Given recent DNA research of places like Britain, a scarcity of Middle Eastern (Lehite) DNA in Native American populations is exactly what might be expected from the Book of Mormon narrative. With only a handful of colonizing Middle Eastern families, the genetic fingerprint was quickly absorbed into the native population JUST as recent DNA evidence is showing happened to the Roman colonizers of Britain. Furthermore, the book’s narrative explains how racism, and genocide based on racism, destroyed the remnants of the small group of more racially pure Nephite elite around 400AD.
The Book of Mormon goes to great lengths to suggest that much like the Jews of Ezra, the Nephite elite took pride in their own racial purity– holding a racist belief system to minimize mixing with the native population. Whereas the text suggests that the ‘Lamanites’ and Mulekites immediately began to fully mix with the indigenous population. (with the Nephites superstitiously labeling the darker offspring of the Mestizo Lamanites as ‘cursed’) After nearly 1000 years of history, this system of racial segregation then came back to haunt the Nephites as systemic racism (this time in the other direction) obviously served as the basis for the final genocidal war, wherein the ‘fair’ (ie. more white/less mixed) Nephite elite were hunted down and annihilated by the darker inhabitants of the continent— largely eradicating the remaining population of undiluted Israelite DNA from the continent.
To understand why substantial DNA evidence of Israelite colonization of the Americas has not been found, one need not look any farther than the virtual absence of Roman DNA in Great Britain. This interesting phenomena is well documented (see here for instance). Despite both abundant archaeological evidence and overwhelming historical evidence of centuries of regional domination, very little evidence of Roman DNA exists from DNA studies of modern Britain peoples. This genetic absorption has been explained by a process known as genetic drift, where although significant, Roman populations were simply not great enough to leave long-term markers compared to the overwhelmingly larger populations of Native Britons. This same phenomena, would of course be expected among Book of Mormon peoples, given that the initial Middle Eastern colonialists mentioned in the record were composed of only a few initial families.
[Also like Britain’s Roman DNA problem, the timing of the introduction of genetic traits which link these colonizing groups is often hard to prove. Just one example is the recent discovery of the breast cancer causing Ashkenazi mutation found in Southwestern Native American groups linking them to Old World Jewish groups. (See here and here for instance.) However, because of prevailing worldviews of “first contact”, these genetic similarities are usually dismissed as being introduced into Native populations, post conquest by Sephardic Jewish blood within Spanish colonizers.]
For over a hundred years, many LDS authors and scholars held the view that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians”. This phrase has been taken out of the introduction to modern printings of the Book of Mormon for the simple reason that a careful reading of the Book does not support it! It is based on the rather unbelievable idea that the continent was not already populated by many indigenous people when Book of Mormon people arrived. Or that subsequent migrations not mentioned in the Book of Mormon did not occur.
Of course, this isn’t to say the Book of Mormon happened in a tiny corner or that it is not an account of the most significant cultures and happenings of the North American continent. Indeed our model has the Nephites and Lamanites being the ruling class of some of the greatest cultures the continent has seen. With the Nephites founding the Zapotec Culture, and then combining with the Mulekites to found the Teotihuacan empire. Followed by a Toltec, Anasazi and Cahokia (Hopewell) takeover as they slowly fled to their destruction in New England’s Cumorah.
However, much like the very small number of initial Spanish colonizers in Mexico made massive social changes despite their small numbers, it seems most likely the same effect occurred among Book of Mormon peoples (except with a far smaller number of Colonizers). Likewise it seems to me that the Book of Mormon works to set up a background of Israeli beliefs in racial purity in order to explain how these beliefs led to systemic racism and eventual retaliatory racism and ethic cleansing and genocide which wiped out the remaining groups of somewhat racially pure Middle Eastern DNA.
I believe this is why a background to these racist beliefs was explicitly given in the channeling of the Pearl of Great Price.
21 Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth.
22 From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.
23 The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;
24 When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.
25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham…
26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom… with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;
The racist idea that those of African descent were from some sort of ‘cursed’ lineage which excluded them from Middle Eastern priesthoods, would not have been exclusive to these supposed Israelites. Some Greek and Persian records also seemingly preserve some racism in those cultures toward those of a darker skin. A 9th century Persian text is supposedly quoting more ancient Avestan myth in describing the ancient racist Persian view of how the black (arab?) race came to be.
“During his sovereignty, Az i Dahak (a male demon) let loose a dew on a young girl and let loose a young man on a parig (female demon), and they (the female spirits) had sex with the visible image of the male (counterparts of each other); through this new way of the action the Black people appeared.” (9th Century, the Bundahishn Chapter XIVB quoting Avesta ‘creation of the origins’, Bd XIVb.7 Greater Bundahishn)
It’s not a stretch to see how Nephi (or a later author transcribing Nephi) in the Book of Mormon found an explanation for the darker skinned natives they encountered in the America’s as “cursed Lamanites”.
21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon [the Lamanites], 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.
22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.
23 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. (2 Ne 5:21–23)
This belief appears to have succeeded in creating a culture of ethnic isolation, independence and purity but also seems to have unintentionally promoted an attitude of systemic racism toward the Lamanites. Only 50 years or so after Nephi, Jacob begins to preach against a racist attitude that had obviously developed.
9 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.
10 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 (3:9-10)
This attitude persisted throughout Book of Mormon times, especially among the ruling class, as we continually see both religious and political leaders using their pure “Nephite” Lehite or Mulekite genealogy as a way to legitimize themselves.
20 I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi. I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem…
13 Behold, I make an end of speaking concerning this people. I am the son of Mormon, and my father was a descendant of Nephi. (Mormon 8:13)
3 And it came to pass that on the morrow they started to go up, having with them one Ammon, he being a strong and mighty man, and a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was also their leader. (Mosiah 7:3)
2 But there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. (Mosiah 17:2)
23 I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram, whom your fathers pressed and brought out of Jerusalem. (Alma 54:23)
15 …And they were led by a man whose name was Coriantumr; and he was a descendant of Zarahemla; (Hel 1:15)
With the ruling class using race and pedigree in such a manner, its easy to see how that same system of social stratification and segregation set the stage for the ethnic wars which destroyed the Nephites. Although Christ’s visit in the Book of Mormon seems to have temporarily put an end to racial and ethnic tension, ending the practice of differentiation of people’s by “ites” (4 Ne 1:17), after a mere 80 years the darket skinned Lamanites, this time seem to reignite the ethnic fuels of racism as they leave the church and “take upon themselves the name of Lamanites” (4 Ne 1:20). This is followed a little more than a hundred years later by the church taking upon themselves the name of “Nephites” as well as a restoration of all seven of the original ethnic classes and a slow descent into full cultural depravity as all groups “become exceedingly wicked one like unto another.” (4 Ne 1:37–38,45)
The fact that skin color and race becomes a dividing issue between the Nephites and the Lamanites, sometime before the final war, is made clear not only by Mormon and Moroni’s fixation on being “pure descendants of Nephi” (A fact undoubtedly part of why this young general was recruited from the Land Northward, even at such a young age, to lead the armies of the Nephites). But also by Mormon’s Lament after the destruction of “his” people. Mormon makes it obvious that the Nephites do not share his values or religious obedience. Indeed they had become as wicked as the Lamanites in every respect (ref). But they did apparently largely share his ethnicity, as he laments after their genocide,
17 O ye fair [white] ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!
18 Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.
19 O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!
Although the word “fair” is also used in the Book of Mormon to describe beauty, there is little doubt that in this context, it is being utilized in its primary definition of “white” or “not dark” (see Webster’s definition or online encyclopedia: As in fair skinned or fair hair).
This definition equating “fair” with light or white color is also used elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Not only in scriptures already mentioned (2 Ne 5:21–23), but in both 1 Ne 11:13, 1 Ne 13: 15 and Mormon 9:6
13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.
6 O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.
We see in these verses that much like many European authors, Book of Mormon authors naively turned light skin color into a synonym for moral purity and physical beauty.
However, the obvious message of the Book of Mormon is not to promote the same subtle racist undertones in modern belief, but instead to learn from the lessons wherein ancient racism led to the complete genocide of a colonial people. If there is one lesson to be learned from the Book of Mormon, it is that the modern white Christian Colonial “Gentiles” who were to colonize the American continent in our Latter-days need to learn from the mistakes of ancient Israelite colonist, and eradicate racism from our culture, before the “mixture of the seed of the Lamanites” goes forth like a “lion among the beasts of the forest, who if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth to pieces where none can deliver”.
5 And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—
16 Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. (3 Nephi 20:15–16)
Again the entire point of the Book of Mormon and scripture in general is to learn from the mistakes of past generations. Scripture compiles the history and wisdom of the ages and asks us to use that wisdom to make better life choices. Listen to some of the last words of advice given by the prophet/historian Moroni in the Book of Mormon.
31 Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been. (Mormon 9:31)
The Book of Mormon teaches against racism
It’s important to understand how fully the gospel message teaches against racism and all types of inequality. From Paul’s sermon against gender bias and economic inequality in Galatians 3:28, to Nephi’s sermon in 2 Nephi 26:33, to Christ’s many sermons against inequality in the Gospels and 3 Nephi, the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches AGAINST racism.
…for [god] doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; 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
It is unfortunate that many leaders of Mormonism and Christianity in general have weaponized the words of scripture, and instead of using them as a guide of how to “be more wise than [the ancients] have been” (Mormon 9:31). They have used them as a justification of how to fall into the same errors of the ancients. Instead of realizing that Jesus ended the Mosaic practices of priesthood acclivity and opened the door of the Gospel Covenant to ALL peoples and races, they use the Joseph’s Channeling of the Pearl of Great Price (something meant to help us understand the ancient mindsets) to justify defying Christ’s words and excluding blacks & women from the priesthood. (see my article, The priesthood of God and its…) Instead of seeing the follies of dynastic Polygamy as it was practiced by King David and other erroring leaders of the Old Testament, they use these scriptures to Justify its dynastic institutionalization (see my article Disavow Polytamy and …)
Its time to stop these justifications. Its time to repent of past practices and move ahead in equality, love and fairness in all aspects of the Gospel program.
- The gospel’s teaching AGAINST racism.
- -Jews were of Shem, a mix of Japheth and ham. (Book of Jubilee makes it clear that ham was Africa, Japheth was north countries.
- -Abram was the patriarch UNTO ham.
- -Hagar was very likely black. And we can assume some of Jacob’s wives were as well.
- -Joseph took a wife of the Egyptians, making both Ephraim and Manassah half Egyptian.
- -Moses married a Black Cushite (Ethiopian) woman (Numbers 12:1)
- Israel is and ALWAYS HAS BEEN multi-cultural. So why has it often espoused racism? Such is the nature of mankind.