Are there modern Lamanites and Nephites?

By: Bonnie
August 12, 2012

Seth Adam Smith, a private videographer who creates LDS-themed material and makes it available on YouTube, has written about the political and social connotations of being Nephite or Lamanite in a recent blog post. He makes some compelling connections to modern day with Christians and Muslims using the words of modern prophets, as depicted in the following video:

Since it’s not necessary for an entire culture to feel the possibility of being one despite huge cultural differences, as demonstrated by the sons of Mosiah in Alma’s day (their people were certainly not hopeful of unity, but were willing to embrace each other when they were shown true examples of Lamanites who would accept them), it stands to reason that only a select few with a powerful hope in unity are required to begin to affect real changes in the cultural assumptions that stand in the way of that unity.

Assuming that the analogy Smith draws is apt, how close do you feel at least some Mormons are to building this type of bridge between modern Nephites and Lamanites? Do you think it’s time to be a bridge builder or is this unity generations in the future? Will that call for unity come from above, or from the hearts of a committed few?

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10 Responses to Are there modern Lamanites and Nephites?

  1. Nate on August 12, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    Bravo! I’ve always felt a greater kinship to Muslims than to other Christians, since we share so much in common: extra-Biblical scripture, extra-Biblical prophets, polygamy, works-orientation, exclusive paradigms, the belief that Jesus is separate from God the Father, the Word of Wisdom, and strict rules about modesty.

    One could argue Mormons are closer to Muslims than Christians on most counts.

    Everyone gets uptight about Muslim violence. But if we believe in the Old Testament, we are already supposed to believe in a God who condoned violence in the past. The hypocrisy of Bible-thumpers on this topic is astounding.

    And Muslim violence, as a percentage of it’s population, is extremely low. Judging Muslims by the actions of Al Qaeda is the equivalent of judging Mormons by the actions of Mormon Fundamentalists.

    So I wholeheartedly support Seth Adam Smith’s efforts!

    But before we try and baptize these “Lamanites,” we should at least show our power by cutting off a whole bunch of the arms of their enemies, or maybe killing a few with our slings. This could be done in Gaza maybe?

    But I’m not sure anything short of that would impress them much!

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 12, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    I had never thought of that.

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  3. Mormon Heretic on August 12, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    I’ve heard of this type of analogy before, and I think it is appropriate. To me, the whole Nephite/Lamanite thing is similar to racism, or at least religious bigotry. In that sense, I think there is a lot of religious bigotry between Christians, Muslims, and Jews (moreso than say Hindus, Sikhs, or other religions.)

    I also frankly wonder about the whole issue of the Twelve Tribes of Israel being God’s chosen people. In Genesis 21:12-13, “But God said to [Abraham], “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

    Did you get that? God said, “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also.” The Arab nations claim their father is Ishmael. Ishmael had 12 sons—the 12 tribes of Ishmael, who became the great nations of the Arabs. God’s promises to Ishmael are in the Bible, yet I have never seen anyone emphasize this. The Koran has a similar, but more miraculous version of this event, and I was a little astonished to see that it is also in the Bible. First, let’s go over the biblical account in Genesis 21:14-20,

    Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.

    When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob.

    God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

    Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.

    Are Arabs God’s chosen people, as well as the Jews? Genesis seems to support that idea. It seems to me that this scripture about Ishmael is ignored by Christians.

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  4. Hedgehog on August 13, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    MH, quite.
    Abraham went on to marry again when Sariah died, and to have a whole heap more sons (Genesis 25). What happened to them, and do they count too? I really don’t understand why, in our teaching, there is so much emphasis on Sariah and Isaac, and especially painting Abraham and Sariah as in their dotage when Abraham lived pretty much a whole other lifetime afterwards (died at age 175).

    In my gloomier moments I wonder what precisely we think we’re chosen for, when, so far as I can tell the Judah seem to have been selected precisely because no other nation would crucify their God (2 Ne 10:3) … Thinking about it now, the idea that Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac and then Isaac’s descendants crucifying Christ adds a whole perspective I hadn’t considered before…

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  5. Hedgehog on August 13, 2012 at 1:33 AM

    Make that Sarah not Sariah! Sorry.

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  6. Bonnie on August 13, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    MH – fabulous points! When I was a youth I stumbled onto those verses in my readings and I struggled long and hard with them. First, it wasn’t the maid’s fault, I thought, that she was born a servant, given to her master, and then kicked out. The boy had no responsibility in the matter. It was balm to my soul to read those verses about how the Lord would watch over her son.

    To me, the issue boils down to the patriarchal order, which is the priesthood of the patriarchal era, that provided the blessings to all who would come to Jehovah, through a family lineage. All were welcomed, but the family line specified the birthright to one son each generation who would bear the responsibility that the covenants were provided to all. When a church has not been in place, there has been a patriarchal priesthood to ensure all blessings are available to the faithful.

    In light of that, there is no room for racism in the modern era either. I like the analogy as well.

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  7. Mike S on August 13, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    It is natural that all people think they are God’s “chosen ones” – be they Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, etc. It is actually incongruent to be part of a group yet think that ANOTHER group is actually God’s “chosen people”.

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  8. Mike S on August 13, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    I’m not sure who is supposed to be “modern” Lamanites and Nephites. There are obviously inner characteristics of all of these, but externally, it seems that mention is always made of “pride” and “costly apparel” and “pearls” and “fine things of the world”. For example, 4 Nephi:

    …they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ. And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in apride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes…

    From the point of view of most Muslim countries, the United States is corrupt, immodest, and fixated on material things. We can argue the necessity of “urban renewal” and “investments” and whatever to a poor Muslim in another part of the world, but spending billions of dollars on a high-end mall certainly seems more like what we tend to associate with the Lamanites than the Nephites.

    We certainly wouldn’t have this opinion of ourselves, but if we try to see things from another point-of-view for a moment, ads like this seem more like we are turning Salt Lake into a monument to wealth, fashion, costly apparel, pearls, and spacious buildings. The line between Nephite and Lamanite seems to blur.

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  9. Paul on August 13, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    I share Mike S’s concern about our being equated with the Nephites. Are we headed for their fate? Of course the end-of-days prophecies say that the priesthood will not be taken from the earth again until the Savior comes, but we would do well to avoid the traps of the pride cycle.

    Should we be building bridges as Smith (and his quoted prophets) suggest? Absolutely? Will this come from the top? Sounds from the quote like it already has.

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  10. Mormon Heretic on August 13, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Part of the problem here is that our own group will always be connected with “good guys” (ie Nephites). It is hard to think we’re innately Lamanites. However, as we look at the Book of Mormon, I think it is important to remember that at one point, the Nephites were so corrupt they were the “bad guys” while the Lamanites were more righteous “good guys”. I think that point of view often gets lost. It is just like the ancient Israelites feeling that God would always protect them (such as in the days of Jeremiah) when they didn’t see their own wickedness. So we need to wonder which Nephites we indentify with, and not assume that we’re Nephi’s Nephites, but could be Samuel the Lamanite’s Nephites.

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