Quotes on Dark Skin / Light Skin

See also: 1 Nephi 12:23; 2nd Nephi 5:21; Jacob 3:5; Alma 3:6; 3rd Nephi 2:15 

This amazing coincidentia oppositorum is the clash of black and white.  With the Arabs, to be white of countenance is to be blessed and to be black of countenance is to be cursed; there are parallel expressions in Hebrew and Egyptian.   And what of Lehi’s people?  It is most significant that the curse against the Lamanites is the very same as that commonly held in the East to blight the sons of Ishmael, who appear to the light-skinned people of the towns as “a dark and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations, . . . an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety,” etc. (1 Nephi 12:23; 2 Nephi 5:24).  It is noteworthy that all the descendants of the Book of Mormon Ishmael fall under the curse (Alma 3:7), as if their Bedouin ancestry predisposed them to it.  The Book of Mormon always mentions the curse of the dark skin in connection with and as part of a larger picture:  “After they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people,” etc.  “Because of the cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people . . . and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey” (2 Nephi 5:24).  The statement that “God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21) describes the result, not the method, which is described elsewhere.  Thus we are told (Alma 3:13, 14, 18) that while the fallen people “set the mark upon themselves,” it was nonetheless God who was marking them:  “I will set a mark upon them,” etc.  So natural and human was the process that it suggested nothing miraculous to the ordinary observer, and “the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves; . . . it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them” (Alma 3:18).  Here God places his mark on people as a curse, yet it is an artificial mark which they actually place upon themselves.  The mark was not a racial thing but was acquired by “whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites” (Alma 3:10); Alma moreover defines a Nephite as anyone observing “the tradition of their fathers” (Alma 3:11).  Which makes the difference between Nephite and Lamanite a cultural, not a racial, one. Does this also apply to the dark skin?  Note that the dark skin is never mentioned alone but always as attending a generally depraved way of life, which also is described as the direct result of the curse.  When the Lamanites become “white” again, it is by living among the Nephites as Nephites, i.e., adopting the Nephite way of life (3 Nephi 2:15-16).  The cultural picture may not be the whole story of the dark skin of the Lamanites, but it is an important part of that story and is given great emphasis by the Book of Mormon itself.  There is nowhere any mention of red skin, incidentally, but only of black (or dark) and white, the terms being used as the Arabs use them. — Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthews and Stephen R. Callister, p. 71

The dark skin was the sign of the curse.  The curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord. . . . The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse . . . these converts are delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord. — Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 3, pp. 122-23