The Book of Mormon is an explosively racist book which is exactly what we would expect if it was written by Joseph Smith instead of God. It is a product of its time and reflects the theological beliefs of racist white America in the nineteenth century. The Book of Mormon advocates the “curse of Cain” interpretation of Genesis 4:15 which was common at this period of time. This is the reason why, up until 1978 when the priesthood ban on blacks was lifted, the uniform teaching of Mormonism was racist.
2 Nephi 5:21 says that God caused the skin of the Lamanites to be turned black as a curse for their sin:
“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”
The reason why God caused their skin to become black was so that the righteous Nephites who were white would not be tempted to intermarry with them. Hence, black skin was given as a deterrent to prevent interracial marriage. Alma 3:6 calls this dark skin the “mark” and “curse” of their rebellion:
“And the skins of the Lamanites 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.”
But whenever Lamanites repented and turned to the Lord, their black skin would become white like the Nephites:
“And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year” (3 Nephi 2:15-16).
In keeping with this belief, Brigham Young believed that Native Americans would become white when they embraced Mormonism:
“You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation . . . When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, page 336).
Mormon President Spencer Kimball likewise believed that Native Americans who became Mormons would turn white:
“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 to 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.”
Young also taught that interracial marriage was worthy of death since the Nephites were not allowed to marry the Lamanites:
“If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).
Young was an active supporter of Southern slavery and believed that black slaves were getting what they deserved:
“You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham” (New York Herald, May 4, 1855, as cited in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1973, p. 56).
Young believed that the devil was black and those who leave Mormonism would become black like him just as the Lamanites became black. He said apostates would “become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, page 332).
In contrast to Mormonism, the Bible teaches that ethnic differences are no barrier to fellowship in the church. People with dark skin do not need to become white to be acceptable to God:
Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 3:11: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
For a collection of more racist quotes in Mormonism, see this article.