Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church/Chapter 11

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 11: Plausible Geography"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, a work by author: Simon G. Southerton
Claim Evaluation
Losing a Lost Tribe
Chart losing a lost tribe chapter 11.jpg

Response to claims made in Losing a Lost Tribe, "Chapter 11: Plausible Geography"

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: 153 - B.H. Roberts' manuscripts "Book of Mormon Difficulties" and "A Book of Mormon Study" were "clearly intended for publication"

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

B.H. Roberts' manuscripts "Book of Mormon Difficulties" and "A Book of Mormon Study" were "clearly intended for publication."

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, 2nd edition, 1992.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author needs to demonstrate this assertion. Many others have not agreed. Roberts' cover letter suggests otherwise.


Question: Why did B.H. Roberts write Studies of the Book of Mormon?

B.H. Roberts wrote the material contained in Studies of the Book of Mormon to illustrate the positions that critics would take

Critics use B.H. Roberts' critical evaluation of Book of Mormon difficulties to support their arguments. B.H. Roberts wrote the material contained in Studies of the Book of Mormon to illustrate the positions that critics would take. He was playing "devil's advocate" for the purpose of inspiring Church leadership to work on a better defense (as critics typically point out, Roberts was a "LDS apologist"). For instance, regarding Lucy Mack Smith's description of Joseph giving "amusing recitals" of ancient Americans, Roberts presented the critical conclusion that "These evening recitals could come from no other source than the vivid, constructive imagination of Joseph Smith, a remarkable power which attended him through all his life. It was as strong and varied as Shakespeare's and no more to be accounted for than the English Bard's."

From Lucy Mack Smith's history:

"From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every night evening, for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same. I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth-all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life; he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children...


Response to claim: 153 - Roberts' concluded that a 19th-century origin for the Book of Mormon was "entirely plausible"

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

Roberts' concluded that a 19th-century origin for the Book of Mormon was "entirely plausible"

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, 2nd edition, 1992.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources


Question: Did B.H. Roberts state that it was possible for Joseph Smith to have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own?

B.H. Roberts was a believer in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, and talked of young Joseph Smith as he sat up late detailing to the family the wonderful conversations he had with the angel

B.H. Roberts retained his belief that the Book of Mormon was of divine origin up until the end of his life. Yet, according to one critical website, B.H. Roberts "postulated that it was certainly possible for Joseph Smith to have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own." [1] Roberts, however, believed that Joseph had conversations with the Angel Moroni.

B.H. Roberts, in his critical study of the Book of Mormon, pointed out how future critics might make use of this.

The face of it is first established by the testimony of the mother who bore him, Lucy Smith. Speaking of the days immediately following the revelation making known the existence of the Book of Mormon to her son...Lucy Smith in her History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, recounts how in the evening of that day, the young prophet sat up late detailing to the family the wonderful conversations he had with the angel;[2]


Response to claim: 154 - LDS scholars have made a "steady retraction" of claims regarding the scale of the Nephite/Lamanite presence since the 1920's

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

LDS scholars have made a "steady retraction" of claims regarding the scale of the Nephite/Lamanite presence since the 1920's.

Author's sources:
  1. No source given.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Authors and leaders have done so for many years as improved scholarship has shown that the Book of Mormon took place in a limited region. If the author knows this is true, why does he suggest (e.g., p. xv) that recent science has been behind the different view of geography and demography?


Question: What is the Limited Geography Theory and model?

The Limited Geography Model is based upon an accurate reading the Book of Mormon text and limits geography to several hundred miles

The Limited Geography Theory (or LGT) is a non-traditional interpretation of the text, but one that has gained wide acceptance among the Book of Mormon scholars and readers over the last 60 years.[3] It is based on a close reading of the text, which indicates that the lands inhabited by the Lehites could be traversed on foot in only a few weeks, making the area no larger than present-day California.

Advantages of this model:

  • a limited model seems to match the textual information about distance with much greater accuracy
  • a limited model offers a more realistic fit for an ancient society, which would have had great difficulties travelling or communicating over the vast distances required by the Hemispheric Geography Theory
  • a limited model potentially restricts Book of Mormon peoples to an area which matches regions (e.g., such as Mesoamerica) known to have had high culture, city-building, written language, etc.

Disadvantages include:

  • many Church members are unfamiliar with the basis for this model, having not paid close attention to issues of distance and travel times, since they have been more focused on the spiritual details of the Book of Mormon instead of its mundane details.
  • most early members and leaders of the Church have, when they made geography explicit at all, tended to adopt a hemispheric model
  • being a "newer" model, some claim that advocates of the LGT are 'changing the Church's story' about the Book of Mormon, even though the Church has been clear that it had no official or revealed Book of Mormon geography.
  • placing the model exactly becomes more difficult, since a smaller geography can 'fit' more than one potential location.
  • critics of the theory maintain that it uses mental gymnastics to explain away the mention of an "exceedingly great distance" in the text. Traditionally, it had been believed that there was an exceedingly great distance between the core of the Nephite domain and the Hill Cumorah in the area where the Nephites and Jaredites were destroyed.


Response to claim: 156 - All Church presidents, General Authorities and "most church members" have believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

All Church presidents, General Authorities and "most church members" have believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Leaders and members have differed on a point about which the Church has no official doctrine.  Author(s) impose(s) own fundamentalism on the Saints

Logical Fallacy: False Cause—The author assumes that a real or perceived relationship between two events means that one caused the other.

The author consistently argues that LDS scholars or apologists are "adjusting" their view on the Book of Mormon because they are being driven back in a rear-guard action by science. But, in fact, some LDS leaders and scholars have argued for a restricted geography and small numeric contribution of Lehites for over one hundred years.These beliefs were not held because of scientific "pressure," but because of their reading of the Book of Mormon text. In fact, the author admits that this has occurred since at least the 1920s (see p. 154)—long before any pressure from genetics issues. Yet, he continues to make the contradictory claim that the Church's defenders are now "on the ropes" and desperate for a solution.

Response to claim: 156 - The Book of Mormon states that the Lamanites are "the principal ancestors of the American Indians"

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon states that the Lamanites are "the principal ancestors of the American Indians"

Author's sources:
  1. 1981 introduction to the Book of Mormon.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

It used to say this. This heading was not part of the original Book of Mormon text. The heading was later changed from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors."


Question: Why did the Church modify the introduction to the Book of Mormon from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors?"

The Church changed the wording to remove the assumption (inserted into the Book of Mormon in the 1920's) that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were exclusive descendants of Lehi

The Church made the change in wording to the introduction to the Book of Mormon to remove the assumption, which inserted into the Book of Mormon introduction in the 1920's and not part of the original text, that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were exclusive descendants of Lehi. This had been the generally held belief from the time that the Church was restored.

This change makes the Book of Mormon introduction compatible with current DNA evidence and acknowledges the fact that Lehi's group likely intermingled with the native inhabitants of the American continents based upon current knowledge of the DNA composition of the inhabitants of the New World. There is substantial scientific evidence of habitation in the Americas for thousands of years prior to Lehi's arrival.

If Lehi had any descendants among Amerindians, then after 2600 years all Amerindians would share Lehi as an ancestor. Even if (as is probable) the Lehite group was a small drop in a larger population 'ocean' of pre-Columbian inhabitants, Lehi would have been an ancestor of virtually all the modern-day Amerindians if any of his descendants married into the existing New World population.


Response to claim: 156 - A hemispheric geography most closely aligns with an "uncontrived" reading of the Book of Mormon

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

A hemispheric geography most closely aligns with an "uncontrived" reading of the Book of Mormon.

Author's sources:
  1. Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

he issue of travel distances has yet to be reconciled with a hemispheric reading.


Question: What is the Hemispheric Geography Theory regarding the location of Book of Mormon lands?

The Hemispheric Geography Theory is the traditional understanding of the Book of Mormon

The Hemispheric Geography Theory (or HGT) is the traditional understanding of the Book of Mormon. It postulates that the events in the book took place over North and South America, with the Isthmus of Panama as the narrow neck of land.

Orson Pratt was the best-known proponent of the hemispheric model

The earliest and best-known proponent of the hemispheric model was Orson Pratt, who espoused it as early as 1832[4] and continued to teach it for decades. Throughout the nineteenth century, many Latter-day Saint writers followed Pratt’s model, and eventually his geographical ideas were incorporated into the footnotes of the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon. The popularity of the hemispheric model notwithstanding, it simply is not clear whether it was the result of prophetic revelation or merely the outgrowth of the personal ideas and assumptions of the Prophet Joseph Smith and other brethren.[5]

Joseph Smith likely believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography

Frederick G. Williams attributed this model to Joseph Smith,[6] but this was based on William's interpretation of an anonymous manuscript that did not appear in print until 1882.[7]

A more recent advocate of the HGT, Earl Wunderli[8] has been reviewed.[9] Wunderli believes that the Book of Mormon text is clearly hemispheric, though he seems to presume that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon as a nineteenth century work, and thus reflects Joseph's preoccupations.[10]

Advantages of the hemispheric model

  • it matches how the earliest members of the Church tended to read the Book of Mormon
  • many members of the Church continue to have this sort of 'image' in their mind as they read the Book of Mormon–it is familiar, and comfortable
  • it has sanction in the writings and talks of many Church leaders of the past, who gave their personal opinions about it. However, now the Church takes no position on it.

Disadvantages of the hemispheric model

  • distances in the Book of Mormon are extremely difficult to square with the HGT scale, which requires thousands of miles in a North-South direction
  • even if it were true that there was an exceedingly great distance between the core Nephite domain and the Cumorah where the Nephites and the Jaredites were destroyed, there is no justification from the text of also extending this exceeding distance throughout the whole western hemisphere.


Response to claim: 159 - Moroni makes no mention of traveling from Central America to New York in the Book of Mormon

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

Moroni makes no mention of traveling from Central America to New York in the Book of Mormon.

Author's sources:
  1. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 1985.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

 Misrepresentation of source: the author cites Sorenson, but does not explain how Sorenson responds to this very issue. The final battle of the Jaredites makes it clear that they did not migrate a long way from the starting point (e.g., Ether was able to observe matters from a cave and return easily to hide.)


Question: If the gold plates were originally in Mesoamerica, how did they get to New York?

The answer to this question is not known, but informed speculation demonstrates that this poses no difficulty

  • The final battles of the Nephites took place in the land of Cumorah. Mormon tells us that he "hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni" (Mormon 6:6).
  • The last of the Nephite people were wiped out about A.D. 385 (Mormon 6:5). Only Moroni remained to finish his father's record.
  • Moroni wandered "whithersoever [he could] for the safety of [his] own life" to avoid being captured and killed by the Lamanites (Moroni 1:3).

At the end of his record Moroni tells us that "more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ" (Moroni 10:1). This means that Moroni wandered for 36 years after the destruction of his people (421 – 385 = 36). This was more than enough time for him to travel a wandering course by foot from Mesoamerica to New England. And it makes sense that he would travel far, as he wanted to get as far as possible from the Lamanites.

Years ago, John Sorenson noted that such distances pose no difficulty whatever:

Would Moroni have been able to survive a trip of several thousand miles through strange peoples and lands, if he did transport the record? Such a journey would be no more surprising than the trip by Lehi's party over land and by sea halfway around the globe. As a matter of fact, we do have a striking case of a trip much like the one Moroni may have made. In the mid-sixteenth century, David Ingram, a shipwrecked English sailor, walked in 11 months through completely strange Indian territory from Tampico, Mexico, to the St. John River, at the present border between Maine and Canada. His remarkable journey would have been about the same distance as Moroni's and over essentially the same route. So Moroni's getting the plates to New York even under his own power [in 36 years] seems feasible.[11]


Response to claim: 160 - There is no indication that the Book of Mormon people came in contact with others in the land

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

There is no indication that the Book of Mormon people came in contact with others in the land.

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, 2nd edition, 1992.
  • John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 1985.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author cites Sorenson's work, but does nothing to engage his arguments for just such indications.

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

Since scholars have long pointed to many textual clues which point to the existence of other non-Lehites in the New World, the author must dispense with such ideas if he is to succeed in portraying the Book of Mormon at odds with science. However, he does not engage the textual evidence that Latter-day Saints have found in abundance—he merely insists there is no evidence there.
The work repeats itself on p. 160, 193., 195., and 204.

Question: Why aren't other inhabitants of the America's mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon is likely a "kinship record," which is a history written from the point of view of a social clan: the Nephite ruling class

The Book of Mormon is not primarily a history of a people. It is the history of a message—the doctrine of Christ—and those who either embraced or rejected it. It is also likely a "kinship record," which is a history written from the point of view of a social clan: the Nephite ruling class. Thus, the text focuses the majority of its attention on the doctrine of Christ, and how that doctrine affects the relatives of the kin group keeping the record.

The Nephite record keepers clearly understand that there is more going on, and are quite clear that the labels "Nephite" and "Lamanite" are political terms of convenience, where membership is varied and fluid. As Jacob said:

But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings. Jacob 1:14

Boyd K. Packer: "The presentation of the Book of Mormon as a history of the ancestors of the American Indians is not a very compelling nor a very accurate introduction"

Elder Boyd K. Packer emphasized that the Book of Mormon's view of itself is often not how some members of the Church portray it:

The Book of Mormon is often introduced as "a history of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent, the ancestors of the American Indians." We have all seen missionaries about the world with street boards displaying pictures of American Indians or pyramids and other ruins in Latin America. That introduction does not reveal the contents of this sacred book any better than an introduction of the Bible as "a history of the ancient inhabitants of the Near East, the ancestors of the modern Israelites" would reveal its contents. The presentation of the Book of Mormon as a history of the ancestors of the American Indians is not a very compelling nor a very accurate introduction. When we introduce the Book of Mormon as such a history–and that is the way we generally introduce it–surely the investigator must be puzzled, even disappointed, when he begins to read it. Most do not find what they expect. Nor do they, in turn, expect what they find…The Book of Mormon is not biographical, for not one character is fully drawn. Nor, in a strict sense, is it a history. While it chronicles a people for a thousand and twenty–one years and contains the record of an earlier people, it is in fact not a history of a people. It is the saga of a message, a testament.[12]


Response to claim: 163 - The shrinking of Book of Mormon geographical models corresponds with the growing research showing that ancient Americans came from Asia

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

The shrinking of Book of Mormon geographical models corresponds with the growing research showing that ancient Americans came from Asia.

Author's sources:
  1. No source given.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

  •  Double standard: Even if the author's claim was true, why complain? He has argued that Mormons always make their religious beliefs trump science. But, if Mormons respond to science in changing their perceptions, this is seen as a bad thing!

Logical Fallacy: False Cause—The author assumes that a real or perceived relationship between two events means that one caused the other.

The author consistently argues that LDS scholars or apologists are "adjusting" their view on the Book of Mormon because they are being driven back in a rear-guard action by science. But, in fact, some LDS leaders and scholars have argued for a restricted geography and small numeric contribution of Lehites for over one hundred years.These beliefs were not held because of scientific "pressure," but because of their reading of the Book of Mormon text. In fact, the author admits that this has occurred since at least the 1920s (see p. 154)—long before any pressure from genetics issues. Yet, he continues to make the contradictory claim that the Church's defenders are now "on the ropes" and desperate for a solution.

Question: What are the geographical assumptions upon which DNA-based attacks on the Book of Mormon are based?

Some geographical models pose problems for the DNA attacks which other models do not

It is important, as when setting out to answer any scientific question, to define the question which DNA-based attacks are attempting to answer. This requires that we establish a Book of Mormon model for potential testing. Any Book of Mormon model based in real history must address the issue of geographic scope.

The Book of Mormon account has been understood by the LDS in at least two broad geographical contexts:

  1. A limited geography model known as the Limited Geographical Theory (LGT).
  2. A hemispheric geography model known as the Hemispheric Geography Theory (HGT).

Details on these models are available in the links above; it is assumed that the reader of this article is familiar with these concepts, and they will not be elaborated on here.

DNA attacks on the Book of Mormon are arguably futile, regardless of which geographical model one adopts. However, some geographical models pose problems for the DNA attacks which other models do not, and so these issues are considered here.

Limited geography models predate issues of DNA and genetics by decades

Many Book of Mormon readers, especially during the last sixty years, have read the Book of Mormon text as requiring a relatively small geographic area within the Americas. Such readings predate issues of DNA and genetics by decades, and are not (as the critics sometimes claim) desperate "rear-guard" actions to defend the Book of Mormon against the awesome onslaught of DNA science! Such claims are ridiculous, as a review of the history of such ideas shows.[13]

Those who accept a limited geography model for the Book of Mormon would find it unsurprising that the majority of Amerindian DNA does not match purported "Lehite" DNA

LDS readers who accept a limited geography model would find it unsurprising (and even expected) that the majority of Amerindian DNA does not match purported "Lehite" DNA. Under the limited geography model, a relatively small number of Lehites landed in the Americas. This small initial population eventually intermarried with other populations in the hemisphere. Over a period of 2600 years, any initial Lehite "signature" would be hopelessly 'swamped' by other peoples' genetic markers. Just as a drop of red dye will not turn a whole swimming pool red (though the red is still "in" the swimming pool), a few Lehites added to a limited geography model's hemisphere of inhabitants will have little or no detectable genetic influence today, except by the greatest coincidence.

In 2002, anthropologist Thomas Murphy published an essay in which he argued that DNA evidence points to native Americans being related to Asians, and therefore this disproves the Book of Mormon. In 2004, plant biologist Simon Southerton published a book that made a similar argument. (Both were inactive Mormons who no longer believed the Book of Mormon was divinely revealed scripture.)

Unfortunately, neither of these men acknowledged the current state of LDS scholarship on the Book of Mormon before writing. They imagined Lehi arriving in an empty continent, and concluded that all Native Americans must therefore have a genetic inheritance solely from him. They clearly assumed, and in fact insisted, that all Mormons believed the HGT without reservation, and so were caught off guard when Mormon scholars didn't surrender to their arguments. Murphy and Southerton were addressing a straw man and didn't even realize it; they simply didn't do their homework on the LDS side of things. (This fact alone should demonstrate how out of touch they were with active Saints' thoughts on the issue when they wrote their articles.)

Critics who present the DNA criticism concede that the key assumption of that a "hemisperic" Book of Mormon geography must be made

In their more candid moments, those who present this criticism concede that the key assumption of "only Lehi" must be made. Simon Southerton writes of how some Mormons have argued that

Bottleneck effect, genetic drift, Hardy-Weinberg violations and other technical problems would prevent us from detecting Israelite genes [in Amerindians].

This is a technical way of explaining a relatively simple fact: if a small group is placed in contact with a larger group and allowed to intermarry, it becomes harder to detect the small group’s “genetic signature.”

Southerton then goes on to say:

I agree entirely. [!] In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2000 or even 20,000 years later. But does such a scenario fit with what the Book of Mormon plainly states or what the prophets have taught for 175 years? Short answer. No![14]

This is really quite astonishing. Southerton has obliged us by shooting himself in the foot. He admits that there are many genetic objections to his attack, unless we accept that the Book of Mormon requires that American Indians only be descendants of Lehi and Mulek.

Since realizing that LDS thought on this point is much more involved, those who present this criticism have been playing catch up, trying to argue (as Southerton does above) that Mormons are required to accept the HGT because most LDS leaders in the past believed it and LDS leaders are never wrong.

However, this is a fundamentalist view of our religion that students of Mormonism reject. Furthermore, some claim that this reading is the only one permitted by the Book of Mormon, while over a century of LDS writing on the subject demonstrates that this claim is false too.

A limited geography for the Book of Mormon means that the critics are reduced to making a religious argument rather than a scientific one

So Murphy and Southerton are reduced to making a religious argument, not a scientific one. And their religious argument is incorrect.

Many articles have discussed the DNA issue from this perspective, including the following:

  • Kevin Barney, "A Brief Review of Murphy and Southerton's 'Galileo Event' (Review of Thomas W. Murphy and Simon G. Southerton, "Genetic Research a 'Galileo Event' for Mormons," Anthropology News 44/2 (February 2003): 20)," FAIR. FairMormon link
  • David A. McClellan, "Detecting Lehi's Genetic Signature: Possible, Probable, or Not?," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 35–90. off-site
  • D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens, "Who Are the Children of Lehi?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 38–51. off-site wiki
  • Matthew Roper, "Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 91–128. off-site
  • Matthew Roper, "Swimming the Gene Pool: Israelite Kinship Relations, Genes, and Genealogy," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 129–164. off-site
  • John L. Sorenson and Matthew Roper, "Before DNA," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 6–23. off-site wiki  (Key source)
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Reinventing the Book of Mormon (Review of: “Reinventing Lamanite Identity,” Sunstone, March 2004, 20–25)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 91–106. off-site
  • Michael F. Whiting, "DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 24–35. off-site wiki  (Key source)

Hemispheric geography model, type 1

Other Latter-day Saints have understood—and continue to understand—the Book of Mormon on a more "hemispheric" scale, with the "narrow neck of land" being in Panama, and the final battle site being located in New York, in the hill in which Joseph Smith recovered the plates.

Thus, this model anticipates that Book of Mormon history played out over much of the continent. However, it is here labeled as a "type 1" model, because it does not require that Lehi be the sole "source" of population for the Americas. Jaredite remnants may have intermarried with Lehite/Mulekite peoples, contributing foreign DNA markers. Other peoples unmentioned in the Book of Mormon may have immigrated to the hemisphere before, during, and/or after the Book of Mormon time frame, and provided DNA foreign to Lehi's group. These additions could have played a major, even dominant role in the genetic history of the continent (in which case the DNA attacks can be answered in a fashion similar to the 'limited geography model' as above) or they may have provided a more modest contribution which is nevertheless sufficient to "muddy the waters" when the other uncertainties of assigning DNA origins to mixed populations come into play (see below).

Articles which discuss LDS views on "other Americans" being added to the mix of Book of Mormon peoples (which do not require a limited geography model to maintain their force) include:

  • John M. Butler, "Addressing Questions surrounding the Book of Mormon and DNA Research," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 101–108. off-site wiki
  • Matthew Roper, "Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 91–128. off-site
  • Matthew Roper, "Swimming the Gene Pool: Israelite Kinship Relations, Genes, and Genealogy," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 129–164. off-site

Articles which discuss testing the "hemispheric" perspective:

  • Michael F. Whiting, "DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 24–35. off-site wiki

Articles which do not invoke any type of "limited geography" in their discussion include:

Hemispheric geography model, type 2

Under this model, the American continent was completely empty of any human inhabitants prior to the Jaredites (though previous to the Jaredites, other peoples could have been present who were subsequently eradicated, leaving no genetic contribution to subsequent populations.) The Jaredites were then utterly and completely destroyed (except Coriantumr—see Omni 1:21, whose contribution to the Mulekite gene pool was either negligible or non-existent) and replaced by Lehite/Mulekite immigrants, who were likewise the only source of humans in the Americas, giving rise to all (or nearly all) of the present Amerindian population.

Of all the models discussed thus far, this is the only variant to which the DNA data poses any significant challenge at all, though many of the issues discussed below also apply to DNA testing the Book of Mormon's claims with this model.

Articles which discuss testing the "hemispheric" perspective:

  • Michael F. Whiting, "DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 24–35. off-site wiki

Articles which do not invoke any type of "limited geography" in their discussion include:

Hemispheric geography model, type 3

This model could be a labeled as "empty continent, all-Lehi." Under this model, the Americas have had no inhabitants except those mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Thus, Jaredites, Mulekites, and Lehites are the only inhabitants the New World has seen before Columbus, and the Jaredites left no genetic remnants in the Lehite/Mulekite mix.

A larger problem for this model than DNA evidence is archaeological evidence of human habitation thousands of years prior to the Nephites (which would have to be explained by either appealing to dating errors, or ascribing all such remains to Jaredites). This model is arguably the most challenged by current DNA science—and science in general—but it is also the least likely model supported by the Book of Mormon text itself. Ironically, it is to this model that Murphy and Southerton seem to have addressed most of their efforts.

Articles which discuss testing the "hemispheric" perspective:

  • Michael F. Whiting, "DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 24–35. off-site wiki

Articles which do not invoke any type of "limited geography" in their discussion include:


Response to claim: 164 - A limited Book of Mormon setting is at odds with "a straightforward reading" of the Book of Mormon

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

A limited Book of Mormon setting is at odds with "a straightforward reading" of the Book of Mormon.

Author's sources:
  1. Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Others have disagreed. The limited model came out of a reading of the text, not out of scientific pressure or apologetic need.


Response to claim: 164 - The limited Book of Mormon setting contradicts D&C 54:8

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

The limited Book of Mormon setting contradicts D&C 54:8

Author's sources:
  1. DC 54:8

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

By Joseph's day, all Amerindians were descendants of Lehi. This does not help fix Book of Mormon era geography.


Question: Does a Mesoamerican limited geographical Book of Mormon setting contradict D&C 54:8, which discusses the "borders of the Lamanites" being in North America?

The statement "borders of the Lamanites" applied to a Missouri setting does not exclude any possible geographical model for the Book of Mormon

In the revelation that became D&C 28, the location of the city of Zion is originally stated to be "among the Lamanites."

And now I say unto you, that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the City shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you, that it shall be among the Lamanites. [15]

When this revelation was published in the Book of Commandments (Chapter 30), Sidney Rigdon modified the text "among the Lamanites" to read "on the borders by the Lamanites". [16]

8. And now behold I say unto you, that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter.
9. Behold I say unto you, that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites. [17]

From the present D&C:

9 And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites. DC 28:9

The present Doctrine and Covenants Section 54:8 contains a command to journey to the "borders of the Lamanites."

And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites. (DC 54:8) (emphasis added)

Compare this to Alma 39:3, which states:

And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel. (Alma 39:3) (emphasis added)

Critics use the revelatory association of the "land of Missouri," "among the Lamanites" and the "borders to the Lamanites" to conclude that Church members must accept that the geographical region covered by the Book of Mormon encompasses the area occupied by the present state of Missouri. This is used by critics to "prove" that we are required to accept a hemispheric geographical setting. The same reasoning could be applied in order to "prove" the validity of a limited North American setting.

There is no revealed Book of Mormon geographical setting. Although many LDS scholars favor a Mesoamerican setting based upon a substantial amount of evidence, there are many different models which propose settings in other regions in North America, South America or the entire hemispheric New World. The response to this criticism is not intended to promote a particular setting over another, but rather to rebut an attempt to exclude any setting other than a North American one.

All who can be considered "Lamanites" are not described in the Book of Mormon

It is important to note that the Lamanites are a people, and that they are not limited to the geographical area described within the Book of Mormon itself. For example, the story of Zelph identifies a potential Lamanite who lived in the area of Pike County, Illinois. During this period of time Joseph Smith clearly considered the lands of the Nephites and Lamanites to be associated with the "Indian Territories" of the western frontier. The identification of this individual as a "Lamanite" does not mean that the events surrounding this individual are covered during the period of time or geographical area associated with the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon describes a number of migrations to "the land northward:"

And it came to pass that in the thirty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward. (Alma 63:4)

And it came to pass that in this year there were many people who went forth into the land northward. And thus ended the thirty and eighth year. (Alma 63:9)

And it came to pass in the forty and sixth, yea, there was much contention and many dissensions; in the which there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land. (Helaman 3:3)

As people continued to migrate northward, they passed out of the scope of the Book of Mormon narrative. In essence, the "borders of the Lamanites" continued to expand far beyond the scope of the original Book of Mormon narrative long after the period of time described. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect to see "Lamanites" in the land northward that are not accounted for or described in the Book of Mormon.


Notes

  1. "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?", MormonThink.com
  2. B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City, UT; Signature Books, 1992) 243. Some online ministries quote Roberts' use of Lucy's quote as "evidence" that Roberts lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon. They completely ignore Roberts's statements on the same page that Joseph was describing the "wonderful conversations he had with the angel."
  3. For the history of the LGT, see Matthew Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 225–276. off-site
  4. A newspaper account of Mormon missionaries who preached in Pennsylvania in 1832 mentions Orson Pratt in connection with this teaching. See B. Stokely, “The Orators of Mormonism,” Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati), 14 April 1832, a reprint from Mercer (PA) Free Press.
  5. "Statement on Book of Mormon Geography," FARMS (accessed 18 September 2006) off-site
  6. John W. Welch and John L. Sorenson, "Did Lehi Land in Chile? An Assessment of the Frederick G. Williams Statement," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 57–61.
  7. William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link
  8. Earl M. Wunderli, "Critique of a Limited Geography for Book of Mormon Events," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 35 no. 3 (2002), 161–197.
  9. Brant Gardner, "An Exploration in Critical Methodology: Critiquing a Critique (Review of: “Critique of a Limited Geography for Book of Mormon Events,” Dialogue 35/3 (2002): 161–97)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 173–224. off-site
  10. See Gardner, "Critiquing a critique," footnote 16 (referring to Wunderli, note 44.)
  11. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 44, footnotes omitted.
  12. Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 280–282.
  13. For the history of the LGT, see Matthew Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 225–276. off-site
  14. Simon Southerton, e-mail, “Answering the DNA apologetics,” 15 February 2005, 18h42 (copy in editors' possession).
  15. "Ezra Booth Letter," Ohio Star Nov. 29, 1831.
  16. Manuscript Revelation Books, vol. 1 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2009), 51-53.
  17. Book of Commandments, Ch. 30.