My family was taught we were direct descendants of Lehi. We were taught we were direct descendants of the Lamanites, that we were in fact Lamanites. The prophet Joesph Smith himself taught that Native Americans were direct descendants.
At the end of the Doctrine and Covenants (cannon regarded as scripture) is Official Declaration 1 which states, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God.” (1)
I once believed that statement, but now find that to be a pretty extreme. No one is perfect. I would expect everyone to give some allowance for minor mistakes. Perhaps declaring everyone from North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands as “Lamanites” was a mistake made by just a few. Perhaps it wasn’t every prophet, maybe a few prophets had gotten it right. So I decided to find out how many of the prophets had labeled groups of people as “Lamanites” without knowing their true heritage.
The Prophets who identified “Lamanites” and spread the teachings.
- Joseph Smith – “…the aborigines of this country and said they were literal descendants of Abraham.” (Joseph Smith Journal 1835-1836 Page 64)
- Brigham Young – “…concerning this record being the record of the Nephites, and of the Lamanites, who are the fathers of the present aborigines of our country…” (Journal of Discourses Volume 2, Page 179)
- John Taylor – “The Lord is operating upon the Lamanites, and many of them are being baptized into the Church. Some people think all that we have to do is to baptize them, that they are a poor miserable set of outcasts. This is not the case.” (Journal of Discourses Volume 23, Page 223)
- Wilford Woodruff – “”The Lamanites, now a down-trodden people, are a remnant of the house of Israel. The curse of God has followed them as it has done the Jews, though the Jews have not been darkened in their skin as have the Lamanites.” ” (Journal of Discourses Volume 22, Page 173)
- Lorenzo Snow – Served two short term Lamanite missions, one to Hawaii, the second to North Western American Indians. (LDS.org)
- Joseph F. Smith – “I would like to say to you brethren and sisters from New Zealand, you are some of Hagoth’s people, and there is NO PERHAPS about it!” He explained that when he was a missionary in Hawaii the Spirit had testified to him that the Polynesians were descended from Lehi.” (Book of Mormon Study Guide, Alma 63, LDS.org)
- Heber J. Grant – – Later, in the dedicatory prayer of the Laie Hawaii Temple, President Heber J. Grant thanked Heavenly Father that “thousands and tens of thousands of the descendants of Lehi, in this favored land, have come to a knowledge of the gospel” (The Dedicatory Prayer in the Hawaiian Temple, Improvement Era, Feb. 1920, 283)
- George Albert Smith – “These Indians in the western world are the descendants of Father Lehi who left Jerusalem, centuries ago at the direction of our Heavenly Father.” (Conference Report April 1950)
- David O. McKay – “We express gratitude that to these fertile islands thou dist guide descendants of Father Lehi and hast enabled them to prosper.” (Dedication Prayer New Zealand Temple, April 20, 1958)
- Joseph Fielding Smith – “Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South.” (Answers to Gospel Questions 1953, Volume 3)
- Harold B. Lee – “We witnessed a short while ago the outpouring of love and fellowship that was in evidence in the great regional conference of our wonderful
Lamanite Saints from Central America and Mexico, assembled in Mexico City in August.” (General Conference October 1972)
- Spencer W. Kimball – “Today we have many Lamanite leaders in the Church. For example, in Tonga, where 20 percent of all the people in the islands belong to the Church, we have three large stakes.” (Ensign December 1975, First Presidency Message)
- Ezra Taft Benson – “Though the Missionary Department recommends that each young man bring at least six white shirts with him, most of these foreign-born missionaries, these sons of Lehi, bring one, possibly two.” (Missionary Training Center at Sao Paulo, Brazil, General Conference talk April 1979)
- Howard W. Hunter – “It has been the position of the Church that Polynesians are related to the American Indians as descendants of Father Lehi, having migrated to the Pacific from America…” (Teachings of Howard W. Hunter 1984 Edition)
- Gordon B. Hinckley – “Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou hast kept Thine ancient promise. Many thousands “that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Mexico City Mexico Temple Dedicatory Prayer, Dec. 1983)
- Thomas S. Monson – “May Thy eternal purposes concerning the sons and daughters of Lehi be realized in this sacred house.” (Villahermosa México Temple Dedication May 21, 2000)
Every single prophet, and these are only a few of the quotes among hundreds. So how are they justified? Why, if they don’t know who the “Lamanites” are, would they be convincing all these cultures that the Book of Mormon was their history? Why would they tell them all that they are the “children of Lehi the “Lamanites”?”
The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies Essay states, “The evidence assembled to date suggests that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA.” (2) This statement of course lines up with what not only scientists around the world have found, but it also lines up with what the people themselves say. Believe it or not but Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, South Americans, etc. can tell their own narrative of their peoples history. Science backs up their narrative, not the Mormon one.
The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies Essay also states, “The Book of Mormon provides little direct information about cultural contact between the peoples it describes and others who may have lived nearby.” (2) I find this sentence very interesting. It is admitting that there were people who lived in America who were NOT direct descendants of Lehi. If this is true why are they calling virtually all brown people from 3 continents “Lamanites.” Would that not be a lie? Would that not be stealing and destroying the cultural heritage and history of millions of people?
Why the prophets are justified.
In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism at BYU.edu who the “Lamanites” are is explained. First it states direct lineage, “The name Lamanite refers to an Israelite people spoken of in the Book of Mormon, who were descendants of Lehi and Ishmael, both of whom were descendants of Joseph of Egypt.” (3)
Second it states a supposed history of all people on these three continents, “…those who rejected the Christian church, regardless of their ancestry… they who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites. (4 Ne. 1:36-45). It had been prophesied that eventually only Lamanite peoples and those who joined them would remain of the original groups (Alma 45:13-14). After the final battles between Lamanites and Nephites, only those who accepted Lamanite rule survived in Book of Mormon lands (Morm. 6:15).” (3)
The encyclopedia further explains, “Consequently, the name Lamanite can refer to descendants of Laman and his party; to an incipient nationality based upon an ideology, with its own lineage history and religious beliefs; or to one or more cultures.” (3)
Lamanite is a culture identity, not bloodline.
Direct descendants have not been found through DNA. DNA studies have found the opposite. The church has said so themselves. So the church has fallen back on ANY nationality which culturally fits the term “Lamanite.” So virtually every brown skin culture on three continents is the same. How can they be so similar? And how are they “incipient?” I found that term highly offensive. As if the many cultures didn’t have their own complicated political and religious structure. They did, and they were NOT incipient. What they were was different, and in the Mormon world different is bad.
It wasn’t enough to shame my skin. It wasn’t enough to declare that I was a direct descendant of Lehi. Ignoring and disrespecting my peoples true heritage and ancestry. Now I find I am not a direct descendant, but am still considered “Lamanite” due to the culture of my people? My culture… not DNA. The Prophets are justified because my culture was of evil origin, lost from the true path of God? They are justified because only Christianity is ok, and all the original religious traditions of millions of people had evil origins and were “lost.” They are “Lamanite”. Every single original religion in North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands are the same because they had evil origin, lost from the true path of God. They are all “Lamanites” because NONE of them were Christian. Well, that and they had the sign of the curse, brown skin. At least they have the lucky blessing to “blossom as a rose.” (sarcasm)
Here are some lovely quotes from an article published by church owned Deseret News titled, Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: The double meaning of the word ‘Lamanite’.
- “While culture is learned and typically passes from parents to children, people can change cultures or assimilate into different cultures.”
- “Although some of the original Lamanite party would have had Lehite DNA (still not found), anyone who joined the Lamanites was called “Lamanite” by the Nephites.”
- “…small revolt of people who had “taken upon them the name of Lamanites; therefore there began to be Lamanites again in the land.”
- “To the Nephites virtually all non-Nephites were “Lamanites,” while to Latter-day Saints, all Native Americas are “Lamanites.”
- “So although there is no evidence for a genetic link between modern Native Americans and Lamanites, LDS scriptures and prophets are justified in referring to them as “Lamanites” due to the likelihood of cultural and genealogical affiliations.”
If only Mormon prophets had followed the advice of Anthony W. Irvins in General Conference 1929.
“We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them [the peoples it describes]. It does not tell us that people did not come after.”
“As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true.”
Just a few last thoughts. Did anyone in the Mormon church study the hundreds of religions and cultures of people they declared to be Lamanites? Who determined the culture was “Lamanite?” What exactly is “Lamanite” culture? The religions across three continents are extremely diverse. Another fail for the Mormon church. Welcome cultural discrimination. Who has a right to say someones heritage and culture is of evil origin, or wrong in the eyes of God?
- Woodruff, Wilford, Official Declaration 1, Doctrine and Covenants, LDS.org, Web. 23 August, 2017.
- Book of Mormon and DNA Studies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 31 January, 2014. Web. 27 August, 2017.
- Thomasson, Gordon C., Lamanites, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, BYU.edu, Web 26 August, 2017.
- Ash, Michael, Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: The double meaning of the word ‘Lamanite’. Deseret News, 3 May 2010, Web. 23 August, 2017.
- Ivins, Anthony W., No Definite Solution, General Conference April 1929, archive.org, Web. 26, 2017.