Book of Mormon DNA
Recently a group of scientists have claimed that DNA evidence disproves the Book of Mormon, which is a book of scripture used by the Mormon Church. DNA evidence shows that a number of Native American groups have close genetic ties to Asian races instead of the Middle East. Since the Book of Mormon states that Native Americans are descendents of the House of Israel it must be false.
Yet what many choose to ignore is that Mormon history shows that Mormons are open to the idea that other races besides those descended from the House of Israel lived on the American continents. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said, “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is exactly what it claims to be — a record of God’s dealings with peoples of ancient America and a second witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ… Nothing in the Book of Mormon precludes migration into the Americas by peoples of Asiatic origin.” 1
Although Joseph Smith himself stated, “the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham.” 2 He does not specify that they were the only ancestors of modern Native Americans. And was interested in descriptions of other groups coming to America. 3
The Book of Mormon is a record of a small group of people living in America just as the Bible is a record of the Israelites and not neighboring groups. Neither book is a record of all the groups living at that time. Hugh Nibley, renowned LDS historian, believed that other people were led to the Americas by the hand of God. He says, “Now there is a great deal said in the Book of Mormon about the past and future of the promised-land, but never is it described as an empty land. The descendants of Lehi were never the only people on the continent, and the Jaredites never claimed to be.” 4
In 1961, Ariel Crowley, a Book of Mormon scholar stated, “The Book of Mormon attests the presence of the blood of Israel. It is not in the least impugned by extraneous proof that other blood, by other migrations, found this land and mingled with the peoples there.”5
The Book of Mormon itself gives numerous evidences that point to other people living on the American continent at the time Lehi’s family arrived, thus explaining the evidence of other DNA. When Nephi took part of his family into the wilderness he mentions others that went with him, “And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.”6
Further evidence that those that accompanied Nephi were not just those of his family is found when the Lord spoke to Nephi saying, “Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever.”7
Some scientists question the accuracy of genetic testing since it is such a new field. As noted by John Relethford, renowned geneticist, “Although working in such a young and developing field is exciting, it is also frightening because the knowledge base changes so rapidly.”8 DNA testing cannot determine all previous genetic lineages. Through the testing of Y-chromosome (passed through males) and mitochondrial DNA (passed from mother to child) only a small fraction of an individual’s ancestry can actually be tracked.
So although some claim that the DNA evidence disproves the Book of Mormon it is up to the individual to decide.
(1) DNA and the Book of Mormon Los Angeles Times, 16 February 2006
(2) Roper, MatthewReview of Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations. Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2003. Pp. 91–128
(3) “Facts Are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons 3 (15 September 1842): 922.
(4) Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 218–19.
(5) Ibid., 145.
(6) 2 Nephi 5:5–6
(7) 2 Nephi 10:18–19
(8) Relethford, J.H. Genetics and the Search for Modern Human Origins. Wiley-Liss: New York (2001); quotation from p. 205.