One aspect of colonization is the actual narrative about history – it is not told by the people themselves. The history that the Native Americans and other peoples held as their heritage was not respected. The church viewed their traditions and history wrong and incomplete. The people were given a new narrative about their own history and where they came from. Here are quotes from a missionary handout that was once given to people the church identified as “Lamanites.”
“Who Are You?”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints missionary handout.
- “You native peoples of the Americas who are commonly designated by the name, Indians – who are you? Where did you come from? Do you know – that your ancestors were once a mighty nation upon the American continent?”
- “But the best source of information which is true and which tells us who you are, where you come from, and what is to become of you, is found in an important book – the Book of Mormon.”
- “The Book of Mormon is a history of your people. It is your book.”
- “The Book of Mormon tells us that your people came from Jerusalem about 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Contrast the official stance in this Lamanite missionary handout to the official stance the church is now quietly taking – unbeknownst to many of the members.
Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
- “…the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical…
- “…the majority of DNA identified to date in modern native peoples most closely resembles that of eastern Asian populations.”
- “The evidence assembled to date suggests that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA.”
- “The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied.”
“Who Are You?” missionary handout continued…
- “Two groups were formed, the one fighting against the other. One group called themselves Nephites, and the other group was known as Lamanites. The Lamanites were marked by the Lord with a darker skin.”
- “An account is given of some of your people who built ships and sailed forth with their families without returning. These people went to the islands of the sea and have lived their ever since.”
- “The book is called The Book of Mormon. It is really your history and your book, and it contains the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The last quote may also be compared to the DNA essay – The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies states, “…primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical…”
In my opinion it is either real history or it is not. I will not include my opinion on how I interpret this. Everyone has a right to make their own judgment. I simply find it interesting that the church is admittedly changing it’s ideas, yet keeping things quiet from the majority of members. As a once full believer I remember the surprise of finding out the changing narrative. Not just because it was changing, but especially because no one in my entire family knew it was changing.
“Lamanites” are not defining themselves as “Lamanites” without influence. They have been taught by official representatives of the church for many generations. The “Who Are You?” handout was authorized and printed officially by the church for the missionary program. The church is solely responsible for telling people this religious narrative. Now that the church is changing it’s narrative should it not be solely responsible for informing everyone they are not “Lamanite?” Should the church not be solely responsible for correcting this mistake and admitting they do not know who the “Lamanites” are?
This missionary handout uses the words “you” and “yours” 46 times when mentioning “Lamanites.” The view of the church was obviously at one time very clear. Not only is it no longer clear, but it is rarely talked about now.
I was raised being told I was a “Lamanite.” The real history of my people, the Tsimshian of the First Nations, tell a much different narrative. Who has the right to say who I am? Who is more likely correct? An organized religion that is constantly changing? Or the people themselves?
This handout also included pictures of many “dark skinned Lamanites.” Real people, real families. It was sent to my people in Alaska and Canada. There is a long list of 32 different missions it was sent to, ranging from Alaska – British Columbia, across the United States, to the Pacific Islands, and down to South America. A special thanks to C. for sending this to me.
If anyone has stories they would be willing to share about their experience being a “Lamanite,” being married to a “Lamanite,” serving a “Lamanite” mission, or even simply things that they noticed or learned as a Mormon – I would love to hear about them. If anyone is willing to allow me to share their story on the blog please contact me. When I write I am willing to exclude real names to stay anonymous. In my transition it helped so much to hear about other people’s experiences, to know other people stood with me regardless of skin color. We Are One.
- Who Are You?, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Form 837-9/71 Stock EC-965, Print 2 August 2017.
- Book of Mormon and DNA Studies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 31 January, 2014. Web. 25 July, 2017.