A Lehi chocolate shop is withdrawing the names of two of its candies — both making references to figures from the Book of Mormon that people on social media criticized as racist.
“We had a number of DMs this morning, and decided to change the name,” John Foster Lanenga, owner of Just Add Chocolate, said Thursday.
The candies — seen in a glass case, a photo of which was posted on Twitter by Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, a history professor at Montana State University — bear the name “Hill Cumorah.” That name refers to the spot in Manchester, New York, where Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, met with the angel Moroni annually from 1823 to 1827, according to the church’s history.
The part that prompted complaints to the confectioner was that the milk chocolate version was labeled “Nephite,” and the dark chocolate version was labeled “Lamanite.”
One person critiquing the shop on Yelp cited passages from the Book of Mormon, which describe the Nephites who lived in ancient America as “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome,” while Lamanites there were cursed by God, causing “a skin of blackness to come upon them,” making them “loathsome unto thy people.”
In the past several years, the church has made revisions to some of the racial references in the Book of Mormon, though many people of color in the Latter-day Saint faith say that racism runs deep in the church, and that it is a problem that is larger than scripture.
The Yelp user, identified as Emily C. from Phoenix, wrote that “I called the store to find out if it’s true that they’re carrying chocolates that say Lamanite and Nephite. The boy who answered thinks it’s a very funny joke, doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it, and was very dismissive and rude in dealing with a potential customer trying to educate him about the ramifications of naming their products after racist fairy tales.”
That was just one of several one-star reviews on Just Add Chocolate’s Yelp page by midday Thursday, accusing the shop of racism. Users wrote from as far away as San Francisco and Missouri weighed in.
A Lehi Yelp user identified as Will T. defended the shop, and criticized the one-star critics: “You keyboard warriors should find a better use of your time than trying to destroy a business over something that offends you.”
Lanenga said Thursday that “I had no idea really it was offensive to people really until today” — though he also said he fielded a complaint or two about a year ago.
“We’ve changed the names of our pieces several times, to keep up with current events, and current popular names,” Lanenga said. In the past, he said, the shop has sold Elvis Pretzels, Harley Pecan Patties, Puff Daddies, Walnut Disney, Pe-Kanye West and Johnny Cashew. Some of the names, he said, were suggested by customers.
“But Hill Cumorah we’ve had for four years, and really had very little response to it,” he said. “Most people come in and kind of laugh, wow, that’s funny. And we serve them on golden plates.”
Lanenga added that “we have hundreds of customers a day, some names are going to offend some people. Of course, we consider that, but I can’t say we’ve never had a complaint about the other names. But if this is offensive to people, we’ll take it off. We’ve taken it off already. So now it will just be Hill Cumorah.”
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