QUESTIONS ABOUT DNA vs. THE BOOK OF MORMON
What are the basics of the DNA issue facing Mormonism?
At the heart of the DNA issue is the Book of Mormon’s claim that the Native Americans are descended from a people known as the Lamanites, who are descended from a supposed Hebrew migration to the Americas in ancient times. The Book of Mormon, since its publication, has been touted as a true historical account of ancient America and the ancestors of the modern-day Native Americans. Recent inroads in DNA testing have established that Native Americans are most closely related to people in the region of Mongolia and Siberia. Native Americans show no affinity to Near East populations, which is precisely what would expected if the Book of Mormon story were a true history. For more information on the DNA issue, CLICK HERE.
What has been the response from the LDS Church to the DNA video?
There has been virtually no response from the Church itself, which is not unexpected. The Church is very slow to issue any kind of official public declaration on any controversial topic. Their most common course of action is to ignore it. This is not necessarily true of LDS academic and apologetic organizations, such as FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) and FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research). These institutions have written extensively on the subject, but they generally carry very little academic weight outside of Mormon circles. Their arguments typically rest on putting forth an abundance of arcane, irrelevant and even misleading information to confuse the issues and make them seem more complicated than they really are; or conversely, they reinvent the Book of Mormon to fit the data that exist, which often requires ignoring key portions of the narrative that are problematic.
Links to FARMS and FAIR websites, where their arguments can be viewed, can be found here.
Information on dealing with LDS challenges to the DNA science can be found here.
Doesn’t DNA science pose the same problems to the Bible as it does the Book of Mormon?
Not really. Population genetics (the field of genetics relevant to the DNA video) have been shown in a number of areas to corroborate the biblical account. A notable example is the Cohen Y-chromosome discoveries that appear to validate the Aaronic priesthood line as described in Exodus. The State of Israel is doing significant genetic research in positively identifying "lost" Israelite populations around the world. Population genetics studies are based on comparison of present-day, observable genetic traits across living populations (and to a limited degree, remains of ancient populations). The data are empirical, and the conclusions are scientifically and logically sound, and no scientific studies that we are aware of challenge the conclusions presented in the DNA video. Sometimes what is implied in this question has to do with the issue of evolution and creation. While most geneticists favor the theory of evolution, there is a growing challenge to evolution--a challenge which is scientific and secular, not biblical--and the field of genetics has been central to this challenge. Therefore, at the very least it can be said that there is not a scientific consensus on evolution.
If we all have a common ancestor, as the Bible says, how can you say that Native Americans and Israelites are not related?
This question usually stems from a lack of understanding of the difference between common ancestry and line of descent. Genetic studies do, in fact, point to a common ancestor for all humanity, as does the Biblical account. However, the issue is not whether Native Americans and Hebrew peoples have common ancestors (obviously we all do, if you go back far enough); the issue is whether Native Americans are descended from a Hebrew population. In order for that claim of the Book of Mormon to be true, Native Americans must be descended from Hebrews, and studies in population genetics have concluded that this is not the case.
What has become of the scientists on the DNA video? Have any of them left the Mormon Church?
Thomas Murphy obtained his PhD in Anthropology, and continues to teach at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA. He was threatened with excommunication in December of 2002 as a result of publishing the results of the DNA findings; however, the upcoming disciplinary council got the attention of the national media, and the LDS Church declined to take any action against Dr. Murphy, presumably to avoid unwanted media attention. As of this writing, he remains a member of the LDS Church, albeit as a dissenting voice. Fear of bad press may be the reason why the LDS Church has not again pursued excommunication of Dr. Murphy. Former LDS genetic scientist Simon Southerton (of Canberra, Australia) published his findings in a book entitled Losing a Lost Tribe, which is available through Signature Books. In the summer of 2005 he was excommunicated from the LDS Church, ostensibly for personal reasons, but we are of the opinion that it had much more to do with the publishing of his book and his speaking out on the DNA challenges to the Book of Mormon.
As for the other scientists (those who never had any affiliation with the LDS Church), their contribution to the video was a matter of answering the questions that were posed, without any consideration for its implications for the Book of Mormon. In other words, they were simply stating the facts that they were qualified to state; they weren't motivated by any desire to prove or disprove LDS claims.
Many Christians ask if any of the LDS scientists have become Christians. To the best of our knowledge, the answer to that question is no. Nothing would make us happier, though!