Native Americans

Mormon views on Native Americans and the history of their relationship with the different tribes.

Black Hawks


There are stories of how the Mormons interacted with the Timpanogos people, and how the Mormons would put shards of glass in the flour that they gave them.




What was the invovlement of the Paiute Indians with the Mountain Meadows Massacre?



Piegan Blackfoot

Teachings and Doctrines

Book of Mormon, Alma 3:6


And the skins of the Lamanites [Native Americans] were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.


Joseph Smith Jr. 


Verily, I say unto you, that the wisdom of man, in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my hold priesthood, but ye shall know when ye receive a fullness by reason of the anointing: For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are more virtuous then the gentiles.

[Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., 1831 revelation, recorded in a letter from W.W. Phelps to Brigham Young, dated August 12, 1861]


Ezra Booth


In addition to this, and to co-operate with it, it has been made known by revelation, that it will be pleasing to the Lord, should they form a matrimonial alliance with the Natives; and by this means the Elders, who comply with the thing so pleasing to the Lord, and for which the Lord has promised to bless those who do it abundantly, gain a residence in the Indian territory, independent of the agent. It has been made known to one, who has left his wife in the state of N.Y. that he is entirely free from his wife, and he is at liberty to take him a wife from among the Lamanites. It was easily perceived that his permission was perfectly suited to his desires. I have frequently heard him state, that the Lord had made it known to him, that he is as free from his wife as from any other woman; and the only crime that I have ever heard alleged against her is, she is violently opposed to Mormonism.

[Ezra Booth, Ohio Star, December 8, 1831]


Brigham Young


We are now going to the Lamanites, to whom we intend to be messengers of instruction… We will show them that in consequence of their transgressions a curse has been inflicted upon them – in the darkness of their skins. We will have intermarriages with them, they marrying our young women, and we taking their young squaws to wife. By these means it is the will of the Lord that the curse of their color shall be removed and they restored to their pristine beauty…

[Prophet Brigham Young, quoted in The Abominations of Mormonism Exposed, pp. 58-59]


Martin Harris


Martin Harris… claimed he had a revelation when he first came to Kirtland for him to go to Missouri, and obtain a Lamanite squaw for a wife to aid them in propagating Mormonism. Martin told me soon after Joseph, the prophet, left Kirtland, that two years before, he had told him that as his wife had left him he needed a woman as other men.

[S.F. Whitney, Naked Truths About Mormonism, 1888, p. 3]


President Joseph Fielding Smith


After the people again forgot the Lord and dissensions arose, some of them took upon themselves the name Lamanites and the dark skin returned. When the Lamanites fully repent and sincerely receive the gospel, the Lord has promised to remove the dark skin. The Lord declared by revelation that, ‘before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as a rose.' The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse. Many of these converts and delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord. Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South.

]Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, v. 3, p. 123, 1953]


Spencer W. Kimball


The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation…. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same Hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.

[Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, Oct. 1960]



"Lamanites and the Book of Mormon" Pamphlet


You native Americans who are called Indians…your ancestors were once a mighty nation upon the American continent.

[T]he best source of true information that tells who you are, where you came from, and what you can achieve is found in an important book—the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is a history of your people.

The Book of Mormon tells how your forefathers came from Jerusalem about 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Lamanites were marked by the Lord with a darker skin.

An account is given of some of your ancestors who built ships and sailed from the American continent with their families, never returning. These people journeyed to the islands of the sea and have lived there ever since.

God let your ancestors know by showing them a new star and other signs.

WHILE Jesus Christ was living in Palestine he organized his church and he taught the people many things. He told them that there was another people in the world that he was going to visit. He was speaking of your people in America.

Sometime following the three days of darkness a voice was heard by all the people on the American continent.

Your People Saw Christ and Spoke with Him

The Savior continued to teach your ancestors.

You are descendants of the Lamanites.

Your History Was Preserved

MORONI, a righteous man whom the Lord allowed to witness the destruction of the Nephites, buried the record of your ancestors, written on gold plates, so it would not be destroyed. Your record lay buried in a hillside for more than 1,400 years.

Moroni told him where the history of your people was buried.

While [the Book of Mormon] is the history of the ancient Americans, it also contains the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The restoration of your record was an important part of bringing the gospel back to earth.

Members of the Church feel a responsibility to the Lamanite people, whose forefathers originally wrote the Book of Mormon. The Lord has given his restored church the responsibility of returning your book to you and of teaching you its message.

The Book of Mormon is your book. It is the word of God to your people.

[1974 Church-published pamphlet "Lamanites and the Book of Mormon"]



The term Lamanite was first applied to the literal family of Laman, Lehi’s eldest son. This name very soon took on a broader application, however, when Laman, Lemuel, and some of the sons of Ishmael rebelled against and sought to kill Nephi, in whom the Lord had vested his authority. At that time the Lord cut them off from his presence and caused a darker skin coloring to come upon them. (See 2 Ne. 5:19–21.)

Lamanite in this case again refers to the state of righteousness of a political/religious group, presumably a composite of the descendants of many of the original colonists in the New World. The Lamanites of this definition survived beyond the close of the Book of Mormon record, and it is these people from whom the Lamanites of today descended. That is to say, they are the descendants of Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram (see D&C 3:17–18); they are the descendants of Mulek and the others of his colony (see Hel. 6:10; Omni 1:14, 15); and they may also be descended from other groups of whom we have no record. Certainly they have mixed with many other lineages at the far reaches of their dispersal in the Americas and most of the islands of the Pacific since the time when Moroni bade them farewell in A.D. 421.

In this composite group is the blood of Israel, for we know that Lehi was of the tribe of Manasseh (see Alma 10:3), that Ishmael was of Ephraim (see JD 3:184), and that Mulek was of Judah, being a descendant of King David through Zedekiah. Therefore, the Lamanites of today—all the mixed descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples—have a legitimate claim to the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and, in turn, the duty to now carry these blessings to those nations of the earth who yet remain in darkness, the remainder of the descendants of Noah.

["Who and Where Are the Lamanites?" by Lane Johnson, Ensign, December 1975]


Apostle LeGrand Richards


The Lord has never indicated that black skin came because of being less faithful. Now, the Indian; we know why he has changed, don't we? The Book of Mormon tells us that; and he has a dark skin, but he has promise there that through faithfulness, that they all again become a white and delightsome people.

[Apostle LeGrand Richards, Interview by Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos, Aug. 16, 1978, Church Office Building]


Bob Gottlieb and Peter Wiley

Dec. 1979

… when non-Mormon Indians are asked about the program [LDS placement program for Native Americans], their response is invariably bitter and hostile as they explain that many Indians view the program as a form of kidnapping that takes away the Indian community's most prized people, its youth.

[Bob Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, “The Kids Go Out Navaho, Came Back Donny and Marie,” Los Angeles Magazine, December 1979, p. 140]


Spencer W. Kimball


We are greatly conscious of the fact that among the Lamanites – as well as among all peoples of other countries – we have a responsibility to see that the gospel touches their hearts and minds and that they understand it.

[Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, October 1980 General Conference, Ensign, November 1980, p. 76]



Wilford Woodruff


The Lamanites [Native Americans], now a down-trodden people, are a remnant of the house of Israel. The curse of God has followed them as it has done the Jews, though the Jews have not been darkened in their skin as have the Lamanites.

[Prophet Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, v. 22, p. 173]


Vine Deloria, Jr. (Historian and Native American Rights Activist)


Vine Deloria Jr., a Sioux Indian and political science professor at the University of Arizona, made a similar observation. ‘…Mormons and Indians share a common heritage, but he complained Mormons are taking Indian children off reservations and indoctrinating them in the church's beliefs.'

Deloria continued by stating, ‘…he sees great parallels between Mormons and Indians in the 1840's to the 1890's when the federal government tried to break down their social structures.' He said the Mormon Church Placement Program threatens Indians.

[Salt Lake Tribune, April 9, 1984]



George Edward Clark


"That tribe, or most its people, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Those Indians, at least as many as I have observed, were white and delightsome; as white and fair as any group of citizens of our country. I know of no prophecy, ancient or modern, that has had a more literal fulfillment.

[George Edward Clark, quoted in McKeever and Johnson, "Pure and Deligtsome," Mormonism Researched, Spring 1994, p. 5]

among the Lamanites

There appears to be four instances when the Lord calls some of the brethren to serve missions specifically “among the Lamanites.”

Oliver Cowdery

September 1830

D&C 28 is revelation given to Oliver Cowdery in September 1830 and is instructed to “go unto the Lamanites and preach [the] gospel.” Oliver Cowdery served three missions: one to Colesville, New York in April of 1830, one to Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri in November 1831, and one to Massachusetts and New York in 1836. 

Peter Whitmer

September 1830

D&C 30 is revelation given to David Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., and John Whitmer in September 1830. In verses 5-6 the Lord is instructing Peter Whitmer that he should “take your journey with your brother Oliver ...for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites.” Peter Whitmer served two missions: one to Far West, Missouri (from October 1830 to September 1831) and one to Missouri in 1832.

Parley P. Pratt

October 1830

D&C 32 is revelation given to Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson, in early October 1830. “And now concerning my servant Parley P. Pratt, behold, I say unto him that as I live I will that he shall declare my gospel ...And that which I have appointed unto him is that he shall go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun. into the wilderness among the Lamanites. And Ziba Peterson also shall go with them…” 

          Parley P. Pratt served sixteen missions most of them to Ohio, Missouri, New York, and Illinois. He also served in Great Britain in the 1840s as well as parts of South America in the early 1850s. Just after this revelation was given records show that Parley P. Pratt served in New York and Far West from October 1830-1831 accompanied by Oliver Cowdery and others. 

Ziba Peterson

October 1830

  Ziba Peterson served only one mission. In October 1830 he served in Far West, Missouri. The notes for that mission state: “Mission to the Lamanites in Far West. One of the first to visit Jackson County, Missouri. Ordained an elder by 9 June 1830, served missions to Ohio and Missouri 1830-1831” [Joseph Smith Papers Biographies].

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