There are 8 thoughts on “Understanding the Lamanite Mark”.

  1. Nice article. On the mark (red in this case) and blackness, there is one Maya practice consistent with the BOM that you may find of interest which I described in a section of a book I published a few years back on the Order of Nehor in Mesoamerica (I will not include a link as I don’t want to offend the Interpreter comment gatekeepers):
    Sabacil Than was celebrated within towns and families as a diversion before the unlucky five day Wayeb’ period in each of the last three veintenas of the calendar year. The wealthy arranged feasts with dancing and “excessive drinking” (Pharo 2014, 179). Landa reports that these ceremonies lasted until Pohp, the first veintena of the New Year.
    The etymological meaning of “Sabacil Than” is a dye or ink from the burned soot of the sabac-che tree (Sp. Exostema), ‘than’ is a word for “speech,” “word,” or “language,” but also “ordenanzas” or “law.” Tozzer proposed that this expression alludes to a rule or law to paint oneself black during the rituals of the last three veintenas of the year. Tozzer quotes Roman and Zamora indicating that the Indigenous people of Guatemala “each time they (the priests) sacrifice they blacken themselves. The men commonly do not bathe but blacken themselves and this is a kind of silicon and ornament of penance.” During the later Pohp rituals certain fasting persons are described as removing their black “tizne negra” with the arrival of the New Year. Landa indicates that this black soot was cleansed in a purification ceremony (Pharo 2014, 179–80). They were at this stage of the rite of passage ornamented with red ointment (Tozzer 1941, 152).

    • Thanks for your input. The temporary marking practice you describe has much in common with those described by Steenblik and discussed in my paper. Each is inconsistent with the Book of Mormon account in ways that are resolved when sacrilegious, permanent marks (tattoos) that violate the law of Moses are considered.

      • I don’t disagree with your mark analysis. I do think the temporary blackening provides the best explanation where an indication of going from dark to white skin is indicated. The practice observed by Landa may also be different in a period more ancient to that time in that they may have remained blackened more permanently.

        • Thanks again. Students of the Book of Mormon should assess for themselves whether and how repentance caused the mark to slowly cease to exist among a converted people.

  2. Thank you for your scholarship. It is thoughtful and comprehensive. As I read this article and have pondered these verses, I realized how dangerous it is for us to analyze verses or teachings with a presentist approach. It was that doing so that, it seems to me, led some church members to teach racist doctrines based on the Book of Mormon and biblical verses you discuss in your article. It took a Revelation from God to correct the results that followed from these teachings. Even if done with the best of intents, analyzing with presentism can lead us down very harmful paths. Again, thank you for this article and to the Interpreter Foundation for publishing it.

  3. Though I reach a different conclusion about the nature of the mark placed on the Lamanites, there is much in this paper that I agree with. I applaud your efforts; you were especially careful in your analysis of previous theories by other scholars as to how the scriptures about the mark should be interpreted, and I agree with your reasoning as to why they reached the wrong conclusions. You were courageous but also polite and gracious in your treatment of those other articles. Your deep dive into this subject was exemplary scholarship.

    I’m also particularly grateful for another thing you did here. You began by adopting the findings of Skousen and Carmack regarding not only the presence of Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon’s original version, but also, the inferences we should draw therefrom pointing to Joseph Smith’s lack of authorial or editorial input into the text (as opposed to his simply reading what had been already translated into Early Modern English by someone else before him). I hope other Book of Mormon commentators will likewise fully realize the ramifications of Skousen’s and Carmack’s research and incorporate it into their analyses.

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