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Book of Mormon/DNA evidence

Posted on 01/04/2011 3:45:06 PM PST by Paragon Defender

Book of Mormon/DNA evidence




DNA samples taken from modern Native Americans do not match the DNA of modern inhabitants of the Middle East. Critics argue that this means the Book of Mormon's claim that Native Americans are descended from Lehi must be false, and therefore the Book of Mormon is not an ancient record as Joseph Smith claimed.

See also: Source(s) of the criticism



Few criticisms of the Church have received as much media attention as this criticism, with so little thought and science being applied to the question. DNA attacks against the Book of Mormon account fail on numerous grounds.

Initial considerations

It is important to realize that critics of the Book of Mormon base their arguments on DNA data that has never been shown to be even relevant to the issue of Book of Mormon genetics, let alone conclusive. Such critics have cobbled together DNA data gathered from unrelated studies to produce arguments with the appearance of scientific weight but having no real significance. No genetic studies have been designed and performed to test the hypothesis that Native Americans were of Lehite descent and that this inheritance is detectable today.

DNA issues can be complex for the non-specialist (especially those who were in high school more than twenty years ago, before much of the modern understanding of DNA was available). A number of excellent articles are available on this topic.

For those interested in general introductions to DNA science:

These articles discuss the feasibility of testing various hypotheses using the Book of Mormon and DNA:


A variety of geographic models have been suggested for the Book of Mormon. Some geographic models introduce other difficulties for the DNA attacks.

Are all Amerindians "Lamanites"?

Critics have claimed that DNA tests mean that all Amerindians cannot be "Lamanites," and even some Church authors have conceded this point too readily.

Haplogroup X2a

Main article: Haplogroup X2a

Some have tried to use a genetic group called haplotype X2a as proof of the Book of Mormon, but the science at present cannot support this.

General genetics issues

Regardless of the geographical model used, efforts to date at "testing" the Book of Mormon through the use of genetic data encounter a number of problems and issues that should be considered. The remainder of this page discusses issues which must be considered regardless of the geographical model being used.

What are we looking for?

Genetic attacks on the Book of Mormon focus on the fact that Amerindian DNA seems closest to Asian DNA, and not DNA from "the Middle East" or "Jewish" DNA. However, this attack ignores several key points.

Lehi and his family are clearly not Jews. They belong to the tribe of Manasseh (Alma 10:3, 1 Nephi 5:14), and married into Ishmael's family, the tribe of Ephraim.[1] These tribes were carried away captive by the Assyrians, and did not contribute greatly to the current genetic mix of the Middle East.

Furthermore, the Middle East is located at the crossroads of three continents, and has seen a great deal of immigration, mixing, and intermarriage. To use modern Middle Eastern DNA as the "standard" against which to measure what Manasseh and Ephraim DNA must have been like 2600 years ago is extraordinarily sloppy science.

Articles which consider that "Asian" DNA and Lehite DNA may actually correspond due to an earlier common source:

What Jewish DNA?

Identifying DNA criteria for Manasseh and Ephraim may always be beyond our reach. But, even identifying markers for Jews—a group that has remained relatively cohesive and refrained from intermarriage with others more than most groups—is an extraordinarily difficult undertaking.

One author cautioned:

Studies of human genetic diversity have barely begun. Yet the fashion for genetic ancestry testing is booming. . . . Other groups, such as Jews, are now being targeted. This despite the fact that Jewish communities have little in common on their mitochondrial side—the maternal line down which Judaism is traditionally inherited. It's the male side that shows common ancestry between different Jewish communities—so, of course, that's what the geneticists focus on. . . . Geneticists—like preachers and philosophers before them—need to avoid promising more than they can deliver.[2]

Articles which discuss the various criteria (and the difficulties involved) for identifying "Jewishness" via DNA include:

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA is passed only from mothers to their children. It has been used in attacks on the Book of Mormon, and yet even known Jewish populations do not share mtDNA.

A new study now shows that the women in nine Jewish communities from Georgia . . . to Morocco have vastly different genetic histories from the men. . . . The women's identities, however, are a mystery, because . . . their genetic signatures are not related to one another or to those of present-day Middle Eastern populations.[3]

So, known Jewish groups cannot be linked at all by mtDNA studies, and yet the critics would have us believe that two of the lost tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh—from whom we have no 'control' or 'reference' samples to compare to) can be ruled out as ancestors of the Amerindians via mtDNA testing?

Articles which discuss difficulties in using mtDNA:

Y-Chromosome DNA

Y-chromosomes are only spread from father to son; the female line does not carry them at all. These markers have also been used by critics to "prove" that the Amerindians cannot be descended from Lehi.

Despite claims that Y-chromosome data do not support Book of Mormon claims, there are some markers which should be considered in another light:

Douglas Forbes points out that Y-chromosome SNP biallelic marker Q-P36 (also known by the mutation marker M-242), postulated by geneticist Doron Behar and colleagues to be a founding lineage among Ashkenazi Jewish populations, is also found in Iranian and Iraqi Jews and is a founding lineage group present in 31 percent of self-identified Native Americans in the U.S.[4]

Articles which discuss Y chromosome issues:

Lemba and Cohen modal haplotype

Murphy uses the "Lemba" as an example of a group proven to be Jewish via DNA testing. But, this example is misleading. The Lemba were identified as Jewish because of a marker called the "Cohen modal haplotype." This marker is carried by about half of those who claim descent from Aaron, Moses' brother, and only 2-3% of other Jews.

But, the Book of Mormon does not suggest—and in fact seems to exclude—the idea that Levites (the priestly family of Aaron) were among the Lehi party. Without priestly families, one would not expect to find the Cohen modal haplotype! Yet, only 2-3% of modern Jews from non-priestly families (to say nothing of Ephraim and Manasseh—remember, Lehi and company are not "Jews") can be identified by this test.[5] Are these 97-98% of modern Jews then not Jews because the genetic test is negative for them? Excluding the Nephites on the basis of such a poor test that we would not even expect them to pass (since they do not include Levitical families) shows how far the critics will twist the evidence to find fault.

Articles which discuss Cohen modal haplotype issues:

90% death rate with European contact

Approximately ninety percent of the Amerindian population died out following contact with the Europeans; most of this was due to infectious disease against which they had no defense.[6]

Since different genes likely provide different resistances to infectious disease, it may be that eliminating 90% of the pre-contact gene pool has significantly distorted the true genetic picture of Lehi's descendants. Studies of pre-Columbian human remains have not shown any extinct haplotypes—as one would expect given the small contribution made by a Lehite colony. Gene frequency, however, could well have been altered by such a dramatic die-off, suggesting that caution should be used in assuming that modern Amerindian populations are an identical match for pre-Columbian gene frequencies.

What about the Jaredites?

Critics often over-look the Jaredites, and assume (as in the hemispheric models type 2 and type 3) that the Jaredites can have contributed nothing of consequence to the Lehite DNA picture.

But, it is not clear that this must be the case. Some LDS have believed in a total eradication of the Jaredites, others have argued that Jaredite remnants survived and mixed with the Lehites. Bruce R. McConkie, while believing that the majority of Amerindian descent was from Israel (i.e. Lehi, Ishmael, and Mulek) nevertheless wrote:

The American Indians, however, as Columbus found them also had other blood than that of Israel in their veins. It is possible that isolated remnants of the Jaredites may have lived through the period of destruction in which millions of their fellows perished. It is quite apparent that groups of orientals found their way over the Bering Strait and gradually moved southward to mix with the Indian peoples. We have records of a colony of Scandinavians attempting to set up a settlement in America some 500 years before Columbus. There are archeological indications that an unspecified number of groups of people probably found their way from the old to the new world in pre-Columbian times. Out of all these groups would have come the American Indians as they were discovered in the 15th century.[7]

The Jaredites are complete genetic unknowns. They cannot be Israelites, since they pre-date Israel. Some authors, such as Hugh Nibley, long ago argued that they were of Asian origin.[8]

Articles which discuss the relevance of Jaredite issues:

Fundamentalist "suicide bombing"

It should be remembered too that many sectarian critics use DNA science in a sort of "suicide bombing" attack on the Church.[9] The fundamentalist Christian critics are happy to use DNA as a stick to beat the Book of Mormon, but do not tell their readers that there is much stronger DNA evidence for concepts which fundamentalist Christian readers might not accept, such as:

And, despite being inconsistent with DNA data, fundamentalist critics do not call on their congregations to abandon such literalistic Biblical concepts as:

The critics are often hypocritical—they claim the Saints should abandon the Book of Mormon on flimsy, dubious science, and yet do not tell their audience that they should (by the same logic) abandon religious beliefs of their own that have much more DNA evidence against them.

Discussions of this ironic twist are found in:


DNA attacks against the Book of Mormon are ill-advised, a "contrived controversy."[10] Various geographical models introduce issues unique to each model, but the DNA data is no where as conclusive as the critics claim, regardless of the geographical model chosen.

Critics tend to opt for the most naive, ill-informed reading possible of the Book of Mormon text, and then cry foul when the Saints point out that they have given much thought to these issues and come to more nuanced conclusions that are more faithful to the Book of Mormon text than the critics' poorly-considered caricatures.

Critics do not provide the "whole story" of the DNA data, and seem to want to use the certainty which DNA provides in modern crime-solving as a springboard to trick the Saints, the media, and investigators into thinking that their historical DNA conclusions are as solid.

The Church's statement on the matter of DNA is succinct and accurate:

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is exactly what it claims to be — a record of God's dealings with peoples of ancient America and a second witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The strongest witness of the Book of Mormon is to be obtained by living the Christ-centered principles contained in its pages and by praying about its truthfulness.
Recent attacks on the veracity of the Book of Mormon based on DNA evidence 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.[11]

In fact, DNA data tells us nothing which we did not already know from archaeological data—at present, the human settlement of the Americas is thought to date thousands of years before the advent of Lehi. Many of these settlers have links to east Asia. None of this is news, and none of it threatens the Book of Mormon's status as authentic history.

But, the critics hope that their listeners will be awed by the banner of DNA science, and conclude that something more impressive is going on. Informed members of the Church have not been persuaded by their tactics, and much has been written to help non-specialists understand the "numerous and complex" issues in the fascinating and valuable science of genetics.


  1. [note]  "The Prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi, was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgement is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis..." - Erastus Snow, "Ephraim And Manassah, etc.," (6 May 1882) Journal of Discourses 23:184.
  2. [note]  Martin Richards, "Beware the Gene Genies," Guardian (21 February 2003), accessed 7 July 2006. off-site; cited by Stewart, "DNA and the Book of Mormon."
  3. [note]  Nicholas Wade, "In DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots," New York Times (14 May 2002): F1 (col. 1); cited by Stewart, "DNA and the Book of Mormon."
  4. [note]  See "Cohen Modal Haplotype," in David G. Stewart, Jr., "DNA and the Book of Mormon," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 109–138. off-site PDF link wiki FAIR link
  5. [note]  See "Y-Chromosome Data," in David G. Stewart, Jr., "DNA and the Book of Mormon," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 109–138. off-site PDF link wiki FAIR link (Citations omitted)
  6. [note]  Suzanne Austin Alchon, 'A Pest in the Land: New World Epidemics in a Global Perspective,' Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, c2003.
  7. [note]  Bruce R. McConkie, "American Indians," in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 33. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)GL direct link
  8. [note]  See, for example, Hugh W. Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, the World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthew and Stephen R. Callister, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),153–following. ISBN 0875791328. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) GL direct link
  9. [note]  The expression "suicide bombing" in this context comes from Stewart, "DNA and the Book of Mormon."
  10. [note]  John M. Butler, "Addressing Questions surrounding the Book of Mormon and DNA Research," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 101–108. off-site PDF link wiki
  11. [note]  Press Release, "Mistakes in the News: DNA and the Book of Mormon" (11 November 2003) off-site




TOPICS: Other Christian; Religion & Science
KEYWORDS: bookofmormon; bs; ctr; herewegoagain; lds; mittromney; mormon; mormonism; romney
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1 posted on 01/04/2011 3:45:18 PM PST by Paragon Defender
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To: Paragon Defender


2 posted on 01/04/2011 3:49:15 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: Colofornian; blam

Gentlemen...don your white lab coats and proceed forth...

3 posted on 01/04/2011 3:51:20 PM PST by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus - Domari Nolo)
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To: Paragon Defender

First axion of holes. When you are in one - stop digging!!!

4 posted on 01/04/2011 4:01:42 PM PST by SeaHawkFan
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To: SeaHawkFan

Make that “axiom”.

5 posted on 01/04/2011 4:02:48 PM PST by SeaHawkFan
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To: Paragon Defender
FAIR has this disclaimer, albeit in tiny print, at the bottom of their home page:
FAIR is not owned, controlled by, or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided on this site are the sole responsibility of FAIR and should not be interpreted as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief, or practice.

6 posted on 01/04/2011 4:08:22 PM PST by Alex Murphy ("Posting news feeds, making eyes bleed, he's hated on seven continents")
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To: Paragon Defender

Yes current Middle Eastern DNA may not be a perfect match for the applicable tribe from 2600 years. But it should be a closer match than current DNA from Asia shouldn’t it be - if the Mormon claims are correct? I don’t know much about this but in just reading this it looks like a weak case being presented by these Mormons. Where is THEIR DNA evidence or any evidence for that matter to back up their claims? Bizarre.

7 posted on 01/04/2011 4:10:23 PM PST by plain talk
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis; Paragon Defender

Remarkable, not a single scientific journal cited within all this balderdash and dead electrons the post created.

Primer on DNA and the origions of the Amerindians:

Other important studies include:

And regarding the nepharious Haplogen X:

Folks, the bottom line is smith and mormonism for well over a century (even to present day) have claimed that the Amerindians of the new world were descended from lehi, et al.

DNA studies are just another nail in the coffin for the bom and the cult of mormonism. Add this to the other evidenc -

Linguistic studies show no evidence of hebraic or egyptian sources for any Amerindian language.

Archaeology shows no evidence PERIOD of an advanced hebraic/egyptian/middle eastern culture practicing mosaic worship with advanced metallurgical skills, horses, old world crops, chairiots, etc. All archaeological evidence to date shows cultures quite different.

Mormon apologists have developed over two dozen different theories to identify the bom lands. These range from the whole hemisphere, central americal, baja california, malaysian pennesula and even africa.

One last point. Mormon apologists fall further behind the DNA evidences against the bom. Using what is called “admixture mapping,” researchers observe thousands of variant SNPs (pronounced “snips” for single nucleotide polymorphisms) revealing the subtlest influences on an individual’s genetic makeup. “snips” don’t die out as MtDNA might in people groups - is it more broadly passed.

So grab your barf bag for the spin that FAIR (and PD) is putting out for consumption.

8 posted on 01/04/2011 4:11:29 PM PST by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: Paragon Defender
DNA samples taken from modern Native Americans do not match the DNA of modern inhabitants of the Middle East. Critics argue that this means the Book of Mormon's claim that Native Americans are descended from Lehi must be false

False claim, false book, false all around.

Precursor to Scientology really. Yep.

10 posted on 01/04/2011 4:12:41 PM PST by humblegunner (Blogger Overlord)
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To: Paragon Defender

There’s basically no trace of any semblance of Middle East language, culture, architecture, or anything else in the Americas. If the conquistadors had found anything like that they’d have written it up and we’d know about it.

11 posted on 01/04/2011 4:13:28 PM PST by wendy1946
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To: Paragon Defender

DNA attacks against the Book of Mormon account fail on numerous grounds, just like Global Warming has recently caused cooler winters.

12 posted on 01/04/2011 4:14:28 PM PST by flowerplough (Thomas Sowell: Those who look only at Obama's deeds tend to become Obama's critics.)
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To: Paragon Defender
Paragon when you you learn ? You just posted one of the very easiest to debunk topics of all time on mromonism. THEY CHANGED THE INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF MORMON NOT 5 YEARS AGO BECAUSE THERE IS NO DNA LINK !!

The one-page introduction to the Book of Mormon, which gives a brief overview of its contents, was added in 1981 when the LDS Church released a revised text of the Book of Mormon. The introduction was written by Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, at the time considered to be one of the church’s most prominent theologians. The introduction stated, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

New editions published by the LDS Church, however, will no longer include the phrase “principal ancestors.” They instead will read that the Lamanites are “among” the ancestors of the American Indian. This new alteration has already appeared in copies of the Book of Mormon published by Doubleday.

13 posted on 01/04/2011 4:17:14 PM PST by SENTINEL (Mormonism...from Ezra Taft Benson to Reid and Romney in only one generation.)
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To: Paragon Defender

DNA has brought more then one charlatan to justice.

14 posted on 01/04/2011 4:20:32 PM PST by doc1019 (Martyrdom is a great thing, until it is your turn.)
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To: wendy1946
If the conquistadors had found anything like that they’d have written it up and we’d know about it.

Nope, them dumb sons of bitches woulda turned it over to the Christian priests with them and then THEM dumb sons of bitches woulda burned it all. (No, this isn't a defense of Momonism - just a criticism of the dumb sons of bitches that destroy archeological history)

15 posted on 01/04/2011 4:25:27 PM PST by SwankyC ("I'm no bigot. I will pray with any man." - Samuel Adams)
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To: SwankyC

Nonetheless I kind of have to like the happy endings in movies like Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto’ where the white honkeys arrive in ships and put an end to all the cannibalism and devil worship and what not...

16 posted on 01/04/2011 4:34:49 PM PST by wendy1946
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To: flowerplough
DNA attacks against the Book of Mormon account fail on numerous grounds, just like Global Warming has recently caused cooler winters.

So you are charging that the scientists are cooking the books, shifting the numbers, in order to show that NO middle eastern dna is present in the Amerindian population?

LOL, you should be aware that mormon founded Sorenson Inst - a leading firm doing these kind of DNA studies - have published in professional journals the same results? Even mormon geneticist Ugo Perego (a contributor to FAIR) has concurred stating "DNA of Lehi and his party has not been detected in modern Native American populations ".

Global warming indeed.

17 posted on 01/04/2011 4:36:39 PM PST by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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To: colorcountry; Colofornian; Elsie; FastCoyote; svcw; Zakeet; SkyPilot; rightazrain; ...
Epitome of futility Ping

mormon apologist

18 posted on 01/04/2011 4:40:56 PM PST by greyfoxx39 (("A Leftist assumption: Making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does.")
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To: Doc Savage

LDS morons? Wow, nice religious tolerance there buddy. You must be proud.

19 posted on 01/04/2011 4:53:03 PM PST by MissesBush
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To: Paragon Defender

Any word yet on the curse of Cain folks getting new DNA ???

You know that nice “white and delightsome” type...

20 posted on 01/04/2011 5:00:41 PM PST by Tennessee Nana
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