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“Life and Death, Blessing and Cursing”: New Context for “Skin of Blackness” in the Book of Mormon

Title“Life and Death, Blessing and Cursing”: New Context for “Skin of Blackness” in the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsUriona, T.J.
JournalBYU Studies
Volume32
Issue3
Pagination121–140
KeywordsAncient Egypt; Ancient Near East; Covenant; Intertextuality; Lamanite Mark; Skin Color; Skin of Blackness
Abstract

For many readers of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5 can prove rather challenging. Not only does this chapter contain the actualization of a curse and the apparent genesis of an outgroup, but it also states that “the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon” this group because of their iniquity (2 Ne. 5:21). Given the prevalence of racial thought in society today, this passage has been interpreted as a hurtful reference to a phenotypic change in skin color brought on by a divine curse, leading many researchers to propose alternatives to a purely racialized understanding of the text. In support of this approach, senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have rejected any racialized reading of the passage but at the same time have given no formal interpretation. In this paper, I will present a new context with which to interpret the phrase “skin of blackness” that builds on apparent intertextuality between Nephi’s writings, those attributed to Moses, and an example of a similar curse found in a prominent treaty from the ancient Near East.

URLhttps://byustudies.byu.edu/article/life-and-death-blessing-and-cursing/