Saturday, December 18, 2010

Church softens racial elements in the Book of Mormon

Church removes racial references in Book of Mormon headings
The LDS Church has made subtle — but significant — changes to chapter headings in its online version of the faith's signature scripture, The Book of Mormon, toning down some earlier racial allusions.
The words "skin of blackness" were removed
from the introductory italicized summary in 2 Nephi, Chapter 5, in describing the "curse" God put on disbelieving Lamanites.
Deeper into the volume, in Mormon, Chapter 5, the heading changes from calling Lamanites "a dark, filthy, and loathsome people" to "because of their unbelief, the Lamanites will be scattered, and the Spirit will cease to strive with them."
In both cases, the text itself remains unchanged.

Chapter summaries were added in the 1920s, then rewritten by the late LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie in 1981. That same year, a verse that used "white and delightsome" to describe what will happen to dark-skinned peoples when they repent was changed to "pure and delightsome."
Critics argued the change was made to address allegations of racism, since the Utah-based faith had a racial policy that, until 1978, barred blacks from being ordained to the church's all-male priesthood.
A decade later, the faith's governing First Presidency approved minor changes to some Book of Mormon chapter headings, explained church spokesman Michael Purdy.
The tweaks described above were made in several foreign editions, including Portuguese, Spanish and German translations. The original headings remained in most English editions until 2004, when Doubleday published the first trade version of the LDS scripture and implemented the editing.
Until this month, the 1981 headings remained in the church's online version at When the church upgraded its website, the Doubleday changes were included online. The former version will continue — for now — in the printed English versions.
Skousen, editor of a 2009 Yale edition of The Book of Mormon, sees the heading changes as a nod to contemporary readers.
LDS officials don't want readers to focus on the kind of "overt statements about race that were in McConkie's 1981 summaries," he said....
The online headings also change many words from a more archaic to a modern language, Skousen said. "Given our times, I think they did the right thing."
To Grant Hardy, an LDS historian at the University of North Carolina in Asheville who edited a "reader's edition" of The Book of Mormon in 2005, the changes are interesting.
"Headings do give readers a preview, a take on how to interpret what happens," Hardy said. "The church is clearly downplaying the 'skin of blackness.' "

Does Hardy think the Nephites were racist? Well, yes, he said, but that would not be surprising.
Downplaying that element, Hardy said, "probably fits The Book of Mormon better overall."
Excerpted from Church removes racial references in Book of Mormon headings  by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune

2 Nephi, Chapter 5
Before the change •… Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.
After the change • … Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cut off from the presence of the Lord, are cursed, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.
Relevant text; 2 Nephi 5:21-25

Add a Note  22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.   
 23 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. 
 24 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. 
 25 And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction.
Mormon, Chapter 5
Before the change • … The Lamanites shall be a dark, filthy, and loathsome people. …
After the change • … Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites will be scattered, and the Spirit will cease to strive with them. …
Relevant text; Mormon 5:15-20

15 ... for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry.
 16 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.
 17 They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.
 18 But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.
 19 And behold, the Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land, for the Gentiles who shall possess the land.
 20 But behold, it shall come to pass that they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles; and after they have been driven and scattered by the Gentiles, behold, then will the Lord remember the covenant which he made unto Abraham and unto all the house of Israel.

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