This series of three posts have been leading up to some changes that are coming to the blog. At the end of the article I will share more about that. Excited for some great changes!
Belief and fact are two different things. Though these two words are easily understood I looked up a few definitions anyways.
- Belief: an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
- Fact: a thing that is indisputably the case.
How should heritage be viewed? Through beliefs or facts? I once believed my people were direct descendants of “Lamanites” (from ancient Israel). This belief influenced every aspect of my life. This is a contradiction to the actual records of my Native American family, and a contradiction to what we know through anthropology and science. The church said, from the very beginning, that the Indians were direct descendants. I was taught I was a direct descendant.
Joseph Smith, who wrote the Book of Mormon, also kept a journal and here he records a couple of his many visions. This is an account in his own hand writing, of the first vision and the consecutive vision. (The errors in grammar are exact quotes of how it was written in his journal.) With this quote it shows where the Mormon idea of literal descendants originated – it was with the founder of the church. I will add a link at the bottom of the page for anyone who wishes to read the entire account.
- “I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my <me> head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; <and I saw many angels in this vision> I was about 14. years old when I received this first communication;”
- “When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels, in the night season after I had retired to bed I had not been a sleep, when but was meditating upon my past life and experiance, I was verry concious that I had not kept the commandments, and I repented hartily for all my sins and transgression, and humbled myself before Him; <whose eyes are over all things>, all at once the room was iluminated above the brightness of the sun an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed <with> in purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham, he explained many things of the prophesies to me, one I will mention which is this in Malachi 4 behold the day of the Lord cometh &c; also that the Urim and Thumim, was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to translate it, with the assistance of this instrument…”
The Mormon church holds the first vision as a critical and important part of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It is taught at every Mormon temple visitors center. It is taught by every missionary. It is taught to every child. Yet the church does not use the visions recorded in Joseph Smiths own hand, let alone talk about them. In my 39 years as a member I did not once hear about another version of the first vision, and neither had my parents.
The narrative has been controlled for many years. Picking and choosing what serves the leadership and legitimizes the church. The narrative has constantly changed from the founding of the church, and that pattern continues. What was once truth is no longer truth. What my grandparents believed and were taught as children are no longer truths given to them from God, but mens mistakes. What children now learn is a changed version – in an attempt to serve and legitimize the church. This is because beliefs change, facts do not.
The intro to the Book of Mormon says, “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”
Also in the intro to the Book of Mormon is a quote from Joseph Smith, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
Is belief correct? Or is fact correct?
In November of 2013 the church published an essay titled First Vision Accounts in an effort to face the problems of the multiple versions.
In January of 2014 the church published an essay titled Book of Mormon and DNA Studies which admits, “The evidence assembled to date suggests that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA.”
Science and Anthropology have long supported evidence against the Book of Mormon narrative. However, the risk of the Book of Mormon not being historical or presented as “the most correct book” is of more importance to the leaders than the truth itself. The leadership will continue to protect their church at all costs. Including allowing a false belief in “Lamanites” to continue, even if it hurts the cultures of those it labels as such.
Personally, I understand this reaction. I cannot fault them for thinking their church is more important than reality itself. They were born and raised in the same faulty system I was, and they are still in it. I once defended what they still do. Their spouses, friends, children, grandchildren, and income are all tied to the church. Leaving is hard for the average member, what it must be like to try to leave in top leadership would be something else entirely. It would take tremendous courage. Add to that a strong belief in the church which influences reactions to modern science. We all live in our own reality, this is theirs. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.
In the Book of Mormon and DNA Studies essay it shows that they are aware things are not as they once believed. In addition to that the Book of Mormon Introduction once said, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This has been changed to, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.” To date the church has never found the actual “Lamanites” or remnants of them, but not because they haven’t spent years looking.
The church leadership should be held accountable for being honest in their dealings. However, due to past examples, I do not trust them not to twist the truth in their favor at every turn. Because of this I do not think the leadership will or should be the ones be at the forefront of change. If they join in that is great, but the change needs to come from the people. Honestly that is the only way things do change. There are many brave and honest members that I think can and do create change. There are also many brave and honest people who have left the religion who can change the narrative. Speaking about these things gives it a voice. Being honest and validating the actual truth supports those whose narrative has been stolen, abused, and labeled as “Lamanite”.
I am one of many talking about the Lamanite narrative. I am not a Lamanite, I am Tsimshian and Tlingit of the First Nations. My people have their own stories of origin, their own history, and their own pride. In the coming months the focus of the blog will also begin to include the stories of people reclaiming their heritage. I am working with a few people, and hoping to find more willing to share their story.
This journey away from the Lamanite narrative can be a confusing and lonely one. Many of us stay silent because culturally we respect our families and elders. Because of this – many stories shared will be anonymous. However they will be shared, because sharing our stories creates a sense of being understood and of being validated for those of us who find our way out to the truth. I welcome anyone to share their people’s true origin stories and traditions, and their transition. Please feel free to message me with any questions or information.
“You must speak straight so that your words may go into my heart like sunshine. I will not lie to you, do not lie to me.”
-Cochise, Chiricahua Apache
- Smith, Joseph. The Joseph Smith Papers, Journal, 1835-1836. p. 24, Web. 2, December 2017. http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-1835-1836/25
- Smith, J. (1989). Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi. Introduction Page. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Print 2 December, 2017.
- Book of Mormon and DNA Studies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 31 January, 2014. lds.org. Web. 2 December, 2017.
- First Vision Accounts. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 22 October, 2014. lds.org. Web. 2 December, 2017.