A one-word change in the introduction to a 2006 edition of the Book of Mormon has re-ignited discussion among some Latter-day Saints about the book's historicity, geography and the descendants of those chronicled within its pages.
The book is considered scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many lifelong members grew up believing that American Indians are direct descendants of ancient people in the book called Lamanites, who the book says built a civilization in the Americas between about 600 B.C. and 400 A.D.
Past LDS Church leaders, particularly former church President Spencer W. Kimball, have made such statements, which have been supported by the introduction page in the Book of Mormon. Past editions of that page say all of the people chronicled in the book "were destroyed, except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." The new introduction reads much the same, but says the Lamanites "are among the ancestors of the American Indians."
The implications and ramifications of this are not small. They are much deeper than will be examined here, but this is a start.
The mormon church has, for years, asserted that most American Indians are descended from Lamanites, the "wicked" branch of the Lehi family tree, who wiped out the tribe of Nephi (ca. 400 AD), and became a "dark and loathsome" people (1st Nephi 12:23).
However, scientific research over the years has shown that American Indians did not originate from Jewish people (The point made in the video DNA vs. the Book of Mormon from Living Hope Ministries). While many Mormon apologists will try and claim a "limited geography" scenario for the event in the BOM, the Book of Mormon even says (all emphases mine):
- "And the people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth; yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land." (Book of Mormon, 1830, p.211-212, Mosiah 27:6).
- "...even to the land of Zarahemla: the whole face of the land having become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea." (Book of Mormon, 1830, p.518-521, Alma 2:27).
- "And thus it did come to pass that the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to build up their waste places, and began to multiply and spread, even until they did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the sea west to the sea east. (Helaman 11:20)
If the people of the Book of Mormon were scattered "from sea to sea", and over 230,000 men died in the "last battle" (Mormon 6:1-15), then this claim of "limited geography" is negated. Sea to sea and north to south and east to west is not a description of movement in a localized area, but a widespread migration. And the text of various BOM passages sems to indicate that the emigrants (from Israel) were the first ones to land in the area this supposedly took place. And since there is no record of these people intermarrying with emigrated Asians, and since it is only after they "dwindled in unbelief" that they became "dark and loathsome", then the next logical step is that these Lamanites were supposedly the progenitors of the American Indians of Central America.
However, this change to the BOM (Yes, it's only the introduction. I'll get to that in a moment) is particularly curious, becasue it opens up the question of whether they had anything at all to do with the beginnings of the Central American Indians. And if not, then what would be the deeper ramifications?
OK, I know what you're saying. "Well, it's just the intro to the BOM. And the 1981 intro was written by McConkie, and he had a habit of just talking off the top of his head" or something similar, right? Here's the problem: It isn't as though McConkie wrote it and then published it on his own. He wrote it, the elders of the LDS church examined it and approved it, and sent it out as such to their wards, stakes, temples, missionaries,and everybody else who wanted a copy!! That intro is in the BOM because that's what the LDS authorities approved!! Do you really think Kimball, et al., really let somebody put something into their precious Book of Mormon--which would be there for all the world to see--without their approval?? If you think they would, then, man, have I got a deal for you!