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The Subjective Nature of Nephite Identity


Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

 Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.

What's interesting in these verses is that the Nephites identified with their extinct "brethren in the land northward". Captain Moroni, Moron-ite(?), correctivly reminds them of their Israelite heritage and that because of God's promises to that people, they don't have to suffer the same fate of the Jaredites.

This small exchange between Captain Moroni and his warriors, makes alot more sense with the people of Zarahemla, the biggest subset of Nephites, being a Jaredite-ish people.

In my latest posts, I've made arguments for the mixed heritage of the Nephites as being Lehite, Mulekite/Jaredite and whatever else crossed over the Behring Strait. As a people of mixed heritage, Captain Moroni's interaction with his warriors, is also an example of the innate subjectivity of ethnic identity, and why we should be careful of making blanket statements of what constituted a Nephite or Lamanite.

For example, when an American proudly says that his "family came here with the Pilgrims" or "I'm Irish" that doesn't mean that he doesn't have ancestors who were Native American, Scandinavian, Dutch, Italian, German or Jewish. People of mixed ancestry usually trumpet the heritage that means the most to them or that will give them the most social capital. 


Another example of this is my own heritage. I was born in Puerto Rico(USA) to Puerto Rican parents. According to my Ancestry DNA results, I'm 10% African(6% North and 4%Sub-Saharan), 12% Native American(probably Taino), 4% West Asian(Arab?) and 74% European(36% Iberian, 16% Italy/Greece, 6% Scandinavian and 6% European Jewish).

If I converted to Judaism, I might emphasize my distant Jewish roots and say that I am actually reverting to Judaism. If I joined Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, I might emphasize my African heritage. If I was into La Raza(brown power ideology) I might say I'm native american. If I had vaguely racist tendencies, I might just tell people "I was born in Puerto Rico but my ancestors are from Spain". 

In any of these cases, I would not be lying, yet I would also be ommiting truthful information for my own ideological purposes. The Nephites were no different. Which is why a lack of explicit references to "others" or Jaredite survivors in the Book of Mormon is irrelevant to the the fact they were in the mix. 

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