Racism in the Book of Mormon

184 Primary Sources


Bernal Diaz offers account of Spanish spies doubling as Indigenous persons.


Samuel Burder's Bible commentary discusses how "black" is used as an expression of "reproach."

Jun 17, 1829

Jesse Smith's letter to Hyrum Smith refers to "blasphemy" and "iniquity" as "blackness of darkness."


Joseph translates Book of Mormon: "God denieth none, bond & free, black & white."


Alma wrote that God put a curse on the Lamanites.


Mormon describes how the Lamanites became Nephites.


Nephi explains Lamanite cursing.


Nephi described that his people "became an exceeding fair and delightsome people."


Nephi makes a record after "the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians."


Jacob tells Nephites to not revile against the Lamanties because of "the darkness of their skins."


Nephi wrote that when the curse was taken off of the Lamanites, they become "white like unto the Nephites."


Nephi wrote that Mary was a virgin who was "fair and white."


Mormon comments on how Nephites become Lamanites.


Enos describes the Lamanites as a "wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people."


Nephi comments on how Lord invites "black and white" to partake of the gospel.


Mormon comments on how Lamanites will be scattered.


Nephi looks at the Gentiles and recalls that "they were white . . . like unto my people."

Sep 1830

Joseph gives a revelation calling Oliver Cowdery to preach to the Lamanites.

Jul 17, 1831

W. W. Phelps includes text of alleged revelation from Joseph.

Dec 8, 1831

Ezra Booth identifies Native Americans as Lamanites.

Dec 8, 1831

Ezra Booth criticizes JS's support for alleged intermarriage with Native Americans.

Mar 1832

Joseph provides instruction on "pure" Adamic language.

Sep 11, 1833

Richards provides MS list of mob members.

Jan 30, 1834

Farmers and Mechanics Advocate reprints Jackson County mob manifesto.

Dec 14, 1834

William McLellin recalls Joseph Smith calling the creeds a "black deformity."

Apr 1, 1836

Joseph sees Black people as subject to the curse of Canaan.

Apr 1836

Angelina Grimke criticizes use of Canaan myth to justify enslavement.

Jul 18, 1836

Governor Dunklin maintains that Saints are abolitionists until proven otherwise.


Joseph records Lamanites as someday becoming "white and delightsome."

Apr 1837

Theodore Weld criticizes use of Canaan lore to justify slavery.

Sep 5, 1838

Glezen and Shepherd publishes pamphlet where Richard Weldon compared Saints to Black people with respect to voting rights.

Jan 1, 1839

Pratt notes role of perceived abolitionism in persecution.

Jun 1839 - Jan 1841

Joseph Smith says the angel described the gold plates as "an account of the former inhabitants of this continent."


Joseph Smith changes "white and delightsome" to be "pure and delightsome" in the 1840 Book of Mormon.

Jan 25, 1842

Willard Richards records in Joseph's journal that Joseph described Black people as "sons of Cain."

Feb 1842

Book of Abraham states Pharaoh was restricted from the priesthood because of lineage.

Mar 7, 1842

Joseph condemns slavery in a letter to Bennett.

Dec 30, 1842

Joseph Smith recommends freeing, educating, and giving equal rights to slaves.

Jan 2, 1843

Joseph favors laws to prevent mixed race marriages.

Jul 1843

Nott argues "probable extermination of the two races if the Whites and Blacks are allowed to intermarry."

Jul 1, 1843 - Apr 30, 1844

Eliza R. Snow publishes a poem that uses "blackness" as a synonym for "rottenness" and "corruption."

Aug 16, 1843

J. C. Nott states that interracial marriage will produce infertile couples.

Jan 2, 1844

Joseph considers Saints associated with plight of "rebellious n---ers."

Jan 6, 1844

Udney H. Jacob writes a letter to Joseph Smith where the "wicked" are "reserved [for] the blackness of darkness."

Jan 26, 1844 - Feb 7, 1844

Joseph's presidential platform includes abolishing slavery.

May 1844

Native tribes recount their history to Joseph, say different colors of men make no difference.

May 23, 1844

Sauk and Fox tribe recount their history to Joseph.

Apr 1, 1845

John Taylor states that the descendants of Ham have black skin, and are "apostate of the holy priesthood" and that the abolitionists are trying to make void the curse.

Dec 24, 1845

Heber C. Kimball's journal records Hofheintz couple as receiving their endowment in Nauvoo.

Mar 1, 1847

Robert Campbell comments on William McCary and Lucy Stanton as couple.

May 19, 1847

William Appleby says ordination of Black people was contrary to the "order of the Church" and "Law of the Priesthood."

Jun 2, 1847

William Appleby refers to Walker Lewis, whose son had married a white woman.

Jun 2, 1847

Appleby notes the son of Lewis is married to a white woman.

Jun 2, 1847

William Appleby gives details on Walker Lewis's life.

Dec 2, 1847

Brigham criticizes interracial marriage and mentions "if they were far away from the Gentiles they would all [h]av[e] to be killed."

Dec 2, 1847

William I. Appleby references the interracial marriage of Enoch Lewis.

Feb 14, 1850

George Fullmer speaks to Daniel H. Wells of actions taken with captive women and children.

Feb 20, 1850

Wakara/Walker tells that Mormons killed his friend, does not want to fight.

Feb 23, 1850

Daniel H. Wells orders William McBride to release prisoner, confirms Black Hawk's authority, urges compliance.

Mar 2, 1850

GDG charges JS for lack of support for expedition.

Mar 15, 1850

Isaac Morley reports to Brigham that Wakara believes Mormon presence is beneficial.

Mar 21, 1850

Daniel H. Wells speaks of distribution of loot from Utah war.

May 1, 1850

DHW provides counsel to Wakara for peace.

May 13, 1850

Daniel H. Wells tells Wakara to listen to local bishop.

May 22, 1850

BY encourages peace with Wakara.

Aug 25, 1850

Isaac Higbee writes to Brigham to tell about Indigenous persons stealing horses.

Jul 8, 1851

Farr writes to Brigham informing him of Indians stealing horses from the settlers.

Jul 11, 1851

Brigham tells Farr to avoid violent retribution.

Jan 1, 1852

Utah act legalizing slavery forbids interracial sexuality (section 4).

Jan 16, 1852

Wilford Woodruff reports that Brigham stated interracial marriage was worthy of death.

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham denounces interracial marriage and gives an explanation for the priesthood and temple restrictions.

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham says that, as a prophet, he knows Black people are the children of Cain and "cannot bear rule in the priesthood."

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham says only God can take the priesthood restriction off.

Apr 3, 1852

Deseret News uses Cain rationale for ban.

Aug 29, 1852

Orson Pratt gives first public discourse on polygamy, another example (besides the priesthood ban) of the Church taking a position without concern for popular opinion.

May 7, 1853

Brigham tells Isaac Morley that Wakara is a "friend," and they will become "white and delightsome."

May 7, 1853

Brigham Young provides account of Indian difficulties.

Aug 15, 1853

Geore McKenzie provides brief account of 1853 difficulties.

Dec 3, 1853

Brigham promises lenience to Indians who have killed and stolen.

May 14, 1854

Thomas D. Brown records David Lewis speaking about utilizing Paiute as a "battle axe."

Sep 8, 1855

Brigham tells Jefferson Davis that Kenosh not guilty in Gunnison Massacre.


Howard Stansbury provides account of expedition's aftermath planning.

Jan 16, 1856

Kenosh speaks to the Utah Territorial Legislature about his intentions.

Feb 5, 1856 - Mar 16, 1856

Samuel Woolley provides an account of disciplinary action for interracial marriage.

Oct 9, 1859

Brigham says that Black people cannot hold priesthood office because of the curse of Cain.

Dec 1860

Horace Greeley records Brigham's comments on slavery connected to the curse of Ham.

Jan 1, 1861

N. B. Johnson inquires whether mixed-race ancestry makes him ineligible for priesthood.

Mar 8, 1863

Brigham says that interracial marriage warrants death.

Aug 9, 1863

Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz gives opinion on the morality of "half-breeds."

Aug 19, 1866

Brigham explains priesthood ban doctrine.

Dec 25, 1869

Brigham teaches Lorenzo Young that nobody was neutral in the war of heaven and teaches the curse of Cain.

Jul 26, 1871

Deseret News editorial refers to Black people as "little better than savages."

Oct 25, 1871

The Ogden Junction publishes obituary for Moroni Able.

Oct 25, 1871

The Ogden Junction reported that Moroni Able was ordained to the priesthood.

Aug 5, 1873 - Mar 10, 1874

Smith, Picknell, Lindsey, and Leach describe duties of deacons.

Sep 3, 1875

Eight Black Saints perform baptisms for the dead in the Salt Lake Temple in 1875.

May 6, 1879

Smith reports on Able's mixed-race heritage.

Jun 4, 1879

First Presidency meeting minutes record Joseph F. Smith asserting that some aspects of Zebedee Coltrin's recollections about Elijah Able's priesthood status and temple blessings were incorrect.

Oct 1883

Missouri Supreme Court cites infertility as reason to ban interracial marriage.

Oct 25, 1883

H. M. Turner comments on mixed-race marriage in 19th-century Utah.


DHW provides account of expedition.

Jun 16, 1888

Jane Manning James receives letter from Angus Cannon with a recommend to do baptisms for the dead.

Oct 1, 1890

Heber J. Grant records that Lorenzo Snow was glad that revelation could bring a change to the priesthood ban.

Nov 15, 1892

In a Church periodical, George Q. Cannon states that priesthood ordinations "have been done by Elders when they thought children were likely to die."

Mar 25, 1893

George Q. Cannon notes the lack of interracial marriage in Utah.

May 18, 1894

Jane Manning James is attached as a "Servitor for eternity to the Prophet Joseph Smith."


Jane Manning James records that Emma Smith offered to adopt her.


James recorded she performed baptisms for the dead for her ancestors.

Jan 2, 1902

Jane Manning James mentioned not being satisfied with adoption to Joseph Smith as a servant, and she requested sealing blessings again.

Jan 2, 1902

Smith expresses "one drop" rule on temple/priesthood access for Black people as an opinion.

Jan 2, 1902

John H. Smith thinks that those who have dominant white ancestry should be allowed to go to the temple.

Aug 31, 1903

Jane Manning James asks J. F. Smith for her endowment.

Oct 7, 1906

Richard Young cites anti-slavery as the cause for persecution of the Saints in Missouri.

Aug 26, 1908

Able and James were denied temple blessings by Brigham, Taylor, Woodruff, and Joseph F. Smith.

Dec 1, 1909

Nelson Ritchie tells John Whitaker that his children had been sealed.

Dec 1, 1909

John Whitaker cites "one drop" rule in justifying restricting Nelson Ritchie from receiving sealing.

Jan 1, 1912

James E. Talmage writes that ordinances are performed by proxy for the dead.

Dec 1921

Janne Sjodahl explains how others may pre-date/co-exist with Book of Mormon peoples.

Oct 1949

Spencer W. Kimball comments on Native Americans.


Joseph Fielding Smith writes that the "dark skin" of the Lamanites was the "sign" of the curse, but it is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse today.


Bruce R. McConkie writes that the "American Indians" ("Lamanites") will, in the future, become "white and delightsome."


Bruce R. McConkie discusses the "Lamanite Curse" in Mormon Doctrine.


John J. Stewart uses Lamanites as a case study in curse-by-darkening.

Oct 7, 1960

Kimball makes a joke about using blood donations to make indigenous Americans more "white and delightsome."

Mar 25, 1971

Berry was endowed and sealed after her death.


Pamphlet published by Church in 1974 teaches that the Lamanites were "marked by the Lord with a darker skin."

Dec 1975

Dean L. Larsen understands the growth in Church membership among "Lamanites" in Central America to be the fulfillment of prophetic promises in the Book of Mormon.

Apr 3, 1976

J. Thomas Fyans understands the increase in missionary efforts, and increase in Church membership of, "Lamanites" (Native Americans) to be a fulfillment of prophecy.


LeGrand Richards discusses the role of Brazil in Official Declaration 2.


Hartley writes that the main work of deacons in the late 19th century was to care for the meetinghouses.


Bush cites statements of Lorenzo Snow on marriage and priesthood restrictions.

Jan 19, 1984

Donald T. Schmidt argues "white" in 2 Nephi 30:6; was being used in a symbolic fashion for "pure."


Sparks says Israel tribes are ethnically inclusive.


Gay Robins gives an overview of color symbolism in ancient Egypt and the colorization of foreigners.


Haynes describes widespread explanation for black skin and slavery in the 1830's based on Noah's curse of Canaan.


Stephen Haynes argues that associating Biblical curse language with Black people was common in the mid-nineteenth-century.


John A. Tvedtnes argues that black-and-white imagery in the Book of Mormon is symbolic.


Hugh W. Nibley compares the Book of Mormon's use of darkness to an ancient Egyptian autobiography.

Apr 2004

Clate W. Mask Jr. speaks of "Children of Lehi" in Central America embracing the Gospel, including Temple attendance.


Brant A. Gardner argues that black skin in the Book of Mormon is metaphorical for out-groups.


Mark E. Peterson notes an article that traces Priesthood ban to Brigham Young rather than Joseph Smith.

Mar 28, 2009

Connell O'Donovan summarizes interracial marriage incident involving Laura Jane Berry.

Mar 28, 2009

Connell O'Donovan provides account of interracial marriage in the 19th-century Church.


Avraham Faust argues Israelite ethnicity was and is identified more by behavior than external markers.

Jul 25, 2010

R. Scott Lloyd reports Marlin K. Jensen saying that Indigenous peoples lost land and "cultural birthright."

Dec 20, 2010

Peggy Fletcher Stack reports the Church heading changes in the Salt Lake Tribune.


Nephi sees the Twelve Old World apostles in a vision; their garments "are made white" in Christ's blood.


Mormon describes Jesus's followers in the New World as "white" with "nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof."


Mormon abridges Alma where he describes how Moroni found a Nephite that was a descendant of Laman to pretend to be a Lamanite.


Nephi teaches that God "esteemeth all flesh in one": one is favored by God if they are righteous.


Jesus teaches that He and God the Father will gather people from "among all nations."


Helaman 7 teaches that one's skin does not have any bearing on one's status as a sinful or righteous person.


Jesus, in the Sermon at the Temple, speaks of "white" and "black" hair.


The Lamanites are described as being a "lazy and an idolatrous people."


Jacob uses "Nephite" and "Lamanite" as political designators.


Ammon teaches that God is mindful of everyone, regardless of "whatsoever land they may be in."


Jacob teaches that "one being is as precious" in the sight of God "as the other."


Mormon reports that, after the ascension of Christ, there were no "Lamanites, nor any manner of-ites;" instead, people were all united.


Nephi, quoting Isaiah, speaks of God clothing "the heavens with blackness."


BOM introduction identifies Lamenite relationship with indigenous Americans.


Nephi teaches that saints must love all men.

Feb 1, 2013 - Feb 28, 2013

Connell O'Donovan writes that Hyrum Barton was excommunicated for his illicit marriage to Laura Jane Berry.

Dec 1, 2013

In the Gospel Topics Essay, the Church denounces past theories and racism.


Ethan Sproat argues that "skins" in the Book of Mormon should be understood as garments.


John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton explain that Israelites would use "pejorative and dehumanizing terms" for those outside of the covenant.


Adam Oliver Stokes argues that "skins of blackness" refers to spiritual darkness.

Oct 23, 2018

During a trip to Paraguay (October 2018), Wendy Nelson teaches that the Paraguayan people are the children of Lehi and Sariah.


Come Follow Me (2020) print edition interprets the "curse" to be "dark skin."


Reiter states that eight Black Saints participated in baptisms for the dead in 1875.


Jane Manning James is authorized by stake president to do baptisms for the dead in 1888.


Jeremy Talmage argues that the description of Native Americans as "black" contrasts with the 19th-century description of natives as "red."


Online version of Come Follow Me Manual states that the "nature and appearance of this mark are not fully understood," referring to the Lamanite "mark of darn skin."

Jan 21, 2020

Elder Stevenson apologizes for Come Follow Me Manual (2020) teaching that "dark skin" was the curse; requests Church members to disregard that paragraph in the printed manual.


Gerrit M. Steenblik argues that "blackness" in the Book of Mormon should be understood as Mayan paint.


David M. Belnap argues that the Book of Mormon's message is opposed to racism and other forms of discrimination.

Mar 25, 2021

Social Sciences Library provides definition of "ethnocentrism."


Daniel Becerra et al. give an overview of the interpretation of black/white skins in the Book of Mormon; argues there are problems with a purely metaphorical approach.


Jan J. Martin discusses the "skin of blackness" in the Book of Mormon; argues the language of "cursed" in the text is covenantal, not racial, and that the "skin of blackness" might be tattoos.

Jan 19, 2022

Family Search records show that Johanna Provis was endowed and sealed.

Jan 19, 2022

Nelson Ritchie endowed and sealed after his death.

Jan 19, 2022

Family Search records show that Rebecca Meads was endowed and sealed in 1863.


Historian W. Paul Reeve states that the priesthood restriction was not inspired and was a mistake.


Clifford P. Jones argues that the Lamanite "mark" was an ancient tattoo (sacrilegious mark) and has nothing to do with natural skin color.


Kerry Hull discusses the Book of Mormon's description of the Lamanites, such as their being "filthy" and "black"; concludes it is symbolic language for "sin."