The Charge of "Racism" in the Book of Mormon

The Charge of “Racism” in the Book of Mormon

John A. Tvedtnes

Determined to read the Book of Mormon in purely naturalistic, nineteenth-century
terms rather than as an ancient text, a recent critic of that volume of scripture
has taken offense at some descriptions of Lamanites in the text. This is particularly
true when “cultural differences between Lamanites and Nephites are typically
described in a manner that assigns pejorative terms, such as blood-thirsty,
idolatrous, ferocious, idle, lazy, and filthy, to the dark-skinned Lamanites.”1
The question is whether these terms can be considered “racist” and,
in addition, whether supposed “racist” attitudes attributed to the
Nephites are evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon out of his
own nineteenth-century, presumably racist bias. As one trained in anthropology,
I personally dislike the term race and have tried to avoid using it for several
decades. Humans of all sorts are much more like their fellows, even in distant
parts of the world, than some breeds of dogs are like others. As David B. Goldstein
and Lounés Chikhi express it:

One definite and obvious consequence of the complexity of human demographic
history is that races in any meaningful sense of the term do not exist in the
human species. The term race as popularly imagined implies groups that can be
cleanly separated from one another, and within our species, there simply are
no such groups. . . . The majority of the genetic variation in the human species
is due to differences between individuals within, rather than between, groups.
. . . Differences between groups count for less than 15% of the total genetic
variation in our species.2

In response to the latter issue, I must conclude that racism, however that ambiguous
term is understood, does not influence the truth of the history of the Book
of Mormon any more than it could influence the truth of the biblical account,
which frequently disapproves of the people of Israel marrying foreigners (see,
for example, Genesis 24:3, 37; 27:46; 28:1-2, 6-9; 9:11-12).
Was Jesus being racist when he declined to bless the Canaanite woman, saying,
“It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to
dogs” (Matthew 15:26)? Or was he merely employing a saying of the time
to illustrate the point he had just made, that he was “not sent but unto
the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) and must minister
to the needs of those within the covenant?

Nephite Descriptions of the Lamanites

Because some critics consider Joseph Smith to be the author of the Book of Mormon,
they see its supposed “racist” epithets as reflecting nineteenth-century
American views rather than the views of the ancient Nephites. This view ignores
some important facts:

  • There is no evidence, other than later hearsay, to indicate that Joseph
    Smith believed that skin color made someone inferior. On the other hand, there
    is clear evidence that he considered black Africans to be just as capable as
    whites, given the same opportunities; he also favored freeing the slaves.3
  • At least two black men were ordained as elders during Joseph Smith’s
    time, and the Prophet himself signed the ordination certificate of one of them.
    That man, Elijah Abel, was later ordained a seventy and served as a missionary.4
  • The Book of Abraham, frequently cited by later generations as evidence
    that blacks should not be ordained to the priesthood, says nothing about skin
    color and, in any event, describes a struggle between Abraham and the Egyptian
    king over patriarchal authority, not priesthood in general (Abraham 1:21-31).
    One cannot read into the text anything about Egyptus being a descendant of Cain
    or having a black skin. Indeed, the idea of Ham having married a Cainite woman
    was prevalent among nineteenth-century American Protestants, from whom Latter-day
    Saints picked up the idea.5

Could the Nephites have been racist in their views of the Lamanites? Perhaps,
in the same sense that the biblical patriarchs were racist when it came to their
pagan neighbors—the Hittites, the Canaanites, and the Amorites—and did not want
their offspring to marry these unbelievers. But racism in its typical sense
does not seem to have been prevalent among the Nephites, considering the numbers
who dissented from Nephite culture at various times to join the Lamanites. And
it is recorded that whenever the Lamanites converted to the Nephite religion,
the barriers separating these people dissolved (Alma 27:21-27; 3 Nephi 2:13,
14; 4 Nephi 1:17). Even before they were converted, the Nephites considered
the Lamanites to be brethren, a term used more than fifty times in
reference to the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon.6 This is hardly a term that
one would expect to find in a society that holds racist views toward a neighboring
people. And if Joseph Smith’s racism is reflected in the Book of Mormon, why
does that volume have large numbers of Lamanites becoming righteous—indeed,
more righteous than the Nephites—in the decades before Christ’s appearance?

The Nature of the Curse

Was dark skin really a curse pronounced on the Lamanites by God? That seems
to be a widely held belief, but what does the Book of Mormon itself say? As
reported in Alma, the Lord, speaking to Nephi, distinguished between the curse
and the mark. “Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I
will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated
from thee and thy seed
” (Alma 3:14). At the time this promise was given
to Nephi, the curse had already been enacted, while the mark, a change in skin
color, was yet to come. The Lord also told Nephi that others who mingled with
the Lamanites (including his own posterity) would be both cursed and marked:

And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with
thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. And again: I will set
a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed. And again,
I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I
will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever;
and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed. (Alma

Nephi described how the Lamanites, as a result of their consistent rebellion
against God and because of the hardness of their hearts, were cursed by being
“cut off from the presence of the Lord” (2 Nephi 5:20). This curse also
resulted in the Lamanites being separated from God’s people with the departure
of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:1-7). In connection with the curse of separation, the
Lord is said to have set a mark upon the Lamanites. The purpose of
the mark, according to the Book of Mormon, was to distinguish the Lamanites
from the Nephites so that the Nephites would not intermarry with them and accept
incorrect traditions. After Nephi had led away those who would follow him, he

And behold, the words of the Lord had been fulfilled unto my brethren, which
he spake concerning them, that I should be their ruler and their teacher. Wherefore,
I had been their ruler and their teacher, according to the commandments of the
Lord, until the time they sought to take away my life. Wherefore, the word of
the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they
will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the
And behold, they were cut off from his presence. 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. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that
they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.

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.
And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people,
full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of
(2 Nephi 5:19-24)

A change in skin color would obviously not make the Lamanites “idle”
or “full of mischief.” These were cultural, not racial, traits.
To the Nephites, who followed the law of Moses (Jarom 1:5), the Lamanite practices
of “drink[ing] the blood of beasts” (Jarom 1:6) and “feeding
upon beasts of prey” (Enos 1:20) would have been abhorrent, being forbidden
in the Mosaic code (Leviticus 7:26-27; 11:13-20).

Despite statements by such leaders as Nephi and his brother Jacob (Jacob 3:5),
some later Nephites considered being cut off from the presence of God as well
as the mark upon the Lamanite skins to be a curse (Alma 3:6). Thus we read,

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 consisted of Nephi, Jacob,
and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men. And their brethren sought
to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; 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 thereby the Lord God might preserve his people,
that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove
their destruction.
And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his
seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.
Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was
called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him. And it
came to pass that whosoever would not believe in the tradition of the Lamanites,
but believed those records which were brought out of the land of Jerusalem,
and also in the tradition of their fathers, which were correct, who believed
in the commandments of God and kept them, were called the Nephites, or the
people of Nephi, from that time forth. (Alma 3:6-11)

While at least some of the Nephites disdained the Lamanites because of their
skin color, the Lord was concerned about the sinful nature of the Lamanites
and merely used their physical characteristics to deter the Nephites from accepting
their wicked ways. Any individual from among the Nephites who, having rejected
the Nephite religion, mingled with the Lamanites brought “the same curse
upon his seed” and had “a mark set upon him.” Again, we see that the
curse and the mark, while going together, were two different things.

Lamanite “Filthiness”

Mosiah 9:12 describes the Lamanites as “a lazy and an idolatrous people,”
but it does not associate these traits with their skin color. Indeed, Alma 22:28
ties them to geographical or cultural conditions, saying that “the more
idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness.” More important is
the fact that Nephi described his brothers’ laziness when Laman and Lemuel
were unwilling to help him build the ship, long before there is any mention
of change in skin color (1 Nephi 17:18). He also wrote of their “rudeness,”
perhaps in that word’s original sense of savagery (1 Nephi 18:9;
2 Nephi 2:1). In his vision, Nephi “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” (1 Nephi 12:23).

References to filthiness are not an allusion to skin color but clearly refer
to a state of being “filthy . . . before God” (Jacob 3:3; see also verses 5,
9-10; 1 Nephi 15:33-34; 2 Nephi 9:16; Mosiah 7:30-31; Alma 5:22; 7:21;
Mormon 9:4, 14). Similarly, both the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants use
the term filthy in reference to sinners.7

We should not be surprised to find attitudes of superiority and the attribution
of negative characteristics to foreign people and cultures among the Nephites,
and the existence of such in the Book of Mormon cannot be considered evidence
that the text was necessarily a reflection of nineteenth-century American racist
views. Parallels are known in other ancient cultures. For example, in the Florentine
Codex, which is indisputably pre-Columbian, descriptions of the Otomi people
of Mexico reflect Aztec ethnocentrism and could be considered just as pejorative
as anything Nephi or Mormon wrote. According to this text, the Aztecs commonly
described the Otomi as “untrained, stupid,” and “very covetous,
that is, very desirous, greedy. That which was good, they bought all; they longed
for all of it even though it was not really necessary.” They were “very
gaudy dressers—vain people.” They were “lazy, shiftless, although
wiry, strong; as is said, hardened; laborers. Although great workers of the
land, they did not apply themselves to gaining the necessities of life. When
they had worked the land they only wandered. Behold what they did: they went
catching (game).”8 These descriptions sound reminiscent of Nephite descriptions
of the Lamanites.

In the ancient Near East, the Amorite was described as “a tent dweller,” the
“one who does not know city(-life),” “the one who in his lifetime does not have
a house,” or “the awkward man living in the mountains.” He was “the one who
does not know (i.e. cultivate) grain,” “the one who digs up mushrooms at the
foot of the mountain,” or he “who eats uncooked meat” and “who on the day of
his death will not be buried.” They were “a ravaging people, with canine instincts,
like wolves.”9 Referencing such descriptions, William F. Albright observed,
“This is naturally a somewhat extreme description, but it vividly illustrates
the attitude of the sedentary folk of Babylonia at an undetermined period in
the third millennium. It may be added that the Arab peasants of Syria still
call the nomads el-wuhûsh ‘the wild beasts.’ “10

As the above examples from both ancient Mesopotamia and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica
suggest, we should not be surprised to find that the Nephites and Lamanites
may have struggled with their own ethnocentrism. Still, modern readers should
be careful not to allow their own cultural sensitivities to obscure the meaning
of the text.

Positive Nephite Attitudes toward the Lamanites

Significantly, Nephi, who first reported the Lamanite “skin of blackness,”
was also the one who wrote that the Lord accepts all who are willing: “And
he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth
none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and
he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile”
(2 Nephi 26:33). Nephi’s emphasis on the universal nature of God’s
love becomes even more meaningful when understood as being directed to a people
grappling with issues of ethnic and social diversity. Nephi’s family members
would, of course, have understood “Jews” to be those who came out
from Jerusalem and would have recognized that as a reference to themselves,
but the additional reference to Gentile and heathen—which would only make
sense if there were others in the land who had not come from Jerusalem11—is
an open admonition to any among them who would look upon the darkness of another’s
skin as a sign of God’s enduring hatred.

As noted above, Nephite writers consistently refer to the Lamanites as their
brethren. The entire Book of Mormon bears the message of the Father’s
love for all his children of whatever background, and its stated purpose is
to reclaim them all and bring them into the covenant (see Book of Mormon title
page). The “curse” of the Lamanites is only a curse in the context of opposing
ideologies of the Nephites and Lamanites. Once the two peoples become united
in tradition and beliefs, skin color and other ethnic or tribal differences
become irrelevant as far as the Lord and the Nephite prophets are concerned
(see 4 Nephi 1:17).

Nephi’s brother Jacob publicly chastised the Nephites for hating the Lamanites
because of their skin color (Jacob 3:5). While some Nephites looked upon the
darkness of skin as a curse, Jacob corrected this erroneous assumption of superiority
by noting that the Lamanites of that time were more virtuous and pure than some
of their Nephite contemporaries (Jacob 3:5-7) and that such external differences
as skin color are temporal and do not necessarily signify spiritual states (Jacob
3:8). He commanded the Nephites to repent and no longer revile against the Lamanites
because of the darkness of their skins (Jacob 3:9-10).12 Here is an extract
from his discourse:

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. (Jacob 3:5, 8-10)

Jacob’s son Enos noted that the Nephites “did seek diligently to
restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God” (Enos 1:20). Subsequent
generations were able to convert large numbers of Lamanites. Significantly,
when the sons of Mosiah proposed to go and preach to the Lamanites, their fellow
Nephites reacted by telling them of Lamanite wickedness, but they did not mention
skin color (Alma 26:24).

Critics dismiss all such passages as simply masking what they choose to believe
is implicit racism in the Book of Mormon, opining that “the making and existence
of the Book of Mormon as an authentic document that portrays an American past
tied to the racial myths and sacred history of the Old World gives Joseph Smith
and his prophetic descendants a dangerous power of representation over the ancient
Lamanites depicted in this ‘word of God.’ “13 But this secular perspective blinds
them to the larger context and message of the Book of Mormon. While ethnic differences
must have been apparent to the Nephite record keepers, we are never told that
skin color was a prerequisite for blessings from God or salvation. In fact,
many times the righteousness and faithfulness of the Lamanites far exceeded
the righteousness of the Nephites (Helaman 6:1-2, 34-38; 15:5-10; 3 Nephi
6:14). Only in one instance in the entire Nephite record did Nephite prophets
report any change in the darkness of the skin of the Lamanites (3 Nephi
2:12-16), but this, significantly, was after these Lamanites had been
converted and had united with the Nephites. Whether this change occurred through
intermarriage or by some other process, the Nephites apparently considered it
unique and unprecedented. Within the context of Nephite society and culture,
this exceptional event would no doubt have been viewed as a sign from God that
such distinctions as skin color were irrelevant for those numbered with Christ.
After this, there are no further references to Lamanite skins becoming dark,
nor any indication that skin color was a significant factor in Nephite belief
or society.14

“White” versus “Pure”

According to the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, Nephi, speaking of the
latter-day restoration, discussed the future conversion of Lehi’s descendants:
“And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto
them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall
from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they
shall be a white and a delightsome people” (2 Nephi 30:6). In 1840 the
Book of Mormon was “carefully revised by the translator,” Joseph Smith,15 and
in that edition the expression “white and delightsome” was changed to “pure
and delightsome.” This change seems to reflect the Prophet’s concern that modern
readers might misinterpret this passage as a reference to racial changes rather
than to changes in righteousness. Possibly his sojourns in Ohio and Missouri
had altered his perspective of the racial connotations of the term white
in the contemporary United States, particularly among slaves and slaveholders.
He may not have gained much understanding of this matter during his upbringing
in New England and New York State, where slavery was not as common.16

Unfortunately for subsequent Latter-day Saint interpreters, following the Prophet’s
death the changes in the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon were not carried
over into subsequent printings, which were instead based on an edition prepared
by the Twelve Apostles in Great Britain after a copy of an earlier edition.
The apostles, being in England, were not familiar with the 1840 edition. Consequently,
Latter-day Saints did not reap the benefit of the Prophet’s clarification
until it was restored in the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon.17 Some critics
have been fond of citing statements of earlier Latter-day Saint leaders, who
once interpreted 2 Nephi 30:6 to mean that conversion leads to a change
of skin color; however, to use such statements today is anachronistic at best
and disingenuous at worst since these statements were all expressed previous
to the 1981 correction and merely echo a misinterpretation of the Book of Mormon
text rather than the authoritative text itself. Moreover, a change in Lamanite
skin color was clearly never intended by the “white/pure and delightsome”
passage that the Prophet Joseph modified because it does not refer to the Lamanites
at all, but to the Nephites and Jews in the latter days who turn to Christ (see
2 Nephi 30:1-7).

But is the Prophet’s change from “white” to “pure” justified in the scriptural
context? The answer is yes. The terms white and pure are used
synonymously in Daniel 7:9, Revelation 15:6, and Doctrine and Covenants 110:3.
They are also found together in a number of passages where they clearly refer
to those who are purified and redeemed by Christ (Alma 5:24; 13:12; 32:42; Mormon
9:6; D&C 20:6). Similarly, Mormon expressed the hope that the Nephites “may
once again be a delightsome people” (Words of Mormon 1:8). It was also of the
Nephites that he wrote:

And also 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. (Mormon 5:15)

The use of black-and-white imagery to typify purity and righteousness is exemplified
in the works of Ephraim of Syria, a fourth-century AD Old World Christian
writer, who commented on Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39)
as follows: “The eunuch of Ethiopia upon his chariot saw Philip: the Lamb of
Light met the dark man from out of the water. While he was reading, the Ethiopian
was baptised and shone with joy, and journeyed on! He made disciples and taught,
and out of black men he made men white. And the dark Ethiopic women became pearls
for the Son.”18 One of Ephraim’s poems explains that “bodies that were filled
with stains are made white” by means of anointing and baptism.19 The Qur’an,
a seventh-century Semitic text, also speaks of the day of judgment as “the day
when some faces will be white and some faces will be black” (3:106). This could
be taken as a reference to purity and righteousness on the one hand and impurity
and wickedness on the other, or to salvation and damnation, but certainly not
to race, since Islam has always been reasonably color-blind.20 Modern Arabic
still uses the idiom sawwada wajhuhu to describe the act of discrediting,
dishonoring, or disgracing a person, but its literal meaning is “to blacken
the face” of someone.

An Anti-Racist Document

The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the color of one’s skin has no
bearing on one’s status as a righteous or sinful person. Nephi, the son
of Helaman, declared to the Nephites:

For behold, thus saith the Lord: I will not show unto the wicked of my strength,
to one more than the other, save it be unto those that repent of their sins,
and hearken unto my words. Now therefore, I would that ye should behold, my
brethren, that it shall be better for the Lamanites than for you except ye shall
repent. For behold, they are more righteous than you, for they have not sinned
against that great knowledge which ye have received; therefore the Lord will
be merciful unto them; yea, he will lengthen out their days and increase their
seed, even when thou shalt be utterly destroyed except thou shalt repent. (Helaman

This passage is reminiscent of Nephi’s vision of the future of the Lamanites:
“And 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” (1 Nephi 12:23).

Clearly, the Book of Mormon describes various people—including the Nephites
themselves—as being dark, filthy, and loathsome in a spiritual sense.
However, the Nephites who dissented to the Lamanites obviously did not consider
them in such a negative way, and the Lord himself does not use such language
to describe the Lamanites. Moreover, Nephites such as the sons of Mosiah and
their generation, who welcomed converted Lamanites into their society, have
only good things to say about these converts.

I conclude, then, that while some Nephites seem to have been racist in the sense
that they were repulsed by the skin color of the Lamanites, this was not a general
cultural trait. The critics’ assertions, therefore, are fatally flawed
on two counts. First, the appearance of racism in the Book of Mormon is not
evidence of a nineteenth-century origin or of authorship by Joseph Smith. Second,
in spite of its frank documentation of racist feeling, the Book of Mormon is
not in itself a racist document. In fact, it advocates and even idealizes the
exact opposite: rather than promoting concepts of racial inferiority, the events
and teachings within it clearly suggest that people of different ethnic backgrounds
and traditions can truly overcome old hatreds and misconceptions and attain
peace, happiness, and unity through the gospel of Jesus Christ.


  1. Thomas W. Murphy, “Laban’s Ghost: On Writing and Transgression,”
    Dialogue 30/2 (1997): 117.
  2. David B. Goldstein and Lounés Chikhi, “Human Migrations and
    Population Structure: What We Know and Why It Matters,” Annual Review
    of Genomics and Human Genetics
    3 (2002): 137-38. My thanks to John M.
    Butler for calling this article to my attention.
  3. History of the Church, 5:217; 6:243-44.
  4. Newell G. Bringhurst, “Elijah Abel and the Changing Status of Blacks
    within Mormonism,” Dialogue 12/2 (1979): 24.
  5. See Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of
    American Slavery
    (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  6. See, for example, Jacob 2:35; 3:5; 7:24, 26; Enos 1:11; Jarom 1:2; Mosiah
    1:5, 13; 22:3; 25:11; 28:1; Alma 3:6; 17:9, 11, 30-31, 33; 19:14; 26:3,
    9, 13-14, 22-23, 26-27; 27:8, 20-24; 28:8; 29:10; 43:14,
    29; 48:21, 23-25; 49:7; 53:15; 59:11; Helaman 4:24; 11:24; 15:11-12;
    3 Nephi 2:12; 4 Nephi 1:43; Mormon 2:26; 9:35-36; Moroni 1:4; 10:1.
  7. See, for example, Ezra 6:21; Job 15:16; Psalms 14:2-3; 53:2-3;
    Proverbs 30:12; Ezekiel 16:36; 22:15; 24:13; 36:25; 2 Corinthians 7:1;
    Ephesians 5:4; James 1:21; Revelation 17:4; 22:11; D&C 88:35, 102.
  8. Bernadino de Sahagún, General History of the Things of New Spain,
    10.29, in Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O. Anderson, trans., Florentine Codex,
    Book 10 (Santa Fe, N.M.: School of American Research and University of Utah,
    1961), 178-79. My thanks to Matt Roper for this reference and the two
    that follow.
  9. Quoted from a number of original sources in Giorgio Buccellati, The Amorites
    of the Ur III Period
    (Naples: Istituto orientale di Napoli, 1966), 330-32.
  10. William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and
    the Historical Process
    , 2nd ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1957), 166.
  11. See Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples
    and Pre-Columbian Populations,” in this number, pages 91-128.
  12. Compare Nephi’s comments on the Jews in 2 Nephi 29:4-6
    with those of Mormon in 3 Nephi 29:8.
  13. Murphy, “Laban’s Ghost,” 117.
  14. Some readers of the Book of Mormon have interpreted statements by Nephi
    (1 Nephi 12:23) and Mormon (Mormon 5:15) as referencing a Lamanite curse
    of dark skin following the destruction of the Nephites, yet these passages seem
    to refer to a spiritual state of Lehi’s children rather than racial distinctions.
  15. See introduction to the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon.
  16. Use of the term white for the concept of purity was well attested at the
    time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, as well as in his cultural
    context. Out of six meanings for the term given in Noah Webster’s 1828
    American Dictionary of the English Language, three concern purity, while only
    two concern color. The last concerns venerability.
  17. For a more detailed explanation of the history of this textual variant,
    see Larry W. Draper, “Book of Mormon Editions,” in Uncovering the
    Original Text of the Book of Mormon
    , ed. M. Gerald Bradford and Alison V. P.
    Coutts (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), 43.
  18. The Pearl: Seven Hymns on the Faith” 3:2, in Nicene and Post-Nicene
    , 2nd ser., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (1890-1900; reprint,
    Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994), 13:295. My thanks to Mark Ellison for bringing
    this passage to my attention.
  19. This translation comes from text 16, stanza 7, of a forthcoming edition
    of selected poems of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, edited and translated by Sebastian
    P. Brock and George A. Kiraz, to be published in a bilingual side-by-side format
    by Brigham Young University Press in 2004. See also Sebastian Brock, trans.,
    The Harp of the Spirit: Eighteen Poems of St. Ephrem, 2nd ed. (London: Fellowship
    of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 1983), 49. My thanks go to Daniel C. Peterson
    for this reference and the next.
  20. Bernard Lewis, Race and Color in Islam (New York: Harper and Row, 1971).