others maintain distinctions based on skin color.

Julianne, don't worry. It's OK to notice hispanic skin is darker than caucasion skin. Most non-caucasions are proud of their heritage, including their skin color.

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I guess some people would have prefered that God gave the wicked Lamanites Dumbo Ears and a Jay Leno Chin to distinguish them from the Nephites. The darkend skin was not the curse but was the sign of the curse...big distinction.

OK. What was the curse? Seriously, I thought the dark skin was the curse. If it wasn't, what was the curse?

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Julianne, don't worry. It's OK to notice hispanic skin is darker than caucasion skin. Most non-caucasions are proud of their heritage, including their skin color.

Nice try at a save.

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OK. What was the curse? Seriously, I thought the dark skin was the curse. If it wasn't, what was the curse?

What was the curse of Cain/Ham? Basically...whatever was convenient. Worked well when Christians wanted slaves. Some can't quite seem to move on. No conventional Christian thinks twice about how their religion used the curse. Most seem oblivious to it. I really do get to a point where I wonder if using the same unfortunate occurance in Mormonism is the last hold out for those who are disappointed to see the black=curse overturned. It is horrifying to see how many outside of Mormonism fight it.

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I think the greater question is why you critics are working overtime trying to make this "racial".

Whoa...whoa...whoa...slow down here, juliann. Let's be clear on who is arguing what.

The "racist" view, suggesting that there was an actual, physical change to the skin (that's literal, dermal skin) color of the Lamanites as a result of their sin isn't something the critics have dreamed up and read into the text.

This has been the view (and dare I say, the only view) taught by LDS Church leaders for the last 175 years. This is what is taught in Primary. It is taught in Seminary. Sunday School. Gospel Doctrine. Institute. It has been promoted in officially published Church manuals, and scores of unofficially published illustrations.

And it has been taught by Prophets and Apostles for 175 years, with President Kimball's embarassing, ignorant but thankfully unofficial remark only one of many literal interpretations of the issue.

There may be good arguments for a strictly metaphorical interpretation, and the hope by some apologists that future generations of Church members and leaders may be swayed by those arguments to a more enlightened understanding.

But don't place the racist interpretation on the shoulders of the critics. Most of us are only guilty of believing what we were taught in Church meetings, general conferences, and family home evenings, even to this day. I may have been guilty of not applying advanced forms of textual criticism to divine the true meaning of the scriptures at odds with what I was being taught by parents, teachers, and leaders, but don't spin this into a "critical" dogma that has been spun up by doubters.

You're the one trying to make a case against an obvious reading that has fooled 175+ years of Prophets, Apostles, and hundreds of thousands of church members, even to this day. If the arguments in this thread are any indication of the stretching involved to get to the metaphorical line of thought, you have a long road ahead of you.

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Julianne, don't worry. It's OK to notice hispanic skin is darker than caucasion skin. Most non-caucasions are proud of their heritage, including their skin color.

Nice try at a save.

I think there is some confusion about what non-mormons find offensive in the Book of Mormon. It isn't the reference to dark skin. Dark skin is a fact. Saying that Lamanites have dark skin is NOT offensive. What is offensive is the belief that dark skin is a mark of unrighteousness.

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OK. What was the curse? Seriously, I thought the dark skin was the curse. If it wasn't, what was the curse?

What was the curse of Cain/Ham? Basically...whatever was convenient. Worked well when Christians wanted slaves. Some can't quite seem to move on. No conventional Christian thinks twice about how their religion used the curse. Most seem oblivious to it. I really do get to a point where I wonder if using the same unfortunate occurance in Mormonism is the last hold out for those who are disappointed to see the black=curse overturned. It is horrifying to see how many outside of Mormonism fight it.

Whoa, nobody is disappointed that the black skin curse was overturned in 1978. Those who were disappointed joined the FLDS. The black skin curse of cain thing is a totally different thread. THis thread is about the lamanite dark skin curse in the Book of Mormon.

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Hmm.. Then the Bible must be pretty offensive to more then 2/3 of the world.

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You're the one trying to make a case against an obvious reading that has fooled 175+ years of Prophets, Apostles, and hundreds of thousands of church members, even to this day.  If the arguments in this thread are any indication of the stretching involved to get to the metaphorical line of thought, you have a long road ahead of you.

Are you aware of the "readings" throughout the thousands of years of religion? Mormonism hasn't even gotten to the toddler stage in comparison. Now you are having to throw up a strawman. Am I supposed to argue that black=curse has not been taught when I have been saying that it has for, gosh...how many years online now?

The very thing you ridicule about the church is what benefits us the most...a strong leadership that can actually implement a change. People's hearts and minds catch up...but that is never the point with the antis. It is to attack the church while claiming the members are mere mindless dupes.

For those of you who are trying your best to perpetuate the idea that races are cursed...a quarter of a century after the church discarded it...you are the ones with a long road ahead of you. Wallow in the muddy potholes of history all you want. We are moving on.

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What is offensive is the belief that dark skin is a mark of unrighteousness.

Uh huh. We have probably accumulated a library's worth of posts on this board alone saying it over and over and over....

But look at who is objecting to a different less offensive reading!

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<Musical Interlude>

Come to Zion Come to Zion... da da da da da da daaaaaa!

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juliann,

For those of you who are trying your best to perpetuate the idea that races are cursed...a quarter of a century after the church discarded it...you are the ones with a long road ahead of you. Wallow in the muddy potholes of history all you want. We are moving on.
I know you are responding to critics, and I agree with parts of your posts, but frankly the scriptures do teach that "lineages" are cursed from time to time. Trying to read the Book of Mormon and come away with the idea that the Lamanites (as a family group) were not cursed by God rejects one of the major points it makes. The difference between "lineage" and "race" gets thin pretty quickly.

And just to clarify a minor error in your post, the Church has *NEVER* said that "races are cursed". It wasn't discarded a quarter century ago because it was never held in the first place. On the other hand, the Church has never discarded the doctrine that lineages can be cursed (and that marks could accompany such curses).

Best,

Pace

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The black skin curse of cain thing is a totally different thread. THis thread is about the lamanite dark skin curse in the Book of Mormon.

You will have to explain the difference. One more time, South Americans are not "black". That is the word used. It is the same word used in the Bible and they were not referring to African Americans.

You can only maintain a difference by divorcing the BOM from its biblical origins and culture. That is what an unbeliever would do, of course, but then you do have to acknowledge that you are leaving Mormonism behind. Stay in the ring or get out...but be clear about your position and don't expect us to argue from a premise we do not hold. At that point you are left clucking at Mormons for not upholding something you say is racist. Like..huh?

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Trying to read the Book of Mormon and come away with the idea that the Lamanites (as a family group) were not cursed by God rejects one of the major points it makes. The difference between "lineage" and "race" gets thin pretty quickly.

I strongly disagree with that. Lamanite/Nephite became a political distinction. Your point about race/lineage well taken. But our critics do not make that distinction. You need to realize that we are not arguing Mormon theology...we are arguing their construction of our theology...and their demands that we live their construction.

On the other hand, the Church has never discarded the doctrine that lineages can be cursed (and that marks could accompany such curses).

It had to be discarded and has because it is not scriptural. Man is punished for his own sins. Jesus set aside the OT practice of division by advising the parents their son was not handicapped because of their sins. This has been directly addressed, Pace and this is why it is not a difficult task to turn members away from a reading that savages this scriptural tenet.

We still have some clean-up to do. The church educational system is excising offensive references from written material. One of our conference speakers has made it a personal mission to inform them of every occurence. I'm sure we will be finding them for some time.

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What is offensive is the belief that dark skin is a mark of unrighteousness.

Uh huh. We have probably accumulated a library's worth of posts on this board alone saying it over and over and over....

But look at who is objecting to a different less offensive reading!

OK, you can attempt convincing people of a less offensive reading, Julianne, but as cinepro stated, it will be an uphill battle. The text is clear, and 175 years worth of interpretations from mormon leaders makes it really tough on you. The dark skin curse makes most mormons squirm, and most non-mormons read it and find it offensive. I understand your frustration.

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Laban the Younger said: The text is clear...

This, of course, just begs the question: If it is so clear, why is there so much discussion concerning it?

You may want to reconsider your affirmations of clarity.

-Allen

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On the other hand, the Church has never discarded the doctrine that lineages can be cursed (and that marks could accompany such curses).

It had to be discarded and has because it is not scriptural. Man is punished for his own sins. Jesus set aside the OT practice of division by advising the parents their son was not handicapped because of their sins. This has been directly addressed, Pace and this is why it is not a difficult task to turn members away from a reading that savages this scriptural tenet.

We still have some clean-up to do. The church educational system is excising offensive references from written material. One of our conference speakers has made it a personal mission to inform them of every occurence. I'm sure we will be finding them for some time.

I'm sorry juliann, but I disagree. It is completely scriptural.

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The first I heard that the division between Nephites and Lamanites was political and not racial was when I was a freshman at BYU, taking a BofM class from a professor of International Relations (not a Religion Dept. professor). It was eye-opening. (The year was 1973.)

And I have never read the BofM the same way again.

As Pace said, the scriptures are clear... :P

Beowulf

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Laban the Younger said: The text is clear...

This, of course, just begs the question: If it is so clear, why is there so much discussion concerning it?

You may want to reconsider your affirmations of clarity.

-Allen

THere is a lot of discussion about it because it is a controversial subject, and mormons, understandably, do not want to embrace racist doctrines. Dark skin curses make people of the 21st century, including mormons, squirm.

"Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness."

"the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

"And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites."

The text seems clear to me, unless you redefine "skin" "black" "white" and "curse" which is what the discussions seem to be about. I understand why mormons want to find an alternative interpretation to these passages, but it will take time to undo 175 years of official interpretation from high ranking mormon leaders.

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I understand why mormons want to find an alternative interpretation to these passages, but it will take time to undo 175 years of official interpretation from high ranking mormon leaders.

Especially if the leaders aren't leading the charge.

That's actually ironic. What happens to the Church "leaders" when the scriptural interpretation and focus are being "led" by the scholars?

The "seers" have already abandoned their translation duties to traditional (but inspired) translation departments. In the future, will leaders confine themselves to the realm of unscholarly proclamations, for fear of their words being branded as insignificant "personal, fallible opinion", or future translation abilities proving their gifts inadequate?

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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, and 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.

The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21

So what's your question?

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