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42 Questions


Question 3
A White and Delightsome People

If The Book of Mormon is true and God is at least consistent (if not unchanging) why don't the disobedient turn black (2 Nephi 5:21-23)?  More importantly, why don't Lamanites turn white and delightsome within one year after accepting the gospel, as they did in 3 Nephi 2:11-16?

Response: by Stanley D. Barker & Malin L. Jacobs

This question demonstrates the critic's complete misunderstanding of the evidence, Biblical and otherwise.

Here are the two Book of Mormon passages referred to in the question:

And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity.  For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

And thus saith the Lord God:  I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.  And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing.  And the Lord spake it, and it was done.1

And it came to pass in the thirteenth year there began to be wars and contentions throughout all the land; for the Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them.

Therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers, yea, and also to maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty.

And it came to pass that before this thirteenth year had passed away the Nephites were threatened with utter destruction because of this war, which had become exceedingly sore.

And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites.  And thus ended the thirteenth year.2

It should be pointed out that, according to the internal chronology of The Book of Mormon, the skin color changes described in these passages occurred about 600 years apart.

Fallacious Assumptions

This question is based on two fallacious assumptions about God's consistency and unchanging nature:

1.  Since in 2 Nephi 5:21-23 God cursed the Lamanites with a "skin of blackness," He must likewise curse all who are in any way disobedient.

2.  Since God removed the "skin of blackness" within one year of the Lamanites' conversion, and they became white like unto the Nephites (3 Nephi 2:15), God must likewise turn the skin of modern Lamanites white within one year of their joining the LDS Church.

Since God does neither of these, to the critic the only logical conclusion is that The Book of Mormon is false.  Are the critic's assumptions warranted?  No.  If the assumptions are not correct then the conclusion is unjustified.

According to 2 Nephi 5:21-23, God caused the Lamanites' skin to become black for two reasons:

    1)  to punish the disobedient, and
    2)  to create a visible characteristic which would discourage Nephite - Lamanite fraternization.

Does God Punish all Cases of Human Disobedience in the Same Way?

Nowhere does the Bible say that for God to be consistent and unchanging he must always use exactly the same punishment for any matter of disobedience.  There are many Biblical instances of disobedience which God dealt with in different ways.  For example, when Adam and Eve were disobedient in the Garden of Eden, their punishment was to be driven from the Garden and to eventually die.3  In the time of Noah, God destroyed the disobedient with a flood.4  At the Tower of Babel, God confounded their language.5  

The Book of Mormon does not say God will use the same punishment for all who are disobedient.  As with the Bible, there are many Book of Mormon instances in which God dealt with disobedience in different ways.  Some examples are:  Wicked Lamanites skin is turned black.6  Wicked King Noah was burned by fire, as prophecied.7  Wicked people were slain by falling prison walls.8

It appears from both the Bible and The Book of Mormon that either God is inconsistent and changing, or what punishment or blessing He metes out in any given situation has nothing to with His consistency and changelessness.

Must Lamanites Become White Within One Year of Joining the LDS Church?

In 3 Nephi the prophet does not say that he is referring to the year the Lamanites were converted.  They could have been converted years before the curse was removed.  The critic has been sloppy in his reading of The Book of Mormon text.

When the critic uses the phrase "white and delightsome," he misquotes from 2 Nephi 5:21.  Second Nephi 30:6, which used that phrase for many years, was corrected to read "pure and delightsome" by Joseph Smith in the 1840 Edition of The Book of Mormon.9  FARMS scholar John A. Tvedtnes has pointed out that in the Near-Eastern context "white" doesn't necessarily mean a color (see Response to CARM).

The critic fails to mention that Nephi, prophesying about the latter days and the events to take place among "the remnant of his seed," says that "many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and delightsome people."10  Nephi makes it clear that while God removed the curse of a "skin of blackness" from the repentant Lamanites of 14 A.D., in the latter days, if such a skin color change occurs at all, it might take much longer -- possibly generations.

Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith said:

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 are delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord.11


The change in skin color from white to black (2 Nephi 5:21-23) and from black to white (3 Nephi 2:11-16) are specific incidents.  The Book of Mormon says nothing to suggest that for God to be consistent, the specific punishment and blessing that He applied in these two situations must be applied in any other situation.  Indeed, both the Bible and The Book of Mormon provide examples of God applying different punishments in different situations.

Earliest known discussion:  B.H. Roberts, 189312


1.  2 Nephi 5:21-23.

2.  3 Nephi 2:11-16.

3.  Gen. 3:6, 15-18.

4.  Gen. 6:6-7, 17.

5.  Gen 11:7-8.  See also:  Gen 3:16 Eve, ate forbidden fruit - sorrow in conception; Gen 3:17 Adam, ate forbidden fruit - ground cursed, eat in sorrow all days of his life; Gen 4:8-15 Cain, murder - ground not to produce in strength for Cain, fugitive in the earth, put a mark on him; Gen 6:6-7, 17 All creatures on the earth except eight people and some of each kind of animal, all flesh was corrupt - perished in flood; Gen 11:7-8 Tower of Babel, tried to build tower to get to heaven - confounded their language resulting in the people being scattered abroad; Gen 12:15, 17 Pharaoh, took Abraham's wife into his own house - plagues; Gen 19:13, 24 Sodom and Gomorrah, grievous sins - fire and brimstone; Gen 38:7 Er, wicked - Lord slew him; Gen 38:9-10 Onan, did not raise up children to his brother - slain by the Lord; Ex 8-12 Egypt, would not let Israel leave captivity - plagues, frogs, lice, flies, dead cattle, boils, hail, hail and fire, locusts, darkness, death of first born sons; Ex 14:23, 28 Egyptian soldiers, pursued the children of Israel - drowned in the red sea; Num 15:32-36 A man in the wilderness, gathered sticks on the sabbath - stoned to death; Num 16:1-10, 31-35 Korah and 250 men, wanted to do priest duties, usurping their authority - earth swallowed him up and fire destroyed the 250 men; Num 16:41-50 Israel, murmured against the prophet - plague killed 14,700 Israelites; Num 21:5-9 Israel, spake against Moses and God - fiery serpents bit people and they died; Josh 6:20 Jericho, wicked city - walls fell down; 1 Sam 12:15-18 Israel, wicked - thunder and rain; 2 Sam 6:6-7 Uzzah, steadied the ark - God smote him; 1 Kgs 13:20-26 Prophet, disobedient to the word of the Lord - killed by a lion; 2 Kgs 1:9-13 King's men, told the prophet what to do, ordered him around - 102 men and their captain killed by fire from heaven; 2 Kgs 2:23-24 Children, mocked the prophet of God - two bears tore them up; Jer 5:25 Jews, sins - blessings withheld; Ezek 6:4, 11-12 Israel, idolatry - sword, famine, pestilence; Acts 5:1-10 Annanias and Sapphira, lied to the apostles - death; Acts 9:1, 8 Paul, persecuted the church - blinded.

6.  2 Nephi 5:21-23.

7.  Mosiah 12:3, 19-20.

8.  Alma 14:27-29.  See also Ether 9:29-31 People of King Heth, cast them into pits, famine and poisonous serpents killed many; Alma 30 Korihor, preached against Christ, struck dumb and trampled to death; 3 Nephi 9 Wicked people, people wicked, cities and many people destroyed.  Our thanks to Craig Ray for providing the examples in footnotes 3-8.

9.  Subsequent editions, mistakenly based on the 1835 edition, carried the original 1830 wording until the 1981 edition restored Joseph Smith's correction.

10.  2 Nephi 30:6.

11. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, (Salt Lake City, UT, Deseret Book Company: 1960), 3: 123.  Critics should note that this statement was made twenty-one years before Joseph Smith's correction of 2 Nephi 30:6 was restored.

12.  Promises to the Lamanites:--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. And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers. And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people.--Prophecy of Nephi, Nephi II, ch. xxx. (B. H. Roberts, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, [Salt Lake City, UT, George Q. Cannon & Sons, Company: 1893]: 357, Note 1. [later ed. 348]).

And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people. (B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, [Salt Lake City, UT, The Deseret News: 1907], 1: 316, Note 6).