Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife)/Chapter 11

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Response to "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 11 - DNA

A FairMormon Analysis of: For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife), a work by author: Anonymous
Chart LTMW DNA.png

Response to claims made in "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 11 - DNA

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Response to claim: "Over the years, prophets, apostles, and missionaries have preached an ancestral link between the ancient Hebrews and Native Americans"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Over the years, prophets, apostles, and missionaries have preached an ancestral link between the ancient Hebrews and Native Americans.

Author's sources:
  1. Gordon B. Hinckley, God’s Holy Work in Peru, Ensign, February 1997, p.73
  2. Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 1845
  3. Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842, vol.3, no.23
  4. Joseph Smith, The Wentworth Letter, Ensign July 2002

FairMormon Response

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

This is still true. Even if Lehi is "among the ancestors" of the American Indians, that "ancestral link" still exists. The Church still teaches and believes that all Native Americans are descendants of Lehi - they simply do not claim that they are "exclusively" descendants of Lehi. The statements made by Church leaders in which they refer to certain people as descendants of "Father Lehi" that are quoted by the author are still valid, and more such statements will continue to be made.


Response to claim: "Current genetic and paleontological evidence indicates Natives Americans arrived from Asia"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Current genetic and paleontological evidence indicates Natives Americans arrived from Asia. ... DNA samples from every known tribe of Native Americans indicate an Asiatic, rather than Middle Eastern origin.

Author's sources:
  1. Theodore G. Schurr, Mitochondrial DNA and the Peopling of the New World, American Scientist -The Scientific Research Society, May-June 2000
  2. Thomas W. Murphy, Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics, in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 2002, p.68
  3. Thomas W. Murphy and Simon Southerton, Genetic Research a 'Galileo Event' for Mormons, Anthropology News, February 2003, p.20

FairMormon Response

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

Correct. The infusion of genes from Lehi's party into the existing Native American gene pool (from Asia) would have not made a significant difference, particularly after most Native Americans were wiped out by diseases brought to the New World by the Spanish conquerors. Even Simon Southerton acknowledges this fact.

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Southerton (2008/2014): "It's true that if a small group (say 10 people) entered a massive population (say 1 million), that it would be hard to detect their mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA"

Dr. Simon Southerton is one of the most outspoken critics of the Church with regard to DNA and the Book of Mormon:

(2008) In case anyone from FAIR is unclear I will repeat what I wrote four years ago…“IF A SMALL GROUP OF ISRAELITES ENTERED SUCH A MASSIVE NATIVE POPULATION (SEVERAL MILLIONS) IT WOULD BE VERY, VERY HARD TO DETECT THEIR GENES.” Now that FAIR has finally conceded that American Indian DNA is essentially all derived from Asia, I also agree with them that the debate should be about the theology. [1]

(2014) I made the original statement at a time when whole genome sequence analysis was a long way off. It's true that if a small group (say 10 people) entered a massive population (say 1 million), that it would be hard to detect their mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA. Your odds would be roughly 1 in 100,000 (10 in 1 Million). But technology has moved very rapidly and whole genome studies are now almost routine. So, my original statement is no longer true. [2]

Dr. Southerton is confused if he thinks FairMormon experts on DNA have ever questioned that a considerable portion of Amerindian DNA comes from Asia. They do not have to "concede" anything--they have always held this view. However, Dr. Southerton is mistaken if he believes that "American Indian DNA is essentially all derived from Asia":

a 2013 study states that as much as one-third of Native American DNA originated anciently in Europe or West Asia and was likely introduced into the gene pool before the earliest migration to the Americas.[3]


Response to claim: "Due to DNA evidence disproving the Hebrew origins of the people of the Americas, the introduction to the Book of Mormon has been changed from the 'principal ancestors of the American Indians'"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Due to DNA evidence disproving the Hebrew origins of the people of the Americas, the introduction to the Book of Mormon has been changed from the “principal ancestors of the American Indians” (1981 edition) to now say “among the ancestors…” (2006 edition). In light of scientific evidence, the Church has modified the claims of the Book of Mormon - that the Lamanites were ancestors of all the native people of the Americas.

FairMormon Response

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

The change was not made because of "DNA evidence disproving the Hebrew origins of the people of the Americas". The phrase "principal ancestors" was inserted into the Book of Mormon in the 1920's (not 1981) and is not part of the scripture itself. At that time, Church members believed that Lehi was the primary ancestor of the American Indians. The change to "among the ancestors" 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. However, it does not negate the claim that all Native Americans are descendants of Lehi. If Lehi had any descendants among Amerindians, then after 2600 years all Amerindians would share Lehi as an ancestor, thus he would be "among the ancestors" of every Native American.

Jump to Detail:

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: "According to the Book of Mormon, the DNA of the people of the Book of Mormon is exactly known"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

According to the Book of Mormon, the DNA of the people of the Book of Mormon is exactly known.

1Nephi 5:14 “And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.”

Who was “Joseph who was sold into Egypt…son of Jacob”? He is the same Joseph who was the son of Jacob who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham. In Jewish tradition, Abraham is called Avraham Avinu, "Our father Abraham," signifying that he is both the biological ancestor of the Jews and the father of Judaism; the first Jew. As Lehi, being descended from Joseph and

Abraham, it indeed gives the Church exact knowledge of the DNA of the Nephites and Lamanites.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The DNA markers correlating to the tribe of Joseph are not known. The Book of Mormon says nothing about DNA.


Response to claim: "Unfortunately, the resulting studies reveal that Israeli lineage of the natives to North, Central and South America is not the case"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Unfortunately, the resulting studies reveal that Israeli lineage of the natives to North, Central and South America is not the case

FairMormon Response

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

The term "Israeli" is a modern term (the author likely intended to say "Hebrew"). There is no such thing as a "Israeli" DNA marker, since Israelis come from all over the world. According to Wikipedia article "Israelis":

Israelis are citizens or permanent residents of the State of Israel, a multiethnic state populated by people of different ethnic backgrounds. The largest ethnic groups in Israel are Jews (75%), followed by Arabs (20%) and other minorities (5%). Among the Jewish population, hundreds of thousands of Jews born in Israel are descended from both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews. More than 50% of the Jewish population is of at least partial Mizrahi descent.

Large-scale Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from Jewish diaspora communities in Europe and the Middle East and more recent large-scale immigration from North Africa, Western Asia, North America, South America, the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia introduced many new cultural elements and have had profound impact on the Israeli culture.

Israelis and people of Israeli descent live across the world: in the United States, Russia (with Moscow housing the single largest community outside Israel), India, Canada, the United Kingdom, throughout Europe, and elsewhere. Almost 10% of the general population of Israel is estimated to be living abroad.


Notes

  1. Simon Southerton, "Finally, I agree with LDS scientists-apologists," posting to an ex-Mormon discussion board, Sept. 6, 2008. (emphasis in original)
  2. Simon Southerton, explaining his 2008 statement to FAIR, February 2014. Cited in updated Letter to a CES Director (2014).
  3. "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies," Gospel Topics Essays at lds.org (prepared beginning in 2013). The paper cited is Maanasa Raghavan et al., “Upper Palaeolithic Siberian Genome Reveals Dual Ancestry of Native Americans,” Nature 505 (20 November 2013): 87–91.