"Early church members" – Joseph Smith Papers edition

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I’ve commented before on the display in the Church History Museum titled “The Indian Mission.” See here. The display portrays the mission Oliver Cowdery and others went on in 1830, as directed by the Lord in D&C 28, 30 and 32.

The display is misleading. Instead of “The Indian Mission” it should read “The Lamanite Mission.”

The placard says “Early Church members believed that these Indians were descendants of Israelites who were known as Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. In late 1830, Cowdery and his companions preached to Seneca Indians in New York and Huron Indians in Ohio.”

Think about this.

Was this merely a quaint, naive belief of “early Church members” as the exhibit claims?

Look at the preceding statement on the placard. “In September 1830 in Fayette, New York, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord called Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, and others to preach to American Indians.

That statement is simply false.

Read D&C 28:8. “And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them.”

The revelation says nothing about “American Indians.” These men were called to preach to the Lamanites.

This was not a folk belief held by “early Church members” as the display claims. It was a direct revelation from the Lord. Sections 30 and 32 say the same thing. Not a word about “American Indians.” The mission was specifically to preach to the Lamanites.

The tribes Oliver and the others visited are the only specific people whom the Lord has identified as Lamanites. It’s right there in the scriptures.

Besides, this “belief” is not limited to “early Church members.” There are many members of the Church today, including members of the tribes these missionaries visited, who still believe what the Lord said in D&C 28, 30 and 32. If the museum doesn’t want to display the actual scripture or paraphrase it accurately, the display could at least acknowledge that many members today still believe in what the scriptures say.
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Why does the museum have it wrong?

Apparently people in the Church History Department don’t want people to know what the scriptures actually say, so they reworded the revelation for the exhibit. Notice that the exhibit doesn’t even give a citation to the scripture, let alone quote it. You have millions of people going through this museum being told a falsehood, both overtly (by misrepresenting what the revelation says) and covertly (by not quoting the actual scripture).
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You’ll find the same thing in the Joseph Smith Papers. Look at this entry on “Lamanites,” which you can find here:
http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/topic/lamanites

“Early church members viewed contemporary American Indian tribes as the descendants of the Lamanites.

“Since the Book of Mormon was written in part “to the Lamanites,” some of the first missionaries were sent to preach the gospel and establish the church among the American Indians.”


Don’t misunderstand. The Church History Department is awesome. They do a wonderful job and they are a pleasure to work with.

But somehow the Department has been infiltrated by people who reject what D&C Sections 28, 30 and 32 teach. Oliver Cowdery and the others went to the Lamanites, not to “American Indians” that “early Church members” “viewed” as “descendants of the Lamanites.”

I’ve suggested that the Museum change the exhibit. I’ve also made the suggestion to the Joseph Smith Papers. We’ll see what, if anything, happens.

🙂
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If you want to make suggestions, you could write to the Museum and the Joseph Smith Papers pursuant to the guidelines on their respective web pages. Here’s a sample:

The glossary entry under Lamanites contains misinformation. Here’s the link: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/topic/lamanites

The entry reads: “Early church members viewed contemporary American Indian tribes as the descendants of the Lamanites. Since the Book of Mormon was written in part “to the Lamanites,” some of the first missionaries were sent to preach the gospel and establish the church among the American Indians.

The scriptures that called these men on their mission actually say nothing about “American Indians.” D&C 28, 30, and 32 all refer specifically to the Lamanites. It was not “early church members” who held this belief, but the Lord himself who revealed that these tribes were Lamanites. The glossary should use the terminology of the scriptures, not someone’s interpretive spin about what “early church members” believed. Besides, many members of the Church today, including members of the tribes these missionaries visited, still believe what the Lord said in D&C 28, 30 and 32, so if you’re going to avoid using the scriptural terminology, at least don’t limit the belief to “early” church members. You could say “many Church members then and now view contemporary American Indian tribes…” 

Thank you in advance for considering this correction. I love the work you do!

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

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