Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have heard that people with black skin had been denied certain things in the Mormon Church until the past 30 years or so and that this has something to do with the Curse of Cain. What has been the historical teaching of the LDS Church regarding the Curse of Cain and dark-skinned people? What are the references in the Book of Mormon and other Mormon Scriptures that address this issue?

share|improve this question
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Here is more context for some verses from the Book of Mormon, the first quote shows the curse, and the effect of it, so they became dark-skinned and lazy. The problem is that this can then be extended to shape prejudices against anyone because of their skin color, but, the last two quotes shows that discrimination based on color is wrong, and all from the Book of Mormon.

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; 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. 22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. 23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. 24 And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.

When you come back to God and do what is expected then this curse is lifted:

12 Therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers, yea, and also to maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty. 13 And it came to pass that before this thirteenth year had passed away the Nephites were threatened with utter destruction because of this war, which had become exceedingly sore. 14 And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; 15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; 16 And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year.

Another section showing that others may get the curse due to their wickedness:

14 Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them. 15 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. 16 And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed. 17 And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever; and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed. 18 Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads; nevertheless they had come out in open rebellion against God; therefore it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them. 19 Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.

When you try to be consistent with the BoM then cherry-picking to justify prejudices is going to happen, as God isn't going to discriminate based on skin color for example.

33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

And here the believers are commanded not to hold these against others since the believers should reflect on the filthiness of their own souls. This is similar to "Him who has no sin cast the first stone", IMO.

7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator? 8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God. 9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

So, it is easy to see how people could pick some verses and make some decisions that enforce their own biases, but that is due to ignoring other verses, so the blame is not on the BoM but on those that did the cherry-picking.

share|improve this answer
Alma 3:18 is particularly significant here, as it shows that the mark of the curse is not simply "dark-colored skin" but is actually something that a person can physically do to themselves. The talk of lightness and darkness is best understood in the context of the Egyptian traditions they brought with them, more as a symbol of purity than of literal color. – Mason Wheeler Dec 8 '11 at 2:59
It should be noted that the LDS church would not confer full priesthood on non-white church members until 1978 when new revelation was recieved. This was often because church leadership would "extended" the teachings of 2 Nephi, Alma and Jacob to justify excluding these people on the basis of their skin color. – James Shewey Oct 14 '14 at 23:03
@user3127174 Actually the reasons behind the Priesthood restrictions were never revealed (that I could ever find). Any reasons trying to explain why is merely speculation, as they don't come from official declarations or modern revelation like General Conferences. – Matt Oct 15 '14 at 2:53
@JamesShewey From what I heard, only africans were denied the priesthood, not, for example, people from pacific islands (which don't all have white skin either, I'd say...). – kutschkem Dec 3 '14 at 14:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.