This question was recently put to me by a reader DMT on this website:
In 2 Nephi 3:24 it reads: “And there shall rise up one mighty among them”..
The Book of Mormon today has in the footnote for this verse “Joseph Smith” as being the one who will rise up, however, earlier versions of the Book of Mormon have it recorded as “an Indian Prophet”. Here is a link of a scanned copy of an earlier edition of the Book of Mormon showing the original footnote: http://www.weepingforzion.com/
Without going into too many details it is impossible for Joseph Smith to be the “one mighty among them” as Joseph Smith is a pure Ephraimite. Lehi clearly states that this mighty person will come from the “seed” of his youngest son Joseph.
Not only is it impossible for Joseph Smith to be the “one mighty among them”, but Even Spencer W. Kimball apparently knew it was not Joseph Smith when he gave a talk (as the Prophet) and spoke about this very scripture. Below is the conference talk reference with a quote from the talk:
President Spencer W. Kimball: “The Lamanites must rise in majesty and power.” (Conference Reports, Oct. 1947)
“The Lamanites must rise in majesty and power. We must look forward to the day when they will be “white and delightsome” (2 Ne. 5:21; 2 Ne. 30:6), sharing the freedoms and blessings which we enjoy; when they shall have economic security, culture, refinement, and education; when they shall be operating farms and businesses and industries and shall be occupied in the professions and in teaching; when they shall be organized into wards and stakes of Zion, furnishing much of their own leadership; when they shall build and occupy and fill the temples, and serve in them as the natives are now serving in the Hawaiian Temple where I found last year the entire service conducted by them and done perfectly. And in the day when their prophet shall come, one shall rise. . . mighty among them . . . being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders (2 Ne. 3:24).”
As you can see this is very confusing that a Prophet of God would not know better…. And I’m not even talking about his racist comment “We must look forward to the day when they will be white and delightsome” as if being white is the only color that is delightsome. I’m talking about not knowing whether or not the person in 2 Nephi 3:24 is either “an Indian Prophet” or “Joseph Smith”.
For me, it is very frustrating how easy it is for the LDS Church to sweep things like this under the rug and no one in the Church ever recognizes it or questions it. No answer needs to be given and people carry on as if it is business as usual. In fact when I have brought this up in the past to Bishops and Stake Presidents they told me to not worry about things like that and if I kept doing so it would only lead to apostasy. Well they were wrong as I have not yet apostatized, but still if you know of a good logical reason as to why the footnote was changed to read “Joseph Smith” rather than leaving it as it was “an Indian Prophet” I would LOVE to hear it. You seem to be a person there is very few of these days which is someone who is willing to dig into the truth and come to some sort of answer for yourself.
Now I can easily see how leaving it as “an Indian Prophet” would cause people to wonder who that might be especially after a Prophet such as Spencer W. Kimball says “And in the day when their prophet shall come” meaning to me at least that we still haven’t seen this “one mighty” person at least not up to 1947 we hadn’t. So the church changing it to Joseph Smith squashes any curiosities and interest as to when that prophecy is going to be fulfilled.
Now I understand that it is just a footnote, I’m not saying the scriptures got modified, but even changing this footnote to me raises serious questions that I personally would like an answer too. I have yet to find anything on the internet that provides a good answer to this. Maybe I’m not a good Google searcher, but I have looked and haven’t found anything that provides a good answer. I have also asked may people in the LDS Church and 99% don’t even know anything about it, and the .1% that think they do just tell me it is dangerous to delve into the mysteries as it leads to falling away.
So please if you could I would LOVE to know what your personal opinion on this matter is.
Thanks for your time.
Hi DMT, it appears you’re as good a Google searcher as any, but there simply is little to no information regarding this online, which is interesting in itself due to the change in the footnote. What I did find was quite a bit on a scripture that has similar language, but doesn’t seem to be tied to this Book of Mormon scripture in any way.
I did find where this issue seems to have been discussed already online, although not by any qualified scholars, and there are some interesting speculations there.
One point discussed is whether the person referenced could be Joseph Smith, based solely on the scripture. This seems reasonable to me, since the words say “among them” and not “from among them”. Was Joseph Smith among the Lamanites? Depends on what “among the Lamanites” means. One could interpret that as loosely as to mean anyone anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. I recognize that answer might not satisfy you, but that’s the best I can come up with on that point.
Moving on, one question we might ask is whether or not Joseph Smith could actually be described as “an Indian prophet”. At first glance, that would seem to stretch credulity, since no one, to my knowledge, has ever claimed that Joseph Smith himself was a Lamanite or Indian. But is that the only correct interpretation of the phrase? Could “an Indian prophet” be a prophet who is not an Indian himself, but a prophet who preaches to the Indians? I don’t know, I’m just throwing it out there as an idea.
Regarding President Kimball’s statement, I went and read the entire talk to see if the context might change the interpretation. It didn’t. Except that as I read and re-read the part you quoted, I wondered if President Kimball was referring to a future event, or merely adopting the language of the Book of Mormon as it refers to a future event. That is, when President Kimball said “And in the day when their prophet shall come, one shall rise…” was he knowingly referring to Joseph Smith?
And so allow me to put forth an alternative interpretation of all this. Joseph Smith was called “among” the Indians. Joseph Smith was “the Indian prophet”, that is, a prophet who preached to the Indians, but the footnote was obviously confusing so the Church changed it to just say Joseph Smith. And President Kimball was referring to Joseph Smith when he refers to “their prophet”.
Of course I’m speculating here. What we really need is firsthand information about who put in the footnote “an Indian prophet” and why. Perhaps it was a mistake by whoever wrote that footnote, but nobody questioned it until later, and once it was questioned they said “Well yeah, that’s wrong, let’s change it.” And since President Kimball isn’t around we can’t ask him exactly what he meant, although perhaps there are other talks by President Kimball that would lend clarity (or just confuse things more, for that matter).
What is interesting to me is that there isn’t more mention of this on anti-Mormon websites. It seems that if this presented any sort of silver bullet for them they would have latched onto it. The fact that they haven’t, when they have latched so strongly onto other things, would seem to indicate that even they don’t see anything of value here, and so perhaps neither should we.
Not sure if this is a satisfactory answer or not, but that’s the best I can come up with at the moment.
One final note, regarding what you interpret as a “racist comment”, I would point you to some of the statements from Darius Gray and Marvin Perkins, who have written and spoken extensively on blacks and the LDS Church. I’d also point you to 2 Nephi 30:6 which reads “and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.”
The point is, the words “white and delightsome” or “darkness” do not necessarily refer to skin color. In fact, there is much evidence that these words have nothing to do with skin color, but with worthiness, righteousness, and purity. My opinion is that President Kimball wasn’t waiting for the day when the Lamanites’ skin would turn white, but when they would be a pure and righteous people. This seems to be supported by his words that immediately follow “white and delightsome” when he says “sharing the freedoms and blessings which we enjoy; when they shall have economic security, culture, refinement, and education; when they shall be operating farms and businesses and industries and shall be occupied in the professions and in teaching; when they shall be organized into wards and stakes of Zion, furnishing much of their own leadership; when they shall build and occupy and fill the temples, and serve in them as the natives are now serving in the Hawaiian Temple where I found last year the entire service conducted by them and done perfectly.”
It seems clear to me that this is his definition of what it means to be “white and delightsome”.