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The real curse is our nagging tendency to judge others for traits that make people different, but really don’t make a difference.

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat in a meeting of our Spanish-speaking LDS branch, I noticed something.

A friend of mine, from El Salvador, had skin much darker than mine, but his countenance beamed far brighter.

I can have a melancholy side to me — a brooding, self-absorbed look that throws a shadow across my features.

My friend, on the other hand, sat in the congregation beaming like Our Father’s mercy.

He radiated.

That’s when I realized I was the one “cursed” with dark features.

I was more "Lamanite" than he was.

I remembered the scripture:

“Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites.

“But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites” (Jacob 1: 13-14).

Ultimately, being "dark" pointed to a withdrawal of God's spirit. It was about piety, not pigment.

In other words, a person could be as pale as a Swedish princess but, if she abandoned the light, she was a "Lamanite" with a darkened countenance.

That scripture shines a light on something I believe very deeply:

Nothing that is part of our true identity can ever be a curse.

We can be cursed only by our own hurtful attitudes.

Over the years I’ve heard people say that good looks were a “curse” or that so-and-so was “cursed” with a big nose.

Being left-handed was once seen as a curse. In Spanish, the word for left-handed is “sinestre” — “sinister.”

But, like so much in our world, all those “curses” can really be chalked up to regional biases.

Here in the States, we see being heavy as a curse. Tell that to the Africans who are starving.

As human beings, we are quick to demonize anyone who is different.

We see distinctions as a threat.

Our aging texts, both secular and religious, sometimes show such racial and cultural biases.

Those texts cast people who look different as threatening.

But I see no need, today, to go back and rewrite the books.

4 comments on this story

The key is to see the attitudes in them for what they are and press ahead.

We have more information now.

We have a better understanding.

We are finally learning to avoid judging someone's identity — male, female, old, bald, black, white, tall, short, left-handed or whatever.

Those things we are at heart should not be seen as a curse.

The real curse is our nagging tendency to judge others for traits that make people different, but really don’t make a difference.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com