After being exposed for the shady handling of tithing money, the church has come under scrutiny once more after having to remove an “error” from the new study manual for the Book of Mormon as part of their new yearly curriculum for each set of scripture.
The “error” in question is related to the never-ending accusations of racism within church teachings and beliefs. (By the way, these accusations are correct—considering the leaders of the church have promulgated racism for the majority of LDS church history.)
This is the statement from the original:
“The dark skin was placed upon the Lamanites so that they could be distinguished from the Nephites and to keep the two peoples from mixing. The dark skin was the sign of the curse. The curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord. […] Dark skin […] is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse.”
Now take a look at the redaction:
“The curse of the Lamanites was that they were ‘cut off from [the Lord’s] presence … because of their iniquity. […] When Lamanites later embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, ‘the curse of God did no more follow them.’”
You gotta hand it to the church for trying to get away with this without even bothering to defend the ramifications of what the actual text of the Book of Mormon is saying—because in the end, it doesn’t matter how you redact it; what matters is what God said about it in the holy and infallible Word provided.
Due to this particular issue coming under the spotlight, I want to offer my own interpretation, one which I have shared before—multiple times, actually—only to discover it’s not compelling enough to change anyone’s mind on the matter.
Before continuing I want to provide a passage from a post I wrote on the false serpent-seed doctrine in regards to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible:
“The Book of Moses actually counters this just as it countered the doctrine of angels sleeping with mortals. But the narrative of Moses allows it to be read in a non-chronological order. It still leaves room to wonder just as the commentator Mike still wonders if there’s more to the picture with the daughters bearing giants on the earth.
This room-to-wonder, however, does not vindicate the false doctrine, but points us in a better direction. It’s expounding what Genesis meant, while still retaining the vague manner of the original text. There wasn’t anything actually wrong with Genesis; we just weren’t smart enough to get it. The oddity of its passages were tweaked to give us another chance.
For example, did we need the Joseph Smith translation to tell us that God wasn’t the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Did we need to know that Paul didn’t want us to literally “leave” the principles and doctrines of Christ? Would it really have been that difficult to piece those things together correctly?
Joseph Smith translated passages of the Bible with clarifications and changes, but these changes are not provided in The Book of Mormon when its prophets included the writings that are, more often than not, just as they stand in the “King James”-Bible before Joseph Smith made clarifications. So was the prophet and seer really fixing “errors”? Or was God using Joseph Smith to restate his word according to our language and understanding?—the way God speaks unto the children of men? (2 Ne 31:3)
God might have been tweaking the language due to a false human understanding that belonged to the traditions of our fathers.”
The point I was making was that there can be two correct interpretations to the Word of God, and sometimes they can appear diametrically opposed to each other. However, truth is independent within the sphere God has placed it. (D&C 93:30)
I believe God wanted early-America to read the Book of Mormon at face-value and believe the Lamanites were turned a darker colour because of the judgment of God upon them. The reason for this…was to establish an anti-racist narrative, which could have—had the Gentiles repented—prevent slavery and so forth.
“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 3:9)
In 1830, God was teaching the people to not be racists. The inclusion of them receiving dark skins directly from God was a teaching point.
In 2020, with 20/20 hindsight, what is the ultimate teaching point?
Maybe…that it was never about race.
Until we no longer live in a racist society, the following interpretation will not gain traction. Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look.
“Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins […] and the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them.” (Alma 3:5–6)
Was the mark of the curse the pigment of their skin? Or was it the skin they girded about the loins? Either way, the Book of Mormon does not promote a racist ideology no matter how you frame it.
But it is my belief that the definition of “skin” had nothing to do with actual flesh.
Another example of the true BOM-definition of “skin” appears in 3rd Nephi when we are told the the Gaddianton robbers, “Had a lamb-skin about their loins, and they were dyed in blood.” (4:7)
We have dark skins and red skins recorded, each of which are explicitly stated to be girded about the loins of the wearer.
What made the Nephites different? Clearly, the Lord blessed them with the prosperity and intelligence to make themselves clean coats of skin to wear. White garments, I imagine. This type of prosperity was not offered to the rebellious.
That is the curse.