Attacks on the validity of the
Book of Mormon using DNA data
Support for the Book of
Mormon by Mormon academics
Support for the Book of Mormon by Daniel
Devout Mormon, Daniel
Peterson, a professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham
Young University, said: "The idea that America may have been
overwhelmingly peopled by folks from northeastern Asia is perfectly compatible"
with Mormon doctrine. He said that genetic evidence that some Native American
ancestors came from the Middle East could easily have been diluted over thousands
of years, so that it is no longer detectable.
Thomas W. Murphy, 35, chairperson of the
anthropology department at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, disagrees with this conclusion. He points to many other studies
of groups of people for whom genetic evidence has been used to trace their
origins and even the timing of their migration patterns. 1
Support for the Book of Mormon by Michael Whiting:
Michael Whiting is an assistant professor of integrative biology at Brigham
Young University (BYU) -- a university supported by the LDS church. He delivered
a speech at BYU on 2003-JAN-29. He said that "We
didn't think the arguments [by Murphy] were good enough to respond to."
Whiting pointed to two phenomena which could have caused genetic markers from
Middle-East ancestors to disappear over the 1,800 years between the time that
Lehi arrived in America (circa 600 BCE) and the present time. The two phenomena
||Genetic drift: Changes in the gene pool of a small population due to chance, and
||Founder's Effect: Change in the gene pool of a colonizing population because it is founded by a limited number of individuals from a
parent population. 2,3
The abstract of his lecture states, in part:
"...these arguments are scientifically flawed, demonstrate a
basic misunderstanding of modern methods of DNA analysis, ignore modern
historical research in the Book of Mormon studies, and entirely gloss over
fundamental issues in reconstructing historical events via DNA
inference....DNA analysis can neither easily refute nor corroborate the
lineage history put forth in the Book of Mormon and it does nothing to speak
to the authenticity of the text." 4
"The abstract includes gross misrepresentations of
researchers, including me, who have argued that genetic evidence collected to
date fails to support the Mormon claim of an Israelite ancestry for Native
Americans, in part or in whole. I...request that you correct these errors in the
abstract and the presentation or that you facilitate a response from those of us
that you have maligned." 5
Reaction to Whiting's speech was mixed:
||Chris Richardson, 23, a senior from Rolla, MO, majoring in microbiology,
"I thought it (the presentation) was very effective. It was very
easy to understand even if you did not have the background."
||Brent Metcalfe, co-editor of the book, American Apocrypha, 6
"I had higher hopes. I was taken back by his flippant responses."
||Steven Clark, president of the Salamander Society, a Mormon art and
culture group, said:
"What I hope comes of it, is that the President of the
Church will make a definite decision of who the Lamanites are." 4
According to reporter Mark Nolte:
"Whiting said the Book of Mormon was not
written as a scientific book, and therefore cannot be wholly proved or disproved
using scientific methods." 4
Support for the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner:
Brant Gardner is a software consultant with training in Mesoamerican
studies and anthropology. He addressed a Book of Mormon Lands Conference
on 2007-OCT-20 in Salt Lake City, UT. The conference is an annual event
sponsored by the Book of Mormon Archeological Forum.
He criticized Thomas Murphy that the Book of Mormon is "a piece of 19th
century fiction." Gardner suggests that Murphy:
"... didn't believe in the book before and went off looking for things
that would support his view. He gives us information about what science is
doing, but he is making a conclusion that supports what he had already
Gardner suggests that people suffer from what he calls "the CSI effect" -- an
over-inflated respect for DNA testing as a result of watching too many TV
programs featuring forensic scientists. He said that there are major limitations
on what DNA testing can tell us about family lineage. He said:
"Most [DNA] tests trace only a few of a person's ancestors and a small
portion of their DNA."
He also suggests that a "genetic bottleneck" may have happened. This is where
only a few people from among a population survive some major cataclysmic event
so that scientists only are able to test the DNA of descendents of the
survivors. Others in the original population might have had very different DNA
but they and their DNA did not survive.
He also threw suspicion on the accuracy of DNA evidence. He referred to many
historical scenarios where the DNA does not what is known to have happened.
"What we know today about the Book of Mormon is more right than what we
knew 10 years ago, and what we knew 10 years ago had some misconceptions.
Our opinions will continue to change in the future, but that doesn't change
the truthfulness of the book."
The online version of an article on the conference published in the Deseret Morning News
received 385 comments during its first 36 hours. The validity of the Book of
Mormon seems to be a hot topic. 7
Attempts to resolve conflicts between the Book of Mormon and DNA findings:
Many LDS academics and theologians are now promoting a "limited geography"
Older LDS interpretations of the Book of Mormon implied that North American
natives are all descendents of Jews who emigrated from the Middle East. The new
theory has the Nephites and Lamanites emigrate from Israel, landing in Central
America, and not expanding much beyond their landing areas. Thus, they would
have little interaction with existing inhabitants of North America, who probably
came earlier via a land bridge from Siberia.
Mormon researcher and DNA expert John M. Butler is a supporter of this
theory. He has said that:
"... careful examination and demographic analysis of the Book of Mormon
record in terms of population growth and the number of people described
implies that other groups were likely present in the promised land when
Lehi's family arrived, and these groups may have genetically mixed with the
Nephites, Lamanites, and other groups. Events related in the Book of Mormon
likely took place in a limited region, leaving plenty of room for other
Native American peoples to have existed."
Studies of DNA from more than 12,000 North
American natives has shown no indication of Hebrew ancestry. This wold be
compatible with the limited geography theory. One would have to sample DNA
from inhabitants of Central America to find traces of Hebrew ancestry in their
DNA. We have been unable to find
any indication that such a study has been done.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
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:
Mark Nolte, "Book of Mormon DNA report refuted by BYU professor,"
Brigham Young University, at:
"DNA Glossary," at:
Michael Whiting, "Campus Lecture: Does DNA Evidence Refute the
Authenticity of the Book of Mormon?: Responding to the Critics," at:
"DNA and the Book of Mormon people," LDLampoon, at:
Dan Vogel & Brent Metcalfe, Eds., "American Apocrypha: Essays on the
Book of Mormons," Signature Books, (2002). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Carrie Moore,"DNA claims rebutted on Book of Mormon," Deseret Morning News,
Peggy Stack, "Single word change in Book of Mormon speaks volumes," Salt
Lake Tribune, 2007-NOV-08. This is no longer online. However a copy is at:
Copyright 2002 to 2008, by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2008-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson