Hi. I am 14, Native American and live on the Cherokee Indian reservation. I have a freind who is Mormon (mom moved from Utah, lives by a caved-in LDS church and his road is called “Old Mormon Churh Rd). I have somewhat “bullied” him about being Mormon. I have since studied the church and I received a Book of Mormon and now I feel bad about what I did and would like to become a Mormon. The only problem is that my mom dosen’t know that I would like to become Mormon and I’m terified to ask her about it. I highly doubt that she would want to be a Mormon, but I think it would help my sister (a former drug user, 16). Please help me.

Master Control from Cherokee, N.C. ,



2 Responses to “Hi. I am 14, Native American and live on the Cherokee Indian…”


AllAboutMormons.com Webmaster
October 12, 2008

Hi “Master,”

Your email really caught my attention; sorry it took me a little while to respond. Native Americans have been making important contributions to the Mormon community since early in our history. I’ll never forget one of my favorite missionary companions, Elder Red Elk. We were Mormon missionaries together in Brazil. Elder Red Elk had such a quiet dignity about him; he was a fantastic missionary. Red Elk traveled from Arizona to come to my wedding in Utah a few years ago. I don’t think I ever told him how much that meant to my wife and I.

My grandfather was a Mormon seminary teacher for the Church. He taught Mormon theology to the students of a Native American high school for some years. Grandpa quickly developed a great respect for the Native American people. His work among the “Indians,” as they were called back then, has become an important part of my family’s history.

My wife also has some Native American ancestors. Together we recently attended a Native-American dance presentation. She was inspired by that presentation to learn more about her heritage. As you can see, Native Americans have been on my mind a lot lately!

I think it’s wonderful that you’ve become interested in Mormonism. As my above comments suggest, Mormon culture and Native American culture can be easily combined. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for all peoples. Jesus Christ wants to take all that is beautiful in our human cultures, and He wants to add to it.  He certainly has done that in my own life.

As you may know, many Mormons believe that Native Americans can count among their ancestors the peoples of the Book of Mormon. This belief has compelled Mormons to reach out to Native Americans a lot over the years. Mormons first made contact with Native Americans near Ohio in 1830, the same year the Church was founded.

In 1873, after the Mormons had moved to Utah, the Northwestern Band of Shoshone converted to Mormonism following a terrible massacre at the hands of a U.S. militia. That militia was comprised almost entirely of California volunteers, as the federal government did not trust the Mormons at the time. The Shoshone chief Sagwitch became an elder in the Church and was later “sealed” to his wife by Wilford Woodruff, a famous Mormon leader. “Sealing” is one of the most sacred practices in Mormonism.  The Shoshone helped to build the Logan Temple in Utah. Sagwitch’s son Pisappih “Red Oquirrh” Timbimboo was one of the first Native American Mormon missionaries, and his grandson Moroni was the first Native American Mormon bishop. As you can see, these Native-American converts have made tremendous contributions to the Mormon community. To this day the members of the Northwest Band of Shoshone remain overwhelmingly faithful to the Church.

Another “Mormon” tribe can be found near where you live, in South Carolina. Mormon missionaries first contacted the Catawba in 1883. According to the “Encyclopedia of North American Indians” by Frederick E. Hoxie, “A…pillar of modern Catawba identity has been the Mormon Church…[The Mormon missionaries] enjoyed immediate success, in part because Indians had a central role in Mormon theology…Mormonism revitalized Catawba life. Teachers, preachers, and a new social code became important forces in the nation…” One book I read suggested that today 95% of the Catawba are Mormons.

Mormonism has been even more successful among the Native American tribes of Central and South America, where my wife is from. In all, I’d estimate that there are between two and three million Mormons with at least some Native American ancestors, about 20% of Mormons worldwide.

I’m sorry to hear that you think your mom will have problems with your interest in Mormonism. She may be concerned that you would abandon your Native-American heritage if you became part of the Mormon community. I suggest that you explain to her that becoming Mormon isn’t about abandoning your cultural heritage. It’s about taking the good things from your own culture and adding to them. So much of traditional Native-American culture-the Native-American interest in spirituality, the way Native Americans remember and honor their ancestors, etc.-can fit so well within the Mormon framework. I honestly think the Church would be even better if there were even more Native-American members!

Perhaps this video will help your mom see how the Church honors the native cultures that embrace it. The video shows highlights of a recent Church presentation that celebrated the cultures of the Americas, including both the Hispanic and Native-American traditions.

You might also talk to your mom about your spiritual needs, and how you feel that Mormonism would help to meet those needs. Your concern for your sister is also touching, and I agree that Mormonism could help her. Glen Beck, a famous political commentator whose views are, in my opinion, a bit excessive, nevertheless did an excellent job describing how Mormonism changed his life. The LDS Church helped him overcome his alcohol addiction and brought his family closer together. It helped him develop a greater respect for others. These are all points that you could perhaps bring up with your mom.

If your mom does decide it’s best you don’t join the LDS Church, you’ll need to wait until you’re 18 to join, as the Church does not allow minors to be baptized without their parents’ consent. You’d be surprised how many teenagers end up waiting a few years for this reason. In this case, you can continue to visit the church every Sunday, if your mom allows, and to read the Book of Mormon. I’m hopeful, though, that if you calmly explain your spiritual needs to your mom, she’ll understand. With her permission, I invite you to meet with the Mormon missionaries. You can request a visit from them by visiting http://www.mormon.org/question/talk/0,8554,796-1,00.html.

Well, friend, this email has been way too long! I hope I haven’t bored you! Your email really caught my attention, though, and I wanted to give it the response it deserved. I’ll post this answer on my website, too; perhaps it can help others that find themselves in your same position.

Your friend,

Jacob, AllAboutMormons.com Webmaster

Anonymous
July 28, 2008

This is a very interesting question. I feel the first thing to do is invite you to pray about your feelings and your fears. Also ask, in said prayer, for your mother’s heart to be softened, and if she’s open let her read the Book of Mormon.

Father Lehi along with many of the prophets in the book testify and have prayed over you, your mother, sister and the entire Native American nations! As for your sister, I’m not a drug user, but I’ve had my share of addictions. The gospel can do much to help her, and God will always be there for her too. But she needs to be the one to go to Him. Maybe could let your sister read the Book of Mormon and/or your mom, and then see where that takes you. (Contact local missionaries to get a few extra, free Book of Mormons, or go to ldscatalog.com and ask them for help.)

Last, your mother, I am sure, loves you and if my child were to come to me shaky, scared, and not sure…. I know that I would do all in my power to hear them out and give them any help that they need. Don’t be afriad to go talk to your mom about your feelings. She loves you as does our Father in Heaven.

Say a prayer, get off your knees and go to work. God will be with you!

Best of luck young brother, I will pray for you on my side. :)

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