A (much delayed) continuation of the the series “Adjusting the Narrative”, initially begun as a proposed response to the new header to Official Declaration 2 in the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. See Introduction, Part 1a – The Scriptural Curse and Seed of Cain, Part 1b – The Blood of the Canaanites, Part 1c – The Priesthoods of Abraham and Pharaoh. The segments of Part 2, which began with Part 2a – Nephi and the Skin of Blackness – will explore a proposed reading of the narrative of the Book of Mormon.
At the beginning of this 2013-2014 school year, the youth Seminary program of the Church rolled out a brand new Book of Mormon curriculum. It is a wonderful new guide, and there are some substantial adjustments presented that serve to change for the better the way LDS youth approach and learn from the Book of Mormon.
In the teacher’s manual, describing the events King Nephi described in 2 Nephi 5 concerning his understanding of the nature of the Lamanite curse, we find the following:
Make sure students understand that the curse mentioned in this chapter was separation from God. The changing of their skin was only a mark or sign of the curse. To clarify this point, have a student read the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
President Joseph Fielding Smith
“The dark skin was placed upon the Lamanites so that they could be distinguished from the Nephites and to keep the two peoples from mixing. The dark skin was the sign of the curse. The curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord. …
“The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse. Many of these converts are delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 3:122–23).
Note two key things about this:
1. The explanatory text describes that an actual skin color change occured which was “a sign of the curse.”
2. The authoritative text by Joseph Fielding Smith is used to elaborate notes that the dark skin signaled “the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord”, and that, “the dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign” of the specific Book of Mormon curse.
The teaching found in the new manual is that the Lamanites did in fact have a change to a darker skin, and that did indeed signal the disapproval of the Lord, but that, at least in the 1950s and 1960s, it had stopped being a modern indicator of general present righteousness, as it previously did with the Lamanites.
Compare this with the clear statements in the brand spanking new December 2013 Gospel Topics entry on Race and the Priesthood :
“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse . . . Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”
The complete statement on Race is groundbreaking in many, many ways. It has been discussed elsewhere, and likely will be revisited here as well. It is a goldmine for analysis, review, application, and study.
My focus right now is on how the statement should not only be seen as a rejection of previous modern statements by Church leaders on the topic of race, but also as a rejection of face-value acceptance of theological affirmations presented by ancient scriptural figures as well. Continue reading “Adjusting the Narrative: Part 2b – On Disavowed Theories” »