Therefore, we should see this prohibition as similar to that against the Canaanites. However, there were also provisions for marriage outside of the tribe. A representative of this school of thought is Milton R. Hunter of the Council of the Seventy: For Elder Hunter, the change in the skin color is absolutely physical and remains a distinction throughout Book of Mormon history. The Nephite situation says nothing about inheritance rights, but only about avoiding the curse that was upon the Lamanites. And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. . This reversal of the curse (not repeated here but “skin of blackness”) implies its opposite (articulated here): “skin became white.” The Lamanites have crossed the insider/outsider boundary, becoming those who were “united with the Nephites” and “numbered among” them. 2 Nephi 1–4 contains Lehi’s final words as a patriarch to his posterity. Similarly, I conclude that the association between skin and white/black is metaphoric, not intended to indicate pigmentation. 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. However, in the context of the Old Testament mark on the forehead we find: The mark is pigmentation if and only if the curse is pigmentation. The second part of this verse indicates that, after the curse, another sign was placed upon the Lamanites that allowed for a separation between the Lamanites and Nephites. In the Mediterranean world the understanding of personality through physical characteristics was called physiognomics. 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. There is no change in the Lamanite skin color here. When they are insiders, they are “delightsome,” available as marriage partners. The Book of Mormon makes those associations, and the question is what the text means when it makes those associations. 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 … The ancient world was actually quite prejudiced but did not necessarily base such prejudices upon skin color. Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. It is not, however, an impossible task. The full verse: "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. Asians are termed “yellow,” although they certainly do not have yellow skin. 2 Nephi 23. 2 Nephi 32:2 Holy Ghost An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection that is possessed by God himself. When the curse is operating and the Lamanites are outsiders, they are “loathsome” (the opposite of “delightsome”)—not desirable marriage partners. 5:21, 4 Ne. 2 Ne 5:21 he had caused the cursing to come upon them...that they might not be enticing unto my people. And thus saith the Lord God: “I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. Are these social functions metaphors or do they actually denote pigmentation? He provides no explanation for how this alteration occurs, other than to note that it comes through God. The phrases describe a previous condition and its succeeding condition, pivoting upon causation. . 2 Nephi 19. 1:7). The function of the mark is social separation, but it is the same insider/outsider barrier already discussed. A color difference should have immediately been apparent to the guards, but they do not notice the discrepancy. That cursing was pronounced upon the land, but the iniquity must come from people, not land. Fair/white is paired with dark/black in the antithetical parallel. The two “colors” are considered to be opposites of each other. The curse is a fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy about the land: “If iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes” (2 Ne. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo and are to be gradually developed. In 1 Nephi 12:23, Nephi prophesies: “And I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people.” This is a reference to the Lamanites who survive the wars that destroy the Nephites (1 Ne. Reading the Text or Reading into the Text: When 2 Nephi 5:21 says, “The Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them,” the phrase has been interpreted quite literally as a change in skin pigmentation. Even metaphorically, the skin and face were legitimate locations for the “display” of these spiritual characteristics. This chapter explains the role of the Book of Mormon in the latter days. 2 For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; ... [Nephi has explained Isaiah in reference to the geography using his knowledge of the land surrounding Jerusalem.] (See commentary accompanying Jacob 3:3.). 2 Nephi 27 Isaiah 29. 2 Nephi 31:13 Follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no … The Lamanites are cursed, and cut off from God’s influence. 2 Nephi 33. 2 Nephi 6:10 Jacob says that because of what the Jews did to Christ – they would be afflicted, scattered, smitten, and hated. Underlying these biblical and Book of Mormon metaphors are the assumptions of the collectivist social world. This is a marvelous rhetorical device because the collectivist perspective of this ancient culture would consider such a condition unthinkable. The cursing follows the people who work iniquity. They were not, however, based on skin color as has been part of the more modern U.S. culture. 3 Nephi 19:24–25 records another similar white/whiter occurrence during Jesus’s visit to the New World: The disciples’ transforming spiritual experience makes them become “as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus.” This shade is not a natural skin color nor does anything in this passage encourage a “natural” interpretation. Humans have certainly placed values on the color of one’s skin, but for most of history the value is social. I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. Invariably, the usual way of thinking was in terms of A/not-A, either/or, for/against, true/false, in/out, heaven/earth—with no middle term. This is the same type of prohibition we see with the Lamanites. While there is a set of people whose skin can be very black, they are not native to the western hemisphere. The early division of the Old World peoples into two mutually exclusive marriage groups would have caused a difficulty for the marriage patterns inherited from the Old World, where the preferred marriage partner was someone within the same tribe (Num. 5:21). 2 Nephi 14. 2 Nephi 27. They are white by cultural definition. Even something like the Fall of Adam and Eve, which appears to be a failure and… This comparison of white/whiteness also occurs in Nephi’s description of the tree: “I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow” (1 Ne. READ: 2 Nephi 12:2-3 *SCRIPTURE INSIGHT: LeGrand Richards explained, “The word mountain is used in the scriptures in different allegorical or figurative senses. 2 Nephi 27-30 Nephi prophesies of latter-day apostasy, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the gospel. However, Jacob compares white/whiter, not white/black. 2 Nephi 29. In order to remove the possibility that our assumptions are coloring our reading of the text, it is important to find locations in the text where the action of the text would create circumstances where a difference in pigmentation would be obvious. He explained her reaction and experience with that information: “During the lesson they read a passage that the elders weren’t sure she understood. It is human selfishness-the unbrotherhood of man to man....the cry which rises into his ears is the cry of stricken humanity-the cry of the poor and needy, the cry of the sad and weary...He hears God call him to lash the sins of the nation; but to him all the sins of the nation are forms of a single sin-selfishness....The burden of Isaiah is the burden of human compassion. As Bruce Malina (professor of theology at Creighton University) and Richard Rohrbaugh (professor of religious studies at Lewis and Clark College) point out: The problem of social context is exacerbated when a reader from one culture reads a text written in and for a different culture, and when the text includes none of the necessary explanations: What we need to know is what that phrase means in the context of the people and times in which it was written. What can we say about how the “skin of blackness” was perceived by those who wrote our Book of Mormon? 2 Nephi 5:21 "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. 2 Nephi 32:9 -- On Praying Always "But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul." Modern society prefers to see differences as individualized and therefore prejudicial when applied to a group. About 588–570 B.C. The association of the presence of skin color with race is purely descriptive. The Creation: We're created to be tried and learn of the difference between right and wrong. This happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman Army invaded and destroyed Jerusalem. However, that prejudice always arises along the insider/outsider boundary, not the white/dark boundary. Israelites also shared this widespread prejudice against “others,” as Malina and Neyrey point out: “First-century members of the house of Israel felt concerning all other peoples the way the Greeks felt about barbarians.”. John L. Sorenson suggested: Where Rodney Turner clearly believes that the change is not metaphorical, Sorenson just as clearly declares it to be precisely metaphorical. The second is that Yahweh caused a skin of blackness to come upon them. To each of them a social value is attached, with white representing good and black representing bad (with good/bad being similar binary oppositions). 2 Nephi 8. Enos. The logic of the passage relies upon the metaphorical use of the insider/outsider terminology to mean unrighteous/righteous. The question of marriage is an important one, because Yahweh has now excluded a number of the potential marriage partners who might be seen as more desirable than the native populations because they are both racially and culturally similar to the Old World peoples among the Nephites. There is only one clear example. Malina and Neyrey note: Such an idea runs counter to modern constructions of human beings as individuals, but it reflects accurately, I believe, the different social view of Nephi’s world. This cultural background contrasts the ancient collectivist personality with the modern individualist personality. Saying that any Amerindian has a black skin is incorrect even in modern skin color nomenclature. Captain Moroni1, working to free Nephite prisoners, sends wine to their Lamanite guards, hoping to intoxicate them (Alma 55). What is the “mark” in the Book of Mormon? This perceived difference was simply related to sun exposure, indicating whether the person was required to work outside for a living. 2 Nephi 5:21 reads: And he had caused the cursing to come upon [the Lamanites], yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. 2 Nephi 16. The metaphorical use of color terms echoes that of the Bible. Nibley observes: “This amazing coincidentia oppositorum is the clash of black and white. Exogamy (marriage outside of the group) and the Lamanite Curse: There is not only a geographic division between the brothers and their families, but a moral and religious chasm as well. 2 Nephi 26. It is conclusively untrue in Alma where the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies discusses the many cities of the Lamanites (Alma 23:9–15). Even though skin color has come to be associated with race, the value of relative skin color was social, not racial. Reading the Text or Reading into the Text: When 2 Nephi 5:21 says, “The Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them,” the phrase has been interpreted quite literally as a change in skin pigmentation. Armand L. Mauss, professor emeritus of sociology at Washington State University, discusses this very issue: There are many ways in which color may be associated with a person. Thus, Nephi can claim that the Lamanites are cursed because they fall under that foundational prophecy of the land which included both a blessing and a curse, according to righteousness. The use of that skin color to make cultural assumptions about race is social. Although the fair/delightsome pair occurs twice (2 Ne. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.”. All human populations have variations in color, and there are pigmentation differences in all populations. Marking the forehead with paint appears to be sufficient to create an identifying “mark” that falls significantly short of altering body pigmentation. When that occurs, darkness falls—on their hearts and metaphorically on their skins. Nephite prejudices were developed on distinctions more common to the ancient world and used reasons other than pigmentation. One of the ways we can avoid being deceived by Satan can be found in 2 Nephi. 2 Nephi 6. Indeed, it is much easier to compile a list of writers who take the phrase literally than of those who suggest an alternate reading. Had he been “black” in contrast to the “white” of the Nephites, his identity should have been readily apparent. This referential gulf between intent and interpretation explains our tendency to read “skin of blackness” with modern racial overtones. 2 Nephi 18:3-8 Immanuel Prophecy of 2 Nephi 17-18 is Dualistic in Nature The prophecy was a dual application, as shown by a close reading of Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:3-7; and Matthew 1:21. 2 Nephi 7. In contrast, ancient society saw reality as communally related. For example, 3 Nephi 2:14–15 reads: “And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.”. It prohibited a particular city or land, based on the location of the other descendants of Lehi. Malina and Neyrey describe this mentality for the ancient Mediterranean cultures: “Human beings are distinctive in that they exhibit a considerable range of physical shapes, hues, and structures. The most typical reading is that there was some type of dramatic change that turned white skin into black skin. Racism in the Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon is, in fact, racist, although not at all in the usual sense of the term. 2 Nephi 1–5. The Romans used a chalk-based compound to lighten their skins to further this perceived difference. According to Speiser, this mark is the letter taw, and none of the examples he cites refer to skin color. My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat” (Job 30:26–30). They are based on some visual perception, but coalesce into large categories that reflect the human tendency to categorize people. 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