What to do with the Lamanites?

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DoubtingTom
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What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by DoubtingTom » 26 Mar 2017, 17:02

So I was sitting in gospel doctrine today and part of the discussion was about the early mission of Parley Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson to the "Lamanites." (D&C 32:2-3). On the board, the instructor had a piece of paper that read "Mission to the Lamanites (Native Americans)." She kept talking about this mission to the native americans. I was rankled and attempted to speak up, but it was her first time teaching and she was visibly nervous and I didn't want to bring up this point that wasn't really the focus of the lesson anyway.

But it got me thinking, with recent overwhelming DNA evidence (at least it's overwhelming to me) that native americans are not descended from Israelites, nor is there any evidence that there is ANY Israelite DNA at all (please correct me if I'm wrong), I thought the Church was shying away from continuing to teach that native americans are indeed Lamanites. I know the early Church clearly taught this, including supposed revelations from God, but I thought they were moving away from this and more towards the limited geography model. The church essay seems to support this move (https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-morm ... g&old=true), as well as the change in the BoM introduction, but one of the essays on revelations in context (https://history.lds.org/article/doctrin ... n?lang=eng) is titled "A Mission to the Lamanites" and clearly still teaches the idea that native americans are descended from Lamanites.

This bothers me. I feel that the Church claiming this usurps native american's own culture and identity. So where does the Church stand on this issue today? Does it still claim that native americans are descended from Lamanites or is it abandoning this notion? I hope so, but today's lesson made me think otherwise. Also, a secondary question, if the Book of Mormon was primarily written for the Lamanites and the Lamanites have essentially disappeared, who was the Book of Mormon written for?

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LookingHard
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by LookingHard » 26 Mar 2017, 18:25

I think an honest answer to your last question would be, "we don't know"

DoubtingTom
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by DoubtingTom » 26 Mar 2017, 18:42

I agree that's the honest answer. The Church seems to want to quietly shift from lamanites being primary ancestors to "among" the ancestors, and eventually the pile up of evidence will force them to abandon even that too. The question is will they ever publicly state it? I'm doubting - but I wish they would at least stop officially teaching it.

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LookingHard
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by LookingHard » 26 Mar 2017, 19:07

It does seem to me that the MO of the church is to almost never say, "we stop teaching that, and now we teach this." They generally just stop saying anything about it and most of the time it just fades into history (until the Internet brings it back to light).

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dande48
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by dande48 » 26 Mar 2017, 20:42

LookingHard wrote:
26 Mar 2017, 19:07
It does seem to me that the MO of the church is to almost never say, "we stop teaching that, and now we teach this." They generally just stop saying anything about it and most of the time it just fades into history (until the Internet brings it back to light).
I firmly believe I could be excommunicated for apostasy by quoting latter-day prophets alone.

But that aside, I do think it is important to focus on the lesson's "goodness", rather than on the truthfulness of it. There was ample racism towards the Native Americans in Joseph Smith's time. They were too cunning to make slaves, and so came the saying "The only good Indian is a dead one." Joseph Smith exalted them as a chosen people, from a chosen race. Their ancestors were largely responsible for the restoration of the Gospel. They hold a divine heritage, same as the rest of us.

Is it literally true? Probably not. But is it beautiful and inspiring? You bet.
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nibbler
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by nibbler » 27 Mar 2017, 12:18

DoubtingTom wrote:
26 Mar 2017, 17:02
...I thought they were moving away from this...
The church has moved quite a bit in the last decade but members move at a different pace. I know many members that still seem to be under the impression that SWK is the prophet. ;)
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Orson
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by Orson » 27 Mar 2017, 12:27

In the context of church history we may always allow the early members to reference native Americans as Lamanites the way they obviously did. I'm sure it will be sticky to some people, but just as we can talk about Job in class as if he was a historical person I don't have a problem letting the discussion flow as it does. Literal facts are not the value of church discourse. How do I apply the message to me?
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DarkJedi
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by DarkJedi » 27 Mar 2017, 12:59

nibbler wrote:
27 Mar 2017, 12:18
DoubtingTom wrote:
26 Mar 2017, 17:02
...I thought they were moving away from this...
The church has moved quite a bit in the last decade but members move at a different pace. I know many members that still seem to be under the impression that SWK is the prophet. ;)
I think more correctly, at least here, that Bruce R. McConkie is the prophet. Judging by how frequently he is quoted, he is surely infallible.

The whole Lamanite thing is something I struggle a bit with also. I do recognize and applaud the church's changed rhetoric in regard to them, but as you point out a new publication still seems to indicate the Lamanites were the Native Americans. In fairness, that section/chapter could be read objectively as simply those involved believing the natives were Lamanites. Several sections of the D&C would need to be altered to completely change the narrative, and we're not in the habit of doing that.

What works for me, since I don't believe the BoM to be a historical record (or literal at all for that matter) is that the early church members, including JS, were just mistaken and like many such early mistakes the idea has been perpetuated over the years. Unfortunately repeating doesn't make it true. That said, don't hold your breath for any member of the Q15 or anyone else to refute the idea this weekend - next April's report would see the church's first decline in membership if they did.
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Curt Sunshine
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 27 Mar 2017, 14:21

Generally speaking, the early members (including Joseph) didn't understand what the the BoM actually says very well. Therefore, they believed and passed on quite a few mistaken ideas that aren't supported in the actual text.

That still is true, largely because we are loathe to discard the incorrect traditions of our own church fathers and mothers.
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Heber13
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Re: What to do with the Lamanites?

Post by Heber13 » 27 Mar 2017, 15:12

Rough Stone Rolling presents those ideas that the origins of Native Americans was a bit of a hot topic in that time frame when the Book of Mormon was being "translated". So this idea didn't come about in a vacuum.

I think it is an interesting thing to think about...that perhaps the prophet is getting revelation, and one evidence it is revelation is precisely the fact that the stuff revealed were outside Joseph's mind that even he struggled to understand it fully, supporting the teaching that we need continuing revelation and the need for prophets in our day to increase and expand our knowledge of prior revelations. It can be presented as...Joseph didn't have an agenda...he just revealed what came to him...even if he didn't understand it.

Of course, the flipside argument is...the topic of origins of the American Indians was borrowed by sources like the Spalding Manuscripts and other religious movements of the time that Sydney Rigdon was familiar with, and early saints were wrong about these interpretations, and the church now tries to maneuver around it today in order to save face.

I think we get to pick what we believe. Neither can be proven true or false.

The essay on LDS.org on Book of Mormon and DNA Studies is suggesting that we don't know and there are too many factors to prove or disprove it either way.
Much as critics and defenders of the Book of Mormon would like to use DNA studies to support their views, the evidence is simply inconclusive. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples. Even if such information were known, processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration from West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed, “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”
That's probably the right way to handle it. It isn't black and white. It is simply a mystery...but doesn't impact our faith in Christ and his teachings.

nibbler, I'd say the church is moving towards distancing itself from "knowing" the exact application of the Book of Mormon ancestors, and moving more towards the spiritual use of the book, regardless of the history.
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