A Time of Healing – The needed future actions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints towards Native American Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
I dedicate this blog post to the Taíno peoples. I also dedicate and write this in respect and honor of the the Ute, Diné, Paiute, Goshute, and Shoshone peoples who faced unique challenges with Mormonism. And I write this in respect and honor of the Deleware tribe as well as those impacted by the Trail of Tears.
As a Tsimshian woman, I was viewed from birth as being Lamanite. I grew up within that belief system and I viewed Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas as Lamanites. I can only say I am sorry to my Tismshian people for the beliefs I held and actively taught about our own history that were incorrect, as well as say I am sorry for how I viewed the many beautiful and unique Indigenous tribes and peoples throughout the Americas and Pacific Islands – I stand with you all and reclaim the truth of our ancestry.
The below list is a suggested path of healing for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to begin restitution by top church officials towards the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Pacific Islands.
(Please note – the term Lamanite is interchangeable with the term Children of Lehi.)
1- An official and public apology and acknowledgment to the Indigenous peoples of Utah for the genocide and cultural erasure and replacement of true ancestry with Lamanite identity. This should be first directed to the Ute, Diné (Navajo), Paiute, Goshute, and Shoshone, and any other tribes affected in Utah or nearby borders by forced removal, genocide, and cultural erasure by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Any artifacts or remains needs to be returned to the people along with this.
2 – Remove Christopher Columbus theology from all current church manuals and teachings. Make a new series of lesson manuals without this theology. The atrocities conducted by Columbus and his men are horrific and the Book of Mormon should not be interpreted this way nor should it be used to carry on harmful ideology. No where within the Book of Mormon does the name Christopher Columbus appear, lesson manuals should not teach such an interpretation. Those who mistakenly made this assumption are in the past – it is current church officials who have the ability to pave a new path.
3- Apologize to the Taíno people publicly for the Columbus interpretation and teaching. Do not make the Taíno people carry the Lamanite identity, do not place them underneath such an offensive weight after what their people experienced at the hands of Columbus and his men.The atrocities conducted by Columbus and his men were horrific and the Book of Mormon should not be interpreted this way. This is deeply disrespectful of an amazing and peaceful people who predate the Book of Mormon timeline by thousands of years.
4- Remove the word “Lamanite” from the Doctrine and Covenants scriptures and all accompanying lesson manuals. In the “Mission to the Lamanites” lessons in official manuals remove the term Lamanites and Children of Lehi and apologize to the Delaware Tribe for placing this incorrect identity upon them. Additionally, the Tribes who survived the Trail of Tears should also be apologized to for having this identity placed upon them in this teaching of “Mission to the Lamanites” – they include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole as well as others not listed here. The belief that the Trail of Tears was the “gathering of Israel” is harmful.
5- Apologize publicly to all the Indigenous children removed from homes and placed with Mormon families in the Indian Placement Program. This includes being forced to be bapized into the Mormon church in order to get an education, being actively taught in this program a new historical ancestry and identity of Lamanite in place of their true ancestry, and requiring children to reject cultural traditions and spirituality through forced assimilation.
*These above corrections only address some issues and it is by no means a thorough list. Many additional Indigenous groups throughout the Americas and Pacific Islands have been greatly harmed by the church.
6- Remove teachings of dark skin as a sign of a curse from all current church lesson manuals and scriptures. Make a new series of lesson manuals without this theology. To have it detailed in current seminary manuals as literal skin was darkened for the purpose of making Indigenous peoples less physically appealing and as a sign of our turning away from God is deeply racist. This should not be taught to children let alone adults. Placing this teaching as being “disavowed” is dishonest. It is time to denounce this teaching.
7- Remove all racist imagery from the Children’s Book of Mormon book – do this in all languages as the Children’s Book of Mormon is sent around the world with various images of Native American peoples. Using Native peoples as an example of a Lamanite is an act of cultural violence and errasure – keep in mind it is a children’s book.
8- Teaching and identifying groups, tribes, and peoples as Lamanite (or Children of Lehi) needs to be fully done away with by official representatives of the church – regardless of if that representative identifies as Lamanite or not.
- If they personally identify as Lamanite (or Children of Lehi) they should be directed to not teach it in any official capacity at church or as an official representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Please show respect and kindness towards those who find peace in self-identifying as Lamanite. There should be room for personal spiritual paths. However, all people should cease in labeling others with this incorrect identity for the purpose of cultural healing and protecting the next generation of children.
- Those who do not personally identify as Lamantie
- No one is to identify individuals, tribes, or indigenous groups as Lamanite (or Children of Lehi).
- Missionary training centers need to actively train EVERY MISSIONARY to not assume to know who the Lamanites are. This labeling will not end overnight, but if it is not faced it puts this on the shoulders of yet another generation of Indigenous children to carry.
There are many beautiful and diverse Indigenous peoples that predate the Book of Mormon timeline by thousands of years. Let’s celebrate them and support their survival and beautiful histories.
This list is my opinion and what is needed for current and future generations of Indigenous children from the Americas and Pacific Islands.
Thank you so much for this article. So much suffering for so long.
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Thank you so much for this post. It is so enlightening and eye-opening for me.
This is the first time I have been to this sight. I linked here through a post on The Exponent. I will be spending A LOT of time reading more on this sight.
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Welcome, I’m so glad you found the blog. 🙂 I recommend two posts. First, “Remembering Our Ancestors.” Writing and researching that piece changed me. Everyone should now the history. The second one is a personal story I wrote, “Where Grandmother Walked.” Thank you.