Skip to comments.Does DNA disprove Lehi story?
Posted on 09/18/2009 1:16:28 PM PDT by Colofornian
First in a series of four articles
Somewhere among the varied coasts of the two American continents was landfall for a small group of ancient Israelite seafarers led by a prophet named Lehi.
Whether they stepped upon the sands of an empty or crowded continent is at the heart of the DNA debate over the historical nature of the Book of Mormon.
Ugo Perego, an Italian-born researcher in human genetics, tries to look with a scientist's eye at the controversy surrounding DNA and the Book of Mormon.
He is a bit impatient with some of the strong conclusions of some critics and LDS apologists. There is too little data. We need to be cautious.
"I see that from both the critics' side and the LDS side there is quite a bit of misunderstanding on the subject," Perego said. "We should not fight over it. It seems to me to be almost a waste of time that people will actually entertain the thoughts that either DNA can prove or disprove the Book of Mormon."
The first rumblings about DNA and the Book of Mormon came about 10 years ago, according to Perego, a senior researcher at Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.
Critics cobbled together data from a variety of early DNA studies and came to the unsurprising conclusion that the studies indicated an Asian origin for Native Americans.
This, the critics argued, proved that the Book of Mormon was false. They claimed that the book says the continent was empty and if it was empty, then all Native Americans should have Lehi's Israelite DNA, not Asian DNA.
However, for about 50 years most LDS scholars have argued that the Book of Mormon took place not in vast empty continents, but in a limited-geographical area in Mesoamerica.
"Some people in the church still believe that all Native Americans, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, are descendants of Lehi, and that the double continent was completely empty when Lehi and his family came and therefore all the Native Americans who were here at the time of Columbus' arrival are descendants of Lehi," Perego said. "If that was true, then the critics would be right."
But if that wasn't the case, if Lehi's group came to a crowded continent, then Perego says the critics' arguments fall apart.
"It is very likely that Lehi came in an area that was not inhabited. He could have come to an area that would fit the 30 to 50 people who were in his party and allow them to settle in and start living," Perego said. "Probably, at the beginning, there was some interest in keeping the family together and marrying within the family. But pretty soon, as they began to spread, there was some integration of the surrounding population into Lehi's family."
The types of answers you receive depend upon the questions you ask, according to Perego. "If the question is, 'Are Native Americans of Asian origin?' The answer is, 'Yes.' (If the question is), 'Are Native Americans of Israelite origin?' The answer is, 'No.'"
Perego says the critic will then say, "OK. I've got my answers. I'm happy! Thank you! I'll put it in my book. The Book of Mormon is incorrect."
But, according to Perego, there are other questions to ask which bear more directly to the plausibility of the Book of Mormon narrative.
"Try to ask this question to a population geneticist: 'Is it possible that a small family from Israel could have arrived in America, to a largely populated continent, and that no genetic evidence would survive after 2,600 years?'" Perego says. "Why don't they ask that question? That is exactly the question they need to ask."
Critics will counter that this is not an important question because they say Mormons believe that all Native Americans are only descended from Lehi.
This exposes the irony of the critics' arguments. Their argument doesn't rest primarily on DNA, but on the critics' rigid -- even strangely fundamentalist -- interpretation of the Book of Mormon. For their criticism to be correct you have no choice -- you must believe the continent was empty.
In other words, to believe the critics are right about DNA, you must believe they are right about their narrow interpretation of the Book of Mormon and statements by select general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"We might someday (find) a big sign that says 'Welcome to Zarahemla.' ... And the critics will find a way to go around that and Mormons will jump all over it. But the issues with the DNA are different. We really don't know what Lehi's genetic signature was. ... We know that there were others here."
Next week: How DNA is traced
Mesoamerica = Guatamala, El Salvador, Southern Mexico -- central America region.
Of course, if this was the "took place" region -- then wouldn't it make it quite easy to look for Book of Mormon archaeological evidence? I mean if they've narrowed it down from vast South America to just that narrow Central American strip...then we should find answers to the following kinds of Q:
What kind of evidence would an advanced civilization of millions of people leave after centuries of living in the Americas? What physical evidence would one expect to find after two million men were slain by the sword (Ether 15:2), in addition to the slaying of their wives and children at Hill Cumorah in New York State? Add to this an additional battle where multiple tens of thousands (about 230,000 total) of people were massacred with the sword, and with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the ax, and with all manner of weapons of war on the same Hill Cumorah centuries later (Mormon 6:1-8:41). What could we reasonably expect to find? (Source: http://www.irr.org/mit/bible-vs-bom-review.html)
The problems for the Mormons are their own camp: Mormon archaeologist/scholar/Chair of Anthropology @ dwards Community College, Dr. Thomas Murphy, who says there isn't any single place, any single person, or any single event described in the Book of Mormon (Source: http://www.mazeministry.com/mormonism/newsletters_articles/jun03/jun03.pdf)
This is only true IF the teachings of the prophets throughout the years concurred with it. However, the documentation of the words of the prophets, ga's to the present day all indicate that the bom (and associated revelations) taught and they believed that today's Amerindians are of hebrew origins.
Secondly, those "teaching" the limited geography (LG) view of the bom are not authorized to speak to what the mormon church believes. However, the GA's of the mormon church HAVE stated that the LG theory is not lds teaching.
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is founded by the former department head (and still mormon of good standing) of BYU and they are believed to contain the largest record and holdings of genetic materials in the world. Their scientists and foundation are on record endorsing current views of Amerindian migration into the Americas. This includes destroying current Maxwell/FARMS claims that the presence of haplogroup X in Amerindians constitute proof of hebrew origins.
Notice how the question is even framed. "Small family" -- as if 30-50 people was "small" (even by Mormon standards). You know when an apologist starts from that extreme, look out...they'll ignore the supposed "millions" that supposedly descended from them over 9 centuries (by 3 centuries after Christ).
They won't ask as to how that evidence supposedly extinguished among millions -- just how it disappeared from an original "small family"
Exactly. But the Mormon apologists are getting desperate. Lds Australian molecular biologist Dr. Simon Southerton apparently was shocked when he saw DNA evidence re: Central & South Americans: I was totally and utterly convinced that the Book of Mormon was true, says his testimony. So for several weeks I lived with two completely contradictory beliefs in my brain...There was no way I could have spent the remainder of my life in Mormonism [after I learned of the DNA evidence]. Thousands of individuals from more than 150 tribes have been tested in North, Central, and South America. They are all of Asian origin: 99.4% are Asian in origin and 0.6% are a mixture from Africa or Europe after [the arrival of ] Columbus. (Source: http://www.mazeministry.com/mormonism/newsletters_articles/jun03/jun03.pdf)
As someone on Digg.com explained, the above is tantamount to the following illustration: "Imagine if DNA evidence revealed that the Pilgrims didn't sail from Europe to escape religious persecution but rather were part of a migration from Iceland and that U.S. history books were wrong."
Hence, Lds are backpedaling. Here, for generations on end, the Lds leaders had led them to believe all the Indians were descendents of Book of Mormon characters. Now, Lds apologists are saying, "Oops. We're going to 'narrow' that 'heritage' just a bit."
From Mormon Research Ministry: The introduction to the Book of Mormon states that the book is "holy scripture comparable to the Bible" and that it is a "record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas." Since 1981 this same introduction claimed that the Lamanites "are the principle ancestors of the American Indians." However, in 2007, the LDS Church changed the wording to say that Book of Mormon Lamanites are now merely "among the ancestors of the American Indians."
So, Mormon people hearing Mormon leaders have gone from being led to believe "all" the Native Americans were so descended, to being "principle" descendents to "Well, they're in there somewhere in that genealogical batch - but we, the supposed world's trend setters of genealogy -- don't know where."
According to Dr. Southerton and ministries like Mormon Research Ministry DNAandtheBookofMormonRecord When General Authorities dedicate temples in Central (Mexico) and South America (Ecuador & elsewhere) they tell the natives that they are the descendents of the Book of Mormon Lamanites.
Yet if they either were either a small regionally contained people in Central America -- or became extinct (as some Mormons read the Book of Mormon wars), then how is it Lds "prophets" interpret the Book of Mormon peoples to have spread over all of the American continent with every temple-opening blessing?
As MRM says, "Once again Mormons are placed between a rock and a hard place. They can choose between the spin coming out of Provo or continue to believe that their leaders are incapable of leading them astray. Choosing the former will certainly help them retain their faith in the Book of Mormon; however, in taking this direction, consistency would demand that their divinely appointed prophets and apostles were misleading members when they said that millions of direct descendants of Lehi are now living."
Maybe that region is like El Dorado or Shangri-La, and exists isolated from space and time!
Typical of Book of Mormon "geography" -- it doesn't match reality, new world or old:
1 Nephi 2:8 speaks of a river that empties into the Red Sea. No river has ever been found to have emptied into the Red Sea. This demonstrates that the author of the book was not familiar with Middle Eastern geography. If the author of the Book of Mormon was truly from the land of Israel this mistake would not have been made.
It must be scary to wake up one day to NOT believing in the Book of Mormon after a lifetime -- like Lds scholar Dr. Thomas Murphy:
"I think the most difficult problem
is that we have to confront not just the possibility, but the inevitability that Joseph Smith was attempting to deceive people
[for example] when he pretended to have actual [gold] plates
We also know that he was deceptive about his marriage practices, so its not just the Book of Mormon
He was sleeping with
girls and he lied about that in public, so we know he was capable of deception
I dont know that there is a way out of that problem."
(Of course, Dr. Murphy's friends then needed to step in when Lds apologists started calling for his "communication" head -- as in "ex-communication"...They started holding candlelight vigils for him...so he backed off a bit -- and was then asked in a 2003 interview: So I do hear you, Thomas Murphy, sort of clinging still to your Mormon heritage, trying to reconcile these things, trying to stay devoted to at least one aspect of your spiritual heritage I guess? To which Murphy answered: Yes, I, well, even if I wanted to abandon my Mormon heritage I dont think I could, you know? I think Im a product of a Mormon cultural environment and I will be regardless of whatever my Stake Presidency and High Council decide to do with my membership. Im a product of that culture and I suppose I could walk away from it. A lot of people are encouraging me to do so but I dont think that I would be able to leave in the sense that its shaped who I am and Im comfortable with that. Im comfortable with being a Latter-day skeptic, if you will).
This is where Mormon culture trumps truth.
Lds lurker, let this question ring in your mind: Are you going to embrace culture or the truth, including the Living Truth (John 14:6)? [This Living Truth receives DIRECT prayer (Acts 7:59; 3 Nephi 19:6-26) and direct worship (a dozen passages, five in the BoM & 7 in the Bible)-- which shows you're being led by cult leaders when they dishonor their own supposed sacred book in favor of their pet doctrines]
So the cognative dissonance. The GA's are the mouthpieces for mormonism. Maxwell/FARMS is not authorized to speak for mormonism. Yet who do they listen too? Another true prophet / false prophet scenario to say the least. If the GA are correct, there should be ample evidence of hebrew migration to the Americas (as the Amerindians are all descended from Lehi). This would falsify the LG theory. the LG theory, if true, would falsify the teaching of the prophets and GA over the life time of the lds church. It is no wonder that Rod Meldrum and other Hemispheric Geographists maintain the official line from the GA - and why Maxwell/FARMS is so vehiment against him.
Throw in the Malay Peninsula theory and the plot thickens. Clearly, the broad disagreements in what should be archaeologically simple to prove bom geography points one to Occam's razor - that these land's never existed in the first place.
Indeed! However this false bom geography does not stand or fall on DNA alone! Archaeology, and the overwhelming LACK of bom relics (inspite of the focused LG area). Central America Amerindian cultures that spanned the bom era that make no note of these people, their alledged culture or their highly advanced technology/metallurgy. Linguistics, which go to show no signs of influence from the middle east at all. The list can go on and on. At a certain point the arguement "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" falls completely apart in the face of the overwhelming evidence that says a the story is not as put forth in the bom.
Some of the numbers in the Old Testament are rather implausible as well. I suspect the counting skills of the Israelites was a tad sketchy.
Numbers have nothing to do with it. So which is it - do you agree with the teachings of the mormon GA's since the start of the lds church - that the Amerindians are descended from Lehi; or a group of professors at BYU that claim Lehi/Nephi settled a very small piece of ground somewhere in central america?
Well, and here's another rub -- while the MesoAmerican theory narrows their achaeological search to Central America, they have to simultaneously ignore Book of Mormon verses in that process:
Mormon Research Ministry (www.mrm.org/dna) says: The Book of Mormon gives the impression that the Nephites and Lamanite populations were anything but small. Helaman 3:8 in the Book of Mormon states, "And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east." In commenting on this passage, the Book of Mormon Student Manual, published by the LDS Church, notes, "NO ONE KNOWS THE DETAILS OF BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY But the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed some information that suggests that at some time in their history the spread of the Nephites unto the 'land northward' included what we know today as North America" (1979 edition, p.354). This coincides with Doctrine and Covenants 54:8, which states that the borders of the Lamanites extended to the "land of Missouri." Mormon 1:7 adds, "The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea." A footnote at the bottom of the page dates this passage at around A.D. 322.
And, "Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt believed that the Lamanites "gathered by the millions" at the battle of Hill Cumorah! (Journal of Discourses 17:31.) Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie agreed with this assessment when he wrote, "Neither the Nephites nor the Jaredites repented when rivers of blood flowed on their battlefields and millions of their number were slain by the sword" (The Millennial Messiah, p. 386 387, emphasis mine).
Anyway, I still like that Lds church line they teach their people: "No one knows the details of Book of Mormon geography" (so we know that's at least one NOT taught by Lds home schoolers)
What if Bible proponents ever said: "No one knows the details of Bible geography?"
Isn’t it true that a person of European ancestry only has to go back 5 or 6 generations to be directly related to **every** other person of European ancestry?
For instance one of my ancestors arrived in Boston in 1630. I am almost certainly a direct relation to every person who sailed on the Mayflower.
And we know details of the biblical geography from a period that is older than the bom era in America. But then we all know that these lands slipped off into the ocean according to some mormon apologists (with even less evidence)
The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth, not Boston for starters. However your example is flawed in that it is covering another method of DNA heritage mapping - direct descendants. The DNA methodology being used by major studies (referenced in the above article) refer to entire people group DNA haplotype markers. What you example would show is that the descendants carried the European haplotypes and their descendants would carry them as well.
Yes, as Godzilla said this is why we see "the cognitive dissonance."
One the one hand, as Godzilla said: The GA's are the mouthpieces for mormonism. Maxwell/FARMS is not authorized to speak for mormonism.
On the other hand, we're even seeing lds.org news releases referencing FAIR articles on DNA & even private Web sites likes Jeff Lindsay's (how desperate is that when they start linking to one-man show sites?)
The quandary Lds is sized up in this thread's posted article by De Groote of the Mormon Times, who says: ..to believe the critics are right about DNA, you must believe they are right about their narrow interpretation of the Book of Mormon and statements by select general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But see, Mormons have heard for generations -- and their apologists have repeated back to us, that "No, Lds leaders will not lead us astray." Yet, here we have Lds journalists conceding that "critics" quoting "select general authorities of the church" is actually a PROBLEM to their attempt to make this apology work!!!
Mormon Research Ministry, in the same link I gave as last post, said: Speaking in conference in October 1921, Elder Andrew Jenson, a member of the staff of the LDS Church's Historian's Office, stated, "We, therefore cast a glance southward into old Mexico and through the great countries beyond -- down through Central America and South America, where there are millions and millions of Lamanites, direct descendants of Father Lehi." (Conference Report, October 1921, p.120, emphasis mine).
Are there "millions and millions of Lamanites, direct descendents of Father Lehi?" -- or is this another "what you hear @ a general conference might not be so?)
MRM also said: On page 601 of The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth Mormon prophet stated, "About twenty-five centuries ago, a hardy group left the comforts of a great city, crossed a desert, braved an ocean, and came to the shores of this, their promised land. There were two large families, those of Lehi and Ishmael, who in not many centuries numbered hundreds of millions of people on these two American continents" (emphasis mine). Probably the most damning quote that undermines this notion that the Lamanite genetic link could have been lost to the point of nonexistence is found on page 596 of the same book. Kimball wrote, "Lamanites share a royal heritage. I should like to address my remarks to you, our kinsmen of the isles of the sea and the Americas. Millions of you have blood relatively unmixed with gentile nations" (emphasis mine).
Therefore, MRM asks: The obvious question is, "How do you lose the genetic link of millions of people who allegedly have not mixed their blood with another culture?"
Indeed! The lds GA have only endorsed the Hemispheric theory and have specifically spoken against the LG theory. Which GA's have specifically endorsed the LG theory? Roberts came the closest that I can find in 1920.
So who holds the prophetic mantle - the GA or BYU scholars?
It is an intriguing thought.
A work of fiction, ie the Book of Mormonites, being disproved by DNA.
Has DNA been used to disprove the fiction writings of
L.Ron Hubbard of Scientology?
Is this a common practice in disproving various American
Oh my heck! Does this mean that Sarah Palin is a descendant of Lehi? Didn't I see that she had Alaskan native ancestors?