Evidence and Interpretation of the Book of Mormon:
Statements on Indian origins by LDS leaders.
Complied by Eleazar, 2003
This document contains published quotes from LDS leaders regarding the
identity of the American Indian. The
list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is believed that they provide a fair
sampling of similar statements made over the course of many years.
Up until recently,
LDS doctrine has maintained that the American Indian (Amerindian) and other native
Indian races of North and South American are literal descendents of Lehi in the
Book of Mormon and that the Book of Mormon contains a literal-factual history of
the ancient peoples of the Americas.
It has been taught in LDS doctrine over many years that Indians are literally
and factually Jewish (using vernacular, really Jacobite; tribe of Joseph) in
blood and genes, or at least predominantly so. However, controversy about this
doctrine has arisen in the past few years due to
the use of new DNA fingerprinting methods that can trace genetic lineage with
great confidence. These methods
have been used on numerous samples from living Indians as well as exhumed bones
of their ancestors to show that Indians are predominately of Asian origin, but no
evidence has been found to suggest they are of Israelite descent.
In this continuing controversy, a variety of alternative hypotheses have emerged from those who are reluctant to give up the traditional LDS interpretation regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon. As a part of these apologetic hypotheses, there also seems to be a subtle effort to distance the modern church from its earlier claims. One alternate hypothesis that is gaining popularity among LDS apologists is that the relevant Lehi-derived Israelite DNA has been enormously diluted by intermingling their DNA with others (e.g. peoples from Asia) and this is purported to be why Israelite DNA has not been found by the DNA fingerprinting studies on Indians. Despite this hypothesis having no scientific evidence whatsoever to support it, LDS scientists generally promulgate it as the hypothesis that is the most believable. More importantly, there seems to be reluctance on the part of LDS scientists to acknowledge or discuss prior interpretations made by LDS leaders on the subject, despite the fact that the Book of Mormon is unarguably a religious document.
It is not the purpose of this compilation to tear at the faith of the LDS religion in their most revered religious document. Rather, it is to suggest that the document should be not be looked upon as a historical record, which for some unspecified reason, many feel is essential to uphold its philosophical/religious value. The complier of these quotes does not claim the Book of Mormon has no value, but rather that its greatest message is sealed (hidden) from those who claim to be custodians of its truth (LDS leaders) as well as from those who miss the point of its meaning by thinking that it is essential for it to be a factual historical record.
If the Book of Mormon is not a literal history of the America's, then what is it? Click here to read a few comments that might get one started in a new direction.
Statements made by LDS Leaders on the Identity and Origins of the Lamanite/Indian Peoples
(Again, science has established that Indians are predominantly Asian in genetic origin. Some of the following quotes leave little room for alternative interpretations in regard to what LDS leaders have taught on it):
(We believe).... "That the existing
Indian tribes are all direct descendants of Lehi and his company, and that
therefore they have sprung from men all of whom were of the house of
Israel." -- James
E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p.293
"When Columbus discovered America,
the native inhabitants, the American Indians as they were soon to be designated,
were a people of mixed blood and origin.
Chiefly, they were Lamanites, but such remnants of the Nephite nation as
had not been destroyed had, of course, mingled with the Lamanites.
Thus the Indians were Jews by nationality.... [since then] there has been
[a]... dilution of the pure Lamanitish blood. ... But with it all,
the great majority are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the
Western Hemisphere, the dominant blood lineage is that of Israel.
The Indians are repeatedly called Lamanites in the revelations to....
become again a white and delightsome people as were their ancestors a great many
-- Bruce R.
McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed.,
1966, pp. 32-33.
"Here (holding the Book of Mormon in his hand) we present a record of this American continent, a history of a branch of the tribe of Joseph, for nearly 600 years before Christ, and until 420 years after Christ, a history of the Lord's dealings with them from the time they left Jerusalem until one of their principal nations fell in battle, because of their apostacy; and the descendants of the remaining remnant are this degenerated people we call Indians, who still exist. .... which afterwards became a "multitude of nations," according to the blessing pronounced by the ancient patriarch Jacob, when [p.174] blessing his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh." -- Orson Pratt Journal of Discourses Vol. 19, p.173
"We can pray to the Father, in the
name of Jesus, to convert these Indian tribes around us ...
that they shall be instructed not only in relation to their fathers and
the Gospel contained in the record of their fathers...
because they are of the blood of Israel"
-- Orson Pratt, Journal of Discoursess Vol. 17,
the blood of Manasseh is found in the tribes and nations of the Indians
of North and South America."
-- Hyrum G. Smith,
Conf report April 1929, p 123
"And we have scarcely touched the
Indian races. There is an immense field spreading out before the Elders of this
Church in the redemption of these poor remnants of the house of Israel. ...
But here stretches out before us this immense continent on the south,
peopled with descendants of the house of Israel"
-- ; George Q Cannon, Collected
Discourses Vol. 5, p.269
"These natives belong to the house
of Israel.... The Lord has
taken from this race any disposition for improvement even to this day; the best
of them consider it a disgrace to work. Whatever drudgery is performed is done
by their squaws, or by slaves captured from neighboring, tribes or bands. Ask
any of them to work; the reply is, "me big Indian, me no work."...
It is prophesied by Nephi as follows: "For after the book [Book of
Mormon] of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the
Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall
believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the
remnant of our seed [the present American Indians.] And then shall the remnant
of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that
they are descendants of the Jews."
-- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 10,
to serve and to teach hundreds of the children of Father Lehi. One expression of appreciation from an Indian boy included
these moving words: "Before I took LDS seminary I didn't have very much to
live for. ... I had always felt that Indians could not do things as well as
white people. Now I know that I am a child of God. I know that my people are of
the house of Israel. ... " --
Neal A. Maxwell Conference Report, October 1970, p.93
"I have had the privilege of
laboring among the true blood of Israel, through the loins of Joseph, through
the two branches of the House of Israel--Ephraim and Manasseh -- a people whom
the Lord loves -- a people whom the Lord chastens and forgives because of their
great faith." --
E. Wesley Smith Conference Report, October 1950, p.47
"Here he [God]
has the Indian or Lamanite, with a background of twenty-five centuries of
superstition, degradation, idolatry, and indolence....
I present to you a people who, according to prophecies, have been
scattered and driven, defrauded and deprived, who are a "branch of the tree
of Israel -- lost from its body -- wanderers in a strange land"--their own
land.... I beg of you, do not
disparage the Lamanite-Nephites ... Do not scoff and ignore these
Nephite-Lamanites... Do not prate your power of speech or your fearlessness
unless you too could stand with the Prophet Samuel on the city wall, dodging
stones and spears and arrows while trying to preach the gospel of salvation. The
very descendants of this great prophet are with us. They may be Navajos or
Cherokees.... Mayas or Pimas.... Piutes or Mohicans....
And in these living descendants ... will be redeemed, will rise and will
become a blessed people. God has said it."
Spencer W. Kimball,
Conference Report, April 1954, p.106-108
"In a sense I do not feel sorry for
the Indian people because they are children of promise, belonging as they do to
the house of Israel and are the posterity of Abraham, the father of the
faithful, through whose lineage the Lord promised that all nations of the earth
are to be blessed; therefore, they are a chosen race and people unto God,
possessing a divine and royal heritage."
Delbert L. Stapley , Conference Report, April 1956, p.56
"I presume that a majority of the
brethren and sisters who are here this afternoon have read in the Book of Mormon
the statement made by one of the writers, quoting the words of our Savior, in
regard to the city of New Jerusalem, that the Gentiles should be called to
assist the Lamanites, or the seed of the house of Israel, in the erection and
building of that city. ... I begin
to see a little of the preparatory work that I think is going to fit and prepare
the seed of Lehi, or the Lamanites, to perform this great and glorious work that
has been predicted upon their heads. One of the ancient prophets predicted that
kings and queens should be the nursing fathers and nursing mothers of the seed
of Israel in the latter days; and I find that, in a sense, this is being
fulfilled in the stake over which I preside. The government of the United
States, which, I presume, may be classed with the kingdoms of the earth, is
establishing schools, and there is one in our neighborhood that I desire to
refer to briefly. It is upon the San Juan river, among the Navajo Indians, and
is costing several hundreds of thousands of dollars."
-- Elder Walter C. Lyman
, Conference Report, October 1907, p.86
"Guatemala is a country of about
three million people. About half of them still dress in the Indian costume of a
thousand or two thousand years back. They are wonderful people, very simple....
. I went... to present them with a Book of Mormon. I started to say,
"I come to give you a copy of the Book of Mormon, a history of your
people," and two chiefs immediately arose on their feet, and I started to
say, "You are of the house of Israel," but before I could get it out
of my mouth they jumped to their feet and said, "We are of the House of
Elder Gordon M. Romney, Conference Report, April 1957, p.80
"That is the destiny of our Indian
tribes... the Lord has
rewarded unto them double for all the sins that were committed by their ancient
fathers in their apostacy, and when he has visited them in judgment according to
the prophecies that are contained in this Book of Mormon, and the times of the
Gentiles who noir occupy this land are fulfilled, then the Lord will make have
his arm, and he will redeem these remnants of Israel, that they may inherit the
blessings promised to their ancient fathers."
-- Orson Pratt, Journal
of Discourses Vol. 16, p.353
"Neither will He suffer that the
Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren"—that is, the Lamanites
proper. They were not to be permitted to destroy Nephi's seed that should
be mingled among the Lamanites, nor should they be permitted to destroy the
Lamanites—that is, the descendants of Laman and Lemuel. Nephi predicted
this. To-day it is said that the Indians will perish, and that it is
impossible to save them. Here is the word of God recorded in this sacred book.
... And strange to say—if
anything can be said to be strange connected with the work of God—the
descendants of those ancient covenant people of the Lord, have gladly received
the testimony of the servants of God. Wherever we have gone and mingled with
those people, with those Red Men, and been able to communicate to them the
truths of which we are in possession, which God has revealed to us, ... and
everywhere where those men with red skins dwell, they have gladly received the
testimony of God's servants concerning the Gospel, and they rejoice in its
fullness and in the knowledge that their fathers once possessed, and of the
redemption that Jesus Christ has wrought out for them."
-- George Q Cannon,
Journal of Discourses, Vol. 25, p.124, (1884)