White and Delightsome
“When the Book of Mormon speaks of white and delightsome, its translator means, ‘shining, glittering in gladness,’ not Caucasian. The Old English version of Genesis speaks of elf-sheen, and I suppose that is what our Book of Mormon implies: shining, glittering, lucid being. There is no racism here, but a promise of becoming like Ahman, and to reside gladly in Ahman, the name of Him giving us the name of a realm where his children gather and find rest.”1 The earliest extant versions of the Book of Mormon use “white” and “delightsome”; “pure” was first substituted for “white” in the 1840 edition.2 “Notice, in the Book of Mormon that peculiar thing: ‘a white and delightsome people’ and ‘a dark and loathsome people’. It doesn’t refer to skin color at all [only to countenance], but there’s a lot about race in the Book of Mormon. [Speaking of the text of an Egyptian who lived a short time before Nephi, The Autobiography of Kai, he refers] to himself as hd-hr (white of countenance), nfr bi-t (excellent of character), ph3 h-t (clean of body and in moral habits). And he shunned everything that was snk-wt. The word is very interesting. It means ‘black of countenance,’ and it also means ‘greed or anything that is evil.’ He [Kai] used those peculiar terms. He was hd-hr. He has a picture of a white face (white of countenance). And he was clean of body, and he eschewed snk-wt (what is greedy or what is dark of countenance).”3
1 “The Mormon Whatever,” Daymon C. Smith, Aug. 1, 2015, 7, paper.
2 Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 2:899.
3 Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2004), 15.