Jews in 2 Nephi of the Book of Mormon and their attitude toward Afro-Americans

Three weeks ago I posted an interview with Mark Paredes at Mormons and Orthodox Judaism Part II. In turn, Mark posted selections from my post at his blog, which elicited comments. I am now posted a short interchange from his comments because of an analysis of what the Book of Mormon says about Jews and how contemporary Mormons explains their texts.

Mr. Paredes, you really are to be commended for promoting positive dialogue between Jews and our Latter Day Saint neighbors.

But Latter Day Saint scripture leaves no room for ambiguity on this topic, making the relationship between Mormonism and the Jewish People unique indeed:
Second Book of Nephi, Chapter 10, Verse 3: “Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.”

Here we read in plain (Latter Day Saint) scripture that the Jews were the “more wicked part of the world” and that they had the unmitigated chutzpah to “crucify their God”! [exclamation point added] The scary thing is that I seriously doubt the general level of morality of Jews in Jesus’ time was any different than that of Jews today—we’re remarkably consistent—thus potentially keeping us among the more wicked part of the world. The only consolation I find is that (thank G-d) the Christian world has not incorporated Latter Day Saint scripture into its official canon. Otherwise, there would have been absolute carte blanche to do to the Jews what they will. You can’t kill G-d, and hope to get away with it.
Comment by Gavriel Abrams on 5/02/11 at 6:23 pm

Thanks so much for your comment and for your readership. I believe that the following passage of scripture from the Book of Mormon is both better known and more representative of LDS feelings towards Jews, whom they have always respected and honored. Remember that Nephi lived around the time of Jeremiah, who had plenty to say about the Jews’ immorality and wickedness in his time. I have never heard the passage you cited used in any way to defame Jews.
2 Nephi 29:3-14: And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.
4But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
5O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
6Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? [7-11 edited out for posting]

12For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
13And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
14And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.
Comment by Mark Paredes on 5/03/11 at 4:07 pm

It was nice to read your thoughtful response to my comment. I can affirm that I have never heard a Latter Day Saint use any scriptural source – be it LDS-derived, or otherwise, to disparage Jews. The Latter Day Saints that I have encountered in my lifetime are among the most Philo-semitic people I’ve ever known. I completed my undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and my experience there as a Jew in the midst of a predominantly LDS population was 99.9% positive.

I find the way that Latter Day Saints live their religion to be a marvel, especially when one considers that LDS scripture contains such unique precepts as G-d meting out dark skin color as a form of punishment (for native peoples of the Western Hemisphere), or His withholding of earthly spiritual opportunities as punishment for errors committed prior to being born (in the case of black Africans). In the hands of a people less inclined toward genuine kindness and hospitality, these precepts could become the seeds of terrible hatred.

What actually prompted me to comment on this blog entry, and the response to Question No. 6 in particular, was the statement made regarding the Talmud. I found what was said to be unfairly dismissive (though I don’t believe you intended to come across as disrespectful of something so fundamental to Judaism). My initial comment didn’t address the Talmud statement because I was reaching back further, searching for some underlying motive for making a statement such as this. Perhaps a people considered to be so wicked as to have killed G-d Himself, would also be considered more inclined to quarrel pointlessly about scriptural interpretation?

I’m about as unqualified as they come when it comes to Talmud scholarship, so here’s my take as a regular Yid: without the combination of the written Torah, and the Oral Torah (with its exhaustive exploration, or “quarreling” as you call it) recorded in the Talmud, I doubt we’d be having this exchange – the Jewish People would have vanished a thousand years ago, through conversion and complete assimilation.
Personally, I think a Rabbi from the Orthodox community would be better prepared to go into the Talmud with you in greater depth.
Comment by Gavriel Abrams on 5/03/11 at 7:47 pm

Gavriel – In a few instances in the Book of Mormon, when people collectively sinned against God, He cursed them with estrangement from Him. In order to prevent righteous people living at that time from mingling with them, He caused them to have dark skins. Does this mean that Mormons believe that people with dark skin are cursed? No, it does not. It means that for those peoples in those specific time periods living in a specific place, there needed to be a separation between people who were cursed and people who were not. However, once again, the curse was not dark skin, but estrangement from God.

Blacks were not denied the priesthood because of some residual issues from the pre-earth life. This is not an official teaching of the LDS Church. We don’t know why this happened, but I suspect that it was the same reason that the priesthood was denied anciently to everyone but Aaron’s direct male descendants. The reason? Because that’s the way God wanted it to be for reasons known to Him. Mormons believe that everyone living on earth is a child of God, and that we all sided with Him and chose to come to earth and live together.

My comment on the Talmud had nothing to do with killing God, and everything to do with authority. I would welcome the opportunity to continue this dialogue offline.
Comment by Mark Paredes on 5/04/11 at 8:48 am

3 responses to “Jews in 2 Nephi of the Book of Mormon and their attitude toward Afro-Americans

  1. i had very nice experiences with the Mormons in new York. Wholesome moral people would be the word. The problem I have with Mormonism is theological. Joseph Smith predicted a new temple in that generation. That was positive prophecy that was not fulfilled. Also DNA does not lie. DNA shows the American Indians are not directly related to Jews but are rather closer to the Mongolians races of east Asia. However any system of beliefs tends to have problems with it including orthodox Judaism. I think what really matters is if a person is a mencht and in that area Mormons excel.

    • Curtis Blanco

      The fact that American Indian DNA does not resemble Jewish DNA could have a simple explanation consistent with the Book of Mormon being of God … When God put a darker skin on them and made them undesireable to look at, their DNA was changed at that time.

      Although this apparently worked for the Nephites, I will say I have found myself attracted to several Indian women.

  2. I found the comments referred to in 2 Nephi 29.3-14. to be extremely rude and inpolite. It sounds like it is saying something like calling a person who believes in the Bible is a fool.And I know what the God says in the Bible and what it says about fools and people who despise his holy word which is the Bible. As far as I am concerned, anyone who does not believe in the Bible is cursed. The Bible stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

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