This article was adapted from an address delivered at the Lamanite Youth Conference in Salt Lake City on April 24, 1971. Peter MacDonald, chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council, was also one of the speakers at the conference. The beginning reference is to him.
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It pleased me to hear Mr. MacDonald say that he was a “Lamanite.” We knew it all the time, but we didn’t know that he did. And largely perhaps for his benefit we would say that many, many of us are Lamanites, which includes the Indians and the mixtures of Indians with other races. Even I have been adopted into some of the Indian tribes and have been given Indian names. With pride I tell those who come to my office that a Lamanite is a descendant of one Lehi who left Jerusalem six hundred years before Christ and with his family crossed the mighty deep and landed in America. And Lehi and his family became the ancestors of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea, for in the middle of their history there were those who left America in ships of their making and went to the islands of the sea.
Not until the revelations of Joseph Smith, bringing forth the Book of Mormon, did any one know of these migrants. It was not known before, but now the question is fully answered. Now the Lamanites number about sixty million; they are in all of the states of America from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to Point Barrows, and they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand. The Church is deeply interested in all Lamanites because of these revelations and because of this great Book of Mormon, their history that was written on plates of gold and deposited in the hill. The translation by the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed a running history for one thousand years—six hundred years before Christ until four hundred after Christ—a history of these great people who occupied this land for that thousand years. Then for the next fourteen hundred years, they lost much of their high culture. The descendants of this mighty people were called Indians by Columbus in 1492 when he found them here.
The term Lamanite includes all Indians and Indian mixtures, such as the Polynesians, the Guatemalans, the Peruvians, as well as the Sioux, the Apache, the Mohawk, the Navajo, and others. It is a large group of great people.
The Church has always maintained a tremendous interest and concern for the Indian people and all of the Lamanites. As early as 1845 a proclamation was issued by the Church, which said in part: “The sons and daughters of Zion will soon be required to devote a portion of their time in instructing the children of the forest (Indians), for they must be educated and instructed in all the arts of civil life, as well as in the gospel. They must be clothed, fed, and instructed in the principles and practice of virtue, modesty … customs, dress, music and all other things which are calculated in their nature to refine, purify, exalt, and glorify them as the sons and daughters of the royal house of Israel and of Joseph, who are making ready for the coming of the bridegroom.” (Parker Pratt Robinson, ed., Writings of Parley Parker Pratt [Salt Lake City, 1952], p. 5.)
That is why we are interested, besides the humanitarian point of view.
Approximately fifteen hundred years ago, the prophet Mormon said: “And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God. …” (W of M 1:8.) At that time they had already dissipated their religious life and had forgotten the redemption of Christ. They must return to God that they may once again be a delightsome people.
It is to their fathers and God that we are indebted for the enjoyment of such great blessings in the fulfillment of these prophecies. Their ancient prophets, including the prophets of the Lamanites, back through the centuries, looked with concern upon their children; and they interceded by prayer, day and night, for the redemption of their posterity. In answer to the prayers of this long line of prophets and recorders for the Lamanites, the everlasting gospel was restored to the earth in 1820.
Now the prophets have always been concerned about them. Moroni was the last of his people, the Nephites—the last one on this continent, all the rest of his race having been killed. This is what he wrote before he hid the records away in the hill: “… I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord.” (Moro. 1:4.)
Then in our own day one of the revelations we have concerning the Lamanites reads: “And, behold, all the remainder of this work does contain all those parts of my gospel which my holy prophets, yea, and also my disciples, desired in their prayers should come forth unto this people.” (D&C 10:46.) Perhaps this refers to that part of the Book of Mormon that has never yet been translated but will be at some future date. The point that impresses me is that all their prophets and all our prophets have been so concerned with the Lamanite people, and their prayers have gone up constantly through the long years that the Lord would bring it about so that these people who had fallen away would be brought back to enjoy all of the good things that they are entitled to have.
Now when the Church was organized over a hundred years ago, the prophets were concerned about the Lamanites the very first thing, when there were only a dozen, and a hundred, and a thousand Mormons in the world. When there were only a few thousand in the Church in the whole world, we were already working with the Indians. Joseph Smith himself went out across the river and taught the gospel to the Indian chiefs who had gathered to listen to him.
One of the revelations that came to Joseph said: “But before the great day of the Lord shall come [the Second Coming], Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.
“Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.” (D&C 49:24–25.)
With all these promises, we have a great awakening today as a result of the work that has been done for the last century, and especially in the last decade or two. Today we have many Lamanite leaders in the Church. For example, in Tonga, where 20 percent of all the people in the islands belong to the Church, we have three large stakes. Two of them are presided over wholly by Lamanites and the other almost wholly by them. There are three stakes in Samoa and another is to be organized in those small Samoan islands. Four more stakes with Lamanite leaders!
There are three stakes of Zion in Mexico City with Mexican leaders—Lamanite leaders. The stake presidencies, the bishops, the high council, the auxiliary leaders—everybody, with one or two exceptions—are Lamanites. In Monterrey, Mexico, in Guatemala, in Lima, in New Zealand, and elsewhere we have stakes of Zion with all their appropriate leaders.
That is in direct fulfillment of the prophecies that were made, and it is a great change. A dozen years ago there was not a single Lamanite stake in the world. There were no Lamanite bishops; there were no Lamanite stake presidents. In a period of a few years all of this has come about. Christ said, as he looked down through the stream of time, “And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” (1 Ne. 17:3.)
He has inspired the leaders of this church to look forward and to organize on direct fulfillment of the scriptures of our own day, wherein the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery: “… go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them. …” (D&C 28:8.)
The Lord instructed us further: “Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews [through the Bible], even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people—and to the Nephites [and to the Lamanites] … through the testimony of their fathers.” (D&C 3:16–17.)
And that testimony is the Book of Mormon. Every Lamanite who reads the Book of Mormon with a sincere desire to know its truth will get a testimony that those are his ancestors, that it is his record, and that he is one of them.
“And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites. …
“And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records—that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to this people;
“And that the Lamanites might come to the knowledge of their fathers, and that they might know the promises of the Lord, and that they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved.” (D&C 3:18–20.)
One of the first things that Joseph Smith did when he was organizing the Church was to preach the gospel to the Lamanites himself, and then he sent his brethren—Ziba Peterson, Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, and Peter Whitmer. And the Lord said, “… and I myself will go with them and be in their midst; and I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them.” (D&C 32:3.)
The development and growth and progress of the Lamanite people are of prime importance to all Mormondom, to the whole Church program, to Christianity.
In 1963, 23 percent of all the baptisms in the Church were Lamanite baptisms. There were twenty-five thousand in one year. In 1970 there were even more. All this indicates the responsiveness of the Lamanites to the truth. It is like one of the Lamanites said: “This gospel, which is sometimes called Mormonism, is something we have been trying all our lives to remember; now all at once it comes back.” Have you ever tried to recover something that you have lost in your memory, and all at once, as you strain and struggle, here it comes back? That is the way the gospel is to the Lamanites. One good Navajo man said to me: “All our lives we knew that we were off the line. We used to be with you folks in the long ago; then we came to a division in the road with a great stone in the middle. We went one way and you went the other, but now we are around it and we are all coming back together.”
We have probably thirty thousand Lamanite members in Central America, and I remind you this is the result of only a relatively few years. There must be about one hundred thousand Polynesians in the Church, so that we have now approximately a quarter million Lamanites. I suppose a rough guess would give us only a few thousand twenty years ago. Now we have a quarter million in this short period of two or three decades. We have been doing missionary work with some of the Polynesians for a hundred years and more.
It is pleasing to know that we have hundreds of Lamanite missionaries who are out for two years just like all the non-Lamanites—and they are giving their time and their means, and they are preaching the gospel largely to their own people, and they are eminently successful, generally. It might be interesting to know that of nearly one hundred missions, the four highest of all are Lamanite missions. That is, the Mexico North Mission, the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission, the Mexico Mission, and the Tonga Mission. These are the four highest in the world. What is the portent of that? It means the Lamanites are accepting the gospel as no other people. They recognize something for which they have been waiting for a long, long time, and now they are receiving the gospel. Of all missions, nine of the first twenty-one are Lamanite missions.
Now in the Mexico North Mission each missionary baptized fifty-three converts. In Mexico North Central, thirty-four; Mexico Southeast, thirty. There are countries where missionaries baptize very few but the Lamanites. God bless them for receiving the gospel. They are responsive as no other people at this time. They seem to recognize the truth which they have been missing all these years and didn’t know that they were missing. Now it has come to them.
When the prophet Abinadi was burning at the stake, he said: “The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just.” (Mosiah 16:1.)
Every nation in South America except the Guianas, every country in Central America, every state in Mexico, every place in Canada, all the states in the United States are being proselyted, and the Lamanite missionaries are coming to the front.
The Lamanites are good people; they are honest people, generally. Of course, there are people in all groups who do not quite measure up, but as a whole the Lamanites are warm-hearted, lovable people.
Probably some of those twelve disciples in America were Lamanites. Samuel the great prophet was a Lamanite. There were two hundred years and more of righteousness, a period that has never been paralleled that I know of in all the history of the world. These two hundred years were without war, when there were no “ites,” divisions, or factions. Everybody was in one group; everybody loved each other, and there were no battles.
There were the two thousand “Sons of Helaman” who were sent out into battle to protect their families, and not one was killed. They fought and bled, some of them with wounds, but because of their great faith, not one died. The Lamanites seem to have a natural faith. They are close to the Lord.
The Lord blessed the Lamanites, and he is willing to work among them and do these things. Jesus himself, when he visited the Lamanites on this continent, said:
“So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews, wherefore, I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.
“Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye [the Lamanites] have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard.” (3 Ne. 19: 35–36.)
My brothers and sisters, you belong to a great race. Your father is Joseph who was sold into Egypt, the virtuous man who went to prison rather than yield to the seduction of a queen. Your father was Jacob, the father of twelve sons. You came through one of them. One of the great prophets of all times, your father, was Isaac. Another great prophet, your father, was Abraham, than whom there were no greater ones. Abraham was a great man who walked and talked with God. He is your father back those many generations. Be proud of him and know that you are of royal blood; with your royal blood you can achieve, rising to the top.
You have the spirituality. I would like to quote just a few lines from one of the lovely young ladies here tonight, who a year or so ago spoke before the leaders of the Church over in the Assembly Hall. She said, “I got off the bus eight years ago with the clothes on my back and a few small possessions in a shoebox. I came from a humble home. My people are humble, but you have opened your hearts to me. For that I am thankful. Now I can go home with a brand new suitcase, with lots of clothes, but that is not my wealth. I could go home with the clothes on my back and a small shoebox with my belongings and still be rich. I can be more wealthy than any of the people on the reservation because I have that which is inside of me, which is as precious as a pearl, as precious as gold, as precious as all of the wealth in this world. I have a testimony of the gospel. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that God lives and answers prayers.” That was Verenda. I have since performed the ceremony for her and her husband in the temple.
There are no blessings, of all the imaginable ones, to which you are not entitled—you, the Lamanites—when you are righteous. You are of royal blood, the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Lehi.
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