Is the Book of Mormon Racist?

Mormons have frequently been decried as racists. These claims seem to come from three sources:

1. Apparently racist statements from the 2nd President and prophet of the Church, Brigham Young.

2. The policy of the LDS Church excluding blacks from holding the Priesthood until 1978.

3. Passages from the Book of Mormon regarding two peoples, the Nephites and the Lamanites, the second of which were “cursed” with a “dark skin”.

The first two matters are discussed elsewhere on this and other websites, here, here, here, here, and here, for example. The third item is what we focus on here.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. The Book of Mormon starts out with a guy named Lehi leaving Jerusalem with his family and a few others around 600 BC. Two of Lehi’s sons are named Laman and Lemuel and they’re rebellious and wicked, and Lehi’s other sons Nephi, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph are righteous. They travel to the Americas, and soon thereafter divide into two separate groups of people and have wars and such. Laman and Lemuel’s descendants are called “Lamanites” and are “cursed” with “dark skin” because of their rebelliousness and wickedness. Here’s the actual passage:

 21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

 22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.

 23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.

2 Nephi 5:21-23

So there you go, does this make the Book of Mormon a racist book? Are Mormons racist because they believe this happened? Well, let’s discuss.

Here are a few definitions of racism taken from various sources:

  • Having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another
  • the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races
  • discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race
  • the belief that the genetic factors which constitute race are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
  • defined broadly as stigmatization of those we perceive as different from us; defined specifically as the doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior.

Let’s consider each point of the definition of racism and compare it to the statements in the Book of Mormon.

1. Does the Book of Mormon teach that a particular race is superior to another?

Answer: No. First of all, the Book of Mormon doesn’t deal with multiple races. The Lamanites and Nephites came from the same guy, Lehi. They’re the same race.

Second, racism is generally taken to mean, as the other definitions state, that one race is intrinsically superior to another and that “genetic factors which constitute race are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. This is not at all the situation in the Book of Mormon. The Lamanites chose to be wicked, and therefore were cursed with a dark skin. The dark skin followed a choice, but the Book of Mormon never states in any way that Lamanites were intrinsically inferior to Nephites, or that their genetics or the color of their skin determined their capacities or abilities.

2. Well…actually, that’s about it. It’s quite clear from other parts of the Book of Mormon that the Nephites never saw the Lamanites as inherently or intrinsically inferior, but as having been cursed due to the bad choices of their parents, but perfectly capable of doing whatever the Nephites could do. Just check out this passage:

3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.

 4 And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you.

 5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.

 6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.

 7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?

 8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.

 9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

Jacob 3:3-9

Here the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob makes it plain that the Lamanites are cursed because of a choice, and that the Nephites shouldn’t condemn the Lamanites merely because of the color of their skin. In fact, the Nephites better watch out because they’re in danger of receiving a worse curse than the Lamanites, because the Lamanites’ curse is a temporary thing and has no bearing on their eternal state, whereas if the Nephites continue to be wicked they’ll be cursed forever with something far worse than merely a different color of skin.

One additional point–the Book of Mormon makes no statement about the color of anyone else’s skin. Do Mormons believe black Africans were cursed skin, because the Lamanites were cursed with a dark skin, and therefore anyone with a dark skin must have been cursed? Other than those statements by Brigham Young, which I freely admit are troubling, I’ve never heard such a thing taught in the LDS Church. It’s certainly not what I believe. The Book of Mormon is not making a general statement about dark skin, it’s talking about a particular group of people. To claim the Book of Mormon is saying anything about Africans or any other race is to engage in fairly wild speculation.

So, is the Book of Mormon racist? Not by any definition of the word that I can find. But if you disagree chime in, spout off, or otherwise let us know what your opinion is.

Comments

  1. Quote #1, from 3rd 'prophet' John Taylor, who followed Brigham Young: Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments. When he destroyed the inhabitants of the ante-diluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he might be properly represented upon the earth."

    NOTE: Mormon leaders taught that blacks had the "mark of Cain" as a curse. Brigham Young taught it. 'Prophet' Joseph Fielding Smith taught it. 11th 'prophet' Harold B. Lee taught it. Many Lds 'apostles' taught it.

    Quote #2, from 10th 'prophet' Joseph Fielding Smith: NO NEUTRALS IN HEAVEN. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:61)

    Quote #3, from Lds rep John Lund: Question: Were Negroes neutral in the great war in heaven (Rev. 12:7) and therfore denied the Priesthood during morality; Answer: No. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. An individual was either on the side of Christ or the side of Lucifer…The Negroes were not neutral; they were sufficiently valient to be promised the Priesthood, if worthy, after their mortal existence" (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 103)

    Quotes from your early Prophets

    • Your religion killed a black just because he married a white woman
      Your Religion taught James Jim Jannard how to be a Diobolic evil racist ignorant Greedy bastard .by infringed off my United State Patent 4856086 Radio glasses Just because I'm N.E.R.G.O. the progenitor of the human race. And as far as the Book of Mormon this book was made up and written by white men that lived in a pile of manure subjected to the queen and king of England .Out of this reason they escaped out of that region of the world on ship coming out here to this part of Natives Now called American. and establish the false concept call white supremacy the book of Ku Klux Klan and 'the book of Mormon these two books is based upon bull shit!

  2. Quote #1, from 3rd 'prophet' John Taylor, who followed Brigham Young: Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments. When he destroyed the inhabitants of the ante-diluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he might be properly represented upon the earth."

    NOTE: Mormon leaders taught that blacks had the "mark of Cain" as a curse. Brigham Young taught it. 'Prophet' Joseph Fielding Smith taught it. 11th 'prophet' Harold B. Lee taught it. Many Lds 'apostles' taught it.

    Quote #2, from 10th 'prophet' Joseph Fielding Smith: NO NEUTRALS IN HEAVEN. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:61)

    Quote #3, from Lds rep John Lund: Question: Were Negroes neutral in the great war in heaven (Rev. 12:7) and therfore denied the Priesthood during morality; Answer: No. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. An individual was either on the side of Christ or the side of Lucifer…The Negroes were not neutral; they were sufficiently valient to be promised the Priesthood, if worthy, after their mortal existence" (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 103)

    • This is fine if you want to make the argument that some Mormon leaders were racists, but what does this have to do with the Book of Mormon?

      • it have a lot's to do with the book of Mormon's it mean more Bull shit! by white magical cross dressing homo-sexual playing as if though God approve of there manure. And by the way if you know and any black person want to a part of your religion please send him to south central late at night., Because I believe they t will find a big surprise waiting for him or her both of them..

  3. These men are supposed to be men of God, yhey commune with God, I guess the Mormon god is racist also.

    No where in the Bible does God turn anybody black because he's sin NOWHERE.

    • Is everything God ever did contained in the Bible?

      • That would be a pretty big thing to leave out don't ya think? Jesus talks of forgiveness and never mentions a specific outward appearance/mark of a sin. Especially one that was generational.

        • No, I don't think it's a very big thing for God to leave out of the Bible that some people in a small community on the other side of the world were cursed with a certain skin color because of wickedness. What relevance did such a thing have to the people whose histories are chronicled in the Bible?

        • this sound good that you're saying about Jesus forgiveness of sin But I feel that Your Leader of your false religion have murder in the name of your religion these racist dogs may not never be forgiven for all the lies written in this white man satanic book the book of Morman because out of this reason the many Millions of blacks and natives of this land the white man named American would have never been rob or put in slavery, rape and murder,

  4. nd it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 12:23).

    And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing . . . wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21).

    Behold the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins . . . (Book of Mormon, Jacob 3:5).

    O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought before the throne of God (Book of Mormon, Jacob 3:8).

    And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, . . . who were just and holy men . . . and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women.

    And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that [p. 7] thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions . . . (Book of Mormon, Alma 3:6).

    Towards the end of the Book of Mormon one of the righteous leaders, Mormon, declares that in the last days the gospel will again be taken to the Lamanites

    that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles; for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry (Book of Mormon, Mormon 5:15).

    • I quoted much of this in my original post. What does any of this have to do with racism?

      • you cannot see the racism in these verses? Tell me mormondna the reason why some people are born WHITE,YELLOW,BROWN AND BLACK, it has to do with what Mormons are taught when they are young?

        • No, I don't see racism in those verses. If you do, please give me your definition of racism and then explain how those verses match that definition.

          "Tell me mormondna the reason why some people are born WHITE,YELLOW,BROWN AND BLACK, it has to do with what Mormons are taught when they are young?"

          I have no idea. I grew up a Mormon but have never been taught anything about the different races other than that all of us are God's children and are all of equal value to God. The LDS Church doesn't teach anything about why people are born white, yellow, brown, black, etc., other than those specific people referred to in the Book of Mormon. And in the Book of Mormon it's clear that the Lamanites are not of lesser value to God or inherently inferior, but have merely received a temporary curse.

          • What he is getting at, is the fact that why would any person with any melanin in their skin be associated with men who were supposedly prophets who were bigoted as hell. How does that make mormonism any different from catholicism or any other abrahamic faith? If god chose his prophets he did a shitty job picking the ones for mormonism. Simply put why should someone choose mormonism?

          • Brigham Young was no more bigoted than Abraham Lincoln. To judge someone of another time, place, and culture according to our own cultural standards is to engage in another form of bigotry and prejudice.

            "why should someone choose mormonism?"

            Because it's the only path to true and complete happiness.

          • Hitler believed his "Master Race" to be, " the only path to true and complete happiness. "

          • I guess it's pretty important to have a way to know who's right and who's wrong.

          • This belief was held until the 1970s. After the end of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, which the Mormon church was against.

          • What belief was held by whom until the 1970s?

            What evidence do you have that the LDS Church was against the Civil Rights movement?

          • wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21).
            Really dude?

          • How about this?

            "And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain…" Deuteronomy 2:34

            What's more unbelievable, that God might curse a group of people with a darker skin, or that He would command His prophet's army to massacre women and children in multiple cities?

            If you don't believe in God at all, fair enough, I can see how you would think this is all crazy, the Bible and the Book of Mormon together, but if you believe in the Bible than I think you already believe in things crazier than the mere changing of someone's skin color.

  5. Before 1978 or there about nobody of color could hold the PRIESTHOOD, Bringem Young stated " No one with even one drop of negro blood could hold the Priesthood, he also stated if anyone mixes their blood with the Blacks, Death on the Spot. Now the Nephis were descendants of Joseph of Egypt, even Joseph Smith said he was a descendant of Manasseh son of Joseph. But who was Joesph of the Bible married to? ANS: he was married to Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. A descendant of Ham. So according to Mormonism no Nephi or Joseph Smith could hold the Priesthood.

    • Frankly I think that’s ablesutoly good stuff.

  6. And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing . . . wherefore, as they were WHITE, and exceedingly FAIR and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21).

    Do you believe all the ancient Hebrews were WHITE, and exceedingly FAIR??? If you do I have abridge I want to sell you.

    Abraham's second wife was an Egyptian, Joseph of the BIBLE, married an Egyptian, Moses married an Ethiopian, Saul had many wives that were Black. Now according to Mormonism these holy men should have been Cursed.

    And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that [p. 7] thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions . . . (Book of Mormon, Alma 3:6).

    Usually people who can't see racism in somethings is because they are racist.

    • Contrary to the many depictions of Jesus, He was not European.

    • Where does the Book of Mormon say that ALL Hebrews were white and exceedingly fair? And how do we know what Nephi's definition of white and exceedingly fair were? It's all relative. I'm "white" and yet my skin is certainly not white. Nor have I ever seen a black whose skin was actually black, nor an Asian who had yellow skin, nor a Native American who had red skin. So what did Nephi mean by white? Who knows. Apparently of lighter skin than the Lamanites, but more than that it's hard to say.

      "Abraham's second wife was an Egyptian, Joseph of the BIBLE, married an Egyptian, Moses married an Ethiopian, Saul had many wives that were Black. Now according to Mormonism these holy men should have been Cursed. "

      Where does "Mormonism" teach such things? I've never been taught any such thing in my 37 years as a member of the LDS Church.

      "Usually people who can't see racism in somethings is because they are racist."

      Although the opposite can also be true. I have little children who don't even know what "race" is, and they're certainly not racist. If you think someone or something is racist, just say it and let's debate the facts.

  7. To say that the Lamanites were the same race as the Nephites because they had the same parents and thus the Book of Mormon is not a racists book won't work. B.Y., Heber C Kimball, etc all claimed that the mark of Cain is where blacks came from. According to them God punished the descendants of Cain with a blackening of their skin. But Cain came from the same parents as everyone else, so it cant be racist? Right? Is that your position? According to your stance, unless they came from different parents or ancestors than racism cant exist. Is there racism is the Bible? Have blacks been wrongly accused of being less than human? The Mormon leaders in the past have taught that. The LDS church has historically taught of blacks as less than, for years. You claim you haven't been taught that in primary, that may be true, but you sustain Joseph Smith, BY, John Taylor, Bruce R McKonkie, etc.. as God's spokespersons. The Book of Mormon taught that the Lamanites were "filthy" Jacob 3:5, it is in the book.

    • "To say that the Lamanites were the same race as the Nephites because they had the same parents and thus the Book of Mormon is not a racists book won't work."

      You may have a point there, I hadn't really thought that one through so much, because I see the other points as being the more fundamental refutations of the claim that the Book of Mormon is racist.

      "Have blacks been wrongly accused of being less than human? The Mormon leaders in the past have taught that."

      Did some Church leaders say things that were racist? Sure appears that way, I admit that. Church leaders are not infallible, but if they were racist they were no more racist than pretty much everyone else from that time period and said nothing more offensive than what Abraham Lincoln has said regarding blacks. But that's discussed elsewhere on this site as linked above and isn't the point of this post. We're just talking about the BofM here.

      The Book of Mormon doesn't say the Lamanites were filthy because they had dark skin, it's referring to their behavior, independent of the color of their skin.

    • THE MORMON RELIGION IS CONSISTING OF LIES AND THE MANURE OF THE WHITE MEN. THEREFORE YOUR GOD IS A LIAR. A WHORE, KILLER ,

      RAPIST AND MURDEROUS EVIL DOG THIS DOG IS SATAN THE DEVIL . AND IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME JUST ASK JAMES JIM JANNARD ABOUT THE X RATED MOVIE INDUSTRY .

      BY THE WAY MY NAME IS GENE RADIO GLASSES MCCULLOUGH.

      • Free knowledge like this doesn’t just help, it promote derocmacy. Thank you.

  8. There are two very disturbing books entitled 'Mormonism and the Negro'(1960), and 'The Church and the Negro'(1967) – written by John J. Stewart and John L. Lund. Both books are filled with reasons why the people with dark skin were denied the priesthood. This is a quote that you might want to read, MormonDNA:
    "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood and law of God." — Journal of Discourses, II. 272.
    No matter what you try and say, the Mormon church used to be(and might even still be) racist because of the teachings of Joseph Smith.

    • Where did Joseph Smith ever teach anything that can be interpreted as racist?

      • "That negro race, for instance, have been placed under restrictions because of their attitude in the world of spirits, few will doubt. It cannot be looked upon as just that they should be deprived of the power of the Priesthood without it being a punishment for some act, or acts, performed before they were born." -Joseph Smith – The Way To Perfection, page 43.

        Also, here:
        “Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species, and put them on a national equalization.” -Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Volume 5, pages 218-219

        Also, Brigham Young says that Joseph Smith taught that blacks were not neutral in heaven, but instead they reject God. You can find that in The Way to Perfection, pages 105-106

        • The book The Way to Perfection was written by Joseph Fielding Smith, not Joseph Smith.

          The line “Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species, and put them on a national equalization.” is preceded by this:

          "They came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine off many of those they brush and wait on."

          Joseph's statement was one of desiring to improve the condition of blacks, rather than denigrate them. You may have a claim to say this is a racist statement by Joseph Smith, but if it is it is substantially less racist than was the general attitude amongst whites of the era.

          "Also, Brigham Young says that Joseph Smith taught that blacks were not neutral in heaven, but instead they reject God. You can find that in The Way to Perfection, pages 105-106"

          If Joseph truly said this, why did he ordain black men to the Priesthood?

          • Sorry I don't see how that statement would proceed the confinement part. Please post in the entire passage. Second who did he ordain and how is it that Young who was his predecessor so off from Smith's message then.

          • You can read that passage as well as details about blacks who Joseph Smith ordained to the Priesthood here, along with a bunch of other stuff.

            As for how Brigham Young seems to have departed so far from Joseph Smith, that appears to be a mystery. Nobody seems to have any clue how the policy came about that blacks shouldn't be ordained to the Priesthood. All we know is that it appears to have started with Brigham Young. One could speculate, but that's as far as we get.

  9. I find it fascinating that you can’t see the racism here. I think that you are refusing to see the obvious because it is difficult to swallow. Ask any non-Mormon if it’s racist to consider black skin as a curse and they’ll all say yes. I’m astounded that you can’t see how the book off Mormon exalts those who are called “fair and delightsome.” You truly are blinded. This is really sad :(

  10. Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father–that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them . . . O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God. Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers. Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

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