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Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church

Science vs. Religion

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Losing a Lost Tribe

Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church

Mormon scholars have been moving away from traditional religious dogma because the science just doesn’t leave them any other option. They have tried, as best as they are able, to harmonize Mormon doctrines with the cold facts of science but they haven’t been very successful — Mormon doctrines are just too specific and have been interpreted in a manner that doesn’t really allow for adequate harmonization. Most Mormon believers, however, are kept in the dark by their elders:

    “The boundaries between the scientific and religious realms are blurred in Mormon theology since the Latter-day gospel claims to embrace all truth. Science and religion are simply two different instruments for finding, understanding, and disseminating truth, according to Mormon thought. No conflict is believed to exist between true science and true religion. Consequently, if science conflicts with true religion, then science is incorrect.”

In the Mormon church, not everything discovered by science is considered “true” unless it is approved by church doctrine or leaders, but even among the things that are “true,” not all of it is considered appropriate for all the believers. The things taught to believers must be considered “useful” and “uplifting,” and if truths don’t fulfill such goals then they should be set aside in favor of other teachings.

    “The LDS church continues to teach that Native Americans are the direct descendants of Book of Mormon people. The introduction to Book of Mormon editions since 1981 states explicitly that the Lamanites are “the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” ... [A]pologists essentially never question the historicity of the Book of Mormon. For them, it is a fact that the Book of Mormon is true history of real people.”

Out of the 7,500 Native Americans who have had their DNA tested, 99% show Asian heritage and 0% show Middle Eastern heritage — thus the claim that their “principal” ancestors were immigrants from Israel stands as obviously and unequivocally false. The truth is that none of their ancestors are Middle Eastern. Apologists have tried to argue that the Book of Mormon doesn’t preclude the possibility of multiple origins for Native Americans, but aside from the absence of any such references in the text is the fact that Near Eastern heritage is unknown in the genetic record.

In addition, we have a clear model of what it would be like for a small population to briefly enter the larger genetic pool:

    “Ten centuries ago a handful of Norse sailors slipped into Newfoundland, established small colonies, traded with local natives, the sailed back into the fog of history. In spite of the small scale of their settlements and the brevity of their stay, unequivocal evidence of their presence has been found. ”
Losing a Lost Tribe

Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church

    “Just six centuries earlier the Book of Mormon tells us, a climactic battle between fair-skinned Nephites and dark-skinned Lamanites ended a millennial dominion by a literate, Christian, Bronze Age civilization with a population numbering in the millions. Decades of serious and honest scholarship have failed to uncover credible evidence that these Book of Mormon civilizations ever existed. How is it that they remain a great civilization vanished without a trace, the people along with their genes?”


The Bottom Line

The Book of Mormon makes a lot of claims about the history of the Americas. None of it can be judged as even remotely true. There was a time that believers could rely on gaps in archaeological knowledge to preserve their faith in absence of any evidence, but modern biology makes that impossible. The only avenues left are to deny the biological evidence or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Mormon researchers are slowly giving up traditional Mormon doctrines; Mormon leaders are failing to tell the body of believers the full truth. Only time will tell which tactic proves the most successful.

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