LABEL – a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing, especially one that is inaccurate or restrictive. (Oxford Dictionary)
Earlier this week Dallin H. Oaks responded to a question about the church’s lack of diversity by sharing what his answer is to the youth when they asked the same question, “I remind them that It is dangerous to label themselves as a particular nationality, geographic origin, ethnic circumstance, or whatever it may be. Because the most important thing about us is that we are all children of God. If we keep that in mind we are better suited to relate to one another and to avoid a kind of quota system. As if God applied His blessings and extended His goodness and His love on the basis of quotas, that I think that He does not recognize, so we shouldn’t.”
It is neither restrictive nor inaccurate to embrace my heritage when I call myself Native American, when I call myself Tsimshian. My heritage is rich and beautiful, it is one I am proud of. The only inaccurate and restrictive label I ever had was given to me by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the label of Lamanite. The Mormon church labeled all Native peoples from North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands as Lamanites at one time. Follow this link: List of Lamanites to see the list of peoples labeled by the church as Lamanites.
Here is the fact, the LDS church has been actively labeling other nationalities, geographic origins, and ethnic circumstances since the inception of Mormonism, beginning with Joseph Smith. The terms used have been both inaccurate and restrictive. Those labeled as Cain’s descendants could not even get their temple work done among the many restrictions this inaccurate label created. The lack of understanding towards racial issues, women issues, and the LGBT community are harrowing. I would add the lack of protection for everyone (including children) due to holding the labels of Bishop, Stake President, Prophet, Apostles, and Priesthood holders as the most important and respected labels is also dangerous.
It is easy to deflect away from equality being a “quota system” when you have not been labeled and ignored as others. I cringed at your answer, because it was ignorant. I cringed for the woman asking it, because it was dismissive. The reality is the leaders of the LDS church love labels, even if they say they don’t. Hhhmm, what is the word for that? Saying one thing, and doing another… oh yes, hypocrite.
In 1975 Dallin Oaks fully believed Native Americans were the Lamanites when he said, “Our Lamanite program is not only valuable for the 500 Indian students we enroll, but it is also the focus of an outreach program through our Institute of American Indian Services that touches almost a hundred Indian reservations…”
The reality is the LDS Church has deeply changed the Lamanite narrative over the last 40 years. The label “Lamanite” has been just one amongst the many labels the church uses. This label can be an ugly one for Native American’s whose ancestors were “swept from the land” due to unrighteousness. The Book of Mormon is the LDS historical explanation behind the Native American genocide, though it is rarely discussed. I was personally taught this growing up. See this link; Native Americans Swept From Land. This label has been damaging for those whose skin was a sign of their lack of righteousness in the pre-existence. See this link; Racism . This label has been damaging for those who were not appropriate for marriage due to darkened skin. See these links; The Lamanite Mark – Part 1, The Lamanite Mark – Part 2.
In 2016 Russell M. Nelson said, “There are some things the Book of Mormon is not. It is not a textbook of history, although some history is found within its pages. It is not a definitive work on ancient American agriculture or politics. It is not a record of all former inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, but only of particular groups of people.”
This is a huge change not just from 1975, but also from Joseph Smith himself (in his own handwriting). To read about what Joseph Smith wrote in his journal – of an angel visiting him and speaking of Lamanites, follow this link; Responsible.
There is only one real problem now with the changing narrative of Lamanites. THEY NEVER TOLD THE PEOPLE THEY HAD PREVIOUSLY LABELED AS LAMANITE THAT THEY WERE WRONG. So now there are generations of people who think the Book of Mormon is a factual history of their people, and they are raising their kids with these teachings. Knowledge that they were originally taught at church, and still are. I have spoken to countless return missionaries who taught people that they were Lamanites. See this link for an old missionary handout; Missionary Work. See this link for modern missionaries; Modern Missionaries.
Russell Nelson said at the press conference earlier this week, “Every member needs to know the difference between what’s doctrine and what’s human. We have both elements that we have to work with.” In this I agree with Nelson, it is an individual’s responsibility to not follow false prophets or teachings. One of the most effective ways to know if something is correct or not is to learn the history behind it.
- Oaks, Dallin. A Conversation with Dallin H. Oaks, President of Brigham Young University. Ensign, October 1975. Web. 17 January, 2018.
- Russell, Nelson M., Oaks, Dallin H., Eyring, Henry B., First Presidency News Conference. 16 January, 2018.
- Russell, Nelson M., President Nelson Speaks to Mission Presidents about “Miraculous Miracle” of Book of Mormon. 23 June, 2016. LDS website. Web. 17 January, 2018.