Native Americans caused their own genocide. Did I ever really believe this? Sadly, at one time I did.
Pain tore through me as I wrote the title of this post. Genocide has happened to many cultures, on many continents. To believe however, to be taught, that it was God’s plan is horrible. My people lost their land due to unrighteousness. God promised to protect them and their land so long as they were righteous, but they couldn’t stay righteous. They were evil.
This is not a post about if the Book of Mormon is a true book or a historical document. That is irrelevant, because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints claims it is true. It claims it to be the most correct book on the earth. This post is not about if skin color is changed, or if God marked “Lamanites” with dark skin. This is about heritage.
Virtually every Sunday for my entire life I read excerpts from the Book of Mormon, add to that the daily scripture study. These were simply truths. Truth about my heritage, for I was told I was a “Lamanite.”
There are many ways people deal with this truth. Some call themselves “Nephites” because they have joined the church and are now righteous. However, their ancestors and family members who never joined would still be considered “Lamanites.” Some people proudly declare that they are “Lamanites.” They find hope in the future predictions and prophecies. Still I can’t help wonder what they think of their heritage.
My Tsimshian ancestors were not ungodly! They were not lost as I was taught to believe. They had beautiful beliefs, religion, and a culture to be proud of. God did not give away their land because they lost His protection. God did not allow genocide of entire peoples because they were meant to be “smitten.” God did not mark an entire continent of people with dark skin – as ungodly and unworthy of His presence. Tears roll down my face as I consider how I excused horrible deeds, how I turned my back on my ancestors. I was taught it was meant to happen. That God meant it all to happen. I believed.
I loved singing a song as a child titled “Book of Mormon Stories.” I am ashamed that I taught my own children this song. I refuse to stand by and see the beautiful heritage of so many cultures discounted any longer. Please see my page titled “The List” to see all the people who have been told they are “Lamanites.” This list will continue to grow.
The world is changing, and so with it must the church. This is not some quiet issue that will go away. Many people are leaving the church, but they are not forgetting those around them. They are supporting each other, catching each other as they fall. I do not stand alone. People of all backgrounds are standing together. We are one.
Book of Mormon Stories Children’s Primary Song Lyrics
- Book of Mormon stories that my teacher tells to me Are about the Lamanites in ancient history. Long ago their fathers came from far across the sea, Giv’n the land if they lived righteously.
- Lamanites met others who were seeking liberty, And the land soon welcomed all who wanted to be free. Book of Mormon stories say that we must brothers be, Giv’n the land if we live righteously.
1 Nephi 12:23
23 – And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.
1 Nephi 13:11
11 – “And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.”
1 Nephi 13:13-15
13 – And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
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.
- Bates, Elizabeth. Book of Mormon Stories, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, lds.org. Web. 9 August, 2017.
- Smith, J. (1989). Book of Mormo,. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Print 9 August, 2017.
I feel for you, my friend. Until a few years ago, I believed that my white skin made me better than you. What a crappy thing to think. But, the church doctrine and scriptures made that an inevitable conclusion. No longer do I hold that racist view. Thanks for pointing out that skin color is not the only racist contents of the Book of Mormon. I hadn’t snapped to that yet.
Thanks Sam. I admire your honesty and courage. I have had to face my own beliefs and adjust my world views too. Very freeing. By leaving the church I personally found more Christ like love for others.
I work now in the City of Tualatin, OR, and I am proud to say I support your heritage now, too, after having denounced Mormonism and the “lamanite” falsehoods taught from the Book of Mormon. This is an excellent essay and adds much depth to what I consider to be one of the most egregious sins of Mormonism, teaching that God “hates” and “curses” some of Her children. I am sorry for the part my ancestors played in taking your land away from you and in the loss of a great heritage. I was at “Spirit Mountain” this weekend, listening to Melissa Etheridge, and it was a very moving experience because I really did feel something spiritual there! So sorry for lost heritage. So very, very sorry.
Thank you. It sometimes amazes me what the church teaches, and what so many did and do believe. It amazes me that I would have continued to believe it – had it not been my own passion for research and history.
Love that you went to Spirit Mountain, that must have been amazing!
Thank you for your words, though I do not hold people responsible for their ancestors deeds. The world is changing and we are standing together.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this painful subject. These Book of Mormon passages that attempt to pin the blame on First Peoples appeared in the midst of genocidal policies and actions by the settler colonial society in which Joseph Smith himself lived. Worse yet, the Book of Mormon imagines an ancient holocaust of the “Nephites” and pins it upon the “Lamanites.” The Book of Mormon blames Indigenous peoples for atrocities against whites and then blames them again for the white atrocities against themselves. This appears to be me to be a form of projection, projecting the failings of settler colonial society onto First Peoples.