Tim Giago: Rocky history of Natives and the Mormon Church
By Tim Giago
George P. Lee, Navajo, was the first Native American called to the Seventy in 1975. He served for 14 years before he was excommunicated for “apostasy” or desertion of his religious principles and “conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.” Lee died in 2010 at age 67.
The Mormon Church has a history of rocky and contradictory dealings with Native Americans or Lamanites, as they were known in the beginning.
According to Brigham Young, “There is a curse on these aborigines of our country who roam the plains and are so wild that you cannot tame them. They are of the House of Israel; they once had the Gospel delivered to them, they had oracles of truth; Jesus came and administered to them after his resurrection and they received and delighted in the Gospel until the fourth generation when they turned away and became so wicked that God cursed them with this dark and benighted and loathsome condition.”
Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, the man who sent out the call to Mr. Lee to join the Seventy, said in 1960, “The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome and they are now becoming white and delightsome as they were promised.” He described different Indian children who were “as light as Anglos. “These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”