Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2177734
 


 



Imagining Lamanites: Native Americans and the Book of Mormon


Thomas W. Murphy


Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School

June 1, 2003

Doctoral Dissertation, University of Washington, 2003

Abstract:     
The Book of Mormon, first published by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830 in Palmyra, New York, draws upon colonial and antebellum biblical hermeneutics and nineteenth century myths of the origin and fate of an ancient American civilization of Mound Builders to construct a textual image of people of Hebrew descent called Lamanites. The author casts Lamanites as the antithesis of civilized, Christianized, white Nephites and employs legends of a Semitic patriarchal seed and a Hamitic curse of a dark skin to naturalize the authority of white men. The text formulates a model of conversion that conflates religious with economic, political, social, and biological transformation. Mormons of European heritage drew upon the portrait of Lamanites from this sacred text to target American Indians for conversion, adoption, and assimilation while justifying the usurpation of Native American lands. Rather than facilitating the disappearance of Lamanites, Mormon evangelization fostered the emergence of a new and dynamic Lamanite identity. American Indian converts to Mormonism in the United States, Mexico, and beyond have adopted, contested, and creatively reconstructed Lamanite status in ways that often defied Mormon attempts to turn them white. Meanwhile, Mormon scholars have struggled with archaeological, historical, and biological evidence contradicting claims of a Hebrew origin of American Indians and offered new images of Lamanites that narrowed the geographical range of the Book of Mormon from a hemispheric view to more limited geographies in places like Central America. Recent development of DNA research into American Indian origins has undermined claims of Hebrew ancestry for American Indians in Central America and beyond. Some Mormon scholars are now claiming the Hebrews of the Book of Mormon left no genetic descendants while others are entertaining the possibility that the scripture may be inspired fiction.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 308

Keywords: Mormon, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, American Indians, Lamanites, Native Americans, Hebrews, Mexico, naturalize, DNA, Mound Builders, patriarchy, body, skin color, race, Ethnicity

JEL Classification: Z10

Accepted Paper Series





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Date posted: November 20, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Thomas W., Imagining Lamanites: Native Americans and the Book of Mormon (June 1, 2003). Doctoral Dissertation, University of Washington, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2177734

Contact Information

Thomas W. Murphy (Contact Author)
Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School ( email )
20000 68th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98036
United States
425-640-1076 (Phone)
425-771-3366 (Fax)
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