Cursing vs. Marking in the Book of Mormon
PLEASE NOTE: We are trying something different with this article. It presents an interpretation of a portion of scripture that is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of The Church of Jesus Christ. It is intended to promote thought and perhaps discussion on this topic. Please consider this before leaving any comments. – Gospel Blog Ministry Review Team
I've always loved the Bible and Book of Mormon but have felt uncomfortable when reading scripture that says, "...after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations." (See 1 Nephi 12:22-23; see also Alma 3:6, 2 Nephi 5:21-22, Jacob 3:8, 3 Nephi 2:15-16, among many others.)
These verses in the Book of Mormon certainly make it sound like God changed the DNA of a complete group of people when they sinned against Him. Then, once converted, the DNA of that group changed back: light-skinned saints to dark-sinned sinners and then dark-skinned sinners to light-skinned saints. Many people hold this belief.
I personally don't believe the skin color of any people genetically changed in the Book of Mormon. Skin color does not change today due to sin, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We have beautiful saints across America and the entire world of varying ethnic groups and skin colors. I might burn bright red after 15 minutes in the sun while my wife gets very tan very quickly. Those characteristics reflect our diverse genetic makeup, not our love for God.
Consider the following portion of scripture from Alma 3:
"And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression...therefore they were cursed; and God set a mark upon them...whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed...whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him."
Wow! Very clearly this explains that the Lamanites were cursed, and God set a mark upon them. The curse was given because of their sins. Anyone joining the Lamanites would fall into the same sins and receive a "mark." Now, let's look just a little deeper.
"...the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites ... for they also had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads. Thus, the word of God is fulfilled ... I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also" (emphasis added).
The above verses indicate that the Amlicites were cursed and received a "mark," but the "mark" was something they placed upon themselves, just as the Lamanites did. To a Nephite, the outward sign of the "mark" was a confirmation of God's curse. Remember, the Book of Mormon is written from a Nephite point of view.
Did skin color genetically change darker? I don't think it did. The Lamanites probably covered their skin with a covering that the Nephites associated as "filthy." Remember, in Alma 55 Captain Moroni sends one Lamanite and a group of Nephites covertly to a Lamanite war camp. No Lamanite even suspected they were Nephites. If Nephites and Lamanites had natural differences in their genetic skin color, the spies could never have succeeded.
When the curse is lifted, God promises "their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes" (2 Nephi 30). When Christ appears to the Nephites at the Temple Bountiful, the people appear whiter than could be physically described. I believe the contrast between black and white, light and dark is spiritual (purity), not physical (skin color).
Remember in Matthew 6, "the eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light ... if then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
From this, I conclude that the only physical change for the Lamanites was a self-inflicted covering (mark), which the Nephites recognized in their culture and belief system as a fulfillment of God's curse.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval. Please see note at top of today's post.