Book of Mormon Stories — Without the Actions

I teach primary. And, inevitably, I sing Book of Mormon stories at least once a week. Sometimes even more. But I don’t ever do the actions. I suspect that my team-teacher is starting to wonder about this. Because I do all the actions with the kids. Including those to Once There Was A Snowman.

Why don’t I do it? Well the reasons are varied. But mostly because I feel stupid making actions that are both stereotypical and disrespectful. But my son makes the actions, with enthusiasm. How do you explain the nuances of disrespect and stereotypes to a five year old? And where does that go with the whole Native-Americans-As-Lamanites thing? I’ve never believed that the sole ancestors of Native Americans are Lamanites, but Gavin doesn’t really understand that stuff yet.

I’ve just managed to explain to him that our Japanese friend Toshi comes from a place with different customs, and that he has different beliefs (that don’t include God). He’s still coming to grips with the fact that not everyone is from America, and not everyone is Mormon. And that it’s okay to be neither. (At least he’s getting that better than the whole boys can’t have babies thing.)

So I don’t think I’m ready to tackle the intricacies of stereotyping and what-not. But sometime I expect he’ll notice that mommy isn’t doing the Book of Mormon Stories actions like everyone else. And I’ll do my best to explain it to him. And let him decide what he’s going to do about it.

Tags: Native Americans Lamanites, Book of Mormon Stories, Book of Mormon Stories actions, Mormon,
Once There Was a Snowman, primary songs

11 thoughts on “Book of Mormon Stories — Without the Actions”

  1. Okay, so since I became a grown-up, this has really bothered me too. And it’s a problem for me because I was the Primary Music leader. I didn’t sing it often when I was leading and although it helped me to avoid the issue, it didn’t really share my love for music…I loved that song growing up. I was not aware of any of the un-PC nature of the song and I doubt kids now would be either. I realized that most of the actions were not derogatory in any way (although the music itself can be construed that way if you wanted to take it that far). I was most offended by the action for Lamanite. I remedied that by talking to a friend in the Deaf Branch and asking what the sign for Lamanite was. It is a much better alternative, I think. We’ve been teaching that action to our little nursery kids and replaced it in our own FHE and it’s been just great.

    I’ve relied on ASL for more than one song and I’ve never been disappointed. You can choose to do as many or was few signs as are appropriate for your group and they aren’t un-PC to use. It’s made me feel much better about doing actions to songs. 🙂

  2. You know, I think they should use ASL for all songs that include actions. If you’re going to use actions, may as well teach something valuable. :o)

  3. i had this same kind of issue at girls camp. we all know about camp songs. but these songs were so bad. the majority that they sang all had to do with dating, missionaries, boys, and getting married. there are 12 year old girls there. they have no business singing stupid songs about this stuff. i kept one of the song books just for proof and wanted to blog about it. i refused to sing those songs. i just sat there. so what if i was camp director for our ward. i wish i had known about them so i could have made my feelings known. i should still, but i’ve moved. next time something like that comes up, i’m going to say something about it and do what i can to find a better way of accomplishing the same thing.

    great idea’s. i’ll find out what that sign is, and use it in our own family. thanks!!

  4. Ah, girls camp. I only went twice. But we didn’t really have any songs like that. We sang one where a line went “I got along without ya before I met ya/I’ll get along without ya now.”

    So it didn’t bother me that much. My issues with girls camp were…other things. But you make a good point. There’s an awful that goes on that isn’t doctrine, but that is easy for kids to confuse with “official” church teachings because its used in activities.

  5. If you do not believe that the native Americans are the descendants of the lamanites then you don’t believe what Joseph Smith taught . I recommend having a discussion with your Bishop about your anti Mormon believes.
    PS. I am of native American descent and I love the actions for that song because my ancestors wore feathered head dresses. I appreciate the accuracy that the hand signals depict.

    1. Actually, the Church’s current position is that identifying any modern group of peoples as Lamanites is speculation. Yes, early church leaders believed it to be so, but apparently it was not revealed by the Lord to be so. While there may be descendants among the 1000’s of groups of Native and Indigenous peoples, it is speculation that all of them are descendants of Lamanites. You can search the Church’s website for more current information on this subject.

  6. If you do not believe that the native Americans are the descendants of the lamanites then you don’t believe what Joseph Smith taught . I recommend having a discussion with your Bishop about your anti Mormon believes.
    PS. I am of native American descent and I love the actions for that song because my ancestors wore feathered head dresses. I appreciate the accuracy that the hand signals depict.

  7. When I was young we didn’t worry about these things. Lamanites are from Ancient history. They are very loosely associated with our current Native Americans. With DNA research we have found that there are significant differences between ancient peoples and our current races. Even between sections of North and South America there are significant differences between native Americans. For example, the Northern Native Americans have DNA from Asian and Scandinavia (Vikings).
    South American Native Americans are a mixture of Spanish, Negro and Asian.
    Putting all Native American’s in the same category is like putting Caucasians in the same bucket. We are a melting pot of our ancestry.

    People get so caught up in what is offensive and what is not. I used to have a roommate from Africa. When we would clean house, he would put on his African music and we would jump around and laugh. I think that no matter how we behave, there will always be someone offended even if what we do is not offensive. My African friend was offended by African Americans calling themselves African Americans. He said they are not Africans and was insulted by them using it in describing themselves.

    It seems to me that children shouldn’t be worried such things. They should enjoy their songs. After seeing that little girl crying her eyes out because of supposed climate change issues, I begin to wonder why parents are burdening their children with such issues.

    Classic movies and books have been taken away because they offend people. It’s history and we learn from it. To erase it just because it offends someone is a disservice to mankind.

  8. I feel that if we can talk about such complex issues such as the Plan of Salvation and the stories from the Book of Mormon, then discussing racism and bigotry should not pose a problem for parents. I think it shows the parent’s discomfort more than whether he child is incapable of understanding. We don’t give children enough credit these days. The gestures are racist, plain and simple. One Native American’s opinion does not speak for the entire community, just as one African friend does not speak for all Africans. The ASL suggestion is a better alternative. President Nelson has asked us to be on the forefront of stamping out racism and that includes stereotypical hand gestures. There is nothing wrong with being apprised and sensitive to the cultural practices and beliefs of another group. We would the expect the same treatment for ours.

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