Skins as Garments in the Book of Mormon : A Textual Exegesis
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
Traditional interpretations of the various-colored or cursed skins in the Book of Mormon have asserted variations of two basic perspectives: first, the Book of Mormon describes God as darkening the flesh pigmentation of some wicked peoples as a mark of a curse; or alternately, the descriptions of "white" skins and "dark" skins in the Book of Mormon are only metaphorical descriptions and not necessarily descriptions of flesh pigmentation. However, a careful textual analysis of all the relevant terms and passages in the Book of Mormon (and its closest literary analog, the King James Version of the Bible) strongly suggests that the various-colored skins in the Book of Mormon can be understood more coherently as a kind of authoritative garment. The relevant texts further lend themselves to associating such garment-skins with both the Nephite temple and competing Lamanite claims to kingship. Ultimately, this exegesis suggests that such garment-skins (as the mark of the Lamanites' curse) can be understood as being self-administered, removable, and inherited in the same way that authoritative vestments in the King James Version are self-administered, removable, and inherited.