Official LDS Essay on Book of Mormon and DNA Studies, Annotated

The following essay is the official LDS released essay entitled "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies." It was released by the church to help explain how the Book of Mormon's credibility is not harmed due to recent DNA evidence which concludes that the Native Americans are not the descendants of the Book of Mormon people, and to explain why the church's credibility is not harmed due to having such a strong stance that the Native Americans were indeed the direct descendants of the Book of Mormon people. In the below essay, all text in black is the unedited essay from the church essay, with our comments in blue. The essay below can be found on the LDS website here.

The annotated essay below is adapted from the following source, who continues to update the material for those who would like to read the original. You can view that by clicking here.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of Jaredites and Nephites arriving on the shores of a fresh new Promised Land that God had preserved solely for them and their descendants. Because of this critical part of the Book of Mormon, American Indians were considered the remnants of those people, and church leaders used to call them Lamanites.  That was in a time before archaeology, anthropology, genetics, linguistics, and biology revealed to us a view of the ancient Americas that bears little resemblance to what was believed in 19th century America, and what we read about in the Book of Mormon.

The origin of Native American peoples was still an intriguing mystery when the Book of Mormon was first published, an exciting topic of much intellectual and fireside discussion. Everyone had a theory, but most Americans -  scholars and laymen alike - held the widely accepted but racially biased misconception that the mounds and pyramids of the New World must have been built by a superior race of white people who had been annihilated by the dark-skinned “savages” that Columbus discovered when he arrived at the end of the 15th century.  These ideas did not originate with the Book of Mormon by any means - they were already the common misconception of frontier Americans when the Book of Mormon first made its appearance. With the benefit of hindsight we can now recognize that this was a blatantly racist notion; in the cultural milieu of the 19th century it was taken for granted that a dark-skinned people, devoid of European table manners, could never have produced such impressive works. This attitude provided convenient justification for the forced removal of the natives from their land by white colonists. After all, they were just taking back what was rightfully the property of ill-treated white people in the first place. Fortunately 20th and 21st century investigation has presented us with a much clearer picture of what really happened in the American continents before the advent of the European conquerors.

If you are making the effort to read this essay you probably already know at least a little about the problem it addresses, but just in case you don’t, here is a quick overview: The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and a long list of modern prophets all agree that the Native Americans alive today are the Lamanites spoken of in the Book of Mormon, but modern molecular biology clearly and unquestionably demonstrates that this is not the case; they are descended from Asians who migrated from Siberia many thousands of years before Book of Mormon times. Today the LDS church finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Do they continue to teach what the book itself says, or do they adopt a new, nuanced rewriting of the Book of Mormon narrative that is emerging from the minds of modern apologists in an attempt to make the book appear to fit the facts.

Balancing the story presented in the Book of Mormon with the stream of constantly emerging scientific evidence is becoming a very difficult task for the LDS church and a full time job for some of its apologists. Church leaders no longer answer the questions themselves and have turned the task over to scholars and apologists, who seek to find wiggle room to put doubt in the studies that have become so troublesome for the Book of Mormon. This essay is one such effort, and as you will see below, there is a reason they are written in an 'anonymous' setting. While the church has been more aggressive defending the first vision accounts or even King James errors in the Book of Mormon, this is one area where church apologists have to effectively deny science altogether because the implications of our current DNA knowledge about Native Americans completely undercuts the entire history of the Book of Mormon.

The LDS church differs from many other belief systems in its literalness. It puts forth testable claims about real world places and history and takes historical Bible events (the great flood, Tower of Babel) in the most literal terms. This is an exciting prospect, but when those claims are put to task and fail, the apologists are forced to redefine and cherry-pick both scripture and science to explain away these disappointing facts. The LDS apologists work to 'move the goalposts' once a claim is demonstrated to be false, and simply change the story or diminish the importance of it. This essay is a textbook example of that approach. But does the church officially support these apologetic tactics? This essay is published on LDS.org, the official church website, and the official church historian Steven E. Snow assures us that these Gospel Topic essays "have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles" (https://www.lds.org/topics/essays), so we must ask why none of them willing to attach their own names or ecclesiastical reputations to it. If there is any true faith in the words of the essay below from the writers, why not take authorship as well as a true signature of approval from the First Presidency?

Before you read what follows please ask yourself this question: if the church had a single piece of convincing evidence for the Book of Mormon wouldn’t every seminary manual focus on it? Wouldn't there be Ensign articles about it and visitor centers that prominently feature it? The problem is that the Book of Mormon makes specific, testable claims about the world of the Jaredites and Nephites, but when these claims are held up alongside the evidence and found to be inaccurate, the apologists, since they can’t change the evidence, attempt instead to change our expectations of what the book really meant. Many church leaders have addressed these problematic issues by shifting the Book of Mormon from a historical document to a spiritual one, but the reality is that if the Book of Mormon can be proven false between DNA, Book of Abraham issues, King James errors, etc, why is the LDS church worthy of its members when so many other churches can provide the same spiritual guidance without the extra doctrines that are based on now disproven scripture?


One final note before we proceed to the essay. The authors give a number of examples to convince you that this stuff is so complex that we should just throw up our hands in defeat, rather than expect any positive results from the studies, but that is a very calculated misdirection. Sadly, even their own examples argue against their conclusions, as we will detail below. Just to make this more clear, I will place a ! when those examples are presented. This essay is the longest of our annotated essays, but the reason is that the church is very careful to look for wiggle room, so it is important to highlight where they are being misleading and why. Considering these are scientific studies, there is a ton of research and explanation behind it. We will do our best to keep it as succinct as possible, but it is important to be thorough to paint a full picture instead of trying to quickly plow through these very important questions.

As President George Albert Smith said, “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, Page 216)

As with all of our material, please email us at ldsdiscussion@gmail.com if you have any issues with our comments or suggestions to add. And without further adieu...

Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that the Book of Mormon is a volume of sacred scripture comparable to the Bible. It contains a record of God’s dealings with three groups of people who migrated from the Near East or West Asia to the Americas hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans.1

Although the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical (This is a big admission right off the bat, as church leaders have long maintained the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical document. Just two paragraphs into the essay, they are already conceding that the historical aspects of the book are not as clear), some people have wondered whether the migrations it describes are compatible with scientific studies of ancient America. The discussion has centered on the field of population genetics and developments in DNA science. Some have contended that the migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon did not occur because the majority of DNA identified to date in modern native peoples most closely resembles that of eastern Asian populations.2 (This is an even bigger admission of this essay. The church is conceding that Native Americans did not originate in the Middle East, and as such they are not Lamanites. They came from Asia. This is also the exact opposite of what church leaders have said about an Asian origin for Native Americans. Spencer W. Kimball said, “They are NOT orientals. They are from the Near East… it is not impossible that there could have seeped across the Bering Strait a little oriental blood as claimed by some people, but basically these Lamanites, including the Indian ARE the descendants of Lehi, who left Jerusalem 600 years BC.” (BYU devotional, The Lamanite: Their Burden, Our Burden, February 6, 1967).  This new evidence puts the authenticity of the Book of Mormon in question as the entire origin of the characters in it is now incorrect. The Book of Mormon claims that a ship of Israelites arrived in the Americas to find an empty land, then multiplied to fill that land, broke into factions that grew into vast nations and eventually committed genocide (twice). Not once does it present a scene where any of its protagonists stumble upon vast numbers of Siberian immigrants already occupying the land, as this essay will now try to shift to in order to make the DNA problems work. Making room for this entirely separate and vastly larger population is a recent and dramatic reinvention of the Book of Mormon narrative that was not proposed until the Native Americans were scientifically demonstrated, through DNA sequencing and population genetics, to not be the Lamanites that the scriptures and prophets claimed they were. In making this admission the church has really opened many bigger questions that will now have to be patched. It not only requires a complete reinterpretation of the Book of Mormon that is contrary to what we were all taught, but it is also devastating to a literal belief in the Biblical timeline, the flood of Noah, and the Eden story, since the original inhabitants of the Americas arrived long before any of those.)

Basic principles of population genetics suggest the need for a more careful approach to the data. The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected. (It is inconceivable that the essay can make this claim. The Book of Mormon tells us exactly where the three founding groups came from, and in the case of the Lehites and Mulekites, we have a very precise date and a specific city or origin.) For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon. (Half of this statement is true. DNA studies certainly don’t affirm the Book of Mormon’s authenticity claims, but they absolutely can and do refute them. Otherwise, this essay would never have been written as an attempt to explain why it is not a big deal that the claims that were made in the Book of Mormon are simply untrue.)

 

The Ancestors of the American Indians

The evidence assembled to date suggests that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA.3 Scientists theorize that in an era that predated Book of Mormon accounts, a relatively small group of people migrated from northeast Asia to the Americas by way of a land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska.4 (This is another significant admission in the essay. Notice it says “scientists theorize” and not “the scriptures tell us,” because the actual scientific discoveries do not align with the stories told in either the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The DNA of an Ancient Alaskan infant called Xach'itee'aanenh t'eede gaay (Sunrise child-girl) tells us that the first Americans arrived at least 20,000 years ago, which is 14,000 years before the biblical fall of Adam and Eve (UAF News and Information, Jan 3, 2018). While carbon dating is not a perfect science, most agree that the differences would only be off by 15-20% maximum, meaning that 20,000 years could be anywhere between 16,000-24,000... both long before the LDS theology that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.) These people, scientists say, spread rapidly to fill North and South America and were likely the primary ancestors of modern American Indians.5  (Another specific example is a teenage girl known as Naia whose skeleton, along with 8 others, was found preserved underwater in a cave on the Yucatan peninsula. Collagen from her bones was securely dated to ~13000 years ago. Her DNA has been sequenced and it is fully Native American, directly ancestral to modern Native Americans and descended from Sunrise child-girl’s people. (Science,16 May, 2014).  Naia’s dating and genetic makeup is also consistent with the recent discovery in Montana of the remains of a 12,700 year old boy known as the Anzick Child. (Science, Feb. 12, 2014))

The Book of Mormon provides little direct information about cultural contact between the peoples it describes and others who may have lived nearby (Actually there is no mention of any such contact in the Book of Mormon, but why would there be? The ancient authors of the Book of Mormon, without some 'between-the-lines' modern apologetic editing, don’t seem to be aware of any “others” in the lands.) Consequently, most early Latter-day Saints assumed that Near Easterners or West Asians like Jared, Lehi, Mulek, and their companions were the first or the largest or even the only groups to settle the Americas. Building upon this assumption, critics insist that the Book of Mormon does not allow for the presence of other large populations in the Americas and that, therefore, Near Eastern DNA should be easily identifiable among modern native groups.

It is fascinating that they use the word “critics” here. They are not talking about critics of the Book of Mormon, they are talking about people who may not buy into the claims of this essay; they are talking about the vast majority of members and leaders of the church. You may be surprised to find yourself among those who this essay disparages as critics. And how do people get such critical ideas? Because they believe what the Book of Mormon actually says, and what Joseph Smith and every prophet since him has said. Based on the Book of Mormon, Nephi himself would probably be as surprised as anyone by this talk of the Promised Land being already overrun by other people when he arrived. God also seems to be unaware that he was sending his chosen people to a place that was already populated by previous settlers. He told Nephi, “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance...and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves” (2 Nephi 1:8,9). He told the Jaredites that he would send them to “that quarter where there never had man been,” to a land of promise “reserved for a righteous people.” (Ether 2:5-7) In Helaman we read: “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” (Helaman 3:8) Does this sound to you like they were merely filling small gaps among the occupants of a land that was already densely populated? No, they were explicitly told by God that the land was not already overrun by “others," and there was never any discussion otherwise until these DNA studies completely discredited the premise of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied (Except for the verses we just noted above. There are a lot of things the Book of Mormon doesn’t talk about, but that doesn't mean we can just assume them when there's a need to explain historical errors in the book - especially changes as large as introducing large numbers of people that were never once mentioned and go against the verses we do have that talk about it.) In fact, cultural and demographic clues in its text hint at the presence of other groups.6 At the April 1929 general conference, President Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency cautioned: “We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them [the peoples it describes]. It does not tell us that people did not come after.”7

 

Ivins was a lawyer who gives no evidence of his assertion, although he did have enough experience with Indian affairs that he was probably starting to realize that the Book of Mormon has some serious problems. This was after archaeologist Ciril Thomas had proven that it really was Native Americans who built the eastern mound complexes. Apparently, the best evidence this essay can provide is the suggestion that the Book of Mormon “hints” about the fact that the land was already teeming with people when the Book of Mormon settlers arrived. The “hints” mostly consist of things like bad math that allows the Lehite populations to grow too fast, and the appearance of both the words Lamanite and Lamanitish, which apologists try to capitalize on being evidence for another society altogether. In other words, very weak evidence that was never used until it become expedient to do so.

It's almost impossible to imagine that the Lehites would fail to mention that they landed in a heavily populated land, densely settled by existing chiefdoms and empires. By the time of the Nephite/Lamanite final war the Maya civilization had completely occupied the entire area that modern LDS apologists claim to be Book of Mormon lands and, having filled the land (recent estimates put the Maya at around 10-15 million), they continued to intensify their agriculture to feed the dense population, which reached its peak centuries after the final Book of Mormon war with its supposed hundreds of thousands of combatants. Somehow the Maya were completely unaware of  this great Nephite/Lamanite epic that was playing out right alongside them. The Maya were also unaware that the land had been destroyed by earthquakes, the cities dumped into the sea and covered up by falling mountains, and that Jesus had paid them a visit after three days of darkness. It is important to note that the Mayans had a written language which was deciphered long after the Book of Mormon was published, so we now have actual details of lives and events of people who occupied the land during the time of the Book of Mormon narrative, and they fail to mention any of these things. Occam's Razor tells you that the most obvious reason for this is that the Book of Mormon people did not exist as the Book of Mormon (and the prophets from Joseph Smith until now) tells us, and the DNA is further proof of this.

If the land was already massively populated by other people during Book of Mormon times why would Nephite explorers have made such a big deal of finding the remains of the Jaredite nation, or the isolated city of Zarahemla with its Mulekite inhabitants? It certainly sounds like the Nephites were under the impression that the only people in the land were the ones that the Book of Mormon claims arrived, like themselves, from the Old World. That impression is made quite clear by the verses we outlined above, which make it quite clear that the lands were being preserved solely for them and no one else.

But let’s consider the things the Nephi said he did find in his new home. 1 Nephi 18: 25 says “And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men.” We have lots of anachronisms throughout the Book of Mormon when it comes to animals, plants, metals, etc... but NO mention of people. Could Nephi have been such a detailed observer of the animals he found in his new home while totally failing to notice, or think it worth mentioning, that there were swarms of people with their cities, cultures, militaries and agriculture?  For some perspective on this let’s consider the Bible. The Children of Israel entered the Promised Land to find it already populated in exactly the way that this essay claims the Americas were already populated when the Lehites arrived. Imagine how different the Bible would be if its authors had failed to notice the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, Amalekites, Persians, Romans, Egyptians...

It needs to be mentioned that none of the animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon existed in the precolumbian Americas either; all of the taxa mentioned were Old World domesticates that did not appear on American soil until the European conquerors brought them more than a millennium after Book of Mormon times. Nephi also completely fails to mention any of the animals that he would have actually encountered in the Americas. In addition, the Book of Mormon tells us that the Nephites had wheat, barley and other Old World crops, things never existed in ancient America. There is overwhelming evidence that the current New World flora can be traced back uninterrupted to Pleistocene times -they left their pollen on the floors of lakes and ponds - while there are absolutely no traces of the animals and crops mentioned in the Book of Mormon. If these Nephite plants and animals existed they somehow managed to do so without leaving any evidence of their existence: no descendants, no DNA, no bones, no pollen, seeds, starches or phytoliths, etc, while the actual native American flora and fauna did leave all of those things. All of these species mentioned in the Book of Mormon would have had to vanish just as mysteriously as the Nephite/Lamanite DNA, while their New World counterparts continued to deposit abundant evidence of their existence, just as they did with native human DNA, continuously across the entire timeline. The only domesticable animals in the New World at the time of the Book of Mormon were dogs and, in some locations, turkeys and the occasional duck, plus llamas and alpacas in South America, which is outside of any modern theory of Book of Mormon geography. The presence of large domesticable animals like cattle, sheep, horses and pigs, which the Book of Mormon tells us “were for the use of men” would have entirely revolutionized the agriculture and economy of the New World. Even if the Lehites did manage to die off without a trace, their neighbors would certainly have made extensive use of these extremely valuable domesticates, just as they did once they were actually introduced to the New World centuries later by European colonists. And they would have represented them in their art and mentioned them in their writing, as they did the many animals and plants that actually did inhabit their environment. As we've been saying through the church essays, Occam's Razor would tell you that the most obvious answer is that the Book of Mormon was written by someone who incorporated the things around them that they know, but unfortunately not things that exists at the time.

Joseph Smith appears to have been open to the idea of migrations other than those described in the Book of Mormon,8 ! (The author is either confused here or is trying to confuse us. This endnote cites a Times and Seasons article (which was written or edited by Joseph Smith) that includes excerpts from the 1842 printing of John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America, and proclaims, “it will be seen that the proof of the Nephites and Lamanites dwelling on this continent, according to the account in the Book of Mormon, is developing itself in a more satisfactory way than the most sanguine believer in that revelation could have anticipated.” So the cited source is NOT saying, as the essay authors claim, that Joseph Smith recognized those ruins as built by “others.” It is saying the exact opposite, that they were built by Lamanites and Nephites. Even the most sanguine BYU archaeologist today will tell you that the described ruins are purely Mayan, without any possibility of connection to the Book of Mormon. In fact, the ruins specifically referred to in the Times and Seasons article (i.e. Palenque & Copan), were built too late for the Book of Mormon timeline. The article appears to give Nephi direct credit for the creation of Palenque, which did not exist until 300 years after Nephi’s time and reached its peak some 400 years after the demise of the Nephites. Construction of Copan did not even begin until centuries after the time of Mormon and Moroni) and many Latter-day Saint leaders and scholars over the past century have found the Book of Mormon account to be fully consistent with the presence of other established populations.9 (Is it supposed to add credibility to the essay that many LDS leaders and scholars are satisfied with these claims? Would people find credibility if the Trump administration only put out their spokespeople or experts? Or any other controversial group like FLDS, Scientology, etc? The endnote directs us to an article that was written by a church employed Book of Mormon apologist and published by BYU that contains the opinions of Mormon leaders, but why can’t they produce a single non-LDS archaeologist or scholar who will agree? It is also interesting that LDS archaeologists are extremely careful to never mention anything about the Book of Mormon in their professional publications precisely because it does not stand up to the scientific rigor of the excellent work they do.) The 2006 update to the introduction of the Book of Mormon reflects this understanding by stating that Book of Mormon peoples were “among the ancestors of the American Indians.”10 (And why did they change the introduction to the Book of Mormon? Because DNA evidence shatters the claim the previous version that the Native Americans are the “principal” ancestors of the Lamanites. In other words, they were forced by undeniable evidence to change the Book of Mormon’s own description of itself. This is the very definition of moving the goalposts, except in this case it is moving the goalposts of what we are told is the word of God. This is also why kids no longer sing Book of Mormon Stories in Primary.) Nothing is known about the extent of intermarriage and genetic mixing between Book of Mormon peoples or their descendants and other inhabitants of the Americas (This idea is an example of leading the witness! Nothing is known about this intermixing with “others” for exactly the same reason that nothing is known about genetic mixing between Book of Mormon peoples and any type of person in any way; because they are nowhere to be found in the actual text of the Book of Mormon. Again, if there were other large groups of people, they would have been there. If there were large groups of people already there, God would not have told them they were going to a land where men had never been), though some mixing appears evident, even during the period covered by the book’s text.11 (This endnote refers to an article by LDS apologist John Sorenson who makes unsupported and unsupportable non-scientific claims of his opinion about this supposed mixing, which can only be found by imaginatively reading between the lines and trying to reinvent the Book of Mormon.) What seems clear is that the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples likely represented only a fraction of all DNA in ancient America. Finding and clearly identifying their DNA today may be asking more of the science of population genetics than it is capable of providing. (One of the fundamental tenets of apologetic argument: Science is strong and reliable when it supports your claims, but unreliable and weak when it doesn’t. The truth is that the DNA story is consistent across the American continents from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego, and even the Book of Mormon prophets themselves do not seem to believe this idea that they were only a tiny fraction of the people in the land they inhabited.)

    We should consider what Joseph Smith said about the peopling of the Americas and the identity of the American Indians in his description of the Book of Mormon: “In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.” (The Wentworth Letter, Ensign, July, 2002). There is absolutely no wiggle room here, and the DNA studies and admissions in the essay make it clear that these words are simply not true.

    The idea of other people already inhabiting the Americas before the arrival of the Book of Mormon peoples simply is not possible in terms of what the Book of Mormon says about itself and what the prophets have said about it, something that was summarized succinctly by Apostle Mark E. Petersen as a self-evident fact: “If there had been large numbers of other peoples here when the Jaredites came, or when Lehi arrived, certainly the Book of Mormon would have said so. The land was reserved for the Lord’s purposes and for His peoples, and the Book of Mormon provides their histories.” (Children of Promise, Bookcraft, 1981).

Understanding the Genetic Evidence

A brief review of the basic principles of genetics will help explain how scientists use DNA to study ancient populations. It will also highlight the difficulty of drawing conclusions about the Book of Mormon from the study of genetics.

The following portion of the essay is well written and informative, but it needs to be pointed out now that it does not provide a single shred of evidence that supports the Book of Mormon. The majority of this essay constitutes a primer on population genetics for the purpose of presenting a number of possibilities for the nonexistence of DNA evidence to support the Book of Mormon. It is an attempt to deter members who might be considering the devastating implications of the actual evidence, and to downplay the significance of the scientific discoveries regarding the peopling of the Americas. It can not be emphasized strongly that the simple fact remains that all DNA evidence to date suggests that there never were Middle Easterners in the Americas during Book of Mormon times.

We do not claim to be geneticists, but neither are we trying to discount the science to make it fit personal beliefs. In addition, listening to geneticists who have read the essay have provided a lot of insight into just how dishonest this essay is. All we ask is that everyone please do their own research before accepting the claims of either the LDS essay or our rebuttals - this includes research from both LDS and non-LDS sources.

 

DNA—the set of instructions for building and sustaining life—is found in the nucleus of almost every human cell. It is organized in 46 units called chromosomes—23 received from each parent. These chromosomes contain about 3.2 billion instructions. Any two individuals share approximately 99.9% of their genetic arrangement, but the thousands of small differences account for the tremendous variation between people.

Genetic variations are introduced through what geneticists call random mutation. Mutations are errors that occur as DNA is copied during the formation of reproductive cells. These mutations accumulate over time as they are passed from generation to generation, resulting in unique genetic profiles (more specifically,evolution). The inheritance pattern of the first 22 pairs of chromosomes (called autosomes) is characterized by continuous shuffling: half of the DNA from both the father and the mother recombine to form the DNA of their children. The 23rd pair of chromosomes determines the gender of a child (XY for a male, XX for a female). Because only males have the Y chromosome, a son inherits this chromosome mostly intact from his father.

Human cells also have DNA in a series of cell components called the mitochondria. Mitochondrial DNA is relatively small—containing approximately 17,000 instructions—and is inherited largely intact from the mother. A mother’s mitochondrial DNA is passed to all of her children, but only her daughters will pass their mitochondrial DNA to the next generation.

Mitochondrial DNA was the first type of DNA to be sequenced and was thus the first that geneticists used to study populations. As technology has improved, analysis of autosomal DNA has allowed geneticists to conduct sophisticated studies involving combinations of multiple genetic markers. (Current autosomal analysis provides an amazing level of detail by making over 700,000 genetic comparisons! It is great for finding needles in haystacks. More importantly, autosomal DNA does not merely trace the maternal or paternal line of the individual, as do Y and mDNA, but contains DNA segments inherited from many thousands of ancestors, and so provides a record that is much more robust against lineage loss, and presents a much broader and clearer picture of ancestry. (David J. Metzer, Antiquity, 89: 348)

 

Population geneticists attempt to reconstruct the origins, migrations, and relationships of populations using modern and ancient DNA samples. Examining available data, scientists have identified combinations of mutations that are distinctive of populations in different regions of the world. Unique mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome profiles are called haplogroups.12 Scientists designate these haplogroups with letters of the alphabet.13

At the present time, scientific consensus holds that the vast majority of Native Americans belong to sub-branches of the Y-chromosome haplogroups C and Q14 and the mitochondrial DNA haplogroups A, B, C, D, and X, all of which are predominantly East Asian.15 (this endnote merely confirms that Native Americans arrived from Siberia and populated the New World long before Book of Mormon times) But the picture is not entirely clear. Continuing studies provide new insights, and some challenge previous conclusions. (by “some” they mean Book of Mormon believing LDS scholars, and more specifically, Ugo Perego and Michael Whiting. Again, there are no non-LDS scholars that have any disagreement with the DNA studies that show the LDS/Book of Mormon narrative is incorrect). For example, a 2013 study states that as much as one-third of Native American DNA originated anciently in Europe or West Asia and was likely introduced into the gene pool before the earliest migration to the Americas.16 This study paints a more complex picture than is suggested by the prevailing opinion that all Native American DNA is essentially East Asian. (The key words here are “before the earliest migration to the Americas,” which happened many thousands of years before Book of Mormon times. The ancient European/West Asian genetic source came from people who appear to have migrated from western Eurasia along the northern route that led them through Siberia and eventually to North America. Full disclosure would have revealed that this same DNA is shared with ancient Siberians, and that much of this DNA is also shared with all humans, regardless of where they live. Again, this example is used to make you think the science is too complex to be useful but at the same time you should feel reassured that there really is Western Eurasian DNA in the Americas. But it really just adds another brick to the problem rather than helping to explain it away.) While Near Eastern DNA markers do exist in the DNA of modern native populations, it is difficult to determine whether they are the result of migrations that predated Columbus, such as those described in the Book of Mormon, or whether they stem from genetic mixing that occurred after the European conquest (Native American DNA is 99.6% Asian. The remaining .4% has been determined to be Spanish and African post-colonization admixture (Simon Southerton, Mormon Stories Podcast, episode 571). This is due in part to the fact that the “molecular clock” used by scientists to date the appearance of genetic markers is not always accurate enough to pinpoint the timing of migrations that occurred as recently as a few hundred or even a few thousand years ago.17  (This footnote refers to a paper by LDS geneticist Dr. Ugo Perego whose work was significant in dating the early arrivals from Asia. It would be very disappointing if Dr. Perego is one of the authors of this essay and he allowed this half-explanation to make it into the final draft. The reality is that the perturbations in the “molecular clock” are quite well understood and dating results are carefully calibrated accordingly.) Scientists do not rule out the possibility of additional, small-scale migrations to the Americas.18 ! (Once again, this is blatantly misleading! This endnote refers to the remains of the 24,000 year old Mal’ta boy in Siberia, whose DNA indicates that not only was he ancestral to Native Americans, but that his ancestors have roots in the Near East. This is actually evidence against the Book of Mormon as it dates the Western Eurasian DNA in question to 20,000 years before Book of Mormon times, so it could not possibly have come from Jaredites or Lehites) For example, a 2010 genetic analysis of a well-preserved 4,000-year-old Paleo-Eskimo in Greenland led scientists to hypothesize that a group of people besides those from East Asia had migrated to the Americas.19 ! (And this is a great attestation of the power of population genetics! This Paleo-Eskimo individual dates to Jaredite times but his DNA leaves no mystery about where he came from. What would be amazing, in contrast, would be if we had a Mesoamerican skeleton from Jaredite times with DNA of Middle Eastern origin. But as this essay makes perrfectly clear, there is no history of that. This example (again) completely throws the assertions of this essay out the window. It is puzzling as to why they would include it.) Commenting on this study, population geneticist Marcus Feldman of Stanford University said: “Models that suggest a single one-time migration are generally regarded as idealized systems. … There may have been small amounts of migrations going on for millennia.”20 (Marcus Feldman was speaking specifically about Eskimo/Inuit migrations, which can be clearly seen in the DNA of their remains. Again, this is the opposite of what this essay claims about Book of Mormon peoples from the same time period.)

 

There actually is one excellent example of a non-Asian migration to America, the L’anse Aux Meadows Viking settlement in Nova Scotia. A handful of Norsemen, probably about the size of Lehi’s family, briefly visited North America, but unlike the proposed millions of Book of Mormon peoples, this tiny handful of Vikings left abundant and unquestionable evidence of their visit. The colony reached a population of no more than 100 people living in eight longhouses and left us many clues about who they were and how they lived. Compare this to zero definitive evidence of all of the Book of Mormon populations combined. We can even see where these Viking settlers built a forge and made a few hundred nails to repair their ships, all of which left ample evidence of their metallurgical activities. We must ask ourselves why the Book of Mormon metalsmiths, who (we are told) made countless thousands of swords and armor pieces for vast armies of Nephites and Jaredites, left no trace of their activities (you may be thinking about apologetic claims that “steel” actually referred to obsidian microblades, but that’s not what the book actually says, it says they had steel and many other metals that are not present in the actual archaeological record). The apologetic claim that such evidence would have entirely vanished through decay is absolutely unsupportable in light of the Viking discoveries and other well preserved antiquities like the recent discovery of 7000-year old sharpened wooden stakes in Florida (National Geographic News, Feb. 28, 2018). The conjecture that ancient weapons simply disappear is also contradicted by the claim that Laban’s sword remained intact until the 19th century. Also of note, DNA from rodent remains at the L’anse Aux Meadows site tell us that Norse rats stowed away on the Viking ships. Again, how is it possible to find evidence from the smallest of places and yet none from the battles that numbered in the hundreds of thousands?

The Founder Effect

One reason it is difficult to use DNA evidence to draw definite conclusions about Book of Mormon peoples is that nothing is known about the DNA that Lehi, Sariah, Ishmael, and others brought to the Americas. Even if geneticists had a database of the DNA that now exists among all modern American Indian groups, it would be impossible to know exactly what to search for. It is possible that each member of the emigrating parties described in the Book of Mormon had DNA typical of the Near East, but it is likewise possible that some of them carried DNA more typical of other regions. In this case, their descendants might inherit a genetic profile that would be unexpected given their family’s place of origin. (But we would still see the DNA from those origins in their descendants) This phenomenon is called the founder effect.

The Book of Mormon clearly tells us that Lehi’s family were Israelites from Jerusalem. Are they now asking us to consider that the Lehites might have actually been the descendants of Siberians who had relocated temporarily to Jerusalem before they built a ship and came to America? An article on LDS.org titled "Who and Where are the Lamanites?" explains: “In this composite group is the blood of Israel, for we know that Lehi was of the tribe of Manasseh (see Alma 10:3), that Ishmael was of Ephraim (see JD 3:184), and that Mulek was of Judah, being a descendant of King David through Zedekiah.” (Who and Where Were the Lamanites?, Ensign,1975)

The author of this essay is trying to deflect and sidetrack the main problems with concerns that we don’t have DNA from any individuals from Nephi’s boat, but this is not a criminal case where we need to match down to a specific person. We are not using DNA profiling to identify individuals, we are looking at population genetics. If we believe the Book of Mormon’s account of its own origins, we know that one of the Book of Mormon founders, Mulek, was the son of King Zedekiah of Jerusalem, a lineage that is well known. What more could you ask for?  Joseph Smith told us that, “They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph.” (The Wentworth Letter, Ensign, July, 2002). We also know that one of the reasons Lehi needed the Brass Plates was that they contained his genealogy, and the Book of Mormon tells us that he was a descendant of Joseph, so the idea that there could be unusual, foreign DNA here is simply a distraction to find wiggle room.

The real power of population genetics is in determining the origins of groups of people and their migrations, not who they were as individuals. You may not know anything about who your ancestors were and where they lived 2000 years ago, but if you send a cheek swab and $99 to 23AndMe.com they will tell you the areas where your ancestors came from. It’s just that easy these days. They don’t need to know who your great-great-great grandfather was. They can even tell you what percentage of your genome came from Neanderthals (likely 1 to 3%). In the same way, we can tell quite accurately where Native Americans came from. If we just take the Book of Mormon at its word about the peopling of the New World, and the Doctrine and Covenants’ identification of North American Indians as Lamanites, we then shouldn’t have to look beyond the DNA of the nearest Native American to find Israelites.

Consider the case of Dr. Ugo A. Perego, a Latter-day Saint population geneticist. His genealogy confirms that he is a multigeneration Italian, but the DNA of his paternal genetic lineage is from a branch of the Asian/Native American haplogroup C. This likely means that, somewhere along the line, a migratory event from Asia to Europe led to the introduction of DNA atypical of Perego’s place of origin.21 If Perego and his family were to colonize an isolated landmass, future geneticists conducting a study of his descendants’ Y chromosomes might conclude that the original settlers of that landmass were from Asia rather than Italy. ! (Except that they would also see the Italian component of his DNA, but once again this is the exact opposite of what this essay is claiming about Book of Mormon peoples. It turns out that Dr. Perego really does have Asian markers in his paternal line, even though his ancestors arrived in Italy many generations ago. Dr. Perego was originally laboring under a misconception about his own origins until genetic testing provided the fuller picture. He didn’t need a tissue sample from a distant ancestor to answer the question for him. Why is it that he trusts the science in his own case, and has changed his mind about his ancestry accordingly, but doesn’t allow us the same option with the Book of Mormon?  His previous belief has been shown to be false and he now accepts the new scientific evidence. But what if Dr. Perego instead insisted that his paternal ancestors were Middle Eastern, even though his DNA said they were Asian/Native American? Who should we believe? We must follow the evidence consistently, just as Dr. Perego did for his own genetic ancestry, and not allow a special exception for the Book of Mormon. This essay is designed to create any doubt about DNA and science because the evidence undermines the entire premise of the Book of Mormon.) This hypothetical story shows that conclusions about the genetics of a population must be informed by a clear understanding of the DNA of the population’s founders. (That's exactly right, and it underscores the fact that DNA can clarify who founded a population despite personal or institutional wishful thinking) In the case of the Book of Mormon, clear information of that kind is unavailable. (It’s abundantly available, but because it completly contradicsts the crediblity of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, it can not be accepted by this essay.)

It needs to be pointed out again that the authors of this essay have a much bigger problem before them than just convincing members that the Native Americans are not the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon. They must also convince the scriptures as welll because they all think the American Indians really are Lamanites, and the purpose of the Book of Mormon is converting the remnant of Lehi’s children. The book’s title page tells us that it is “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel.”  Are we to now believe the book was created by God specifically for people who this essay tells us have become extinct before they had the opportunity to receive it?

Here are a few places in the Doctrine and Covenants where God apparently mistakes the American Indians for Lamanites. This is a mistake we all made because it’s what we were actively taught right up to the time DNA studies made it unsustainable to teach:

-D&C 54:8  And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites.

-D&C 49:24 But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.

-D&C 28:14 And thou shalt assist to settle all these things, according to the covenants of the church, before thou shalt take thy journey among the Lamanites.

-D&C 19:27 Which is my word to the Gentile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of whom the Lamanites are a remnant, that they may believe the gospel, and look not for a Messiah to come who has already come.

 

-D&C 30:6 ...for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites.

 

-D&C 28:9 ...and no man knoweth where the city of Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites.

-D&C 32:2 ...he shall go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites.

-D&C 3:18  And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindle in unbelief because of the iniquity of their fathers…

-D&C 28:8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them;

 

Where exactly are these Lamanites to whom we are commanded to take the gospel?  Either the DNA is completely wrong here, which the essay does not dispute even as they try to create wiggle room, or the revelations in D&C as outlined above are not true. Again, Occam's Razor would tell us the most simple explanation is that the Book of Mormon and D&C are incorrect.

In addition to God’s own voice in the D&C, we have the statements of modern prophets, seers and revelators. President Gordon B. Hinkley confirmed the identity of the native people of the Americas as Lamanites in his dedication of the Ciudad Juarez Temple when he said, “May the sons and daughters of Father Lehi grow in strength and fulfillment of the ancient promises made concerning them,” (LDS Church News, 13 Mar, 1999) as did Elder James E. Faust when he dedicated the Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico temple: “We invoke thy blessings upon this nation of Mexico where so many of the sons and daughters of Father Lehi dwell” (LDS Church News, 18 Mar. 2000). President Thomas S. Monson referred to attendees at the Villahermosa, Mexico temple dedication as “children of Lehi” (LDS Church News, 27 May 2000) and President Hinkley said of the members attending the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple that they “have the blood of Lehi in their veins.” (LDS Church News 7 Aug 1999).

President Kimball spearheaded the Indian Placement Program with the intention that the Lamanites among us could have their curse removed and once again become, as he put it, “white and delightsome.” Of this program he said, “The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome...The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.” (The Improvement Era, December 1960, 922-23)

All of this gets even more complicated when you factor in the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, who prophets and apostles have also claimed to be the descendents of Lehi by way of Hagoth, the Book of Mormon’s ambitious ship builder. This is confirmed by many statements such as the dedicatory prayer for the New Zealand temple given by President David O. McKay: “We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide descendents of Father Lehi.” This opens an entirely different can of DNA worms, one that throws the thesis of this essay entirely out the window. Official church manuals have consistently taught that the native peoples of the Americas and the Pacific Islands are Lamanites: “Great numbers of Lamanites in North and South America and the South Pacific are now receiving the blessings of the gospel” (Gospel Principles 1997, 268). To lump the Polynesians and Native Americans into a single lineage completely destroys any attempts of this essay to explain away the specific DNA problems concerning the Native Americans. The DNA of the Pacific Islanders tells us that they come from a different part of Asia than the American Indians (Nature, 03 October 2016). Additionally, the islands specifically identified by modern prophets and apostles as being populated by Hagoth and his descendants were actually settled long AFTER Book of Mormon times.  Humans made their debut in New Zealand in the 14th century AD, that’s 800 years after Moroni buried the gold plates. We must not assume that this is merely an error of misguided church manual writers. It is established doctrine. Brigham Young first said, “Those islanders and the natives of this country (United States) are of the House of Israel, of the seed of Abraham,” (Journals of Religious History 8:90-104) and many other leaders reiterated this idea. Again, we have the scriptures and every prophet/leader who claimed that the Lamanites were the Native Americans. Now we know that is not the case. This essay wants to portray that as no big deal, but it completely undermines the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God.

 

Population Bottleneck and Genetic Drift

The difficulties do not end with the founder effect. Even if it were known with a high degree of certainty that the emigrants described in the Book of Mormon had what might be considered typically Near Eastern DNA, it is quite possible that their DNA markers did not survive the intervening centuries. Principles well known to scientists, including population bottleneck and genetic drift, often lead to the loss of genetic markers or make those markers nearly impossible to detect.

Population Bottleneck

Population bottleneck is the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a natural disaster, epidemic disease, massive war, or other calamity results in the death of a substantial part of a population. These events may severely reduce or totally eliminate certain genetic profiles. In such cases, a population may regain genetic diversity over time through mutation, but much of the diversity that previously existed is irretrievably lost.

Due to a dramatic reduction in population, some genetic profiles (represented here by the yellow, orange, green, and purple circles), are lost. Subsequent generations inherit only the DNA of the survivors. ! (This is an interesting argument because the arrival of the first Americans across Beringia is a textbook example of a genetic bottleneck. It is commonly accepted that a small group of people either passed through a briefly open corridor between ice sheets or followed a coastal route, and then spread rapidly throughout the Americas over a period of about 2,000 years, where they continued to flourish until the arrival of European conquerors. If a bottleneck is such a dire problem their DNA should be a complete mystery because of genetic mutations in the intervening millennia, yet we are still able to easily trace their genetic lineage directly back to Siberia and to that Mal’ta skeleton from 24,000 years ago, despite the founder effect, despite the bottleneck, and despite a timescale that is vastly deeper than that of the Book of Mormon. If the consequences of bottleneck and founder effect are so dire, the greatest mystery in science today would be where any of the people of the Americas come from. But it’s not a mystery. Yes, some mutations cause the loss of some individual genetic base pairs, specifically those that don’t contribute to the survival of the organism, but the vast majority of the genetic material is passed on from generation to generation)

In addition to the catastrophic war at the end of the Book of Mormon (which left the Lamanites alive and able to replenish the Americas, remember), the European conquest of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries touched off just such a cataclysmic chain of events (which still left a huge genetic sample from all corners of the Americas). As a result of war and the spread of disease, many Native American groups experienced devastating population losses.22 One molecular anthropologist observed that the conquest “squeezed the entire Amerindian population through a genetic bottleneck.” He concluded, “This population reduction has forever altered the genetics of the surviving groups, thus complicating any attempts at reconstructing the pre-Columbian genetic structure of most New World groups.”23 (The author quoted here is the oft-mentioned LDS geneticist Ugo Perego, likely a contributor to this essay.)

Yes, the genetic pressure on the ancient Americans did alter their genetic structure, but in a measurable and understandable way. Are we expected to believe that European diseases and warfare specifically and exclusively “squeezed” out only the Nephite, Lamanite, Jaredite and Mulekite elements while leaving ample evidence, many thousands of years older, of only the non-Book-of-Mormon lineages?  That is a majestic leap of logic.

Additionally, DNA has been sequenced from ancient archaeological remains of many individuals predating these wars, including the 8500-year old Kennewick Man* from the American Northwest and some 12,000 - 13,000-year old individuals from Montana and the Yucatan, as well as people from Book of Mormon times. It turns out that they present a unified picture of a continuous presence of Siberian-descended ancient peoples throughout the Americas right up to modern times with no hint of Middle Eastern intrusion.  If that’s not enough, we can still measure the amount of Neanderthal DNA in Native Americans from over 40,000 years ago. That tells us a lot about just how persistent DNA is and how difficult it is for the DNA to erase the lineage of large groups of people.

 

*I don’t want to move too far off-topic but I should mention the other significance of Kennewick Man. The Heartland movement of Book of Mormon geography claims that the discovery of the Western Eurasian haplogroup X in modern North American Natives is conclusive evidence of the Book of Mormon, but the people making these claims need to be frequently reminded that Kennewick Man’s genome also contains haplogroup X, and that he died thousands of years before the Book of Mormon. (Nature, 23 July 2015: 523)

 

Genetic Drift

Genetic drift is the gradual loss of genetic markers in small populations due to random events. A simple illustration is often used to teach this concept:

Fill a jar with 20 marbles—10 red, 10 blue. The jar represents a population, and the marbles represent people with different genetic profiles. Draw a marble at random from this population, record its color, and place it back in the jar. Each draw represents the birth of a child. Draw 20 times to simulate a new generation within the population. The second generation could have an equal number of each color, but more likely it will have an uneven number of the two colors.

Before you draw a third generation, adjust the proportion of each color in the jar to reflect the new mix of genetic profiles in the gene pool. As you continue drawing, the now-uneven mix will lead to ever more frequent draws of the dominant color. Over several generations, this “drift” toward one color will almost certainly result in the disappearance of the other color.

This exercise illustrates the inheritance pattern of genetic material over the course of several generations and shows how drift can result in the loss of genetic profiles. The effect of drift is especially pronounced in small, isolated populations or in cases where a small group carrying a distinct genetic profile intermingles with a much larger population of a different lineage. (We were just told that the Book of Mormon peoples were small segregated groups that were killed off by catastrophe, but now they’re telling you the opposite, that they were intermingled out of existence. That's another deceptive theory in these LDS essays to try to find wiggle room to explain away big problems.)

 

The problem here, of course, is that this is a deceptively oversimplified illustration. It is fairly easy to imagine how ten marbles can be removed from a jar of 20 by random extraction, in fact I tried this experiment and here’s what I learned. Assuming each time you draw out a marble from the jar counts as one generation, it takes about 25-50 generations to eliminate the red marbles. That seems to support their case, right? But what if you double the number of marbles? If you use 20 of each color it turns out that it doesn’t take twice as many generations but four times as many. It appears to increase geometrically. It turns out that this marble illustration is a grotesquely simplified cartoon of the real problem, because the human genome contains not 20 base pairs, but 30 BILLION! Imagine doing this experiment with a jar the size of Texas that contains 30 billion marbles, and you are only allowed to take one out every generation. After a few centuries you would see that you have made little headway toward removing more marbles of either color, and this assumes there are no red marble-people contributing at all, only blue-marble people. The odds of this illustration working on that scale are astronomical to the point that it simply could not happen in anything like the time frame we’re talking about. One geneticist described this scenario as being as likely as “throwing a pizza against a wall and having it emerge intact on the other side.” (Eric Fairfield, Mormon Stories Podcast, episode 571).

As with bottlenecks and the founder effect, the peopling of the Americas is a perfect laboratory to study genetic drift. Genetic drift did happen, which is why Native Americans have a unique set of haplotypes and different skull morphology than their ancient Siberian forebears. But even so, 15,000 years was not enough time to allow for their DNA fingerprints to mutate sufficiently that there is even the slightest question about their origin as the descendents of Beringia Land Bridge Pedestrians, as already acknowledged by this essay. Consider the DNA of that 24,000 year old Siberian child mentioned in the footnotes, whose DNA lineage can be directly linked to modern Native Americans. The Lehites arrived a mere 2600 years ago, by comparison. Why should we suppose that the Nephite/Lamanite DNA would have mutated ten times faster, or been “squeezed” out at ten times the rate of the older peoples?

 

The same problems exist for the peoples of Oceania. We have seen how modern prophets claim that Polynesians are descendants of Lehi through Hagoth, yet their DNA traces them back to Asia through an entirely different lineage than the American populations. In fact, new DNA findings trace Polynesians all the way back to the mesolithic age Asians. Are we to believe that the Book of Mormon ancestry of the Pacific Islanders also vanished in exactly the same way as their American cousins, according to this essay, and left only the evidence of the non-Book of Mormon Asian origins in Polynesia? The settlement of each island was a reenactment of the conditions of the Nephi voyage, so we must accept that each and every case lost only its essential Book of Mormon DNA in exactly the same way, leaving only the DNA of the “other” people who also just happened to be there. This still leaves us with two insurmountable problems. First, the remaining Polynesian DNA differs significantly from the Native American DNA (they couldn’t both be Lamanites) and second, most of those islanders that church leaders have identified as descendants of Lehi live on islands that weren’t even settled yet in Book of Mormon times. Much like the LDS essays about the Book of Abraham, polygamy/polyamory, and Book of Mormon translation, this essay is requiring members to completely reconstruct the entire history of the church to make it work, which is why these essays put together paint such a troubling picture of Joseph Smith's credibility as a prophet and thus the Book of Mormon.

A study in Iceland combining both genetic and genealogical data demonstrates that the majority of people living in that country today inherited mitochondrial DNA from just a small percentage of the people who lived there only 300 years ago.24 The mitochondrial DNA of the majority of Icelanders living at that time simply did not survive the random effects of drift. It is conceivable that much of the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples did not survive for the same reason ! (Yet there is absolutely no contention about where the Icelanders came from and when they arrived, making this example another deflection from the real problem. What they’re saying is that it can be difficult to determine the exact relationships of modern Icelanders to each other via ancient ancestors. But they are all still genetically Icelandic. Also, Iceland is the exact opposite of the case that this essay is arguing. Iceland was a very isolated population that did NOT interbreed with a larger population. Now try to imagine how credible the story would sound if it claimed that Iceland was once inhabited by large numbers of Israelites who originated in Jerusalem, but now all genetic evidence of them had been specifically and completely “squeezed” out, leaving only that of Scandinavians. Just as startling, these Israelites are not mentioned in the histories and sagas of the Icelanders, nor did they leave any archaeological, linguistic or other evidence of their existence or of the domesticated animals and crops that they supposedly brought with them.)

Genetic drift particularly affects mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA, but it also leads to the loss of variation in autosomal DNA. When a small population mixes with a large one, combinations of autosomal markers typical of the smaller group become rapidly overwhelmed or swamped by those of the larger. The smaller group’s markers soon become rare in the combined population and may go extinct due to the effects of genetic drift and bottlenecks as described above (Just one paragraph later they are abandoning the Icelandic theory now and we’re back to imagining huge populations of “others” that the Book of Mormon doesn’t mention). Moreover, the shuffling and recombination of autosomal DNA from generation to generation produces new combinations of markers in which the predominant genetic signal comes from the larger original population. This can make the combinations of markers characteristic of the smaller group so diluted that they cannot be reliably identified (We literally get measures of Neanderthal from DNA samples from 23andme! So which is it, did the molecular evidence of Lehites vanish because they intermarried with the indigenous population that were never mentioned, or because they remained separate and vanished because of a bottleneck? Both reasons are offered here but they are contradictory explanations. Just like in the Book of Abraham essay, the author is throwing it all against the wall to see if anything sticks.)

The authors of a 2008 paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology summarized the impact of these forces succinctly: “Genetic drift has been a significant force [on Native American genetics], and together with a major population crash after European contact, has altered haplogroup frequencies and caused the loss of many haplotypes.”25 (And a 2017 study clarifies that all American aborigines came from a common set of pre-Book of Mormon ancestors. Does the following conclusion really fit what was just stated?) Genetic profiles may be entirely lost, and combinations that once existed may become so diluted that they are difficult to detect. Thus, portions of a population may in fact be related genealogically to an individual or group but not have DNA that can be identified as belonging to those (specific individual) ancestors. In other words, Native Americans whose ancestors include Book of Mormon peoples may not be able to confirm that relationship using their DNA.26 (But does the Book of Mormon really say the Lehites, Jaredites and Mulekites were just a tiny handful of people who were quickly absorbed into another culture, or does it say they filled the land, built great cities and fought wars that involved hundreds of thousands, even millions of combatants? Doesn’t it forbid intermarriage, and didn’t God introduce the “curse” of dark skin to discourage intermarriage? 2 Nephi 5:21 says “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” The authors of these new hypotheses constantly undercut the Book of Mormon’s authors, which begs the question of how much faith they can honestly have in the book if they are constantly reinventing it.)

 

This essay has offered a couple of examples (Iceland and Dr. Perego’s own ancestry) in an attempt to support its claims that we should not expect to find any evidence of Book of Mormon peoples. Now let’s look at some real-world examples that are highly relevant to the Book of Mormon’s case:

 

  1. The Lemba people are a tribe of black Africans living in Zimbabwe. Although physically indistinguishable from their black-skinned African neighbors, the Lemba claim to be Jews who migrated from the Middle East at the time of the Babylonian invasion, just like the Lehites. The Israelite Lemba moved into the much larger African population and interbred with them, just as this essay, but not the Book of Mormon itself, claims the Lehite settlers did. This makes the Lemba a perfect model for all of the arguments that this essay tries to apply to the Book of Mormon. So, based on those assumptions we should expect that there would be no way to genetically link the Lemba to ancient Middle Eastern Israelites, right? Guess again. DNA testing in the late 1990s and early 2000s finds strong and direct links via multiple haplogroups between the Lemba and the Jews and Arabs from exactly the time and place from which the Lemba claim to originate. They are, without question, of Middle Eastern Jewish origin, just as their tradition claims. (Spurdle, A. B. (1996). The origins of the Lemba" Black Jews" of southern Africa: evidence from p12F2 and other Y-chromosome markers. American journal of human genetics, 59(5), 1126).

  2. DNA analysis of aboriginal Australians reveals an obvious incursion of Indian DNA, indicating an interbreeding event occurred between Australian natives and nomads from India around 4200 years ago (Jaredite timeframe). As corroborating evidence, dogs and new weapon technology also appear in the archaeological record (with further genetic support, in the case of dogs) at the same time, demonstrating that the Asian immigrants brought these things with them.  We can directly compare this information with the Book of Mormon claims that its founders brought steel, crops and domesticated animals. No such corroborating DNA or archaeological evidence exists to support of the Book of Mormon’s case. (Pugach, I., Delfin, F., Gunnarsdóttir, E., Kayser, M., & Stoneking, M. (2013). Genome-wide data substantiate Holocene gene flow from India to Australia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(5), 1803-1808.)

  3. The Denisovans were a mesolithic Asian culture distinct from both Neanderthals and Modern Humans who were alive about 40,000 years ago. All we know of their physical makeup comes from a single finger bone found in Siberia from which geneticists were able to sequence the Denisovan genome. Recent studies have found Denisovan DNA in the genetic lineage of people throughout the Pacific Islands. That's a great example against the genetic bottleneck and founder effect theories here to excuse Book of Mormon DNA evidendce? We can trace the origins of the Pacific Islanders back 40,000 years through a tiny trickle of DNA from a single phalange, yet we still can’t find any traces of the bloodline of Hagoth and his crew, whom modern prophets have revealed on multiple occasions to be the sole founders of the Polynesian societies. (Reich, D. (2011). Denisova admixture and the first modern human dispersals into Southeast Asia and Oceania. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 89(4), 516-528).

  4. DNA studies and archaeological evidence of American dogs clearly shows that dogs arrived in the Americas with trans-Beringia travelers over 10,000 years ago. Even though the Book of Mormon claims its travelers brought Old World animals and seeds, and supposedly raised them in the Americas with great success, there remains no physical or genetic evidence that those species ever existed in the Americas before the Spanish conquest  (Leonard, J. (2002). Ancient DNA evidence for Old World origin of New World dogs.Science, 298(5598), 1613-1616).​​​

 

We must ask ourselves why all of the reasons given by this essay for the disappearance of Book of Mormon DNA should not also apply to these and many other real world examples. If the forces of genetic drift and bottleneck are severe enough to wipe out all evidence of the multitudes of Book of Mormon peoples it seems that we shouldn’t expect to find any examples like those listed above.

Now let’s consider yet another serious genetic rock that this essay avoids turning over. On June 4,1834, during the Zion’s Camp march across eastern Ohio and Illinois to Missouri, Joseph Smith wrote in a letter to Emma about “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity…” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 1984, 324) So here was Joseph’s own proof of the Book of Mormon’s authenticity: the bones they found on that journey, including those of an individual who Joseph identified as Zelph, a white Lamanite whose skin had become white again because of his righteousness. Zelph’s burial mound just outside of Griggsville, Illinois is known by archaeologists today as Naples Mound 8. This should be exciting news to Mormon apologists! Joseph Smith told us exactly where to find DNA evidence of real Nephites and Lamanites who died in Book of Mormon battles, long before the warfare and disease introduced by the Europeans created the bottleneck that squeezed the them out of existence. So why aren’t church-employed anthropologists and geneticists vigorously examining those remains to proclaim to the world that they have found genetic proof for the Book of Mormon? Why aren’t BYU archaeologists voraciously excavating the region around Griggsville? Why are they ignoring that actual physical evidence and instead focusing on deflective theories like the ones in this essay? It’s because they can find no trace of Nephites or Lamanites, white or otherwise, on the plains of Illinois. Either Joseph Smith was making it up as he went along (some argue he was just the kind of guy who liked to impress others with grand stories to show off, but of course that also gives great motive to make up the Book of Mormon too), or God set him up to look like a fraud between these DNA issues, the Book of Abraham translation being completely incorrect, and issues with the Book of Mormon including King James Bible translation errors, anachronisms, and Deutero-Isaiah timeline issues.

 

Conclusion

Much as critics and defenders of the Book of Mormon would like to use DNA studies to support their views, (I’d argue the critics are the only ones using the DNA studies, as apologists have to ignore or degrade them in order to make the Book of Mormon work) the evidence is simply inconclusive.  (Which makes me wonder why LDS scientists like Dr.s Thomas Murphy and Simon Southerton, who published the results of Native American DNA research, were accused by the church of apostasy and summoned for disciplinary action. Every non-LDS geneticist finds these studies conclusive as to whether or not the Native Americas are descendants from Jerusalem.)

Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples. Even if such information were known, processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration from West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (a lawyer with no expert knowledge to support his claim, but provides an authoritative voice to give authority to members looking for wiggle room) observed, “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”27

Book of Mormon record keepers were primarily concerned with conveying religious truths and preserving the spiritual heritage of their people. They prayed that, in spite of the prophesied destruction of most of their people, their record would be preserved (but nothing else?) and one day help restore a knowledge of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their promise to all who study the book “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ,” is that God “will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”28 For countless individuals who have applied this test of the book’s authenticity, the Book of Mormon stands as a volume of sacred scripture with the power to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.

The church demands that we believe the Book of Mormon’s (and Book of Abraham) literal, physical claims. We then test them and they fail. The apologists step in and create a number of alternate theories, crafted to help us continue to believe in the literalness of the book’s claims while also trying to dissuade us from expecting any literal evidence, or worse, trying to explain away the tangible evidence that we do have.  But in the end of these essays you are always left with the final reminder that it’s all really just a matter of faith and that if you lack conviction of a particular teaching, or are troubled by contrary evidence, it is your fault for not having an adequately sincere heart or for letting yourself be deceived by the adversary. They tell you that if you pray hard enough with a sincere heart, your lifetime of memories of the church will guide you to know that it is still true despite all of the evidence. If you pray and do not receive that confirmation after reading our notes here, they would tell you that you are not praying with a sincere heart and thus are not open to receiving this personal revelation. That of course leads us to ask that you watch the following video, which shows the spiritual confirmations of people from all denominations including Mormons, Muslims, and many non-mainstream religions and groups. The LDS offshoot where a teenager enters into polygamy and is bearing her testimony that is of God can be found at the 10 minute mark.

If you are truly, sincerely striving to know the truth at all costs, how are you expected to arrive at that ultimate answer when the church itself keeps changing its claims about the Book of Mormon and allowing its professors to lead you down these convoluted, non-doctrinal roads, chasing rapidly receding goal posts? If you want to clearly understand the church’s actual doctrines about the peopling of the Americas I highly recommend an Ensign article called A Promised Land, written by Jeffrey R. Holland. Of course, this was written before molecular biology came along and completely undercut the story.

You might want to read it alongside the version of history that is told in this essay to get a sense of the degree of mental gymnastics that’s going on here. Don’t make the mistake of excusing this as Elder Holland “speaking as a man” and presenting his own opinion. He is merely repeating the words of prophets, official church materials, and the Book of Mormon itself.

Elder Holland talks about an ancient North America that was not yet separated by plate tectonics from the Old World at a time, approximately 6000 years ago, when Adam and Eve lived in what is now Missouri. This would have been long after the arrival of those “other” people that this essay now admits came from Asia - a continent that does not yet exist in Elder Holland’s version of the story - and spread across the land. Elder Holland then explains how God wiped the land free of all life in the Great Flood (but somehow the Siberian immigrants survived?) and only then physically separated the Americas from the rest of the world, specifically to keep it uncontaminated by human habitation. Elder Holland says, “Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God’s special purposes.”  Brother Holland then says “With care and selectivity, the Lord began almost at once to repeople the promised land,” and goes on to tell the stories of the arrival of first the Jaredites and then the Nephites to this pristine, unoccupied land.   

 

That is a completely different story from the one that has been revealed to us by the unbiased areas of science, and also quite different from the tale told in this essay. We have a big problem here just as with the Book of Abraham, polygamy, and the translation of the Book of Mormon. We have dramatically contradictory histories, even though both came from the church and are approved by the First Presidency. Which are we supposed to believe? If you get a spiritual confirmation about one, does that mean the other that you prayed about and received confirmation about previously is false? It feels like we are being told multiple contradictory stories and expected to just pick whichever works best for us and go with it, whether it’s true or not. Faith is the belief in things without evidence - not believing in things in spite of the evidence.

 

The title page of the Book of Mormon, written by Moroni himself, tells us that the book was “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel… that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” This essay requires us to believe that there are no more Lamanites, thus making this purpose of the Book of Mormon completely unfulfillable. Nephi beheaded Laban and left with the brass plates so that a nation would not “dwindle and perish in unbelief, ” but not only have the peoples of the Book of Mormon dwindled in unbelief, according to this essay they have perished and vanished utterly from the face of the earth. Apparently they really did exist at one time - millions and millions of them - but now they are completely and utterly erased beyond the power of God or science to ever find them. Yet there remains a continent full of those “other” people who, even though they are a perfect fit for the Book of Mormon’s description of Lamanites in skin color, clothing, and many other attributes, are completely unrelated and have been consistently misidentified by both the Lord and his prophets. And, to complicate things even more the church released a new video in 2018, long after this essay was published to its Native American members that they really are “descended from the Book of Mormon people.” (Children of Promise, The Mormon Channel). It is very troublesome that the church tucks this essay deep on its website while continuing to push a concept in videos that they know is clearly false. This pattern is one we've seen with the Book of Mormon translation throughout their history, and one has to wonder why they refuse to portray their church's foundation honestly to those investigating their church.

As someone who went through the missionary discussions, I can attest that the history presented looks and sounds nothing like what these essays admit to, yet the church continues to portray themselves this way because the truth is one that just not work for the credibility and authenticity of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. And as someone who went through those discussions, classes, and lessons, I can not be more clear about how awful it feels to learn that you were lied to for years on basic facts that have now conceded they are aware of. If these annotated essays feel harsh in tone, please understand it is due to the complete feeling of betrayal and shock that comes from discovering the same church that expects you to be honest with them about your income, choice of clothing, eating and drinking habits, and sex life refuses to provide any of that same honesty with you about the very foundations of the church and Book of Mormon.

Our takeaway from this essay is that the authors did not present a single shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon. They did, however, make a lot of excuses for the lack of evidence, they overlooked a lot of problematic contradictory evidence, and they did their best to downplay a serious scientific issue that significantly impacts the historicity of the book.  To come away from this essay feeling that you have been given a satisfying answer you must accept that:

 

  • The Jaredites, Mulekites and Lehites arrived at a new land that was already heavily populated.

  • These other people were the ancestors of modern Native Americans, yet cannot be descendants of Adam and Eve because they predate them by thousands of years, according to the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, and modern prophets and General Authorities.

  • These “other” people somehow survived the Great Flood, even though it was sent by God specifically to wipe just such people from the the American continents to prepare the land for his chosen people.

  • The Book of Mormon somehow fails to mention these people, their cities, their extensive agriculture, military presence, writing systems, religion, and trade systems, apart from some suggestion of “hints”, even though it gives detailed descriptions of animals and plants for which there is no evidence of having ever existed in the Americas.

  • Our prophets, seers and revelators, and even our scriptures (i.e. God), are wrong about the identity and origins of both the Native American and the Polynesian peoples.

  • The vast civilizations described by the Book of Mormon utterly vanished without a trace, while massive evidence of the civilizations of their neighbors is still everywhere to be found.

  • We should give more weight to the excuses given in this essay than to either the physical, testable evidence or to the words of the prophets, or of the Lord in scripture.

 

The First Presidency, or anyone else for that matter, does not attach their names or reputations to any of this material. Should we take it seriously or is it simply to divert us from unwelcome evidence and a seemingly insurmountable problem for the Book of Mormon?  It is hearsay and, in light of what the scriptures and prophets have said, possibly heresy. Isn't it incredibly telling that this is the best answer the First Presidency can give to deal with the problems of Book of Mormon historicity?

So why does the church bother to put essays such as this one out there at all? Because the internet along with these DNA studies has forced them to, and any answer is better than no answer. If they do not make some attempt, the only answers you’ll have are the ones from actual scientific investigators (based solely on logic and reason, which as evidenced by the essay are two things we are warned to avoid), a community whose only agenda is getting to the truth. DNA studies don't have an anti-Mormon bias, they don't allow emotional feelings/responses to alter the results, and they are backed by what we can see with our eyes. Remember, apologetics is a tactic only required when the facts are not in your favor. If the prophet and apostles really do stand behind these ideas it would be nice to hear them make the claims themselves and back them up with solid explanations on the record. What is presented in this essay is basically an intellectual distraction from the facts that are coming from the world of scientists and scholars who are not enemies to the church, but who are simply on a quest to discover the truth with absolutely no concern for what is or isn’t written in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps these essays remain anonymous precisely so the church and its leaders can maintain a safe distance in case they need to disavow them in favor of a new approach.

One last thought about apologetics/the church approach to these essays: Let’s suppose I offered you a version of the Book of Mormon that made the exact opposite claim about its people. Imagine that it told a story of ancient Americans arriving in Jerusalem by boat from the New World. When they arrived they found tapirs, monkeys, macaws, cacao and other things that have left no evidence of having ever existed in the Old World. Imagine that their book told us that these people grew into mighty nations, numerous cities and fought genocidal wars that involved numbers of combatants that dwarfed anything that had ever been seen in the history of the world, using weapons that have vanished from the archaeological record. I imagine that you would want to see some evidence to support my hypothesis, and you might correctly point out not just the archaeology, but also the DNA of the people in the Holy Land should provide extensive evidence of such an intrusive migration. How should I answer your concerns? Well, one possibility would be to give you a copy of this very essay, but with the place names transposed. The defense presented here would work just as well to support a claim that Jerusalem was founded by ancient Native Americans as it does the Book of Mormon’s claim that the boats traveled the other direction. This is because this essay does nothing to give you any supporting evidence for the Book of Mormon's authenticity, it exists purely to provide excuses for the startling lack of evidence and the existence of sound contrary evidence. 

A tactic employed by these essays is too divide and conquer your doubts - they take each topic on at once, and then they slice each topic up in the essay. In statistics, when you create probabilities of each scenario happening, and then need to determine the probability of a group of scenarios all happening a certain way, you multiply them. So in the case of these essays, it could go something like this:

 

Odds that a group of people numbering between 1-3 million would leave no DNA evidence of their existence is probably one in a miillion (that's being generous). The odds that the same 1-3 million would leave no physical evidence of existing we can be generous and say is 1 in 10,000.  The odds that the Book of Abraham is a scripture by the hand of God even though it's improperly translated and the scripture itself says to refer to the incorrectly translated facsimiles we'll say is 1 in 1,000.

 

Just those three scenarios happening at once is 0.0000000000001% (that doesn't even account for so many other issues in these essays). I point this out because it illustrates the bigger problem these essays face: The DNA is a massive problem and to many is considered a smoking gun against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, but that is just one of the problems that just do not stand the test of time. A critic such as myself would point out that Joseph Smith did not know that we would have DNA testing someday, which is why he would casually throw out claims like Zelph being a lamanite. He likely never thought we would have a way to translate ancient Egyptian documents, which is why he proclaimed that the mummy scrolls were actually scriptures from Abraham and Joseph. He also probably never thought that we would someday be able to tell that there were no horses, cattle, chariots, wheels, wheat, silk, steel, iron, goats, swine, etc in Book of Mormon times when writing the book. Joseph Smith also likely did not know that people could someday scan the Hill Cumorah to know there is nothing inside (no cave, no plates, no bones from epic battles) when telling everyone that the very Hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is the same one in New York. Or that he could have known that the Kinderhook Plates that Joseph Smith claimed were  from a 'descendant of Ham' could be tested later and proven to be a hoax.

 

We could go on further, but I hope the point is illustrated. For all of those things to have happened as Joseph Smith proclaimed, you have to suspend all belief in what we can now see and understand about the world and the history of the church that is reluctantly admitted in these series of essays. For this one in particular, you have to completely reject the very science that has led to treatments of cancer and other disorders/diseases. We can not simply pick and choose which parts of science we want to believe based on what contradicts Joseph Smith's writings that even Richard Bushman admits are based on 19th century beliefs.

Again, we know this information is difficult to read and even more difficult to believe. But after spending months researching these topics, these conclusions are not given lightly nor as they based on random assumptions. Please do not just accept the church's theories on these topics, and do not accept ours blindly either. Do research that includes both LDS and non-LDS approved sources. It is not wickedness to research the claims of the church, and it is not apostasy to wonder why what we see with our own eyes does not align with the story the church continues to tell.

 

That is a painful conclusion to come to, but it is better to find the truth than to ignore it, as difficult as it might be at first. There are many resources to help those going through a faith crisis, so please email us if you would like any help. While the church tells us that we will be miserable without it (and "where will you go?"), that is the kind of thing a person in abusive relationship would say. The idea that you can't ever be happy without it is insulting, especially given the issues pointed out through these essays. The reality is that people who do learn the truth and move on are just as (if not more) happy and healthy afterwards. I can tell you all reading this that I have been better off since leaving - I feel more confident about myself, I can choose to do the right thing because I want to and not because I am told to, and, contrary to church teachings, I do not live in sin or laziness. There is life after the church, and while it is a sad transition away from something you were raised to believe is the only way, realizing the truth and then being able to enjoy those around you and the world around you is more than worth it.

Please email us with any suggestions, corrections, or if you have any sources that can provide more information that can help enhance this essay. Thank you again!

LDS Resources in the Essay:

  1. See introduction to the Book of Mormon.

  2. This article uses the terms Native American and American Indian to refer to all the indigenous peoples of both North and South America. For more on the relationship of DNA studies and the Book of Mormon generally see Ugo A. Perego, “The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint,” in Robert L. Millet, ed., No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2011), 171–216; Michael F. Whiting, “DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12, no. 1 (2003), 24-35; Daniel C. Peterson, ed., The Book of Mormon and DNA Research (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2008).

  3. Antonio Torroni and others, “Asian Affinities and Continental Radiation of the Four Founding Native American mtDNAs,” American Journal of Human Genetics 53 (1993), 563–90; Alessandro Achilli and others, “The Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American MtDNA Haplogroups: Implications for Evolutionary and Disease Studies,” PloS ONE 3, no. 3 (Mar. 2008), e1764.

  4. Ugo A. Perego and others, “Distinctive Paleo-Indian Migration Routes from Beringia Marked by Two Rare mtDNA Haplogroups,” Current Biology 19 (2009), 1-8.

  5. Martin Bodner and others, “Rapid Coastal Spread of First Americans: Novel Insights from South America's Southern Cone Mitochondrial Genomes,” Genome Research 22 (2012), 811–20.

  6. John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (Fall 1992), 1–34. These arguments were summarized more recently in John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2013). Sorenson suggests that indicators in book’s text makes it “inescapable that there were substantial populations in the ‘promised land’ throughout the period of the Nephite record, and probably in the Jaredite era also.” (“When Lehi’s Party Arrived,” 34).

  7. Anthony W. Ivins, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 15.

  8. “Facts Are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons 3 (Sept. 15, 1842): 922. This article is unattributed but was published under Joseph Smith’s editorship. See also Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 250.

  9. For a review of statements on this subject, see Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations,” FARMS Review 15, no. 2 (2003), 91–128.

  10. Introduction to the Book of Mormon, rev. ed. (New York: Doubleday, 2006). The introduction, which is not part of the text of the Book of Mormon, previously stated that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” Even this statement, first published in 1981, implies the presence of others. (Introduction to the Book of Mormon, 1981 ed.)

  11. John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived,” 5–12.

  12. Peter A. Underhill and Toomas Kivisild, “Use of Y Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Population Structure in Tracing Human Migrations,” Annual Review of Genetics 41 (2007), 539–64.

  13. Haplogroup names follow a standardized nomenclature of alternated letters of the alphabet and numbers. See International Society of Genetic Genealogy, “Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree 2014”; Mannis van Oven and Manfred Kayser M., “Updated Comprehensive Phylogenetic Tree of Global Human Mitochondrial DNA Variation,”Human Mutation 30 (2009), E386-E394.

  14. You are about to access http://www.isogg.org/tree and http://www.phylotree.org.

  15. You are now leaving a website maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We provide the link to this third party's website solely as a convenience to you. The linked site has its own terms of use, privacy policies, and security practices that differ from those on our website. By referring or linking you to this website, we do not endorse or guarantee the content, products, or services offered.

  16. Vincenza Battaglia and others, “The First Peopling of South America: New Evidence from Y-Chromosome Haplogroup Q,” PLoS ONE 8, no. 8 (Aug. 2013), e71390.

  17. Ugo A. Perego and others, “The Initial Peopling of the Americas: A Growing Number of Founding Mitochondrial Genomes from Beringia,” Genome Research 20 (2010), 1174–79.

  18. Maanasa Raghavan and others, “Upper Palaeolithic Siberian Genome Reveals Dual Ancestry of Native Americans,” Nature, Nov. 20, 2013.

  19. This “clock” is based on the observed rate at which random mutations occur in DNA over time. For an example of a proposed mitochondrial DNA molecular clock see Pedro Soares and others, “Correcting for Purifying Selection: An Improved Human Mitochondrial Molecular Clock,” American Journal of Human Genetics84 (2009), 740–59.

  20. Alessandro Achilli and others, “Reconciling Migration Models to the Americas with the Variation of North American Native Mitogenomes,”Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 35 (2013), 14308–13.

  21. Morten Rasmussen and others, “Ancient Human Genome Sequence of an Extinct Palaeo-Eskimo,” Nature, Feb. 11, 2010, 757–62. This hypothetical migration would have been separated by approximately 200 generations from early migrations to the Americas.

  22. Quoted in Cassandra Brooks, “First Ancient Human Sequenced,”Scientist, Feb. 10, 2010, www.thescientist.com/blog/display/57140. Michael H. Crawford, molecular anthropologist at the University of Kansas, noted similarly that the “evidence does not preclude the possibility of some small-scale cultural contacts between specific Amerindian societies and Asian or Oceanic seafarers.” (Michael H. Crawford, The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998], 4).

  23. Ugo A. Perego, “Origin of Native Americans,” 186–87.

  24. Native populations were reduced by as much as 95 percent. See David S. Jones, “Virgin Soils Revisited,” William and Mary Quarterly,Third Series, vol. 60, no. 4 (Oct. 2003), 703-42.

  25. Michael H. Crawford, Origins of Native Americans, 49–51, 239–41, 260–61.

  26. Agnar Helgason and others, “A Populationwide Coalescent Analysis of Icelandic Matrilineal and Patrilineal Genealogies: Evidence for a Faster Evolutionary Rate of mtDNA Lineages than Y Chromosomes,”American Journal of Human Genetics 72 (2003), 1370–88.

  27. Beth Alison Schultz Shook and David Glenn Smith, “Using Ancient MtDNA to Reconstruct the Population History of Northeastern North America,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 137 (2008), 14.

  28. See “How Many Genetic Ancestors Do I Have?” Co-op Lab, Population and Evolutionary Genetics, UC Davis.

  29. You are about to access http://gcbias.org.

  30. You are now leaving a website maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We provide the link to this third party's website solely as a convenience to you. The linked site has its own terms of use, privacy policies, and security practices that differ from those on our website. By referring or linking you to this website, we do not endorse or guarantee the content, products, or services offered.

  31. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” in Paul Y. Hoskisson, ed., Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2001), 239.

  32. Moroni 10:4.

The Church acknowledges the contribution of scholars to the scientific content presented in this article; their work is used with permission.