In Regards to the Come Follow Me Correction
The following is a guest post by the Reverend Dr. Fatimah Salleh.
Dear Latter-day Saints,
The latest online correction to the Come Follow Me manual has me thinking deeply about how we, as Christian people, wrestle with scripture.
Let’s take a closer look at 2 Nephi 5:20-21, which I will name as a text of terror—a set of verses that have theologically and spiritually terrorized many members of the church. The original, paper version of the manual names a skin of blackness as a curse. The updated and revised version retracts that statement and replaces it with this:
“In Nephi’s day the curse of the Lamanites was that they were “cut off from [the Lord’s] presence … because of their iniquity” (2 Nephi 5:20–21). This meant the Spirit of the Lord was withdrawn from their lives. When Lamanites later embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, “the curse of God did no more follow them” (Alma 23:18).”
I kindly ask the leaders of the Church to closely examine the extensive and continuation of prejudice and discrimination that now accompanies the new corrected statement. The harm comes from stating that a whole group of people, in its entirety, is cut off from the Lord. God is not to be bound, tamed and restricted. The God we believe in showed up in a lions den, in the wilderness with Hagar and her son, and most definitely in a lowly manger. This God we know continues to show up in prison cells, in cages with children at the border, and continues still to permeate distant places and within forgotten and oppressed communities. For God is Emmanuel, the God who is with us—all of us.
This interpretation also does not stand up to textual scrutiny. Within a few years of Nephi’s prejudiced pronouncement, Jacob, Nephi’s brother, would say that the Lamanities “were more righteous” than the Nephites (Jacob 3:5). How can a people supposedly cursed with being stripped from God’s presence have even a modicum of righteousness, far less be more righteous? Sidenote: The Lamanites, who are allegedly living without the presence of the Lord, were more righteous because they honored the women in their lives.
According to the correction, the curse is not lifted for hundreds of years later as was cited in reference to Alma 23:5. Yet, we, the readers of the holy text, have witnessed the prophets speak to the righteous nature of the Lamanites long before said curse was removed.
A doctrine becomes quite dangerous when we, as God’s children, start condemning one another in gross generalizations, when we start saying that God is taking sides. For God is no respecter of persons and that alone should caution us against any and all theology that would name God otherwise.