Sermoncitos, a family tradition
An article in the religious section of the weekend paper gives a balanced account of the “debate” in the church about a word change in the introduction of the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon. Although the defenders of the faith are represented, the statements of the detractors tend to give opportunity for doubt. Those whose faith is weak can find excuses to falter. It has always been that way. Alma and King Mosiah had to deal with murmuring by church members in response to persecution (Mosiah 27:1). Jesus reminded his disciples that they are not greater than their master: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). I entered “persecute” into the scripture search, and the computer found references to persecution all throughout the standard works. “And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you” (3 Ne. 12: 10-12).
The “debate” mentioned is about whether it is significant that the “are the ancestors” was changed to “are among the ancestors” in this statement: “After thousands of years all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians”. In fact, the compiler of the Book of Mormon (Mormon) states that he is writing to the Lamanites, and the Gentiles, and the Jews to bring them to Christ. That is the purpose of the Book of Mormon: to convince people “that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations”.
The book makes reference to various migrations to the Americas from other continents, some who mixed together, and others who remain distinctive. About 500 B.C. Jacob decided how refer to the people - Nephites (those friendly to the Nephites) and Lamanites (those that seek to destroy the Nephites), rather than by the clan or family names by which they were commonly known at the time - Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, Ishmaelites (Jacob 1: 13-14). Later, Nephite dissenters were sometimes referred to as Lamanites (Alma 43:13). Some of the Mulekites (who were not descendants of Lehi) became Nephites (Mosiah 25:13) and some “became” Lamanites (Alma 45:12-14). Some of the descendants of Zoram became called Lamanites (Alma 43:4). The clan distinctions carried over to the end writings of the book (Mormon 1:8,9), including those who were Mulekites. Since then, the people of the Americas have mixed with those of every continent.
The Lamanites are often referred to as surviving the ethnic cleansings because they were more righteous than the Nephites, but little is written of their history or testimony. Very few of the writings of the Nephites are preserved for us, but those that were selected teach to “look to Christ for a remission of your sins. The advocated pedagogy encourages that we preach, prophecy, write, and speak to our children (2 Ne 25:26,27). Your testimony and experiences will strengthen your children so that their testimony may remain firm in spite of persecutions, murmurings, and detractors.
“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise” (JS-H 1:4).