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 This meant the Spirit of the Lord was withdrawn from their lives.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.

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8 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    I agree with some of your thoughts, but I wanted to add my own thoughts. You are right that the Lord is no respecter of person and visits people in their worst situations. But it is usually not the Lord who cuts off his presence, it’s the people who choose to do iniquity that cut God out of their lives. They are the ones who separate themselves from Him. This is the way I interpreted it. Thanks for sharing. It provided some great reflection and deeper thought about something that has scared a lot of members away.

  2. Allemande Left says:

    Thank you for your post. I agree with you. IMO nothing can separate us from the love of God. It is within us. We might not hear it or feel it but it is always there and God does not curse his children.
    I recently heard a new interpretation of the scripture that God will visit the sins of the fathers upon the future generations. This could mean that the “sins” are really “wrong direction, bad theology, misinterpretation of scripture or promptings.” When we, as future generations keep coming back to the “sins” of the father it is not as a punishment or curse we are experiencing, but an awakening to see the error of the ways that preceded us and make course corrections. IMO “visit” means to contemplate what happened and do our best to correct errors. There are many examples throughout history and within our church.
    Thank you for sharing your conviction that God is with all of us. I hope we, as a church, can “visit” this topic more fully.

  3. Ziff says:

    Thanks for pointing this out, Fatimah, that the “fix” to the manual still perpetuates harmful ideas. It seems like we have plenty of stories of people who are dramatically converted (e.g., Alma the Younger, Paul) even though they were doing awful things. So if the Spirit of God was still accessible to them, why not to the Lamanites? I guess I’m just restating your point. This is not a good teaching.

  4. Kindra says:

    Beautifully written. I have struggled so long with this verse. Thank you for framing it better than I ever could have.

  5. Zoe Gillenwater says:

    Thank you for this. I agree, but am also puzzled by the idea that God doesn’t curse entire groups of people. This is the same God that killed “everyone” with a flood because of their wickedness, when surely that included innocent children. And if you believe the Book of Mormon, he also destroyed Jerusalem because of the people’s wickedness, again lumping everyone of varying levels of righteousness and innocence into one homogenous group to punish. If we believe these stories of God’s wrath, it seems consistent to me that he would also curse/cut off the entirety of the Lamanites for some time. I’m uncomfortable with these stories and don’t know how to reconcile them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  1. February 21, 2020

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