There was a time, back in the ’70s when the integration of Spanish speaking members with English speaking members created no small degree of discomfort. Even I, in my young age in the primary program could sense it, especially among the grown-ups. While I was oblivious to the tension it created in the various wards of my hometown of El Paso, Texas, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that I was suddenly different.
My home was no longer in the Spanish speaking ward boundary in which I had grown up and so I learned to adjust in a new ward where everyone was white. I realized at that point that speaking English wasn’t limited to just the kids. Even the adults and especially the elderly spoke perfect English, as I did. I found it odd at the time, though young and naive as I was, for previously, I had thought that English had somehow become a foreign language to adults, especially the elderly, since I never heard them speak English. I began to learn the differences between the two cultures rather quickly.
There was a combination of things that made me feel inadequate soon afterward. The members of my new ward wore finer clothes, drove nicer cars and lived in much nicer homes, some with swimming pools in their backyards. It didn’t take too long for me to feel “dark and loathesome.” I remember becoming resentful of my skin. I am grateful, though, that my parents raised my sisters and me with English as our primary language, although we were raised to speak both languages. I carried this sense of inferiority throughout my childhood and teenage years. It wasn’t until I served a mission in Munich, Germany that I came out of my shell and my self esteem began to grow, though once in a while, even today, I may feel the stigma of being brown.
I recently began reading old Ensign magazine articles and discovered one, which really touched me. It was written by the prophet, Spencer W. Kimball for his First Presidency message in the 1975 issue and directly addressed the Mexican people, the native American Indians, and the Polynesian people and is worth reading (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1975/12/our-paths-have-met-again?lang=eng).
I rejoice that it has been my privilege to carry the gospel to the Lamanites from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, from the reaches of Canada to southern Chile, and in the islands from Hawaii to New Zealand. I have eaten with and visited with these my brethren and sisters and have been a guest in their homes.
I have met some who are a little bit ashamed that they are Lamanites. How can it be? Some would rather define themselves as Nephites, or Zoramites, or Josephites, or something else. Surely there must be a misunderstanding. Would they separate themselves from the great blessings the Lord has promised to his covenant people? Would they cast off their birthright? For the Lord himself has chosen to call these people Lamanites—all the mixed descendants of Father Lehi, and Ishmael, and Zoram, and Mulek, and others of the Book of Mormon record; all of the literal seed of the Lamanites, “and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions.
It has been almost forty years since President Kimball’s words were published and truly the Lamanites have begun to blossom as the rose. I have spent all these years intensely studying the Old and New Testaments, The Book of Mormon and other scriptures. The Lamanites have a remarkable legacy that spans generations, even dispensations, of which is prophecied in the very first book of the Old Testament:
Genesis 49:22 Joseph is a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall…