Wrath of God on the Lamanites

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Wrath of God on the Lamanites

Question: Why would God allow the Gentiles to scatter and smite the Lamanites?

Nephi sees in vision the period in humanity's history when people from Europe (called Gentiles) emigrate to North America between about 1500 and 1700 AD. He sees that, as a result of this emigration, "I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten" (1 Nephi 13:14). Because this emigration is happening long after the time when the Lamanites had the gospel of Jesus Christ among them, it seems like the Lord is simply punishing them for something their ancestors did.

In understanding this passage of scripture (and other similar passages of scripture), it is important to remember that the Lord is both just and merciful with the peoples of the earth.

First, it is helpful to recognize that the Lord deals with both individuals and with peoples. For example, Mormon and several other individuals living at the end of the Nephite era were righteous individuals (see Moroni 7:3), but the Nephites as a whole had altogether turned from following God, and as a result God decreed that the people would be destroyed (see Mormon 3:14–15). This resulted in the death of Mormon and all other righteous individuals except Moroni (see Mormon 8:2–5). Was God unjust by allowing the righteous to be slain as a consequence of His condemnation upon the people as a whole? Prophets in the Book of Mormon have answered that God is not unjust in this action (see Alma 14:8–11; 60:13).

Second, whenever a people is under condemnation from the Lord, it is helpful to recognize that His condemnations continue until the people repent:

I, the Lord, will avenge thee of thine enemy an hundred-fold; and upon his children, and upon his children’s children of all them that hate me, unto the third and fourth generation. But if the children shall repent, or the children’s children, and turn to the Lord their God, with all their hearts and with all their might, mind, and strength, and restore four-fold for all their trespasses wherewith they have trespassed, or wherewith their fathers have trespassed, or their fathers’ fathers, then thine indignation shall be turned away; and vengeance shall no more come upon them, saith the Lord thy God, and their trespasses shall never be brought any more as a testimony before the Lord against them. (Doctrine and Covenants 98:45–48)

It isn't until a people repent and turn to God that He lifts His condemnation, as Nephi explained concerning the Jews:

And behold it shall come to pass that after the Messiah hath risen from the dead, and hath manifested himself unto his people, unto as many as will believe on his name, behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again; for wo unto them that fight against God and the people of his church. Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.

And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things. And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men. (2 Nephi 25:14–17)

So the Lamanites suffering the wrath of the Lord is not a result of their being punished for something their far-distant ancestors did, but rather it is a result of each generation not turning to the Lord, which carries from generation to generation because of the teachings of the parents (see 2 Nephi 4:3–9). But the Lord has extended His arm of mercy to them and the Jews and the Gentiles with the invitation to repent and come unto Him and be saved (Alma 5:33–34; Title Page to the Book of Mormon).