London Calling

The clash between what the Mormon Church teaches and what some Mormons think it teaches can be a curious thing to observe. Case in point: “Richard from London” called my Open Line radio show last week to berate me for my critical comments on an earlier show regarding Mormon theology.

Richard identified himself as a former Catholic who converted to the Mormon Church, largely, he said, due to the many “disturbing” chapters in Catholic history. I pointed out that, whatever good or bad things Catholics have done over the centuries (and, to be sure, there are innumerable examples of Catholics doing both), none of it is at all relevant to the truth claims made by the Mormon Church.

Once of those claims which the Mormon Church has made (one which, understandably, Richard denied), through the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as official LDS scripture, is that God “cursed” certain people by changing their skin color from white to black and, in some cases, brown — an issue I had discussed with a different caller on an earlier show. Take a listen and see what you think.

Regarding the larger question of whether or not the Mormon Church did/does, in fact, officially teach the doctrine that God has cursed certain people by making them black or brown, I wrote an article addressing this issue in This Rock magazine, back in 1991, in response to a similar line of argumentation from another Mormon who was very squeamish about this issue being brought up. I wrote:

As for the question about racism in the doctrines and practices of the Mormon Church, your indignant comments fly in the face of the facts. For the last century and a half the Mormon Church has preached a message of racial inequality based on the theory that God has “cursed” certain people with dark skin. As you well know, this curse applies both to blacks and those of “Lamanite” descent, although for different reasons. To make my point I’ll focus just on the Lamanites.

THE BOOK of Mormon says God “cursed” the Lamanites (whom Joseph Smith alleged were originally white-skinned Palestinian Jews from the family of Laman, son of Lehi, who settled in the New World around the year 600 B.C.) in retaliation for their sins by turning them into Indians with dark skin and hair (1 Nephi 12:23; 2 Nephi 5:21-24; Jacob 3:3-5; Alma 3:6; Mormon 5:15).

The Mormon Church teaches that the Lamanites were the forerunners of North American Indians as well as of Mexicans and other Latin Americans. These are described in the Book of Mormon in unflattering terms: “dark,” “filthy,” “abominable,” “loathsome,” “idle,” “wicked,” “sorely cursed with skins of darkness,” and “beyond the description of that which hath ever been amongst us.”

If this weren’t enough to demonstrate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches that certain races are inferior because of the color of their skin (isn’t that the definition of racism?), please recall that the Book of Mormon repeatedly emphasizes the notion that white skin is “pure and delightsome” and that brown skin is “filthy and loathsome.”

TO BE FAIR, I should mention that the Mormon Church does hold out hope to Indians, Mexicans, and all those who have been tainted by the Lamanite curse. The Book of Mormon explains that “Lamanitish” people who accept the Mormon gospel can hope to have their skins turned white.

In Jacob 3:8 the white-skinned Nephites are warned about the wages of sin: “O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their [the Lamanites‘] skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.” If you need more convincing about this issue see also 3 Nephi 2:15, 2 Nephi 30:6, and Alma 23:18.

Notice that I quote from the Book of Mormon–I’m not sneaking in “obscure comments,” although I could have quoted zillions of ’em, and you know it, from “obscure” Mormon leaders such as the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, plus Bruce R. McConkie and Mark E. Peterson, both former members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Truth or consequences, Robert. Do you believe God “cursed” people by giving them dark skin, or don’t you? The ramifications of your answer seem agonizingly clear: If you don’t believe it, you deny an explicit teaching of the Book of Mormon and over 150 years of official Mormon doctrine promulgated by prophets, apostles, and general authorities. If you do believe God curses some people with dark skin, you’ll have a hard time convincing people Mormon theology isn’t racist. . . . (continue reading)


  1. AncientSoul

    too bad the audio isn't working … I know a 'Richard' in the UK that would take up such a topic 🙁 … curious to see if it was him or not.

  2. AncientSoul

    sorry .. just the "Take a listen" link didn't work .. another did .. and it's not who I thought … but in general, I find it very curious how Mormons can claim the things they do while blatantely denying the obvious .. very sad 🙁

  3. AncientSoul

    hmm .. guess my other post didn't get thru 🙂 .. was just the "Take a Listen" that didn't work … did hear it on the other one and it wasn't the guy I thought … But all in all I've always pondered how Mormans can hold fast to their prophets and beliefs while arrogantly ignoring the blatantly obvious Truth of Apostolic Succession and the FULL deposit of Faith! *scratches my head*

  4. David Charkowsky

    Luther may have discovered fiducia, but the Mormons have perfected it.

  5. Sr. Mary Euphrasia of the Magnificat

    Galatians 1:8, applies to St. Gabriel directing scrupture on the side of a hill in Mecca & apparations in Upstate New York….

  6. Sheila Deeth

    I remember being told "we don't emphasise," and "we interpret differently." More disturbing was hearing that "new" "translations" might be phrased differently, but I don't know if that's true. I'd like to find out.

  7. Robert Boylan

    John Tvedtnes deal with the charge of "racism" in the Book of Mormon at put "racism" in brackets, as it represents eisegesis to claim that the Book of Mormon (as well as other ancient texts, such as the Bible) are racist in a modern understanding of the term (think KKK and the like . . .)It is true that early Church leaders onwards viewed black skin as a curse, though one has to view such within its 19th c. context. Early LDS were converts from 19th c. American Protestantism and Restorationist movements (Campbelites, for instance) that believed that blacks were without souls; descended from Cain and were ontologically inferior to whites. Joseph Smith rejected two of these three, and his belief that blacks were ancestors of Cain seem to be derived from his 19th century worldview. Early LDS held to these views, and such resulted in the Priesthood restriction that lasted until 1978 (there is scanty evidence that Joseph Smith was the source of this).For further reading, I suggest the books–Black and MormonNoah's CurseThe Curse of HamThis is not a defence of the Priesthood restriction and the like; however, one cannot divorce these views from their 19th century context.As the Tanners' book, The Changing World of Mormonism, was discussed in the article Patrick quoted from, you might want to check out the Tanners' accuracy yourselves. For instance, see the reviews of their works at an aside, Patrick, when is your book on Sola Scriptura coming out?Best,Robert

  8. Geoffrey Miller

    Be careful here. The same accusation regarding racism could be argued against the Catholic Church. Many pious traditions assert that God cursed various peoples by making their skin dark, and some saints have even claimed to have visions confirming this.Of course, I deny the validity of such things.Some of you will no doubt desire a source.

  9. Adam

    If I am not mistaken, the majority of Mexicans are mixed race (Mestizo). Interesting fact, I am not Mexican but I am a Mestizo. I have White (Going by the US census definition) ancestry, American Indian ancestry and some black and Asian ancestry. I was born in the United States to American parents. Now, Patrick, I seem to recall on your show that you said you are of Spanish-Mexican descent. You do have some Asiatic facial features, so I’d be willing to bit there is at least some Indian blood in you. You’re a lot lighter skinned than most southern Mexicans, so I’d so you probably come primarily from a northern Mexican family. Now, that being said, I have reddish skin and gray eyes. I have a little sister (different father) who has brown eyes and lighter skin. I have a few other sisters too. All but one are fair skinned. My brother, (who is ironically under the impression we are 100% White) has gray eyes and dark skin. Living, he is the darkest person in my family. My maternal grandfather was the darkest person in my family, had blue eyes, and was darker than his heavily American Indian wife, yet he was almost entirely of European and Middle Eastern descent (there was a little tiny bit of Mongolian in there as well). Since I jokingly call my family “rainbow coloured” because of our ethnic-racial mix, does that mean I am cursed somewhat my God, but not as much as my black friends? Does it mean my sisters are not cursed by God? Does it mean my elder brother is REALLY cursed by God? What about in Brazil where many families are tri-racial? Ya know, I heard the reason that the LDS church changed their rules on th Priesthood in 1978 is because of a large portion of Brazil’s population is of Subsaharan African descent, and they would not get a lot of converts if they did not change that rule. You could argue that it was because of the racist attitudes of the time, but I mean, 1978 was a good while after the Civil Rights movement. Anyway, God bless Patrick!

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