Utah Mormons are culturally ignorant?

Another interesting snippet from the book I recently read on Mormon’s political views:


“Political cultural biases in the church can also produce friction between’ church members from different countries. Lamond Tullis (1980, 67) reported that as he had a discussion with a stake president in Mexico City about Arnold Friberg’s paintings that are included in the Book of Mormon. Friberg’s paintings are beloved in Utah, but not in Latin America. The paintings are depictions of the early inhabitants of the people of Central America, yet the characters in the paintings have decidedly Anglo features. The Mexican stake president agitatedly said, “These paintings are not paintings we can show to an educated Mexican. They’re well done, but they show such an enormous ignorance of culture that they are offensive.”‘ He even referred to them as “imperialism in art.”” (p. 147, from Fox, Jeffrey C. 2006. Latter-Day Political Views. Lexington Books.)

Let’s see, here’s very Native American looking Moroni raising the Title of Liberty:

And here’s uber-Native American looking Abinadi telling that Caucasion King Noah that god is coming after him:

And here’s an actual Native American from the alleged Book of Mormon lands:

native guatemalan

That crazy Stake President… What was he thinking?


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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20 Responses

  1. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    1) LDS leaders NEVER apologize for ANYTHING, NO NOT EVER. Hofmann, the MMM, or the recent desecration of Catholic icons in NMexico done by missionaries (as alleged).
    2) These drawings/pics (most part) were done a long, long time ago; a search for whomever was responsible would end in a cemetery somewhere, I’m sure.

    ‘Artwork’ and LDS leadership / LDS paid items… are mostly an oxymoron.

    Yes, Virginia; LDS leaders are effectively if not intentionally projecting the white european – caucasian image (male) onto the rest of the world.
    just my 2 cents.

  2. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    Oh; I should add: the Tabernacle Choir has & can produce some nice music…

    But even that institution has been marred by the fixation for uniformity by-from the boys in the GS-COB club;
    a few years back, there were ‘Tabernacle Choirs’ in other (gasp) Utah cities, I believe included Ogden & St George….but HEAVENS:
    those were either eliminated or told NOT to use the word “tabernacle” by the Nazis in SLC…isn’t that ‘Wonderful’?
    (this, unfortuantely, probably can’t be documented anywhere; it was part of ‘the unwritten order of things’, plus, I (thankfully) don’t live in Ew-tah, it would be almost impossible for me to research.

    IOW, the SL Tabernacle Just Couldn’t compete with the others, so: ELIMINATE THEM!

  3. Seth R. says:

    I love Friberg! Much better than some of the more recent LDS offerings.

    Actually, Minerva Teichert might work as a suitable replacement.

    I don’t know… too inaccessible to the masses do you think?

  4. Robert says:

    I would never defend Friberg per se. I find his work hideous, and scarily like the socialist realism art movement in the Soviet Union under Stalin. That said, even a reasonably-minded and well-educated person who believes in the premises of Mormonism would have at least one serious quibble with your message here: namely, that most of the heroes of the Book of Mormon are Nephites, whereas the people who survived and that we see today, as in your photo, are Lamanites. Nephites were supposedly more or less white (though even they were supposedly Semitic in origin, which would make them look more like modern-day Arabs than Europeans), whereas Lamanites were the ones cursed with dark skins (a notion I find inherently racist, but that’s another can o’ worms altogether). So showing a picture of someone descended from Lamanites and then criticizing it because it doesn’t look like someone’s imaginary depiction of Nephites doesn’t seem like much of a case, assuming you believe that there were Nephites and Lamanites in the first place.

  5. Hellmut says:

    Freiberg’s stuff also looks like Nazi art. Arno Breker comes to mind.
    On the other hand, there is also an American school that had nothing to do with totalitarian ideology that painted a similar style during the thirties.

    I don’t think that Mormons are more culturally ignorant than the rest of us. Living in the most powerful country in the world, it is just a little harder to appreciate foreign cultures. I suppose that the belief of belonging to the one true church might amplify that while a feel good epistemology might validate cultural egocentrism.

    Having said that, cultural insensitivity is undermining the missionary program. It’s bad marketing. Imagine Toyota running only Japanese TV ads in the United States. That would be absurd. Yet that is what the Brethren are doing around the world.

  6. Guy Noir Private Eye says:


    (pick one) ‘the brethern’ (de facto leaders of Mormons) are either (culturally) absurd or considerate of-to the sensibilities of others…


    the incredible thing about they way they do things is… they most often appear either naive or contrite/remorseful when things like this are brought to their attention *and, they go public with reactions*…(when they’re not COMPLETELY in denial)

    It’s Almost as though they just can’t pay attention to details like the rest of us do -or- are sooooooooooooooooooooo defensive – reticent to admit-acknowledge that they’re humans (subject to making (GASP) Mistakes!…
    Oh Well.

  7. wry.catcher says:

    Meh. Mormon “imperialism” is just a microcosm of American “imperialism” generally, IMO.

    The Friberg paintings have always been funny to me because of the blatant beefcake factor. Like BoM Super Heroes, I guess. Awesome.

  8. profxm says:

    Robert, point well taken. I guess among thinking Mormons isn’t that well-received either.

    Hellmut and wry.catcher, also good points. Mormonism may be a little less culturally aware and a little more imperialistic than United Statesians generally, but United Statesians are pretty freaking ethnocentric and imperialistic.

  9. Seth R. says:

    Yeah wry,

    You can’t deny the utter awesomeness of that Captain Moroni shot. I wish I were half so awesome…

  10. C.Biden says:

    Captain Moroni looks like some kind of insect. Friberg is a hack, although perhaps a shade better than Thomas Kinkade.

  11. Geren B says:

    Considering Friberg made the paintings in the early and mid 50’s, a time I remind you when segregation was still a major issue throughout the world and especially the up and coming topic of the 60’s in America, it should be a surprise to no one that 60 years later people might think it’s time to update the pictures Mormons use to use to depict Book of Mormon heroes. And while it appears easy and valid to accuse Mormons of being culturally ignorant, though the majority don’t even live in the U.S., those pictures are no longer printed and distributed in the Book of Mormon, and haven’t been since the mid 90’s.

  12. Guy Noir Private Eye says:


    I wonder… how much mileage the LDS can get out of the ‘Well, everyone else is doing it (racism, cultural insensitivity, greed, dishonesty, etc.)excuse…

    I thought when I joined tscc… that I might be mixing with people who were ‘a cut above’.
    So much for THAT.

  13. profxm says:

    Geren… It certainly makes sense to contextualize this argument. However, in the 1950s Mormons believed Moroni, Helaman, Abinadi, etc. were Semitic and/or Native American looking, and not Caucasian (no limited geography model at that point). Additionally, Lamond Tullis did most of his work during the 1960s, so I’m guessing the interview quoted above is actually from that time period (he’s the one who reported it). So, the criticism still holds – at least for the 1960s.

    Here’s an interesting side note, though: I just checked the LDS Distribution Center and Deseret Book – only one painting of Friberg’s is still carried – Washington at Valley Forge. I have to think you can still find the others somewhere, but maybe the LDS religion caught on to the cultural imperialism of the paintings?

  14. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    my favorite was the one of JS ‘translating’ the BoM… it bore Absolutely NO RESEMBLENCE to what they were teaching, even in the white-washed version.

    Ya know, I’m a fairly tolerant, laid-back, easy -going kinda GUY; I usually don’t make a fuss about minor things… But with tscc, they just seem to keep piling up, most of the time different subjects… but the ‘resolution’ is always the same: They’re RIGHT, and the rest of the world is WRONG.
    Anyone else feel that way?

  15. mermaid says:

    As far as those Friberg paintings. All the ORIGINALS are prominently displayed in the new billion dollar conference center in Salt Lake City, and EVERYONE who takes the official tour gets the chance to see and admire them.

  16. profxm says:

    Really? Wow! Thanks for posting that.

    They may not sell copies online anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value them.

  17. Seth R. says:

    Well, yeah…

    To simply remove Friberg altogether would be to deny our heritage and engage in censorship.

  18. profxm says:


    nazi art

    We should never deny our heritage!

    (everyone loves hyperbole, right?)


  19. Rose says:

    Culturally ignorant?

    “Moron-i” certainlt fits.

  20. Seth R. says:

    Ha, ha.

    Never heard that one before.

    Yesiiree, what a kneeslapper.

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