A Review of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (Part 3C)

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Misrepresentations of Historical Sources

Lamanites and American Indians

In addition to restricting the location of the Book of Mormon’s “choice land” to the United States, the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (AEBOM) attempts to erase or diminish the Lamanite identity of indigenous American populations outside of the “heartland.” It accomplishes this by selectively quoting early Latter-day Saint leaders who interacted with local Native Americans living in the United States and identified them as Lamanites (117–118, 537, 545–547) and appealing to DNA studies which, the editors claim, links these groups to “lineages traced to both Egypt and the regions of northern Israel” (554).

The AEBOM’s fallacious use of DNA science will be discussed in a subsequent post. Here it is worth pointing out that, once again, Hocking and Meldrum have created a false impression with their presentation. They want their readers to believe that Joseph Smith and other prophets have exclusively identified Native Americans living in the “heartland” of America as Lamanites, when in fact “most [early Latter-day Saints] considered the Native Americans broadly as heirs to Book of Mormon promises.”1

Just how broadly have Latter-day Saint leaders extended Lamanite heritage to Native American peoples? A sampling of quotations demonstrates that, as with the span of the “land of promise” or the location of Zion, Lamanite identity has historically been bestowed on peoples across the range of North and South America.

  • Quorum of the Twelve (1845): “We also bear testimony that the “Indians” (so called) of North and South America are a remnant of the tribes of Israel; as is now made manifest by the discovery and revelation of their ancient oracles and records. And that they are about to be gathered, civilized, and made one nation in this glorious land. They will also come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and of the fulness of the gospel; and they will embrace it, and become a righteous branch of the house of Israel.”2
  • Brigham Young, Jr. (1883): “The time is now come to preach to the Lamanites. The leaders of the Church have in view the 5,000,000 of Lamanites located in Mexico.”3
  • Moses Thatcher (1881): [Dedicating Mexico for the preaching of the gospel] “Elder Thatcher besought the God of Abraham to whom the promise was made to remember the descendants of Joseph and fulfill the predictions according to the Book of Mormon regarding the remnants of his seed of the land. He pleaded with God . . . that the whole land wherever the Lamanites dwell might be dedicated and preserved unto the Lord in peace until they might hear the voice of the true shepherd and cease to follow strangers that they might received the truth with glad hearts and help to build up the center city of Zion.”4
  • George Reynolds (1891): “LAMANITES, THE. The people who, in connection with their kindred, the Nephites, occupied the American continent from about B. C. 590 to A. C. 385, in which latter year they destroyed the Nephites and remained possessors of the entire land. The American Indians are their degraded descendants.”5
  • George Reynolds (1891): “NEPHITES, THE. A people descended from Manasseh, the son of Joseph, named after Nephi, the fourth son of Lehi, who, in connection with the Lamanites, occupied the American continent from about B. C. 590 to A. C. 385, when they were destroyed by the latter race.”6
  • B. H. Roberts (1909): [Quoting Mormon 5:12–15] “Mormon here refers to the Lamanites, that is, that the seed of the Lamanites, the present ‘Indians’ of the western hemisphere, might more fully believe the gospel, etc.”7
  • James E. Talmage (1919): “Their voyage carried them eastward across the Indian Ocean, then over the south Pacific Ocean to the western coast of South America, whereon they landed. . . . They [the Nephites] spread northward, occupying the northern part of South America; then, crossing the Isthmus, they extended their domain over the southern, central, and eastern portions of what is now the United States of America. The Lamanites, while increasing in numbers, fell under the curse of darkness; they became dark in skin and benighted in spirit, forgot the God of their fathers, lived a wild nomadic life, and degenerated into the fallen state in which the American Indians,—their lineal descendants,—were found by those who re-discovered the western continent in later times.8
  • Melvin J. Ballard (1923): “For this very purpose, therefore, were these plates preserved, to bring to pass the redemption of the children of father Lehi, known in North and South America, in Central America, and in Mexico, as the American Indians and some of the natives upon the isles of the sea. . . . I wish to bear witness to you that their redemption shall come, and that the day of their redemption is near at hand, when these thousands, yea these millions of Lamanites on this Western Continent who have the blood of Lehi in their veins, or of his descendants, shall be touched by the power of the Almighty, and the day of their redemption, when it does come, will be one of power.”9
  • Melvin J. Ballard (1925): [Dedicating the land of South America for the preaching of the gospel] “And we also pray that we may see the beginning of the fulfilment of thy promises contained in the Book of Mormon to the Indian of this land, who is a descendant of Lehi, millions of whom reside in this country, who have long been downtrodden, and have borne many afflictions and suffered because of sin and transgression, even as the prophets of the Book of Mormon did foretell.”10
  • Heber J. Grant (1927): [Mesa Arizona Temple dedicatory prayer] “We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt stay the hand of the destroyer among the descendants of Lehi who reside in this land and give unto them increasing virility and more abundant health, that they may not perish as a people but that from this time forth they may increase in numbers and in strength and in influence, that all the great and glorious promises made concerning the descendants of Lehi may be fulfilled in them.”11
  • Joseph Fielding Smith (1947): “The history of this American continent also gives evidence that the Lamanites have risen up in their anger and vexed the Gentiles. This warfare may not be over. It has been the fault of people in the United States to think that this prophetic saying has reference to the Indians in the United States, but we must remember that there are millions of the ‘remnant’ in Mexico, Central and South America.”12 
  • LeGrand Richards (1954): “The dark-skinned people who occupied this land of America from that time on were called ‘Lamanites,’ who are the people known generally as the American Indians, all of whom are of the house of Israel.”13
  • Spencer W. Kimball (1959): “I should like to address my remarks to you, our kinsmen of the isles of the sea and the Americas. Millions of you have blood relatively unmixed with gentile nations. Columbus called you ‘Indians,’ thinking he had reached the East Indies. Millions of you are descendants of Spaniards and Indians, and are termed ‘mestizos,’ and are called after your countries, for instance: Mexicans in Mexico; Guatemalans in Guatemala; Chilianos in Chile. You Polynesians of the Pacific are called Samoan or Maori, Tahitian or Hawaiian, according to your islands. There are probably sixty million of you on the two continents and on the Pacific Islands, all related by blood ties. The Lord calls you ‘Lamanites.’”14
  • Spencer W. Kimball (1971): “Now the Lamanites number about sixty million; they are in all of the states of America from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to Point Barrows, and they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand. . . . The term Lamanite includes all Indians and Indian mixtures, such as the Polynesians, the Guatemalans, the Peruvians, as well as the Sioux, the Apache, the Mohawk, the Navajo, and others. It is a large group of great people . . . . There are no blessings, of all the imaginable ones, to which you are not entitled–you, the Lamanites–when you are righteous. You are of royal blood, the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Lehi.”15
  • Gordon B. Hinckley (1983): [Mexico City Mexico Temple dedicatory prayer] “Bless Thy saints in this great land and those from other lands who will use this temple. Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou hast kept Thine ancient promise.”16
  • Howard W. Hunter (1984): “It has been the position of the Church that Polynesians are related to the American Indians as descendants of Father Lehi, having migrated to the Pacific from America . . . .Our belief in this regard is scriptural.”17
  • Gordon B. Hinckley (1999): [Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple dedicatory prayer] “Bless Thy Saints that they may continue to live here without molestation. May they live in peace and security. May they be prospered as they cultivate their farms and pursue their vocations. May the sons and daughters of father Lehi grow in strength and in fulfillment of the ancient promises made concerning them.”18
  • Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2011): [Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple dedicatory prayer] “Thou kind and gracious Father, our hearts are filled with gratitude for Thy remembrance of the sons and daughters of Lehi. Thou hast heard their cries and seen their tears. Thou hast accepted their righteous sacrifices. We thank Thee for the sacred record of Lehi, Nephi and Jacob, Alma and Mosiah, Benjamin and Mormon, and of Moroni. We thank Thee for this voice that has come from the dust to bear witness of the divinity of Thy Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”19

As with the usage of “continent” and “country,” early Latter-day Saint usage of terms such as “American Indian” and the like should be read in the linguistic context of nineteenth-century English. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary broadly defined “Indian” as “a general name of any native of the Indies; as an East indian or West indian it is particularly applied to any native of the American continent.”20 This is reflected clearly in contemporary non-Latter-day Saint usage. J. A. Van Heuvel, writing in 1844, freely spoke of the “Indians of Guyana,” the “Indians of the Amazon,” and the “Indians” of Brazil and Peru.21 The phenomenon of women fighting naked, he observed, “is not peculiar to the females of the Charibees [Caribs]. Instances of it are met, also, among other American Indians. ‘Before the time of the Incas,’ observes Herrera, ‘the inhabitants of Peru went naked …. and the Indians say the war was carried on very resolutely by some women.’”22 Prescott one year earlier wrote of the “ancient cities [of] Mitla, Palenque, and Itzalana or Uxmal” in the “forests of Chiapa and Yucatan,” and observed that “although it was not the Mexicans who built these cities, yet as they are probably the work of cognate races, [and] the present inquiry would be incomplete without some attempt to ascertain what light they can throw on the origin of the Indian, and consequently of the Aztec, civilisation.”23

Hocking and Meldrum give no reason why Joseph Smith and the early Latter-day Saints should be exempted from the nineteenth century lexical norm for these and related terms. To insist that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries must have only meant the indigenous people of the “heartland” of the United States is little more than special pleading motivated by a nationalistic ideology. Indeed, the efforts of the AEBOM to paint early Latter-day Saints such as Parley P. Pratt, who participated in the “Lamanite Mission” of 1830-1831,24 as proto-Heartlanders is especially egregious, since Pratt explicitly identified Central and South American native peoples as Lamanites. In 1851 Pratt proclaimed,

Peruvians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, descendants of every tribe and tongue of this mysterious race, your history, your gospel, your destiny is revealed. . . . [God] purposes your restoration as a righteous branch of Israel. The Book of Mormon, the record of your fathers, will soon be published among you . . . so that to say the least you may have the gospel of your forefathers, and some knowledge of their history and prophecies.25

Not one year later he also declared, “Spanish Americans! A vast majority of you are the descendants of the ancient race of the Mexican, Peruvian, Chilean and other nations of original Americans. The origin of that entire race is now revealed . . . by the discovery and translation of their ancient records (the Book of Mormon). . . . And you, their descendants, are known in their ancient records as Lamanites, Nephites, etc.”26 The AEBOM thus badly misrepresents what Pratt and other early Latter-day Saints thought about the identity of Native American peoples as Lamanites for wholly self-serving purposes. It is obvious from the historical record that early Latter-day Saints “believed that all American Indians were the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples, and that they shared a covenant heritage connecting them to ancient Israel,” not merely those native groups cherry-picked by Hocking and Meldrum to suit their theory.27

  1. “Lamanite Identity,” Church History Topics, online at www.history.lds.org.
  2. Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To All the Kings of the World; To the President of the United States of America; To the Governors of the several States; And to the Rulers and People of all Nations (New York: 6 April 1845), 2–3, emphasis added.
  3. Minutes of Eastern Arizona Stake Conferences, 1883-1885, March 25, 1883, quoted in Charles W. Peterson, Take Up Your Mission: Mormon Colonizing along the Little Colorado River 1870-1900 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973), 216.
  4. Minutes of Mexican Mission Conference, April 1881, quoted in Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Moses Thatcher and Mormon Beginnings in Mexico,” BYU Studies 38, no. 4 (1999): 144. See also Moses Thatcher to Anthony W Ivins, May 31, 1888, cited in Godfrey, 148.
  5. George Reynolds, A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Joseph Hyrum Parry, 1891), 211.
  6. Reynolds, A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon, 302–303.
  7. B. H. Roberts, A New Witness for God, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1909–1911), 2:63.
  8. James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News, 1919), 266.
  9. Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October 1923, 28–29.
  10. “Prayer Dedicating the Lands of South America to the preaching of the Gospel,” Improvement Era 29 no. 6 (April 1926), 575.
  11. Heber J. Grant, dedicatory prayer for the Mesa Arizona Temple, 23–26 October 1927, online at https://www.lds.org/temples/details/mesa-arizona-temple/prayer/1927-10-23?lang=eng, emphasis added.
  12. Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1947), 2:127.
  13. LeGrand Richards, Israel! Do You Know? (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1954), 37, emphasis added.
  14. Spencer W. Kimball, “To You . . . Our Kinsmen,” Improvement Era, December 1959, 938.
  15. Spencer W. Kimball, “Of Royal Blood,” Ensign, July 1971, emphasis added.
  16. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Mexico City Temple (2-4 December 1983), emphasis added.
  17. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1997), 57.
  18. Gordon B. Hinckley, dedicatory prayer of Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple (6-7 March 1999), emphasis added.
  19. Dieter F. Uchdorf, dedicatory prayer of Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple Temple (11 December 2011), emphasis added.
  20. See “Indian” online at http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/indian (Accessed December 7, 2018).
  21. J. A. Van Heuvel, El Dorado (New York: J. Winchester, 1844), 54, 68.
  22. Van Heuvel, El Dorado, 152, emphasis added.
  23. William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, 3 vols. (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1843), 3:469, emphasis in original. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, 3:386, likewise wrote of “the Indians named Achies [Achi],” a Mayan people who live in Guatemela.
  24. See Max H. Parkin, “Lamanite Mission of 1830–1831,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1992), 2:802–804; Ronald W. Walker, “Seeking the ‘Remnant’: The Native American during the Joseph Smith Period,” Journal of Mormon History 19, no. 1 (1993): 1–33, esp. 5–11; Ronald E. Romig, “The Lamanite Mission,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 14 (1994): 25–33; Grant Underwood, “The Mission to the Lamanites,” in Joseph: Exploring the Life and Ministry of the Prophet, ed. Susan Easton Black and Andrew C. Skinner (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005), 144­–155; Marlene C. Kettley, Arnold K. Garr, and Craig K. Manscill, “Mission to the Lamanites, 1830–31,” in Mormon Thoroughfare: A History of the Church in Illinois, 1830–39 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006), 1–11; Saints:The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018), 97–99, 115–117.
  25. Parley P. Pratt, Proclamation! To the People of the Coasts and Islands of the Pacific; of Every Nation, Kindred, and Tongue(Sydney, Australia: C.W. Wandell, 1851), 9–10, spelling standardized.
  26. Parley P. Pratt, Proclamation Extraordinary! To the Spanish Americans (San Francisco, CA: Monson, Haswell, 1852), 13–14, spelling standardized.
  27. “American Indians,” Church History Topics, online at www.history.lds.org. See further John-Charles Duffy, “The Use of ‘Lamanite’ in Official LDS Discourse,” Journal of Mormon History 34, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 118–167, esp. 126–151.

13 thoughts on “A Review of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (Part 3C)”

  1. I enjoy your blog for the solid research and reasoning in posts like this one. So why do you associate yourself with such a sketchy outfit as the FIRM Foundation? Scratching my head here.

    • Are you referring to me?

      I am in no way associated with the FIRM Foundation. In fact I am a public and vocal critic of the FIRM Foundation.

      You are perhaps confusing me with E. Steven Smoot (or Edgar S. Smoot) who is associated with the FIRM Foundation.

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Just so I understand your position, you are neither Heartland only, nor LGT only, but reading the quotes above, and knowing other quotes that speak exclusively of NA being Lamanites…is it fair to say that you hold to South, Central, and North America being the lands of the BoM folks?


    • Hi Mark,

      I do not hold to a hemispheric geography for the Book of Mormon. I essentially accept John L. Sorenson’s limited Mesoamerican geography.

      The purpose in reproducing these quotes was to show that Heartlanders are misrepresenting the historical record and cannot claim to “own” early Latter-day Saint leaders on the matter of Book of Mormon geography.

      Hope that helps clarify things.

  3. Then logically the LGT also misrepresents the record, based on your own quotes. If you can dismiss direct quotes from the brethren, in belief of the LGT, why can’t they do the same in belief of the HLT?

    • There is a crucial difference, methodologically speaking, between how LGT and HLT proponents utilize the views of early and contemporary Latter-day Saint leaders vis-à-vis Book of Mormon geography.

      Neal Rappleye has discussed such here: https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/war-of-words-and-tumult-of-opinions-the-battle-for-joseph-smiths-words-in-book-of-mormon-geography/

      The big difference is this: LGT theorists do not depend on prophetic authority to establish their model, nor do they invoke prophetic authority for such. Heartlanders, on the other hand, are dependent on such and do invoke such because their base assumptions demand such. They attempt to make it appear as if they are solely in harmony with what Church leaders have taught about Book of Mormon geography because they begin with the assumption that prophetic authority is needful to establish a Book of Mormon geography model. LGT proponents do not share this assumption. And because LGT proponents do not share this assumption, they are demonized by Heartlanders as “not following the prophets” or even attempting to subvert prophetic authority.

      This is why I and others have gone to great pains to point out that Heartlanders are emphatically not in harmony with what Church leaders have taught. Because of this, by their own criteria their model suffers.

      I would recommend you read Rappleye’s paper for a fuller explanation.

  4. Stephen,

    Those of the HLT do demand prophetic support, which to a degree they have. The LGT demands scholarly support (peer review) and actual tangible evidence…which they do not have.

    Have you gone out to the anthropology departments of major universities that offer Mesoamerican studies and exchanged views, and offered papers on the LGT to them? Have you talked to these men and women who are digging in these areas what they are finding and what kind of culture it supports?

    If you are going to claim a scholarly approach, then it has to be taking in all the data and testing it with what you are proposing.

    • “The LGT demands scholarly support (peer review) and actual tangible evidence…which they do not have.”

      You’ll forgive me if I take the word of Mesoamerican anthropologists and archaeologists like Kerry Hull, Mark Alan Wright, and John Clark over the word of “Markk” on the Internet.

      “Have you talked to these men and women who are digging in these areas what they are finding and what kind of culture it supports?”

      Not only have I talked to them, I’ve actually been to Mayan sites with them (Seibal, Quiriguá, Yaxha, Tikal, and others).

      I frankly don’t care how old you are or how many years you’ve either been a Latter-day Saint or (sadly) an ex-Latter-day Saint.

      Give me the work you’ve done. Give me indication that you know what you’re talking about. Don’t give me your age. If you seriously think there isn’t a difference between what Brant Gardner and John Sorenson do and what the Heartlanders do, then, well, you haven’t been paying close enough attention for those past 25 years.

  5. “Those of the HLT do demand prophetic support, which to a degree they have.”

    No more so than the LGT, and less so than the hemispheric.

  6. All you have to do Stephen, is offer a tangible evidence we can discuss, that is a solid BoM evidence.

    What city is with out any doubt, in your mind a BoM city, and more specifically, what building in that city are you confidant is a book of Mormon city, preferably a house of worship.

    I am not asking you to to take my word at all, I am asking you to offer real peer review. In one breath you claim the LGT is better than the HLT due to scholarship, yet I don’t see LDS BoM scholarship leaving the foyer of the chapel.

    What non LDS scholars have you presented the LGT to for review…I have discussed the BoM with secular archeologists who were/are in the field, not one has supported the LGT in any way…in fact some stated it was a racist theory.

    Anyways I appreciate your time. I have to go to work, but I can share some of my discussions with actual secular archeologists I have had over the years, and I can even offer their Emails so you can submit your theory to them for comment if you like, and we can share them here? If you are truly looking for scholarship, then I offer you this challenge.

    What has John and/or Brant offered that is tangible, that is beyond just theory? Give me the most profound tangible evidence that supports a LGT?

    Do you believe Mayan’s were Nephites or are Lamanites, and if so based on what evidence?

    As to who am I, just a carpenter who reads a lot.

    Gotta run, more later…thanks for the conversation

    • “yet I don’t see LDS BoM scholarship leaving the foyer of the chapel.”

      John E. Clark presented this in 2005 at the Library of Congress bicentennial commemoration of the birth of Joseph Smith.


      Does the Library of Congress count as “leaving the foyer of the chapel”?

      “All you have to do Stephen, is offer a tangible evidence we can discuss, that is a solid BoM evidence.”

      Well my academic expertise is in the ancient Near East, not Mesoamerica. I can offer you tangible evidence from the ancient Near East for the Book of Mormon if you like. When it comes to Mesoamerica, however, I am dependent on the authorities I have already cited.

      Wright, Hull, Clark. Have you read anything of theirs? Have you read Gardner? Both his six-volume commentary and his 2015 Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History?

      If not, I recommend you do.

      But this conversation has now gone far afield of the scope of the original post(s). I would prefer to keep this on track by focusing on the points I raise in my series, if you please. If you have something to say about what I discuss specifically in my posts, that is welcome. If not, I recommend you take your talking points elsewhere.

  7. Does the Library of Congress count as “leaving the foyer of the chapel”?

    In regards to a peer reviewed, no it does not count. Anyone can get a number and submit to the LoC. https://www.storiestotellbooks.com/blog/get-a-library-of-congress-number-for-your-book.html

    Did John submit that paper to his peers for review?

    I have read much of Gardner… and discussed the issue with Gardner several times over the years.

    I tell you what, send the paper from Clark, to this e-mail address, and see what Dr. Braswell’s opinion is on the paper. I have corresponded with him over the years and often when he is in the dig’s in Mesoamerica, he welcomes the conversation for company. gbraswel@ucsd.edu ; If you like, I can give you more e-mail address’s of Mesoamerican archeologist that may like to comment.

    • “Anyone can get a number and submit to the LoC”

      That’s not at all the point. He didn’t just get a LoC call number.

      He presented his paper at a symposium hosted by the Library of Congress attended by both “Mormon” and non-“Mormon” academics, then published it in a peer reviewed journal.

      You also don’t know anything about Dr. Clark or his academic reputation, do you?

      I’d be willing to wager that Dr. Braswell is familiar with his work.

      Anyway, this conversation has run its course and has become exceptionally tedious. You’re free to leave any comments relative to the points I address in my series. Anything off topic I will no longer approve.


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