Racism in the world, especially in the USA, appears to me to have increased during the past 5 or 6 years. It is black on white, white on black, poor on rich or one culture or religion on another.
When I was a young boy, I grew up on the ranch with some of my cousins and friends. Each summer we played hard every day out on the ranch, around the shop and in the irrigation pond. We had a large, long irrigation pond that the well pump would fill with water during the night. During the day the pond was drained into ditches so the stored water plus the day time well pump water flowed to irrigate the crops. Today the pond is gone and the fields are under pivot irrigation machines.
We kids kept a tin boat on the pond which delivered hours of fun. One day I remember we went out to play in the pond but it was windy and dusty, as only Millard County can be. Realizing a solution to the dust, we went directly to the shop and took the acetylene welding goggles to wear while boating; to keep the dust out of our eyes. We knew this was not allowed by our fathers and we would be in big trouble if they found out. But, my uncle was down in the fields working and we figured we could simply return the goggles when we finished and no harm would be done. I remember sitting in the boat with my cousins having a good time and all of us wearing goggles. As my uncle drove up from the fields, he saw 3 kids out in the boat in the wind wearing shaded welding goggles. He stopped and ordered us back to the shop to return the goggles. I will admit that I was naive and stupid back then because my first thought was, “How did he know we borrowed goggles since he has not been into the shop and tried to use the torch?” It is similar to your 4 year old secretly scrawling his or her name on the wall with a marker and wondering how you knew who did it.
For the record, when I was 10 or 11 years old my father came out where we were playing one afternoon in June. He asked if I would drive the truck in the field for him. I scrambled to his assistance thinking that it sounded fun. I never returned to play. I found myself doing ranch work: operating equipment, hauling hay, irrigating, punching cows, etc. every day all summer from that day to when I left on my first mission.
Each human being tends to look at the world around him or her through their own welding goggles. My uncle and I both saw the same situation with two totally different thought processes and perspectives. Too often when it comes to Races of people identified by different colored skin or religion, human beings have proven to be inhumane with their thoughts and actions. In the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites were cursed and received a darkened skin from God and answers are given about this event that sheds some light on how you should view other races today.
After arriving in the Promised Land and shortly after the death of Lehi, Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi and sought to kill him. They claimed he, their younger brother, was thinking to rule over them. They would have no part of that, stating the rights to rule the people belonged only to the Lamanites. They sought to take away Nephi’s life. The Lord warned Nephi to depart from his brothers and take with him those who wanted to go. That included Zoram, Sam, Jacob and Joseph and their families. They took their property and journeyed to a new area to settle. There they observed to keep the commandments of the Lord, they were industrious, they built buildings and a temple, they labored with their hands and prospered exceedingly. Nephi said they lived after the manner of happiness. (2 Nephi 5:27)
The Lord had stated regarding the Lamanites when they left Jerusalem that if they rebel against Nephi, “…they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (1 Nephi 2:21) So, when Nephi and his friends separated from the Lamanites:
20 …the word of the Lord was fulfilled … Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.
21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint… (2 Nephi 5:20-21)
The Curse. It is clear that the curse was being cut off from the presence of God; it was withdrawal of the Spirit. This is a sore cursing by any standards. The darkened skin was not the curse.
The Cause of the Curse. According to the verse, the curse was caused by inequity and hardened hearts.
The Sign of the Curse. The following verse then explains that the sign of the curse (not the curse itself) was a darkened skin:
22...wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. (2 Nephi 5:21)
The Reason for the Sign. The reason stated in the scriptures for the sign of darkened skin is to limit spreading of more wickedness. This often happens when believers marry nonbelievers and become turned away from the Lord. The Lord warns continually in the scriptures against doing this.
8 And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction. (Alma 3:8)
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr stated, “The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse…These converts are delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:122-23)
The Results of the Curse. The curse, being cut off from the presence of God, results in people becoming a loathsome, idle people, full of mischief and subtlety unless they repent of their iniquities. (2 Nephi 5: 22, 24) One great blessing is that the curse, being cut off, and its result are only valid as long as the people are wicked.
God’s handling of his children is always a blessing and we are accountable to be kind and understanding to everyone. Both the Lamanites and the Nephites often saw people not as individuals but through the prism of which group they belonged to; dark or white, Christian or non-Christian, rich or poor and nothing else seemed to matter. They were unable to judge people or situations fairly or objectively but their judgment depended on the group involved and not as Martin Luther King later taught to judge on content of character not the color of one’s skin. Their leaders sought power by creating conflict and dividing people into groups by planting the seed of discord for personal gain (race baiting). This created a continuous cycle of hate that always led to conflict. These are still the same tactics used by Racists today, some who are our leaders, and the results are no different. Our challenge is to recognize and avoid this behavior in ourselves.