Book of Mormon DNA
The Book of Mormon vs. DNA
The Book of Mormon vs. DNA controversy is an issue that most critics believe completely undermines Mormon beliefs in the truthfulness of the book. The controversy stems from DNA studies of Native American peoples. Critics claim that such studies prove conclusively that there is no evidence of a Middle Eastern strand within the Native American gene pool. Book of Mormon DNA research
What does this claim have to do with the factuality of a religious text? Some background information will illuminate the subject and the reasons behind the debate.
The Book of Mormon is a religious record that was published in 1830 by Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -or the Mormon Church as it has been unofficially dubbed. The Book of Mormon professes a story which outlines three migrations from the Old World to the New, meaning they emigrated from the regions of the Middle East over to the American continent. One of the most prominent migrations found in the Book of Mormon begins with the family of a man named Lehi. It was about 600 B.C. when Lehi's group left Jerusalem and set sail for an unknown "promised land." Their ship landed somewhere in America, though the exact location is unknown.
Perhaps the controversy begins with an unofficial and individually assumed idea about the geographical location of the events portrayed in the Book of Mormon. Many Mormons and non-Mormons have read the book and assumed that no one else was on the American continent when Lehi and his company arrived; from this misconception it would be easy to assume Lehi and his wife were the parents of all human inhabitants in North and South America; it would also be possible to imagine that this group of people and their operations encompassed the whole of the western hemisphere. If these underlying assumptions were justifiable, then any ancient inhabitant of the Americas –as well as their descendents– should rightly have genetic tracings to the Middle Eastern world since Lehi and his company originated there. The fact that DNA testing of Native Americans points to Asian roots has caused many critics to declare without reservation that the the Book of Mormon has been proved false.
However, since the notion of Lehi's group being the only one to discover and populate the entire Western Hemisphere and to cover all of South, North, and Central America, is highly improbable, we must not assume that this is factual. According to experts, it is more probable that Lehi and his family were merely a limited addition to an extensive population that already existed in the Americas. It is believed, though not certain, that the Book of Mormon population was limited to Mesoamerica, ranging in the hundreds of miles, not thousands.
In light of these conclusions, it is important to know that the Book of Mormon was written to be a spiritual text, not a record of the geographical or demographical facts of the ancient American peoples. It is also important to note that the Book of Mormon covers a limited time period, from about 600 A.D. to 400 B.C. Understanding their location and the degree to which the Book of Mormon people populated the land is very difficult to surmise with any degree of certainty.
For more than fifty years, serious students of the Book of Mormon have read that book with an understanding of these limitations, though most Mormons merely read the book as the spiritual and doctrinal resource that it is, rather than extensively pondering the unspecific geographic implications of the prophetic writings.
There is nothing about the Book of Mormon that is undermined by DNA studies. It does not claim to stand in opposition of scientific theories that say most Native Americans derived from northeast Asia over the land bridge. It merely claims to be the writings of a few specifics groups of people who migrated and lived in the Western Hemisphere during a limited period of time. In order for DNA testing to have any hold on these assertions, it would be necessary to prove that never, at any point during the time period of 600 A.D. to 400 B.C. was there any group living in the Western Hemisphere who came from the Middle Eastern region. It would be nearly impossible to prove such a thing.
And so we are left where the Book of Mormon authors intended us to be –in a realm of faith. Mormons believe that the book was written by ancient prophets who recorded their faith and the words of the Lord. They, like the prophets in the Old and New Testament, were given revelations and instructions directly from God. Those things were recorded for the benefit and learning of future generations, that their descendents might believe in Jesus Christ as the living son of God and the Savior of the world. One Book of Mormon prophet writes, "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." 2 Nephi 25:26
Reading the Book of Mormon and asking God if it is true is the only way to really know. Any other attempt will yield uncertain results. If God is the author of the book, then humble seekers will receive a confirmation from Him that the book is true. Request a Free Book of Mormon, no obligations.
“Is there any conflict between science and religion?” There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men. -Henry Eyring
A Brief Review of Murphy and Southerton's "Galileo Event" by Kevin L. Barney
A Few Thoughts From a Believing DNA Scientist. John M. Butler. Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2003. Pp. 36–37
Detecting Lehi's Genetic Signature: Possible, Probable, or Not? Reviewed By: David A. McClellan. Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2003. Pp. 35â€“90
DNA and the Book of Mormon by David Stewart, M.D
Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations. Matthew Roper