“He Denieth None That Come unto Him: A Personal Essay on Race and the Priesthood, Part 3”

President Ahmad Corbitt

13 October 2014 Church History

“My friends were surprised when I told them that the Book of Mormon is, in my view, the most racially and ethnically unifying book on the earth. In response to their surprise, I shared the following overview of the Book of Mormon as it relates to the unity and harmony of the human family, irrespective of race and ethnicity:

…The Book of Mormon teaches this truth in the context of a large family with members of different colors. This family—led by the prophet Lehi and his wife, Sariah—emigrated from the Holy Land to the part of the world now known as the Americas. Shortly after arriving in their new home, they separated into two groups. The Nephites, who followed Lehi and Sariah’s son Nephi, remained fair skinned. The Lamanites, who followed Lehi and Sariah’s son Laman, became dark skinned.

Much of the Book of Mormon contains accounts of interactions, both peaceful and violent, between and within these two cultures that were really one family.

…I see the Book of Mormon as a microcosm of the family of Adam and Eve, with descendants of different colors and cultures. It teaches that God invites and guides the entire human family toward unity, harmony, and peace, regardless of color or ethnicity. It provides examples of righteous people from contrasting cultures reaching across differences of color and tradition to rescue their brothers and sisters with the gospel of Jesus Christ and with its ordinances and covenants. For instance, Jacob, a Nephite prophet, implored the Nephites to “revile no more against [the Lamanites] because of the darkness of their skins.” (Jacob 3:9). Jacob’s son Enos prayed for the Lamanites and preached the gospel to them (Enos 1:11–20). The sons of Mosiah, also Nephites, served as missionaries among the Lamanites for 14 years, despite the Lamanites’ hatred of the Nephites at the time (Alma 17:2–16). A group of Lamanites became converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, changed their name to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, and became a spiritual strength to the Nephites (Alma 23–24; 27). Later the Anti-Nephi-Lehies’ sons, strengthened through their faith in Christ, helped defend the Nephites in a war against unrighteous Lamanites (Alma 53:10–22; 56–57). Samuel, a Lamanite prophet, obeyed the Lord’s command to preach repentance to unrighteous Nephites (Helaman 13–15).

Significantly, throughout the Book of Mormon, converted Nephites referred to Lamanites as their “brethren,” and converted Lamanites used the same term when they spoke of the Nephites ( Jacob 2:35; Jarom 1:2; Mosiah 22:3; Helaman 15:1, 3–4; Alma 17:11; Doctrine and Covenants 10:44–52). This practice, and the Lord’s own use of the term, reinforce the general theme that God sees people of different colors as one family.

The Book of Mormon provides models of people of different colors successfully applying the Savior’s unifying teachings. President Henry B. Eyring has taught, “The Lord has given us guides to know what to do to receive the blessing and joy of ever-increasing unity.” I believe the most impressive of these guides in the Book of Mormon is the society that developed after the resurrected Christ visited the Nephites and Lamanites:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they!” (4 Nephi 1:15–18)

Latter-day prophets and apostles have spoken of this crowning cultural achievement as the Lord’s ultimate model for mortal man’s unity in Christ. For example, regarding the absence of “-ites,” Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “That lesson from history suggests that we . . . delete from our personal vocabularies names that segregate.” This Book of Mormon model can serve as an invitation from God to ascend to this height of peace on earth—and as a “guide” to help us know how to seek and achieve such peace.

The Book of Mormon also provides models that can serve as warnings—accounts of tragic consequences that befell societies that rejected the Savior’s unifying gospel. The book chronicles numerous heartbreaking accounts of contention and war, mostly between people of different colors and cultures. In doing so, it exposes Lucifer’s age-old plan to instigate disunity by playing on demographic differences.

…The prophet Moroni, who anciently hid and then angelically revealed the Book of Mormon record, declared that one of the book’s purposes was to gather scattered Israel. In his words, the Book of Mormon will “show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” He said that the book was written and compiled for “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38–40; Hebrews 6:10–20). The reference to “Jew and Gentile” encompasses the entire world, including all races and ethnic groups. Moroni’s declaration echoes the words of other Book of Mormon prophets who repeatedly taught of the scattering and gathering of Israel among all nations and the bringing of both Jew and Gentile unto Christ (1 Nephi 10:14; 2 Nephi 10:7–8; 29:7–14; Jacob 5; Mormon 7:7–10). The Savior Himself taught these truths to Book of Mormon peoples (3 Nephi 20–21).

…It is miraculous that a book published in 19th-century America could include a record of a “fair”-skinned nation and a nation with a “skin of blackness” reaching pure equality and unity. That it could rise in ever-increasing relevance to become, in my view, the most racially unifying book of scripture in the world compels both mind and soul to recognize the hand of God in its emergence…

…Ultimately, the Book of Mormon’s unifying power confirms the words of Moroni that the book had been prepared to testify “that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” (Title page of the Book of Mormon)