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Attacks on the validity of the
Book of Mormon using DNA data


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The LA Times reported that:

"The sacred writings of many faiths make claims that might not stand up to scientific tests. But most faiths avoid conflict with scholarship either because their claims relate to events too far in the past to be tested or because they have reinterpreted their scriptural claims as metaphors, rather than assertions of literal fact."

For devout Mormons, however, neither of those defenses is available. The Book of Mormon, made public by Joseph Smith in 1830, is a cornerstone of church doctrine and is taken literally by the faithful. It teaches, among other things, that many American Indians are descendants of ancient Israelites who came to this continent 600 years before Christ -- a time period within the reach of modern archaeology and genetics." 1

Not every statement in a holy book can be verified or disproved scientifically. For example, there is no archaeological evidence that would prove the existence of Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, and other personalities described in the Bible prior to the time of King Solomon. Similarly, most of the events cannot be corroborated with hard evidence outside the Bible. However, one teaching of the Book of Mormon is different. It specifically teaches that three groups of ancient Hebrews came from Israel to the Americas -- the first in 2247 BCE. Their descendants separated into two nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites. Subsequently, all but the Lamanites died off. The Book of Mormon states that the Lamanites are the principal ancestors of modern-day Native Americans. DNA, facial structure, and blood type studies appear to conflict with this belief. They demonstrate that the today's Natives descended from ancient people in Siberia. If the Natives were descendents of Lamanites, then one would expect to find Middle Eastern genetic markers in the DNA, facial structures and blood factors of American Natives. None of these exist.

Christianity Today reports in a year 2004 book review that:

bulletThe Book of Mormon's "...account of pre-Christian journeys from the Middle East to the Americas and subsequent identification of North American indigenous populations with Israelite tribes was not uncommon among Joseph Smith's contemporaries." Joseph Smith is the founder of the Mormon faith and is believed to have translated the text on golden plates to which he was directed by an angel.
bullet"...none of the nearly 7,500 DNA-tested Native Americans shows any link to ancient Israel. More than 99 percent show an Asian heritage." 2
bullet"...some scholars at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS)...concede the links between Native Americans and Asians are strong, and that a Middle Eastern contribution to the gene pool hasn't been established" at this time.
bulletJohn W. Welch, founder of FARMS, a group promoting the legitimacy of the Book of Mormon, said: "The DNA factor is just one more indication that people came from various places in the world. This is just one more piece in a very big and complicated and obscure archaeological and anthropological picture."
bulletDaniel C. Peterson, editor of The FARMS Review, said: "The Book of Mormon never claimed to be an exclusive account of people of the Americas."
bulletSimon G. Southerton, author of the book: "Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church" 3 believes that several passages from the Book of Mormon and statements by Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS, show that the Israelite immigrants to the new world found an uninhabited world when they arrived. He said: "In the entire 1,000-year period covered by the Book of Mormon, there is not one explicit reference to people outside the migratory groups that came from the Middle East." 2
bulletThe LDS web site states: "Recent attacks on the veracity of the Book of Mormon based on DNA are ill considered. Nothing in the Book of Mormon precludes migration into the Americas by peoples of Asiatic origin. The scientific issues relating to DNA, however, are numerous and complex." 4

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  1. William Lobdell and Larry B. Stammer, "Mormon Scientist, Church Clash Over DNA Test; Anthropologist may be ousted for questioning teachings about Native American ancestry," LA Times, 2002-DEC-8, at: http://www.latimes.com/news/
  2. John W. Kennedy, "LDS and DNA. Book challenges Native American link to ancient Israel," Christianity Today, October 2004-OCT. See: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  3. Simon G. Southerton, "Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church," Signature Books, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. "Mistakes in the News: DNA and the Book of Mormon," 2003-NOV-11, at: http://www.lds.org/

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Copyright 1999 to 2007, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-NOV-28.
Latest update: 2007-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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