Where have all the Lamanites gone?

So here’s how this started: a Mormon friend of mine had never heard living people referred to as Lamanties, as in ‘our Lamanite brothers and sisters in Mexico.’ He’s Finnish and has never lived in the States, but still: I thought using the term ‘Lamanite’ to refer to indigenous peoples of North America, South America and/or Polynesia was fairly basic in Mormon culture. (I’m no social scientist, so forgive my clumsiness in dealing with these terms.) I grew up with the word ‘Lamanite,’  hearing it from people my parents’ age. I’ve tried to recall whether I heard it used by BYU students or missionaries other than ironically, but I can’t remember much from those years other than ironically , so who knows? Certainly, the leadership of the church referred to those populations as Lamanites throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. I assumed that if they stopped it was probably because of the DNA controversy of the last few years.

With a hypothesis and a song in my heart, I went to lds.org, and I did a search for the term ‘Lamanite’ in General Conferences. The church magazines are online starting from 1971, so that was my beginning point. I got 120 hits, and then read through them to see if the talk referred to Lamanites in The Book of Mormon or Lamanites being alive and well, so to speak. (I ignored the ‘News of the Church’ entries.)  I found 26 references to contemporary Lamanites [1]:

1971: 2
1973: 1
1974: 1
1975: 3
1976: 4
1977: 1
1978: 1
1979: 2
1980: 4
1981: 2
1982: 1
1986: 2
1992: 1
1995: 1

Within these 26 references are off-hand references (‘our Lamanite friends’), but also the term is used to reinforce the unique position that indigenous peoples have within Mormon theology, and there are several references to welfare service programs offered to native Americans using the term Lamanite.

The numbers are too small to see any significance in variations between 1971 and 1982, but the contemporary Lamanite references dry up in the early 1980s: of the four references after 1982, three are historical quotations. Spencer W. Kimball is the most common speaker here, with seven of the talks; four others either quote him or refer to him in some way. The fact that 1982 is the last conference in which President Kimball was well enough to speak seems significant.

President Kimball obviously had a special relationship with those he referred to as Lamanites. When he was no longer well enough to run the church, there seems to be evidence here that someone de-correlated the contemporary Lamanite references. For corroboration, I searched the dedicatory prayers (ldschurchtemples.com) for the temples of South America, Central America and the Pacific. Contemporary Lamanites are mentioned in three prayers: Laie (1919, Grant), Laie’s re-dedication (1978, Kimball) and Sao Paulo (1978, Kimball). None of the others mention Lamanites.

I was getting pretty excited, thinking that I had discovered a shift in policy or doctrine from the early 1980s resulting from the decline of Kimball and the ascendancy of Hinckley. Then I noticed the phrase ‘children of Lehi’ used in some of the talks and decided to use that in a search. In General Conference, there is only one use of ‘children of Lehi’ besides the ones that also used ‘Lamanite:’ Clate W. Mask Jr., in April 2004. In that talk, he quotes President Hinckley from a temple dedication prayer in Guatemala, referring to the ‘sons and daughters of Lehi’ attending the temple. Hmm.

So I went back through the theoretically geographically appropriate temple dedications [1] and found that references to the descendants of Lehi were used in dedication prayers. I’ve tried to break down the frequency by decade:

number of Central and South American temples dedicated: 5
dedicatory prayers mentioning descendants of Lehi: 4

number of Central and South American temples dedicated: 17
dedicatory prayers mentioning descendants of Lehi: 5

number of Central and South American temples dedicated: 8
dedicatory prayers mentioning descendants of Lehi: 1

So. Although this has not turned out the way I planned, here is my attempt at some conclusions:

  • ‘Lamanite’ was a term used to refer to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Pacific Islands as a means of identifying their special link to Mormon theology. The use was so widespread that it was also used casually and independent of any specific theology.
  • In the early 1980s, ‘Lamanite’ was dropped in favor of ‘descendents of Lehi,’or some variation thereof. I would guess that the term was seen as less pejorative. The decline of President Kimball’s health and power might be relevant as he was a primary user of ‘Lamanite.’
  • Between 1982 and 2000, references to the special status of the descendants of Lehi are rare in General Conference but reasonably common in temple dedications, suggesting that those references were seen as more appropriate for the people in question than for the church as a whole. The growth of the church internationally might be an explanation. The fact that phrase is not used in Pacific Island temple dedications during this period suggests a change in thinking about the link between Pacific Islanders and The Book of Mormon.
  • Since 2000, references to the ‘descendants of Lehi’ are rare, Elder Mask’s talk being an exception. The DNA controversy might help explain this, but other factors are probably relevant.

This is, of course, a very limited study based on my limited access to primary sources. For instance, at one time BYU had a Lamanite Studies program. Do they still? When did it end, or was it renamed? Are there other ways of measuring the Church’s official language use? To what degree does the official use of language trickle down to individual members?


[1] Here is a complete list of all of these talks and links to the talks themselves.

[2] Statistically, this is a mess. I looked at the Pacific Island temple dedications, but none of them came up positive, so I dropped them from the total. I checked San Diego on a whim and it had a reference, but none of the other temples from the southwestern United States did, so I included San Diego in the count but none of the others. Snowflake, AZ is also included.


  1. Alan LeBaron says:

    You might be interested in this excerpt taken from the dedicatory prayer of the Cardston Alberta Temple in 1923 by Heber J. Grant.
    “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; that they may grow in vigor of body and of mind, and above all in love for Thee and Thy Son, and increase in diligence and in faithfulness in keeping the commandments which have come to them through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that many of them may yet have the privilege of entering this holy house and receiving ordinances for themselves and their departed ancestors.”
    Cardston shares it’s north boundry with an Indian reserve.

  2. Aaron R. says:

    Norbet this is an interesting analysis. This not to contradict but rather to speculatively add some other possible factors. I wonder if the emphasis on the BoM in the mid-80’s has anything to do with this. With increasing familiarity (among S. American peoples) perhaps they became uncomfortable with the analogy between S. American peoples and the Lamanites. I have heard that people were not all that familiar with the BoM before this time period in the Church but I don’t know how accurate this is or whether it is correct regarding South America.

    Also, it is possible that after the priesthood ban the need to distinguish between white (priesthood holders) and black (lamanite non-priesthood holders) became gradually less important. Thus the more generic term refering to lehi’s children.

    Your temple dedication data does not really contradict your ensign data, in my view, simply because the percentage of references is gradually dropping off in all cases from the 80’s onward. Though I agree its cultural specificity seems to have made it more common than in GC.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for doing some work on this. My late mission president (a Lamanite proud of his special role as a living fulfillment of many prophecies) would be disappointed.

  4. Technically, since the Lamanites don’t name themselves that these days, they no longer exist. Just like Italians don’t call themselves Romans anymore. “descendants of Lehi” is a better term, but the problem still arises from the fact that it just simply is not provable. I wouldn’t say that in a prayer, but that’s just me. I don’t care if a prophet says it or doesn’t.

  5. Researcher says:

    It’s interesting that the one recent reference to the children of Lehi is from Clate Mask, with his strong ties to Central America and his ancestry in Mexico.

  6. I can’t believe your friend has never heard of Lamanite Generation! Maybe because now they are called Living Legends–I think the name change happened in the 90s (I don’t think it was meant to be ironic).


  7. You might also have included in your analysis dedicatory prayers from temples in the United States with high percentages of Latin American and American Indian peoples. For example, in the 2002 dedication of the Snowflake Arizona Temple, Pres. Hinckley prayed that “this Thy house will be available to the sons and daughters of Lehi who live nearby. Let the scales of darkness fall from their eyes and bring a fulfillment of the ancient promises made concerning them. May this house become a hallowed sanctuary for many of these, our brothers and sisters.”

    I spent the better part of my mission from 2002-2004 in the White Mountains in Arizona. We regularly heard from our mission president and local church leaders in the wards and stakes there that the fairly rapid growth of Spanish-speaking units in the region was a fulfillment of Pres. Hinckley’s prayer.

  8. I have no problem with laminites, other than it sounds off. Just like I don’t go around talking about me being of the house of Israel or something. I’d assume that native people in the Americas have some share in the promises made to Laminites who were a part of these lands. Perhaps it’s just like I consider myself part of the Abrahamic covenant. Perhaps it’s more than that and there is a literal connection that’s not seen through DNA analysis. I’m not the least bit surprised there is no conclusive DNA evidence. If there were strong evidence of DNA proving any of the BoM narrative, that would be a surprise to me. God might as well leave behind a brick wall that says “Nephi was here”. The BoM will always be a stumbling block for those who don’t want to rely on faith first, before seeking a greater testimony. The seed must start with faith in the Lord, not in science. (this should not be taken as being negative toward science or archeology, etc)

  9. None of you ever had Lamanite foster brothers or sisters? Seriously? Lena was cool (i.e., wild) but that was probably just b/c she was older and I was jealous. Ravis was my age and we butted heads.

    President Kimball obviously had a special relationship with those he referred to as Lamanites.

    Never mind the rest of us who actually grew up with “Lamanites” in our homes. No wonder I’m angry. I’m way too rank-and-file for whatever it is that’s happening here.

    Where have they gone? They’re raising families and sending us Christmas cards. Seriously, what planet are you people on?

  10. Norbert says:

    Alan and Christopher: thanks for those additional temple dedicatory prayers. I’ll change the data. I looked at Albuquerque and San Antonio, but not any others. I also stuck with 1980-2010.

    Aaron: I don’t think Lamanites as they were then called were restricted from the priesthood. I wonder how they themselves felt about the term. In my mind, ‘children of Lehi’ sounds better, but I’m not sure why.

    ESO: Iwas trying to remember what Lamanite Generation was. I thought it was a street gang of some sort.

  11. Norbert says:

    Chino, I’m sorry if you’ve missed my point. It’s not that those individuals have gone anywhere but that the term Lamanite has been dropped from use. The decline of the Indian Placement Program actually coincides with the decline of the use of Lamanite.

  12. Aaron R. says:

    Norbert, I was under the impression that this was a factor in the Priesthood ban being lifted. In that the Church was growing quickly there but that without P. it could not get established.

  13. Re yr last sentence: Yes, it does. Yes, it did. You’re 100% correct about that. Kudos. Don’t mind me. I’ve obviously missed your point and need to learn to suck it up and zip my mouth in the face of Citations and Statistics 101.

    At the end of the day, “Lamanites” were either gonna be a) everywhere or b) nowhere. A choice had to be made. It’s been made. Rock on, I’m not dancing with wolves here, just noting that we’re all smart enough to appreciate that the taxonomy could’ve been adapted (expanded) with different results. That it wasn’t is not my fault.

  14. B.Russ says:

    (4) Daniel,

    We don’t call Italians (or Spaniards) Romans anymore because Roman referred to the government entity, we do however still call them Latin.
    Similarly if you spoke to a person who lived in the US, but was from Iranian descent, they will USUALLY self-identify as Persian, not Iranian-American. Its a difference of government versus descent. So along those logical lines it would seem pretty natural to refer to people of the descent of Laman as Lamanites, FWIW.
    At the same time, I probably won’t go around calling a Native American a Lamanite, because I would have no idea if they were of Lamanic descent or not.

  15. Chino,
    I like to think that I am a relatively intelligent person and that I can be quick on the uptake. That said, you might as well be speaking Lamanite for all the sense I’m able to derive from your comment #13 (especially the second paragraph (although I can’t tell if the first is contrition or sarcasm)). Could you please repeat your point using words, terms, and syntax that a buffoon like myself can follow?

  16. Thanks for the post, Norbert. Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children, chs. 4-5 fills in some the gaps here. From the late 1940s through the late 1970s (roughly when Pres. Kimball had influence over church affairs), the church poured a lot of resources into bringing about “the day of the Lamanite.” The Indian Placement Program, Indian Seminaries, and the Native American Studies program at BYU combined with a large missionary outreach to indigenous peoples in the United States. My father served an “Indian mission” in Oklahoma in the late ’60s and my parents participated in Indian Placement in the early ’80s. These programs brought important results, with tens of thousands of American Indians joining the church and seeing their standard of living raise.

    But by the late 1970s, church leaders increasingly saw that these converts weren’t really embracing the Gospel in ways they expected or hoped, which tells us more about Mormon leaders than about indigeous converts. “From inside the the LDS Church, the leaders and members almost always looked upon the tribal peoples first and foremost as divinely destined objects of missionary endeavor rather than as peoples with a cherished history, culture, and future of their own. In using the term Lamanite, Mormons seemed to assume that all they needed to know about these people was implied by that term” (109). Church leaders had hoped that once converted, these North American “Lamanites” would provide the necessary leadership to bring Latin America’s millions of Natives into the fold, but the brethren’s expectations weren’t being met. As a result, corresponding roughly with Kimball’s decline, the brethren began dismantling BYU’s many programs, the Indian Seminaries, and drastically cutting back in the placement program. Mauss notes that external factors, such as Native activism in the 1970s, the reorientation of governmental policies toward tribal self-determination, and the growing disapproval among American whites of assimilationist programs, that also affected this shift.

    The late 1970s and early 1980s also witnessed the growth of the church in Latin America, and many leaders assumed that resources would be better allocated south of the border. Simultaneously, FARMS advocated the limited geography model of BoM geography, which also infuenced how the word “Lamanite” was applied to indigenous peoples throughout the western hemisphere. The DNA controversies didn’t really start until the 1990s, after this discursive shift was underway, although it has likely affected things as well.

    John-Charles Duffy published an article in Dialogue a couple of years ago on the word “Lamanite” in Mormon discourse, which I haven’t read yet. He probably has additional insights to this question.

  17. MikeInWeHo says:

    Wasn’t there some controversial program to adopt Native American babies into more, ahem, delightsome LDS families? Details on that?

  18. MikeInWeHo: That’s the Indian Placement Program.

  19. @15: My bad. I failed to indicate that I was addressing the OP in my #13.

    And further apologies, there’s no word for “contrition” in my native Lamanic tongue. Give me a sec’ and I’ll probably be able to provide a passable Murkan translation of my #13.

  20. I have always had a rather negative impression of the IPP, thinking it paternalistic and all. A few years ago a missionary that served in my ward who was Navajo spoke very passionately about the positive influence it had been on his family. I think his parents had been fostered and through that had access to better education and exposure to positive Church experiences that, apparently, they felt they would not have had if they had lived only with their own families. I am glad it worked out well for this elders’ family. I still have a kind of icky feeling about the IPP, though.

    The major distinction I see between “Lamanites” and “Children of Lehi” is the Mormon propensity to equate Lamanites with wickedness. Lehis’ children, however, included Nephi and Sam, so they aren’t straight up wicked.

  21. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for that, David G. So it wasn’t baby adoptions at all, apparently. Interesting.

  22. @18: Growing up, us Gilbert, AZ Mormon kids weren’t yet aware of the program’s controversial nature.

    That said, just to be clear, they weren’t babies (at least as far as our family was concerned).

    And that said, they weren’t ghosts, either. Never mind how much some folks seem to be wishing they’d conveniently disappear.

  23. Steve Evans says:

    “Never mind how much some folks seem to be wishing they’d conveniently disappear.”

    Sort of how most of us feel about you, Chino.

  24. Kristine says:

    ESO, that icky feeling is colonialist guilt. It’s a good sign.

  25. If you feel I need to apologize for my life and my foster brothers and sisters, it’ll take more than you or any quorum you might be able to assemble here at BCC to drag that out of me. Ban me or cool it, Steve.

  26. Martin says:

    Geez, Chino, you sure are combative. Why don’t you just talk like a normal person and share your experiences?

  27. MikeinWeHo, the adoption thing you are thinking of might be what Australia was doing and has recently apologized for.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Chino, you don’t need to apologize for your life — you need to apologize for being a combative ass and for relentlessly waging war against the Church, particularly when talking to those members who just might have a sympathetic ear. Don’t try to make this into some sort of noble sacrifice for truth, where getting banned would mean some sort of martyrdom for your cause. The truth most relevant for your current predicament at BCC is not your stance on the issues, it’s your inability to, as Martin says, talk like a normal person.

  29. And I suppose I should suddenly be all peaches-and-cream in the face of the eliminationist rhetoric directed my way via #24?

    Is anybody in charge here? Or are we going to continue to pretend that no matter what I type, it’s ripe for the round file?

  30. Norbert says:

    David G, thanks for the further reading. I’ll check those out.

    Chino, I don’t understand your anger.

  31. John Mansfield says:

    To put a bit of perspective on the Indian Placement Program, keep in mind that in the 50s, 15-year-old Harry Reid left home so he could attend high school. So did my grandmother around 1933.

  32. Norbert says:

    From what I’ve read, the decline of the Indian Placement Program was also consistent with government efforts in the same direction, namely the boarding schools.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    I am chuckling at “eliminationist rhetoric.” Yes, Chino, clearly I want you dead.

    See what people mean about talking like a normal person?!? Good gravy, man.

    Norbert, I apologize for threadjacking your post to deal with Chino. I’ll stop now.

  34. I think Chino may be offended by the mere mention of the word contrition, as perhaps he was by #15.

    That said – I still don’t get what he is talking about. Perhaps us Murkan Marmons just need a little more splainin’.

  35. All things being relative, I suddenly don’t feel so bad about my blogosphere past.

  36. As far as I can tell, I think that Chino feels like the church has abandoned his IPP foster siblings (and possibly all the folks fostered through the program). I don’t actually know what this means, but that seems to be what’s setting him off.

    Please feel free to correct my likely misunderstanding of your meaning. If Steve hasn’t yet banned you today, of course.

  37. Kristine – To be honest, as much as I understand the concept of “colonialist guilt” – the reality re the IPP is something else altogether per my POV (contradictions and all, it’s something I apparently mistakenly assumed we LDS had all – all together – mostly experienced and internalized).

    “We” walked away. Salt-of-the-Earth Saints like my folks never got the memo. Is there some coherent view of the IPP (or its discontinuation) on offer here, or is it more of the same-old, same-old obfuscation?

    The reality on my planet is (scarily enough) more in line with John Mansfield’s. Life was hard. We did our best. We welcomed these kids on the advice of our leaders. They’ve been family ever since. Now suddenly they’re a disposable demographic.

  38. I think what I am confused about is how anything that has been said here implies that Latter-day Saints think they are a disposible demographic.

    I agree with John C. that your argument seems to be that since the Church discontinued the IPP after 50 years of use that this somehow disregards or disrespects members or Native Americans who participated in the program. I’m not seeing how that is the case though. Taking a decision that the program should be closed going forward does not necessarily imply any kind of value judgment about its performance or success in the lives of individuals in the past.

  39. You may be interested in the following article by Michael R. Ash Mormon Times Monday this last Monday:

    In the Doctrine and Covenants, for example, the early Saints are directed to go preach to the Lamanites. How could the Native Americans in Joseph’s world be Lamanites? The answer is found in culture and genealogy.

    While culture is learned and typically passes from parents to children, people can change cultures or assimilate into different cultures. Thus we have Americans who are culturally American, although they (or their ancestors) might have come from Africa, Europe, Asia, or many other parts of the world. Terms such as “African,” “Asian,” “Jew,” “LDS,” “Indian,” and so forth are social constructs, not biological or genetic classifications.

    Although some of the original Lamanite party would have had Lehite DNA, anyone who joined the Lamanites was called “Lamanite” by the Nephites. After Christ’s visit to the New World, Book of Mormon peoples lived in harmony for many decades. During that time, there were “no Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were one, the children of Christ” (4 Nephi 1:17). Several decades later we read of a small revolt of people who had “taken upon them the name of Lamanites; therefore there began to be Lamanites again in the land” (v. 20).

    Intertwined with cultural identification is a concept from anthropology known as emic vs. etic discourse — basically perceptions of insider versus outsider. Emic is how a people understand themselves, whereas etic is how a people are understood by outsiders. Often these two views are very different.

    Those called “Egyptians” by the Greeks were “Mizraim” to the Hebrews. The Egyptians used neither term to refer to themselves. To us, some Europeans are “German,” to the Italians “Tedesco,” to the French “Allemand,” but to themselves they are “Deutsch.” We call the early inhabitants of this continent “Native Americans” or “Indians,” but that is not how they referred to themselves.

    To the Nephites virtually all non-Nephites were “Lamanites,” while to Latter-day Saints, all Native Americas are “Lamanites.” The term “Lamanite” meant different things to Nephi, Alma, Mormon, and even Joseph Smith (which is what we would expect — and happen to find — if the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text written by multiple authors over many centuries).

    Finally, we have genealogy, or one’s ancestry. Everyone has two parents, and each parent has two parents. If you go back two generations (to your grandparents) you have four ancestral slots filled by two grandfathers and two grandmothers. As we go further back in our genealogy the number of ancestral slots increases geometrically. These slots don’t represent the actual number of ancestors, however, because intermarriage among relatives will cause some ancestors to fill multiple ancestral slots.

    If we could create a genealogical chart for a modern Native American back to Lehi’s generation we would have over 1 octillion ancestral slots (that’s more than 1 trillion times 1 quadrillion). Now obviously he would not have 1 octillion ancestors (there haven’t been that many people in the entire history of the world). Some ancestors would fill many of these ancestral slots. Nevertheless, on a genealogy chart, there would be 1 octillion ancestral slots. From how many slots would our Native American be descended? All of them. If Laman (or a descendant of Laman) was an ancestor in just one of these 1 octillion ancestral slots, then it can legitimately be claimed that our Native American is a Lamanite descendant.

    Other studies indicate that a large percentage of all people may have traces of Israelite ancestry, and that most people may be descendants of Abraham (see Genesis 22:17). Likewise, the numerical dynamics of population mixing feasibly suggests that most Native Americans are descended from Book of Mormon peoples.

    So although there is no evidence for a genetic link between modern Native Americans and Lamanites, LDS scriptures and prophets are justified in referring to them as “Lamanites” due to the likelihood of cultural and genealogical affiliations

  40. Mauss talks about this. He points out the the church’s efforts to help Native American’s were very successful but that wasn’t the primary mission. He points to a speech given by Pres. Packer in the late ’70s at BYU where he expressed his frustration. He said that Native Americans were not becoming local leaders while in Latin America, natives were joining in big number and noted that they had a pure Mayan state president in central America.

  41. Kristine says:

    Chino, the OP wasn’t about the IPP at all. I read it as being about linguistic usage.

    Sorry if my off-handed comment to ESO added to your distress. I think a discussion of the IPP is well beyond the scope of the discussion Norbert was starting. That said, I think there are lots of people with good feelings about the IPP, and, even among people like me, who think it was a disturbing practice conceptually, no one has any personal animus towards the participants–indeed, I think it would be universally agreed that the program was well-intentioned and very helpful to many people.

  42. Chino – I agree with you that this seems to be an issue. My personal experience with the IPP was limited to an Uncle who welcomed a Navajo young man into their home. I was young and remember him being in his early to mid teens. I knew he had difficulty adjusting (this is all relative as his three sons were all adopted and had similar difficulties). My most distinct remembrance is during a visit to Phoenix for Thanksgiving in 1984 of him running away to some cousins.

    I don’t see the uncle much anymore, and he has remarried, but I haven’t heard anything of what happened to him. In this regard I am saddened.

  43. By The Rules says:

    As a clueless kid growing up in SoCal church environment, we had an IPP girl in our MIA program. She would go home during the summers, but was simply accepted as one of the group when she was around. I think the ward got as much or more out of having her there than she did as the direct beneficiary of the program.

    Then one day a couple of ward later, I noticed that there were no more IPP kids around. But that early experience has been helpful multiple times in my life.

    (unusual for BCC, there appears to be some bilaterally disproportionate responses today!)

  44. My wife’s family participated in the IPP and they continue to have good relations with one of the kids they fostered (the other, not so much). I’ve never heard people say it was a bad program or that participants (Anglo or Native American) were bad people generally. I’ve never had any reason to believe that it was being swept under the rug.

    Do you have any specific things that you can point to that are leading you to this conclusion?

  45. There will be a couple of Navajo women featured on MWP next month that went as young children into the IPP–and their experience and attitude toward the program.

  46. What of individuals in the present?

    “Individuals” (not to mention “families”) have the pesky habit of outliving particular policies.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the OP titled: “Where have all the Lamanites gone?”

    Are we here to answer that question? Or to make sure no intelligible answer makes it past moderation?

  47. I was in a particular ward at BYU for a number of years – it was a ward with many non-whites and more particularly many Native Americans.

    It had been called the “Lamanite Generation” ward – because many who participated in that group and activity were attending that ward – but at that point the term/designation was being discouraged.

    It was a very positive experience for me, for all kinds of reasons – and being in that particular ward was probably the only way that I would become a near minority in any community/group in Provo, Utah.

    I will never forget one person getting up in testimony meeting and saying: “I am grateful for the Church because it has helped me to overcome my hatred of white people.” Those words stood out, of course – but the whole testimony was very personal and very special – as this woman spoke about her experiences on and off a reservation where she had lived.

  48. Kristine says:

    Chino, I really think Norbert’s title was slightly coy–what Norbert wanted to know was why we don’t use the word “Lamanites” much anymore. He was not, as far as I can tell, attempting to explore the fate of the persons we used to call Lamanites.

    Incidentally, for those interested, here is a brief history of the IPP: https://bycommonconsent.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/dialogue_v30n01_59.pdf

  49. Oh, and at least one of these sisters regularly uses Children of Lehi to describe herself, her children, and other native Americans.

  50. I thought it was a semantics thing, i.e. Norbert was asking why we don’t hear people referring to Native Americans or Latin Americans as Lamanites very much anymore.

  51. Chino,
    So you are upset because Norbert wrote the post that he wrote, not the post that you wished that he would have written based on how you interpreted the title? That’s an awfully small thing to get so angry about. It also leads me to believe that this threadjack really was a waste of everyone’s time. Why don’t you go take a walk or something and come back when you can reasonably discuss the actual topic of the post?

  52. People, please stop feeding Chino. Norbert’s post, including its title, is very plain and doesn’t need to be explained. We’re just giving him a stage to complain about the IPP.

  53. Isn’t danithew’s #48 a gratifying anecdote? For me, it is. I understand that some folks want to suggest my comments are inscrutable, but for anyone with half a brain, I’ve gotta ask: was I wrong with my initial “taxonomy” comment @13?

    “It had been called the ‘Lamanite Generation'” …

    And why no longer? To hell with opposing legalistic arguments. What of the humanistic case for letting go (for a change) and embracing a broader Lamanite “taxonomy”???

    Fer cryin’ out loud, I grew up hearing how I was a member of the Tribe of Manasseh. Has that changed, too? Or do us Scots-Irish get a pass and it’s only the aboriginals who’ve got to adapt to our fungible theology?

  54. So you disagree with people moving away from using the term “Lamanite” in favor of “children of Lehi” or Native Americans?

  55. Interesting side note to all of this, is that during the mid 1980’s member of the Quorum of 70 George P. Lee, a native Navajo, and first American Indian GA, began complaining publicly about how the “Lamanites” were no longer being treated with the same deference by the church as in previous decades.

    Ultimately, though, that probably played a minor part in his eventual excommunication in 1989.

  56. My opinion is that ideas in the church kind of ebb and flow. The moniker “Lamanite” has ebbed and now we are hearing “children of Lehi”.

    I suspect that realpolitic plays a role in the ebb of the term however.

  57. I am astounded that it took 56 comments about the IPP, Lamanites, and Church politices before someone mentioned George P. Lee.

  58. Kristine,
    Can you link to the 1985 Dialogue article that Hangen referenced too?

  59. Kevin Barney says:

    I realize it’s a tangent to the OP, but anyone interested in the IPP might try reading Jim Allen’s chapter on that subject:

    The Rise and Decline of the LDS Indian Student Placement Program, 1947—1996


  60. Thomas Parkin says:

    I was busing through Ballard this morning, and what I wonder is: where have all the Norwegians gone???

    It intrigues me to no end when the church gets things like this wrong. The word of God it sure do hiss forth from generation to generation.


  61. TP, try Leif Erikson Hall on 57th Street.

  62. Kristine says:
  63. TP (61),
    Who knows? But someone knows where all the the apostates have gone.

  64. Thanks Kevin. Helen’s story is the one I was looking for.

  65. Kristine thanks.
    One thing that seems to be a problem in the body of research is that the only people interviewed and researched live on reservations. Ultimately, IPP didn’t help them end a poverty cycle. What’s lacking is the large number of Native Americans who don’t live on reservations and/or were able to end a poverty cycle and have assimilated into the greater American culture (the only way to end poverty for them).
    The woman I interviewed was largely positive, and while she goes back to the reservation, she still see little chance of a decent education on the reservation for the children there.
    I don’t really have an opinion on whether or not it was a good idea–but the research seems awfully unbalanced.

  66. Latter-day Guy says:

    I have an “uncle,” who lived as my mom’s foster-brother for a few years under the auspices of the IPP. I’ve only met him a couple times, but I remember my mom being really excited after bumping into him in the temple (he’d kind of fallen off the map).

    Anyhow, the OP makes me wonder if recent DNA/BOM issues have been a cultural game-changer, or if they’re just a last nail in a (once important) doctrinal/linguistic coffin.

  67. Norbert says:

    L-d Guy, my own opinion is that the more international scope of the church makes the relationship between a ‘white’ church and the Lamanite ‘Other’ incomprehensible. That trend over the last forty years is as significant as the DNA, especially 1982-2000.

  68. John Mansfield says:

    That’s an interesting idea, Norbert. Living Lamanites wouldn’t be so interesting to the sixth of the Church that lives beyond the Americas and the Pacific islands.

  69. My first instinct was to say essentially what Norbert just said in #68.

    Pres. Kimball passed away; the IPP ended; DNA research led to an official change in the BofM introduction; the global LDS Church leadership stopped seeing “others” and started seeing “us”. Thus, words that separated members into categories generally started to be dropped from the vocabulary of those leaders.

  70. I had a missionary companion who was a Maori from New Zealand. After his mission he ended up at BYU and someone encouraged him to apply for a “Lamanite scholarship.” He told me he had no idea he was considered a Lamanite, having never heard the term applied to him or his people before. We served our missions in the mid 80s, so in the late 80s it seems like they were stil handing out Lamanite scholarships to Polynesians at BYU

  71. Hey, nice! I liked the “changing over the times” part especially. I didn’t notice that number count when researching a lot of the same stuff for a post on my blog:
    http://bookofmormonnotes.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/book-of-mormon-article-nephi-and-jacobs-isles-of-the-sea-others-versus-hagoth-and-polynesians-by-grego/ . It includes some of the Lamanite quotes.

    It also talks a little about the same topic–particularly, are all the Polynesians Hagoths’s descendants? It includes some quotes about the Polynesians, some being from the dedicatory prayers:

    President Heber J. Grant, at the Laie HAWAII Temple dedication November 27-30, 1919, said:
    “We thank Thee, that thousands and tens of thousands of the DESCENDANTS OF LEHI, IN THIS FAVORED LAND, have come to a knowledge of the gospel, many of whom have endured faithfully to the end of their lives.”

    President David O. McKay, at the Hamilton NEW ZEALAND Temple dedication on April 20–22, 1958, said:
    We express gratitude that TO THESE FERTILE LANDS THOUGH DIDST GUIDE DESCENDANTS OF FATHER LEHI, and hast enabled them to prosper, to develop and to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among mankind.

    Gordon B. Hinckley, at the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple dedication, August 9-11, 1983, said:
    “We thank Thee for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon with its record of THE FOREBEARS OF THE PEOPLE OF TONGA.”

    President Gordon B. Hinckley, in the rebuilt Apia Samoa Temple dedicatory prayer on September 4, 2005, said.
    “In these ISLANDS OF SAMOA, Thou hast remembered Thine ancient promise “UNTO THEM WHO ARE UPON THE ISLES OF THE SEA” (2 Nephi 10:21).”

    Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, at the dedication of the NEW ZEALAND Temple, April 20, 1958: ” . . . Here are two great strains of the house of Israel and the children of Ephraim from the isles of Britain, and THE CHILDREN OF LEHI FROM THE ISLES OF THE PACIFIC.”

    Hugh B. Brown, praying at the end of the cornerstone laying ceremony at the New Zealand Temple, said:
    “We humbly thank Thee that this building is erected in this land, so that those faithful MAORIS WHO CAME HERE IN EARLY DAYS, DESCENDANTS OF FATHER LEHI, may be remembered by their descendants…”

  72. As a friend of Chino in his real-life incarnation, I’m glad I learned things about him from this conversation. It helps me understand him so much better, and to love him more. Chino may be tough-minded here, but he’d give you the shirt off his back if you asked, and probably throw in his pants and socks too. He’s one of the kindest people I know.

    As a total non-Mormon whose knowledge of Mormon beliefs is quite limited, basically to having read the Book of Mormon and street encounters with missionaries, reading this conversation is like being transported to an alternate reality.

    Thanks for leading me here, Chino.


  73. This is late to the discussion, but a BYU professor has put the text of all the conference talks in a database online. You can search for the term “Lamanite” and find all the times it was mentioned (though you can’t read the entire talk, just the sentences surrounding the word or phrase you search for).


    The frequency chart shows that the 20’s and then 50’s-80’s had the most talks mentioning the word Lamanite, with a significant drop-off in the 90s.

  74. Re 74, I would add that reading the context helps determine how many times the word “Lamanite” refers to contemporary individuals, something I did not have time to do.

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