Question: Are all Amerindians the exclusive descendants of the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi?

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Question: Are all Amerindians the exclusive descendants of the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi?

Even critics of the Church acknowledge that their criticisms are based upon the assumption that Amerindians are the exclusive descendants of Lehi

In their more candid moments, those who present this argument concede that their criticisms revolve around a key assumption. One critic of the Church writes of how some Latter-day Saints have argued that

Bottleneck effect, genetic drift, Hardy-Weinberg violations and other technical problems would prevent us from detecting Israelite genes [in Amerindians].[1]

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.”

It is as if one placed a teaspoon of red dye in an Olympic swimming pool, mixed well, and then withdrew a sample. Critics are in the position of someone who complains loudly because the sampled water does not seem to be “red.”

The same critic of the Church 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! Long answer. Nooo![1]

This is really quite astonishing. The critic has conceded a key assumption. He admits here that there are many genetic objections to his attack, unless we accept that the American Indians are only descendants of Lehi and Mulek.

Contrary to the critic's assertion, the short answer is that he is ignorant of the facts.

For those who are interested, we turn to the long answer.

Remember, the critic claims that we must accept his version, because

  • The Book of Mormon “plainly” teaches it; and
  • “The prophets” have taught this doctrine (and no other, we must presume) for 175 years.

Yet, the same critic goes on to state in July 2008:

[LDS scholars] believe that they have conclusively shown that the Lehites entered a continent inhabited by millions, entered the large pre-existing civilizations, and then their DNA was diluted away so that we can't detect it. They also set up the straw man that I am arguing that according to the Book of Mormon all American Indians are descended from Hebrews. I have never claimed this. The vanishing geography theory is utter desperation.[2]

The critical argument is entirely dependent upon a “whole empty hemisphere” model of the Book of Mormon

So, by this critic's own admission, his model is in fatal trouble if a “whole empty hemisphere” model (as opposed to what he mockingly refers to as the "vanishing" geography model) is not taught by both the Book of Mormon and the prophets. That he would make such a claim, and put his theory on such shaky ground, illustrates that he has poorly understood the Book of Mormon and scholarship that has been produced on for decades prior to Watson and Crick's discovery of the double helix.

  1. LDS leaders and members have been of a variety of opinions regarding the degree of contribution which Book of Mormon peoples provided to the Amerindian gene pool.
  2. Church spokesmen indicate that there is no official position.
  3. As Church members have understood that there was more than one "group" of Indians, they have read the Book of Mormon as being only a partial history of Amerindian ancestors
  4. If Lehi had any descendants, population genetics virtually guarantees that all Amerindians have him as a common ancestor.
  5. Church discussions of Lamanite ancestry (or Israelite ancestry generally) is not about genetics, but is focused on covenant promises and blessings.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Simon Southerton, e-mail, “Answering the DNA apologetics,” 15 February 2005, 18h42 (copy in editors' possession).
  2. Simon Southerton, e-mail posted to discussion board, July 5, 2008.