DNA and the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon recounts the story of small Israelite groups
led by Lehi and Mulek who
were brought by the hand of the Lord from ancient
Recently, some critics of the LDS church have alleged that DNA data demonstrating homology between modern Mesoamericans and Mongolians and central Siberians, as well as a seeming lack of homology between modern Jewish and Mesoamerican DNA, provides conclusive “proof” that the Book of Mormon story of migrations from ancient Israel and the traditional LDS view that these early Israelite peoples represent the principal ancestors of modern Amerindians is false. A closer examination of the facts demonstrates that the teachings of the Book of Mormon and modern LDS prophets are in no way inconsistent with modern DNA evidence, and that the views of critics are based on unsupportable misinterpretations of genetic data.
The Traditional LDS Position
prophets have consistently taught the descent of the indigenous peoples of
Central and South America and much of
Spencer W. Kimball stated unapologetically:
pride I tell those who come to my office that a Lamanite
is a descendant of one Lehi who left Jerusalem some
600 years before Christ and with his family crossed the mighty deep and landed
in America. And Lehi and his family became the
ancestors of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in
North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea, for in the
middle of their history there were those who left
Some individuals have attempted to explain the modern DNA data by restricting Nephite and Lamanite activity to a small group in Central America in the belief that any trace of “Israelite” DNA was subsequently lost by intermixing with larger indigenous non-Israelite people-groups. However, a closer examination demonstrates that modern DNA evidence in no way disproves the traditional LDS belief that Book of Mormon peoples represent the principal ancestors of the American Indians.
Modern Jewish vs. Ancient Israelite DNA
Thomas Murphy and some other
critics suggest that the plausibility of claims of Israelite ancestry by
non-Jewish groups can be assessed by measuring their DNA affinity with modern
Jewish groups. To test any scientific
hypothesis, we must first evaluate whether our “controls” are valid. If we are to use modern Jewish genetics as
the “control” against which Mesoamerican DNA is to be evaluated for possible
ancient Israelite origins, we must first determine whether modern Jewish DNA
data adequately represents ancient Israelite DNA. If the collective
DNA of modern Jewish groups does not reflect all or at least a large majority
of the DNA sequences and haplotypes present in
History and genetic evidence suggest that modern Jewish DNA is neither an inclusive nor exclusive indicator of the genetics
Genetic data presents considerable evidence of intermixing of Jewish and non-Jewish populations. Among Jewish populations, we presently have no way to reliably determine which DNA sequences represent genuine ancient Israelite genetic markers. However, there is strong evidence that some of the markers found in many modern Jews, such as the "Levite" marker, were introduced long after the Israelite dispersion by intermixing with non-Israelite populations.
Mitochondrial DNA Data
In “Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics,” Thomas Murphy notes that “some of the most revealing research into Native American genetics comes from analyses of mtDNA” and uses this data to support the conclusion that Mesoamericans could not possibly have an origin in ancient Israel.4 Mitochondrial DNA is also a centerpiece of Murphy’s talk “Sin, Skin, and Seed: Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon.”5 Over 99% of native Americans tested to date have mitochondrial DNA haplotypes A, B, C, D, and X. Outside of North America, these types are most commonly found in Mongolians and southern Siberians, and are rarely found in modern Jews.
As we have no primary data on
ancient Israelite mtDNA types, the expectations of
what haplotypes may or may not have been inherited
from ancient Israelites come from comparisons with modern groups believed to have
Israelite origins, especially modern Jews. If modern Jews are believed to
represent the “control” group or measuring-stick against which the mtDNA affinity of other groups of alleged Israelite origins
can be assessed, it is again necessary to first validate our “controls” to see
whether they provide a helpful frame of reference that may suggest which
mitochondrial DNA types should or could have been found in ancient Israel. To constitute a valid “control,” we would
expect that modern Jewish communities would have considerable similarities in
their mitochondrial DNA suggesting shared maternal origins, possibly in ancient
Yet mitochondrial DNA studies
have had little success in linking different Jewish groups, and mtDNA is discounted by most Jewish geneticists as being
notoriously unreliable in ascertaining “Jewish”
roots. Genetic researcher Dr. Ken Jacobs notes: "Jewish communities have
little in common on their mitochondrial side."6 Martin Richards writes: "Studies of human genetic diversity
have barely begun. Yet the fashion for genetic ancestry testing is booming....
Buoyed by the hype, the private sector has been moving in. Other groups, such
as Jews, are now being targeted. This despite the fact that Jewish communities
have little in common on their mitochondrial side - the maternal line down
which Judaism is traditionally inherited. It's the male side that shows common
ancestry between different Jewish communities - so, of course, that's what the
geneticists focus on."7
2002 London University College study found that that while separate Jewish communities were founded by relatively few female ancestors, this “process was independent in different geographic areas” and the female ancestors of different communities were largely unrelated.8 Nicholas Wade writes: “A new study now shows that the women in nine Jewish communities from Georgia, the former Soviet republic, to Morocco have vastly different genetic histories from the men.... The women's identities, however, are a mystery, because, unlike the case with the men, their genetic signatures are not related to one another or to those of present-day Middle Eastern populations...’The authors are correct in saying the historical origins of most Jewish communities are unknown, Dr. [Shaye] Cohen [of Harvard University] said.’”9 On this study, the Jerusalem Post reports: “Data on the Y chromosome indicates that the males originated in the
Dr. Thomas, author of another Jewish mitochondrial DNA study, notes: “In no case is there clear evidence of unbroken genetic continuity from early dispersal events to the present….Unfortunately, in many cases, it is not possible to infer the geographic origin of the founding mtDNAs within the different Jewish groups with any confidence….The pattern in Ashkenazic Jews is of particular interest. Despite the common opinion that this population has undergone a strong founder event, it has a modal haplotype with a frequency similar to that of its host population (9.0 vs. 6.9%), providing little evidence of a strong founder effect on the female side.”8
Mitochondrial DNA studies of modern Jewish groups tend to show significant commonality with local host populations, but little commonality with other Jewish populations. The lack of clearly identifiable mtDNA homologies among different Jewish groups suggests that the overwhelming majority of mtDNA in modern Jewish populations is derived from non-Israelite sources. Data from today’s Jewish populations provides us with no credible information on what mtDNA haplotypes may have been present in ancient
What of other groups widely believed to be of Jewish origin? The Lemba, who Tom Murphy notes to have been virtually “proven” to be of Israelite descent, have virtually no mtDNA commonality with other Jewish groups. Dr. Soodyall notes that “using mtDNA the Lemba were indistinguishable from other Bantu-speaking groups.”11 It is only through the priestly “Cohen Modal Haplotype,” or CMH, that the Lemba have been identified as having an ancient Jewish origin – likely from Yemenite Jews who migrated to Africa many centuries into the modern era, rather than from diaspora groups leaving Israel many centuries before Christ.
The reader is invited to ponder: Given that the mtDNA of geographically separated Jewish groups today demonstrates little homology, that there is no evidence of unbroken Jewish genetic mtDNA continuity from dispersion to the present, and that Jewish DNA researchers believe that Jewish mtDNA overwhelmingly originated from non-Jewish sources, can modern Jewish mtDNA serve as an inclusive and exclusive “control” against which claims of Israelite ancestry for other groups can be validly assessed? And most curiously, what happened to all of the ancient Israelite women?
Israelite Traditions and Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is of limited value in assessing the overall heredity of populations, as an individual’s entire mitochondrial DNA comes from a single female ancestor. Mitochondrial DNA, as researchers point out, tends to be inherited from relatively recent generations. If one assumes one generation every twenty-five years or four generations per century, if we go back just one thousand years, there are over one trillion ancestor slots (1,099,511,627,776, to be precise). If we go back to the beginning of the Book of Mormon Lehite era in 600 BC, there would be 2.02 x 10^31 ancestor slots, yet mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from a single ancestor. The phenomena of genetic drift, founder effect, etc. can easily lead to specific mitochondrial DNA signatures being lost from an entire population.
know from the Old Testament that non-Israelite mitochondrial DNA was introduced into ancient
thou goest forth to war against thine
enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine
hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest
among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; And she shall put the
raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine
house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be
thy wife” (Deuteronomy 21:10-13).
Christ was descended from King David, we will remember that Ruth the Moabitess was one of David’s ancestors. All of Ruth’s children and any descendants through
the female line would have carried not Israelite mtDNA,
but Moabite mtDNA.
Christ was also a descendant of Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300
concubines (1 Kings 11:3) – many of them non-Israelites who would have
introduced mitochondrial DNA from much of the known world into ancient
DNA trends we see in modern Jewish diaspora
populations of having few male founders and many diverse female founders had
begun even before the dispersion. Given the frequent warfare between
In the article "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics,” anthropologist Tom Murphy writes:
Molecular anthropologists Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas have used the distinctive Cohen modal haplotype to link ancient Hebrews to the modern population of the Lemba. The Lemba, a black southern African Bantu-speaking population, draw upon their oral traditions to assert a Jewish ancestry...The BoMor [Book of Mormon] claims of an Israelite ancestry for Native Americans would certainly fit into this phenomenon but DNA tests of claims by the Lemba yielded a strikingly different outcome than we have seen with Mormon claims about Native Americans. Two studies have now demonstrated that one of the Lemba clans carries a high frequency of "a particular Y-chromosome termed the 'Cohen modal haplotype,' which is known to be characteristic of the paternally inherited Jewish priesthood and is thought, more generally, to be a potential signature haplotype of Judaic origin." If the BoMor documented actual Israelite migrations to the
Tom Murphy suggests that the
Cohen modal haplotype is "a potential signature haplotype of Judaic origin" and expresses a belief
that the negative tests for this among Mesoamerican people, compared to
positive tests among the Lemba of Zimbabwe (and, one
can add, the Bnei Menashe
2-4% of Jews consider themselves to be "Cohens"
or priestly descendents of Aaron Ha-Cohen, brother of Moses. A specific genetic
signature named the "Cohen modal haplotype"
(CMH) is present in approximately 45-55% of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Cohens, compared to about 2-3% of the general Jewish
population. This marker is believed to have originated approximately 3000 years
ago, a suitable timeframe for a presumptive origin with the biblical
Aaron. It is also found in the Buba clan of the Lemba tribe of
Murphy fails to note that the only marker that shows any real homogeneity among modern Jewish groups from around the world is the Cohen Modal Haplotype, and even this is present in only a tiny fraction of today's Jews. Dr. Ken Jacobs, the author of studies on Jewish genetics, states: "The only Jewish subgroup that does show some homogeneity -- descendants of the Cohanim, or priestly class -- makes up only about 2 percent of the Jewish population. Even within the Cohanim, and certainly within the rest of the Jewish people, there's a vast amount of genetic variation that simply contradicts MacDonald's most basic assertion that Jewish genetic sameness is a sign that Judaism is an evolutionary group strategy"6
Should we expect the Cohen Modal Haplotype to be present in presumptive Lehite descendants? Lehi was a descendant of Joseph (1 Nephi 5:14). Mulek, son of Zedekiah, was presumably a descendant of
It seems very unfair for Mr.
Murphy to repeatedly cite the absence of the CMH among Mesoamericans as
evidence against ancient Israelite ancestry, when the Book of Mormon story
itself gives us no suggestion that Cohen priests or others likely to carry the
Cohen Modal Haplotype would have been present in the Lehite and Mulekite groups. It
also seems unfair to repeatedly demand “similar evidence,” at least in the
sense of a specific haplotype of comparable relevance
to the CMH, when authorities on Jewish genetics note that the CMH is the only
gene yet identified with significant homogeneity among differing Jewish
populations worldwide and a presumptive origin in ancient
The presence of the Cohen
Modal Haplotype among Lemba
and Bnei Menashe, and its
absence among Mesoamericans, does not appear to be a discordant piece of
"evidence" discrediting the Book of Mormon, but an expected finding
fully consistent with the Book of Mormon story.
DNA studies suggest presumably non-Israelite origins of
many today’s Jews and demonstrates the fallacy of using modern Jewish genetics
as a standard against which claims of other groups to Israelite ancestry are
assessed. For example, most contemporary
Jewish geneticists believe that the haplotype found
in the majority of modern Ashkenazi Jews identifying themselves as Levites is
less than two thousand years old and did not originate in the Middle East,
largely ruling out an origin in pre-dispersion
“Comparisons of the Ashkenazic Levite dataset with the other groups studied suggest that Y chromosome haplotypes, present at high frequency in Ashkenazic Levites, are most likely to have an east European or west Asian origin and not to have originated in the Middle East."14
Behar et al report:
"[T]he Levites, another paternally inherited Jewish caste, display evidence for multiple recent origins, with Ashkenazi Levites having a high frequency of a distinctive, non-Near Eastern haplogroup. Here, we show that the Ashkenazi Levite microsatellite haplotypes within this haplogroup are extremely tightly clustered, with an inferred common ancestor within the past 2,000 years. Comparisons with other Jewish and non-Jewish groups suggest that a founding event, probably involving one or very few European men occurring at a time close to the initial formation and settlement of the Ashkenazi community, is the most likely explanation for the presence of this distinctive haplogroup found today in >50% of Ashkenazi Levites."15
Nicholas Wade also notes that Ashkenazic and Sephardic “Levites” demonstrate evidence of different, likely non-Jewish paternal origins, undermining the popular belief of paternal genetic continuity from ancient to modern Levites:
"A team of geneticists studying the
ancestry of Jewish communities has found an unusual genetic signature that
occurs in more than half the Levites of Ashkenazi descent. ... The genetic
signature occurs on the male or Y chromosome and comes from a few men, or
perhaps a single ancestor, who lived about 1,000 years ago... The new report,
published in the current issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, was
prepared by population geneticists in
Thomas, Skorecki, and Ben-Ami write that the so-called Ashkenazi “Levite” marker was most likely introduced into the Jewish population with the mass conversion of Turkic Khazars between 700 and 900 AD:
"DNA tests on Sephardic and
Ashkenazi Jews have revealed the possibility that at least one key section of
the latter community may have genetic evidence of a potentially large-scale or
even mass conversion which must have taken place sometime after around A.D.
700.... the only known mass conversion within that
time frame and in that geographical area was that of the Khazars
in the eighth century. Significantly, the section of the Ashkenazi community
whose DNA may suggest a partially convert origin is that section which up till
now had traditionally been said to be wholly descended from the Assistant
Priests of ancient Israel.... By analyzing Y chromosomes from a sample of both
Levite and non-Levite populations in both Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities,
geneticists have discovered that an astounding 30 percent of Ashkenazi non-Cohenic Levites have a particular combination of DNA
material on part of their Y-chromosome that is not shared to any extent by
either non-Levite Ashkenazi Jews or the Sephardic community as a whole. This
genetic marker does not even show up among the Cohens
(descendants of the ancient Israelite Chief Priests) - but only among the
descendants of Assistant Priests, and then only within Ashkenazi (northern
European) Jewry. What seems to have happened is not only a potentially
large-scale conversion of non-Jewish people, almost certainly Khazars, to Judaism, but also the adoption of Levite
(Assistant Priest) status by a substantial number of the Khazar
converts.... A tenth-century letter of recommendation from the Jewish community
of Kiev to Jewish communities outside Khazaria was
signed by Jews with traditional Turkic names whose almost certainly Turkic Khazar ancestors had adopted second names... indicating
that they saw themselves as descendants or close associates of the ancient
tribe of Levi.... Adoption of Cohenic or ordinary Levitical status by converts was and is expressly forbidden
by rabbinical law, so the Khazars had to develop a
mythic national history that gave them the right to Levitical
status. They claimed that they were the descendants of one of the lost tribes
Some of the prevalent shared haplotypes in modern Jewish populations point clearly to non-Jewish, post-dispersion origins. These haplotypes should not be expected to be indentified in groups with Israelite origins that are purer than those of modern Jews.
Certain haplotypes have been
identified frequently among modern Jews and Near Eastern Arabs, although any
given haplotype is present only in a fraction of
modern Jews. These haplotypes, some claim, represent
"markers" for "regional affiliation" to the
But does it? On closer look, we find that these observations are
perfectly consistent with both Bible and Book of Mormon histories. Father
Abraham was a migrant from
Why do some of today’s Jews share some genetic haplotypes
with people of the modern Near East? To this also we can find abundant
explanations in the Bible. In later years, the many Jews intermarried with
other people-groups in spite of the traditional prohibition. During the
Babylonian captivity, the Jews were resettled in
Can these same markers
linking Jews to modern Near East populations can be used as a reliable
"test" of possible Israelite ancestry of other groups? If these genetic "signatures" were
introduced only by intermixing with other peoples of the Near East after the
captivity – something for which the historical and Biblical records provide
abundant time and opportunity – they cannot possibly be considered definitive
markers of the Israelite ancestry of "lost tribes" groups which left
Palestine forever during the Northern Captivity or during later migrations
prior to the Babylonian captivity. The questions of what these "regional
affinity" haplotypes represent in the ethnohistory of modern peoples, when were they introduced,
where they came from, and what they represent, have not even begun to be
History leads us to expect a much greater genetic
commonality between later Palestinian Jews and other people of the Near East,
than between earlier Israelites and the later Near East peoples. The Jews who
lived in the Near East until after the destruction of Jerusalem circa 70 AD and
then gradually made their way into the diaspora
should be expected to share far more genetic commonalities with Babylonians, Assyrians,
and other Near East groups than the Lehites, who left
Jerusalem approx. 600 BC, or the "ten tribes" from the Northern
Kingdom who were carried away by the Assyrians between 744 and 721 BC and then
lost to history.
The Assyrians had transplanted "men from
If all of the Jews had been transported out of
The data on near-eastern "regional affiliation" markers is underwhelming. Most of these "regional affiliation" markers are present only in a small fraction of modern Near East peoples. These markers are neither inclusive -- that is, not all modern Near Easterners share these haplotypes -- nor exclusive, i.e. their absence does not preclude an origin in ancient
The questions of what these
"regional affinity" haplotypes represent in
the ethnohistory of modern peoples, when were they
introduced, where they came from, and what they represent, have not even begun
to be answered. There is no evidence that these haplotypes
originated in ancient
Tom Murphy writes: “Genetic
data repeatedly point to migrations from
While allowed by the original researchers, the possibility of a
“geographic location common to both contemporary Mongolians and American
aboriginals” outside of modern Siberia and
Unlike trees and mountains, people-groups are not fixed features on the landscape: they are mobile. This is especially true of the Mongolians, Kazakhs, and southern Siberians, whose predecessors ruled an empire from
The only real validation for the belief that the ancient inhabitants of an area are the ancestors or close relatives of those living there today can come from a comparison of modern and ancient DNA. The Kennewick Man project has collected information on the mtDNA haplogroups of ancient and modern populations.19 DNA studies of ancient humans have demonstrated that the early inhabitants of the New World appear to have had all of the main mtDNA haplotypes (A, B, C, and D) found in modern Mesoamericans, supporting the concept that ancient Mesoamericans are in fact the ancestors of the present ones.
Issues on the Asian side are more problematic. DNA studies of ancient human remains from Siberia and
The ancient populations from which we do have some mtDNA data – namely, Chinese and Japanese – demonstrate strikingly different results from those of modern populations. The ancient remains tested from
The further back we go, the more genetic distinctiveness we find between ancient and modern Asian populations. One DNA study of ancient human remains found in
“The results indicate that the genetic backgrounds of the three populations are distinct from each other. Inconsistent with the geographical distribution, the 2,500-year-old Linzi population showed greater genetic similarity to present-day European populations than to present-day east Asian populations. The 2,000-year-old Linzi population had features that were intermediate between the present-day European/2,500-year-old Linzi populations and the present-day east Asian populations. These relationships suggest the occurrence of drastic spatiotemporal changes in the genetic structure of Chinese people during the past 2,500 years.” 21
The authors further document that the 2,500 year-old Linzi population was genetically distinct from the 2,000 year old Linzi population, stating: “the three smallest genetic distances for the 2,500 year-old Linzi population were from the Turkish, Icelander, and Finnish, rather than from the east Asian populations.”21
The remarkable irony is not that a 2500-year old population with strong
European genetic features live in central
If we were to imagine a hypothetical Linzi group that had immigrated from China in 500 BC, not long after Lehi left Jerusalem, to an island, the DNA of their descendants would be completely unrelated to that of modern Chinese and would be classified by proponents of “regional affiliation” genetics as belonging to a European culture group and not having originated in China at all.
Such a find wreaks havoc upon theories that the very ancient
inhabitants of one area must obligatorily share so-called “regional affiliation
haplotypes” with the modern inhabitants of these same
areas. We simply do not know enough
about the ancient genetics of
Current DNA studies provide no evidence that the haplotypes shared between Siberian and Mesoamerican
populations were found in Siberia or Central Asia before the dispersion of
Genetic studies undermine Mr. Murphy’s assumption of a relatively static Asian genetic pool that would be necessary to claim a genetically-proven definite geographic “origin” for Mesoamerican peoples within the physical confines of Siberia and
Could there have been a common origin outside of
The recent explosion of molecular DNA data has led to a considerable increase in knowledge about our roots. However, some individuals have draw and widely publicized conclusions far beyond those validated by the existing data. The claims of critics that DNA evidence "disproves" traditional LDS teachings that ancient Israelites were the principal ancestors of the ancient Mesoamericans, are highly premature.
LDS Critic Rich Deem writes:
“Not only do Mormon apologists have to deal with human genetics,
they also have to explain the genetics of certain intestinal bacteria and
domesticated dogs. In order for Native Americans to have been founded by
Israelites, the Helicobacter pylori
in their gut would have had to mutate to match that of the Asian variety. In
addition, the dogs they took over to the
Mr. Deem further notes: “Helicobacter pylori, a chronic gastric pathogen of human beings, can be found in virtually every human population group. Variations of the bacteria can be divided into seven populations and subpopulations with distinct geographical distributions. Analysis of these bacteria within native populations worldwide reveals that the East Asian strain of Helicobacter pylori can be isolated from Native Americans.”
The article referenced by Mr.
Deem in fact notes that there five “ancestral strains” of Helicobacter pylori
which they cite as Africa1, Africa2, EastAsia,
Europe1, and Europe2.23 Within Africa1 are two subgroups (WAfrica and SAfrica) and within EastAsia are three (EAsia proper,
Maori, and Amerind).
What is striking is that there is only one type for
Deem notes that “Mitochondrial
DNA sequences isolated from those ancient dog remains from Latin America and
Alaska showed that Native American dogs originated from multiple Old World
lineages of dogs that accompanied late Pleistocene humans across the Bering
Strait,” citing a 2002 article by Leonard and Wayne that appeared in Science.24 Yet Mr. Deem apparently missed or
selectively omitted reference to the prior article in the very same edition of
Science. The study authors note that
“>95% of all sequences belong to three phylogenetic groups universally
represented at similar frequencies, suggesting a common origin from a single
gene pool for all dog populations. A
larger genetic variation in
Other studies have examined the
pattern of migration in the
Bortolini’s article, which is cited by Mr. Deem as a reference, also
notes that the lowest degree of mitochondrial DNA polymorphism is found not in
North or South American populations, but in Central American populations.26
The authors attribute this to
genetic “bottlenecks” that they believe to have occurred as recently as the
past several hundred years. This would
contradict Mr. Deem’s theory, which would predict
that there would be more genetic diversity in Central America than in
While Mr. Deem notes that the combined improbability of these factors makes a belief in the Book of Mormon “ludicrous,” closer analysis of these data reveals that the only thing “ludicrous” is the extent to which he and other critics will go in distorting and misrepresenting science to attack the LDS faith. It is also interesting to note that the single “middle eastern” origin of dog DNA, helicobacter DNA, and other factors that he suggests is mandatory for presumptive Israelite groups, do not appear to hold for groups widely believed to be of Israelite origin such as the Lemba, the Bnei Menashe, and even modern Jewish groups. If the controls he suggests do not work for any of these groups, how can his contrived “criteria” be imposed upon Mesoamericans?
Studies have found that native Americans have less mitochondrial DNA diversity than among any other large people-group of comparable size, and even less diversity than modern mixed Jewish population. The mtDNA research of Dr. D. Andrew Merriwether suggests that the mitochondrial genetics of native Americans could be explained by a single migration,27 while others believe that there may have been two or three migrations from closely related people-groups. The accepted view of one or a few closely related founding groups serving as the ancestors of the overwhelming majority of Mesoamericans is very much in harmony with traditional LDS views of Mesoamerican origin from the Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites.
The only part of the existing data that we have not yet explained in harmony with the Book of Mormon story is the timing. Many scientists date the genetic divergence of modern Mesoamericans as having arisen from migrations between 10,000 and 15,000 B.C, rather than shortly after 600 B.C. as stated in the Book of Mormon account.
Just as the vast and unexplained disparities in DNA data among different Jewish populations have prompted many Jewish genealogists to discount the value of mitochondrial DNA studies, mitochondrial DNA studies of New World DNA have lead to vastly discrepant estimates of time of divergence and the number of Mesoamerican founding communities, with most estimates ranging from one to four. Ann Gibbons reports: “All this disagreement prompts Greenberg to simply ignore the new mtDNA data. He says: ‘Every time, it [mtDNA] seems to come to a different conclusion. I've just tended to set aside the mtDNA evidence. I'll wait until they get their act together.’”28
Martin Tanner explains: “The idea haplogroup
X has been in the Americas for 10 to 35 thousand years is based solely upon the
assumptions of the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, which include: (1) completely
neutral variants, (2) no mutation, (3) no
migration, (4) constant near infinite population size, and, (5)
completely random mate choice. In the Book of Mormon account, most of the
Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium assumptions are inapplicable. The wilderness
journey, the ocean voyage, and the colonization of the new world, result in patterns
of genetic selection and DNA migration different from that found in Lehi's home environment. Closely related individuals
married and we are dealing with an [initially] very small group, not a nearly
infinite population which would dramatically alter DNA marker distribution and
inheritance over time. If we take these assumptions about haplogroup
X instead of the Hardy-Weinberg assumptions, haplogroup
X could have been introduced into the
We must look with some pity on the state of
Revisiting the title of Tom Murphy’s talk “Sin, Skin, and Seed: The Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon our discussion has revealed no particular “mistakes of men” in the Book of Mormon, but a great many in Mr. Murphy’s logic. Instead of “disproving” the Book of Mormon story through scientific findings, critics only demonstrate their own failure to accurately grasp modern DNA data.
There is still much we do not know about the genetics of ancient
and modern populations, but a careful examination of the existing DNA data demonstrates
that this data is in no way inconsistent with the teaching of LDS prophets that
immigrants from ancient
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2. Kimball, Spencer W. "Of Royal Blood." Ensign, July 1971.
3. Pollack, Robert. "The Fallacy of Biological Judaism." Forward. March 7, 2003. http://www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.03.07/oped4.html
4. Murphy, Thomas. “Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics.” http://www.mormonscripturestudies.com/bomor/twm/lamgen.asp . Referenced 30 May 2004.
5. Murphy, Thomas. “Skin, Seed, and the Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon.” www.tungate.com/skinseed5.pdf . Referenced 30 May 2004.
Tony. “Witness for the Persecution.” New Times
7. Richards, Martin. "Beware the gene genies." The Guardian. 21 February 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,899835,00.htm .
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10. Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy. "Dad was out and about, while Mom
11. Theunissen, Izelle. “Every Gene
Tells a Story.” Science in
12. Craft, Dina. “DNA tests suggests Jews, Palestinians share common ancestry.” Associated Press. 10 May 2002.
13. Weale ME, Yepiskoposyan L, Jager RF, et al. Armenian Y chromosome haplotypes reveal strong regional structure within a single ethno-national group. Human Genetics. 109:659-674 (2001). http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tcga/tcgapdf/Weale-HG-01-Armenia.pdf
14. Bradman, Neil, Dror Rosengarten, and Karl L. Skorecki. "The Origins of Ashkenazic Levites: Many Ashkenazic Levites Probably Have a Paternal Descent from East Europeans or West Asians." Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Ancient DNA and Associated Biomolecules, July 21-25, 2002.
15. Behar DM, Thomas MG, Skorecki K, et al.. "Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries." American Journal of Human Genetics 73:4 (October 2003): 768-769.
16. Wade, Nicholas. "Geneticists Report Finding Central Asian Link to Levites." The New York Times. 27 September 2003: A2.
17. Thomas MG, Skorecki KL, Ben-Ami H, et al. "Origins of Old Testament Priests." Nature 394 (July 9, 1998): pp. 99-100.
18. Merriwether DA, Hall WW, Vahlne
A, Ferrell RE. “mtDNA
of Mitochondrial DNA
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