Question: Why do modern day prophets and Church members in general believe that Polynesians are Lamanites?

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Question: Why do modern day prophets and Church members in general believe that Polynesians are Lamanites?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #171: Why Did Mormon Mention Hagoth? (Video)

This belief, at least in part, that Polynesians are Lamanites stems from the story of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon

Many Latter-day prophets and apostles have stated that the inhabitants of the islands of the Pacific are considered to be Lamanites. This belief, at least in part, stems from the story of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon, who built ships which eventually carried an undetermined number of people to geographical regions outside the scope of the Book of Mormon narrative. Critics insist, however, that modern evidence, including DNA data, precludes the islanders from being descendants of Book of Mormon people.

The story of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon talks of groups of people who set sail in ships and were never seen again

The Book of Mormon talks of groups of people who set sail in ships and were never seen again.

And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.

And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward. And thus ended the thirty and seventh year.

And in the thirty and eighth year, this man built other ships. And the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward.

And it came to pass that they were never heard of more. And we suppose that they were drowned in the depths of the sea. And it came to pass that one other ship also did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not. Alma 63:5-8

This story has traditionally been used to explain why the Pacific islanders are considered to be Lamanites.

Statements by Church leaders have reflected this belief that the Polynesians are Lamanaites

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, while he was the Acting President of the Council of the Twelve, said in 1971,

With pride I tell those who come to my office that a Lamanite is a descendant of one Lehi who left Jerusalem some 600 years before Christ and with his family crossed the mighty deep and landed in America. And Lehi and his family became the ancestors of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea, for in the middle of their history there were those who left America in ships of their making and went to the islands of the sea…they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand…Today we have many Lamanite leaders in the Church. For example, in Tonga, where 20 percent of all the people in the islands belong to the Church, we have three large stakes. Two of them are presided over wholly by Lamanites and the other almost wholly by them. There are three stakes in Samoa and another is to be organized in those small Samoan islands. Four more stakes with Lamanite leaders![1]

The approach by the critics, therefore, is very simple: If the islanders can be proven to have no connection to the New World, then Polynesians cannot be considered to be Lamanites. The statements made by Elder Kimball and other Church leaders would therefore be incorrect, thus proving that these leaders are not inspired. Proving a negative, however, is extremely difficult to do. Many critics' arguments against the Book of Mormon rely upon proving that something does not exist. In the case of Polynesia, there is at least one well known anomaly, the presence of the New World plant the Sweet Potato, tying Polynesia to the New World that is acknowledged by non-LDS scientists.

Notes

  1. Spencer W. Kimball, "Of Royal Blood," Ensign (July 1971), 7.