DNA and the Book of Mormon

By David Stewart, M.D.

dgstewart@yahoo.com

May 30, 2004

http://www.limhi.com/bookofmormondna.doc

 

 


Introduction

 

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 Jerusalem to the American continent approximately 600 BC.  Prophets who taught of Christ were called from among this people for over a millennium, but eventually the people fell into apostasy and one branch of this civilization was destroyed.  Modern prophets from Joseph Smith to the present have taught that the remnant of the other branch, the Lamanites, represent the principal ancestors of modern Mesoamericans.

 

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

 

LDS prophets have consistently taught the descent of the indigenous peoples of Central and South America and much of Polynesia from Book of Mormon peoples.  Joseph Smith, prophet and translator of the Book of Mormon, stated: "The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians; having been found through the ministration of an holy angel, and translated into our own language by the gift and power of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last fourteen hundred years, containing the word of God which was delivered unto them (the ancestors of the American Indians). By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and the land of America is a promised land unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come, with as many of the Gentiles as shall comply with the requisitions of the new covenant.”1  In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord himself repeatedly refers to the American Indians as “Lamanites” (see D&C 28:8-9, 28:14, 30:6, 32:2, 54:8).

 

Elder Spencer W. Kimball stated unapologetically:  "With 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 America in ships of their making and went to the islands of the sea."2

 

At the Mexico City temple dedication, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley stated: “Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou has kept Thine ancient promise.”  At the Guatemala City temple dedication, he prayed: "We thank thee for the recorded record of our ancestors, the record of Lehi, Nephi and Jacob, of Alma and Mosiah, of Benjamin and Mormon and Moroni."  At the Lima Peru temple dedication, he stated: “"We are particularly mindful this day of the sons and daughters of Lehi. They have known so much of suffering and sorrow in their many generations. They have walked in darkness and servitude. Now Thou has touched them by the light of the everlasting gospel." At the dedication of the Hawaii temple in 1919, President Heber J. Grant stated: "We thank Thee, that tens of thousands of the descendants of Lehi, in this favored land, have come to a knowledge of the gospel."

 

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 ancient Israel, modern Jewish DNA data cannot be considered a valid control against which claims of Israelite ancestry of other groups can be accurately evaluated.

 

History and genetic evidence suggest that modern Jewish DNA is neither an inclusive nor exclusive indicator of the genetics
of ancient Israel
.  Throughout history, the Jewish population was reconstituted from only a fraction of its former people on at least several occasions. Only a fraction of the Jews returned from Babylon; only a portion of the Palestine Jews survived the Roman counterattacks following the Jewish uprising which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD; many others perished in European pogroms.  Dr. Robert Pollack notes that Ashkenazi Jews, which constitute most of the present Jewish population, "descend from a rather small number of families who survived the pogroms of the mid-1600s."3 All of these occasions would have resulted in the loss of some "Israelite" genes from the Jewish gene pool. Dr. Robert Pollack further notes: "Though there are many deleterious versions of genes shared within the Ashkenazic community, there are no DNA sequences common to all Jews and absent from all non-Jews. There is nothing in the human genome that makes or diagnoses a person as a Jew."3  When we consider the skew introduced by multiple "founder effects" of small group of survivors that represented only a fraction of the prior Jewish population on at least several occasions, together with scriptural and ethnohistorical evidence of Jewish intermixing with a variety of people-groups throughout their history and project it 2700 years into the past, one finds no rational basis for the assumption of critics that DNA from modern Jewish populations presents a full or accurate representation of Israelite genetics of pre-dispersion Israel. To the contrary, the observation is virtually inescapable that today’s world Jewish population does not contain all of the genetic data present in pre-dispersion Israel.


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 Israel.

 

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 Middle East, while the mothers' mitochondrial DNA seems to indicate a local Diaspora origin in the female community founders.”10

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 Israel, and therefore does not allow claims of Israelite lineage to be either confirmed or denied based on mtDNA data.

 

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.

 

We know from the Old Testament that non-Israelite mitochondrial DNA was introduced into ancient Israel on a systematic basis.  The Law of Moses made specific provisions for Israelites to take non-Israelite wives:

 

“When 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).

While 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 Israel.  It would be possible to be a descendant of the kingly line of ancient Israel, and yet carry distinctly non-Israelite mitochondrial DNA.

 

The 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 Israel and its neighbors described in the Old Testament, we would expect the mitochondrial “pool” of ancient Israel at the time of the captivity to include influences from much of the known world.  For these reasons, modern mtDNA studies appear to offer little if any value in ascertaining Israelite ancestry.

 

The Cohen Modal Haplotype

 

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 New World, then one would expect to find similar evidence to that found in a Lemba clan in one or more Native American populations. Such evidence, however, has not been forthcoming.
4

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 of India), discredit Book of Mormon claims for any Israelite origin to Mesoamericans.  In his efforts to discredit traditional LDS claims, Tom Murphy mentions "Lemba" ten times in the text of his article. It is the only example he provides of an ostensibly non-Jewish group "decisively confirmed" to have at least some Israelite roots by modern genetics.

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 Zimbabwe, the Bnei Menashe of India, and in several non-Jewish populations, including Armenians, Kurds, Hungarians, and central and southern Italians.

 

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 Judah. As for others (family of Ishmael and servants of Mulek), there exists no evidence of any kind that Cohen priests were present among the ancient Lehites or Mulekites.  To the contrary, there are at least factors suggesting that the presence of Cohens among the ancient Lehites is at best extremely unlikely.  First, Cohens represented only a tiny fraction of the Israelite population, and the probability that Cohens would have been present in the small migrations described in the Book of Mormon seems slim.  Second, had Cohens been present, it seems unlikely that Lehi and other non-Cohens could have officiated in ordinances like sacrifice described in the Book of Mormon.  Third, Cohens were specifically forbidden to intermarry even with other Israelites, accounting for their relative homogeneity in today's Jewish Cohens and presence in only a tiny fraction of non-Cohen Jews. It seems extremely unlikely that specific non-Levites in ancient Israel such as Lehi or Mulek would have carried the "Cohen modal haplotype," or that Ishmael's family would have intermarried with Lehi's had Ishmael been a Cohens.  At the risk of pointing out the obvious, although this point appears to have escaped Mr. Murphy, Israelite groups without Cohens should not be expected to have Cohen DNA.  We would expect that diaspora groups founded from larger numbers of pre-dispersion Israelites would have had at least some Cohen DNA, as Levite cities were scattered throughout all Israel, and some Cohens would have gone with the Ten Tribes into captivity while some remained in Judah. We would also expect that small groups that left Israel without any Cohens among them would not have any detectable levels of the "Cohen modal haplotype." Even after an additional twenty-six centuries of intermixing, the prevalence of the Cohen Modal Haplotype among non-Cohen Jews is only 2-3%. 

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 Israel. He creates a task for Book of Mormon believers that is essentially impossible in light of today’s limited DNA knowledge and the lack of haplotypes comparable to the CMH more generally relevant to non-Cohen Israelites – a fools errand. His tactics are polemical, not scientific, and the conspicuous absence of vital balancing points in his papers creates a very misleading picture for those not well versed in molecular genetics.

 

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.

 “Levite” DNA

 

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 Israel.   Bradman, Rosengarten, and Skorecki note:

 

“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 Israel, the United States and England... They say that 52 percent of Levites of Ashkenazi origin have a particular genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it is also found less frequently in the Middle East. The ancestor who introduced it into the Ashkenazi Levites could perhaps have been from the Khazars, a Turkic tribe whose king converted to Judaism in the eighth or ninth century, the researchers suggest. Their reasoning is that the signature, a set of DNA variations known as R1a1, is common in the region north of Georgia that was once occupied by the Khazar kingdom. The signature did reach the Near East, probably before the founding of the Jewish community, but it is still rare there. ... The present descendants of the Khazars have not been identified. ... If the patrilineal descent of the two priestly castes had indeed been followed as tradition describes, then... all Levites [should be descended] from Levi, the third son of the patriarch Jacob. ... But the picture among the Levites was less clear, suggesting that they had a mixed ancestry. Dr. Hammer and Dr. Skorecki returned to the puzzle for their new report, based on data gathered from nearly 1,000 men of Ashkenazi and Sephardi origin and neighboring non-Jewish populations. ... The paternal ancestry of the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Levites is different, unlike the Cohanim from the two branches..."16

 

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 of Israel and were not converts at all but merely returnees to Judaism. Furthermore, the tribe they claimed ancestry from was that of Simeon, the brother of the founder of the tribe of Levi.... Probably it was the old pre-Jewish Khazar priests - the qams - who at the conversion had become Levites en masse..."17

 

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.

 

 “Regional Affiliation” Haplotypes

 

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 Near East. The genetic markers found among Mesoamericans match most closely the genetic "signature" that of today’s Mongolian and Siberian people-groups, and is distinctly different from that of modern Near East peoples. The absence of many haplotypes claimed as "regional affiliation markers" of the Near East in Mesoamerican populations have led some to claim that this therefore "disproves" traditional LDS beliefs that the Americas were settled by a group of Israelite immigrants of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah who left Jerusalem in approximately 600 B.C.

 

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 Ur of the Chaldees, and not a native Palestinian. The Lord explicitly forbid intermarriage between Israelites and the native inhabitants of Palestine, commanding: "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son" (Deuteronomy 7:3). The spiritual and social separation between Israel and the surrounding nations is a frequent scriptural theme. With relatively few exceptions, such as that described in Judges 3:5-8, it appears that that there was only limited intermixing between Israelite and Gentile during the period of the captivity in Egypt and during the period of the Kingdom of Israel, mostly involving the assimilation of foreign wives. During this period, then, we would expect Israelites to have genetics relatively distinct from those of the surrounding nations. It would seem foolish to expect genetic "regional affiliation" markers gathered, if it were possible, from a composite of Canaanites, Egyptians, Phoenecians, and other groups then inhabiting the ancient near east, to represent a definitive test of early Israelite ancestry. 

 

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 Babylon. The Assyrians had previously "men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim" and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof" (2 Kings 17:24), and there were additional immigrations of various Gentile groups into Palestine during and after the Babylonian captivity. When the remnants of Judah returned from the captivity, they intermarried with a mixed non-Israelite population on a scale unprecedented in their prior history. The returned Jews, remained in Judea, mixed among a mongrelized population of Babylonians, Palestinians, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Syrians, Assyrians, and others, until after the time of the Savior. The ethnic makeup of Palestine to which the Jews returned after the captivity was quite different from that during the earlier period of limited intermixing with Canaanite tribes, some of which were almost completely destroyed, during the period of the kingdom of Israel. These intervening centuries in Palestine provide abundant opportunities for the introduction of "regional haplotypes" into the Jewish population. Therefore, we would 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. It can come as no surprise that modern DNA tests demonstrate considerable relatedness between modern Jews and Syrians, Arabs, Palestinians, Kurds, and Iraqis.

 

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 answered.  Hebrew University geneticist Howard Cedar states: "Researchers still don't know what the history is behind the variations. As a result, it is difficult to draw conclusions about genetic affinity."12

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 Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim" and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof" (2 Kings 17:24). There were additional immigrations of various Gentile groups into Palestine during and after the Babylonian captivity. When the Jews returned to Palestine from the Babylonian captivity, they returned to a land with a markedly different ethnic makeup from the predominately Canaanite Palestine of early Israel.

While in Babylon, many Jews had presumably intermarried with Babylonians and other peoples of the fertile crescent. The sociologic dynamics are such that transplanted minority groups are generally more likely to intermarry with other groups than more homogenous ethnic groups in their own societies, both because there are fewer marriage options within minority ethnic groups and because of external cultural factors. These changing dynamics likely resulted in a significant increase in intermarriage between Jews and their neighbors during and after the captivity.

If all of the Jews had been transported out of Palestine in 600 AD and had no further contact with Near Eastern peoples until the modern age, there could be a more reasonable basis for comparison. Yet because the Jews that are being used as "standards" for comparison remained in the Near East for many centuries longer (and I would point out, intermixing with somewhat different people-groups than the predominately Canaanite neighbors of early Israel), the concept of "regional affiliation" markers introduces again leaves us playing with a "loaded deck" that fails objective scientific criteria. Should we be surprised that today's Jews share many haplotypes with modern Near Eastern peoples? No, this is expected. Should we be surprised that groups which left Israel many centuries earlier lack many of these markers? Also, no.

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 Israel or elsewhere in the Near East. Studies of modern Near Eastern groups like Armenians reveal in many cases a "strong regional structure" as the result of a relatively high degree of genetic isolation even within "single ethno-national groups."13 Groups which left the area 2600+ years prior would be expected to be far more genetically distinct than even relatively isolated modern Near Eastern groups. The vast regional differences we see within the Near East today defy the assumption that a relatively few generic haplotypes can definitively rule in or out a historic origin anywhere in an ethnically heterogenous area that has been home to diverse cultures.

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 Israel, rather than among more populous peoples of the fertile crescent. Not a single one of the so-called modern Near Eastern "regional affiliation" haplotypes has been proven to have been prevalent in Israelite populations before the Babylonian captivity.The idea that an Israelite origin for non-Jewish people groups can be either ruled in or ruled out based on so-called "regional affililation haplotypes" is a simplistic theory that does not adequately account for known ethnohistoric dynamics.

 

Ethnohistory and Genetics: Affinities vs. Origins

 

Tom Murphy writes:  “Genetic data repeatedly point to migrations from Asia between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago as the primary source of Native American origins.” He further writes: “Asian origin is clearly indicated…”  Yet geneticists account for vital possibilities not allowed by Mr. Murphy.  Mitochondrial DNA researcher Dr. Andrew Merriwether notes: “We conclude that Mongolia or a geographic location common to both contemporary Mongolians and American aboriginals is the more likely origin of the founders of the New World.”18

 

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 Mongolia does not even appear to have occurred to Mr. Murphy and other critics of the LDS faith.  There is significant homology between the mitochondrial DNA sequences of modern native Americans and modern Mongolians.  Genetic research on modern populations allows us to appreciate an affinity or shared origin between two populations, but it does not allow us to definitively claim that the modern geographic location of one of these populations must represent the ancient geographic origin of the other.  Very little is known about the peoples inhabiting Mongolia before the very late date of 200 BC – over five centuries after the dispersion of the "lost tribes." Ethnohistory provides abundant data on large people-groups of almost entirely unknown origins who settled in Mongolia and south Siberia, which were active areas for mass migrations from across central Asia.  As a nomadic people traveling over vast areas but leaving few permanent settlements, the ancient ancestors of the Mongolians are particularly difficult to trace.


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 Eastern Europe to the Pacific. The nomadic character of the equestrian Mongols, the absence of any real natural barriers across thousands of miles of expanse of Siberia and Mongolia, and the history of literally hundreds of migrations of people-groups across these areas – some known, and many largely unknown – should lead thinking individuals to question the genetic basis for the assumption of Murphy and others that Mongolians and southern Siberians have been relatively statically located for many thousands of years, and that those living in these locations today harbor essentially the same gene pool as that present thousands or even tens of thousands of years ago.

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 Mongolia predating the dispersion of Israel are conspicuously absent. The only ancient mummies that have been found adjacent to Mongolia that I am aware of are those of the Tocharians – an ancient and mysterious civilization of blond and red-headed, Caucasian-appearing people who inhabited the Tarim basin approximately 3000 years ago.
20 The Chinese government to date has not permitted DNA testing on these mummies, but I know of no geneticists or anthropologists who believe the Tocharians to be the “principal ancestors” or even significant genetic contributors to modern Mongolian, Siberian, or Uighur populations. While we have no evidence that the ancient Mongolians carried the same haplotypes present in modern Mongolians, the Tocharians present evidence that at least some of the people-groups inhabiting the area around the Gobi Desert were very different from those today. Our awareness of the ethnogenetic distinctiveness of the Tocharian people and even their very existence comes almost exclusively from their rather unique custom of mummification and to their rather fortuitous discovery in the desert sands only in 1987.

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 Japan contain none of the four main mtDNA types (A,B,C, and D) present in 99% of modern Mesoamericans and 52% of modern Mongolians.
19 Among ancient Chinese, only 13% share an mtDNA haplotype with Mesoamericans, and only two of the haplotypes (A and B) are present at all. Even these ancient Chinese remains are only 2000 years old, over seven centuries later than the dispersion of the northern kingdom of Israel. In contrast, a modern study of “central Chinese” with a similar sample size demonstrates the presence of all four haplotypes (A, B, C, and D), and the prevalence of the shared mtDNA haplotypes has increased to 45%.19

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 China notes:

“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 China, but that they appear to be the oldest inhabitants of China yet identified.  It is only because of a relatively unique study that we have any awareness of this group, whose genetic features seems to be almost entirely absent in modern Chinese populations.

 

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 Israel to make any such pronouncements, and the limited data we have from other areas strongly contradicts beliefs that the ancient and modern inhabitants of any given area must share closely related DNA homologies.

 

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 Israel.  Existing data also suggests that the prevalence of these haplotypes among central Chinese and other Asian populations may have increased significantly over time.  The DNA commonalities between modern Siberian and Mesoamerican populations suggests that shared haplotypes may not have been indigenous to the pre-dispersion inhabitants of central Asia, but could have been introduced to both locations by migrants from ancient Israel – to central Asia by dispersed “lost tribes” following the northern captivity of Israel, and to the Americas by the Lehite and Mulekite groups described in the Book of Mormon.


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 East Asia.  Given the known discrepancies between the genetics of ancient and modern Asian populations, the reader might ponder whether it is reasonable to attempt to extrapolate the DNA findings of modern populations to ancient ones or to attempt to define geographic origins without examining ancient human DNA from both locations.

Could there have been a common origin outside of Mongolia for both native Americans and many modern Mongolians?  The Bible tells us that the “ten tribes” were dispersed to the “lands of the North.”  Do not Siberia and Mongolia qualify as “lands of the North?”  It has been noted that the genetic markers found in modern Mesoamericans have the greatest affinity for those of modern Mongolians, southern Siberians, and Manchurians. Rather than "disproving" Israelite origins, this is remarkable, in view of the fact that over the past few years, modern patriarchal blessings have identified LDS members of twelve of the thirteen tribes of Israel in Mongolia. While this does not offer any kind of scientific “proof,” it should at least open our minds to consideration of the possibility of a common origin for Mesoamericans and many modern Mongolians outside of Central Asia, perhaps in ancient Israel.  In light of this and Book of Mormon teachings about the Israelite origins of the Mesoamericans, one wonders if at least some elements of the genetics of these groups may not represent the genetics of ancient Israel better than many of today’s mongrelized Jewish populations.

 

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.

 

Other DNA Issues: Dog DNA, Helicobacter DNA, Polymorphism Gradients

 

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 Americas would have had to mutate to an Asian type genetics. All of these five extremely improbable, multiple mutation effects would have had to have happened within one or two generations in the same small populations. The idea is scientifically ludicrous.”22

 

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 Asia, which is home to over 60% of the world’s population.  While the North Indian isolates fell into the Europe category, this is not inexpected as North Indians share common origins with Europeans as demonstrated by their Indo-European language.  The study presents absolutely no data on Near Eastern or Mideastern populations except for a sample of just five Israelis.  As Jewish populations have returned only relatively recently to Palestine after having lived in predominately European culture-groups for as many as nineteen centuries, the fact that these five Israelis were found to carry a European strain of H. pylori can hardly come as a surprise.  Given the lack of any credible evidence about “Near Eastern” helicobacter pylori strains, or (of more relevance) H. pylori strains present in the ancient Israel of 2600 BC, Mr. Deem’s conclusion that the existence of a variant of the Asian strain of H. pylori among Mesoamericans is an “extremely improbable event” which “disproves” the Book of Mormon is completely unwarranted.  The only thing we can properly deduce from this study is that the strains of H. pylori prevalent in Mesoamericans did not originate among Indoeuropean or African peoples, but that they originated somewhere in Asia – all findings that are completely expected from a scriptural and historical standpoint.

 

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 East Asia than in other regions and the pattern of phylogeographic variation suggest an East Asian origin for the domestic dog.”25 If virtually all modern domestic dogs are found around the world today – whether in Africa, Europe, or the Americas – are descended from early East Asian dogs, this finding does nothing to discredit Book of Mormon history. 

 

Other studies have examined the pattern of migration in the Americas revealed through Y chromosomal polymorphisms found in different Native American populations. These studies have found a North to South gradient of increasing genetic drift in the Americas.26   Mr. Deem claims: “This is contrary to the Book of Mormon claim that the founding populations originated in either Central America or Chile. If such claims were true, the gradient would run in the opposite direction.”  Mr. Deem appears to be selectively amnesic, as in another point in the same article he quotes the Book of Mormon as noting that “the Lord brought Lehi to the land south and Mulek to the land north." (Helaman 6:10).  Although the exact date of founding of the Mulekite colony is unknown, the Lehite and Mulekite colonies were roughly contemporary.  Therefore, Mr. Deem’s attempt to discredit the Book of Mormon by claiming that it predicts a gradient that would run “south to north” is unsupported by the text.

 

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 South America if there were a true “north to south gradient.”  While more groups in South America than North America demonstrate high homogeneity for single Y DNA haplotypes, virtually all of the types represented in North America are also represented in at least some South American tribes.  The differences more likely represent differences in social structure and rates of interbreeding among the different groups, rather than a definitive statement on the direction of migration.  From a socioethnohistoric perspective, we would expect the genetics of highly developed but somewhat isolative, near caste-like societies (such as the Inca of South America) to be more genetically homogenous than less-developed nomadic groups (like the Plains Indians of North America).  We would also expect the natural geographic barriers prevalent in South America – the jungles and rainforests, the Amazon basin, and the mountains – to foster a more significant degree of genetic isolation than that seen in North America, where flatlands extending for thousands of kilometers are interrupted only by the Rocky Mountains (which appear to have been far less populated than the Andes) and few natural barriers exist between tribal groups.

 

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?

 

Mitochondrial DNA Data Points to One or Few Founding Groups

 

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.

 

Dating the DNA

 

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 Americas as recently as one to two thousand years ago, far less than the ten to thirty-five thousand years under the Hardy-Weinberg assumptions.”29  The same argument applies to the other aspects of the genetic dating of New World colonization.

 

Evangelical Christianity’s “Suicide Bombing”

 

We must look with some pity on the state of Living Hope Ministries and other Evangelical and Protestant groups which have latched onto bogus claims of dissident and ex-mormon “scholars” that modern DNA evidence “disproves” Book of Mormon historicity in their effort to combat the “Mormon threat” at any cost.  When we examine the implications of their claims and apply the same standards of scientific validation to their own beliefs, it is evident that their desperate claims amount to a “suicide bombing” devastating to their own beliefs.  We might ask them, if all mankind is descended from Noah, who most biblical scholars place at only 2400 BC, why do not all male humans share the same Y chromosome?  Where is the archaeological evidence of a worldwide great flood?  And so forth.

 

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.

 

Conclusion

 

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 Israel represent the “principal ancestors” of modern Mesoamericans.  Many items in the Book of Mormon that critics had previously claimed as impossible or anachronistic in ancient Mesoamerica have since been shown to have existed (for some examples, see Matthew Roper’s article “Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon).30  Although much is still unknown about the ethnogenetic history of Mesoamericans, ancient Israelites, and many other people-groups, the claims of some critics that current DNA data disproves traditional LDS beliefs are based in misunderstanding and misrepresentation of science.

 

References

1. Smith, Joseph.  History of the Church. vol. 1, p. 315.

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.

6. Ortega, Tony. “Witness for the Persecution.” New Times Los Angeles.  April 20-26, 2000

7. Richards, Martin. "Beware the gene genies." The Guardian. 21 February 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,899835,00.htm .

8. Thomas MG et al. “Founding mothers of Jewish communities: geographically separated Jewish groups were independently founded by very few female ancestors.” American Journal of Human Genetics. 2002 Jun;70(6):1411-20.

9. Wade, Nicholas. "In DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots." The New York Times (May 14, 2002): F1 (col. 1). http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/14/science/social/14GENE.html .

10. Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy. "Dad was out and about, while Mom stayed home." Jerusalem Post. 16 June 2002, p. 9.

11. Theunissen, Izelle. “Every Gene Tells a Story.” Science in Africa: February 2003. http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za/2003/february/gene.htm .
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 variation indicates Mongolia may have been the source for the founding population for the New World.” Am J Hum Genet. 1996 Jul; 59(1): 204-12

19.  Summary of Mitochondrial DNA New World Haplogroups in Humans Worldwide.” National Park Service Archaeology and Ethnography Program Kennewick Man homepage. http://www.cr.nps.gov/aad/kennewick/t_ktable2.htm and http://www.cr.nps.gov/aad/kennewick/t_kfig2.htm.  Accessed 1 May 2004.

20. Reid, Howard.  “Mysterious Mummies of China.”  PBS NOVA broadcast.  20 January 1998.  Transcript at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2502chinamum.html .

21. Wang L, Oota H, Saitou N, et al. “Genetic structure of a 2,500-year-old human population in China and its spatiotemporal changes.” Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Sep;17(9):1396-400

22. Deem, Rich.  “DNA Evidence and Molecular Genetics Disprove the Book of Mormon.”  http://www.godandscience.org/cults/dna.html  Accessed 1 May 2004.

23. Falush D, Wirth T, Linz B, et al. “Traces of human migrations in Helicobacter pylori populations.” Science. 299: 1528-1529 (2003).

24. Leonard JA, Wayne RK, Wheeler J, et al. “Ancient DNA evidence for Old World origin of New World dogs.” Science.  298:1540-1542 (2002).

25. Peter Savolainen, Ya-ping Zhang, Jing Luo, Joakim Lundeberg, Thomas Leitner.  “Genetic Evidence for an East Asian Origin of Domestic Dogs.”  Science.  298: 1610-1613 (22 Nov 2002).

26. Bortolini MC, Salzano FM, Bau CH, et al. “Y-chromosome biallelic polymorphisms and Native American population structure.” Ann Hum Genet. 66:255-259(2002).

27. Merriwether DA, Rothhammer F, Ferrell RE. “Distribution of the four founding lineage haplotypes in Native Americans suggests a single wave of migration for the New World.” Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.. 98:411-430 (1995).

28. Gibbons, Ann.  The Peopling of the Americas.” Science.  Vol. 274 #4.  October 1996.

29. Tanner, Martin S. Personal communication, April 2004.

30. Roper, Matthew.  “Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon.” http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/conf/2001RopM.html