“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 26:33The 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.