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The Book of Mormon proposes the historical existence of two groups in the ancient Americas, the Nephites and the Lamanites. They are described as descending from the family of a wealthy Jewish merchant, Lehi, which traveled from Jerusalem in 600 BC. Nephites descended from the youngest son, Nephi, while Lamanites descended from the elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

One of a number of Controversies regarding Mormonism is the proposition that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lamanites. This proposed Semitic origin of most Native Americans is contrary to generally accepted theories supporting a Siberian origin.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems to endorse this position. The introduction to the 1989 edition of The Book of Mormon states "...the Lamanites ... are the the principal ancestors of the American Indians."

The Book of Mormon narrative follows the corruption off most Lamanites and describes God darkening their skin as punishment for their deeds.

2 Nephi 5:21:

"And he had caused the cursing to come upon (Lamanites), yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and 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."

Several Book of Mormon passages are interpreted as descriptions of how Lamanites would supernaturally revert to a lighter skin tone upon accepting Mormon teachings.

-2 Nephi 30:6 "...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 5:21: And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. ... 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 prey. "

In 1981 the word "white" in 2 Nephi 30:6 was changed to "pure" in all subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon.

An apparently official statment by LDS President Joseph Smith supports the accepence of this belief:

"Question: 'The question I have is concerning the present status of the Lamanites. I know that Laman and Lemuel and their families were cursed, but to what extent is this curse carried today? Was the darker skin all or just part of the curse? Will this curse be completely forgotten and taken away by the Lord on the basis of repentance and complete acceptance of the gospel?'

Answer: 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 and the Lamanites becoming a 'loathsome and filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.'

... At the time of the Savior's visit to the Nephites all of the people became united, and the curse and the dark skin which was its sign were removed.

... After the people again forgot the Lord and dissensions arose, some of them took upon themselves the name Lamanites and the dark skin returned.

When the Lamanites fully repent and sincerely receive the gospel, the Lord has promised to remove the dark skin.

... 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. Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South.

Source: Smith, Joseph Fielding. Answers to Gospel Questions. Vol. 3. 122 - 123 Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1959-1961.

LDS official (later president) Spencer W. Kimball also spoke about Lamanites in October, 1960, concerning LDS missionary efforts:

"(Navajo) ...are fast becoming a white and delightsome people." He said, "The [Indian] children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation" (Improvement Era, December 1960, pp. 922-3)

This statement is similar to others by Kimball regarding LDS attitudes towards Blacks. See Blacks and Mormonism.

Considerable debate and research regarding this and other related subjects is available at the following links:




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