Thursday, March 26, 2015

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Lamanite Curse (But Were Afraid to Ask)

       “And he 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
       The Book of Mormon is full of great topics to explore. Its many facets make it a fun and fulfilling read. But there is one Book of Mormon topic that has caused much confusion and even hurt among its readers: the Lamanite curse. Many assume the scriptures say the Lamanites' curse was a dark skin and that they were punished to become a different race than the Nephites. A few verses, written by Nephi, are at the root of this confusing curse conundrum:
"Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.
And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that 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.
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." (2 Nephi 5:20-24.)  

       These verses have caused a lot of discomfort for modern readers. Race is a loaded topic nowadays and it can be difficult to ask questions about such a sensitive issue. But it's important for us to understand the scriptures and the idea that God could ever give someone dark skin as a curse is pretty serious. Hopefully most of us realize dark skin is not a punishment. (Personally I think the Lamanites would have been more afflicted if God had caused a "skin of pastiness" to come upon them and forced them to wander the wilderness without sunscreen). Because God is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34) and "all are alike unto God," it should be obvious that God does not use race to curse people. What, then, do we make of the Lamanite curse? A careful analysis of the text and culture of the Book of Mormon help shed light on that question and allow us to see the Lamanites and the Nephites in more realistic terms.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stories Worth Sharing: The Hubener Youth

Life can get you down. The daily grind and the whirlwind of cynicism pervading society nowadays can make it hard to keep your head up. That's why we need good stories. Stories worth sharing. Stories that prove there is good in the world and that ordinary people can make a difference. The following is one of those stories.

       I really didn't deserve the opportunity to sit down with Karl-Heinz Schnibbe. He didn't know me when I called him and I'm sure he had plenty of other things to worry about without high school sophomores asking him for an interview. But for some reason he was kind enough to allow me (a friend of a friend with a history project to complete) to sit down with him in his living room and ask a few questions. Mr. Schnibbe was an elderly German man and the last surviving member of what historians now call the "Hubener group," a group of teenage boys from Hamburg who led their own resistance movement against the Nazis during WWII. Theirs is a profound story, one that everyone should have the chance to hear. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What's In a Rating?

       Mormons don’t watch R-rated movies...or do they? For modern latter-day saints living in a media-driven culture, this has become an increasingly important question. Church leaders including Richard G. Scott1 and David B. Haighthave counseled members not to see R-rated films. Ezra Taft Benson, speaking as President of the Church in the April 1986 general conference, also told his audience not to see R-rated movies.But Mormons still wrestle with the ratings issue. Many argue Hollywood rates its films arbitrarily and so an R-rated film could actually be more realistic and uplifting than a PG-13 title.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rogues Gallery: Joseph Smith, Moses, and Other Misunderstood Miscreants

"A man may have a blemish on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the blemish is emphasized unduly in relation to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity." - President Gordon B. Hinckley1 

       Many Halloweens ago, a group of young deacons huddled in the bushes near a road that ran by their LDS chapel. The boys had recently acquired a life-size dummy and were currently waiting to throw it in front of yet another passing car. They had already pranked several drivers that night and got a great kick out of hearing brakes screeching and drivers screaming as the "accident" unfolded again and again. Soon the boys caught sight of another vehicle approaching. This one was a city bus! Excited, the boys threw the dummy in front of the bus and watched as it screeched to a halt and the passengers screamed. One lady even fainted.