Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Were Nephites Prejudiced Against the Lamanites?

In an unbelievable comment, John L. Sorenson in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” on page 90, makes these outlandish statements:

“The scripture is clear that the Nephites were prejudiced against the Lamanites (Jacob 3:5; Mosiah 9:1-2; Alma 26:23-25). That must have influenced how they perceived their enemies.” In the same paragraph, he adds, “The Nephite picture of their relatives, in Jarom 1:6 and Enos 1:20, sounds so similar to the Near Eastern epithets that this language probably should be considered a literary formula rather than an objective description, labeling applied to any feared, despised, “backward” people.” Finally, in the same paragraph, Sorenson adds, “But all this does not exclude a cultural and biological difference between the two groups. The question is how great the difference was; we may doubt that it was as dramatic as the Nephite record keepers made out.”

First of all, in the Jacob scripture Sorenson quotes, Jacob writes: “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” (Jacob 3:5). Hardly a prejudicial statement. His son, Enos, after praying all day and all night, and after having a conversaton with the Lord, asked Him for the preservation of the record so it would be available to the Lamanites, and that “the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God” (Enos 1:16-20). His son, Jarom, refers to the Lamanites as “our brethren” and that his writings were “for the intent of the benefit” of the Lamanites (Jarom 1:2), and refers to the Nephites as having “hardness of hearts, deafness of ears, blindness of minds, and stiffness of necks” (Jarom 1:3).

It is hard to imagine these three men, whom the Lord talked to, in whom was entrusted the prophetic callings to the Nephites, were prejudiced against the Lamanites who they sought “diligently to convert.” In Mosiah 9:1-2, is recorded the first effort of Zeniff and a large party to reclaim the land of their inheritance, wherein he refers to a Nephite as “a severe and bloodthirsty man” and the Lamanites as “that which was good among them,” it is difficult to see any prejudicial attitude.

Obviously, some of the Nephites were both fearful of, and hateful toward, the Lamanites who had been attacking them for some 500 years by the time we come to the statement Sorenson quotes in Alma. It should be kept in mind that later on, these Lamanites sacrificed captured Nephite women and children to dumb idols (Mormon 5:21), killed and hunted down every Nephite and put them to death (Mormon 8:2), and following the killing of millions of Nephites (Mormon 6:11-15), these Lamanites fought a savage civil war among themselves lasting more than 40 years (Mormon 8:8; Moroni 1:2). King Lamoni's father who was king over all the Lamanites said in describing his people after his conversion that the Nephites would destroy them because of all the murders and sins they (the Lamanites) had committed against the Nephites (Alma 27:6,8). Would Sorenson consider this a prejudicial statement by a Lamanite about his fellow Lamanites?

It is hard to understand why descriptions of such a savage people would be considered prejudicial when it is accurately based upon the actual events tht unfolded over the 1000 years of their recorded history. Yet, the Lord told Mormon that the Nephites would become a darker people than the Lamanites (Mormon 5:15), and took away their blessings and would give them to others (Mormon 5:19). Again, hardly a prejudicial statement.

Despite numerous scriptures to the contrary, Sorenson once again decides to take a path contrary to the written word and the attitude and actions of the Nephites, ignoring the attitudes and actions of the Lamanites. In the modern vernacular, this is called a Revision of History!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You say "It is hard to imagine these three men, whom the Lord talked to, in whom was entrusted the prophetic callings to the Nephites, were prejudiced against the Lamanites who they sought 'diligently to convert.' " However Jacob 3:5 is not indicating that the speaking prophet is prejudice but he IS indicating that the Nephite people are. Prejudice is a widely applicable term regardless of our position, time or culture. We all, including prophets, have had prejudices at time because it is part of the societies in which we live. Luckily as we gain knowledge and perspective from God the outlooks we have are ever changing. The author's words may not be agreeable to you, and may even turn out to be erroneous but they are hardly "outlandish statements"