E1Skeptic: Here is a passage from a favorite web site of mine about the subject of skin color/state of righteousness. Following it will be the link to the web site where I copied it from, and you can read the entire article if you so desire.
"One of the favorite techniques of anti-Mormons is to falsely say that the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin. They falsely say that Latter-day Saints believe that there is something inherently wrong with someone because he has dark skin. By the dictionary definition of racism, this idea is certainly racist. However, it is not a Latter-day Saint teaching and stands in direct opposition to the Book of Mormon (the keystone of our religion): "… [Jesus Christ] denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God …(2 Nephi 26:33)
According to President Joseph Fielding Smith,
"The dark skin was the sign of the curse. The curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord and the Lamanites becoming a “loathsome and filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.’’ The Lord commanded the Nephites not to intermarry with them, for if they did they would partake of the curse.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 3, p.122)
The dark skin given to the Lamanites was simply a physical characteristic to distinguish the Lamanites and Nephites and to keep them from intermarrying. Skin color has no moral significance one way or the other. Why were the Nephites commanded not to intermarry with the Lamanites? For the same reason that Latter-day Saints today are counseled not to date or marry nonmembers of the Church. Latter-day Saints who are married to nonmembers do not enjoy full Church participation, especially temple marriage. Furthermore, their children are far less likely to be faithful members of the Church. (See Dating Nonmembers)
Now let’s discuss the concept of racism as it applies to the Lamanites and Nephites through generations of time. Were the descendants of Nephi always good, righteous, and blessed of God? Were the descendants of Laman always evil, wicked, and cursed by God?
No, actually there were times when specific Lamanite individuals and entire groups of Lamanite people were pronounced just as righteous and favored of God as most Nephites. In addition, at the end of the Book of Mormon, the entire Lamanite people were more righteous than the Nephites. Let’s give a few examples.
The Nephite prophet Ammon gave this praise to a Lamanite queen:
“And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.” (Alma 19:10)
One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon was a Lamanite who was sent by God to preach to the Nephites who had fallen away from the paths of righteousness:
“And it came to pass that in this year there was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla [a Nephite land], and began to preach unto the people. And it came to pass that he did preach, many days, repentance unto the people…” (Helaman 13:2)
One of the most righteous people in the Book of Mormon were a group of Lamanites called the People of Ammon:
“And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.” (Alma 24:19)
“And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.” (Alma 27:27)
“And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord.” (Alma 27:30)
On the other hand, the most wicked people in the Book of Mormon were always Nephites who had entered into apostasy. After reciting some terrible deeds committed by apostate Nephites, the commentator states:
“And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.” (Alma 24:30)
In the final battles between the Nephites and Lamanites, the prophet Mormon makes this comparison between the Nephites and Lamanites:
“And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of [the Nephites] in Moriantum.” (Moroni 9:9)
Also, at one point the following comparison is made between the Nephites and Lamites:
"AND it came to pass that when the sixty and second year of the reign of the judges had ended, all these things had happened and the Lamanites had become, the more part of them, a righteous people, insomuch that their righteousness did exceed that of the Nephites, because of their firmness and their steadiness in the faith.
For behold, there were many of the Nephites who had become hardened and impenitent and grossly wicked, insomuch that they did reject the word of God and all the preaching and prophesying which did come among them." (Helaman 6:1-2)
In summary, the Book of Mormon flatly condemns racism by stating that all are alike unto God and are invited to partake of salvation, specifically including blacks. Nephi and Laman, the leaders of the Nephites and Lamanites respectively, were brothers in the same Jewish family. Therefore the verses in question have nothing to do with inherent differences between races. The “skin of blackness” was simply a distinguishing characteristic to keep the Church-going Nephites from marrying the worldly Lamanites. It has no moral significance.
The actual curse was withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord due to their own iniquity. This curse applied to both the Nephites and the Lamanites equally, depending upon their behavior at the time. When the Lamanites repented of their sins, they were loved and blessed by God. On the other hand, when the Nephites apostatized from the truth they were cursed and rejected by God. In fact, at the end of the Book of Mormon, the Lord allowed the Lamanites to utterly destroy the Nephite civilization because the Nephites were so wicked and perverse. Therefore, one of the great messages of the Book of Mormon is that your skin color has nothing to do with your status with God. “Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.” (1 Nephi 17:35)
The url for this article in its full form is http://www.mormons.org/ . Once you get there, go to “Accusatory Questions” and find the appropriate question listed therein.