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Skin Color Doesn’t Mean Skin Color


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On 2/20/2024 at 4:42 PM, Teancum said:

Let's cut to the chase.  There is a lot of language about the mark being skin of darkness. Language that it the dark skin was places so the Lamanites would become loathsome to the Nephites.  Is it your position that the BoM language was NOT referring to skin being darkened.

Let us rather read carefully, in context and in depth, with some self-reflection on the cultural assumptions of the purported authors of the Book of Mormon, and the cultural assumptions of the 19th century readers of the Book of Mormon and of ourselves.  That is what Jesus refers to as checking one's own eye for beams before rushing to judgment.  "Then shalt thou see clearly."  Not, "Don't waste time on being self-critical.  There are offensive beliefs out there amongst the LDS just starving for want of immediate and satisfying indignation!" 

Skins can be garments.  In Alma 3:5, Lamanites explicitly wear skins as garments.  Does Alma 3:6 take its context from that, or not?  Throughout the Book of Mormon the same prophets who talk about the Lamanites and covenant blessings and curses associate clean and filthy garments with blessings and curses respectfully, speaking to the same audiences with the same rhetorical intent.  Indeed, there are many more passages with that theme than those five others that Sproat examines that have been taken as referring to skin color.  The same Alma chapter 3 that talks about God marking the Lamanites also says that the Amlicites marking themselves to separate themselves from the Nephites is the same as if God had marked them.  

Quote

they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a
mark of red upon their foreheads. 14 Thus the
word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words
which he said to Nephi, “Behold, the Lamanites
have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them
that they and their seed may be separated
from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth
and forever, except they repent of their
wickedness and turn to me that I may have
mercy upon them  

Let's consider the evidence.  Why, exactly, is so unthinkable in the notion of the Book of Mormon curse being manifest through personal lifestyle choices, including garments as marking them?  In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye talks about his hat and prayer shawl, and other things and says, "Because of our traditions, each of us knows who he is, and who God expects him to be."  In many societies, the choice of garments says a great deal.

There are no stories in the Book of Mormon where the outcome of any story depends on someone's skin color.  It was not seen as a sudden miracle by the Lamanites, and one would think they might notice and comment if that was the case.   And there are constant comings and goings back and forth, people changing political allegiance and "becoming" Lamanite, or Nephite, or for a time, no manner of "ites".  And when the divisions come, it is "costly apparel" as one of the defining disgnostic symbols what leads to division and apostasy.

So personally, I do not believe that the Lamanite curse in the Book of Mormon has anything to do with skin color.  I have given my reasons, some of them at least, pointing to specific verses and specific scholars and their arguments and evidence.  I do not believe the LDS are bound to defend race based reading.  I believe that the misreading was conditioned more by the surrounding culture than the demands of the text.  I notice that the formal statement of "mine authority, and the authority of my servants" in D&C 1 does not formally declares that LDS traditions and authorities on the topic are unquestionable.  Rather, 

Quote

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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1 minute ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Let us rather read carefully, in context and in depth, with some self-reflection on the cultural assumptions of the purported authors of the Book of Mormon, and the cultural assumptions of the 19th century readers of the Book of Mormon and of ourselves.  That is what Jesus refers to as checking one's own eye for beams before rushing to judgment.  "Then shalt thou see clearly."  Not, "Don't waste time on being self-critical.  There are offensive beliefs out there amongst the LDS just starving for want of immediate and satisfying indignation!" 

Skins can be garments.  In Alma 3:5, Lamanites explicitly wear skins as garments.  Does Alma 3:6 take it's context from that, or not?  Throughout the Book of Mormon the same prophets who talk about the Lamanites and covenant blessings and curses associate clean and filthy garments with blessings and curses respectfully, speaking to the same audiences with the same rhetorical intent.  Indeed, there are many more passages with that theme than those five others that Sproat examines that have been taken as referring to skin color.  The same Alma chapter 3 that talks about God marking the Lamanites also says that the Amlicites marking themselves to separate themselves from the Nephites is the same as if God had marked them.  

Let's consider the evidence.  Why, exactly, is so unthinkable in the notion of the Book of Mormon curse being manifest through personal lifestyle choices, including garments as marking them?  In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye talks about his hat and prayer shawl, and other things and says, "Because of our traditions, each of us knows who he is, and who God expects him to be."  In many societies, the choice of garments says a great deal.

There are no stories in the Book of Mormon where the outcome of any story depends on someone's skin color.  It was not seen as a sudden miracle by the Lamanites, and one would think they might notice and comment if that was the case.   And there are constant comings and goings back and forth, people changing political allegiance and "becoming" Lamanite, or Nephite, or for a time, no manner of "ites".  And when the divisions come, it is "costly apparel" as one of the defining disgnostic symbols what leads to division and apostasy.

So personally, I do not believe that the Lamanite curse in the Book of Mormon has anything to do with skin color.  I have given my reasons, some of them at least, pointing to specific verses and specific scholars and their arguments and evidence.  I do not believe the LDS are bound to defend race based reading.  I believe that the misreading was conditioned more by the surrounding culture than the demands of the text.  I notice that the formal statement of "mine authority, and the authority of my servants" in D&C 1 does not formally declares that LDS traditions and authorities on the topic are unquestionable.  Rather, 

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Well you disagree with the text and with almost all LDS leadership since the book has been written.  If you are right your prophets yet have another thing wrong.  Not a good result really.

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17 minutes ago, ttribe said:

At what point do amateur apologists realize that all of the ways they are "smarter" than virtually every single member of the First Presidency and Q12 for the past 150 years in terms of re-explaining doctrinal problems is no different than us apostates who were critical of those same members of the First Presidency and Q12, only we were branded "apostates" and the new "apologists" are just adding their own "further light and knowledge"? If this weak apologetic had any basis in any teaching of any past leaders acting within their duty to interpret and teach scripture, wouldn't the Church, itself, be promoting it, rather than an amateur on social media?

Like I keep quoting:

Quote

6 Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, ...

24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

Nothing in the formal statement of "the authority of my servants" means that they will never make mistakes or that other people will not make that known.  But I also notice that none of the many scholars who have been developing this case for the last sixty years or so (starting with Nibley's publications in the church magazine, Since Cumorah, which began this line of thought) have used their criticism as grounds to set themselves up as rival formal church offices or priesthood authority, or to argue that the formal leaders and the restoration as such has no divine authority.  Indeed, we defend that authority.  That makes a difference.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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9 minutes ago, ttribe said:

Stu wins the thread. The moderators can close it up.

Reformed Egyptian is a language, can't you read?
Reformed Egyptian is a language, can't you read?

So ask me, ask me, ask me
Ask me, ask me, ask me
Because if it's not love, then it's the BoM, the BoM
The BoM, the BoM, the BoM, the BoM, the BoM
That will bring us together.

 

"Ask" by The Smiths, Charles Anthon Radio Edit.

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10 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Like I keep quoting:

Nothing in the formal statement of "the authority of my servants" means that they will never make mistakes or that other people will not make that known.  But I also notice that none of the many scholars who have been developing this case for the last sixty years or so (starting with Nibley's publications in the church magazine, Since Cumorah, which began this line of thought) have used their criticism as grounds to set themselves up as rival formal church offices or priesthood authority, or to argue that the formal leaders and the restoration as such has no divine authority.  Indeed, we defend that authority.  That makes a difference.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

It's funny that these "mistakes" seem to persist for 100+ years and are "corrected" by researchers, thus bypassing the stated line of authority. YMMV, of course.

BTW, when you lead with character assassination, as you did in your response to John's post, your credibility begins to approach zero at a rapid pace.

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5 minutes ago, ttribe said:

It's funny that these "mistakes" seem to persist for 100+ years and are "corrected" by researchers, thus bypassing the stated line of authority. YMMV, of course.

BTW, when you lead with character assassination, as you did in your response to John's post, your credibility begins to approach zero at a rapid pace.

I try not to take that stuff personally. Obviously I’ve built up enough animus among some people. Hard to blame them. 

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Just now, jkwilliams said:

I try not to take that stuff personally. Obviously I’ve built up enough animus among some people. Hard to blame them. 

Please, you bear very little of the blame for this ongoing B.S.

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29 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Like I keep quoting:

Nothing in the formal statement of "the authority of my servants" means that they will never make mistakes or that other people will not make that known.  But I also notice that none of the many scholars who have been developing this case for the last sixty years or so (starting with Nibley's publications in the church magazine, Since Cumorah, which began this line of thought) have used their criticism as grounds to set themselves up as rival formal church offices or priesthood authority, or to argue that the formal leaders and the restoration as such has no divine authority.  Indeed, we defend that authority.  That makes a difference.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Kevin I am sure you mean well but this is a fine example of how apologetics broke my shelf. I could not do the dance like this around so many problematic issues that arise within the world of Mormonism in order to make it work and feel good about myself anymore.  That is just me.  But words mean something. The BoM was presented by the founding Prophet of Mormonism as a translation and as the most correct book of any book.  IT seems to me that he and his successors, the prophets, seers and revelators, are more creditiable than you and other apologists that want to run away from the ugly language of the book when to comes to the curse and skin of darkness. If it works for you great.  But I couldn't do it anymore and your posts here further reinforce that decision.

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2 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

Personally, I think this apologetic arises out of modern discomfort with 19th-century notions of race and culture. 

No doubt that is what spurred an interest in looking at the subject in new ways (because the old ways are now seen as wrong), but it also sounds like it's arising from new understandings of middle eastern (is that how that area is accurately referred to as?) concepts of skin color and prejudice/racism and seeing how they mesh up with the old interpretations of those verses.

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6 minutes ago, bluebell said:

middle eastern

Ancient Near East is the term of art I think. At least that's what my BYU class covering the period used, not sure if the term has changed in the past few years. 

FWIW I think @BlueDreams is right, especially about the Book's text being inconsistent with a straightforward racialism. But I have an assignment to write and must stop procrastinating using this board. Good night all. 

Edited by OGHoosier
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54 minutes ago, Doctor Steuss said:

So, how exactly does a curse of wearing a dark clothing work?  The moment someone who is cursed puts on their clothes, there’s a mighty instant smiting of divine Rit?  That seems like the only way this would work, otherwise we’re left with a community who defied God to the extent that He marked them with a curse, but this community who was so defiant of God to be cursed just happens to obey God in this sole thing of wearing the clothes He told them they had to wear.

“Hey look, I’m not going to follow anything that deity says… except for wearing these clothes, and listening to Morrissey.”

As I've heard it explained in regards to this particular option, it was more that the lamanites marked themselves.  Dr. Jan Martin talks a little about it on the Follow Him podcast:

Quote

 

"There are also scholars who argue that the skin of blackness is self-inflicted. That this is something that the Lamanites added to their own bodies. There's an argument that this might be a reference to clothing, that the 2 Nephi 3-5 skin is animal skin, not human skin, and that the Lamanites are dressing in a particular way to suggest that they're not part of the Nephite culture, and that they do things differently than the Nephites, which is an interesting argument.

There's also scholars who've been arguing that this is skin paint, that they're painting themselves. Again, to indicate that they're from a different group, and that they're separate from the Nephites. And then one of the things that I argue with the covenant perspective, is that this is possibly tattooing, and that the Lamanites want to identify themselves as separate from Jehovah. And they create an identity through a tattoo that the minute you see them, you know that they're not part of the covenant, and that they've done that on purpose to separate themselves from their Nephite brothers and sisters. I'd offer those out there for anyone who's curious of other ways to read this text, that are very well written and I'd invite people to do more study. We can have very good explanations that may not have anything to do with a literal change of skin pigmentation.

 

Obviously these explanations are for people who believe the BOM is what it purports to be and are not meant to convince anyone of divine origin.  

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3 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

Skin Color Doesn’t Mean Skin Color

Interestingly, the phrase "skin color" is entirely absent from the text of the Book of Mormon.

I think it is error to impute modern notions of race and racism retroactively on people who lived thousands of years ago.  That's not to say that some attitudes back then answer to what we today call "racism."  See, e.g., here:

Quote

Is the Book of Mormon racist?

Yes, in some ways. The Book of Mormon is an ancient account of competing ethnic clans over the course of about 1,000 years.[1] Sometimes those clans' records include racist rhetoric.[2] There are also more explicit verses in the Book of Mormon that say that God cursed Lamanites with "a skin of blackness."[3]

 

And here (same link) :

Quote

Are prophets in the Book of Mormon racist?

Yes, in that some of them expressed ethnocentric[4] beliefs against different tribes using racist language.[5] However, some of those same prophets also taught against racial prejudice.[6]

 

And here (same link) :

Quote

Does the Book of Mormon teach that God cursed the Lamanites by changing the color of their skin?

Nephi taught that God "did cause a skin of blackness to come upon [the Lamanites]" to prevent intermarriage with the Nephites.[9] Both Jacob and Alma connected the dark skin with the curse.[10]

Scholars have offered various theories for a non-literal interpretation of these passages.[11]

 

So is it possible that

  • "a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations" (1 Nephi 12:23) or
  • "skin of blackness" (2 Nephi 5:21) or "the darkness of their skins" (Jacob 3:9) or 
  • "their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes" (2 Nephi 30:6) or
  • "skin which was girded about their loins" and "skins of the Lamanites were dark" (Alma 3:5-6) or
  • "their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites" (3 Nephi 2:15) or 
  • "a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites" (Mormon 5:15)

is or are referencing something more than, or different from, or not precisely synonymous with, the amount of melanin in skin?

3 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

Stumbled across this apologetic, which is a doozy. 

The gist of it is that when the Book of Mormon speaks of the Lamanites being given a skin of blackness, it means that the skins they wore as clothing were black, whereas the Nephites wore “white and delightsome” skins. In short, these were fashion choices similar to gang colors. 

As Dan McClellan put it, this is “not a good theory.” 

I would prefer a substantive critique, rather than a glib and sarcastic and out-of-hand dismissal.

Thanks,

-Smac

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3 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

That might work, except two verses later, we’re told the Lamanites they had joined had been cursed with dark skin.

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.

9 And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.

10 Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him.

I think Kevin handled this bit of criticism well so I won't repeat what he said.

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13 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I would prefer a substantive critique, rather than a glib and sarcastic and out-of-hand dismissal.

Thanks,

-Smac

Neither John, nor anyone else in this thread, for that matter, owe you any kind of response to what you "prefer."

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9 minutes ago, ttribe said:
Quote

I would prefer a substantive critique, rather than a glib and sarcastic and out-of-hand dismissal.

Neither John, nor anyone else in this thread, for that matter, owe you any kind of response to what you "prefer."

I never claimed to be "owed" anything.  But this is a discussion board.  Discussions ought to be substantive.

Thanks,

-Smac

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I think Alma Chapter 3 rebuts this idea. When it talks about the Amlicites marking themselves there is an implied contrast to the skins of darkness that God caused to happen. If it were a fashion choice I would think Mormon would mention that the Amlicites were doing the same thing and there wouldn’t be the contrasting bit about the Amlicites putting the mark on themselves.

In this chapter we also learn that the Lamanite warriors only wore loincloths and some armor. Does loincloth coloration really make you loathsome and would it be an enduring mark? And also I don’t know of any culture that would be this monochromatic about dying their clothing only either white or black for centuries.

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6 minutes ago, SteveO said:

It’s a discussion board buddy, not the great and spacious building

I have no idea what you mean by that, but go ahead re-read Smac's post and tell me, with any measure of intellectual honesty, that his statement (as he presented it) isn't an expression of his personal preference for how John should have handled the posting of this nonsense apologetic.

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4 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

Stumbled across this apologetic, which is a doozy. 

The gist of it is that when the Book of Mormon speaks of the Lamanites being given a skin of blackness, it means that the skins they wore as clothing were black, whereas the Nephites wore “white and delightsome” skins. In short, these were fashion choices similar to gang colors. 

As Dan McClellan put it, this is “not a good theory.” 

So exactly how do you get an entire nation of people to all agree to wear the cool black leather jackets?  And if you are a rebellious Lamanite, do you put on a white shirt and tie to become the hoodlum of the family?   I can see grieving Lamanite parents worried sick about their teenage son who only wants to wear white and hope he grows out of the rebellious phase before too long.  

 

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