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Apologetics vs Current Lesson Manuals

What do children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deserve when it comes to teachings around dark skin as a sign of a curse? Do they deserve the harsh reality of the current teachings or do they deserve apologetics? Do apologetics even hold any weight since they aren’t including in official lesson manuals? When will adults finally face this issue instead of allowing yet another generation to grow up with racist interpretations as factual teachings?

This is not about the Book of Mormon. This is about current lesson manuals and facing the facts about what youth are taught. We can talk all day about nicer ways to interpret the Book of Mormon, Lamanite identity, and Christopher Columbus teachings, but until lesson manuals reflect any real change kids will keep developing their identity in a less than healthy environment.

I grew up with these teachings and believed I was a Lamanite until I was 38 years old. When I realized that I no longer identified as Lamanite all I could do was write as I had no one to turn to. There was so much pain and confusion about how I had been taught to view my own tribe, Indigenous history, ancestry, and skin color. So, I started this blog as a way to process and it has been such a messy journey.

At one point I had to back away from research and slowed down blogging. Because once I learned what the church had done to the Native peoples in Utah I was so horrified with the facts that I had a hard time wanting to research. I actively had to stop reading. They were not my tribe but my heart mourned and screamed for them. Slowly, I backed away from research and writing and tried to make sense of how horrific it was. Even now, just the thought of what was done to those beautiful peoples and families has once again brought me to full tears. How could I have not known? Anyone who really wants to understand the weight of being labeled Lamanite needs to read the history of Utah from various sources, especially Native American sources.

I have not been able to research as much as I once did, it isn’t the same now. My heart stands with the tribes in Utah. But I keep trying and I back away whenever I need to in order to center myself, heal, and grow in my personal life. And when I am able I come back and write.

This is where I am now. I will show honor and respect to my mother’s journey by being proud of her – for her survival, her determination, and that she choose a path of faith. She joined the church in 1963 and has found peace in her life’s journey. She identifies as Lamanite and loves her faith. Her personal conversion story is beautiful.

I will also honor my ancestors by honoring children. This is the Tsimshian way. Each generation looking to help the next generation. This is why many of our elders are respected, not because they demand respect, but because of how much respect they give to children. Each visit I made as I child I was taught this by example. I then watched this same beautiful way of being when I brought my own children home to my people.

I can do both. It is possible to do both. I can respect my mother’s individual path and celebrate it with her. At the same time I can also stand up for the next generation of children.

So where does respecting the next generation of children lead me? I don’t know fully yet all the ways in which I want to do this. But I do know where I want to begin. We cannot accept our own apologetics or anyone else’s as a way to accept darkened skin theology. We cannot accept our own apologetics or anyone else’s as a way to accept Christopher Columbus teachings. Apologetics do not protect children, it only allows adults to ignore the real issues.

The church does not teach apologetics in their official manuals, they teach their interpretations of these things as fact. At church children learn and are taught from through official church manuals. Literal skin was darkened as a sign of a curse and to keep the good people from “mixing” with the bad people, because dark skin would “not be enticing” to God’s people – current seminary manual. Apologetics around “countenance” have not replaced darkened skin in official teachings.

Lesson manuals teach that Christopher Columbus was guided by God to the Lamanites, labeling those who greeted Columbus as Lamanite and also ignoring how horrific this assumption is and the weight it places upon the tribes and peoples who greeted Columbus.

The Taíno people have their own beautiful and unique history which predates the Book of Mormon timeline. Yet how the church teaches this narrative as fact creates such a harmful view on what they went through.

Do children deserve to be taught interpretations of the Book of Mormon as fact, or do they deserve for adults to humble themselves and lead the way? This is not about being against religion, which is where I have struggled for years to explain my stance. But this is about stopping the harmful interpretations and assumption about Native Americans, First Nations, Central Americans, South Americans, and Pacific Islanders and teaching these interpretations as fact to all these beautiful peoples children – and about these specific peoples to others around the world.

This is about an effort to stop replacing Indigenous history. Stop incorrectly labeling peoples that predate the Book of Mormon timeline as Children of Lehi or Lamanites. This is about stopping the assumptions about who crossed the great waters – no where does the Book of Mormon name Columbus or where the great waters were. Cease teaching dark skin curse theology and accept that the book was written by someone who was not God. This is about being humble and changing mistakes for children. They deserve honesty, respect, and the very best from us. Only then will we deserve their respect in return. Let us be honest in our dealings with our fellowman, let us be honest with children.

I realize I cannot make much change, I am just one person. I also realize change needs to be done with so much compassion and support for those who believe and acknowledge some changes will be painful. How that is done should be heavily considered. But doing nothing is not an option, it only leaves it for the next generation to deal with which has happened for far too long.

The church has yet to approach the leaders of a single tribe or Indigenous group and meet the protocols required by that group in order to get permission to change their ancestral heritage and history.

2 Comments »

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about ongoing damage caused by current manuals of instruction in the LDS Church. I agree that the problems continue in the present, not just the past. Settler colonialism is a process, not an event. It was so great to meet you in person at the recent workshop on Indigenous Perspectives on Lamanite Identity at U of Utah.

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    • Thank you. I really appreciate you saying this. I hope that we will see change on this topic in lesson manuals. Especially as youth in the church go straight from being taught from seminary manuals to teaching people during their mission – both to and about Native Americans, Central Americas, South Americans, and Pacific Islanders. And yes, I was so excited to meet you and your wife in person finally! Hope your travels have continued to be safe.

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