The Tempest in a Teapot
DNA Studies and the Book of Mormon
There has been a tremendous flurry of media attention over the scientific study of human genetic inheritance and the Book of Mormon. That attention has swirled around declarations made by Thomas W. Murphy, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, and current chair of the anthropology department at Edmonds Community College in Washington. The storm clouds can be seen in a news article in the Los Angeles Times that says of Mr. Murphy:
His conclusion is that “the Book of Mormon is a piece of 19th century fiction,” said Murphy, a lifelong Mormon who calls himself a Latter-day skeptic. “And that means that we have to acknowledge sometimes Joseph Smith lied.”1
It is no wonder that with such conclusions it would appear that dark clouds are forming on the horizon of the Book of Mormon. The clouds appear especially dark when Murphy asserts that his conclusions are supported by modern science. Could it really be that science is proving the Book of Mormon wrong? This is Murphy’s conclusion, but it is a conclusion that does not flow from the evidence examined. Critics of the Book of Mormon have come to the same conclusion as Murphy since the book was first published. The difference is that Murphy is claiming a new basis for his conclusion.
It is important to remember that Mr. Murphy is not citing his own original research in genetics, but rather library research into the work of others. He is synthesizing conclusions from his reading. This is a critical difference, for it helps us understand why the researchers can be right, but Mr. Murphy can be mistaken in his reading of those researchers. It will help us explain why Dr. Michael Whiting, an Evolutionary Biologist at Brigham Young University and “an authority on DNA”2 does not believe that Mr. Murphy has his science right.3 This is not a statement of fault in scientific method, because Murphy is not engaged in this type of work. It is rather a statement that his conclusions are not consonant with the science. When we examine the nature of the data available, we find that Murphy’s particular conclusion does not flow from those data. He has asked the wrong questions of his data, and by asking the wrong questions, returns the wrong answers.
It should be understood by the reader that this article is not intended to be a review of Murphy’s media-attention-grabbing essay, but an assessment of the available genetic data and it’s implications relative to the Book of Mormon, in light of claims made by Murphy and other critics of the Book of Mormon.
To understand why Murphy’s conclusions do not derive from the data, it is important that we understand what the DNA research can and cannot do. After we understand the science, we must correctly understand the Book of Mormon. Only with this foundation established, will we be able to make correct conclusions based on the data.
What can historical genetics do?
There are large numbers of different types of studies concerning DNA. To keep them straight, we will confine ourselves to discussing those aspects of DNA research that look at the historical ties of biology, or “historical genetics” as a shorthand description. The short response to the question of what historical genetics and DNA research can do is that it can do wonderful things. The uniqueness of various aspects of human DNA has led to the ability of DNA tests to positively identify the physical remains of unknown victims of accidents. Since we inherit our DNA from our parents (and they from theirs), DNA can be used to trace biological family ties.4 One of the more fascinating family connections came from the examination of a nine-thousand-year-old skeleton in England (known as Cheddar Man), whose direct genetic descendant was found living in that very vicinity.5 It is important to remember with this study, however, that it took a specific skeleton and matched it to a specific person through the use of multiple genetic “markers.” It did not find the relationship by beginning with the modern man and tracing him back to the skeleton.
Scientists have used the biological chemistry of genetic inheritance to trace certain sets of genetic materials that are shared widely through related populations. By examining particular pieces of DNA (markers) that are common, scientists may reconstruct the line of descent, or “umbilical line” that shows how that inherited marker traveled through time back to an early common ancestor.6 One study has traced mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from females, all the way back to a “genetic Eve.” It is this type of research that Murphy is citing in his survey of the current research. These are remarkable new tools in our historical kit, and they do wondrous work. The real issue is to understand what they cannot do.
What can historical genetics not do?
Perhaps the most important caution about historical genetics is that it cannot yet say that all of the data have been collected and examined. For instance, in a recent radio interview, Dr. Scott Woodward, a professor of microbiology and head of the Molecular Genealogy Research Group at BYU,7 was asked about a study that indicated that the Ojibwa Indians possessed a genetic marker that was of unusual origin and appeared to indicate a possible European connection that was pre-Columbian. The study was published in 2001. That should be current science, shouldn’t it? Dr. Woodward noted that more recent work has found that marker in Asia,8 highlighting the rapidly advancing and changing state of this particular science, and highlighting the difficulty of stating any conclusion as dramatically final as Murphy has. This is important not only because we should understand that our information is not complete, but because it also illustrates an important difference between researchers in a field and those who simply report on the research of others. Those who actually do the work typically show much more restraint in the types of conclusions they draw from the data. As witness to this caution, Dr. Woodward notes (speaking specifically of tracing back tot he Book of Mormon’s Old World immigrants):
Have we made an adequate survey of the ancient population from which these individuals derived? No, we haven’t. We’ve been very limited in our observation of the population structure based on mitochondrial DNA because there have been a number that have gone extinct. Perhaps the sampling isn’t large enough; it doesn’t contain all of the mitochondrial DNA types in a population. So, there are some real challenges in trying to reconstruct the past genetic patterns based on modern, present day DNAs that are collected.9
Equally important, however, is that we must understand correctly what science is telling us. In the case of the “genetic Eve,” the popular understanding of the science was that mankind had been traced back to a single woman, hence the “Eve.” Similar to Murphy’s work, that conclusion was not made by those doing original research, but by people reading that research and making spectacular (and unwarranted) conclusions. The reality of the science is slightly different. Rather than the image of this single progenitor of humanity, we have a single progenitor of a surviving line of mitochondrial DNA. It is a difference that is easy for the non-professional to miss. Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer discussed this misperception of what this line of genetic research could do in the context of the “genetic Eve:”
The confusion is to see genetic lines too literally as representing individual humans. The so-called “genetic Eve” was the ancestral mitochondrial genetic line for all modern living humans. Obviously it was carried ultimately by one real woman over 150,000 years ago. But she was only the common ancestor for mitochondrial DNA. She did not carry all the rest of our ancestral genes. We have 30,000 functioning genes and they could each have had a different individual ancestor living at different times in different places.
The mitochondrial Eve was therefore one woman among thousands living over 150,000 years ago. Our other genes derive from our members of that ancestral population. The real importance of the mitochondrial genetic tree is that it gives a clear line of descent that can be used as a trail marker of our spread round the world. But it is only one particular tiny part of our huge human genome.10
The scientific use of historical genetics is tracing the spread of humanity throughout the world. It can be used to discuss the flow of populations, but not the complete definition of populations. The “genetic Eve” can be used to discuss the direction of human migrations, but cannot be used to posit a single female ancestor. As Dr. Oppenheimer notes, there were thousands of other women living at the same time as this “Eve,” whose mitochondrial line is the only one that survived to the present. The inherent problem with tracing historical lines is that they can only trace the information that survives. Dr. Woodward highlighted this very point in his discussion at the FAIR Conference in August of 2001:
If you see a traditional genealogy chart as you would construct it, often we have the males on top and the females going down the bottom. You can see the Y chromosome line going across the top. We can identify the males in that line based on your Y chromosome because it will all be the same. Likewise, we can identify all of the females on the mitochondrial line that comes down across the bottom because they will all be the same. But at this level of, 16 individuals, we’ve only identified two of the 16 and we’ve only analyzed the contribution of 1/8 of the ancestors of that individual by looking at the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA. You need to keep that in mind when you read and see a lot of the DNA studies that have been done, out there on mitochondrial DNA or on Y chromosomal DNA. Understand that the picture that you are getting with that alone, is a very small part of the picture. Because at the next generation … it’s 1/16. At the next generation it’s 1/32 of the information that you have.11
The nature of the genetic research is necessarily reductive. To trace something back into the past one can match only the information that survives, and the information that reconstructs into the past becomes smaller and smaller. There is a parallel in the world of historical linguistics, which similarly works with present data to reconstruct historical information. Linguists can reconstruct some of the vocabulary of ancient populations based upon the survival of various words into the modern languages descended from that earlier language and population. However, the reconstructed vocabulary is in the hundreds of words if they are lucky. The actual vocabulary of that people would have been in the tens of thousands of words. Those other words existed, just as did all of the other women at the time of the “genetic Eve.” The problem is that the traces of the other words and the other women have died out.
Another aspect of the analogy to historical linguistics is that data are reconstructed to particular time levels. While reconstructions exist for many different times, it is inappropriate to make comparisons from widely different time depths without carefully correlating the data. Collapsing time periods leads to inaccurate conclusions. This type of interpretive error in reading the data is not unusual in the readers and second-hand interpreters of the data, not the original researchers. This same problem of “time depth” exists in the science of historical genetics. Dr. Woodward specifically cautions:
I noticed in the conference last week that was referenced that there were some papers and some discussion on DNA. I think there were some very good things that were said there but I also have some concerns in that there was some mixing of the data across time scales that may not be appropriate. There is a lot of mitochondrial evidence that has to do with population structure very deep in the past; ten-, fifteen-, twenty-, thirty-, one hundred thousand years ago. The experiments that were set up to look at those were set up correctly to be able to answer those questions in those time frames. If we then extrapolate those to the very recent past, the last two- or three- or four thousand years, I think we have to be very careful in extrapolating some of those results.12
The science on which Mr. Murphy is basing his conclusions is valid in the same way that Dr. Woodward discussed the underlying data of the papers in the referenced conference. The problem is not the science that produced the data. The problem is in the way one uses the disparate data to come to conclusions. With this background we can now turn to the application of historical genetics to the Book of Mormon.
What does historical genetics say about the Book of Mormon?
At this point we should carefully examine Mr. Murphy’s conclusions in the published article that provides the support for those conclusions. He says:
Now that quantitative scientific methods can indeed test for an Israelite genetic presence in ancient America, we learn …that virtually all Native Americans can trace their lineages to the Asian mi-grations between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago. While molecular an-thropologists have the technological capability to identify descen-dants of ancient Hebrews, no traces of such DNA markers have appeared in Central America or elsewhere among Native Americans…
From a scientific perspective, the Book of Mormon’s origin is best situated in early nineteenth-century America, and Lamanite gen-esis can only be traced historically to ca. 1828. The term Lamanite is a modern social and political designation that lacks a verifiable bio-logical or historical underpinning linking it to ancient American In-dians. The Book of Mormon emerged from an antebellum perspec-tive, out of a frontier American people’s struggle with their god, and not from an authentic American Indian perspective.13
The problems begin with the very first phrase. He says, “Now that quantitative scientific methods can indeed test for an Israelite genetic presence in ancient America…” Murphy poses this as a given, a fact. It is a “fact” that Dr. Woodward, a researcher in the field, does not accept:
What did the genes of Lehi look like? How do we find out today what the genes of Lehi look like? I think that’s a valid question to ask. Second is, who would you compare them with in living populations today? Where would you go to make the comparison? Would you go to modern day Israel today? What is the genetic composition of Israeli Jews today? Is it the same as it was two thousand years ago? Three thousand years ago? I would argue that it’s not. Do we understand the population dynamics? What kinds of selection factors have been involved?14
For his part, Murphy bases part of his “fact” on the kind of popular thinking that created a single “Eve” instead of the more accurate population of which that ancestor was one representative. In discussing one of the genetic markers used to identify “Israelites,” he notes: “Researchers have uncovered distinctive genetic markers on the Y-chromosome that are useful in establishing linkages between ancient and contemporary Hebrew populations.”15 The science was done correctly, but Murphy gives a dramatic reading of that science that suggests that we may now identify any possible remnant of an ancient Israelite population. That conclusion overreaches the data. What Murphy fails to make clear is that these are reconstructed markers. They go from the present to the past. They are not like the example of the Cheddar Man where the historical is compared to the present. Reconstructions are reductive. Finding one does not indicate that we have an ability to discern any Israelite heritage, hence the difference in the statements made by Murphy and Dr. Woodward. In this case, it should be clear that given the choice we should accept the caution of someone who does professional original research in the field over one who is simply extracting conclusions from written studies.
Disproving the Book of Mormon or Mythology?
Murphy’s next statement in his conclusion is “that virtually all Native Americans can trace their lineages to the Asian mi-grations between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago.” The implication is that since we are able to trace Asian migrations, and we haven’t found distinctive Hebrew DNA, that therefore the Book of Mormon cannot be true. In this, Murphy comes close to a correct conclusion, but not quite. It is very common among long-time Latter-day Saints who were born into the Church to assume that the Book of Mormon describes the origin of all of the American Indians. That it is common, however, does not mean that it squares with what the Book of Mormon actually says. In fact, it does not.
Additionally, this understanding among long-time Latter-day Saints does not indicate that this is a doctrine of the Church. Nevertheless, it provides an easy target for Murphy and anyone else who would attempt to apply “science” to the Book of Mormon. As opposed to Murphy disproving the foundation of the Book of Mormon claims, he has simply identified a mistaken assumption of some lay-members about the Book of Mormon, which is not a new discovery. LDS Book of Mormon scholars have held such a view for years, long before Murphy was even born.
Is it true that, as Murphy writes, “…virtually all Native Americans can trace their lineages to the Asian mi-grations between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago.” It is true enough. What does this tell us? We may correctly conclude from the evidence that the popular opinion long held among Latter-day Saints that the Book of Mormon explains the origins of all Native American populations is mistaken. We may not conclude from that same evidence, however, that the Book of Mormon is incorrect. What is the difference?
Again, Mr. Murphy seems to present the results of his research as though this information about the hemispheric interpretation of the Book of Mormon is somehow new. The information about the Asian migrations into the New World is hardly new, and the faithful LDS scholars of the Book of Mormon have had that very understanding for a minimum of fifty years.16 The use of DNA evidence is new, but it doesn’t tell us anything that was not already known about the Book of Mormon. In fact, a good result of this public attention will be that the general population of LDS will more rapidly come to understand the actual historical foundations of their sacred text rather than the mythology that has grown up around it.
It is not surprising that the popular understanding of the Book of Mormon should come more from what people thought about it than what it said about itself. As Terryl L. Givens notes concerning the early use of the Book of Mormon in the Church:
Looking at the Book of Mormon in terms of its early uses and reception, it becomes clear that this American scripture has exerted influence within the church and reaction outside the church not primarily by virtue of its substance, but rather its manner of appearing, not on the merits of what it says, but what it enacts. Put slightly differently, the history of the Book of Mormon’s place in Mormonism and American religion generally has always been more connected to its status as signifier than signified, or its role as a sacred sign rather than its function as persuasive theology. The Book of Mormon is preeminently a concrete manifestation of sacred utterance, and thus an evidence of divine presence, before it is a repository of theological claims.17
This tendency of Church members, in general, to use the fact of the book rather than the text of the book has finally given way to an intense study of the text as a text. One of the earliest results of that research into what the book says about itself led to a reassessment of the relationship of the Book of Mormon to the geography, and therefore history, of the New World. That we should learn more through a concerted study of the Book of Mormon should be no surprise. The Church has never proclaimed that it possessed all truth, all at once. In the case of the Book of Mormon, recent research is anchored in the text itself.
Dr. John E. Clark, an anthropologist at BYU, noted:
From textual evidence, one can approximate some spatial relationships of various natural features and cities. Distances in the Book of Mormon are recorded in terms of the time required to travel from place to place.18
The results of careful study of what the Book of Mormon actually says about itself tells us that it covers an area dramatically smaller than the western hemisphere. John L. Sorenson notes:
We can now be certain that the Book of Mormon story took place in a limited portion of the western hemisphere shaped roughly like an hourglass. The size of that territory was measured in hundreds, not thousands, of miles. The movements of peoples, the individual journeys, and the times involved in travels recorded in the scripture fit reasonably in a land southward around 350 miles long and not much more than half that wide at one point north of Zarahemla. The land northward is less well specified but seems not so long.19
That this more accurate understanding of the Book of Mormon may be seen as the more “official” understanding of the Church may be seen from both the publication of this information about the Book of Mormon in the Ensign in 198420 as well as in the article on “Book of Mormon Geography” in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
This deeper understanding of the internal geography of the Book of Mormon tells us that when we learn that the traditional hemispheric interpretation of the text is incorrect, it has no relevance to the Book of Mormon itself, because the text never says that. Part of Murphy’s conclusion is incorrect simply due to his mistaken assumption that the data contradict the Book of Mormon, when they really speak only to the mythology we have created around the Book of Mormon. Science does not prove the Book of Mormon wrong, because the science is not addressing the particular history of the Book of Mormon.
Is the Lack of Evidence…Evidence?
There is, of course, more to the story. Murphy’s next error in his conclusion is to assume that the absence of evidence equates to the impossibility of existence of peoples described in the Book of Mormon. There are two important points to understand concerning this erroneous assumption. The first is the probable nature of the mixing of early populations in the Book of Mormon, and the second is that the reductive nature of the evidence cannot dismiss the possible presence of valid genetic lines that have been lost.
It has been understood from the beginning of this serious study of the Book of Mormon that there were people here when the Lehites arrived; lots of people. When we remember the small numbers of people mentioned in any of the Book of Mormon immigrations into the New World,21 we have a picture of a much smaller population entering an existing population that is significantly larger.22 This more accurate picture of what the Book of Mormon says must now be compared to the correct understanding of the scientific data so that we can understand just what historical genetics does and does not say about the Book of Mormon.
The first complication comes from the simple facts of inheritance. Steve Olson, a science journalist, reports the following:
In a 1999 paper titled “Recent Common Ancestors of All Present-Day Individuals,” Chang showed how to reconcile the potentially huge number of our ancestors with the quantities of people who actually lived in the past. His model is a mathematical proof that relies on such abstractions as Poisson distributions and Markov chains, but it can readily be applied to the real world. Under the conditions laid out in his paper, the most recent common ancestor of every European today (except for recent immigrants to the Continent) was someone who lived in Europe in the surprisingly recent past–only about 600 years ago. In other words, all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang’s model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased, until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today.23
The mathematics of descent and mixing populations tell us two things. The first is that we seem to be related to virtually everyone else if we go back only 600 to 800 years. The second is that even though we are related, we can only trace a portion of that line of descent. The reductive nature of the research lops off huge branches of our ancestral tree and creates a simple ancestry out of what was, in reality, a tangled one. This should indicate the need for great caution in the way we understand historical genetics, particularly making conclusions on the absence of an “umbilical line.”
This caution becomes more relevant to the types of studies upon which Murphy is basing his conclusions because they also represent this streamlined view of genetic ancestry. When Murphy adamantly proposes the lack of non-Asian immigration before European contact, he is drawing a conclusion not supported by the data. The data actually say that the traceable origin is Asia. This flow of migration is the proper conclusion from the data, as Dr. Oppenheimer noted above. The data do not, and cannot, say anything about any peoples who did not come from Asia, but whose genetic lines cannot be traced because of the vicissitudes of genetic survival.
The most important indication that there is important genetic material that has been lost comes from the recent analysis of skeletal remains from Mexico. Tests indicate that the remains are nearly 13,000 years old. What is most important is what they tell us about migration pattern:
The two oldest skulls were “dolichocephalic” – that is, long and narrow-headed.
Other, more recent skulls were a different shape – short and broad, like those from native American remains.
This suggests that humans dispersed within Mexico in two distinct waves, and that a race of long and narrow-headed humans may have lived in North America prior to the American Indians.
Traditionally, American Indians were thought to have been the first to arrive on the continent, crossing from Asia on a land bridge.
Dr Gonzalez told BBC News Online: “We believe that the older race may have come from what is now Japan, via the Pacific islands and perhaps the California coast.24
The skull shapes tell us that there is a different genetic type making its migration into the New World. One of these types is more Caucasoid than Asian, as witnessed by the Kennewick Man.25 Similarly, a very Caucasian population existed in part of Asia where their well-preserved mummies clearly declare them distinct from the Asian populations that later inhabited that area.26 These findings complicate the genetic inheritance, as they either demonstrate how much genetic information may be lost, or that our definitions of Asian may have to be re-written to include populations that are not typically thought of as Asian. They also highlight that there is a difference in describing an Asian location and declaring “Asian” as a genetic type. The archaeological evidence tells us that these peoples existed in these places, but we appear to have lost their genetic inheritance.
The applicability to the Book of Mormon should be evident. The current state of historical genetics tells us what we already knew: the Book of Mormon does not explain the origins of all of the natives of the western hemisphere. However, it is no contradiction to the Book of Mormon, because that isn’t what the Book of Mormon says. It is no contradiction of official Church doctrine, because the Church never had an official doctrine on Book of Mormon geography (or genetics), in spite of the rather obvious popular beliefs.27 Historical genetics cannot say anything about the current understanding of the text because the limited contributions of Book of Mormon Old World genetic material was both small and long enough ago that there are any number of reasons why it could have disappeared from the traceable genetic lines that have currently been discovered.
There certainly are media storm clouds on the horizon, but they are more threat than real tempest. This media attention is really no more than a tempest in a teapot, and what rain comes from it may have the beneficial effect of washing away some traditional assumptions Mormons have held about their sacred volume that really do need to be replaced with a more solid understanding of what that text really says.
1 William Lobdell and Larry B. Stammer, “Mormon Scientist, Church Clash Over DNA Test,” Los Angeles Times (December 8, 2002), A21.
3 Ibid. Dr. Whiting responded to a statement by Maxine Hanks that Murphy was like Galileo. Dr. Whiting stated: “It’s an inappropriate comparison. The difference is Galileo got the science right. I don’t think Murphy has.” It should also be noted that Whiting’s DNA research has been featured in the weekly science journal, Nature (cover story, January 16, 2003).
4 The most powerful uses of DNA are to show biological relationships between an unknown and a known person. The issue of tracing biological families is the issue that will be discussed as we understand what DNA studies cannot do.
6 Thomas H. Roderick, PhD, uses the term “umbilical line,” http://genealogy.about.com/library/blchattrans-roderick.htm.
7 Dr. Woodward is a professor of microbiology and faculty member of the Molecular Biology Program at Brigham Young University. He is also head of the Molecular Genealogy Research Group at BYU. While completing his postdoctoral work in molecular genetics at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Utah, he discovered a genetic marker used for the identification of carriers and the eventual discovery of the gene for cystic fibrosis. He was also involved with the identification of other gene markers for colon cancer and neurofibromatosis. He joined the faculty at BYU in 1989 and has been involved with several excavation teams in Seila, Egypt. While in Egypt, he directed the genetic and molecular analysis of Egyptian mummies, both from a commoners’ cemetery and from Egyptian Royal tombs. Dr. Woodward has been the Scholar in Residence at the BYU Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem and a visiting professor at Hebrew University. His work has been featured both nationally and internationally on numerous programs including Good Morning America and both the Discovery and Learning Channels.
8 KUER: Radio West. “Science & Foundations of the Book of Mormon.” Interview: Terryl L. Givens, Thomas Murphy and Scott Woodward. Host: Doug Fabrizio. Salt Lake City, December 19, 2002.
9 Scott Woodward. “DNA and the Book of Mormon.” Presented at the FAIR Conference, August 2001. Dr. Woodward continues: “There are some ways that we may be able to approach that. And this is one of the approaches that we have taken in our laboratory at BYU. I wish that I could say that this was the magic bullet, and that it was going to be able to answer all our questions concerning ancient populations, but it turns out that the ability to recover ancient DNA and get useful information out of it is extremely difficult. It can be done. We have been able to do that in a number of limited situations. But for the most part, its going to be very difficult to go back in the past a thousand years, two thousand, four, five, ten, twelve, and recover DNA from individuals and say something about their ancient population structures.”
10 “The Real Eve.” Answers to questions by Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer. DiscoveryChannel.com http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/realeve/ask/ask.html.
11 Woodward, “DNA and the Book of Mormon.”
13 Thomas W. Murphy, “Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics,” American Apocrypha, edited by Brent Metcalfe and Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 68.
14 Scott Woodward, “DNA and the Book of Mormon.” It is worth noting that when Woodward asks about Lehi’s genetics, he is clearly referring to Lehi and his group (i.e. his wife, sons, daughters, their spouses and children) and not Lehi, the individual, only. Certainly, identifying Lehi’s mitochondrial DNA would be useless, as it would not be passed down to his posterity. The mitochondrial DNA of his wife, daughters, and his son’s wives would indeed be important. Dr. Woodward makes that distinction in his presentation. Dr. Woodward continues: “How much of Lehi’s mitochondrial DNA would you expect to see in Native Americans? That’s a trick question but you should know the answer because we just talked about it. Zero-right? It would be Sariah. Is that true? Why? Why is that true? Who were Sariah’s children? Sariah’s children were Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph. Do you see any mitochondrial carriers there? No, although in 2 Nephi, Chapter 5, Nephi mentions his sisters, so perhaps there were a couple of Sariah’s daughters that survived and that then would produce a possibility but who would that be? Who would then be mitochondrial donors for these people who came from the Middle East? The wife of Ishmael, right? Who was the wife of Ishmael…So in reality, one of the questions we have to ask is, “What would we expect to see?” So how can we know whether or not we have Lehite DNA in Native Americans if we’re not exactly sure what exactly it is that we’re supposed to be looking for or if we could recognize it when we saw it?”
15 Murphy, “Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics,” 60.
16 An introduction to some of this history from the perspective of John L. Sorenson’s involvement in it may be read in a biographical review. Davis Bitton, “Introduction,” Mormon, Scripture, and the Ancient World. Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson (Provo, Utah: FARMS, Provo, 1998), xxxiii-xxxviii.
17 Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 63-64.
18 John E. Clark, “Book of Mormon Geography,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), 1:177.
19 John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1985), 22.
20 John L. Sorenson, “Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture,” Parts 1 and 2. Ensign (September 1984): 26-37; (October 1984): 12-23.
21 Even being generous, it is difficult to identify more than thirty people in Lehi’s party. Soon after their arrival they split into two groups, both of which would have been integrated into the larger populations in different regions of the country. Thus Murphy is suggesting that testing modern populations from all over the western hemisphere proves that these thirty people did not exist. There is no logic in such an assumption.
22 Dr. Woodward specifically notes that the smaller population would have an impact in the study of Lehite genetics, assuming that we knew what that meant. Continuing his list of important factors: “…The reduction of size…and the dynamics of the demographics of the population of America and what’s happened to it; The huge bottlenecks that have happened; The selection factors that have been involved.”
23 Steve Olson. “The Royal We,” The Atlantic Monthly (May 2002), http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/05/olson.htm.
24 “Human skulls are ‘oldest Americans” Tuesday, 3 December 2002, 15:22 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2538323.stm
27 See the discussion in Clark, “Book of Mormon Geography,” 1:178.