BoMor  >  History of Interpretation

Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics

Thomas W. Murphy

[The angel] said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham ...
—Joseph Smith

Editor's Note  An updated revision of this essay is now available in: To order American Apocrypha directly from Signature Books, click here.

In March 2000 Scott Woodward, Professor of Microbiology at Brigham Young University (BYU), launched a multi-million dollar human molecular genealogy study funded by philanthropists Ira Fulton and James Sorenson. The Molecular Genealogy Research Group (MGRG) uses DNA evidence to identify genealogical connections between present and past humans. Increasing interest in using DNA to trace family histories and linkages between human populations offers considerable promise to Latter-day Saint genealogical endeavors. It also constitutes a boost to broader scientific research into the history and geography of human genes as well as global migration and world population histories. While the embrace of human molecular research at a university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is likely a welcome development for most well-educated Mormons, this burgeoning interest may provoke some reconsideration of assumptions about human geography and history long held by many, if not most, Mormons.

Some Latter-day Saints have expressed optimism that DNA research would lead to a vindication of the BoMor as a translation of a genuine ancient document. The hope is that DNA research would link Native Americans to ancient Israelites, buttressing LDS beliefs in a way that has not been forthcoming from archaeological, linguistic, historical, or morphological research. The results, though, have been disappointing. So far, DNA research lends no support to traditional Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans. Genetic data repeatedly point to migrations from Asia between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago as the primary source of Native American origins. DNA research has substantiated the archaeological, cultural, linguistic, and biological evidence that also points overwhelmingly to an Asian origin for Native Americans. While DNA evidence shows that ultimately all human populations are rather closely related, to date no intimate genetic link has been found between ancient Israelites and the indigenous peoples of the Americas—much less within the time frame suggested by the BoMor. After considering recent research in molecular anthropology, summarized here, I have concluded that Latter-day Saints should not expect to find validation for the BoMor in genetics. My assessment echoes that of geneticist and former LDS Bishop Simon Southerton whose survey of the literature on Native American DNA also "failed to find anything that supported migration of Jewish people before Columbus." He concluded "the truth is that there is no reliable scientific evidence supporting migrations from the Middle East to the New World."

This essay outlines two significant insights into the geography and history of human genes and their implications for Mormon thought. If the new embrace of DNA research has an impact on Mormon views of the world, it will likely propel new approaches to scripture and history already underway in Mormon intellectual circles. First, the genealogical data inscribed in human genes suggest to current researchers that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor that lived in Africa between five and seven million years ago. This genetic data adds to the abundance of archaeological, fossil, and anatomical data pointing to ancient human origins in Africa and adds to difficulties in upholding scriptural literalism. Second, genealogical data inscribed in genes of modern humans and ancient American skeletons not only helps researchers to identify ultimate origins but also provides clues to ancient migration patterns. Current genetic data suggest that ancestors of Native Americans separated from their Asian neighbors about 40-50,000 years ago and from each other in what may have been three or more separate waves of migration by 7-15,000 years ago. No support for Mormon beliefs linking American Indians to ancient Israelites is evident in the data.

DNA and Human Origins

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) consists of a double-stranded molecule containing the genetic code. DNA is the major component of human chromosomes and links humans to all other life on earth. Because of their common evolutionary past the cells of all living organisms share fundamental similarities. Beginning about 1.2 billion years ago, structurally complex cells known as eukaryotic cells first appeared. Eukaryotic cells contain a variety of structures within the cell membrane. DNA is one of the most important of those structures. Nuclear DNA is found in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is more abundant, is found outside the nucleus and in humans is inherited directly from mothers to offspring. Both nuclear and mtDNA share a similar structure but are organized somewhat differently. Through comparisons of DNA and mtDNA across living organisms, scientists have discovered a veritable genealogical record inscribed in our genes. Often labeled molecular anthropologists, these scientists have begun using DNA markers to chart human evolution and migration.

The Third Chimpanzee

Jared Diamond, professor of physiology at UCLA Medical School, draws upon DNA evidence to support an argument that humans ought to be classified as the third chimpanzee. While scientists have long pointed to anatomical similarities with monkeys and apes as justification for the classification of humans as primates, analysis of DNA has helped us realize just how closely related we are to monkeys and apes. Monkeys share an impressive 93% of their genetic code with humans while apes and humans share at least 95%. Humans and chimpanzees share an astounding 98.4% of their DNA. The genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees (pygmy and common) is less than that between common gibbons and siamang gibbons. It is also less than that between closely related North American bird species such as the red-eyed vireos and white-eyed vireos. Diamond concludes that "we are just a third species of chimpanzee" and "our important visible distinctions from the other chimps—our upright posture, large brains, ability to speak, sparse body hair, and peculiar sexual lives—must be concentrated in a mere 1.6 percent of our genetic program."

African Origins

DNA evidence not only confirms our close genetic relationship with chimpanzees and gorillas but also points to Africa as the birthplace of humanity, providing additional support for the fossil record. Molecular evidence from the analysis of protein immunological data suggests that humans and chimpanzees shared a common African ancestor 5-7 million years ago. Paleoanthropologists and archaeologists have long found eastern and southern Africa to be a fertile ground for fossils linking humans and chimpanzees. The fossils from the genera Australopithecus and Ardipithecus show that multiple species of ancient hominids with chimp-like brains were walking around on two feet between six and one million years ago. The emergence of a larger brained hominid Homo habilis around two million years ago is followed by that of Homo erectus about 1.7 million years ago and archaic Homo sapiens around 500,000 years ago. Homo erectus and archaic Homo sapiens spread from Africa through much of Europe and Asia. Fossils of fully modern humans first appear in Africa around 100,000 years ago and throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia by 40,000 years ago. Scientists have long debated whether the evolution from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens sapiens was a gradual multiregional transition throughout the Old World or whether fully modern Homo sapiens, emerging out of Africa, displaced regional archaic Homo sapiens like the Neandertals found in Europe and western Asia.

The biggest splash that molecular anthropologists have made in the debate over human origins has occurred in the rivalry between hypotheses of multiregional evolution and modern emergence out of Africa. Allan C. Wilson, Rebecca L. Cann, and colleagues utilized mtDNA of living humans to construct a genealogy that points to a common female ancestor living in Africa less than 200,000 years ago. Genetic research into human origins provoked an ongoing debate about the applicability of mtDNA data to the study of human evolution. Paleoanthropologists Robert Corruccini and Glenn Conroy have criticized assumptions and simplifications in the interpretation of genetic data. However, early genetic analyses have been substantiated by more thorough analyses of mitochondrial genome variation and by several population studies of nuclear DNA which also show more genetic variation in Africa than elsewhere, indicating a common African origin for all humans. The recent extraction of DNA from Neandertal fossils lends further weight to the out of Africa hypothesis substantiated by molecular data from living humans. These studies found that the mtDNA of Neandertals falls outside the range of variation found in modern humans and that Neandertal and modern human lineages split about 600,000 years ago. The genetic evidence supports the position that modern humans emerged from Africa approximately 150,000 years ago and spread across the rest of the Old World displacing archaic forms of Homo sapiens.

Stanford geneticist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, has synthesized data from blood groups and protein polymorphisms (i.e., proteins occurring in many different forms) to calculate genetic distances between human populations as a tool for uncovering human history and geography. He has compared these genetically derived dates to those indicated by archaeological and linguistic evidence to prepare a model of the colonization of the globe by modern humans. According to these calculations modern humans first left Africa for Asia approximately 100,000 years ago. They spread from Asia to Australia approximately 55,000 years ago and to Europe approximately 43,000 years ago. The data are less conclusive about the exact timing of the migration from Asia to the Americas, but an Asian origin is clearly indicated and the possible time frame stretches from 15,000 to 50,000 years ago. A closer comparison of Amerindians and East Asians (as opposed to all Asians) suggests an expected date of the first settlement of America at approximately 32,000 years ago.

Age of Reason

Biblical historicity has been central to Mormon theology from its inception in early-19th-century America. When Joseph Smith, Jr. published the BoMor in 1830, early America was embroiled in debates about the role of scripture in an age of skepticism and reason. The existence of two continents of people in the Americas that were unaccounted for in the Bible had caused a theological crisis in Christianity since the early 16th century. Questions and doubts about the historicity of the Bible were rampant in European and early American intellectual circles. In 1794 and 1795 Thomas Paine, one of early America's most articulate spokespersons, wrote an influential series of pamphlets entitled The Age of Reason that defended the reasonableness of a belief in God but that portrayed the Bible as mythology and hearsay. The Smith family, like many others, found themselves embroiled in this controversy. Asael Smith, grandfather of Joseph Smith, Jr., confronted his son, Joseph Smith, Sr., with a copy of Paine's Age of Reason when he heard that the elder Joseph was attending Methodist services. Lutheran minister Robert N. Hullinger has written a sympathetic portrait of this debate, its impact on the Smith family and Mormon theology. Hullinger has made a strong case to support the claim that the BoMor and parts of the Pearl of Great Price and the D&C constituted Joseph Smith's response to this skepticism. In an 1842 letter Joseph Smith stated his position on these contemporary issues when he declared "the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly" while claiming a higher status for the BoMor as "the word of God." His tendency to still read the Bible in more literal terms is evident in his designation of Independence, Missouri as the site of the original Garden of Eden. In the context of this debate, the Mormon scripture defended biblical tradition against the onslaught of skepticism while validating some of the concerns of skeptics about inaccuracies in the Bible.

Internal Mormon debate on the Bible and human origins, fueled by Charles Darwin's publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, has historically shown support for evolution from LDS scientists and some general authorities. Brigham H. Roberts, an LDS general authority who supported pre-Adamic life and the antiquity of the earth, stands out as an early spokesperson for the harmonization of scientific knowledge and LDS theology. A positive approach to science also found sympathy and support among LDS authorities such as John A. Widstoe, David O. McKay, and Hugh B. Brown. More recently, however, leaders such as Mark E. Peterson, Harold B. Lee, Bruce R. McConkie, and Ezra Taft Benson have publicly warned against the dangers of science and criticized evolution. LDS sociologist Armand L. Mauss has charted a growing turn among church leadership and general membership towards Protestant fundamentalism in the latter part of the 20th century. Despite this trend the First Presidency has not taken a definitive stand for or against evolution. This neutral approach is encouraging for the many Mormons embarking on careers in science and seeking ways to resolve tensions between their academic careers and personal spirituality. Attempts by Latter-day Saints to balance these perspectives can be found in publications as diverse as Sunstone, Dialogue, BYU Studies, and FARMS Review of Books. An embrace of genealogical data extracted from the human genome may serve to propel the LDS Church President to eventually join the Catholic Pope in public acknowledgment of the validity of scientific theories of human evolution as long as God's role is acknowledged. Yet, such a stance would demand a more liberal interpretation of not only the Bible but also Mormonism's revelatory texts that defend the biblical tradition.

Molecular Anthropology and Native American Origins

Molecular anthropology offers no support for the BoMor as a history of ancient America. Non-LDS scientists have long held that the depiction of ancient America in the BoMor is inconsistent with the archaeological record. In 1973, Michael Coe, an archaeologist at Yale University, discredited Joseph Smith's ability to "read 'Reformed Egyptian' or any other kind of hieroglyphs," observing:

There is an inherent improbability in specific items that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon as having been brought to the New World by Jaredites and/or Nephites. Among these are the horse (extinct in the New World since about 7,000 B.C.), the chariot, wheat, barley, and metallurgy (true metallurgy based upon smelting and casting being no earlier in Mesoamerica than about 800 A.D.). The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 B.C. and A.D. 421 presented in the book has little to do with the early Indian cultures as we know them, in spite of much wishful thinking.

For similar reasons, Latter-day Saint archaeologists such as Dee F. Green and Deanne G. Matheny have been critical of naïve attempts by travel companies to link the BoMor to archaeological sites. Life long efforts by Latter-day Saint scholars such as Brigham H. Roberts and Thomas S. Ferguson to use archaeological evidence to corroborate the BoMor have proven disappointing. Genetic evidence appears to pose similar difficulties for linking the BoMor to ancient American populations. When asked about DNA evidence and the BoMor, Michael Crawford, a biological anthropologist at the University of Kansas, stated "I don't think there is one iota of evidence that suggests a lost tribe from Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great story, slain by ugly fact."

Michael Crawford's conclusions in The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics show why he so roundly rejects Mormon claims. Genetic similarities, morphological resemblance, craniometric affinities, and cultural similarities between Asians and New World populations lead Crawford to conclude:

This evidence indicates extremely strong biological and cultural affinities between New World and Asian populations and leaves no doubt that the first migrants into the Americas were Asians, possibly from Siberia.

Shortly following this statement, Crawford acknowledges that "[t]his evidence does not preclude the possibility of some small-scale cultural contacts between Amerindian societies and Asian or Oceanic seafarers." Crawford's work clearly shows that Amerisraelite Lamanites could not possibly have been the "principal ancestors of the American Indians," as claimed in the current introduction to the BoMor. Yet, he is cautious enough to note the possibility that genetic research may yet turn up evidence of small-scale contacts even though he has yet to see "one iota of evidence" linking lost Israelites to the Americas.

Current genetic evidence for the affinity of Native American and Asian populations is abundant. Crawford lists more than a dozen alleles for blood proteins unique to New World and Asian populations. He identifies several additional genetic systems which are not exclusive to Asians and American Indians but occur at different frequencies elsewhere. These include "the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system, the various blood groups, and even the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Asian haplotypes." Amerindian and Siberian populations may even "share a genetic predisposition to otitis media," a middle ear infection. The abundance of the genetic evidence is further substantiated by its general agreement with the archaeological, linguistic, anatomical, and physiological studies that also point to Asian origins of American Indians.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Some of the most revealing research into Native American genetics comes from analyses of mtDNA. Native Americans were among the first human groups studied for mtDNA variation. This research began in 1985 with the identification of a frequent (40%) polymorphic genetic marker in Pima-Papago of southern Arizona, otherwise reported in low frequency among some East Asians. A second study of mtDNA variation in 1990 found that the Pima-Papago, Yucatan Maya and the Ticuna from Brazil all shared high frequencies of the same genetic marker. These researchers identified four unique mtDNA families in these three Native populations and concluded that despite their distance from each other they were very closely related and most likely came from the same founding population. In the following years, the researchers confirmed that "almost all Native American mtDNAs (about 98 per cent) were defined by one of four sets of specific mutations and clustered in four well-defined groups of haplotypes which were termed 'haplogroups'. The four haplogroups were termed A, B, C and D."

Stanford linguist Joseph Greenberg's 1987 study of languages in America initially appeared alongside but is now deeply imbedded in the debates about Native American genetics. Greenberg proposed that Native American languages could be divided into three families: Amerindian (comprising most languages of North and South America), Na-Dene (comprising Navajo, Apache, and languages spoken in the Pacific Northwest), and Eskimo-Aleut. Stanford genetist Cavalli-Sforza has contended that a significant correlation can be found between dendrograms (family tree classifications) of genetic and linguistic evidence. This claim has drawn criticism from linguists who generally accept Greenberg's classifications of Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene language families but object to the lumping of the remaining languages into a single Amerindian family. In a recent publication, Cavalli-Sforza stood by the correlations he found between Greenberg's linguistic classifications and his genetic ones. He qualified the significance of this correspondence, "Amerindians are genetically extremely variable and the linguistic subgroupings within the Amerindian family do not correspond terribly well with the genetic results." Cavalli-Sforza uses genetic data to propose an Amerindian migration, or possibly multiple migrations, of at least 30,000 years ago, older and more complex than those of later Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut speakers.

Studies of thousands of individuals and dozens of Native communities from North, Central and South America demonstrate that Amerindian populations generally contain all four mtDNA haplogroups. Important exceptions include the populations of lower Central America where only haplogroups A and B are present. Speakers of Na-Dene languages, likely products of a later migration, tend to harbor only haplogroup A. Haplogroup B, very common among East Asians, Polynesians, and Amerindians, is found at low frequencies among Siberians, Eskimos and Na-Dene speakers. This anomaly initially suggested the possibility of multiple migrations. The first would have harbored haplogroups A, C, and D, the second could have carried haplogroup B, and the third would have consisted of Na-Dene speakers. Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes has suggested that the peculiar distribution of haplogroup B may be "the genetic echo of a second seaborne colonization that took the coastal route north up the coast of Asia and down the Pacific coast of North America" approximately 12-13,000 years ago. This wave of migration may have been prompted by the same post Ice Age environmental changes which launched a distinct branch of the same haplogroup from coastal China or Taiwan to colonize the Polynesian islands. Italian geneticist Antonio Torroni estimates that the first migration occurred between 34,000 and 26,000 years ago, the second between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago, and the third 10,000 to 7,000 years ago. More recent analysis of the control region of mtDNA found support for an early arrival of all haplogroups. It is possible that "all Native Americans derive from a single source population which colonized Beringia possibly around 30,000 years ago." The first migrants out of Beringia would have given rise to Amerindians and subsequent migrations to the Na-Dene and Eskimo. While researchers dispute the exact timing, number, and origin of migrations from within Asia, there is a virtual consensus on Asian origins of Native Americans.

Haplogroup X

The mtDNA evidence initially appeared to leave room for a more complex picture of migrations to the Americas. While about 98% of Native Americans are descended from one of the four haplogroups A-D, approximately 1% of Native American mtDNA, now designated haplogroup X, does not belong to haplogroups A-D. Prior to a better understanding of European mtDNA, researchers speculated that haplogroup X may have originated from recent admixture from Europeans. On the results of recent research, Torroni observes:

Among Native Americans, haplogroup X appears to be essentially restricted to northern Amerind groups, including the Ojibwa (25 per cent), the Nuu-Chah-Nulth (12 per cent), the Sioux (15 per cent), and the Yakima (5 per cent), although it was also observed in the Na-Dene-speaking Navajo (6 per cent). Ö Substantial sequence differences exist between the Native American and European mtDNAs. Median network analysis showed that European and Native American haplogroup X mtDNAs are related yet (nearly) disjoint from each other, and that considerable genetic substructure exists within both groups. Thus, the presence of this haplogroup in North America cannot be attributed to recent admixture with Europeans. Estimates of the coalescence time of these mtDNAs in the Americas range between 12,000 and 36,000 years ago, indicating that haplogroup X represents an additional founding mtDNA lineage in Native Americans.

Haplogroup X can be found in low frequencies in Europe, the Near East (including Israelis), and North America. Until very recently it was thought to be virtually absent from living eastern-central Asian, Siberian, Central, and South American populations. Torroni proposed "that some Native American founders could have been of Caucasoid ancestry and haplogroup X might have been brought, directly or indirectly, to Beringia/America by the eastward migration of a 'Caucasoid' population which apparently did not contribute to the maternally derived gene pool of modern Siberian/East Asian populations." Geneticist Theodore Schurr reported the presence of haplogroup X in "two Pre-Columbian North American populations" and the possible presence in "a few ancient Brazilian samples." Because of distinctive variations within the Native American haplogroup that distinguish it from European haplotypes Michael D. Brown et al. date the arrival of haplogroup X in North America to 12,000-36,000 years ago. Sykes's research echoes this timing and interpretation, tracing X's origin to the borders of Europe and Asia approximately 25,000 years ago and noting the early separations of distinctive branches—one of which gave rise to the European and the other to the Asian/Native American matrilineages.

The discovery of a rare haplogroup X with apparent linkages to the Near East sparked the interest of some Latter-day Saints despite posing considerable difficulty for the chronology and geography of the BoMor. The timing of the entry of haplogroup X predates the events of the BoMor by thousands of years. The distribution of X in America challenges both the traditional hemispheric geography of the BoMor and the more recent limited geography in Central America posited by researchers associated with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). X neither appears spread across the American continents nor in a selected region in Central America. A recent FARMS editorial noted the association of haplogroup X with "European-like" characteristics by some observers and suggested that haplogroup X "may not be the last new haplogroup to be winnowed from the residual 'other' category." The editorial points to the possibility of haplogroup H (common among Europeans) among Maya Indians as an example of the complexity of the scientific data and a caution against simplistic interpretations. While the editorialist's warning against hasty conclusions is a worthy one, most geneticists continue to attribute the occasional presence of European haplogroups H and J and African haplogroup L in contemporary Native populations to recent admixture with European and African immigrants. In the most recent research Miroslava V. Derenko and colleagues have identified the presence of haplogroup X among Altaians from South Siberia. This newest finding confirms the ancient route of a branch of the X matrilineage across Asia, through Siberia, and to the New World. Ultimately, the existence of haplogroup X does not substantiate the BoMor account of ancient American history.


Mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from a maternal lineage, provides only one method of investigating human genealogy. Analysis of Y-chromosomes offers an opportunity to investigate lineage through male lines. Human females and males are distinguished on the chromosomal level by the presence of two X-chromosomes in females and an X and a Y-chromosome in males. Males inherit the Y-chromosome from a paternal lineage. Thus, the Y-chromosome offers an alternative way of investigating genetic relationships between populations.

Studies of Y-chromosome provide substantiation for the conclusions drawn from mtDNA, archaeology, and linguistics. The world-wide distribution and frequency of Y-chromosome data provide additional support for an African origin of all modern humans. They also point overwhelmingly to an Asian origin of Native Americans, probably central Siberia. Early studies identified one major haplotype (defined by the DYS199 T allele) in southern and central Amerindians in frequencies above 90% indicating a strong genetic homogeneity and a common foundational population. This haplotype was also found in lower frequencies among Eskimo and Na-Dene speakers and Asian Eskimos in far northeastern Siberians (possibly the result of back migration across the Bering Strait). Intermediate Y haplotypes that may have given rise to this major Native American marker have been found in Siberia. Another recent study has identified a second major founder haplotype in North, Central, and South American populations. Geneticists T. M. Karafet et al. have identified the first major haplotype (DYS199 T) as haplotype 1G and the new one as haplotype 1C. While the haplotype 1C is found among Native Americans, Asians, and Europeans (2.3%), it reaches its highest frequencies outside of the Americas in Siberia. Another possible founder haplotype they identified as 1F also appears most frequently in Siberia and Mongolia, but not in Europe. While the investigation of Y-chromosome lineages is not as far along as that of mtDNA, early results continue to substantiate the Asian origins of Native Americans indicated by other genetic markers, archaeology, morphology, and linguistics.

Ancient DNA (aDNA)

Most studies in molecular anthropology have been conducted on living populations. While these studies are valuable in helping us identify the migration patterns of ancestors of contemporary peoples, they only tell part of the story. Recent developments, including the invention of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in the mid-1980s, have also made it possible to extract and analyze DNA from some ancient fossil remains. Some of the most exciting recent developments in this emerging field have included the successful extraction of DNA from two Neandertal skeletons (discussed above). Another recent study has linked the prehistoric Anasazi of the southwest United States to modern populations of the Pueblo Indians. Studies of Anasazi, Fremont, and Oneota all show continuity between ancient and modern populations and continue to support Asian origins of Native Americans.

Of most interest to Latter-day Saints favoring a limited Mesoamerican geography for the BoMor might be the study of ancient Maya skeletons from Copán, Honduras. A team of geneticists led by D. Andrew Merriwether from the University of Michigan successfully extracted DNA from nine skeletons and compared the results with living populations. They found that all nine individuals that could be completely typed belonged to mtDNA haplogroups C or D, thus indicating connections to living Native American populations. Yet, living Yucatec Maya are predominately from haplogroups A and B, with lower frequencies of C and D. Despite the apparent differences between these two Maya populations widely separated by geography and time, the authors caution against reading too much into this small sample. Preliminary data indicated that several additional individuals which could not be fully typed were neither C nor D. As is obvious from this example, studies of ancient DNA offer additional clues about Native American genetic patterns but they are hampered by a low extraction success rate and the low frequency of most population specific polymorphisms that would permit closer identification with modern populations.

Israelite DNA

Population based genetic studies have clearly and consistently shown a significant clustering of Asians and Native Americans. This statistical clustering is the product of shared genetic markers, similar frequencies of genetic markers shared broadly in world populations, and some markers exclusive to Native Americans and Asians. None of the studies I have encountered has produced results showing Native American populations clustering with those of Near East, Israelite, and/or Jewish groups. LDS scholars favoring a limited geography for the BoMor (discussed below) might contend that one should only expect to find small traces of Israelite DNA in contemporary or even ancient populations. Despite the future likelihood of minimalist arguments, LDS anthropologist John Sorenson has previously speculated that one should expect to find just as much or as little interaction (culturally and genetically) between Israelites and the peoples of America as one finds among Israelites and the peoples of Eurasia. If Sorenson is correct, then we can look to other populations claiming a Jewish ancestry as models for what one should expect geneticists to have found in the Americas.

Researchers have uncovered distinctive genetic markers on the Y-chromosome that can be useful in establishing linkages between ancient Hebrew and contemporary populations. Within the modern Jewish religion there are three patrilineal castes that genetic anthropologists Neil Bradman et al. describe thus: "the Priests (Cohanim, singular Cohen), non-Cohen members of the priestly tribe (Levites) and Israelites (non Cohanim and non-Levites)." As they use the term Israelite, it constitutes a subgroup of Jews "who are neither Cohanim nor Levites." While Cohanim and Levites are present in most Jewish communities, one becomes a Jew through matrilineal heritage (being born to a Jewess) or through conversion. Thus "Israelite" haplotypes are very diverse, with only the Cohen modal haplotype appearing more frequently than 0.1 (14 out of 119). The Cohen modal haplotype is much more frequent in both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Cohanim (0.509, n = 54) and relatively rare in Levites (0.037). Despite different understandings of the terms Jew and Israelite than those commonly held among Mormons, Bradman and colleagues date the origin of the Cohen modal haplotype to 2,100 to 3,250 years ago (putting it within the historical range of alleged Lehite and Mulekite migrations to the New World). They conclude that it may "be useful for testing hypotheses regarding the relationship between specific contemporary communities and the ancient Hebrew population." Markers on the Y Chromosome are not the only genetic linkages between descendants of ancient Hebrews. Numerous nuclear DNA polymorphisms and various types of mtDNAs have been used to cluster and chart genetic relationships among Jews in Europe, Asia, and Africa. They have even provided evidence of Jewish connections among probable Spanish American descendants of conversos (Spanish Jews forcefully converted to Christianity in the 15th century). Yet, they consistently fail to produce the linkages one would expect to find if Native Americans descended from ancient Hebrews as the BoMor suggests.

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. Bradman and Thomas note that "claiming Jewish origins is not an unusual phenomenon: the myth of the lost tribes is a powerful story and many groups have claimed to be descendants of one or other of the tribes or have been put forward for that honor." The BoMor 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.

Shifting Foundations

Evolution presents only a minor challenge to popular Mormon beliefs in comparison to the problems posed by scientific views of ancient America. New genetic evidence adds to an overwhelming abundance of linguistic, archaeological, cultural, biological, anatomical, and psychoanalytic data that undermine traditional Latter-day Saint beliefs. Among those beliefs in question are the foundational claims that the BoMor was literally translated from an ancient record, that it contains the history of Israelite migrations to the Americas, and that the Lamanites described in the text are the "principal ancestors of the American Indians." Remarkably, most Latter-day Saints remain unaware of the multitude of reasons why the non-Mormon scientific community has roundly rejected the historical claims of their central sacred text.

An Ancient Record?

Challenges to the BoMor's historicity have plagued the text since its inception and continue to fuel internal debates among Mormon intellectuals who can be found on both sides of the issue. Some LDS scholars have proposed that the time is appropriate for new approaches to the BoMor that do not depend upon a belief in an ancient origin of the text. Even many faithful Mormon intellectuals have distanced themselves from traditional LDS assumptions about the BoMor and its relationship to ancient America. They express public doubt that the BoMor accounts for the origins of all or even most Native Americans and instead propose a limited geography in Central America. They also reject literal readings of the BoMor in their proposals that the people described in the text never actually rode horses, traveled in chariots, used steel swords, raised cattle, or ate wheat and oats.

The embrace of DNA research at BYU coupled with the increasing availability of scientific knowledge may continue to spur greater LDS investment in groups such as FARMS. FARMS has played and will likely continue to play a primary role in revisionist interpretations of Mormon scripture that may help questioning Latter-day Saints find new ways to reconcile their faith with a scientific world view. The DNA research may only make their efforts more difficult as the views of Mormon intellectuals and those of traditional Mormons continue to diverge.

Limited Geography

Problems with linking the BoMor to ancient American populations have prompted LDS scholars, especially those associated with FARMS, to propose new interpretations of Lamanite identity in the latter part of the 20th century. Rejecting the hemispheric views of previous generations and most contemporary Mormons, LDS anthropologist John L. Sorenson has proposed a limited geography for the BoMor around the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Central America. He interprets the BoMor as a lineage history comparable to the Popol Vuh of the Quiché Maya rather than a hemispheric history as most Mormons have understood it. He explains that "the Book of Mormon is a partial record of events, emphasizing what happened to one group of people, put in their own ethnocentric terms, in the midst of other peoples each with its own version of events."

If the events described in the BoMor took place in a small setting in Central America, then where would an investigator look for genetic evidence of Israelites? FARMS historian William Hamblin claims that Lamanite simply means "non-Nephite," but clearly acknowledges that this is a cultural, not a biological designation. "Lamanite is not a genetic designator requiring us to insist that all inhabitants of the New World are genetically descended only from the Lehite colony." In this respect, he declares "all modern Native Americans can be accurately described as cultural or political Lamanites, since they are non-Nephites." By this logic, William Hamblin (a non-Nephite) would also be a Lamanite so one would need more specific criteria to distinguish genetic Lamanites from cultural non-Nephites. Sorenson, like Hamblin, is comfortable stating "all native peoples of the New World may be appropriately classified 'Lamanites'." He quickly notes, though, that this designation says nothing about "'literal' descent." Like Hamblin, Sorenson expresses some optimism that Lehite genes and ideas may have spread out from Central America but cautions that such diffusion would be "minor, culturally or biologically." Yet, he does identify several specific places where significant movements of Mesoamerican peoples and ideas took place. These include northern Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, and the southeastern United States. "Ecuador in the time of the Jaredites, and Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia at several later times, also felt the impress of Mesoamerican life and probably of the genes of its peoples."

The social and historical variability of the meanings of the term Lamanite requires careful attention to differences between biology and culture—the type of care that Sorenson and Hamblin have advocated and that is evident in studies of the Lemba, the African tribe with established linkages to ancient Hebrews. The meanings of the term Israelite, like that of Lamanite, are variable over time and place. Molecular anthropologists Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas had to exercise considerable caution in their attempts to tie cultural categories to biological markers. Ultimately, they identified the Lemba's heritage through a paternal priestly lineage with a distinctive genetic marker on the Y-chromosome found in only 11% of the living people they identified as Israelites. Quests for Lamanite DNA must overcome the same problems but are hampered by the blanket absence of any ancient historical sources that would substantiate or clarify the cultural classifications made in the BoMor.

While researchers at FARMS are careful to note the importance of cultural influences on the construction of categories like Lamanite, they do express confidence in an Israelite genetic presence in Central America and perhaps as far away as Arizona and Colombia. As we have seen, genetic studies of indigenous peoples throughout North, Central, and South America have failed to link any Native Americans from these locations or elsewhere to ancient Hebrews. Yet, careful genetic studies in the Old World have proven capable of linking the Lemba of southern Africa to ancient Hebrews.

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies Editorial

Recently an anonymous editorial addressing "The Problematic Role of DNA Testing in Unraveling Human History" appeared in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. The editor aptly urges caution against simplistic identification of Israelites with skin color and physical features through a dramatic set of photographs illustrating the physical variation among modern "Jews." The author encourages readers to approach "new light" from DNA with a skeptical eye, reminding them that meanings applied to molecular data come from the scientists not the DNA. While such critical thinking is a necessary part of all quality scientific inquiry, the anonymous author disparages the value of molecular research by calling it a "new toy in human biology and anthropology" and dismissing molecular reconstructions of human history as "temporary, even faddish." The anonymous editorialist exaggerates the impact of the criticism that followed analysis of variation of mtDNA in living populations by Rebecca Cann and colleagues without acknowledging subsequent studies supporting their interpretation of a recent African origin of humanity (see discussion above). Despite the skepticism urged about DNA research more generally, the author claims "the DNA data has decisively confirmed" the Lemba traditions of Jewish ancestry. The author also favorably highlights speculations about low levels of gene flow between American Indians and Polynesians by the same Dr. Rebecca Cann whose more substantiated work on African origins of humanity the Journal's editorialist had previously cast doubt upon. The selected attention to a couple of cases of possible gene flow from South America to Polynesia misleadingly avoids mentioning the "crystal clear" conclusion of research into Polynesian mtDNA which identifies an ancestral origin for nearly all Polynesians in coastal China or Taiwan approximately 20-30,000 years ago.

The most disappointing aspects of the article are its failures to provide even a summary of the status of current research and to address the ethics of the type of research it proposed. The editorial raises the question that must have lingered in so many readers' minds: "So is there evidence from DNA studies of populations in America having Near Eastern/Jewish characteristics?" Yet, the anonymous author avoids providing a direct answer to the question by shifting to a hypothetical narrative immediately after raising the question. In a speculative narrative between a philanthropist desiring to fund DNA research and a molecular expert, the scientist discourages the donor by raising questions about the efficacy of such studies. Those questions include the likelihood of biological change in America and the Near East over 2,600 years from the time of Lehi, the possibility that Lehi's party was not genetically typical of Jews in Jerusalem at the time, problematic linkages between ethnicity and biology, the impact of intermarriage between Lehi's descendants and indigenous Americans, difficulty identifying direct descendants of Lehi, and only a "distant chance that someday we might know enough to identify [even] one group in Central America" through cultural and linguistic ties to the Near East. Perhaps in an echo of the ambivalence in the first half of the article, the author ends with a cautious suggestion of studying a mysterious group of Mexican Indians of purported Jewish origin identified by Raphael Patai in the 1930s but apparently unknown to other researchers.

The methodological concerns raised in this hypothetical dialogue are comparable to the ones addressed and surmounted by Bradman, Thomas, and colleagues in their study of the Lemba. Their success offers hope to the anonymous author that FARMS or perhaps MGRG can likewise identify even one group in Central America with cultural and linguistic ties to the Near East and conduct a similar test. Concerns from the FARMS author about the likelihood of biological change in the Americas over the past 2,600 years are exaggerated given the tendency of the distribution of ancient mtDNA to reflect the same patterns evident in contemporary populations. Yet, even a genetic match between the Near Eastern and an American Indian population would not validate the BoMor narrative, it would only be consistent with it. Additional studies from other perspectives would still be necessary to validate its historical claims. Studies in the Americas to date do not offer much hope for success. While the focus of my essay has not been on finding "plausible" interpretations for the lack of evidence for the BoMor, the summary of the current status of research that I have provided here should help fill the gap left by a welcome but unsatisfying editorial from FARMS.

Ethics of Genetic Research

The formal organization of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) in mid-September 1993 without consultation of indigenous peoples led to public outcry. The HGDP, like the MGRG at BYU, seeks to use molecular data to chart the history and geography of the human species. Beginning with a public statement on 20 October 1993 the South and Mesoamerican Indian Information Center (SAIIC) spearheaded public concern about the ethics of collecting genetic data from indigenous people. This outcry significantly curtailed access by HGDP to public research funds. SAIIC fully recognized the potential health benefits of such endeavors but demanded indigenous oversight and consultation of indigenous peoples whose genes are subject to collection and study. The MGRG at BYU has the approval of BYU's Human Subjects Institutional Review Board and denies the need for local ethical review. With a large private endowment MGRG is not as dependent upon public funding and oversight as the HGDP. MGRG has already raised ethical questions in the minds of many observers and has drawn criticism for circumventing local ethics review in New Zealand. The potential use of genetic data collected by MGRG for advancing a religious agenda that many Native Americans already find racist and invasive raises serious ethical concerns that have yet to be adequately addressed.


Writing before the emergence of molecular anthropology, LDS anthropologist John L. Sorenson anticipated both the utility and futility of the types of molecular tests that are now available:

Should some investigator find new methods to pursue research on the 'blood lines' of a particular individual, family, or people, he or she might find that some native Americans are directly descended from Nephites of ancient times, that some are descended in part from others in Lehi's or Mulek's parties, that some are of Jaredite origin, and that still others have no discernible connection to any of those. Scientific, genealogical, or historical methods are not available; but more important, the scriptures indicate that the results would not matter as far as the Church and the gospel are concerned.

Quantitative scientific methods can now test the claims of an Israelite genetic presence in ancient America. So far, they have demonstrated that nearly all Native Americans can trace their lineages to migrations from Asia sometime between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago. Latter-day Saints who prematurely pointed to haplogroup X as the best hope to salvage Mormon claims were mistaken—indeed, the timing and destination of that migration is inconsistent with either a hemispheric or limited Mesoamerican geography for the BoMor. Moreover, the most recent studies have identified haplogroup X in Siberian populations which share a common ancestry with Native Americans. While molecular anthropologists have demonstrated a technological capability to use DNA to identify descendants of ancient Hebrews, no such evidence has turned up in Central America or elsewhere among Native Americans. Ultimately, as Sorenson has noted, these findings may not matter to Latter-day Saints who have a spiritual witness of the "truth" of the BoMor, yet they caution against confusing a spiritual witness with scientific evidence. Spiritual witnesses may reach beyond science but they should never be confused with it.

From a scientific perspective, the BoMor's origin is best situated in early 19th century America, not ancient America. There were no Lamanites prior to c. 1828 and dark skin is not a physical trait of God's malediction. Native Americans do not need to accept Christianity or the BoMor to know their own history. The BoMor emerged from Joseph Smith's own struggles with his God. Mormons need to look inward for spiritual validation and cease efforts to remake Native Americans in their own image.

In 1973, after weighing the overwhelming archaeological evidence against an ancient origin for the BoMor, Michael Coe implored Latter-day Saints:

Forget the so-far fruitless quest for Jaredites, Nephites, Mulekites, and the lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful; there is no more chance of finding them than of discovering the ruins of the bottomless pit described in the book of Revelations. ... Continue the praiseworthy excavations in Mexico, remembering that little or nothing pertaining to the Book of Mormon will ever result from them. And start digging into the archaeological remains of the Saints themselves.

As we enter the 21st century, I would like to offer similar advice to Latter-day Saints. Continue our praiseworthy genealogical endeavors and efforts to preserve ancient history. Make use of the latest genetic technologies to enhance the precision and accuracy of genealogical records and historical research. Avoid fruitless quests for Israelite DNA in ancient America—there is little more chance of finding genetic proof of Lehite civilization than there is of finding the BoMor gold plates.

(hAcKed & rEndeReD by bReNt LeE mEtcALfe! Copyright © 2000–2003 Brent Lee Metcalfe for Mormon Scripture Studies: An E-Journal of Critical Thought. All rights reserved.)

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[Bio] Thomas W. Murphy is Chair, Department of Anthropology at Edmonds Community College (EdCC) in Lynnwood, WA. He is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Washington where he is currently completing a doctoral dissertation on Mormon uses of the Popol Vuh, a 16th century Quiché Mayan text. His articles on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Native Americans appear in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Ethnohistory, Journal of Mormon History, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and Sunstone. Tom is the recipient of Dialogue's 1997 Theology and Scripture Writing Award for his article "Laban's Ghost: On Writing and Transgression" (30.2 [1997], 105-126).

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Joseph Smith, Journal, 9 November 1835. See Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books and Smith Research Associates, 1987), 51; Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Volume 2—Journal, 1832-1842 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 70; Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996), 1:44.

I want to thank the following persons for their helpful comments and suggestions: Edward Ashment, Bryan Bean, Sterling Fluharty, Armand Mauss, Jenny McFarland, Brent Metcalfe, Tara Metcalfe, Kerrie Murphy, Simon Southerton, Dan Vogel, and David Wright. Despite the help of others, I alone remain responsible for the conclusions reached in this article.

Jeffrey P. Haney, "Y. Researcher Curious About Your Bloodlines," Deseret News (15 August 2000); Lindsay Palmer and Roger Bryner, "Ethical Issues Surround DNA Research," Newsnet@BYU (28 March 2000); Carolyn Peterson, "BYU's Genealogy-Through-DNA Research Getting Boost from New DNA Research," Newsnet@BYU (28 June 2000); Allison Jones, "Y Molecular Group Works on Worldwide Family Tree," Newsnet@BYU (18 November 2000). See also <>.

For instance, DNA analysis ignited public curiosity over whether Thomas Jefferson sired children with his slave Sally Hemmings. See the online resources supplied by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation ("Jefferson-Hemings DNA Testing: An On-Line Resource"). See also Philip W. Hendrick, Genetics of Populations (Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2000), 389-90.

The extent to which DNA analysis is being used as a portal to the past is lucidly illustrated in Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001).

Dan Egan, "BYU Gene Data May Shed Light on Origin of Book of Mormon's Lamanites," Salt Lake Tribune (30 November 2000); Simon Southerton, "DNA Genealogies of American Indians and the Book of Mormon" (17 March 2000); Jonathan Higbee, "Where Is the Lamanite DNA?" Despite a general lack of supporting evidence, at least one researcher at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) has found reason for optimism in linguistic research. See Brian D. Stubbs, "Hebrew and Uto-Aztecan: Possible Linguistic Connections," Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 279-81.

While it is possible to find chance similarities at single loci, these have to be viewed within the larger picture. Kenneth K. Kidd et al., for example, report preliminary frequencies for three allele systems, observing that "[t]hese data make it clear that attempting to reach conclusions on population relationships from single loci is very risky—Roman Jews are most like Amazon Basin tribes in APOB and SST, but most like Cambodians at D20S5. Obviously, these gene frequency similarities cannot indicate close population affinities." Kenneth K. Kidd et al. "Nuclear DNA Polymorphism and Population Relationships," Genetic Diversity Among Jews: Diseases and Markers at the DNA Level, eds. Batsheva Bonné-Tamir and Avinoam Adam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 37.

Simon Southerton, "DNA Genealogies of American Indians and the Book of Mormon" (17 March 2000).

Robert Jurmain et al., Introduction to Physical Anthropology, 8th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000), 44-45. Mitochondria are independent organisms that live symbiotically in the human body, within each and every human cell, although outside of the nucleus. Since sperm consists only of nucleic material, mitochondria are transferred to the next human generation through the mother's egg cell.

Douglas Steinberg, "Genetic Variation Illuminates Murky Human History: Molecular Anthropologists Use DNA Markers to Chart Evolution and Migration," The Scientist 14[15]:10 (24 July 2000).

Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 25.

See A. C. Wilson and V. M. Sarich ("A Molecular Time Scale for Human Evolution," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 63 [1969]: 1088-93) and C. G. Sibley and J. E. Ahlquist ("The Phylogeny of the Hominid Primates, as Indicated by DNA-DNA Hybridization," Journal of Molecular Evolution 20 [1984]: 2-15), cited in Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al., The History and Geography of Human Genes, abridged ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 86.

Michael D. Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, "One Giant Step for Mankind: Meet Your Newfound Ancestor, a Chimplike Forest Creature that Stood Up and Walked 5.8 Million Years Ago," Time 158.3 (23 July 2001): 54-61.

Robert Jurmain et al., Introduction to Physical Anthropology, 8th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000); Roger Lewin, The Origin of Modern Humans (New York: Scientific American Library, 1998). For an incisive new media presentation on human evolution see the Web site Becoming Human, <>.

Allan C. Wilson and Rebecca L. Cann, "The Recent African Genesis of Humans: Genetic Studies Reveal that an African Woman of 200,000 Years Ago Was Our Common Ancestor," Scientific American (April 1992), 68-73. For an alternative point of view see Alan G. Thorne and Milford H. Wolpoff, "The Multiregional Evolution of Humans: Both Fossil and Genetic Evidence Argues that Various Human Groups Arose Where They Are Found Today," Scientific American (April 1992), 76-83. See also Christopher B. Stringer, "The Emergence of Modern Humans," Scientific American (December 1990), 98-104.

Robert S. Corruccini, "Reaganomics and the Fate of the Progressive Neandertals," Integrative Paths to the Past: Paleoanthropological Advances in Honor of F. Clark Howell, eds. R. S. Corruccini and R. L. Ciochon (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994), 697-708; Glenn C. Conroy, Reconstructing Human Origins: A Modern Synthesis (New York: Norton, 1997).

Max Ingham et al., "Mitochondrial Genome Variation and the Origin of Modern Humans," Nature 408 (7 December 2000): 708-713; Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al., The History and Geography of Human Genes, abridged ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 89.

Matthias Krings et al., "Neandertal DNA Sequences and the Origin of Modern Humans," Cell 90 (1997): 19-30; Ryk Ward and Chris Stringer, "A Molecular Handle on the Neanderthals," Nature 388 (17 July 1997): 225-26; Igor V. Ovchinnikov et al., "Molecular Analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the Northern Caucasus," Nature 404 (30 March 2000): 490-93.

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples, and Languages (New York: North Point Press, 2000), 61-63. For a discussion that dates the first migration as early as 15,000 years ago see Ryk Ward, "Language and Genes in the Americas," The Human Inheritance: Genes, Language, and Evolution, ed. Bryan Sykes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 135-57.

Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with the New World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Fernando Cervantes, The Devil in the New World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994); Elsa Cecilia Frost, "Indians and Theologians: Sixteenth-Century Spanish Theologians and Their Concept of the Indigenous Soul," South and Meso-American Native Spirituality: From the Cult of the Feathered Serpent to the Theology of Liberation, ed. Gary H. Gossen (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1993), 119-39.

Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1957 [1794]). See also the online version of Paine's The Age of Reason, Part I.

Robert N. Hullinger, Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992). As Ed Ashment kindly reminded me, the BoMor is far more than a response to skepticism, it is also "a condemnation of Masonry; a theory of the origin of the Amerindians—all of them; a condemnation of biblical polygamy; an assertion that Christianity always was—that it did not evolve out of Judaism; a declaration of a homousian trinity; an advocate of predestination (cloaked as 'foreknowledge'); etc." (private communication).

Joseph Smith, "Church History," Times and Seasons 3 (1 March 1842): 706-710, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Volume 1—Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 437.

John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of the Mormon Cosmology (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 198. For a more sustained argument for Joseph Smith's literalism and its implications see William D. Russell, "Beyond Literalism," The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1990), 43-54.

David H. Bailey, "Science and Mormonism: Past, Present, Future," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29.1 (Spring 1996): 80-96.

Although not published until well after his death, the best example of Roberts's apologia in this regard is Brigham H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994).

David H. Bailey, "Science and Mormonism: Past, Present, Future," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29.1 (Spring 1996): 82-83.

Armand L. Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

David H. Bailey, "Science and Mormonism: Past, Present, Future," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29.1 (Spring 1996): 85.

The personal struggles of two LDS professors at Idaho State University are outlined in a new book published by Signature Books. See Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum, Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001). Note their participation with me on a panel discussion "DNA and Lamanite Identity: A Galileo Event," moderated by Brent Metcalfe, at the 2001 Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium.

Pope John Paul II, "Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences." Stephens and Meldrum use the example of the Pope's embrace of evolution as an illustration of the need to "change our thinking and world views" in light of "new and accumulating scientific data" (Trent Stephens and Jeffrey Meldrum, Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001], 79-80).

Overviews of some of the latest archaeological research into Native American origins include Robson Bonnichsen and D. Gentry Steele, Method and Theory for Investigating the Peopling of the Americas (Corvallis, OR: Center for the Study of the First Americans, 1994); Robson Bonnichsen and Karen L. Turnmire, Ice Age Peoples of North America: Environments, Origins, and Adaptations of the First Americans (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 1999); Thomas D. Dillehay, The Settlement of America: A New Prehistory (New York: Basic Books, 2000). For a critique of archaeology from a Native American perspective see Vine Deloria, Jr., Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact (New York: Scribner, 1995).

Michael Coe, "Mormons and Archaeology: An Outside View," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8.2 (1973): 40-48. See also Edward H. Ashment, "'In the Language of My Father': Evidence of Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew in the Book of Mormon," New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 329-93.

Dee F. Green, "Book of Mormon Archaeology: The Myths and the Alternatives," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4.2 (1969): 71-80; Deanne G. Matheny, "Does the Shoe Fit? A Critique of the Limited Tehuantepec Geography," New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 269-328. See also Hampton Sides, "This Is Not the Place," DoubleTake 5.2 (Spring 1999): 46-55.

B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992); Stan Larson, Quest for the Gold Plates: Thomas Stuart Ferguson's Archaeological Search for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Freethinker Press and Smith Research Associates, 1996).

Dan Egan, "BYU Gene Data May Shed Light on Origin of Book of Mormon's Lamanites," Salt Lake Tribune (30 November 2000).

Michael Crawford, The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3-4. Crawford provides an incisive perspective, though he omits some recent research and focuses primarily on north American native populations.

"Introduction," The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981).

Michael Crawford, The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 4-7.

See D. C. Wallace et al. ("Dramatic Founder Effects in Amerindian Mitochrondrial DNAs," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 68 [1985]: 149-55) and T. G. Schurr et al. ("Amerindian Mitochrondrial DNAs have Rare Asian Mutations at High Frequencies Suggesting a Limited Number of Founders," American Journal of Human Genetics 46 [1990]: 613-23), cited in Antonio Torroni, "Mitochrondrial DNA and the Origin of Native Americans," America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000), 77-87.

Antonio Torroni, "Mitochrondrial DNA and the Origin of Native Americans," America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000), 79.

Joseph Greenberg, Language in the Americas (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987).

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al., The History and Geography of Human Genes, abridged ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994); Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples, and Languages (New York: North Point Press, 2000).

Colin Renfrew, ed., America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000).

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples, and Languages (New York: North Point Press, 2000), 136.

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples, and Languages (New York: North Point Press, 2000), 136.

Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 282 (for dates see 281, 283).

Antonio Torroni, "Mitochrondrial DNA and the Origin of Native Americans," America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000), 81-83.

Antonio Torroni, "Mitochrondrial DNA and the Origin of Native Americans," America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000), 85.

Michael D. Brown et al., "mtDNA Haplogroup X: An Ancient Link between Europe/Western Asia and North America?" American Journal of Human Genetics 63 (1998): 1852-61.

Antonio Torroni, "Mitochrondrial DNA and the Origin of Native Americans," America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000), 81-83.

Theodore G. Schurr, "Mitochondrial DNA and the Peopling of the New World," American Scientist 88.3 (2000): 246-53.

Michael D. Brown et al., "mtDNA Haplogroup X: An Ancient Link between Europe/Western Asia and North America?" American Journal of Human Genetics 63 (1998): 1852.

Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 213-20, 274, 281.

See John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Desert Book Company, 1996) as an example of an argument for a limited geography and a summary of the more traditional hemispheric view. For an example of LDS interest in Haplogroup X see Jeff Lindsay, "Genes Linking Eurasians and Native Americans."

"Problematic Role of DNA Testing in Unraveling Human History," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9.2 (2000): 69-70.

Theodore G. Schurr, "Mitochondrial DNA and the Peopling of the New World," American Scientist 88.3 (2000), 246.

Miroslava V. Derenko et al., "The Presence of Mitochondrial Haplogroup X in Altaians from South Siberia," The American Journal of Human Genetics 69.1 (July, 2001): 237.

Genetic inheritance can actually be more complex than simply XX or XY. Many intersexed individuals inherit different variations of up to four X and Y chromosomes. For an interesting commentary on the U.S. medical response to such sexual ambiguity see Martha Coventry, "Making the Cut: Itís a Girl! ... Or Is It? When There's Doubt, Why Are Surgeons Calling the Shots?" Ms Magazine (October/November 2000).

E. S. Poloni et al., "Human Genetic Affinities for Y-Chromosome P49a,f/Taq I Haplotypes Show Strong Correspondence with Linguistics," American Journal of Human Genetics 61 (1997): 1015-35.

L. B. Jorde et al., "The Distribution of Human Genetic Diversity: A Comparison of Mitochrondrial, Autosomal, and Y-Chromosome Data," American Journal of Human Genetics 66 (2000): 979-88.

Fabrício Santos et al., "The Central Siberian Origin for Native American Y Chromosomes," American Journal of Human Genetics 64 (1999): 619-28; Nestor Bianchi et al., "Origin of Amerindian Y-Chromosomes as Inferred by the Analysis of Six Polymorphic Markers," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 102 (1997): 79-89.

T. M. Karafet et al., "Ancestral Asian Source(s) of New World Y-Chromosome Founder Haplotypes," American Journal of Human Genetics 64 (1999): 817-31.

Bernd Herrmann and Susanne Hummel, eds., Ancient DNA (New York: Springer, 1994).

Shawn W. Carlyle et al., "Context of Maternal Lineages in the Greater Southwest," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 113 (2000): 85-101; Dennis H. O'Rourke et al., "Ancient DNA: Methods, Progress, and Perspectives," American Journal of Human Biology 8.5 (1996): 557-71.

Shawn W. Carlyle et al., "Context of Maternal Lineages in the Greater Southwest," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 113 (2000): 85-101; Dennis H. O'Rourke et al., "Ancient DNA: Methods, Progress, and Perspectives," American Journal of Human Biology 8.5 (1996): 557-71; Ryan L. Parr et al., "Ancient DNA analysis of Fremont Amerindians of the Great Salt Lake Wetlands," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 99.4 (1996): 507-518; Anne C. Stone and Mark Stoneking, "mtDNA Analysis of a Prehistoric Oneota Population: Implications for the Peopling of the New World," American Journal of Human Genetics 62 (1998): 1153-70.

D. Andrew Merriwether et al., "Ancient and Contemporary Mitochrondrial DNA Variation in the Maya," Bones of the Maya: Studies of Ancient Skeletons, eds. Stephen L. Whittington and David M. Reed (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), 208-217.

John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Desert Book Company, 1996), 93. See also Connie Kolman and Noreen Tuross, "Ancient DNA Analysis of Human Populations," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 111 (2000): 5-23.

Neil Bradman et al., "The Genetic Origins of Old Testament Priests," America Past, America Present: Genes and Languages in the Americas and Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000), 31-44.

Nathan A. Ellis, "The Ashkenazic Jewish Bloom Syndrome Mutation blmAsh Is Present in Non-Jewish Americans of Spanish Ancestry," American Journal of Human Genetics 63(1998): 1685-93; Luis Carvajal-Carmona et al., "Strong Amerind/White Sex Bias and a Possible Sephardic Contribution among the Founders of a Population in Northwest Colombia," American Journal of Human Genetics 67 (2000): 1287-95. For an intriguing account of the Castilian Christian attempts to expel Jewish and Muslim heterogeneity from the Iberian peninsula and their tendency to treat and portray indigenous Americans as Jews and Moors with significant implications for more general quests for Amerisraelites see Tzetvan Todorov, The Conquest of America (New York: HarperPerennial, 1984).

Batsheva Bonné-Tamir and Avinoam Adam, eds., Genetic Diversity Among Jews: Diseases and Markers at the DNA Level (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas, "Why Y? The Y Chromosome in the Study of Human Evolution, Migration and Prehistory," Science Spectra 14 (1998).

Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas, "Why Y? The Y Chromosome in the Study of Human Evolution, Migration and Prehistory," Science Spectra 14 (1998); Mark G. Thomas et al., "Y Chromosomes Traveling South: The Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba—the 'Black Jews of Southern Africa,'" American Journal of Human Genetics 66 (2000): 674-86.

"Introduction," The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981).

Interested Latter-day Saints can follow the debate by reading such journals as Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sunstone, BYU Studies, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and FARMS Review of Books. Online resources can be found on this site (Mormon Scripture Studies: An E-Journal of Critical Thought), <>, and <>. Key examples of the internal debate among LDS scholars include Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993); Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997); B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992); John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1996); Mark D. Thomas, Digging in Cumorah: Reclaiming Book of Mormon Narratives (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999); Dan Vogel, ed., The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990); Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe, eds., An American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002).

John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Desert Book Company, 1996), 55. For an archaeological critique of this perspective see Deanne G. Matheny, "Does the Shoe Fit? A Critique of the Limited Tehuantepec Geography," New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 269-328. See also Dennis Tedlock, trans., Popol Vuh (New York: Touchstone, 1996). For discussions of Mormon Maya and Ladino interpretations of the Popol Vuh and BoMor see Thomas W. Murphy, "Reinventing Mormonism: Guatemala as a Harbinger of the Future?" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29.1 (1996): 177-92.

William J. Hamblin, "An Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metcalfe's Assumptions and Methodologies," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6.1 (1994): 476.

John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Desert Book Company, 1996), 93-94.

Shaye J. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); E. Theodore Mullen, Jr., Ethnic Myths and Pentateuchal Foundations: A New Approach to the Formation of the Pentateuch (Atlanta, GA: Scholar's Press and the Society of Biblical Literature, 1997); E. Theodore Mullen, Jr., Narrative History and Ethnic Boundaries: The Deutoronomistic Historian and the Creation of Israelite National Identity (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press and the Society of Biblical Literature, 1993).

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9.2 (2000): 66-74.

Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 101. The anonymous FARMS editorialist seems oblivious to recent advancements on the question of whether Native Americans migrated to Polynesia. Matthew E. Hurles and colleagues—including Bryan Sykes, whom the FARMS author cites with approval—note that their study of Polynesian Y-chromosomes provided "no evidence for a Native American contribution to the Polynesian Y-chromosomal pool" (M. E. Hurles et al., "European Y-Chromosomal Lineages in Polynesians: A Contrast to the Population Structure Revealed by mtDNA," American Journal of Human Genetics 63 [1998], 1793-1806). See also Martin Richards et al., "mtDNA Suggests Polynesian Origins in Eastern Indonesia," American Journal of Human Genetics 63 (1998), 1234-37. Of course even if such evidence did exist, it would not buttress BoMor authenticity since the common Polynesian and Amerindian genetic markers are of Asiatic origin, not Israelite.

D. H. O'Rourke et. al., "Spatial and Temporal Stability of mtDNA Haplogroup Frequencies in Native North America," Human Biology 72.1 (2000): 15-34.

Copies of statements from the SAIIC as well as responses from participants in HGDP can be found at "Native Net, Human Genome Diversity Project articles from Native-L." See also Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, "Human Genome Diversity Project Frequently Asked Questions."

Martin Johnston, "Mormons Trigger NZ Ethical Concern Over DNA," The New Zealand Herald (17 May 2001); Kent Larsen, "BYU Molecular Genealogy Research Project Accused of Ethical Lapse in New Zealand," Mormon News (18 May 2001).

I have raised similar ethical concerns in several publications. See Thomas W. Murphy, "Reinventing Mormonism: Guatemala as a Harbinger of the Future?" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29.1 (1996): 177-92; Thomas W. Murphy, "Laban's Ghost: On Writing and Transgression," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 30.2 (1997), 105-126; Thomas W. Murphy, "From Racist Stereotype to Ethnic Identity: Instrumental Uses of Mormon Racial Doctrine," Ethnohistory 46.3 (1999): 451-80; Thomas W. Murphy, "Other Mormon Histories: Lamanite Subjectivity in Mexico," Journal of Mormon History 26.2 (2000): 179-215.

John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Desert Book Company, 1996), 94.

Michael Coe, "Mormons and Archaeology: An Outside View," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8.2 (1973): 48.