Tim Giago: The Book of Mormon: The Whiter the Skin, the Closer to God
The Mormon Church has a history of rocky and contradictory dealings with Native Americans or Lamanites, as they were known in the beginning.
According to Brigham Young, “There is a curse on these aborigines of our country who roam the plains and are so wild that you cannot tame them. They are of the House of Israel; they once had the Gospel delivered to them, they had oracles of truth; Jesus came and administered to them after his resurrection and they received and delighted in the Gospel until the fourth generation when they turned away and became so wicked that God cursed them with this dark and benighted and loathsome condition.”
Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, the man who sent out the call to Mr. Lee to join the Seventy, said in 1960, “The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome and they are now becoming white and delightsome as they were promised.” He described different Indian children who were “as light as Anglos. “These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”
The Mormon Church, as it has evolved, has been forced to rewrite the Book of Mormon in order to accommodate its efforts to convert Native Americans and African-Americans. Both races were excluded from leadership in the Mormon Church prior to the recent revisions of the Book.
In an article titled, “Is the Mormon Church stuck with an embarrassing book it cannot historically support?” Rick Ross wrote, “Mormons grow up with the belief that Native Americans are somehow related to a lost tribe from Israel. That tribe, they are told, came across the ocean about 600 B.C. to America, led by an otherwise unknown Jewish prophet named Lehi.”
The Book of Mormon originally stated that when Lamanites converted they would then become “white and delightsome.” In 1981 the Church decided to replace the word “white” with “pure.”