Big Error in the new CFM manual

There is a big error in the new Book of Mormon CFM manual. Where it speaks about Laman and lemuel receiving a curse, it explains it as a curse of dark skin. Sadly, this account was dismissed as bad theory by the living prophets in just the last few years. So, how did it get in there? Curriculum writers who read old books, and nothing from current scholars. The error has been fixed in the online manual.

As you study the Book of Mormon CFM manual, be aware of this error that is now in the printed manual. Sadly, we still have many in Church curriculum and CES, who study and quote from 60 year old books, such as from Joseph Fielding Smith. Great prophet, lousy historian and scholar. Focus your studies on the scriptures, with guidance from recent scholarship and statements from recent prophets. JFS was not around for the 1978 Revelation and the subsequent Church statements regarding misreading of dark skin in scripture. I also discourage people from quoting Brigham Young when it comes to polygamy, Adam-God, or blood atonement. These prophets’ statements are good for historical reference, but not for current doctrine, unless it agrees with current teachings.

This is a problem that has been dealt with by the GAs previously, such as in 2012 when Randy Bott, a BYU religion professor, was interviewed and explained the curse of Cain as a doctrine of the Church. The Church quickly renounced it. True scholars had been denouncing this poor scripture reading for several decades. Even Elder Bruce R. McConkie told us after the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood to ignore/forget everything previously stated on the subject. Yet, we still have members writing our manuals that ignore that teaching and go even further back to wrong theories of the past. We NEED real scholars involved in manual writing!

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

22 thoughts on “Big Error in the new CFM manual

  1. I feel like you’re almost gleeful you found this? Maybe even a bit gloating? Not really a good tone for serious subject. How did this get in, you ask? Human error, that’s how. There are many people, scholars even, that write the curriculum for the church — there is bound to be a mistake now and then. I feel like you’ve also been very critical of a prophet of the church. I’d like to see you re-write this without the schadenfruede.

  2. Where it speaks about Laman and lemuel receiving a curse, it explains it as a curse of dark skin.

    Err . . . not quite. Following JFS, the print manual labels the Lamanites’ darkened skin as a “sign” of the curse (not the curse itself). The revised electronic copy “clarifies” that we aren’t actually supposed to have any idea as to what “mark of dark skin” actually means.

  3. Rather than “human err” it is much more likely to have been “human belief” – meaning the person who wrote that believed it to be true. Anyone who had accepted the current doctrine simply would never write such a sentence (nor go to those sources) at any time. So I can only conclude the writer (whoever it was) believed what they were writing was correct, and unfortunately those who should of proof read and deleted the offended false doctrine failed to do so.

  4. Just an FYI …

    I am one of the editors here at The Millennial Star. There was a comment attacking me on this post, and it was removed. We don’t do personal attacks here at The Millennial Star. If you have something to say, please say it, but personal attacks toward anyone will not be tolerated.

    That said, I stand by comment up thread. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I think that problematic excerpt was pulled straight from the previous Book of Mormon student manual. (See here: So maybe the human error was not that it was written for this manual but that it was copied and pasted without careful proofreading. For what it’s worth, at least Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t believe the dark skin itself was the curse based on that manual.

    Regarding the word “lousy” — I think we would all be okay saying “Joseph Smith — great prophet, lousy banker,” or “Heber J. Grant — great prophet, lousy singer.” But “lousy scholar” does seem to carry more criticism in it, so I can understand why it might make people feel defensive. At any rate, I will heed the advice of one of our current prophets, President Ballard, who encourages us to learn from trained scholars.

  6. JFS was a great prophet. As Church historian, he intentionally hid historical details. Other historians of the time did the same, mostly to protect the image of the hero. For example, early history books “neglected” to discuss Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemmings.
    JFS did this with Joseph Smith’s use of a seer stone, Mountain Meadows Massacre, and Nauvoo polygamy. This is lousy scholarship, thus my claim that he was a lousy scholar. In fact, many of the Church’s recent official explanations on controversial topics were done to clean up this historical mess and claims the Church was hiding skeletons in its closet.

    Curriculum means the printed CFM book went past several eyeballs. Why was this missed? Had they asked Daniel Peterson, Richard Bushman or a hundred other LDS scholars, it would have been caught early.

    Joyce, I am not gleeful about this. I am concerned that many with CES still don’t get it. I love all of the prophets. But I understand they don’t always do the things prophets ought to do. Like us, they have a human component. So, while modern research shows Brigham Young didn’t order the Mountain Meadows Massacre, his harsh rhetoric encouraged others to extreme action. He messed up. Still, he’s an amazing prophet.

  7. And while I don’t hink her comment a bit misguided, I agree with Joyce that ad hominem attacks on other commenters is not okay.
    I framed my discussion on JFS with evidence, and provided more in my comment above.
    He Was not a good historian.

  8. Thanks for the original posting — I appreciate it. I didn’t discern any glee or gloating in it. Just a few years ago, a teacher on Sunday used one of Joseph Fielding Smith’s books (written before he became president of the church) to explain that our circumstance in this life, including skin color, was a direct result of faithfulness (or lack thereof) in the pre-mortal realm, and that we, as white American members of the church, were obviously among the most faithful. That might have been official church doctrine in those days, but it isn’t today. I am dismayed that no one caught the error in the publishing process for the new manual, but I am not surprised that some people hold those beliefs. There is a lot of wild stuff in old discourses. One member’s folklore is another member’s doctrine. That’s the we need to continue going to church meetings — to continue our refinement and learning processes.

  9. Do we say that the various authors of the Old Testament—including the author of Genesis—were “lousy historians”? Or do we simply acknowledge that what they wrote was never intended to be “history” as modern western secularists understand the term?

  10. The writers of Genesis were not historians in the modern sense. They used oral tradition, bent to their own narrative and religious beliefs to relay God’s relationship to Adam, Abraham and Israel. A creation story that includes a flat earth and sun revolving around the earth is clearly not history nor science. But it involves symbolic teachings of great importance.

    When JFS witnessed of Jesus Christ, it was a sure testimony. People trusted him, the grandson of Hyrum Smith. He outlived his apostolic challengers, John Widstoe and James Talmage. So his prolific writing and position as Church historian held sway for decades, and still influences members today (both for good, where his teachings reflect current doctrine, and for bad where it still causes big errors almost fifty years after his death.

  11. We could skip the muddiness of later interpretation and go straight to the source.
    2 Ne 5:21 specifically mentions the curse of God, including specifically “a skin of blackness” as one element of it, and gives the reason for it. However, there were spiritual aspects to it as well. Discussion of the curse is incomplete without considering Jacob 3:5-9. While this affirms that the dark skin was originally part of the curse, Jacob also clearly taught that it was not by itself an indicator of spiritual standing before God and forbade racist attitudes and behavior. Given the various conversions, rebellions, and racial mixing between Nephites and Lamanities that occurred later, it is plainly evident that it is rebellion or repentance, not race or skin color, that draws or removes curses from God.

  12. Lehi’s dream and Martin Luther King’s dream are compatible. The proclamation of 1978 was as logical an unfolding as the early events of the Restoration. Pieces of the puzzle coming together. We are blessed to now have growing and glowing testimonies in all parts of the world and in our multiracial wards and stakes.

  13. “We do condemn all racism, past and present, in any form, and we disavow any theory advanced that black or dark skin is a sign of a curse,” Elder Stevenson, tonight.

  14. Feels like Alma 3 further clarifies what was written in 2nd Nephi.

    I wish Alma wouldn’t have quoted from a 500 year old book, such as Nephi.

    He could have gone further and helped us undo this misunderstanding of Nephi.

  15. Joseph Fielding Smith’s writing was part of a long-running concept that the heavens had been opened, knowledge poured upon the saints, and the scriptures could tied together along with the teachings of the prophets to understand things both earthly and celestial. Now we seem to prefer regarding everything as a big mystery with no more light available than what could be found six hundred years ago, but don’t worry because God loves his children, that’s all that matters, so instead of trying to harmonize every verse across hundreds of pages, just ignore most of them, they don’t mean anything at all, nothing that we need think about ever again. Just repeat over and over, “God loves everyone. God loves everyone,” lest ye be an antiquated crank.

  16. “Real scholars” are leading more people astray than not.

    Frankly, I am disappointed in this post. This is easily the most slipshod post I’ve seen on M* in quite some time.

  17. I wanted to wait to see how this issue all played out before commenting. So, now here goes. The first point is that Elder Stevenson said the following a few days ago:

    “Elder Stevenson preceded his remarks by expressing regret that the church’s 2020 “Come, Follow Me” gospel study manual includes an old statement that dark skin in the Book of Mormon was the sign of a curse.

    Elder Stevenson disavowed that statement.

    “One of our recent church manuals includes a paragraph with some outdated commentary about race,” he said. “It was mistakenly included in the printed version of the manual, which had been prepared for print nearly two years ago. When it was brought to the attention of church leaders late last year, they directed that it be immediately removed in our annual online manual, which is used by the great majority of our members. We have also directed that any future printed manuals will reflect this change.

    “We’re asking our members to disregard the paragraph in the printed manual,” he added. “Now I’m deeply saddened and hurt by this error and for any pain that it may have caused our members and for others. I would just like to reiterate our position as a church is clear. We do condemn all racism, past and present, in any form, and we disavow any theory advanced that black or dark skin is a sign of a curse. We are brothers and sisters, and I consider you friends. I love and appreciate you,” he said, drawing applause from those gathered.”


    Back to me: Rame is right to bring up this issue in the OP. Elder Stevenson brought it up also. I would have written the post differently, but I know Rame’s heart is in the right place, so I am not going to criticize him.

    However, I do agree with Joyce that there is a celebratory nature to finding this error in some quarters. I have many friends in the LDS intellectual community who seem to be gleeful that such an error took place in the first place. These people have been on a Mormon jihad against the supposed “fundamentalists” who put together Church manuals for years now. I simply cannot join this jihad. I am certain that the people who put together the manuals are well-intentioned, and it is worth noting that they mostly get it right. This particular error has been corrected. Let’s just move on and stop the jihads. Supposed “fundamentalists” are way, WAY down the list of possible threats to the Church (imho), but there are some Church critics who consider them the primary, number one threat. I think this is misguided.

  18. All: to understand why this is an important topic to Ram, it helps to know his background of serving in the church back in the 1980’s in the deep south.

    He described it a bit in these posts:

    Those who came of age after 1990 or so, or who joined the church after 1990 might not understand the reasons for his depth of concern. It took years for the 1978 revelation on priesthood to alter the “folkways” that had set in.

    For those of us who remember what the church of the 1980’s was like “on the ground”, not just official statements of the time, it is understandable how this error in a manual could push some people’s buttons.

    Moroni said it well: “And now, if there are faults, they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, …”

    Human error has crept into church publications since the printer’s manuscript was copied from the orignal manuscript. (And maybe Oliver Cowdery wrote something down incorrectly in the original too.)

    The good ship Zion sails on.

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