Delightsome and Loathsome

One of the starkest sets of verses to involve a white/black dichotomy appears in 2 Nephi 5:21-22. A people is described as going from being “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome” to “a skin of blackness” because of their evils. Even though the white/black is symbolic – future dealings with this people indicate an equality of skin tone and coloration – the symbolism is nevertheless there.

But even though the divisions between the peoples are not based on skin color, there is nevertheless a tribal split, and that tribal split worsens with a history of violence between the tribes. A modern reader finding racist tones in those words would not be too far off the mark, in terms of the hatreds between the peoples.

But a major section of the Book of Mormon deals with an attempt by one tribe to reach out to the other, hoping to end the strife between the tribes. There is no attempt to “elevate” or otherwise change the other tribe. The attempt is to find peace through love and forgiveness. And it works. If the book is a message for our time, it is in teaching us that equating white with good and black with bad – and corresponding thinking that black is made better by making it more white – is wrong, plain and simple. It is a thought pattern that is easy to develop, but one that can blind us to what true love actually is.

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