Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

TheQuestioner

Darker skin from iniquity?

Recommended Posts

The BoM says the Lamanites will become "white and delightsome"----is that becoming evident in our children?

I hope so. White means purity.

Share this post


Link to post

Brant,

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.
Try Mosiah 21:23. It says it clearly there.
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. If the context of the BOM verses had been metaphorical, as the one in the Bible is, then I too wouldn't have trouble interpreting the "dark skin" as a measure of "countenance" or "spiritual standing."
If you assume that it is literal and use that assumption to prove the assumption - you have a circular argument.
Yes. The same is true of the opposite argument. One must give reasons to believe the hypothesis that the text is *purely* metaphorical rather than at most *partly* metaphorical. I haven't seen any good reasons presented yet, nor have had any of my 5 points answered to my liking yet (but that may change).
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! The text merely shows that these two bodies remained aloof from one another, and that when people apostatized from one group they marked themselves with red in their forehead so they could be recognized as no longer part of their original grouping. Sounds like physical distinction and color was a major part of this separation, but not necessarily skin pigmentation.
That is Sorenson's solution. The problem is that there is simply no support for it in the text.
I've listed a few reasons before (we'll get to that in a bit). Maybe I should add the point above about the Nephite apostates physically marking their skin.

(By the way, just so you don't misunderstand my position, I am not taking Sorenson's position exactly. My position is that the *mark* was an actual physical mark of some kind. Period.)

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.
It depends on the manner of the mark (and whether it truly was miraculous or not). Maybe these were tatoos, so the children didn't have them. (And the converts at the time of Christ were healed from the scarring.) Who knows? But I guess my real point is that the change was more often NOT instaneous (the time when Christ came was the exception). Even the people of Ammon took time to have the mark removed. It wasn't only their spiritual conversion, nor their leaving their homeland and joining the Nephite civilization.
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.

A difference in what? I'm not following here.
As "non-metaphorical" as "faces" and "blackness" in the Bible?

Context. Honestly do the following thought experiment and at the very least you will understand my hang-up. Look at the verse in the Bible in question. Look at the wording. Look at the surrounding verses. Is the language involved metaphorical? Is it poetic or physically descriptive?

Now, look at the verses in the Book of Mormon in question. Look at the surrounding verses? Is the language involved metaphorical? Is it poetic or physically descriptive?

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).
EXACTLY! NON-METAPHORICAL STEREOTYPES! Say it with me!

Now, why should we suppose that in this list of non-metaphorical stereotypes they'd suddenly introduce this bit about purely metaphorical skins of blackness? Some metaphor involved? Possibly. Purely metaphor? I don't see it.

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).
I'm seeing a disconnect here. You admit to an actual distinction visible to the Japanese between themselves and the Chinese, and yet are unwilling to assume that the Nephites and Lamanites had a similar thing going? I'm missing something here.
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.
What does that matter? Just because no one else did it you reject Nephi's explanation? How can you throw out Nephi's testimony here? I just don't get 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.
I wasn't clear. What I meant was that there doesn't seem to be a good reason to read "skins" any differently than in other parts of the book. They don't seem to use it the way it was used in the Bible.
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?
Why not indeed? Why did the apostates mark themselves with red instead of black? I'm not saying there is no metaphor involved, I'm saying it isn't pure metaphor.

Okay, time for bed.

Best,

Pace

Share this post


Link to post

Isn't it interesting that the BoM refers to a "skin of

blackness," yet writers contemporary with Joseph

Smith (Ethan Smith, Solomon Spaulding, Fenimore

Cooper, Longfellow, Irving) all use words like copper and

red, but never black, to describe Native American

skin color?

Bernard

Share this post


Link to post

Brant,

This morning I realized I was a little hasty to throw out the example of Moroni and the Lamanite spy. I reread the story, and noticed the following.

First, it says that Moroni sent Laman with some of his men. It isn't clear from that verse whether "his" refers to Moroni or Laman. However, later on they are called Laman's men. On the other hand, this might just be because Laman was the leader of their expedition.

At any rate these men might be fellow Lamanite guards who left with Laman. Or they might be Nephites and Moroni's men. It doesn't matter because the Lamanites would probably think they were apostate Nephites since they were accompanying Laman.

At any rate, that isn't the important thing. What I noticed was what Laman says to the Lamanites when they bring the wine. He says, "Behold, I am a Lamanite..." Thus, there was a way someone could physically tell a Lamanite from a Nephite. Further, it seems like this part of the story is included to explain why they needed a descendent of Laman (the original one) in the first place.

Best,

Pace

Share this post


Link to post
"The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.

SWK seemed to think the BoM skin coloring was physical rather than metaphorical.

At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl--sixteen--sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents--on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.

It is very obvious that SWK believed that people's skin color would actually change; afterall, that is what the BoM said (but that was before the "inspired" change to "pure and delightsome" took place in 1981. On a side note, since the "correct" translation is really "pure and delightsome" why would SWK even need to share stories about people's skin becoming lighter shades in the first place?)

Anyway, many people here are confident that the skin-color change in the BoM was purely metaphorical and not physical. I find it humorous that so many people who are not Prophets, Seers and Revelators would have more insight than an actual Prophet, Seer and Revelator--Spencer W. Kimball--regarding the matter. I guess it all comes down to the fail-safe method of determining the truth; i.e., if there is anything embarrassing (or obviously ridiculous) that past prophets have said, then chances are that said prophet was "only speaking as a man sharing his uninspired opinion" [at General Conference, of course]. :P

Share this post


Link to post
Pace Neilsen said: At any rate, that isn't the important thing. What I noticed was what Laman says to the Lamanites when they bring the wine. He says, "Behold, I am a Lamanite..." Thus, there was a way someone could physically tell a Lamanite from a Nephite.

It seems like you are saying that "Behold" means that Laman is asking people to actually look at something, as in "Behold this rock."

I don't think that is the way the word is used in this instance. It is akin to "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." It is like saying "pay attention, I am a Lamanite."

The only reading doesn't include the use of some physical characteristic, particularly if you consider that if there had been some physical characteristic, there would have been no need to make the statement in the first place. It certainly wouldn't make sense, if I was talking to someone face to face, for me to say "Behold, I am a caucasian." The fact I am caucasian would be self-evident just from looking at me. Likewise, if it was self-evident that Laman was a Lamanite, there would have been no need to say "Behold, I am a Lamanite..."

-Allen

Share this post


Link to post
SWK seemed to think the BoM skin coloring was physical rather than metaphorical.

This has been the common understanding. Much is going to change as the BOM text is studied from a textual standpoint rather than a theological one.

Your "point" is actually "false prophet!" :P There is no response to a fundamentalistic demand that religion never changes and people are infallible. All I can say is best wishes for making your way through life with those expectations.

Anyway, many people here are confident that the skin-color change in the BoM was purely metaphorical and not physical.  I find it humorous that so many people who are not Prophets, Seers and Revelators would have more insight than an actual Prophet, Seer and Revelator--Spencer W. Kimball--regarding the matter.

Uh huh. Believe me, I almost left the church when I read the Bible and found out the sky was held up by pillars.

Share this post


Link to post

Allen,

I read it as him saying "notice that I am a Lamanite." This reading makes sense from the context of Moroni specifically searching for a descendant of Laman.

Also, you are confusing the issue when you bring up the phrase "I am a caucasian." While that saying might be self-evident, the phrase "I am an American" might not be. To put it in context, suppose we were at war with Chile, and that you were on their side. If you went to an American army base, and brought booze with you, and they started questioning you, it would be perfectly in context for you to say "Look, I'm an American, not an stinkin Chilean." (Although nowadays this might not fly as well as it did with the Nephites and Lamanites.) You are claiming two things with the saying: first your (pretended) allegience to America, and secondly that it is evident (from how you act, speak, look, etc...).

Also, to use your own argument, if someone couldn't tell the different between a Nephite and a Lamanite, what was the reason they sought one out specifically. This verse seems to be suggesting that the reason was the other Lamanites would be able to "behold" that Laman was one of them.

Best,

Pace

Share this post


Link to post
Pace Nielsen said: I read it as him saying "notice that I am a Lamanite." This reading makes sense from the context of Moroni specifically searching for a descendant of Laman.

I believe it is equally valid to read it as "note that I am a Lamanite," without that the assumption that there was anything to physically "notice."

Pace Nielsen said: Also, you are confusing the issue when you bring up the phrase "I am a caucasian." While that saying might be self-evident, the phrase "I am an American" might not be. To put it in context, suppose we were at war with Chile, and that you were on their side. If you went to an American army base, and brought booze with you, and they started questioning you, it would be perfectly in context for you to say "Look, I'm an American, not an stinkin Chilean." (Although nowadays this might not fly as well as it did with the Nephites and Lamanites.) You are claiming two things with the saying: first your (pretended) allegience to America, and secondly that it is evident (from how you act, speak, look, etc...).

I agree with this completely, and such interpretation is consistent with what I was stating.

Pace Nielsen said: Also, to use your own argument, if someone couldn't tell the different between a Nephite and a Lamanite, what was the reason they sought one out specifically. This verse seems to be suggesting that the reason was the other Lamanites would be able to "behold" that Laman was one of them.

I think it is highly possible that the differences between Nephites and Lamanites were not physical because, as I stated, such physical differences would have been self-evident (and my caucasian example would be appropriate).

However, if the differences were cultural/sociological (how they act, speak, dress, etc.), then the differences are not self-evident, and it is appropriate to state "Hey, I'm one of you!"

-Allen

Share this post


Link to post

Allen,

Thanks for your reply.

I think it is highly possible that the differences between Nephites and Lamanites were not physical because, as I stated, such physical differences would have been self-evident (and my caucasian example would be appropriate).
I guess I didn't make my point very well. What gave Laman-the-spy's words meaning *was* their self-evidence (whether it was purely physical or not). Further, it was this self-evidence that was the reason Moroni *searched* for an actual descendant of Laman rather than sending a trained spy. If Laman has said, "Behold, I am a Lamanite" and it wasn't self-evident, there wouldn't be a need to have sent him in the first place.

I agree with you that the verses do not guarantee that it was something *physcially* obvious. But my point was that these scriptures show that the difference between a Lamanite and a Nephite was of such a nature that: (i) it was immediately apparent to the Lamanites (using only hearing and sight), and (ii) Moroni was willing to search for an actual descendant of Laman *before* considering a trained spy for the job, and *before* he knew the skills of the descendant he would find.

Best,

Pace

Share this post


Link to post

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.

Excuse me but have you ever been to the middle east? I have lived in the middle east and some of them were the same complextion as me (white). I am by no means tan , and not all middle easterners are dark skinned.

Share this post


Link to post

bryan jones:

Excuse me but have you ever been to the middle east?

No, I haven't. Thanks for the correction on complexion. While I gladly change my opinion on Middle Eastern pigmentation - I stand firm on the metaphorical meaning in the Book of Mormon (but you knew I would do that, huh? <grin>).

Share this post


Link to post
Excuse me but have you ever been to the middle east? I have lived in the middle east and some of them were the same complextion as me (white). I am by no means tan , and not all middle easterners are dark skinned.

Of course, the real question is: was this the case 2600 years ago?

C.I.

Share this post


Link to post
Bryan Jones said: Excuse me but have you ever been to the middle east? I have lived in the middle east and some of them were the same complextion as me (white). I am by no means tan , and not all middle easterners are dark skinned.

I'm curious, Bryan, if the light-skinned middle easterners you saw were, indeed, indiginous to the middle east. There have been many, many transplants from Europe and Asia to the area, particularly after World War II.

(I guess this presupposes that we can even determine the characteristics of an "indiginous" middle easterner. :P)

-Allen

Share this post


Link to post
bryan jones:
Excuse me but have you ever been to the middle east?

No, I haven't. Thanks for the correction on complexion. While I gladly change my opinion on Middle Eastern pigmentation - I stand firm on the metaphorical meaning in the Book of Mormon (but you knew I would do that, huh? <grin>).

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? Metaphorical use of a color means that it is used to symboize an idea (e.g., the ecology movement using green). If dark skin is used metaphorically to signify a people disfavored in the eyes of God, why isn't that faught with racist meaning? Maybe the apologists who attribute metaphorical significance to the dark skin/bad people relationship in the Book of Mormon are more concerned that their claims not contradict science than about racism.

Share this post


Link to post
Bryan Jones said: Excuse me but have you ever been to the middle east? I have lived in the middle east and some of them were the same complextion as me (white). I am by no means tan , and not all middle easterners are dark skinned.

I'm curious, Bryan, if the light-skinned middle easterners you saw were, indeed, indiginous to the middle east. There have been many, many transplants from Europe and Asia to the area, particularly after World War II.

(I guess this presupposes that we can even determine the characteristics of an "indiginous" middle easterner. :P)

-Allen

I lived in Turkey near the Iraqi boar with Syria. I was shocked to see the people there with light skin as I expected them to be much darker like in Saudia Arabia. This was not the case. If we want to use a famous middle-easterner as an example, Saddam Husein is light skinned as well. The people I knew in Turkey were born and raised there, and not europeans on vacation .

Share this post


Link to post

Well, the Turks in southern Turkey are descendants of (or at least intermixed with) the Greeks and Romans who occupied the area during the Roman Empire days. And while Greeks are darker than Northern Europeans, they are certainly Caucasian (read: European). It is no surprise that the Turks would look similar.

Regarding the question about why dark skin is bad, I refer you again to my post of yesterday (and April 2004), in which I note that EVERY nation on Earth views light skin as better, but only in their own cultural context. It does NOT mean that everyone wants to look Swedish... Light skin is civilized and aristocratic, dark skin is boorish and peasantish.

The inclusion of such a text in the Book of Mormon actually points up its ancient authenticity over a 19th century origin, since such a light/dark skin dichotomy was beginning to be lost in egalitarian frontier America. (It was beginning to be OK to be sunburnt, because it showed that the man was working hard outdoors. This was NOT the case in ancient aristocratic societies.)

Beowulf

Share this post


Link to post

But Beowulf. That's not right! Non-metaphorical use of dark skin couldn't possibly be historical. You must just be speaking from your modern mindset. Yeah, I'll just chalk it up to that.

:P

Share this post


Link to post

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).

Share this post


Link to post
Maybe the apologists who attribute metaphorical significance to the dark skin/bad people relationship in the Book of Mormon are more concerned that their claims not contradict science than about racism.

Dark/light is not an "apologetic" issue. It is worldwide metaphor. Dark, foreboding skies....black for mourning... I think the greater question is why you critics are working overtime trying to make this "racial".

Share this post


Link to post

Ancient texts cannot be understood without knowledge of their values. Probably the most important for Bible study is what propelled their culture, honor/shame. It is pretty foreign to us today but there is considerable literature on it.

The physical person (one's body) is normally a symboled replication of the social value of honor.  The head and front of the head (face) play prominent roles . . . Honor and dishonor are displayed when the head is crowned, annointed, touched, covered, uncovered, made bare by shaving, cut off, struck, or slapped.

Bruce Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Louisville, Kentucky:  Westminster/John Knox, 1993), 40.

Whatever values the BOM group had incorporated, this would be reflected in their negative of the Lamanites. Notice that the author felt it important to note that they were bald. This is a classic method of shaming, something that would put the Nephites on the right side of the purity scale while putting the "other" on the wrong side. If the BOM is a transplated OT culture (and it says that they followed the Law of Moses) clean/unclean and pure/impure would define their world and be used to separate them into sacred space while keeping "other" in profane space.

As for "semitic" features, there was an national mag sometime ago that recreated what Jesus, as a Jew, probably looked like. We discussed this on this board. I have been to Irsael and Jerusalem and there is such a mix that modern comparisons are not of much use. (Although with the diaspora, mixing began a long time ago).

Share this post


Link to post
SWK seemed to think the BoM skin coloring was physical rather than metaphorical.

... Much is going to change as the BOM text is studied from a textual standpoint rather than a theological one.

Not to derail or sidetrack, but this is why some believers in the BoM see the BoM as 19th-century "inspirational" literature and not a true history; because they study it from a textual standpoint and not a theological one. Anyway, back on track ...

There is no response to a fundamentalistic demand that religion never changes and people are infallible.

Share this post


Link to post
Not to derail or sidetrack, but this is why some believers in the BoM see the BoM as 19th-century "inspirational" literature and not a true history; because they study it from a textual standpoint and not a theological one. Anyway, back on track ...

Huh? Does the study of the Bible from a textual standpoint reduce it to false history?

if there is anything embarrassing (or obviously ridiculous) that past prophets have said, then chances are that said prophet was "only speaking as a man sharing his uninspired opinion."

Again, this says more about your inability to deal with change and your demand for certainty than it says about the LDS leaders. You are more comfortable with a fundamentalistic view of the world where nothing changes and everything is certain. We see that a lot in disgruntled Mormons...it is usually what guides their decisions.

And I am sure we could point out hundreds of "ridiculous" beliefs throughout history. But I think that reflects a rather ugly ethnocentricism that I'd rather not get involved in. I have benefitted by an accumulation of knowledge but that does not mean that I need to demean those who did not or proclaim them "embarrassing" and myself superior simply because of the century I live in.

Were you under the impression that skin changing colors was a Mormon invention?

Even people in the church would laugh at (or at least question) such ridiculosity.

As those who think they are intellectually and morally superior to you will laugh at your "ridiculosity" in another century. :P

And let's not forget the never-ending jokes that would be on Jay Leno or David Letterman.

Oh, my. If you think Jay Leno and David Letterman are the bees knees it will be that way forever, eh? People will forever remain at your level and understanding and value what you value and laugh at what you laugh at. Have you learned nothing from history?

Share this post


Link to post

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?

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.

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

Share this post


Link to post
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

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...