Book of Mormon/Lamanites/Relationship to Amerindians/Statements/20th century

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Statements by Church leaders regarding the Lamanites: 20th century

This page is a chronology of statements from primary and secondary sources. Sources may be viewed by following the citation links.

1900s

1910s

1920s

1923

Heber J. Grant at dedication of Cardston, Alberta temple:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt stay the hand of the destroyer among the descendants of Lehi, who reside in this land….that all the great and glorious promises made concerning the descendants of Lehi…[1]

Melvin J. Ballard:

For this very purpose, therefore, were these plates preserved, to bring to pass the redemption. of the children of father Lehi, known in North and South America, in Central America, and in Mexico, as the American Indians and some of the natives upon the isles of the sea. . . . I wish to bear witness to you that their redemption shall come, and that the day of their redemption is near at hand, when these thousands, yea these millions of Lamanites on this Western Continent who have the blood of Lehi in their veins, or of his descendants, shall be touched by the power of the Almighty, and the day of their redemption, when it does come, will be one of power.[2]

1925

Melvin J. Ballard in dedicatory prayer for preaching the gospel in South America, 25 December 1925:

And we also pray that we may see the beginning of the fulfilment of thy promises contained in the Book of Mormon to the Indian of this land, who is a descendant of Lehi, millions of whom reside in this country, who have long been downtrodden, and have borne many afflictions and suffered because of sin and transgression, even as the prophets of the Book of Mormon did foretell. But thou didst inspire these prophets to promise their descendants that thou wouldst bring forth, in the latter days, the records of their fathers; and that when these records were presented to their children, they would begin to believe, and when they would do this, thy favor would return to them; and then thou wouldst remember the promises made to their fathers, that if their descendants would repent and receive the gospel, they would begin to be prospered and blessed on the land and would again become a white and delightsome people. O Father, let thy Spirit work upon them, and manifest the truth of these things unto them, as we, and thy servants who shall follow us, shall bear witness of thy precious promises unto this branch of the house of Israel.[3]

1926

Melvin J. Ballard on the future of work in South America:

Work will grow slowly for a time just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn–not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and thus dies. Thousands will join here; it will be divided into more than one mission, and will be one of the strongest in the Church. The work here is the smallest that it will ever be. The day will come when the Lamanites here will get the chance. The South American Mission is to be a power in the Church.[4]

1927

A 1927 Book of Mormon study guide noted that:

All Indians Are Not the Descendants of Lehi …Students of the Book of Mormon should be cautioned against the error of supposing that all the American Indians are the descendants of Lehi, Mulek, and their companions, and that their languages and dialects, their social organizations, religious conceptions and practices, traditions, etc., are all traceable to those Hebrew sources.
Because the Jaredite record is very brief we are apt to forget that it embraces many centuries—how many, we have no means of ascertaining—and that it gives an epitome principally of the history of Moron, where the Jaredites first established themselves. It stands to reason that the Jaredites gradually settled in favorable localities all over the American continents, and that both Nephites and Lamanites came in contact with them, and that an amalgamation took place everywhere as in the case of the Nephites and Mulekites in Zarahemla. If so, the Jaredite culture must have become a factor in the development of the institutions and languages of the country. But the Jaredites came from some center of population in Asia…[5]

Heber J. Grant at Mesa, Arizona temple dedication:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt stay the hand of the destroyer among the descendants of Lehi who reside in this land and give unto them increasing virility and more abundant health, that they may not perish as a people but that from this time forth they may increase in numbers and in strength and in influence, that all the great and glorious promises made concerning the descendants of Lehi may be fulfilled in them; that they may grow in vigor of body and of mind, and above all in love for Thee and Thy Son, and increase in diligence and in faithfulness in keeping the commandments which have come to them through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that many of them may have the privilege of entering this holy house and receiving ordinances for themselves and their departed ancestors.[6]

1928

Taught Elder Levi Edgar Young [First Council of the Seventy] in 1928 general conference:

There must be a clear distinction, it grows every year more evident, between the origins of America's ancient people and the sources of their culture. The human material of the pre-Columbian societies probably came from Asia by way of Alaska, the orthodox route long accepted for the American Indians…Among many social belongings abandoned along the route seem to have been most of the things called intellectual. The men and women who peopled America arrived, intellectually, with the clothes they stood in…Dr. Uhle urges an alternative [theory for how high culture arose in the Americas]…Occasional cultured mariners from India, China, Japan or other lands may have landed, he believes, few in numbers, but full of ideas, to bring to the rude American societies…just the hint that culture was possible. Small numerically as this source of inspiration must have been, it may conceivably have been the seed from which sprouted the great achievements of Peru and Central America…[7]

1929

In April 1929, President Anthony W. Ivins [Counselor in First Presidency] said in General Conference:

We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon teaches the history of three distinct peoples, or two peoples and three different colonies of people, who came from the old world to this continent. It does not tell us that there was no one here before them. It does not tell us that people did not come after. And so if discoveries are made which suggest differences in race origins, it can very easily be accounted for, and reasonably, for we do believe that other people came to this continent.[8]

1930s

1930

Melvin J. Ballard:

Many years ago while doing missionary work in Montana I was given to understand by the whispering of the Spirit, as I wondered why the Lamanites had not been brought into the Church at an earlier period--the Lord made known to me that there were many things that he had to do for them before they were prepared to accept the Gospel message. I believe that the things the Lord had in mind are being accomplished and that their day dawns also. I was impressed with it on that memorable Christmas morning in 1925 in South America when Brother Wells, Brother Pratt and I knelt in that beautiful grove of weeping willow trees on the banks of the Rio de la Plata and dedicated the land for the spreading of the Gospel, and the Spirit of the Almighty was upon us. We were made to know that the Gospel message would find thousands who had the blood of Israel in their veins in South America. Then we saw the day when it would go to the fifteen million of Father Lehi's children who are in that land, and that the shackles, politically, would be broken, the day of retribution would come, the day of deliverance, and that they would come into a full realization of the promises of the Almighty. For, for that very purpose, we read in the third section of the book of D&C, was the Book of Mormon given, to bring them, the Lamanites, to a knowledge of the truth.[9]

1938

A Church study guide of 1938 was even more definitive:

Indian ancestry, at least in part, is attributed by the Nephite record to the Lamanites. However, the Book of Mormon deals only with the history and expansion of three small colonies which came to America and it does not deny or disprove the possibility of other immigrations, which probably would be unknown to its writers. Jewish origin may represent only a part of the total ancestry of the American Indian today.[10]

Melvin J. Ballard:

To the descendants of Father Lehi, who have suffered so long, for whom we received the precious record of the Book of Mormon, it did not come to us for our sake, it was committed into our hands to hold in custody for these millions who are in Mexico, Central America and South America their day must come. It is coming, and I see the hand of God preparing for their deliverance. But you, you must lead the way.[11]

1940s

1940

And, in 1940, members with the critics' attitudes were cautioned:

There is a tendency to use the Book of Mormon as a complete history of all pre-Columbian peoples. The book does not claim to be such an history, and we distort its spiritual message when we use it for such a purpose. The book does not give an history of all peoples who came to America before Columbus. There may have been other people who came here, by other routes and means, of which we have no written record. If historians wish to discuss information which the Book of Mormon does not contain but which is related to it, then we should grant them that freedom. We should avoid the claim that we are familiar with all the peoples who have lived on American soil when we discuss the Book of Mormon. . . There is safety in using the book in the spirit in which it was written. Our use of poorly constructed inferences may draw us far away from the truth. In our approach to the study of the Book of Mormon let us guard against drawing historical conclusions which the book does not warrant.[12]

1950s

Elder Dallin H. Oaks [Apostle] noted that he had been taught this idea in the 1950s at BYU:

Here [at BYU] I was introduced to the idea that the Book of Mormon is not a history of all of the people who have lived on the continents of North and South America in all ages of the earth. Up to that time, I had assumed that it was. If that were the claim of the Book of Mormon, any piece of historical, archaeological, or linguistic evidence to the contrary would weigh in against the Book of Mormon, and those who rely exclusively on scholarship would have a promising position to argue.
In contrast, if the Book of Mormon only purports to be an account of a few peoples who inhabited a portion of the Americas during a few millennia in the past, the burden of argument changes drastically. It is no longer a question of all versus none; it is a question of some versus none. In other words, in the circumstance I describe, the opponents of historicity must prove that the Book of Mormon has no historical validity for any peoples who lived in the Americas in a particular time frame, a notoriously difficult exercise.[13]

1954

LeGrand Richards [Apostle] 1954: The dark-skinned people who occupied this land of America from that time on were called "Lamanites," who are the people known generally as the American Indians, all of whom are of the house of Israel.[14]

1957

In 1957, Elder Richard L. Evans [Apostle] prepared material for a secular audience, and described the Book of Mormon as

part of a record, both sacred and secular, of prophets and peoples who (with supplementary groups) were among the ancestors of the American 'Indians'[15]

This article was republished twice (in 1963 and 1975) and the latter publication was reapproved for publication by the First Presidency.[16]

1958

David O. McKay at dedication of Hamilton New Zealand Temple:

O God, our Eternal Father, on this significant and hallowed occasion, we unite our hearts and lift our voices in gratitude, praise and honor to Thy Holy name. We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper, to develop and to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among mankind.[17]

1959

Spencer W. Kimball:

I should like to address my remarks to you, our kinsmen of the isles of the sea and the Americas. Millions of you have blood relatively unmixed with gentile nations. Columbus called you `Indians,’ thinking he had reached the East Indies. Millions of you are descendants of Spaniards and Indians, and are termed mestizos, and are called after your countries, for instance: Mexicans in Mexico; Guatemalans in Guatemala; Chilianos in Chile. You Polynesians of the Pacific are called Samoan or Maori, Tahitian or Hawaiian, according to your islands. There are probably sixty million of you on the two continents and on the Pacific Islands, all related by blood ties. The Lord calls you Lamanites.[18]

1960s

1970s

1971

Spencer W. Kimball:

The term Lamanite includes all Indians and Indian mixtures, such as the Polynesians, the Guatemalans, the Peruvians, as well as the Sioux, the Apache, the Mohawk, the Navajo, and others. It is a large group of great people . . . . There are no blessings, of all the imaginable ones, to which you are not entitled–you, the Lamanites–when you are righteous. You are of royal blood, the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Lehi.[19]

1975

Spencer W. Kimball at dedication of Mesa, Arizona temple:

Thou didst acknowledge the role of the Lamanite, especially in this temple, and numerous of the sons and daughters of Lehi have found in these sacred precincts peace, knowledge and solace to their souls.[20]

1977

Spencer W. Kimball in Mexico:

One of the first efforts of the Prophet Joseph Smith was to take the gospel to the Lamanites. Continuing until now, we have preached the gospel to the Lamanites. There are probably sixty million Lamanites in America. They are happy for the gospel as it come to them. . . . In many natural resources, the land of America is rich and will produce abundantly. This is for you, for us, and for all the good people who live upon the land of America. Protection against enemies has been promised. In all the Americas, neither kings nor emperors will combine to take the land. Great promises are given us, if we live the commandments God has given us....
I was in Arizona at the temple. As I thought and prayed and studied, I had what I thought was a dream, maybe a vision. There were many Mexican people in the temple on that same day. As I looked into the future, I saw that the Lamanites were going to grow and develop.[21]
When I was in Mexico in 1946, I was dreaming for the people of Mexico. I had a dream of your progress and development. Now this is precisely what I dreamed; this was my vision for the people of the Lamanites. I got up from my bed and wrote my dream. Maybe it was a vision rather than a dream. This is what I wrote: As I looked into the future, I saw the Lamanites from the isles of the sea and the Americas rise to a great destiny. I saw great numbers of Lamanites and Nephites in beautiful homes that have all the comforts that science can afford. I could see you children of Lehi with your herds and flocks on a thousand hills. . . . I saw the church growing with rapid strides, and I saw them organized in wards and stakes. (I think there was not a single stake or ward in all of Mexico when I dreamed this dream.) I saw a temple of God and expect to see it filled with men and women and young people.[22]

1980s

1983

Gordon B. Hinckley at the dedication of the Mexico City temple:

Bless thy Saints in this great land and those from other lands who will use this temple….Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou hast kept Thine ancient promise.[23]

Gordon B. Hinckley at the dedication of the Apia Samoa temple:

We are grateful for these beautiful islands of Samoa, and for Thy faithful saints who dwell here. Jacob, son of Lehi, declared anciently: "Great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea." We have witnessed the fulfillment of Thy covenant, for Thou hast not forgotten them.[24]
1984

Howard W. Hunter:

It has been the position of the Church that Polynesians are related to the American Indians as descendants of Father Lehi, having migrated to the Pacific from America . . . .Our belief in this regard is scriptural (see Alma 63:4-10).[25]

Gordon B. Hickley at the dedication of the Guatemala City temple:

Thou kind and gracious Father, our hearts swell with gratitude for Thy remembrance of the sons and daughters of Lehi, the many generations of our fathers and mothers who suffered so greatly and who walked for so long in darkness. Thou hast heard their cries and seen their tears. Now there will be opened to them the gates of salvation and eternal life…. We thank Thee for the restored record of our ancestors, the record of Lehi, Nephi and Jacob, of Alma and Mosiah, of Benjamin and Mormon and Moroni.[26]

1986

Gordon B. Hickley at the dedication of the Lima, Peru temple:

We are particularly mindful this day of the sons and daughters of Lehi. They have known so much of suffering and sorrow in their many generations. They have walked in darkness and in servitude. Now Thou hast touched them by the light of the everlasting gospel. The shackles of darkness are falling from their eyes as they embrace the truths of Thy great work. Surely father Lehi has wept with sorrow over his posterity. Surely he weeps today with gladness, for in this holy house there will be exercised the fullness of the priesthood to the blessing, not only of those of this and future generations, but also to the blessing of those of previous generations.
Bless Thy work that it shall blossom and grow in this nation and in its neighbor nations of South America. Remember, Father, Thine ancient covenant with the children of Lehi that in the latter days Thou wouldst favor them and bring to them a knowledge of their Redeemer. Make them strong in faith and magnify them in leadership in Thy kingdom.[27]

1990s

1992

The Ensign published an article from John Sorenson, one of the most prominent advocates of the presence of other non-Israelite peoples in the Americas:

Archaeological evidence from all New World areas where the early Nephites and Lamanites could have lived makes clear that peoples who descended from the Jaredite era also lived during the time of Lehi’s descendants. Given Laman and Lemuel’s ambition to rule, perhaps they or their descendants ruled over and absorbed such “natives.” Nephite record keepers perhaps did not know the details of that process, but that is the best explanation that I know of for the remarkable growth in the number of Lamanites.
The case of the numerous Amulonites [in Alma 43:13] can be explained on similar grounds—taking control over a resident population.[28]

1993

Gordon B. Hinckley at dedication of San Diego California Temple:

This temple will be used by many of the sons and daughters of Father Lehi. We thank thee for their faithfulness. We thank thee for this day when thou art remembering thine ancient covenant in behalf of these thy children, from whose eyes the shackles of darkness are now falling. Bless the posterity of Lehi, we pray thee. Lift from their weary shoulders the burdens of the past. Grant unto those who walk in faith an enlarged understanding of things divine as well as blessings of temporal peace and prosperity.[29]

1997

Gordon B. Hinckley at dedication of Vernal, Utah temple:

May there come about a reconciliation of feelings between the descendants of Lehi and those who have come to reside in these valleys. May old animosities be dispelled, and may there come a renewed spirit of brotherhood and love and respect.[30]

Gordon B. Hinckley speaking of Amerindians in Window Rock, Arizona:

It was difficult to hold back the tears as we mingled with these sons and daughters of Father Lehi. In my imagination I have seen him weeping for his progeny who for so long have walked in poverty and pain. But the shackles of darkness are falling. Some of them now are men and women of achievement. They have partaken of the fruits of education. They have come to know and love the gospel. They have become pure and delightsome. But there is so much more to do among them. Alcohol and drugs literally destroy many of them. We must do more to help. As I look to the future, I envision the Spirit of the Lord being poured out upon these people. Education will unlock the door of opportunity, and the gospel will bring new light and understanding into their lives. We have been with thousands of these wonderful people in South America. . . . Our missionaries are working with these good people, bringing the light of the everlasting gospel into their lives . . . . These are strong and wonderful Latter-day Saints in whose hearts beat the same testimonies of Jesus and this work as beat in yours.[31]

1999

Gordon B. Hinckley at dedication of Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple:

Bless Thy Saints that they may continue to live here without molestation. May they live in peace and security. May they be prospered as they cultivate their farms and pursue their vocations. May the sons and daughters of father Lehi grow in strength and in fulfillment of the ancient promises made concerning them. May there be constant peace between the cultures and may they dwell together with love and respect one for another.[32]

Notes

  1. Heber J. Grant, Dedicatory Prayer for the Cardston Alberta Temple (26–29 August 1923).
  2. Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report (October 1923), 29.
  3. "Prayer Dedicating the Lands of South America to the preaching of the Gospel," Improvement Era 29 no. 6 (April 1926), 575-76.
  4. J. Vernon Sharp Diary, 4 July 1926; cited in A. Theodore Tuttle, "South America: land of Prophecy and Promise," Improvement Era (May 1963), 358.
  5. Janne M. Sjodahl, "Suggested Key To Book of Mormon Geography," Improvement Era 30 no. 11 (September 1927), ?.
  6. Heber J. Grant, Mesa Arizona Temple dedication (23-26 October 1927)
  7. Levi Edgar Young, Conference Report (October 1928), 103–106, italics added.
  8. Anthony W. Ivins, Conference Report (April 1929), 15, italics added.
  9. Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report (April 1930), 156.
  10. William E. Berrett, Milton R. Hunter, Roy A. Welker, and H. Alvah Fitzgerald, A Guide to the Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: LDS Department of Education, 1938), 47–48, italics added.
  11. Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report (April 1938), 44.
  12. Roy A. West, An Introduction to the Book of Mormon: A Religious-Literary Study (Salt Lake City: LDS Department of Education, 1940), 11, italics added.
  13. Dallin H. Oaks, "The Historicity of the Book of Mormon," (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1994): 2–3; republished in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 238–239.
  14. LeGrand Richards, Israel! Do You Know? (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954), 37.
  15. Richard L. Evans, "What Is a 'Mormon'?" in Religions of America, edited by Leo Rosten (London: Heinemann, 1957), 94, italics added; reprinted as Religions of America: Ferment and Faith in an Age of Crisis: A New Guide and Almanac (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975).
  16. The quote and this observation are from Matthew Roper, "Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 91–128. off-site
  17. David O. McKay, dedication of Hamilton New Zealand temple (20-22 April 1958).
  18. Spencer W. Kimball, "To You . . . Our Kinsmen," Improvement Era (December 1959), 938.
  19. Spencer W. Kimball, "Of Royal Blood," Ensign (July 1971), 7.
  20. Spencer W. Kimball, Rededicatory Prayer for the Mesa Arizona Temple (15–16 April 1975).
  21. Spencer W. Kimball, Official Reports of the Monterrey Mexico Area Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Monterrey, Mexico February 19 and 20, 1977, (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978), 3.
  22. Spencer W. Kimball, Official Reports of the Mexico City Area Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in the Sports Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, February 13,1977 (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978), 31.
  23. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Mexico City Temple (2-4 December 1983).
  24. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Apia Samoa Temple (5-6 August 1983).
  25. Howard W. Hunter, “Islands of the Pacific,” Beneficial Life Insurance Company Convention, Waikokloa, Hawaii, 19 July 1984; cited in Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 57.
  26. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple (14–16 January 1984).
  27. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Lima Peru Temple (10-12 January 1986).
  28. John L. Sorenson, "I Have a Question," Ensign (September 1992), 27, italics added.
  29. Gordon B. Hinckley, dedication of San Diego California Temple (25-30 April 1993).
  30. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedication Prayer for the Vernal Utah Temple (2–4 November 1997).
  31. Gordon B. Hinkley, Conference Report (October 1997), 91.
  32. Gordon B. Hinckley, dedicatory prayer of Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple (6-7 March 1999).


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