“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 Type

Journal Article

Year of Publication

2023

Authors

Uriona, T.J. (Primary)

Pagination

121–140

Volume

32

Issue

3

Terms of use

Items in the BMC Archive are made publicly available for non-commercial, private use. Inclusion within the BMC Archive does not imply endorsement. Items do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of Book of Mormon Central.

Bibliographic Citation

Uriona, T.J. "“Life and Death, Blessing and Cursing”: New Context for “Skin of Blackness” in the Book of Mormon", Vol. 32. 2023:121–140.

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.

Covenant
Ancient Near East
Intertextuality
Skin Color
Ancient Egypt
Skin of Blackness
Lamanite Mark

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