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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Comments by academics & laity

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Reactions by fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians:

In 2003, Christianity Today magazine quoted two Evangelical Christian leaders who were critical of the LDS:

bulletPaul Carden, the executive director of the Centers for Apologetics Research said that the position of Thomas Murphy -- chairperson of the anthropology department at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA -- represents"

"... a direct threat to the movement's central truth claims and its racial mythology. The movement rises and falls on the validity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's status as the true prophet....Hinckley [the current Mormon Prophet]...is considered God's mouthpiece on Earth today...to stay aloof in such matters to some extent undermines the credibility of the church...Murphy's findings are not the first DNA study of its kind that poses challenges to the Book of Mormon, but it is the most widely discussed. It's another hole in the dike, and it's by no means the last." 9

bulletKen Mulholland, president of the fundamentalist Christian Salt Lake Theological Seminary, said:

"Does the LDS church want to be a part of mainstream religious life in America, or do they want to be perceived as having something to hide?...There is a growing cadre of Mormon intellectuals who like to do their own thinking. To tell them they can't express their beliefs creates tensions. The church wants scholars, but not scholarship that is self-critical." 9

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Comments on an archeological forum's 2007 conference:

The Book of Mormon Archeological Forum sponsors an annual conference in Salt Lake City, UT. Brant Gardner, a software consultant with training in Mesoamerican studies and anthropology, addressed their year 2007 Book of Mormon Lands Conference. He criticized suggestions that DNA evidence shows that the Book of Mormon is "a piece of 19th century fiction." Gardner suggested that DNA testing is so unreliable that one cannot rely on it to tell anything about ancient family lineage. He said:

"Most [DNA] tests trace only a few of a person's ancestors and a small portion of their DNA." 2 More details.

The online version of an article in the local newspaper received 385 comments posted within its first 36 hours. Some, with corrected spelling, were:

bulletTodd: Let me get this straight, a software consultant, with SOME training in Mesoamerican studies and anthropology, is able to rebut a molecular biologist such as Dr. Southerton? (a former Bishop, no less). He attempts to make his point by using scientific sounding non-conclusions and throwing a few red herrings into the mix to sound knowledgeable enough on the subject. This serves no other purpose than to confuse his audience into believing that HE is the true expert on the subject while minimizing and ignoring the full breadth of work done by Dr. Southerton on this.

The ultimate hypocrisy here is that he throws out personal speculation (as fact) that Thomas Murphy had already decided the Book of Mormon was fiction and was merely making conclusions to support this already decided belief. Then, only a few paragraphs later, Mr. Gardner professes that no study can 'change the truthfulness of the book.' Who is it that is making conclusions to support a preconceived belief here?

And Don't forget, the title page of the Book of Mormon, still, to this day, states that it is a record of the ancestors of the American Indian as was taught by Joseph Smith himself.
bulletPaula: Did he really say that the DNA research only involves mitochondrial DNA? If so, he is greatly mistaken. The Y chromosome is also very important in DNA research. I'm not sure why we'd want to take the word of a software consultant when the subject is DNA.
bulletFan of Science: ...there are no specific DNA markers that are exclusive to all Hebrews. The most common DNA marker for Jewish ancestry is only present in 2% of modern Jews. Thus, DNA evidence cannot exclude someone as a Jew, even if they lack some specific Jewish markers.

Finally, European DNA markers (indicating, for example Finnish ancestry) found in pre-Columbian remains are usually discounted as evidence of sample contamination. Preconceived notions of some researchers has thus resulted in some interesting data being discarded.

DNA evidence, therefore, has certainly not disproved the Book of Mormon.

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bulletFalcon: Is there anyone outside of LDS circles that believe the Book of Mormon is a factual history of a real people?
bulletClark: ... The real test of the Book of Mormon comes from the spiritual manifestation one can receive when they read it. It's more than just a warm fuzzy, as some people claim. I'm talking about reading the Book of Mormon to the point that it changes your whole life. The Holy Ghost can have that type of influence, if you're willing to read the Christ-centered and beautiful messages contained in the Book of Mormon.
bulletRyan: People have devoted their entire lives to trying to disprove the Book of Mormon, and it is ever a tragic waste that has availed them nothing (in nearly 200 years of trying). I would submit that their fervor against the book is almost more of a confirmation of its truthfulness than anything I've ever heard in favor of it. ...
bulletCamille: I will never look at a scientists "findings" as fact. They can say what they want, but I for one will believe what I feel in my heart where the Book of Mormon is true or not. I have read it and I believe it to be true. A scientist can print anything he/she wants but it won't make me believe any other way nor can anyone else.
bulletHmmm: There is more proof that the book is a work of fiction than a true book. Some of the principles in the book are great (like the Bible) and that is where the idea of the book came from.
Why doesn't someone dig up the Hill Cumorah? It's because they are afraid of what they'll find (or lack thereof). I'm sure there might be some lively debates to this post....but no proof.
Enjoy this wonderful book and then start thinking that many wonderful books we enjoy are just fiction. Of course, the difference is that we know they are.
bulletHenry: I'm not sure why the Church is so concerned about DNA evidence. Scientists have pointed to numerous pieces of evidence that point to Asia as the origin of Native Americans. This includes language, archeology, and customs. Meanwhile the Book of Mormon contains many references to an Iron age culture in North America for which there is no evidence. It also contains many anachronisms including references to Cyrus the Great who wasn't even born when the Book of Mormon peoples left Palestine. Science has always been at odds with this and other religious beliefs. Why not just leave belief in the Book of Mormon in the arena of faith and not try to contort science in an attempt to make it fit. A man can't serve two masters.
bulletTysonatthemovies: Who cares? You will never convince an unbeliever nor a believer of belief or disbelief respectively. People are gonna find evidence for either viewpoint and bend and twist it until it fits their viewpoints. Personally I don't buy into Mormonism, but maybe I'm wrong. So let people live they want within reason, don't push your religious notions on others and have some tolerance.
bulletJake: Gardner is one of the more prolific apologists defending the Book of Mormon against scientific evidence. LDS apologetics is primarily made up of non-professionals writing outside their area of expertise.

The real problem for the BOM is its historicity. Nothing matches reality. It fails all historical, anthropological, archeological, and reasonable scientific tests. If you think it's only "anti-Mormons" who think this take your best evidence for the book to a regular academic professional and see how they view it. Take the BOM to a Mesoamerican archeologist or a Mayan expert. Take the Book of Abraham to a Egyptologist. Take the quotes from the brass plates inside the BOM to a scholar of the Hebrew Bible.
bulletAnonymous: What is unbelievable is how Mormon defenders/apologists will endorse and support and utilize scientific research when it supports their claims about the Church, but then turn around and reject science when it may not support the Church's claims. Science is clearly the fair-weather friend of Mormons, and that is what makes their claims suspicious.

Afterall, the two best (so far) DNA scientists who originally researched the common LDS claims of the Jewish ancestry of the American Indian were ACTIVE MORMONS when they did it!? From what they have said, they were NOT trying to disprove their faith. That just happened as a side benefit.

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  1. John W. Kennedy, "Mormon Scholar Under Fire: Anthropologist says Latter-day Saints' teaching wrong about Native Americans." Christianity Today, 2003-MAR-01, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  2. Carrie Moore,"DNA claims rebutted on Book of Mormon," Deseret Morning News, 2007-OCT-23, at: http://deseretnews.com/article/
  3. "Reader comments: DNA claims rebutted on Book of Mormon," Deseret Morning News, starting 2007-OCT-23, at: http://deseretnews.com/

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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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