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TheQuestioner

Darker skin from iniquity?

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I have my own theory on the issue. Now first off, I don't necessairly believe in my theory, and if it is proven wrong, so be it. I tend to lean toward the metahpore. Anyways, here it goes.

No where in the BOM does it say that the three groups talked about (Jarod, Lehi, Mulek) were the only groups that arrived in the New World. Most people believe that there were others, but thats for another thread.

What if the others (natives possibly?) were from Asia, or somewhere else where their skin is darker. If the lamanites mixed with this other group of people early on, their skin color would darken. (genetics and children)

Maybe the Nephites were not to mix their seed with others, much like the Jews weren't allowed to in the OT.

When the BOM talks about people changing shade, it may referr to their seed.

Just another thought.

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So, it appears that the Book of Mormon consistently refers to skin as actual physical skin (either from an animal or a person's own skin).

So I see two references to black skin and two to white skin. (I was referring to how many times black skin was mentioned not "skin"). Don't you find it a bit odd to describe pigment in these extremes? No one would have been black. If they were, you will have to explain why the Mesoamerican population is various shades of copper and brown tones today.

You are trying to take today's worldview and force it onto the BOM. The content of the polemic in one verse alone should make you chuckle:

evil nature

wild,

ferocious,

blood-thirsty people,

idolatry

filthiness;

dwelling in tents,

eat nothing save it was raw meat

their skill was in the bow

Living in tents? Eating raw meat? Hunting with a bow? This sounds a lot like Lehi Now when did this become "evil"? But it has. There is always a set way to describe "them" vs "us". The same things were said about the first Christians as are said about Mormons today....you always hit 'em first with being licensious, unbelieving (if you didn't worship the Roman gods you were an "atheist"). etc.

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juliann,

So I see two references to black skin and two to white skin. (I was referring to how many times black skin was mentioned not "skin").
Thanks for the clarification.
Don't you find it a bit odd to describe pigment in these extremes?
I actually don't necessarily read it in terms of "pigment." But I do believe they were describing an actual physical difference (whatever it was), a "mark" that Nephites were able to use to distinguish between "them and us", and that this mark was distinctive enough to cause the Nephites not want to marry the Lamanites and hate them for their mark.
You are trying to take today's worldview and force it onto the BOM.
No. I'm trying to read what the Book of Mormon says.
The content of the polemic in one verse alone should make you chuckle:

evil nature

wild,

ferocious,

blood-thirsty people,

idolatry

filthiness;

dwelling in tents,

eat nothing save it was raw meat

their skill was in the bow

I'm not the type to chuckle at such things. But for a minute let us admit that the verse is polemical. That does not imply metaphor. In fact, all of the descriptions you listed are non-metaphorical. So, it appears that (whether based on fact or not) the author felt that the Lamanites had these characteristics in actuality.
Living in tents? Eating raw meat? Hunting with a bow? This sounds a lot like Lehi Now when did this become "evil"? But it has. There is always a set way to describe "them" vs "us". The same things were said about the first Christians as are said about Mormons today....you always hit 'em first with being licensious, unbelieving (if you didn't worship the Roman gods you were an "atheist"). etc.
Sure. But they were apparently accurate descriptions of their behavior (whether evil or not) from the point of view of the author.

Best,

Pace

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QUESTIONER,

This appears to be the second thread you've started by asking questions that appear (to me, at least) to be attempts at witnessing rather than sincere discussion.

Your profile is being edited so that you cannot start new threads. We'll remove this restriction once the contents of your posts merit it.

Dunamis

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It was only after years that Nephites had left the Lamanites that they noticed the Lamanites had changed racially. It would seem evident that Laman and Lemuel and their families intermarried with a dark-skinned peoples that also inhabited ancient America, and after this, all non-Nephites were called "Lamanites", even the indirrectly related inhabitances.

But over time, intermarriages and such, they probably all had darker skin. 4 Ne. 1: 17 - "neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one" And after, "Lamanite" may have became somewhat of a political term.

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Ray Callis Hatton III said: But over time, intermarriages and such, they probably all had darker skin.

I've never been able to find anyone who can answer what constitutes a "dark skin" from the perception of the Nephites.

Remember, people--Lehi's descendants were Semitic. This includes Nephi and all manner of "ites" in the Book of Mormon. Has anyone here looked at Semitic skin tone and compared it to that of indiginous peoples in Mesoamerica? How much difference, really, is there between the two?

We have a tendancy to think the Nephites, skin-tone wise, were very similar to Europeans, and thus the "difference" between Nephites and Lamanites would be striking.

This just ain't so, folks.

-Allen

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Last year, I made a post on this topic. I got laughed out of court by the antis, who thought I was denying the obvious, that JS and the Mormons are racists.

I will look in the archives, and (if I find it) attach it.

Beowulf

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Here it is, from April 2004,

Does anyone really believe that the Lamanite and Nephite skin color changed with their goodness quotient?

I never have.

As I said, though, some people took it in the racist context, as do you now, apparently.

In Japan, where I lived for many years, it is common for people to evaluate the beauty of other Japanese by the "whiteness" of their skin.

Do you think that they believe becoming white like the white man is the ultimate in physical beauty? If you thought so, you would be way wrong. It is whiteness of the skin in a JAPANESE context.

And I read recently in an anthropology article that this tendency to believe that lighter skinned people are more beautiful is common to all races on the planet, even in Africa. (In other words, it must be pretty deeply ingrained.) Again, though, it does not mean that everybody thinks that white Europeans are more beautiful. It means beauty within their own racial types.

(Aside: When the Japanese first met white Europeans, they thought they looked red, not white, and were repulsed.)

I also think one aspect of this is the traditional idea that beautiful people don't have to work for a living, to go outside and get burned and blackened while working in the fields. Aristocratic women always carried parasols wherever they went to maintain their "white" skins. (Our modern society's fixation on tans as beautiful is an aberration in the history of the human race and aesthetics.)

So to get back to a Nephite/Lamanite context. Did the BofM writers believe that the two groups were different colors? No. Rather I believe they saw the Lamanites as dark and blackened because of the lifestyle they pursued (hunting in the forests, etc., which is usually described alongside the color), and when they returned to what the Nephites believed to be "civilized" life, they would lighten up again.

Here, again, the meanings of white and pure are not that far apart.

I could add the reference in Song of Solomon (I know, I know, it has been declared to be "not inspired", but it makes great love poetry cool.gif ), where the maiden laments that she is black -- this is because she is a peasant girl who worked outside, unlike all those pale-faced city girls...

Beowulf

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Pace:

The basic information:

1) We know that color is used metaphorically in the Ancient Near East - including the Bible. Both black and white are used metaphorically.

2) The Bible associates black and skin in a context that is best explained as metaphorical.

3) While believers accept God's ability to perform miracles, God doesn't seem to arbitrarily violate nature. There is no known way anyone can change their natural skin color - let alone have it happen overnight (tan-in-a-bottle excepted, of course).

4) Lamanites and Nephites switch sides and "color" frequently. The association is with the acceptance of the gospel - which has nothing to do with pigmentation.

5) There is no text in the Book of Mormon that shows skin color being used to differentiate people. If you don't like the Captain Moroni example, look at Ammon and Limhi. Why didn't they know he was Nephite? They thought he was Lamanite and bound him. It should have been obvious.

6) The ancient Mediterranean assumed that internal qualities would be visible on the outside (Malina and someone - Portraits of Paul - discusses this). Therefore, the idea that a metaphorical "color" might appear on the "skin" is appropriate to the place (and explains biblical usage).

7) No one from the Middle East is "white." They are all darker. Perceptions of color are often culture bound - the Aztecs thought the Spaniards were "whiter than we are." Even pigmentation differences are unreliable textually.

Since there is nothing in the text that makes any sense of a pigmentation change, the best explanation for the text is that it deals with skin color metaphorically. Of course the best explanation for why many insist otherwise has to do with much more recent history in the US.

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If the "skin" issue is so misunderstood, than I would appeal to both juliann and Brant to help me to understand it better.

Please take the following verses, and substitute words or phrases for any words that are not clear (especially "dark" and "skin"). I will bold words that I feel indicate an outward, visible, literal interpretation as opposed to an inward, spiritual, metaphorical approach.

Alma 3

4 And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.

5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.

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.

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.

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.

I will explain how I understand the verse:

4 And the Amlicites were [changed in appearance] from the Nephites, for they had [visibly] marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.

5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn [a visible, physical change]; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth. [again, all of these are visible, physical descriptions]

6 And [the "and" continues the line of thought from the previous sentence.  There is no indication that we have now switched to a metaphorical explanation] 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. 

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.

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. 

[verses 5-12 appear to be a descriptive deviation from the story of the Amlicites, to remind the reader about the state of the Lamanites.  This is specifically bracketed by verse 5 specifying "Now the Lamanites..." and verse 13 beginning with "Now we will return again to the Amlicites]

I find the verses to be crystal clear, and can't see how a metaphorical explanation makes any sense. How does an "inner darkness" serve as a "mark" to deter intermarriage?

I look forward to reading the re-wording and clarification of those who suggest a metaphorical understanding.

Brant says:

1) We know that color is used metaphorically in the Ancient Near East - including the Bible. Both black and white are used metaphorically.

Just to clarify, isn't color also sometimes used literally? Doesn't "dark skin" sometimes mean "dark skin"?

2) The Bible associates black and skin in a context that is best explained as metaphorical.

But isn't that clear from the context? Isn't is usually used with other statements that are clearly metaphorical?

3) While believers accept God's ability to perform miracles, God doesn't seem to arbitrarily violate nature. There is no known way anyone can change their natural skin color - let alone have it happen overnight (tan-in-a-bottle excepted, of course).

Are you speaking for all believers? Would "believers" in 1829 have agreed with you? I constantly hear descriptions of God's acts that violate our understanding of "nature" in Gospel Doctrine class, and no one seems to mind.

4) Lamanites and Nephites switch sides and "color" frequently. The association is with the acceptance of the gospel - which has nothing to do with pigmentation.

Can you quote some verses that show someone switching "color" in a clearly metaphorical way?

5) There is no text in the Book of Mormon that shows skin color being used to differentiate people.

Considering that "differentiate" and "distinguished" are synonomous, I would suggest reviewing verse 8 above. If you find a meaningful distiction between the two words, please explain.

6) The ancient Mediterranean assumed that internal qualities would be visible on the outside (Malina and someone - Portraits of Paul - discusses this). Therefore, the idea that a metaphorical "color" might appear on the "skin" is appropriate to the place (and explains biblical usage).

Did the ancient Mediterraneans also assume that external qualities would be visible on the outside, and that literal "color" could be seen, including red marks on the forehead, and dark "skin"? In the Bible, can we find literal descriptions of peoples physical attributes? Is the distinction between the literal and metaphorical usage understandable from reading the text, or does it take scholars and torutured readings to figure it out?

7) No one from the Middle East is "white." They are all darker.

Darker than the Native Americans circa 1829?

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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.

Hi LDS4EVER:

you know that is so unfair to 'Jay Leno' , I always thought that a big chin was a sign for forthright honesty, like "Dudley Do-Right"

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Most ancient peoples were racist - but not on the basis of skin color. They used all sorts of reasons and typically didn't need much. However, skin color wasn't that important. This is a modern misreading that is imposed on the text.

Hi Brant Gardner:

I think most ancients were racists, I think part of the "US" vs. "THEM" mentality that we got from the caves, this probably let to the many racial differences we see now, from "founder's effect" & "genetic drift"

it may be why we are still zenophobic & so easily jingoistic now

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Most LDS scholars believe that the dark skin of the Lamanites came upon them through mixing with AmerIndians that already were here. These other groups would have had pagan religions and barbaric practices (we now know the Aztec and Inca, among others, practiced human sacrifices).

The Mosaic Law prevented people from marrying outside of the religion. To marry a Lamanite/Indian that did not believe in God and the Mosaic Law would have been a grievous sin that would have brought great destruction upon the Nephites. So it was with any Israelite that attempted to marry outside the religion.

You'll note that when any Lamanites repented, they were no longer considered to be under this curse, even with their darker skin. So we have the Ammonites joining the Nephites and becoming an important part of their culture, inside their religion.

As for blacks and a "curse" it has been shown that many Church leaders have questioned the interpretation of the priesthood ban on the blacks being a curse. Pres McKay, for example, did not believe it was due to any curse.

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I see it on the level of the Mosaic law. The Lamanites were the pagans that followed other gods. When the Amilicites took upon themselves the "look" of the Lamanites, they also took upon themselves the religion, and the desire to destroy the Nephite religion (aka Mosaic religion).

So, while the racial color did not necessarily mean a separation (as we see with the Ammonites), we see it as one possible sign of rebellion. It gave the Nephites a notice to use caution, as people with a dark sin could potentially be enemies to the Nephites and their religion.

cinepro asked about the following verse:

Alma 3

4 And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.

5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.

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.

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.

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.

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cinepro:

If the "skin" issue is so misunderstood, than I would appeal to both juliann and Brant to help me to understand it better.

Alma 3

4 And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.

Parallel to cutting hair, marking appears to indicate a visible change in this case. I think this indicates some painting of the skin - not at all uncommon in many cultures (the Maya among them).

5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.

I see some in-group/out-group language in this passage. There is a fairly standard derogatory description of Lamanites that recurs in the Book of Mormon. That is consistent with stereotypical descriptions of outsiders as seen in other cultures (and particularly in the Middle East - Malina lists several examples of the stereotyping).

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.

Of course the skins are dark. The Lamanites are not Nephites, ergo not followers of the "true way." They are cursed and the cursing shows visibly - in the stereotype. There is nothing here that requires a pigmentation change. This is simple pejorative and stereotyping language. The curse creates darkness/results from darkness.

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.

Stereotypical language.

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.

The net effect was one of separation - similar to the Hebrew separation in marriage rules from foreigners.

I find the verses to be crystal clear, and can't see how a metaphorical explanation makes any sense. How does an "inner darkness" serve as a "mark" to deter intermarriage?

It isn't surprising that this is how you would read them. You are culturally programmed to read them that way. That doesn't mean that this is the intent of the ancient author - just that this is the way your cultural programming leads to you see the words. I see them differently - I hope because I have had long exposure to texts from the ancient world that are full of prejudices (the Aztec descriptions of non-Aztecs are full of this type of stereotypical designation).

Just to clarify, isn't color also sometimes used literally? Doesn't "dark skin" sometimes mean "dark skin"?

That is the question, isn't it? How does one know if the words are used metaphorically or descriptively? The only way to know is context. Unfortunately, readings such as the one you propose are not contextual - they are a-contextual and a-historical. It is precisely the type of reading that cannot tell us whether or not it is metaphorical.

The only way that I know for sure how to tell is to see visible markers working in the text. If there is a significant difference in pigmentation it should be not only visible but useful - and used. It isn't, which should be the first clue that it cannot be literal.

But isn't that clear from the context? Isn't is usually used with other statements that are clearly metaphorical?

How much context? Why do we assume that "all faces shall gather blackness" does not refer to a change in pigment? What are the markers that make it different? Context is the larger picture, not the specific vocabulary. Most languages have set phrases that communicate meaning that doesn't translate well. The movie Back to the Future made fun of some of the modern phrases that would be out of context and incomprehensible in an earlier time period.

Can you quote some verses that show someone switching "color" in a clearly metaphorical way?

3 Nephi 2:14-15

14 And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites;

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

Compare to:

Lamentations 4:7-8 (Revised English Version):

7 Her crowned princes were once purer than snow, whiter than milk; they were ruddier than branching coral; their limbs were lapis lazuli.

8 But their faces turned blacker than soot, and no one knew them in the streets; the skin was shriveled tight over their bones, dry as touchwood.

The vocabularly of changing colors is very much the same. The difference is that we already accept the Bible as metaphorical and don't attempt to read in the pigmentation idea.

Considering that "differentiate" and "distinguished" are synonomous, I would suggest reviewing verse 8 above. If you find a meaningful distiction between the two words, please explain.

Forget vocabulary. The point was that there are no actions - no events - in the text that show any indication of a difference in color - even when there "should" be one. That is the contextual clue to metaphor rather than pigmentation. No one ever "sees" the dark skin when it would be advantageous to do so - only in passages that are indicative of stereotyical pejoratives.

Did the ancient Mediterraneans also assume that external qualities would be visible on the outside, and that literal "color" could be seen, including red marks on the forehead, and dark "skin"?

"Physiognomics, then is the study of human character on the basis of how people look and act. . . A succinct definition of

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Brant,

Thanks for your post.

1) We know that color is used metaphorically in the Ancient Near East - including the Bible. Both black and white are used metaphorically.
Yes. I agree. However, I'd also point out that they are not exclusively metaphorical. One must take the context into account (as you and cinepro seemed to agree later).
2) The Bible associates black and skin in a context that is best explained as metaphorical.
Again I'd agree. Again I'd point out that this is because of context.
3) While believers accept God's ability to perform miracles, God doesn't seem to arbitrarily violate nature. There is no known way anyone can change their natural skin color - let alone have it happen overnight (tan-in-a-bottle excepted, of course).
I agree again. I don't think it was hocus-pocus type stuff (although it would certainly be possbile).
4) Lamanites and Nephites switch sides and "color" frequently. The association is with the acceptance of the gospel - which has nothing to do with pigmentation.
I agree with you, but I'm not convinced that it has *nothing* to do with pigmentation. But I don't *think* it does, as much as it has to do with lifestyle. However, that doesn't make is metaphorical.
5) There is no text in the Book of Mormon that shows skin color being used to differentiate people. If you don't like the Captain Moroni example, look at Ammon and Limhi. Why didn't they know he was Nephite? They thought he was Lamanite and bound him. It should have been obvious.
No, they thought he was one of the wicked priests of king Noah, who by the way had not become Lamanites yet.

Further, I already quoted the relevant passages from the BOM concerning skin, and it appears that the mark is always referred to as a darkening or blackness. Whether or not this is "color" as much as being dirty, or painting their faces, or whatever, I don't know.

6) The ancient Mediterranean assumed that internal qualities would be visible on the outside (Malina and someone - Portraits of Paul - discusses this). Therefore, the idea that a metaphorical "color" might appear on the "skin" is appropriate to the place (and explains biblical usage).
Yes. In principle this is true. But one must read what the Book of Mormon itself says on the subject. In context, are the passages referring to "countenance" rather than a physical mark that the Nephites could recognize. I prefer the second, and it isn't my social programming that picks that choice (more on this later).
7) No one from the Middle East is "white." They are all darker. Perceptions of color are often culture bound - the Aztecs thought the Spaniards were "whiter than we are." Even pigmentation differences are unreliable textually.

I agree. That is one reason why I *don't* think it is (purely) pigmentation. It might be tanning styles. It might be intermarriage features. For all I know they dipped their babies in tar every year. But I do believe it was visible and physical, and somehow "dark" or "black" in the minds of the Nephites.
Since there is nothing in the text that makes any sense of a pigmentation change, the best explanation for the text is that it deals with skin color metaphorically. Of course the best explanation for why many insist otherwise has to do with much more recent history in the US.
Nah. Actually I think the best explanation for why many insist otherwise is the most straightforward reading of the text in question.

--------------------

Okay, so in thinking about it I was thinking that maybe it is the word "metaphorical" that is the hang up here. I have no problem with there being metaphorical undertones to these words. I have no problem with them being used in a purely metaphorical sense. I have no problem with them being used in a sense that would seem foreign to modern ears.

However, and this is my biggest hang-up, I don't think that the scriptures in question are using these words in a purely metaphorical sense. Why? Let me sum up.

1) All the other descriptions accompanying blackness of skin remarks are non-metaphorical (albeit possibly polemical). For example, "living in tents" and "eating raw meat." etc... etc...

2) Apparently the Nephites could recognize the Lamanites due to this *mark* so that they hated the Lamanites for it (see Jacob chastizing his people for this).

3) Further, one of the reasons put forward for the mark was a curse from God so the people wouldn't inter-marry (and hence it would involve some sort of physical aspect).

4) The Book of Mormon uses the words "skin" and "skins" in other contexts in sole reference to human and animal skins. I don't see a reason to suppose it is metaphorical in only the *troubling* places (especially given point 1 above).

5) It takes a while for people to lose the mark. For example, apparently the people of Ammon only lost the mark gradually; and the people in 3 Nephi seem to lose it due to Christ's coming among them. So, while it might not be pigmentation, it is apparently not immediately removable.

I hope this makes more sense.

Best,

Pace

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Actually I think the best explanation for why many insist otherwise is the most straightforward reading of the text in question.

Pace, there is no "straight forward" reading an ancient text unless you are an ancient. One of my frustrations in church classes is that the call to apply the scriptures to our lives usually ends up with us applying our lives to the scriptures. They did not think like we do. They did not see the world like we do. For some reason we allow for necessary social differences in Japanese or Chinese cultures but we want those Bible people to be just like us. I second Brant's recommendation of Malina to understand the social and cultural expectations that are wildly different than our rugged individualism of today. The scriptures start to really talk when you try to get into these people's heads.

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juliann,

Pace, there is no "straight forward" reading an ancient text unless you are an ancient.
When such a document is translated by the power of God into modern language it makes it a little easier to understand. But I understand your point. I meant "simplest" reading, rather than "straight forward." Not that that precludes the simplest reading from being wrong; only that it is less complicated.

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My disobedience and sloth, failing to listen to my wife and apply sunscreen, has given me a loathsome darker appearance.

I must repent and use the balm of Gilead (Aloe).

:P

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Ray Callis Hatton III said: But over time, intermarriages and such, they probably all had darker skin.

I've never been able to find anyone who can answer what constitutes a "dark skin" from the perception of the Nephites.

Remember, people--Lehi's descendants were Semitic. This includes Nephi and all manner of "ites" in the Book of Mormon. Has anyone here looked at Semitic skin tone and compared it to that of indiginous peoples in Mesoamerica? How much difference, really, is there between the two?

Among Semitic populations, do we presently have a way to reliably determine which racial features represent a genuine ancient Semite.

Also, the Bible tells us that the "ten tribes" were dispersed to the "lands of the North." Does Siberia and Mongolia qualify as "lands of the North?" Genetic markers found in modern Native Americans have the greatest affinity for those of modern Mongolians, southern Siberians, and Manchurians. Over the past few years modern patriarchal blessings have identified LDS members of twelve of the thirteen tribes of Israel in Mongolia. In light of this and Book of Mormon teachings about the Israelite origins of the Native Americans, one wonders if its really the Asians and Native Americans who best represent racial features of ancient Semites, better than many of today's mongrelized Jewish populations.

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i guess i'm not convinced that it's an ancient document and therefore do not think it was originally in any other language.

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Pace:

No, they thought he was one of the wicked priests of king Noah, who by the way had not become Lamanites yet.

I checked the text. It doesn't say what they thought - only that he was bound and placed in prison. Since the priests of Noah would have been known to Limhi, I doubt that interpretation.

Further, I already quoted the relevant passages from the BOM concerning skin, and it appears that the mark is always referred to as a darkening or blackness. Whether or not this is "color" as much as being dirty, or painting their faces, or whatever, I don't know.

And the Bible has calamity visit as a blackining of the face.

Yes. In principle this is true. But one must read what the Book of Mormon itself says on the subject. In context, are the passages referring to "countenance" rather than a physical mark that the Nephites could recognize. I prefer the second, and it isn't my social programming that picks that choice (more on this later).

I agree. See my comments to cinepro on the problem of context and the determination of metaphors. If you assume that it is literal and use that assumption to prove the assumption - you have a circular argument. To break out of the circular argument the only option is to look at actions in the text. They never show any indication of a difference in skin color.

I agree. That is one reason why I *don't* think it is (purely) pigmentation. It might be tanning styles. It might be intermarriage features.

That is Sorenson's solution. The problem is that there is simply no support for it in the text. Lamanites become white right after becoming righteous. Unless we posit this as meaning that they never washed until they were Nephites there is nothing that removes the "blackness" that fast.

For all I know they dipped their babies in tar every year. But I do believe it was visible and physical, and somehow "dark" or "black" in the minds of the Nephites.

OK. Find an instance where an event shows that this was correct. If you have a US basketball team playing you can tell pretty quickly who is black and white - and you could make distinctions based on that fact (there was an infamous silhouette of one basketball team that was all white except for one tall black man - everyone recognized the Boston Celtics just from that).

Find an instance where it made a difference.

Okay, so in thinking about it I was thinking that maybe it is the word "metaphorical" that is the hang up here. I have no problem with there being metaphorical undertones to these words. I have no problem with them being used in a purely metaphorical sense. I have no problem with them being used in a sense that would seem foreign to modern ears.

However, and this is my biggest hang-up, I don't think that the scriptures in question are using these words in a purely metaphorical sense. Why? Let me sum up.

1) All the other descriptions accompanying blackness of skin remarks are non-metaphorical (albeit possibly polemical). For example, "living in tents" and "eating raw meat." etc... etc...

As "non-metaphorical" as "faces" and "blackness" in the Bible? As for living in tents and eating raw meat - those are actually stereotypes that the Nephites apply to the Lamanites long after they were descriptive (if they ever were). They aren't metaphors, they are stereotypes (but they weren't "real" either - according to the descriptions of Lamanite cities in the text).

2) Apparently the Nephites could recognize the Lamanites due to this *mark* so that they hated the Lamanites for it (see Jacob chastizing his people for this).

They never do. They know who the Lamanites are - but that is hardly unusual. Everyone knows who isn't one of them. Ancient cultures always knew the boundaries. Japanese can see clear differences between themselves and the Chinese - but most Westerners can't tell the difference. Still - there is a "mark" that distinguishes them for the Japanese (or Chinese, depending upon which one you start with).

The Old Testament has marriage prohibitions with foreigners that didn't require skin color to enforce.

3) Further, one of the reasons put forward for the mark was a curse from God so the people wouldn't inter-marry (and hence it would involve some sort of physical aspect).

See above. I don't buy it. No one else in history required it.

4) The Book of Mormon uses the words "skin" and "skins" in other contexts in sole reference to human and animal skins. I don't see a reason to suppose it is metaphorical in only the *troubling* places (especially given point 1 above).

Same for the Bible. The problem is that a metaphor uses a common word in a different way. Otherwise, it would be the meaning of the word and wouldn't be a metaphor.

5) It takes a while for people to lose the mark. For example, apparently the people of Ammon only lost the mark gradually; and the people in 3 Nephi seem to lose it due to Christ's coming among them. So, while it might not be pigmentation, it is apparently not immediately removable.

No - if you believe the text it happens pretty fast. It fell upon the Lamanites so fast that it separated people within the same generation. Certainly there was less than a generation that saw the Lamanites become "white." All of these things happen way faster than anything that isn't related to tanning.

You still have the problem of black and white when no one was either black or white. Why use two colors that have high symbolic content but are not descriptive of reality if you are going to use them to discuss reality. Why not brown and red?

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I have my own theory on the issue. Now first off, I don't necessairly believe in my theory, and if it is proven wrong, so be it. I tend to lean toward the metahpore. Anyways, here it goes.

No where in the BOM does it say that the three groups talked about (Jarod, Lehi, Mulek) were the only groups that arrived in the New World. Most people believe that there were others, but thats for another thread.

What if the others (natives possibly?) were from Asia, or somewhere else where their skin is darker. If the lamanites mixed with this other group of people early on, their skin color would darken. (genetics and children)

Maybe the Nephites were not to mix their seed with others, much like the Jews weren't allowed to in the OT.

When the BOM talks about people changing shade, it may referr to their seed.

Just another thought.

I have often wondered about this very thing. Our children are lighter than their dad but darker than I am because of the genetics of our ancestral backgrounds. The only thing that confuses me is the part that my lineage is getting darker while his is getting lighter-----so I too wonder if that is a bad thing or not???? I hope that is understandable. I know he is who I am supposed to have married so I'm not worried about it but it makes me wonder. The BoM says the Lamanites will become "white and delightsome"----is that becoming evident in our children?

some thoughts and questions.............

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(I) guess (I)'m not convinced that it's [the Book of Mormon] an ancient document and therefore do not think it was originally in any other language.

What??!!! You're not convinced??? I'm shocked

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