“No,” he replied a bit gruffly, “it was definitely white.” He lowered his eyebrows and frowned, and for a moment I was afraid, but I saw his mouth twitch a bit just before he turned away and began to walk up the hill, as relief washed over me. I followed him for he signaled me to do so, and in between gulps of air I managed to stammer out,
“Have you ever been back to this place, since…um, you know.”
He shook his head without breaking his stride. He was tall and muscular, and with those long legs soon outdistanced me, though I tried hard to keep up. “Nice suit…but it’s a little out of fashion!” I called to his receding silhouette, but he did not slow down.
I squinted at his retreating form as I searched my pockets for my glasses, which to my surprise were empty. This caused me to pause in my climb as I tried again to remember how I got here. All I could remember was finding myself at the bottom of this hill, face to face with … him. Glancing ahead once more, I caught his blurry form just as he disappeared over the crest of the hill, and it was many minutes before I finally reached the top and saw them all a short distance away.
He was standing there among them with his arms crossed and I marveled at how different he looked in person. He gave me a sympathetic look as I slowly approached. “Sorry” I mumbled, ”my knee is acting up today.”
“It’s all right” he said giving me a smile, “I had my own leg problem once. They told me they haven’t been waiting long,” he added, nodding at his companions. I watched him slowly take in the view of the surrounding lands below us and while he did so I sized up the three men he had led me here to meet. I stuck my hand out and they all took it, one by one. There were no introductions. I knew who they were, and they most certainly knew who I was. They were not quite what I expected, they were so … ordinary.
“Tell them what you told me,” he said, “when I first met you at the bottom of the hill.” I nodded at him and turned back to them as he gazed about at the lands below.
“It all started right after the 1978 Revelation,” I said as all three of them nodded. “Then they changed that word in the book, you know to pure.”
For the second time,” I added under my breath. “I thought that might be the end of it, but then the DNA evidence came out. After that it was obvious what was happening.”
“Give us an example,” said the one on the left.
“Ok,” I said. “It seems that the DNA evidence shows that the indigenous peoples of the Americas have no connection at all to the ancient Hebrews. It got people everywhere asking the Church all kinds of questions about whether the Church has some kind of doctrine that states the Jaradites and Nephites were really the first inhabitants of this continent like the book says, and if the indigenous tribes of the Americas really are their descendants.”
“And how did they respond?” asked the one on the right.
“Well in 1997 Church Spokesman Stuart Reid said the Church ‘has no position on that’.”
“Are you telling me they said they don’t know?” asked the one in the middle.
“That’s what he appeared to be saying,” I replied. “Then Mr. Reid added that we also ‘don’t have any official doctrine about who the descendants of the Nephites and the Jaredites are.’”
I heard a sigh (at least I thought it was) from behind me, and I saw my tall acquaintance digging his foot in the dirt as he stood there clenching his fists and looking intently to the west. I wondered if he knew that the log cabin was still there. He cleared his throat. “Has anyone asked the prophet about this?” he finally asked.
“Well we would, but it’s not like you can just go up to him and ask him questions,” I replied. “I mean, with the bodyguards and all” I added, glancing up to meet his pale blue eyes. My tall guide grimaced and shook his head in disgust.
“Why don’t they just quote them 2 Nephi 1, verses 5-9,” asked the middle one of the three. “It does say that God covenanted with Lehi to give him a land for the inheritance of his seed. It also reveals that there “shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” and it is ‘wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.’ Lehi even says his seed would ‘be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves,’ that there would be none to molest them or take it away from them. Isn’t scripture official doctrine of the Church anymore?” He looked at me and scratched his head. “I think that passage makes it perfectly clear.”
The other two nodded agreement. The one on the left then said, “if this scripture is not enough to declare a doctrine, and if the prophet at the head of the Church now will not inquire of God, then there is one other place that may tell us the answer to these questions.”
The one on the right spoke then and said, “The answer will be in the statements of those who have been given the authority to answer such questions, the apostles and prophets of the Church.” The other two nodded in agreement.
“There was a Proclamation made in 1845 by the Quorum of the Twelve at that time” said my guide, coming suddenly to life. “It was sent out to all the world and answers these questions. “Let me think a moment… yes, it said the Proclamation was ‘doctrine’ and that the ‘Indians (so called) of North and South America are a remnant of the tribes of Israel, as is now made manifest by the discovery and revelation of their ancient oracles and records.’ It also calls upon ‘the government of the United States to also continue to gather together, and to colonize the tribes and remnants of Israel (the Indians), and also to feed, clothe, succour, and protect them, and endeavour to civilize and unite; and also to bring them to the knowledge of their Israelitish origin, and of the fulness of the gospel which was revealed to, and written by their forefathers on this land, the record of which has now come to light. They would then begin to know and understand what was to be done with these remnants,’ and that ‘He has revealed the origin and the records of the aboriginal tribes of America, and their future destiny.”
“This all seems very clear,” said the middle one. Why is this not proclaimed as doctrine by the Church today? Didn’t any of the many Church Prophets or Apostles speak on this?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Many of them. For instance, Apostle N. Eldon Tanner told the Church in a General Conference Address in 1976 that ‘we have the Book of Mormon record which tells of the Jaredites who were the first to come to America. They came at the time of the confusion of languages during the building of the tower of Babel’. You can see he makes this quite clear. A more recent Apostle, Boyd Packer said, “In contrast to the relatively few in North America who could claim Lamanite lineage (1.3 million), he then pointed to the many millions in Mexico, Yucatan, Guatemala, and throughout South America and said” ‘In all . .. . there are seventy-five million six hundred thousand who share in your [Native American Lamanite] birthright, of whom thirty-one million nine hundred ninety thousand arepure Indians.'”
“So, the problem here is with the DNA?” asked the one on the left. “If that is the case, how is this being addressed? Has the prophet given any statements on the DNA issue?”
“Not that I know of,” I replied. “He probably just doesn’t think it important enough to bother the Lord about. After all, the Church has Moroni’s promise to fall back on, and that should be enough, shouldn’t it?”
“I should say so,” added my tall guide. “But the prophet still should not be shy about clarifying issues or going to the Lord about them for the uplifting of the Saints. After all, that is what being a prophet is all about. Are these men just afraid to go to the Lord with these issues? Don’t they realize that He is the one with all the answers, and they have the keys to ask for the answers to all questions of faith? What have they done to answer these questions?”
They all looked at me and I was almost afraid to answer. Then I remembered. “Dallin Oaks referenced this problem in a speech he gave in 1993. He said, the book ‘only purports to be an account of a few peoples who inhabited a portion of the Americas during a few millennia in the past.”
They all looked shocked. “Only a few peoples?” The right one of the three stammered, with a note of incredulity in his voice.
“Well,” I said, they call this ‘limited geography theory’, and it claims that there weren’t many Nephites at all, and that they mixed in with large groups of people already in America.”
“Didn’t they read 2 Nephi?” asked the middle one of the three. ‘It specifically states that this land was kept hidden from all nations for an inheritance to Lehi’s descendants. Are these people Lehi’s descendants?” Isn’t that what being a Nephite is? Why, the book says there were millions of Nephites! In fact, it says they covered the whole face of the land and ran out of timber! Why, one Apostle has said that a ‘vast number of millions that must have swarmed over this great western hemisphere in times of old, building large cities, towns and villages, and spreading themselves forth from shore to shore from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the frozen regions of the north to the uttermost extremity of South America!’ Don’t they believe the words of their prophets and apostles any more?”
I glanced over at my tall guide and he looked troubled. “What of Zelph,” he murmured. “Don’t they remember it was said he was a converted Lamanite who became white and became a great warrior of the Nephite armies “from the eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains?”
I nodded at his logic as I blurted out, “It seems that while there was no scientific evidence against the book, the Church believed it’s leaders about all the Indians being descendants of the Lamanites, and that the Nephites covered the whole face of the North and South American continents. They even think that you were ‘speculating’ about Zelph, and didn’t have a vision at all. And now, in the light of new discoveries in genetics and the many expeditions to the ruins they once said were built by the Nephites that have shown otherwise they are saying all those statements, even the “official” ones are only speculation. Why, they even changed the Preface to the book! What are we to make of this? Isn’t there something you can do? Like tell us where the Nephite ruins are? After all it was you who….
The tall man and his three companions disappeared as I found myself looking up at the ceiling of my bedroom. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. A dream! It was all a dream! Imagine that, meeting Jo Smith and the Three Nephites at the Hill Cumorah! Too bad I had woken up before my tall guide had answered my question. Well, perhaps one of the Mormon prophets will wake up and ask one of their gods for the answers. Isn’t that what Joseph Smith would have done?