Further notes from John W . Welch, et al., eds., Knowing Why: 137 Evidences That the Book of Mormon Is True (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2017):
“What Does It Mean to Be a White and Delightsome People?” (136-138)
For many, the Book of Mormon’s contrast between the righteous, light-skinned Nephites and the wicked, dark-skinned Lamanites constitutes obvious proof that it’s a product of nineteenth-century American racism and, thus, can be (and should be) dismissed.
But, of course, the contrast isn’t really that simple in the Book of Mormon. Sometimes, for example, it’s the Lamanites who are righteous and the Nephites who are unrighteous.
“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. . . . 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.” (Jacob 3:5, 9)
Note the explicit condemnation of racism. And other passages in the Book of Mormon likewise declare the Lord’s overall indifference to race, ethnicity, and skin color:
“[T]he Lord . . . 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)And don’t forget this passage, in which I’ve marked some words for special evidence. Samuel, one of the greatest of Book of Mormon prophets — and a Lamanite — is addressing a large audience of Nephites who are trying to kill him and who, it seems, trust for their salvation in their lineage:
“Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people. Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people.” (Helaman 13:5-6)
And, anyway, for the last four centuries of Nephite history (which is only a thousand years long in total), “Lamanites” and “Nephites” don’t seem to be ethnic terms at all.
This short chapter doesn’t mention all of the things that I mention here — while treating some topics that I haven’t — but it shows that the matter isn’t nearly so simple as most critics have presumed. Whiteness, in the Book of Mormon, connotes purity — a connection that exists far beyond the Book of Mormon (e.g., I might note, in the Qur’an) and far beyond the nineteenth century. And there’s still a great deal more that can be said.