The history provided in this section will cover how early Lamanite teachings began, and how long they have continued.
However, before I dive into the history of missionary work and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints towards Indigenous people, I would first like to address an important aspect of this history. That is, not all people labeled Lamanite by the church are viewed as equal Lamanites, or are taught the same beliefs about Lamanite identity.
1911 – February 6 – Pacific Islanders are more righteous and favored by the Lord than the Indigenous of the North American continent.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints wrote a letter to the Maori people which states, “But here, beloved brethren and sisters, let us pause a moment and raise the question in your own minds, why you, in common with others in your race inhabiting the isles of the sea, were to be more blessed and favored of the Lord than the rest of the remnant of the House of Israel inhabiting this, our land of America?
Was it because of any desire on the part of our Heavenly Father to bestow blessings upon you, upon your brethren and sisters of Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, and other places, over and above those of your brothers and sisters, also of the house of Israel, living on the American continent? No, it was simply because of your forefathers, who were first moved upon to occupy the isles of the seas, and who did so under the immediate overruling hand of the God of your fathers, were better than the rest of their brethren who occupied this continent, because they were more obedient and more faithful, the Lord in His superior wisdom, directed their course away from this continent to their island homes, that they might be separated from their more wicked disobedient brethren, that they might not be left to be preyed upon and destroyed by the more wicked part of the House of Israel whose descendants still roam upon this continent in a fallen and degraded state, and who, because of their acts of wickedness, are not prepared to be redeemed from their fallen condition by the preaching of the gospel, and this on account of their forefathers who love darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, and who rejected from time to time the men whom God raised up to preach the gospel of repentance to them, and who stoned them and killed them and treated them even as their brethren treated Jesus and the apostles on the other continent.
This, dear brethren and sisters, is the key of your preservation as a nation, also to the preservation of your brothers and sisters of the other isles of the sea before mentioned, and this is the secret of the overruling hand of providence which has been over you all from that time until you received the gospel through the preaching of the elders, and until the present time. This is the reason why you of the isles of the sea are more highly favored and blessed of the Lord than your brethren, also of the remnant of the House of Israel, who remained on this continent… And we repeat, the reason that few of the islands of the sea have been more highly favored and blessed in the Lord than those of your brethren of this continent is because of the worthiness of your forefathers who were lead away and separated from their brethren of this continent, and because of the blessing of the Lord which has attended you, their children, from that time to the present.” (Britsch, R. Lanier. “The Conception of the Hawaii Temple.” BYU Scholars Archive, scholarsarchive.byu.edu)
(Full access to this 14 page letter was requested – the church responded with the following: “As the citation you provide points to a collection of records of the First Presidency we are unable to provide access.” For anyone who may want to attempt access to the full letter here is the information: First Presidency Copy Books, CR 1-20, Reel #42, CA.)
2017 May 30 – Modern continuation of the above teaching, 106 years after the letter was written Pacific Islanders are once again taught they are more righteous and favored by the Lord than Native Americans – the Indigenous of the North American continent.
At a devotional given to young students at Brigham Young University Hawaii in 2017, a talk was presented by R. Wayne Shute, Professor Emeritus, BYU-Provo. Shute poses the question, “Where did the present-day people of the islands of the sea come from?”
Shute reads quotes from the referenced letter, 1911 – The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ, “… under the immediate overruling hand of [God]; they were better than their brethren who occupied this continent; [God] directed [them] away from this continent to their island homes; that they might be separated from their more wicked and disobedient brethren; that they might not be left to be preyed upon and destroyed by the more wicked part of the House of Israel… “
Shute testifies his belief in the above quote, “Since these bold assertions came from the pen of a prophet of God, I believe them to be true.”
Shute says, “And we repeat, the reason that a few of the islands of the sea have been more highly favored and blessed than those of your brethren of this continent is, because of the worthiness of your forefathers who were led away and separated from their brethren of this continent, and because of the blessing of the Lord which has attended you, their children, from that time to the present.”
Shute states when and where the people in the Pacific Islands originated, “the ancestors of the people of the islands of the sea are Book of Mormon people who went to the islands more than two thousand years ago.” Shute continues, “One group, the plausible choice from whence Islanders came, would be the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi or the people of Ammon…”
Shute, “Some people in the islands don’t like being associated with Lamanites. If they carefully studied the Book of Mormon however, they would discover the people of Ammon and surely would want to be their descendants.”
Shute, “How they got to the islands is a question to be discussed another day, but they did and it is from these faithful, covenant people of Ammon, I believe, that most Polynesian islanders have descended.”
Shute then speaks to them as the people of Ammon, “So, what can we expect from the descendants of the people of Ammon?” Shute continues his talk addressing the people of Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Tahiti.
(The above BYU Devotional video is available on YouTube and other various sites for viewing, and has continued to be shared publicly on sites such as Instagram and Facebook as recently as a few months ago. Shute, R. Wayne. “Your Heritage: To Honor Covenants Like Unto the People of Ammon!” BYU Hawaii Speeches, 30 May 2017, devotional.byuh.edu/node/1165.)
While researching for the Lamanite Truth website I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of South Americans. Some of them believed similar teachings to what the Pacific Islanders have been taught. During a discussion with one South American individual he said, “I am not a Lamanite, I am one of the Children of Lehi.” Though I did not understand his distinction initially, as a Native American I had not been taught these variations to have different meanings, I came to understand that at times these small distinctions, which seem inconsequential, reveal subtle differences in views of Lamanite identity. The teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at times affect Indigenous populations in North America differently than other groups. The various views also result in inconsistent reactions towards Lamanite identity, labeling, history, and racism.
1979, September – Native Americans of the North American Continent were unrighteous. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, excerpts from a talk given by President Marion G. Romney, Second Counselor of the First Presidency.
- “…whoso should posses this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off…” (Book of Mormon Ether 2:8-9)
- “They began turning away from the ways of the God of the land. Finally they rejected him. By the end of the fourth century, as a result of contention, crime, and carnage, their civilization had disintegrated. “
- “Having proved unworthy of protection by the “might” of the God of the land, the remnants of these people dwindled in unbelief until they reached the degradation in which Columbus found them. ”
- “Jesus Christ, the God of this land, led Columbus to it. He led the Pilgrims to Plymouth. He sustained and gave victory to the colonists.”
(Romney, Marion G., America’s Promise. Ensign, Issue 9, 1979.)
On a personal note, as a Tsimshian woman who was viewed as a Lamanite at church, I will not deny that the Lamanite teachings negatively influenced my development and identity throughout childhood and well into adulthood. Due to this I cannot help but ask the following questions: Are these teachings honest? Are these teaching being honest in our dealings with our fellow man (children), as asked in temple recommend interviews? Is appropriating cultures and labeling specific groups of people as Lamanite really necessary in order to maintain spirituality within Mormonism?
I have been questioned many times why I left the church. I could give a long list of reasons, but the reality is it comes down to one core reason – for my children. During 2016 as we began transitioning out of the church our children asked “why” we were leaving. I sat down with them and told them that in our house children are to be respected above all else, and that lying to children was not something I was willing to do. I spoke about a few church beliefs and history, but then returned to the main reason which was my respect for them and refusal to be dishonest. This has continued to be central to our home life and beliefs.
What would this world look like if it were children who were honored and respected above all else? What would religion look like if instead of the Priesthood, or those in power, everything was measured against how it honored and respected the youngest and most vulnerable? Now add to that the Lamanite myth – being put upon the youngest most vulnerable Indigenous children. Does it honor them?
Part Two Cont. – History of Missionary Work with Native Americans – COMING SOON
Part Three – Stories – COMING SOON