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The Curse of Dark Skin

"Black and white, bond and free, male and female; ... all are alike unto God" (2 Nephi 26:33).

You sometimes hear this advertised by the LDS Church whenever they celebrate the birthday of 
Martin Luther King Jr. (in January) or when it commemorates the granting of the priesthood to 
those of African descent (in June) 

This is partially true; it is one side of the race coin which exists in LDS theology. One one side of 
the coin is the proposition that black people and white people are created in the image of God.

But we need to more fully examine the other side of the race coin - what the Book of Mormon teaches 
is the symbolism of dark skin.

Some very good insight can also be found in an old book published way back in 1931 called "The 
Way To Perfection." 

I will discuss "The Way to Perfection" near the end of the text, but for now let's turn to the Mormon 

The first time we hear about the curse of dark or black skin in the Book of Mormon is 2 Nephi 5:21-23. 
It is said that God cursed the Lamanites with black skin so they would not be enticing unto the Nephites.

Even though Alma 17:14 describes the Lamanites as being a wild, ferocious, plundering, robbing, and 
murdering people, God felt the need to change their skin color to make them not enticing to the Nephites ... 
as if their immoral acts were not sufficient enough to deter the Nephites into wanting to become like 
them. It is also stated in 2 Nephi 5:23 that the Nephites would also be cursed with the dark skin if they 
married with the Lamanites.

The Lamanite babies that were born to the dark-skinned Lamanites also had the sign of the curse.

How black skin is not attractive to the white-skinned Nephite people is a discussion for another time.

In Alma 3:6-7, it is recorded that 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 and their 
rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just 
and holy men. And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord 
God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and 
Ishmaelitish women

In the Bible, the Israelites who conquered the land of Canaan and later apostatized were not cursed 
with dark skin to separate themselves from those sons of Jacob who remained faithful to God's 
covenant. Even in the LDS teaching of the period of the Great Apostasy, white people did not turn 
black and black people did not turn white.

There is a case in Alma 23:18 where the curse was removed from the Lamanites and it did no more 
follow them. But it does not say if they changed skin color.

According to 3 Nephi chapters 11 through 30, Jesus is said to visit the Nephites somewhere in the 
Americas sometime around 34 A.D.

According to 4 Nephi 1:6, twenty-five years had passed away since Jesus ascended back into 
heaven, from there to visit all the other lost tribes of the house of Israel. In 4 Nephi 1:10, we learn 
that all the people of Nephi had become "an exceedingly fair and delightsome people". In other 
words, they became white-skinned. See the footnote 10a. It links to 1 Nephi 13:15, 2 Nephi 5:21, 
and Mormon 9:6.

In 1 Nephi 13:15, the Gentiles who are said to have discovered America (aka Christopher Columbus) 
were physically white like the Nephites before they were slain at the great battle with the Lamanites. 
The spiritually-dark Nephites were slain because they had fallen into apostasy.

Let's specifically look at Mormon 9:6. "O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto 
the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having 
been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day

In Jacob 3:8, one also learns that the skin color of the Lamanites could be whiter than those of the 
Nephites when they would appear before God's throne.

According to 4 Nephi 1:14-17, 66 years had passed since the arrival of Christ to the 'Americas' 
(100 years from the birth of Christ). This was time when the happiest people on earth lived in the 
'Americas.'  Only righteous people existed. There were no Nephites, no Lamanites, "nor any manner 
of -ites."

From around 100 A.D. to 200 A.D., the period of righteousness reigned. In the 201st year, sin 
began to creep into the church (4 Nephi 1:24). In the 110th year, a small group of people separated 
and took upon themselves the name of 'Lamanites' (4 Nephi 1:20). In the 231st year, the designation 
of 'Nephites' had come back (4 Nephi 1:35). Three other divisions also came about (Jacobites, Josephites, 
and Zoramites).

4 Nephi 1:45-46 records that the Nephites had become wicked like the Lamanites. There were no 
righteous except for only three disciples. Moroni 9:20 records that the Nephites even exceeded the 
wickedness of the Lamanites. The Nephites were said to have raped the Lamanite women, torturing 
them unto death, and then eating their flesh (Moroni 9:9-10). But in none of this did their skin color 
become dark.

According to Mormon 1:13-14 (circa 322 A.D.), "wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole 
" and "there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of 
their wickedness and unbelief."

This was a period of total apostasy.

The Mormon Jesus had failed to prevent Satan from destroying his church again like Latter-day Saints 
believe Satan destroyed the first century church.

In Mormon 2:14, we learn that the Nephites cursed God and wished they would die. The Lamanites 
on the other hand resorted to offering up the Nephite women and children prisoners as human sacrifices 
to their idols (Mormon 4:15). Mormon 4:12 even records that these people were the most wicked of 
any of the tribes of Israel (Mormon 4:12).

The Book of Mormon never describes the return of the curse of black skin upon the Nephites and the 

The Lamanites were not a white-skinned people when the LDS Church says that the Lamanites are 
the principle ancestors of the native American Indians. The Nephites are said to be white however 
when they are slain in the great Lamanite-Nephite war story in the Book of Mormon.

The curse of dark skin was not mentioned at all in the great Jaredite civilization that was also said to 
have come to a choice land above all other lands.

When you compare the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon with today's version, you will see a 
small editing change in 2 Nephi 30:6. The word "white" in the phrase "they shall be a white and a 
delightsome people
" has been changed to "pure.". The fact that white has been changed to pure 
reflects the LDS belief that white skin is symbolic of purity whereas black skin is symbolic of impurity.

In the one hundred and thirtieth semi-annual conference of the LDS Church (1960), future President 
Spencer W. Kimball said, "The work is unfolding, and blinded eyes begin to see, and scattered 
people begin to gather. I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today as 
against that of only fifteen years ago. Truly the scales of darkness are falling from their eyes, 
and they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people

The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are 
now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty 
Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally 

The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and 
sisters in the hogans on the reservation. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-
old daughter we represent, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and 
mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same 
reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather .... These young 
members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness
." (online, local copy).

Some LDS members have gone to great lengths to smooth over their church's past teachings on the
Negro.  There is a 13-part video series on Youtube.

I found the last 5 minutes of part 3 (Blacks in the Scriptures: Equality and Priesthood) interesting. It basically 
said the ban was a practice, and not a doctrine or revelation of God. If the LDS Church made a mistake, there 
is no need to say 'sorry'. We only spoke with a limited set of understanding.

Marvin Perkins says, "Let's eat what's on the plate now and then if we have a desire for more then that may 
be an appropriate question". He basically echos McConkie's earlier statement that [paraphrasing] we should 
forget everything said before if we are corrected in the future. The closing statement by the white gentleman 
in the audience brushes away any need for an apology by the church.

Some would argue that if it really wasn't a revelation of God to ban the priesthood, then you wouldn't need a 
revelation to reverse it.

It is true that the negro race is barred from holding the Priesthood, and this has always been 
the case. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this doctrine, and it was made known to him, although
we know of no such statement in any revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Mormon, 
or the Bible. However, in the Pearl of Great Price, we find the following statement written by 
Abraham: ‘Now this first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of 
Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was
patriarchal. Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely 
and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first
generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, 
his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but
cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.’ Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:25-26
" (Joseph Fielding 
Smith, "The Negro and the Priesthood," Improvement Era, April 1924, p. 565).

If Smith sees this "doctrine" in their scripture, it has to be doctrine.  David O. McKay pointed to this same 
verse to justify it. Another:

"The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not 
a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is 
founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may 
become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. 
The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President 
Brigham Young said: ‘Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? 
It comes in consequence of their fathers’ rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of 
God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in 
the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and receive all the blessings
we arremoved from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the Priesthood, and receive 
all the blessings we are entitled to
’" (Official statement of the First Presidency to BYU President Ernest L. 
Wilkinson, dated August 17, 1951, quoted in John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, pp. 89-90).

And another:

"The principles that the Prophet Joseph taught are the doctrines that we must abide in, or we shall be 
overthrown. …It was manifest to him that the seed of Cain would not come in remembrance before
the Lord for their final redemption, until the seed of Abel the righteous should all have their opportunity

(Apostle Franklin D. Richards, October 5, 1896, Collected Discourses 5:220. Ellipsis mine).

According to chapter 8 of the Religion 121-122 Book of Mormon Student Manual

What was the mark or sign set upon the Lamanites?

It is also explained in verse 21 that so “they might not be enticing unto my people [the Nephites] 
the Lord did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them [the Lamanites].” It would appear that 
this was done to limit the spreading of more wickedness. Later Alma suggested this same motive 
when he explained that “the skins of the Lamanites were dark . . . that thereby the Lord God might 
preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions” (Alma 3:6, 8). 
Throughout scripture we find warnings of the Lord not to marry unbelievers (see Deuteronomy 
7:2–3; 2 Corinthians 6:14); the result of doing so was often that the righteous were turned away 
from the Lord (see Deuteronomy 7:4; 1 Kings 11:4; D&C 74:5).  Some people have mistakenly 
thought that the dark skin placed upon the Lamanites was the curse. President Joseph Fielding 
Smith (1876–1972) explained that the dark skin was not the curse:

“The dark skin was placed upon the Lamanites so that they could be distinguished from the Nephites
and to keep the two peoples from mixing. The dark skin was the sign of the curse [not the curse 
itself ].  The curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord. . . .

“The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the
curse. . . . These converts are delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord”
(Answers to Gospel 
Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 3:122–23).

If the dark skin was the sign of the curse and the curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord from a 
Lamanite, then white (or light) skin color means the Spirit of the Lord is with the Nephites.

The Way to Perfection

What has the Mormon Church taught in relation to the Negroes being denied the Priesthood?

It took some time to find this book published way back in 1931 by Joseph Fielding Smith. For 
obvious reasons, it is not published by the Mormon Church today.

As we have seen earlier from a Youtube video, the former President of the Mormon Church, Gordon 
B. Hinckley, admitted that he did not know why the Negroes were denied the Priesthood.  The 
1931 text makes it obviously clear. You would figure anyone who is anyone of high importance in 
the LDS Church would be very familiar with this book.

Let's examine some key passages in chapters 15 and 16.

Chapter 15 is entitled, "The Seed of Cain." Chapter 16 is entitled, "The Seed of Cain After the 

"Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father 
of an inferior race" (p. 101).

"Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with black skin and have been denied the 
privilege of Priesthood and the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants 
of Cain" (p. 101).

"Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of 
mankind from the beginning" (p. 101).

"But what a contrast! The sons of Seth, Enoch and Noah honored by the blessings and rights of 
Priesthood! And the sons of Cain, denied the Priesthood" (p. 102).

"In the spirit of sympathy, mercy and faith, we will also hope that blessings may eventually be given to 
our Negro brethren, for they are our brethren - children of God - notwithstanding their black covering 
emblematical of eternal darkness" (p. 102).

"The curse placed on Cain was continued in his posterity and that through the seed of Ham this curse 
was brought through the flood" (p. 103).

"Some of the brethren who were associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that he taught 
this doctrine" (p. 103).

"President Brigham Young, answering a question put to him by Elder Lorenzo D. Young in a meeting 
held December 25, 1869, in Salt Lake City, said that Joseph Smith had declared that the Negroes 
were not neutral in heaven, for all the spirits took sides, but the posterity of Cain are black because 
he (Cain) committed murder" (p. 105).

"When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming 
into the Kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received 
their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his 
posterity" (p. 106).

"He (Cain) sinned against the light ... moreover, he was cursed and his posterity after him because he 
cut off Abel in his youth without posterity" (p. 106).

"It was well understood by the early elders of the Church that the mark which was placed on Cain 
and which his posterity inherited was the black skin" (p. 107).

"The Book of Moses informs us that Cain and his descendants were black" (p. 107).

"President George A. Smith, speaking of the Negro race, in a discourse, September 23, 1855, 
said: When Cain brought a curse upon his own head and that of his household, his after generations 
bear the same curse. The curse that came upon Canaan, the son of Ham, was extended to a great 
portion of the human race, and has continued to the present day" (p. 109).

"This doctrine did not originate with President Brigham Young but was taught by the Prophet 
Joseph Smith" (p. 110).

"The Indians have greater cause to complain of the treatment of the whites, than the Negroes, or 
sons of Cain - D.H.C., 4:501. But we all know it is due to his teachings that the Negro today is 
barred from the Priesthood" (p. 111).

Apparently all this information slipped the mind of former President Gordon B. Hinckley before 
and during his interview.

"The Negro may be baptized and enter the Church; and some of these unfortunate people have 
been baptized and have proved their faithfulness and worthiness before the Lord, in this their 
second estate" (p. 111).

Also see pages 184-188 of "Answers to Gospel Questions - volume 2" and pages 122-123 of
"Answers to Gospel Questions - volume 3".

I do not believe that the Negro race is an unfortunate people. But I do believe that it is unfortunate 
that Latter-day Saints cannot obtain these books more readily from their church.

It is almost as if the LDS Church is trying to remove part of its historical teachings. Maybe this 
would account for the fact that even a Mormon President is in the dark about some church history. 
Now since he is in the dark, you can imagine the state of the ordinary lay persons.

In Jacob 3:8, white skin will be a sign of one's spiritual purity as they appear before God's throne 
for judgment. Or maybe this is just for the Lamanites/Native American Indians?

In the meantime, it appears that the sign of the curse of Cain still remains on the Negro race even though 
the Mormon Church extended the Priesthood to them in 1978. According to the published declaration, 
there is no mention of the sign of the curse being removed - for their skin is still dark.

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