Samuel the Lamanite
Confronting the Wall of Nephite Prejudice
Jan J. Martin is an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.
The account of Samuel the Lamanite is exhilarating. In just eleven verses (Helaman 13:1–4; 16:1–7) all five elements of a good story appear. There is a protagonist (Samuel), an antagonist (Nephites), an inciting action that grabs attention (efforts to preach), a significant challenge to overcome (rejection), and a satisfying resolution (message delivered, miraculous escape). Like all good stories, Samuel’s sparks imagination and inspiration. Arnold Friberg (1913–2010), the noted American illustrator and painter who created one of the most iconic images of Samuel on the wall, imagined that “everything conspired to knock Samuel down off the wall.” Consequently, Friberg painted the dramatic scene with a great wind blowing. Equally inspired by the proficiencies of one of the Book of Mormon’s greatest prophets, Elder Spencer W. Kimball asked, “Has the world ever seen a more classic example of indomitable will, of faith and courage than that displayed by Samuel the Prophet?”
However, a careful, conscientious reader cannot allow all that is creative, courageous, and miraculous about Samuel’s experiences to obscure that which is deeply troubling, namely, the blatant prejudice to which Samuel was repeatedly subjected. Mormon, the prophet/
Even though Samuel hasn’t received a lot of scholarly attention, those who have written about him have unintentionally inverted these Nephite priorities by primarily concentrating on what Samuel said. Expert dissections of his sermon have shown that Samuel filled it with poetic features that are similar to laments in the Bible, that he incorporated “words from previous Book of Mormon prophets,” and that he borrowed “specific biblical phrases” from the Old Testament. These significant elements may have added validity and power to Samuel’s message, possibly influencing even nonbelievers to carefully monitor his prophecies for fulfillment (see 3 Nephi 1:5–6, 9; 8:3; 23:9–10; Mormon 1:19; 2:10). Other content-minded scholars have examined the signs of Christ’s birth that Samuel gave or investigated which parts of Samuel’s prophecies were omitted from the Nephite record (see 3 Nephi 23). Unfortunately, only minimal scholarly attention has been paid to the hostility Samuel received because of who he was, and no attention has been directed at how Samuel responded to the discrimination. Thus, this paper will explore the latter by applying a social psychological lens. Even though there are places in the Book of Mormon where various forms of prejudice are apparent and even condemned by religious and civic leaders, Samuel’s narrative is distinct because it portrays his purposeful, instructive, and insightful response. Using modern prejudice research to frame Samuel’s first and second visits to Zarahemla, this study will show how Samuel firmly and confidently confronted Nephite discrimination and how he intentionally worked to reduce feelings of superiority in his Nephite audience.
Mormon, the editor of Samuel’s story, has been described as a “deliberate, conscientious” man who utilized a number of literary devices to focus his readers’ attention on particular theological lessons. However, even though Mormon used stories like Samuel’s to “convince readers of the power of God, the consequences of sin, the reality of prophecy, and so forth,” he did not omit or whitewash difficult issues. Well acquainted with the worst in humanity (see Helaman 12), Mormon often lamented the depraved, perverse brutality of the Nephites and Lamanites of his day (see Moroni 9:18–19). He also knew that our day would be full of “great pollutions” and “all manner of abominations” (8:31). For these reasons he chose, under the inspiration of God, those “stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us,” making “the Book of Mormon . . . the greatest source we have for answers to real-life problems,” including problems of prejudice. Because we live in a day when prejudice and discrimination of all kinds remain fundamental problems across the globe, Samuel’s story should be eagerly examined for more than an acknowledgment that prejudice existed anciently. Through his example and teachings, Samuel provides important inspiration, motivation, and guidance about how to respond to discrimination.
As previous scholars have done, I will treat Helaman 13–15 as an accurate representation of the words Samuel spoke to his Nephite audience. Prejudice will be spoken of generally and defined as “unreasoned dislike, hostility, or antagonism towards, or discrimination against, a race, sex, or other class of people.” Because of the phenotypic descriptions of Lamanites and Nephites in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Nephi 5:21; Alma 3:6) and the pejorative terminology describing the Lamanites as filthy, cursed, loathsome, idle, bloodthirsty, and so on (see 2 Nephi 5:21–24; Enos 1:20; Mosiah 7:21; 10:12), there is a tendency to read the Book of Mormon “through the lens of American racial precedent” and to conclude that Samuel was a dark-skinned man who was the recipient of racial prejudice as that concept is understood today. However, the Book of Mormon’s many textual ambiguities and contradictions, along with other cultural indicators, challenge that particular representation of Samuel from a number of perspectives. First, the racial narrative in the Book of Mormon is contested, making a literal, skin-pigmentation interpretation of the Lamanites’ “skin of blackness” (2 Nephi 5:9, 21) not the only, or even the most plausible, explanation of the meaning of that phrase. Brant Gardner explains, “There are many ways in which color may be associated with a person. The Book of Mormon makes those associations, and the question is what the text means when it makes those associations. The possibilities range from simple description to metaphorical value judgments.” Second, there is a strong likelihood that there were non-Lehite people in the Americas when Lehi’s family arrived. Nothing is known about these indigenous populations, or about Nephite or Lamanite intermarriages with them, but the Book of Mormon hints at some genetic mixing. This probability weakens assertions that the difference in appearance between Lamanites and Nephites “was presumably so overwhelming as to allow a clear, ethnic divide by suggesting that there could have been a ‘wide variety of skin colors and other physical features’ within Nephite and Lamanite civilizations.” Third, by the time Samuel visited Zarahemla in 6 BC, Lamanite had become a very broad, fluid term that the Nephites applied to a wide variety of people (see Alma 3:9–11, 15–17), including various types of dissenting Nephites, non-Lehites, and lineal descendants of Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael. Analysis of familial terms in the Book of Mormon, such as descendant, seed, children, Nephite, and Lamanite, shows that while the terms “include a genetic component, the more common usage of such terms in the text is ideological, social, and political,” leaving room for individuals to be considered a descendant, child, seed, Nephite, or Lamanite through adoption. This type of sociopolitical movement presupposes a wide variety of skin tones among both Nephites and Lamanites. Because the Book of Mormon is silent about Samuel’s ancestry, personal life, and physical appearance, it is not clear how Lamanite applied to him. Was Samuel a literal descendant of Laman, Lemuel, or Ishmael? Or was he a Nephite dissenter, or a non-Lehite who had fought against the Nephites, or someone who had married a non-Nephite? Or did Samuel possess a combination of the many possible qualifications that made one a Lamanite? With so many uncertainties surrounding Samuel’s skin color, I will proceed under the assumption that the discrimination he received stemmed primarily from his membership in a non-Nephite group (see Helaman 14:10).
Publicly Confronting Prejudicial Treatment
After his unsuccessful attempt to preach to the people of Zarahemla, Samuel was “about to return to his own land” (Helaman 13:2). However, “the voice of the Lord came unto him,” and told him that he should “return again” (v. 3). How quickly Samuel complied with this order is unclear, but since the city gates were closed against him when he did return, his second visit required some ingenuity to accomplish (see v. 4). After climbing onto the very edifice that separated him from his audience, a structure that serves as a powerful, symbolic representation of the isolating nature of prejudice, Samuel boldly declared, “Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart” (v. 5). Since Samuel’s identity as a Lamanite was the primary reason why the Nephites cast him out on his first attempt to preach, this introduction seems peculiar. Why draw attention to a characteristic that had already undermined his prophetic credibility and generated decisive dismissal? Perhaps Samuel’s introduction is merely an arbitrary greeting. Or maybe it is endearing evidence that he was an unsophisticated missionary inexpert in noticing or resolving his audience’s concerns. However, there could be more deliberate method in Samuel’s introduction than innocent madness. Social psychologists have noted that when someone, like Samuel, is faced “with prejudice and discrimination in interpersonal encounters,” he or she must decide how to respond. Two paths are available: either the person confronts the perpetrator and expresses dissatisfaction, or the person ignores the situation and lets his or her dissatisfaction go unnoticed. Interestingly, Samuel may have made both of these choices during his first and second visits to Zarahemla.
Helaman 11 indicates that Samuel arrived in Zarahemla during a time of great fear. Six years earlier, some Nephite dissenters became Lamanites and convinced “a certain number” of “real descendants” to join them in founding a secret band of Gadianton robbers (see vv. 24–26). Mormon reports that these robbers increased in number daily, that they escaped detection by establishing a city for themselves in the mountains, and that they caused great havoc and destruction among the Nephites and Lamanites, even defying entire armies assembled across both nations (see vv. 27, 32). In contrast, more than a decade earlier, the Nephites and Lamanites had enjoyed substantial international sociality, “go[ing] into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites” (6:7). But the perpetual murdering, plundering, and kidnapping conducted by the large band of robbers of Samuel’s day may have curtailed travel, potentially immobilizing all the people with a great fear, Nephites as well as Lamanites (see 11:32). With the threat of “terrorist and guerilla-type attacks,” it was a dangerous time to be traveling outside protective city walls and associating with strangers, such that the Nephites and Lamanites may have felt safer remaining at home among family and friends. Monte Nyman postulates that preaching the word of God was seriously hampered at this time, which makes Samuel’s visit to Zarahemla even more astonishing.
Unfortunately, Mormon gives very little detail about Samuel’s first visit. However, there is enough information to suggest that Samuel’s initial labors were not particularly effective (see Helaman 13:2). Samuel’s decision to “return to his own land” (v. 2) after he was cast out intimates personal recognition that things had not gone as he had hoped and that he was giving up. Though it is not recorded, Samuel may have experienced some despondence and discouragement from his lack of success reminiscent of the Nephite prophet Alma2’s feelings after he was initially expelled from the city of Ammonihah (see Alma 8:13–14). Alma2 was “weighed down with sorrow” and was dejectedly traveling to the city of Aaron when an angel commanded him to return to Ammonihah (see v. 18). Alma2 did so, but he took a noticeably different, and much more successful, approach on the second visit by asking Amulek for help (see vv. 18–22). Similarly, once Samuel was commanded to return to Zarahemla, perhaps he also realized that he needed a different methodology, one that incorporated direct confrontation of prejudice into his message of repentance. Indeed, Samuel’s first visit might have taught him that being “patient in long-suffering and afflictions” (Alma 17:11), though important behavior for a missionary, did not mean that he should ignore the biased treatment he received. As Elder David E. Sorenson taught, forgiveness “should not be confused with tolerating evil. . . . [Forgiveness] does not require us to ignore the wrong that we see in the world around us or in our own lives.” In fact, those who have been wronged should “work constructively to prevent that injury from being repeated.” Although confrontation often denotes conflict, tension, or hostility, it can also mean “a verbal expression of disagreement with and/
Studies have shown that public responses to prejudice are important for at least two reasons. First, “silence can be dangerous” for both the marginalized, such as Samuel, and the nonmarginalized, such as the Nephites. Silence reinforces the wall of prejudice. By representing an abdication of responsibility, silence obstructs improvement because it allows “the status quo to remain intact” through a “tacit support for [the actions and words of] the bully or aggressor.” Samuel’s well-meaning hesitation to confront the discrimination he received on his first visit could be one reason that the Lord commanded him to return to Zarahemla. As Jaime Bochantin has astutely remarked, “Rarely do we get second chances to make up for our silences.” In commanding Samuel to return, the Lord gave him another opportunity to speak out. As one author has written, “Silence is what allows people to suffer without recourse, what allows hypocrisies and lies to grow and flourish, [and] crimes to go unpunished.” Elder M. Russell Ballard once remarked, “I know it is sometimes hard to stand for truth and right. Yet we need to be positive examples if we are to help others find a better way.” Samuel needed to find a better way in order to help the Nephites find a better way. In climbing atop the city wall during his second visit, Samuel physically demonstrated a desire to conquer Nephite prejudice rather than letting it conquer him. By boldly introducing himself as “a Lamanite,” Samuel made no apologies for who he was and, at the same time, set the stage for a nonhostile but direct confrontation of the Nephites’ erroneous perception of the Lamanites.
The second reason that public acknowledgment of biased behavior is important is because it can have a broad and powerful effect on bystanders. Because there were “many who heard” his words (Helaman 16:1), Samuel had a crucial opportunity to exert positive influence on his Nephite audience no matter what levels of prejudice they harbored against him. Even though Mormon emphasizes Nephite wickedness, not all of the Nephites in Samuel’s audience were wicked. Samuel even acknowledged that the city of Zarahemla had been saved from destruction because of the righteous that were in it (see 13:12), but it is also true that “no corner in the world is free from group scorn.” Research has shown that speaking up against prejudice can motivate highly biased observers “to reduce their future public expressions of prejudice even if they still maintain their bias internally.” Public confrontations can also cause observers “with a strong external motivation to avoid prejudice” to recognize “the situational norms that disapprove of expressions of bias and change their behavior accordingly.” Even bystanders who have low levels of prejudice are benefitted by observing confrontations because they may “become aware of their own bias and feel privately confronted as well.” The prejudicial wall around Zarahemla could be torn down only if many hands participated in the demolition. In boldly reminding his audience that he was “a Lamanite,” Samuel refused to ignore or minimize the discrimination he had received. In fact, beginning his discourse with a courageous acknowledgment of who he was (see 13:5) opened an intentional—and needed—discourse about the Lamanites that may have led to some fruitful internal self-evaluation on the part of some of the Nephite bystanders. As will be evident, confronting the problem was just the beginning of Samuel’s efforts to constructively tear down the wall of prejudice, but it was an important and necessary beginning.
Students of the Book of Mormon may wonder why Samuel was sent to Zarahemla when Nephi2, a very powerful, experienced, well-known prophet (see Helaman 5–11), was already “baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people” (16:4). One explanation could be that Samuel’s mission to Zarahemla fulfilled the Lord’s law of witnesses (see 2 Corinthians 13:1). However, intergroup contact theory could provide another very important reason for Samuel’s presence. The Nephites in Zarahemla were living at a time when contact with others was potentially difficult and dangerous to attain. As a result, it is quite possible that the Nephites in Zarahemla were largely socially segregated. Even though isolation from others provides physical safety, social segregation also breeds prejudice. Intergroup contact theory argues that when individuals from one group associate with those from another group in a spirit of cooperation, negative attitudes can be reduced and inclusivity increased because people discover that their false beliefs, misconceptions, and stereotypes are incorrect. In coming to Zarahemla as an outsider and declaring himself to be a Lamanite who spoke for the God that the Nephites traditionally revered, Samuel audaciously provided the Nephites with an opportunity to associate with a representative from a different group in a spirit of cooperation. Samuel hoped to help the Nephites by sharing the “glad tidings” he had received, by encouraging repentance, and by strengthening their “faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Helaman 13:6–7). If the Nephites had invited Samuel off the wall and into their homes, they would have experienced this spirit of cooperation for themselves. Nephi2, as competent and qualified a prophet as he was, was an insider and could not fill these same goals in the way Samuel could. Because of who he was, Samuel had a distinct advantage in being the right person to initiate cooperative intergroup contact that could begin to reduce the socially segregated prejudice that may have been developing in Zarahemla.
Because the Nephites and Lamanites had lived as separate and contentious nations for almost six hundred years, strong stereotypes already existed between the two. These stereotypes had originated in the disagreements that had initially, and principally, subsisted between Lehi1’s sons Nephi1 and Laman1, leading those who aligned themselves with either son to develop and harbor unfavorable perceptions of the other group. The Lamanites thought the Nephites were political usurpers (see 1 Nephi 16:31; 18:10; 2 Nephi 5:3; Mosiah 10:15; Alma 54:17–18, 24), liars (see 1 Nephi 16:38; 17:18; Alma 20:10, 13), deceivers (see 1 Nephi 16:38; 17:20, 22; Alma 20:13; 25:1–2), and thieves who sought to strip them of their property (see Mosiah 10:16; Alma 20:13). On the other hand, the Nephites thought the Lamanites were filthy, cursed, loathsome, idle, mischievous, subtle, idolatrous, cunning, crafty, wild, ferocious, and bloodthirsty (see 2 Nephi 5:21–24; Enos 1:20; Mosiah 10:12; Alma 26:24–25) because they cherished and acted on values and beliefs that differed from those that the Nephites esteemed to be “good.” Moreover, the Nephites felt that the Lamanites were infused with an eternal hatred so potent that it fueled a continual desire to enslave or destroy the Nephites (see Jacob 7:24, 26; Enos 1:20; Mosiah 10:17; 21:2–3; 24:8–11; Alma 43:29; 48:2–4). The almost continual contention between the Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Mormon provides evidence that some of the Nephite perspectives about some of the Lamanites may have been justified some of the time (see Omni 1:10; Words of Mormon 1:10, 13–14; Alma 46–62; Helaman 4:12–13), but prejudice leads people to believe that most members of another group fit a stereotypical description most of the time.
That prejudiced Nephites existed seems apparent in the experiences of Ammon, one of the sons of King Mosiah2. Ammon reported that after he and his brothers expressed their desire to preach to the Lamanites, many of their “brethren in the land of Zarahemla” laughed scornfully at the thought of trying to bring the “Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth.” Their brethren did this because they thought all Lamanites were stiff-necked, iniquitous, and bloodthirsty (see Alma 26:23–24). However, this report also demonstrates that not all Nephites were prejudiced against the Lamanites. Ammon, along with his three brothers and their companions, certainly was not (see Mosiah 28:2; Alma 17:30). And because they were not, they willingly mingled with the Lamanites and successfully brought thousands of “actual descendants of Laman and Lemuel” (Alma 24:29) “to believe in the traditions of the Nephites,” to bury their weapons of war, to change their lifestyles, and to become “friendly with the Nephites” (see 23:5, 13–18).
These converts even abandoned the appellation Lamanite, taking upon themselves the name Anti-Nephi-Lehi (see Alma 23–24) instead, a choice indicating “they had independently stepped away from the well-established political order” and “become a new people with a new identity.” It seems that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were “fully and fiercely loyal to their religious conversion” and that the Nephites respected their desires to be “distinguished from their brethren” and did not insist on full integration as Nephites (see 23:16). Significantly, when Ammon approached the Nephite government about protecting this vulnerable group from genocide, the name Lamanite was not used by the Nephites during or after the civic negotiations (see 27:15–27). Throughout the arbitration, the Nephites courteously referred to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies by the name they had chosen for themselves. The absence of the term Lamanite suggests that because of their lifestyle changes, the Nephites no longer perceived the Anti-Nephi-Lehies as Lamanites. After giving the Anti-Nephi-Lehies the land of Jershon and agreeing to protect them with their own military, the Nephites supplied a new, abiding appellation—“the people of Ammon” (see 27:22–26)—and continued to acknowledge that they had once been the “people of the Lamanites” but were no longer (30:19).
This history is important because it supports the claim that for the Nephites, Lamanite had more to do with lifestyle than with ancestry or physical appearance and that once someone had given up the Lamanite lifestyle, the term Lamanite no longer applied. But this history also accentuates one important aspect of Samuel’s position. Even though he was a prophet of God who was doctrinally savvy, service oriented, obedient, and spiritually pure enough for the Lord to put words directly “into his heart,” Samuel confidently identified himself as a Lamanite (see Helaman 13:1–5), an appellation that had not had positive connotations for most of the six hundred years of Nephite history. Just twenty-four years before Samuel came to Zarahemla, the prophet Nephi2 and his brother Lehi4 influenced the conversion of the “more part” of the Lamanites through their extensive missionary labors (see 6:1). But even though these Lamanites became “a righteous people” who willingly laid down their weapons of war, gave up their hatred toward the Nephites, abandoned the “tradition of their fathers,” and astoundingly yielded up Nephite lands that had been taken through warfare (see 5:51–52; 6:1), they retained the name Lamanite. Unlike the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, whose repentance led them to deliberately reject that appellation (see Alma 23:16–17), the converts produced through Nephi2 and Lehi4’s missionary labors did not separate themselves by adopting a new name or stepping outside the established political order. The numerical advantage they enjoyed among their own people gave them an opportunity to define, or redefine, what it meant to be a Lamanite, a pursuit that required cultural and other changes that may have created uncomfortable feelings and social uncertainties on all sides.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks once remarked that “the present-day servants of the Lord do not attempt to make Filipinos or Asians or Africans into Americans. . . . We say to all, give up your traditions and cultural practices that are contrary to the commandments of God and the culture of His gospel, and join with His people in building the kingdom of God.” It seems that Samuel and this new group of Lamanite converts were attempting to do exactly what Elder Oaks advocated in giving up all that was contrary to the commandments of God in their Lamanite culture and beliefs without sacrificing other cherished characteristics or circumstances, such as their traditional name or political affiliation. Because they were pioneering a new identity, this group of Lamanites may have felt insecure and turned to the Bible to find greater understanding of what it meant to be a covenant people.
However, the Nephites may have felt equally insecure about how to relate to these new converts as Lamanites, and since people tend to resist change, the Nephites could have experienced some difficulty adjusting their perspectives, expectations, and attitudes. Studies show that one of the “primary psychological reasons for why people avoid intergroup contact is anxiety” about what to expect or do when contact with unfamiliar cultures occurs. Righteous Lamanites would have been an unfamiliar cultural entity to the Nephites. Samuel’s physical presence in Zarahemla, along with his confident and dignified verbal declaration that he was a Lamanite, could have been divinely inspired invitations for the Nephites to face their social anxieties, venture outside traditional cultural stereotypes, and willingly interact with him—all important steps in breaking down the wall of prejudice. However, Samuel seemed to understand that “even when offered the opportunity to engage in contact with outgroups, people may still choose to avoid it, especially when the relations are problematic or tarnished by a history of violence, discord and negative stereotyping” or are just difficult to arrange owing to the environment. Studies show “that direct experiences are not always necessary for contact to exert favorable outcomes” on prejudice. Thus, at a time when direct and frequent contact with larger numbers of convert Lamanites may have been difficult to arrange, Samuel wisely presented an indirect form of intergroup contact that could assist the Nephites in reducing social or cultural anxieties and prejudices from the safety of their own city.
Imagined Intergroup Contact
After introducing himself as a Lamanite, Samuel delivered a series of chastisements and prophecies. He wanted the Nephites to “know of the judgments of God” that awaited them if they did not repent, he wanted them to understand “the conditions of repentance” so they could repent, and he wanted them to be aware of the signs of Christ’s coming so they would “believe on his name” and obtain a remission of their sins “through his merits” (Helaman 14:11–13). He then expertly returned to the subject of prejudicial superiority. Samuel indicated that the Lord had loved the people of Nephi and chastened them whenever necessary because of that love but had hated the Lamanites because their deeds and traditions were unrighteous (see 15:3–4). This terminology may unsettle and confuse a modern reader because it seems to support divine favoritism or bias. However, David Bokovoy has shown that in ancient cultures the term love “often represented a covenantal devotion to one’s superior” while hate “signified the status of an individual outside” the covenant relationship. He suggests that Samuel used the terms love and hate with a “specific nuance derived from the world of antiquity” and that he was referring to the covenant each group had with God as members of the house of Israel and as descendants of Lehi. According to Samuel, righteous behavior (love) kept the covenant with God viable and sinful behavior (hate) broke it. Thus, Samuel beautifully demonstrated that the Nephites had no reason to regard the Lamanites with disdain or prejudice, because both were covenant people in the Lord’s eyes, both had made mistakes at different times, both needed repentance, and both had been offered salvation through the same mediator. Samuel understood, and tried to convey, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the great equalizer. However, he also seemed to understand that it takes more to overcome prejudice than heartfelt assurances of equality before God.
Therefore, Samuel began the next portion of his sermon by stating, “And I would that ye should behold that the more part of them [the Lamanites] are in the path of their duty” (Helaman 15:5). This important phrase includes the word behold, which means to “hold by, keep, observe, regard, [and] look.” Given the repeated, and ostensibly uncontested, rejection that Samuel experienced in Zarahemla, it is unlikely that there were many, if any, converted Lamanites present for the Nephites to behold with their physical eyes. Moreover, because the “more part” of the city was wicked (13:12), there may have been little interest in recognizing, socializing with, or understanding anyone who lived righteously, especially those who were from an outgroup. Therefore, when Samuel asked his audience to “behold” the Lamanites, it seems that he wanted the Nephites to participate in a mental-imagery exercise. It has been said that “the ability to envisage a world different from that which we know is one of the defining characteristics of human experience.” The prophet Alma described this process as “looking forward with an eye of faith” (Alma 32:40), while Elder David A. Bednar has explained it as the spiritual creation that precedes the temporal creation (see Moses 3:5). Modern research has demonstrated that mental simulation enhances sports performance, promotes healthy behaviors, and helps people combat phobias and anxiety disorders. Mental simulation has also been shown to be effective in reducing intragroup anxiety and inhibitions because the mental representation “shares many common characteristics with the real experience and facilitates behavior and attitudinal change.” Imagining a positive, relaxed, and comfortable interaction with an individual from an outgroup fosters greater interest in the group and increases a willingness to engage with that group. By using the phrase “I would that ye should behold,” Samuel invited his Nephite audience into an important visualization exercise that was designed to instruct and soften.
Samuel began the exercise by inviting the Nephites to picture Lamanites who were dutiful and circumspect toward God, obedient to the law of Moses, unwearied and diligent in their efforts to do what was right, and zealous about sharing their newfound beliefs with those around them (see Helaman 15:5–6). By listing these detailed behaviors, Samuel constructed a specific mental script that illustrated the type of religiously motivated conduct that the Nephites could expect from the Lamanites. The creation of specific behavior scripts is a strategy that has been shown to be more effective in helping people acquire positive attitudes toward members of other groups than “simply thinking about an outgroup.” Samuel also asked the Nephites to search their memories and mentally recall moments when they had personally witnessed a faith- and repentance-based change of heart that led these same Lamanites to act with “firm[ness] and steadfast[ness] in the faith” (vv. 7–8). In doing this, Samuel added additional complexity and depth to the script. Studies show that the more “explicitly elaborate and positive the imagined contact” is, the greater the reduction in anxiety. Samuel continued the visualization exercise by stating, “Ye know also that they have buried their weapons of war” and “fear to take them up,” and they will suffer themselves to “be trodden down and slain by their enemies, and will not lift their swords against [their enemies]” (v. 9). This picture wholly, and thoroughly, contradicts the unpredictable, wild, ferocious, and bloodthirsty aspects of the traditional Lamanite stereotype. Lamanites who do not have any weapons, who will not go on the offensive, and who will not even defend themselves from a hostile assailant are not people to fear, ignore, condemn, suspect, or shut out with walls of prejudice.
In asking the Nephites to visualize these additional details, especially at a time when the Gadianton robbers were frighteningly active, Samuel engendered value for the faithful, courageous character of the Lamanite converts while softening any feelings of cultural or religious superiority or doubt that the Nephites may have harbored toward them. Samuel gave the Nephites many good reasons to want to “build bridges of cooperation” with him and his people “instead of walls of segregation.” Samuel ended his mental simulation exercise with a social comparison, a stirring reminder that, unlike the Nephites, the Lamanite faithful were novices at participating in the covenant relationship with God and had been promised a prolonged existence in the land to compensate them for having dwindled in unbelief because of “the traditions of their fathers” (see Helaman 15:10–15). “Downward social comparison processes are at work when individuals see themselves as better off than others,” and it can be an effective “method for facilitating gratitude” under the right conditions. In his final efforts to reduce feelings of superiority and disdain, Samuel may have hoped that the Nephites’ gratitude for their own circumstances would play an additional softening role for those who were humble enough to recognize how blessed they had been.
Although Samuel firmly and confidently returned to Zarahemla and boldly addressed the discrimination he faced, it is difficult to discern how much success he had in reducing prejudicial feelings or behaviors. Mormon reports that some of the Nephites in Samuel’s audience believed him, and as a result they “sought for Nephi” and “confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord” (Helaman 16:1). The phrase “denied not” could mean many things, but it suggests a willingness to take responsibility for poor behavior, including feelings of superiority over others. Admitting prejudice can be difficult to do because people do not want to acknowledge their own prejudices, let alone be the target of other people’s prejudices. But it is true that people “are all bundles of prejudice.” Dr. Evangeline Wheeler, a specialist in the psychology of prejudice, has concluded, “That people are prejudiced against one another is axiomatic” because “prejudice, the pre-judgment or formation of an attitude, often unconsciously, based on assumptions and generalizations, is a prominent aspect of human socio-cognitive behavior.” Samuel’s public acknowledgment that he was a member of an outgroup, his invitation for intergroup contact, and his mental simulation exercise may have helped this group of Nephites recognize and acknowledge their own biases, which was an important part of their repentance.
Mormon also states that many of the Nephites did not believe Samuel and “were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him” (Helaman 16:2). Since Mormon did not give much detail, it is difficult to precisely discern why these people were so angry with Samuel’s message. Nearly six hundred years earlier, Nephi1 explained to Laman1 and Lemuel1 one motive for angry responses: “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center (1 Nephi 16:2). Samuel taught many truths, along with his confrontation of prejudice, that may have had that very effect on the Nephites, inciting them to throw stones and shoot arrows at him. George Allport argued that “violence is always an outgrowth of milder states of mind.” He recognized that most “barking (antilocution) does not lead to biting, yet there is never a bite without previous barking.” Modern research shows that public confrontations of discrimination, as essential as they are, are not without their personal risks, especially if the confrontation is conducted by the target of the discrimination, as in Samuel’s case. Unfortunately, “individuals who publicly attribute events to discrimination incur negative interpersonal ramifications,” including derogated reputations and increased social dislike. These consequences are part of the victim-blaming culture in which “we make the assumption that if something bad happens to [someone], it is somehow [that person’s] own fault” and that person is perceived as weak or incompetent for not preventing it.
Interestingly, both social dislike and intentional degrading of Samuel’s reputation are evident in the Nephites’ response. The violent assault with arrows and stones could include an element of the people’s increased social dislike of Samuel because he directly opposed their biased behavior. Then, when some of the unbelievers saw that they could not hit Samuel with their stones and arrows, they deliberately accused him of being possessed with a devil and of protecting himself by the power of the devil. The unbelievers asked their captains to “take [Samuel] and bind him” (Helaman 16:6). Whether theologically or prejudicially motivated, or a combination of both, these actions are discernible assaults on Samuel’s reputation as a worthwhile person and as a prophet of God.
While readers should feel proud of Samuel for standing up to iniquity, including the discrimination and abuse that no one else was willing to contest for him, there is a final aspect of this narrative that needs attention. What did Samuel’s second visit to Zarahemla cost him personally? He miraculously escaped with his life, but that does not mean he escaped unscathed. Studies have demonstrated that the targets of discrimination, such as Samuel, often have “such negative experiences when they confront” prejudice that they may hesitate to confront it the future. Samuel’s flight from the walls of Zarahemla, his reappearance in his “own country,” and the fact that he never returned to Nephite territory could be explained a number of ways (see Helaman 16:7–8). However, one possible interpretation is that Samuel experienced so much trauma from this second visit to Zarahemla that he lost his desire for any further Nephite interaction, including additional confrontations of Nephite prejudice. Kylie Turley argues that Alma2 left the traumatic events of his second visit to Ammonihah with “significant psychological and emotional wounds.” With so many similarities already existing between the two men, it is possible that Samuel left Zarahemla with psychological and emotional trauma of his own.
Samuel the Lamanite’s story is a rich depository of inspiring truths and unsettling challenges. Because many scholars have focused on the contents of Samuel’s sermon, this study has taken a different approach: exploring Samuel’s response to the hostility he received because of who he was. I have argued that in returning to Zarahemla and climbing atop the city walls, Samuel symbolically demonstrated his desire to conquer the prejudice that isolated the Nephites and the Lamanites from each other. By introducing himself as a Lamanite, Samuel verbally confronted the discrimination, made prejudice a main topic of his discourse, and extended an invitation for the Nephites to engage in cooperative intergroup contact. I have also noted that Samuel provided a mental simulation exercise at the end of his discourse that may have been designed to reduce the Nephites’ reluctance to interact with the Lamanites so that they would be more willing to remove the walls of their own prejudices. Even though Samuel was only moderately successful in influencing his Nephite audience to recognize their sins and change their ways, his courageous efforts are relevant and instructive for us today. Speaking at the fortieth anniversary celebration of the revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy males (Official Declaration 2), President Dallin H. Oaks invited his audience “to abandon all personal prejudices.” This is no easy task since all “people efficiently categorize other people.” However, Samuel the Lamanite’s story provides important commentary on why it is important to abandon all prejudice, and it offers essential instructions on how begin.
 See “The Five Essential Elements of a Great Story,” Archway Publishing, accessed December 18, 2020, https://
 See Vern Swanson, “The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg: Painter of Scripture,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (hereafter JBMS) 10, no. 1 (2001): 34.
 Spencer W. Kimball, “Who Is My Neighbor?,” general conference address, April 1949, https://
 For discussion, see Joseph M. Spencer, “The Time of Sin,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 9 (2014): 88.
 See Kent S. Brown, “The Prophetic Laments of Samuel the Lamanite,” JBMS 1, no. 1 (Fall 1992): 163–80.
 John Hilton III, Sunny Hendry Hafen, and Jaron Hansen, “Samuel and His Nephite Sources,” BYU Studies Quarterly 56, no. 3 (2017): 117.
 Shon Hopkin and John Hilton III, “Samuel’s Reliance on Biblical Language,” JBMS 24, n o. 1 (2015): 31, 38.
 See Hilton, Hafen, and Hansen, “Nephite Sources,” 115.
 See David Butler Cummings, “Three Days and Three Nights: Reassessing Jesus’s Entombment,” JBMS 16, no. 1 (2007): 60–63.
 See D. Lynn Johnson, “The Missing Scripture,” JBMS 3, no. 2 (1994): 84–93.
 See Jared Hickman “The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse,” American Literature 86, no. 3 (September 2014): 452–53; and Hopkin and Hilton, “Samuel’s Reliance,” 33–34.
 Economic prejudice: Jacob 2:13; Mosiah 3:16–19; Alma 32:1–3; physical appearance: Jacob 3:5, 9; religious persecution: Mosiah 24:8; 26:38; 27:1–3; cultural prejudice: Alma 20:9–10, 13–14; 26:23–24.
 Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 97; Edgar C. Snow Jr., “Narrative Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” JBMS 4, no. 2 (1995): 98–99; and Susan Taber, “Mormon’s Literary Technique,” in Mormon Letters Annual, 1983 (Salt Lake City: Association for Mormon Letters, 1984), 118.
 Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 119.
 See Kylie Turley, “Alma’s Hell: Repentance, Consequence, and the Lake of Fire and Brimstone,” JBMS 28 (2019): 3.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, November 1986, 4.
 M. Russell Ballard, “We Add Our Witness,” Ensign, March 1989, 8–9.
 See United Nations, “Prejudice and Discrimination: Barriers to Social Inclusion,” February 7, 2018, https://
 See John A. Tvedtnes, “The Charge of ‘Racism’ in the Book of Mormon,” 2003 FairMormon Conference address, Utah Valley University, August 2003, Orem, UT, https://
 See Hilton, Hafen, and Hansen, “Nephite Sources,” 119.
 Oxford English Dictionary Online (hereafter OED), s.v. “prejudice,” accessed December 18, 2020, www.oed.com. See Gordon W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice: 25th Anniversary Edition (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1988), 4. Allport’s book is the foundational work for the social psychological study of prejudice. He defined prejudice as “a feeling, favorable or unfavorable, toward a person or thing, prior to, or not based on, actual experience.”
 Russell W. Stevenson, “Reckoning with Race in the Book of Mormon: A Review of Literature,” JBMS 27 (2018): 210.
 Hickman has taken this approach in “Amerindian Apocalypse,” 453.
 The OED indicates that race dates to the 1500s and initially referred to groups of people who shared a common ancestor. Over time, law, science, and government added alternative meanings. Today, race can be broadly applied to groups of people with a common ancestry, groups of people who share distinct physical characteristics (such as skin color), and groups of people who share a common culture or cultural markers. See OED, s.v. “race.”
 See Stevenson, “Reckoning with Race,” 210.
 For overviews of the various interpretations of Lamanite skins, see Ethan Sproat, “Skins as Garments in the Book of Mormon: A Textual Exegesis,” JBMS 24, no. 1 (2015): 142, 144; and Armand L. Mauss, All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 41–157.
 Gardner, Second Witness, 2:108–23.
 See Brant A. Gardner, “The Other Stuff: Reading the Book of Mormon for Cultural Information,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 13, no. 2 (2001): 31; John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?,” JBMS 1, no. 1 (Fall 1992): 4–6; and Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 15, no. 2 (2003):116–27.
 See Tvedtnes, “Charge of Racism.”
 “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies,” Gospel Topics, updated April 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, https://
 This date is given in the Book of Mormon’s chapter heading to Helaman 13, though this date is contested by scholars. See Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Dating the Birth of Christ,” BYU Studies 49, no. 4 (2010): 5–38.
 See “Who Are the Lamanites?,” Book of Mormon Central, November 20, 2018, https://
 Roper, “Swimming in the Gene Pool,” 147–55.
 See C. Houston Hobart, A Study of Samuel the Lamanite (Independence, MO, 1992), 4; and Hopkin and Hilton, “Samuel’s Reliance,” 33.
 See Dennis L. Largey, “Samuel the Lamanite,” in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 697. Largey suggests that Samuel might have been one of the 8,300 converts connected to Nephi2 and Lehi4’s missionary labors, or he might have been influenced by the later preaching of the converted Lamanites. However, neither postulation clarifies Samuel’s initial status as a Lamanite.
 See Charles Swift, “‘After This Manner Did He Speak’: Mormon’s Discourse on Faith, Hope, and Charity,” Religious Educator 19, no. 2 (2018): 63–81. Charles Swift discusses the rhetorical concept of ethos, which is the credibility an author or speaker has established “through his or her work, or by bringing it to the occasion,” and how Book of Mormon prophets such as Mormon effectively utilized both means. Samuel may not have had much natural credibility (ethos) with his audience since he was a Lamanite who came from Lamanite territory. The Book of Mormon does not reveal how he received his prophetic authority, nor does it discuss a previous ministry. If the Nephites did not know of those things, it would have been difficult for Samuel to bring natural credibility with him or to develop any as he preached. It seems that his credibility came only after his prophesies were fulfilled (see 3 Nephi 1:15–25; 5:1–2).
 See J. Nicole Shelton et al., “Silence Is Not Golden: Intrapersonal Consequences of Not Confronting Prejudice,” in Stigma and Group Inequality: Social Psychological Perspectives, ed. Shana Levin and Colette Van Laar (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006), 65.
 Presumably, “real descendants” refers to those who were born Lamanites and not to those who joined the Lamanites after birth.
 See Gardner, Second Witness, 5:160.
 See Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 185. Hardy suggests that the rapid shifts between righteousness and wickedness characterized in the book of Helaman indicate a small population of Nephites with a weak institutional continuity, making the type of fear I am suggesting more likely.
 Ray C. Hillam, “The Gadianton Robbers and Protracted War,” BYU Studies Quarterly 15, no. 2 (1975): 218.
 See Monte S. Nyman, The Record of Helaman: A Teaching Commentary on the Book of Helaman (Orem, UT: Granite, 2004), 4:384.
 See James E. Faust, “Continuous Revelation,” general conference address, October 1989, https://
 See Snow, “Narrative Criticism,” 104; and Richard Dilworth Rust, “Recurrence in Book of Mormon Narratives,” JBMS 3, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 41. These scholars have noted the similarities between Abinadi, Alma2, and Samuel. See also Gardner, Second Witness, 5:175, where Gardner argues that Mormon shaped Samuel’s story to parallel Nephi2’s abrupt call to preach repentance rather than returning home (see Helaman 10:6–12).
 See Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Learn from Alma and Amulek,” Ensign, November 2016, 72.
 David E. Sorensen, “Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign, May 2003, 12.
 Alexander M. Czopp and Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, “Interpersonal Confrontations of Prejudice,” in The Psychology of Prejudice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Contemporary Issues, ed. Dale W. Russell and Cristel Antonia Russell (New York: Nova Science, 2012), 177.
 Jaime Bochantin, “Unpacking Silence: The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgivable,” Corral Riding Academy (blog), July 20, 2018, https://
 Bochantin, “Unpacking Silence.”
 Rebecca Solnit, “Silence and Powerlessness Go Hand in Hand—Women’s Voices Must Be Heard,” The Guardian, March 8, 2017, https://
 M. Russell Ballard, “Standing for Truth and Right,” general conference address, October 1997, https://
 Although Samuel addressed his message to the people of Nephi, it may also be possible that not all of Samuel’s audience was Nephite. There could have been some converted Lamanites, or even nonconverted Lamanites, living in or around Zarahemla.
 Allport, Nature of Prejudice, 4.
 Heather M. Rasinski and Alexander M. Czopp, “The Effect of Target Status on Witnesses’ Reactions to Confrontations of Bias,” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 32, no. 1 (2010): 9.
 Rasinski and Czopp, “Effect of Target Status,” 15.
 Rasinski and Czopp, “Effect of Target Status,” 15.
 See Richard J. Crisp, Michèle D. Birtel, and Rose Meleady, “Mental Simulations of Social Thought and Action: Trivial Tasks or Tools for Transforming Social Policy?,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 20, no. 4 (2011): 261.
 See Scottish Government, “What Works to Reduce Prejudice and Discrimination? A Review of the Evidence,” October 14, 2015, https://
 See Gardner, Second Witness, 2:108–23.
 Gail Price-Wise discusses the general application of conclusions in Robert Mitchell, “Fighting Prejudice by Admitting It,” Harvard Gazette, November 5, 2013, https://
 See Stephen D. Ricks, “Anti-Nephi-Lehi,” in Largey, Reference Companion, 67. Ricks posits that the anti- portion of the name “may be a reflex of the Egyptian nty ‘he of, one of’” rather than “against.”
 “Why Did the Converted Lamanites Call Themselves Anti-Nephi-Lehies? (Alma 23:17),” Book of Mormon Central, https://
 Brand A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015), 305.
 Hopkin and Hilton, “Samuel’s Reliance,” 33–34.
 Even though it has been argued that brethren refers to the unconverted Lamanites, it is not entirely clear what the word means in this verse. Brethren could refer to Nephites as well as Lamanites.
 It is possible that in renaming the converts “the people of Ammon,” the Nephites showed prejudice by denying this group the opportunity to name themselves and by refusing to accept them as fully Nephite. However, Nephite willingness to protect this group with the lives of their own soldiers is a very strong testament to positive Nephite feelings toward this group, making a prejudicial interpretation of these events less likely.
 See Gordon C. Thomasson, “Lamanites,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, last modified May 27, 2011, https://
 Dallin H. Oaks, “Repentance and Change,” general conference address, October 2003, https://
 On this point see Hopkin and Hilton, “Samuel’s Reliance,” 34.
 Sofia Stathi et al., “Using Mental Imagery to Promote Positive Intergroup Relations,” in Russell and Russell, Psychology of Prejudice, 237.
 See Stathi et al., “Using Mental Imagery,” 237.
 Stathi et al., “Using Mental Imagery,” 239.
 David E. Bokovoy, “Love vs. Hate: An Analysis of Helaman 15:1–4,” Insights: A Window on the Ancient World
(FARMS newsletter) 22, no. 2 (2002): 2–3.
 Jim Robinson, quoted in Matrina E. Berry, “‘Unity in Faith’: Youth Give Service at Local Haitian Church,” Church News, January 20, 2020, https://
 OED, s.v.“behold.”
 Crisp, Birtel, and Meleady, “Mental Simulations,” 261.
 See David A. Bednar, “Pray Always,” Ensign, November 2008, 41.
 See Joseph Wolpe, Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1958) 139–47.
 See Stathi et al., “Using Mental Imagery,” 239–41.
 Stathi et al., “Using Mental Imagery,” 239.
 Stathi et al., “Using Mental Imagery,” 242.
 The footnotes for this verse take a reader back to Alma 24:17–26 and suggest that Samuel is reflecting on the Anti-Nephi-Lehies of seventy years earlier. While that is possible, Samuel may be referring to more recent events. The Lamanite converts of twenty-four years earlier also laid down their weapons of war, though no detail is given about how that was done, whether by burial or some other means (see Helaman 5:50–52).
 Russell M. Nelson, “President Nelson Remarks at Worldwide Priesthood Celebration,” June 1, 2018, https://
 Vaughn E. Worthen and Richard L. Isakson, “The Therapeutic Value of Experiencing and Expressing Gratitude,” Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy 31, no. 1 (2007): 41.
 Allport, Nature of Prejudice, 4; see also Mitchell, “Fighting Prejudice.”
 Evangeline A. Wheeler, “The Cognitive Science of Prejudice,” in Russell and Russell, Psychology of Prejudice, 1.
 Allport, Nature of Prejudice, 57.
 Cheryl R. Kaiser, “Dominant Ideology Threat and the Interpersonal Consequences of Attributions to Discrimination,” in Levin and Van Laar, Stigma and Group, 47–50.
 Beverly Engel, “Stop Shaming Victims of Sexual Assault for Not Reporting,” Psychology Today, September 23, 2018, https://
 Czopp and Ashburn-Nardo, “Interpersonal Confrontations,” 179.
 Turley, “Alma’s Hell,” 3.
 Dallin H. Oaks, “President Oaks Remarks at Worldwide Priesthood Celebration,” June 1, 2018, https://
 Susan T. Fiske, “Social Cognition and the Normality of Prejudgment,” in Dovidio, Glick, and Rudman, Fifty Years after Allport, 38.