I grew up loving Christmas and believing Santa was real. The idea of Santa alone didn’t make Christmas magical. All the Christmas movies, cookies, and excitement over presents all played into making Santa more exciting and lovable. I have a handful of memories that stand out from childhood, one was the night I army crawled down the hall at 6 yrs old. I remember being annoyed with my long pajama dress as I scooted behind the sofa and waited, I was going to see Santa. I do not remember how long I waited, I was pretty patient and determined as a child. I vaguely remember being armed with a pillow and cookies that I pre-stashed in preparation earlier that day. Eventually though my parents brought all the presents out and filled the stockings. I remember the disappointment that year, Christmas was never the same again. I had trusted and believed.
To some degree I understood what they did was loving and supposed to be for me. Yet when I had my own children, I struggled to continue the tradition. Instead I would tell my kids that what Santa represented was real. That Santa represented the spirit of cheer to help us celebrate the season. I let them believe in him to a degree, mostly because they were determined he was real. Most of their friends and adults spoke as if he was. I don’t know why but I really struggled with this as a parent. I felt like I was lying to my children.
In many ways I was lying. Passing on the traditions of fun, yet why did the fun include tricking children. I felt like a “Scrooge.” I have no idea how many times I apologized to my husband for overreacting over Santa. My children, my responsibility, I had limits. As each of my children turned 8 years old I included them in on the secret. Having them help me sneak and surprise the younger children. Or having them help with the Elf on the Shelf. I was there to see the disappointment in their eyes that it wasn’t real, but also there to see the joy they experienced helping make Christmas magical. I was also glad that they knew mommy would be honest with them.
When we lived in Wisconsin I taught in Primary for a number of years. There was one family I knew that completely embraced all things Christmas. They absolutely loved it. They were so thorough in it that their children had no doubt that Santa was real. The illusion was so complete that their 10-year-old son got into fights at school when the kids his age tried to tell him Santa wasn’t real. He had full trust in his parents. That was years ago and I no longer live there, but I can’t help wonder how hurt and embarrassed he must have been to eventually know the truth.
Santa is one thing, adults do not continue the belief that Santa is real. What of the Lamanite narrative. I have heard time and time again people say, “They are proud to be Lamanite.” Conference talks, Ensign articles, Sunday school, etc. Even now when Lamanites are no longer discussed by the upper leaders of the church – I hear everyday members mentioning it. It is true, many of the people who believe they are Lamanite are proud to be called Lamanite. They have embraced the identity. I have heard it from both active “Lamanite” people and those who once were Mormon that had previously had that pride. The reaction by those who have left Mormonism is vastly different.
It is almost as if the responsibility of the Lamanite lie is being passed on to the “Lamanites” themselves. As if the people of the Americas and Pacific Islands all labeled themselves “Lamanites”. As if they had no idea where they came from or what their heritage was before Mormonism, but upon finding Mormonism declared it their history. Not so! Missionaries were sent out on “Lamanite” missions from the beginning of the Mormon religion with little regard for the people’s true heritage. (In defense of missionaries they didn’t/ don’t know it is a lie either.) The missionaries went out and told people that they didn’t know their true heritage. Missionaries continue to go out believing that the native peoples are “Lamanites” and continue to teach them that the Book of Mormon is about their history.
The only thing the original peoples of the Americas and Pacific Islands did was trust and believe, but they DID NOT create the Lamanite narrative. What will the Mormon church do in response to truth? It cannot stop the flood of facts that have already begun. They have tried to control the damage with the Book of Mormon and DNA Studies essay. The essay states, “…the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical.” Why then is it treated as something historical!? The essay also states, “The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied.” Why then have ALL the native peoples of North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands been taught they are Lamanites!?
I do not believe they are ever going to correct the narrative. They will continue to back away from the Lamanite narrative, because now it is the people calling themselves “Lamanties”. The people are solely the ones responsible for claiming the identity. And as future generations rise up, it is their own parents and families who have passed it on. The church will not hold itself responsible, all responsibility will fall upon the people identified as “Lamanite”. As if a child made up Santa on their own and should be at fault for believing their own story.
The church is in for a wakeup call, for these people are not children. I was no child when faced with the truth. I was hurt by the “Lamanite” narrative growing up. Then as I learned the real history I was shocked and dismayed that the church I loved had not been honest with me. I was devastated that all I had believed, had been taught to believe, was not the truth. I had trusted and that trust had been greatly violated. Who was responsible? Was it my responsibility as a child to not believe as I was taught? Or is it the responsibility that those who run an organization, who are paid to run an organization, to be honest in their dealings?
For my part I take responsibility now, not for believing I was a “Lamanite”, but for knowing I am not “Lamanite”. For my part I will teach my children truth.
Children learn from what they see. We need to set an example of truth and action.
Howard Rainer, Taos Pueblo-Creek 2012
- Book of Mormon and DNA Studies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 31 January, 2014. Web. 11 November, 2017.