If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Who is Moroni writing to?”
Things to consider:
The lesson manual for this week’s reading says, “Moroni recorded what he hoped would ‘be of worth … in some future day’ (Moroni 1:4). What do you find in Moroni 1–6 that is of worth to you?”
The ellipsis above is as found in the manual. According to the Book of Mormon, Moroni was writing this to a much more specific audience:
I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord.
~ Moroni, Moroni 1:4, emphasis added, underlined text is what the manual omits with the ellipsis.
Moroni was writing this specifically to the Lamanites. I realize that just because an author intended their work for a particular audience, a much broader audience could still benefit from the work, but I find it interesting that Moroni’s intended audience is never referred to in the lesson manual, so that’s why I’d like to explore this question—that’s why I would love to hear a believer respond to my question and let me know who they think is receiving Moroni’s work that could rationally be identified as a Lamanite.
As I expounded in my If I could ask … Lesson 43, the Book of Mormon has various references to individuals and even large groups claiming to be descendants of the House of Israel, and the Church had claimed since its inception that Native Americans were the descendants of these Book of Mormon people.
Joseph Smith had claimed that, “The remnant [of the Book of Mormon people] are the Indians that now inhabit this country (Wentworth Letter, Church History, p. 707). Apparently God confirmed this in revelations like D&C 28:8-9, D&C 30:5-6, and D&C 32:2 wherein He reveals certain members of the Church are to preach to the Lamanites. “By ‘Lamanites’ [in these sections] Joseph Smith had reference to the Indians, and to go out to the ‘borders by the
Lamanites’ meant to go to the frontier” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 59, in the English version which seems to have been approved by the authorities of the Church in 2002).
It is apparent that the Church eventually came to understand the possibility that there may have been some among Native Americans who were not descendants of Lehi. In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon written in 1981 (Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, it said of the remnant of Lehites, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed, except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians” – emphasis added). But clearly the teaching from the 1981 Introduction, mingled with scripture, was that for the most part Native Americans were of Lamanite descent.
But, by 2006 the evidence (in at least these fields of study: paleontology, archaeology, philology, and population genetics) had already become so strong contrary to the claimed Lamanite ancestry of Native Americans that the Church needed to change the Introduction of the Book of Mormon. Here’s how it was edited: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed, except the Lamanites, and they are the principalamong the ancestors of the American Indians” (where red strikethrough text indicates deletion and green underlined text indicates insertion).
Now, in the Come Follow Me manual, it fails to even mention that Moroni specified he was writing these few additional things for the Lamanites. That’s especially significant considering the current Church teachings about Lamanites. Instead of boldly declaring who the Lamanites are, the Church seems to be in a position of backpedaling, categorizing the assertions of these revelations and teachings of modern prophets as assumptions or speculations (see the Church’s Lamanite Identity and Book of Mormon and DNA Studies).
The evolution of the Church’s position on this seems to be a major moving the goalpost fallacy. That in and of itself is problematic, but in casting aside the teachings of generations of prophets, seers, and revelators, to the point that they claim they do not know who the Lamanites are, the defenders of the faith have established another problem. This defense admits that it is impossible to know if the teachings of prophets, seers, and revelators are true or false even when there is a consensus among them for generations. By dismissing what previous prophets and scriptures have taught, the Church is basically telling us past leaders were “teaching the philosophy of men mingled with a few scriptures” (language borrowed from President Ezra Taft Benson, lest you think I mock the temple endowment). If these men regularly contradict one another and are demonstrably wrong on many points, why trust in their arm of flesh?
Other observations about this lesson’s reading:
Details about the priesthood in the Book of Mormon seem to differ from current Mormon priesthood details (Moroni 3:2-3 and Moroni 6:1).
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?