the thinker

Native Americans

Back to Mormon Quotes Index

More information can be found here about the Native Americans ("Lamanites") as it relates to the Book of Mormon and racism.

map showing where the lamanites currently live

The above map comes from the 1975 Ensign article titled, " Who and Where Are the Lamanites?" By Lane Johnson. More quotes from the article below.

And the skins of the Lamanites [Native Americans] were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.

Book of Mormon, Alma, chapter 3, verse 6

After the people again forgot the Lord and dissensions arose, some of them took upon themselves the name Lamanites and the dark skin returned. When the Lamanites fully repent and sincerely receive the gospel, the Lord has promised to remove the dark skin. The Lord declared by revelation that, ‘before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as a rose.' The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse. Many of these converts and delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord. Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South.

Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, v. 3, p. 123, 1953

The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation…. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same Hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.

Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, Oct. 1960

The Lord has never indicated that black skin came because of being less faithful. Now, the Indian; we know why he has changed, don't we? The Book of Mormon tells us that; and he has a dark skin, but he has promise there that through faithfulness, that they all again become a white and delightsome people.

Apostle LeGrand Richards, Interview by Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos, Aug. 16, 1978, Church Office Building, available online at:

Verily, I say unto you, that the wisdom of man, in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my hold priesthood, but ye shall know when ye receive a fullness by reason of the anointing: For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are more virtuous then the gentiles.

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., 1831 revelation, recorded in a letter from W.W. Phelps to Brigham Young, dated August 12, 1861

In addition to this, and to co-operate with it, it has been made known by revelation, that it will be pleasing to the Lord, should they form a matrimonial alliance with the Natives; and by this means the Elders, who comply with the thing so pleasing to the Lord, and for which the Lord has promised to bless those who do it abundantly, gain a residence in the Indian territory, independent of the agent. It has been made known to one, who has left his wife in the state of N.Y. that he is entirely free from his wife, and he is at liberty to take him a wife from among the Lamanites. It was easily perceived that his permission was perfectly suited to his desires. I have frequently heard him state, that the Lord had made it known to him, that he is as free from his wife as from any other woman; and the only crime that I have ever heard alleged against her is, she is violently opposed to Mormonism.

Ezra Booth, Ohio Star, December 8, 1831

Martin Harris… claimed he had a revelation when he first came to Kirtland for him to go to Missouri, and obtain a Lamanite squaw for a wife to aid them in propagating Mormonism. Martin told me soon after Joseph, the prophet, left Kirtland, that two years before, he had told him that as his wife had left him he needed a woman as other men.

S.F. Whitney, Naked Truths About Mormonism, 1888, p. 3

We are now going to the Lamanites, to whom we intend to be messengers of instruction… We will show them that in consequence of their transgressions a curse has been inflicted upon them – in the darkness of their skins. We will have intermarriages with them, they marrying our young women, and we taking their young squaws to wife. By these means it is the will of the Lord that the curse of their color shall be removed and they restored to their pristine beauty…

Prophet Brigham Young, quoted in The Abominations of Mormonism Exposed, pp. 58-59

Vine Deloria Jr., a Sioux Indian and political science professor at the University of Arizona, made a similar observation. ‘…Mormons and Indians share a common heritage, but he complained Mormons are taking Indian children off reservations and indoctrinating them in the church's beliefs.'

Deloria continued by stating, ‘…he sees great parallels between Mormons and Indians in the 1840's to the 1890's when the federal government tried to break down their social structures.' He said the Mormon Church Placement Program threatens Indians.

Salt Lake Tribune, April 9, 1984

We are greatly conscious of the fact that among the Lamanites – as well as among all peoples of other countries – we have a responsibility to see that the gospel touches their hearts and minds and that they understand it.

Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, October 1980 General Conference, Ensign, November 1980, p. 76

… when non-Mormon Indians are asked about the program [LDS placement program for Native Americans], their response is invariably bitter and hostile as they explain that many Indians view the program as a form of kidnapping that takes away the Indian community's most prized people, its youth.

Bob Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, “The Kids Go Out Navaho, Came Back Donny and Marie,” Los Angeles Magazine, December 1979, p. 140

"That tribe, or most its people, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Those Indians, at least as many as I have observed, were white and delightsome; as white and fair as any group of citizens of our country. I know of no prophecy, ancient or modern, that has had a more literal fulfillment.

George Edward Clark, quoted in McKeever and Johnson, "Pure and Deligtsome," Mormonism Researched, Spring 1994, p. 5

The Lamanites [Native Americans], now a down-trodden people, are a remnant of the house of Israel. The curse of God has followed them as it has done the Jews, though the Jews have not been darkened in their skin as have the Lamanites.

Prophet Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, v. 22, p. 173

The following are quotes from the 1974 Church-published pamphlet "Lamanites and the Book of Mormon":

You native Americans who are called Indians…your ancestors were once a mighty nation upon the American continent.

[T]he best source of true information that tells who you are, where you came from, and what you can achieve is found in an important book—the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is a history of your people.

The Book of Mormon tells how your forefathers came from Jerusalem about 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Lamanites were marked by the Lord with a darker skin.

An account is given of some of your ancestors who built ships and sailed from the American continent with their families, never returning. These people journeyed to the islands of the sea and have lived there ever since.

God let your ancestors know by showing them a new star and other signs.

WHILE Jesus Christ was living in Palestine he organized his church and he taught the people many things. He told them that there was another people in the world that he was going to visit. He was speaking of your people in America.

Sometime following the three days of darkness a voice was heard by all the people on the American continent.

Your People Saw Christ and Spoke with Him

The Savior continued to teach your ancestors.

You are descendants of the Lamanites.

Your History Was Preserved

MORONI, a righteous man whom the Lord allowed to witness the destruction of the Nephites, buried the record of your ancestors, written on gold plates, so it would not be destroyed. Your record lay buried in a hillside for more than 1,400 years.

Moroni told him where the history of your people was buried.

While [the Book of Mormon] is the history of the ancient Americans, it also contains the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The restoration of your record was an important part of bringing the gospel back to earth.

Members of the Church feel a responsibility to the Lamanite people, whose forefathers originally wrote the Book of Mormon. The Lord has given his restored church the responsibility of returning your book to you and of teaching you its message.

The Book of Mormon is your book. It is the word of God to your people.

"Lamanites and the Book of Mormon": (1974) - links to a scan of the entire original pamphlet.

The term Lamanite was first applied to the literal family of Laman, Lehi’s eldest son. This name very soon took on a broader application, however, when Laman, Lemuel, and some of the sons of Ishmael rebelled against and sought to kill Nephi, in whom the Lord had vested his authority. At that time the Lord cut them off from his presence and caused a darker skin coloring to come upon them. (See 2 Ne. 5:19–21.)

Lamanite in this case again refers to the state of righteousness of a political/religious group, presumably a composite of the descendants of many of the original colonists in the New World. The Lamanites of this definition survived beyond the close of the Book of Mormon record, and it is these people from whom the Lamanites of today descended. That is to say, they are the descendants of Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram (see D&C 3:17–18); they are the descendants of Mulek and the others of his colony (see Hel. 6:10; Omni 1:14, 15); and they may also be descended from other groups of whom we have no record. Certainly they have mixed with many other lineages at the far reaches of their dispersal in the Americas and most of the islands of the Pacific since the time when Moroni bade them farewell in A.D. 421.

In this composite group is the blood of Israel, for we know that Lehi was of the tribe of Manasseh (see Alma 10:3), that Ishmael was of Ephraim (see JD 3:184), and that Mulek was of Judah, being a descendant of King David through Zedekiah. Therefore, the Lamanites of today—all the mixed descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples—have a legitimate claim to the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and, in turn, the duty to now carry these blessings to those nations of the earth who yet remain in darkness, the remainder of the descendants of Noah.

" Who and Where Are the Lamanites?" by Lane Johnson, Ensign, December 1975.

Joseph Smith did not have many opportunities himself to directly teach the descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples. On one occasion, however, he was called upon by the Indian chief Keokuk. It was the summer of 1841 in Nauvoo. Keokuk was accompanied by Kiskukosh, Appenoose, and about one hundred chiefs and braves of the Sac and Fox tribes, along with their families. Elder B. H. Roberts gives the following account of this visit:

“They were brought over from the Iowa side on the ferry and two large flat boats. The legion band and a detachment of the legion met them at the landing, but as soon as Keokuk failed to recognize President Smith among those who had come to bid him welcome, he refused to land or allow any of his party to go ashore until the president made his appearance. …

“At the grove President Smith addressed the Indians at some length, upon what the Lord had revealed to him concerning their forefathers, and recited to them the promises contained in the Book of Mormon respecting themselves. … How their hearts must have glowed as they listened to the prophet relate the story of their forefathers—their rise and fall; and the promises held out to them of redemption from their fallen state!”

According to Elder Roberts, Keokuk made a response to Joseph in which he said, “I have a Book of Mormon at my wigwam that you gave me a number of moons ago. I believe you are a great and good man. Keokuk looks rough, but I am a son of the Great Spirit. I have heard your advice. We intend to quit fighting, and follow the good talk you have given us.” (A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:88–89.)

The mission in Hawaii was opened in 1850, and several years later the work was extended to the Lamanites in New Zealand. All of these missions proved to be very productive.

[T]he missions in Mexico are now among the most successful in the world, and a high percentage of those who have become members of the Church in Mexico can claim Book of Mormon origins. The 1960 census in that country indicated that as many as 26 million of its people at that date were of Indian ancestry.

Although many other enterprises among the Lamanites of North and South America and the islands of the Pacific have met with outstanding success over the years, perhaps the most dramatic events in the Church’s efforts among the Lamanites have occurred during the past twenty years. Many of the more recent developments have been motivated in large measure by President Spencer W. Kimball, who for a number of years served as chairman of the Church Indian Committee.

An extensive educational system has been developed throughout the Pacific and in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Nearly 16,000 students are attending Church-operated schools in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Mexico, Fiji, New Zealand, Western Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. The great majority of these students are of Lamanite descent. They are receiving opportunities to develop talents and leadership abilities that will undergird the great growth of the Church yet to occur in these same areas.

One of the unique programs sponsored by the Church for Lamanite members in the United States is the Indian Student Placement Program. Through this program, thousands of Indian boys and girls have been taken into the homes of non-Indian Church members to enjoy the advantages of superior public schools, full Church activity, and the special intercultural exchanges that occur in this setting.

"Mingled Destinies: The Lamanites and the Latter-day Saints," By Dean L. Larsen, Ensign, December 1975.

At the dedication of Argentina to missionary work in 1925, Elder Melvin J. Ballard said:

And we also pray that we may see the beginning of the fulfilment of thy promises contained in the Book of Mormon to the Indians of this land, who are descendants of Lehi, millions of whom reside in this country, who have long been downtrodden and borne many afflictions and suffered because of sin and transgression, even as the prophets of the Book of Mormon did foretell.

Oh, Father, let thy spirit work upon them and manifest the truth of these things unto them, as we and thy servants who shall follow us shall bear witness of thy precious promises unto this branch of the House of Israel.

Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, Bryant S. Hinckley, Deseret Book Co., 1949, pp. 96–97

This process of redeeming the Lamanite people has been far from easy, especially for the Lamanites themselves. For a thousand years after the closing of the Book of Mormon record, these people wandered in spiritual darkness and were scattered upon the American continents and the isles of the sea. They lost their written language, their high culture, and, worst of all, their knowledge of the living God and his work. Faith was replaced by fear, rich language by crippled dialects, and an understanding of God and his ways by idolatry, even human sacrifice. Since the coming of the white man to the Americas, they have been driven mercilessly, killed, and degraded. When Columbus came, these descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples and those with whom they had mixed numbered in the millions and covered the islands of the Pacific and the Americas from Point Barrow to Tierra del Fuego.

When I was a young man living among the Lamanites more than seventy years ago, the destruction of the Lamanites was a stark reality. It seemed impossible to me that this broken people could ever rise from the destruction and become a mighty people once more, as the Lord had promised.

The Lamanite people are increasing in numbers and influence. When the Navajos returned from Fort Sumner after a shameful and devastating captivity, there were only 9,000 of them left; now there are more than 100,000. There are nearly 130 million Lamanites worldwide. Their superstitions are giving way.

The Church has been established among them to a degree, and it will continue to be established on an ever-increasing scale. There are now more than 350,000 Lamanite members of the Church.

I have met some who are a little bit ashamed that they are Lamanites. How can it be? Some would rather define themselves as Nephites, or Zoramites, or Josephites, or something else. Surely there must be a misunderstanding. Would they separate themselves from the great blessings the Lord has promised to his covenant people? Would they cast off their birthright? For the Lord himself has chosen to call these people Lamanites—all the mixed descendants of Father Lehi, and Ishmael, and Zoram, and Mulek, and others of the Book of Mormon record; all of the literal seed of the Lamanites, “and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions.” (D&C 10:48.)

You who are Lamanites remember this: Your Lamanite ancestors were no more rebellious than any of the other branches of the house of Israel. All the seed of Israel fell into apostasy and suffered the long night of spiritual darkness, and only through the mercy of God have any of the branches been saved from utter destruction—the gentile-Ephraimite mixture first, and then the Lamanite remainder of Joseph, that the saying might be fulfilled, “the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matt. 20:16.)

So, my appeal today is for the Lamanites, all the Lamanites, the Mexicans, the Polynesians, the Indians, to live the commandments of God and prove themselves worthy of this choice land.

The Lord has a comprehensive plan, and I have a firm conviction that the blueprint he worked out many millennia ago will be carried out through the programs of the Church. Even now the Church is bringing to bear its resources to educate the Lamanites, to improve their living conditions and their health, to bring them to a knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer. I have asked for increased effort in the missionary work among the Lamanites, and I have been most gratified by the response. The missions in the Lamanite areas are the most active and most productive of all, with many more converts per missionary than in any of the other missions. It is as in days of old: “And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words.” (Hel. 6:36.) We have many Lamanite missionaries in the field now, and there will be many, many more, I am sure.

"Our Paths Have Met Again," By President Spencer W. Kimball, First Presidency Message, Ensign, December 1975.

Today we have many Lamanite leaders in the Church. For example, in Tonga, where 20 percent of all the people in the islands belong to the Church, we have three large stakes. Two of them are presided over wholly by Lamanites and the other almost wholly by them. There are three stakes in Samoa and another is to be organized in those small Samoan islands. Four more stakes with Lamanite leaders!

There are three stakes of Zion in Mexico City with Mexican leaders—Lamanite leaders. The stake presidencies, the bishops, the high council, the auxiliary leaders—everybody, with one or two exceptions—are Lamanites. In Monterrey, Mexico, in Guatemala, in Lima, in New Zealand, and elsewhere we have stakes of Zion with all their appropriate leaders.

In 1963, 23 percent of all the baptisms in the Church were Lamanite baptisms. There were twenty-five thousand in one year. In 1970 there were even more. All this indicates the responsiveness of the Lamanites to the truth. It is like one of the Lamanites said: “This gospel, which is sometimes called Mormonism, is something we have been trying all our lives to remember; now all at once it comes back.” Have you ever tried to recover something that you have lost in your memory, and all at once, as you strain and struggle, here it comes back? That is the way the gospel is to the Lamanites. One good Navajo man said to me: “All our lives we knew that we were off the line. We used to be with you folks in the long ago; then we came to a division in the road with a great stone in the middle. We went one way and you went the other, but now we are around it and we are all coming back together.”

We have probably thirty thousand Lamanite members in Central America, and I remind you this is the result of only a relatively few years. There must be about one hundred thousand Polynesians in the Church, so that we have now approximately a quarter million Lamanites. I suppose a rough guess would give us only a few thousand twenty years ago. Now we have a quarter million in this short period of two or three decades. We have been doing missionary work with some of the Polynesians for a hundred years and more.

It is pleasing to know that we have hundreds of Lamanite missionaries who are out for two years just like all the non-Lamanites—and they are giving their time and their means, and they are preaching the gospel largely to their own people, and they are eminently successful, generally. It might be interesting to know that of nearly one hundred missions, the four highest of all are Lamanite missions. That is, the Mexico North Mission, the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission, the Mexico Mission, and the Tonga Mission. These are the four highest in the world. What is the portent of that? It means the Lamanites are accepting the gospel as no other people. They recognize something for which they have been waiting for a long, long time, and now they are receiving the gospel. Of all missions, nine of the first twenty-one are Lamanite missions.

"Of Royal Blood,"By President Spencer W. Kimball (Acting President of the Council of the Twelve). This article was adapted from an address delivered at the Lamanite Youth Conference in Salt Lake City on April 24, 1971.

My family and I are presently living in South America among the Lamanites—the Children of Lehi, the people of the Book of Mormon, a people of great promise.

What a miracle to behold! Only in part of the Lamanite world, in Latin America alone, there are over 600,000 members of the Church, with 7,000 baptized nearly every month; 181 stakes at present with almost 2,400 congregations of Saints and 2,500 Latin missionaries serving; thousands and thousands of priesthood holders—Regional Representatives, mission presidents, patriarchs, bishops—faithful sisters, and faithful children of a powerful generation yet to come.

Yes, the descendants of Lehi have learned much from us, the Church in general, as we have established the Church among them.

Today, as never before, the Church is carrying the gospel to the Lamanites, providing secular and religious training, and attempting to be a catalyst for the economic emergence of this great people.

Overall direction for Church programs of special interest to the Lamanites rests with Elder Marion G. Romney of the Council of the Twelve, chairman of the Church Social Services Department. Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, is managing director of the Social Services Department. Within that department Stewart A. Durrant serves as coordinator of Lamanite and other cultures.

At the heart of the Church’s programs, however, are the stakes and missions where the proselyting, teaching, and fellowshiping take place. All other things are peripheral to the actual practice of the gospel.

In addition to the basic Church program, the Lamanites are served by the general auxiliaries, the Lamanite seminary program, the Lamanite student placement program, the Brigham Young University Lamanite education program, Church College of Hawaii, and Church schools in the Pacific islands and Latin America. There are also several special institutes and research programs at BYU and Church College of Hawaii.

Each of these programs is a unique story and needs to be told in detail at some later date. The purpose here, however, is to acquaint the broad membership of the Church with a quick review of what is going on. Further, Lamanite members of the Church should realize the strength that they are adding to the Church not only in numbers but in testimony and service.

"Miracles among the Lamanites," Gene R. Cook (Of the First Quorum of the Seventy), General Conference, October 1980.