Book of Mormon DNA evidence is the Holy Grail for Mormons and Anti-Mormons alike. CES Letter claims: “DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia.”
CES Letter is basically the handbook of anti-Mormons. It has everything anti-Mormon needs to attack the church. But CES Letter gives no evidence or explanation when it comes to DNA and the Book of Mormon DNA evidence. It presents this as a self-evident argument, as if the science is settled.
Is the science settled?
Newsweek says evidence “proves” the Bering Strait theory–that Pre-Columbian natives of North and South America only are descended from Asians who traveled over the Bering Strait. Wikipedia does not even bother mentioning any other ideas where American ancestors may have originated. The co-author of a 2014 article in Nature boasts that it is “the final shovelful of dirt” on the hypothesis.
Simple-minded atheists treat science as the be-all-end-all truth, yet they are curiously quick to jump to conclusions and ignore the complexities of science. The evidence actually finds evidence for a large number of ancient immigration into America. If you look at these complexities, you actually find Book of Mormon DNA evidence to support the Book of Mormon model.
Middle Eastern DNA In North America
CES Letter ridicules the LDS church for pulling back on their claim that Lamanites were the “principal ancestors” of the “American Indians.”
They point to Joseph Smith’s Wentworth Letter:
In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era.
We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people… The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.
CES Letter says America was inhabited prior to the Tower of Babel, so this must be incorrect. But actually, DNA evidence does show this is correct.
1830 map of United States
Hg “x” haplogroup shows up in ancient Middle East and North America, exactly where Lehi originated and where Joseph Smith lived. When Joseph Smith wrote “this country” was he referring to Mexico, or Brazil, or the plains that hadn’t been added to the United States yet? No, he was referring to New England.
Wikipedia erased this map of DNA distribution from their Settlement of the Americas page, for some strange reason:
Why did Wikipedia remove this map from their page on Ancient America Settlement?
Hg “x” accounts for a quarter or the mtDNA of the Algonquian people in North America, but does not show up in South America or East Asia until later. It was rather isolated in the Middle East (including among Jews) and North America. Scientists note that the difference between haplogroup X in America and Middle East indicates “an early origin ‘likely at the very beginning of their expansion and spread from the Near East.’
Well, that’s what the Tower of Babel was, the very beginning of expansion from the Near East. The upper East Coast is a suitable spot for the Jaradites from what we read of them.
Scientists conclude Asia was “not intermediate between Native American clades and that of Europeans” for this DNA. So how did they get there? Scientists say early peoples somehow traveled over the Bering Strait without leaving DNA traces for many thousands of miles. But the sea-faring model of the Jaradites makes much more sense.
And yes, this haplogroup could be the oldest DNA in this area of North America.
There is the question of timing. Theologists date the Tower of Babel to 2,500 B.C. and scientists say Hg “x” was introduced much earlier than that. But the reliability of radioactive dating and what we assume about the time table of the bible is a totally different issue. Fact is, the DNA is there.
The famous Kennewick Man, a set of ancient American bones which shocked scientists because they looked more like Patrick Stewart than Clovis people, was found to have genetic similaries to western Europe, and the haplogroup X2a
The other haplogroup that we find in both the Middle East and North America is less conclusive: Haplogroup R.
Wikipedia erased the Haplogroup R map from their page as well, and on their Haplogroup R page they replaced it with an image that omits North and South America. But before Wikipedia’s revisions, here is what the map showed:
This shows a far-spread genetic marker across Europe, West Asia, and North America, with spots showing up many other places. The oldest remains of R are found are “mal’ta boy” in Siberia.
DNA evidence shows plenty of other groups. As Newsweek notes, there are also human remains found in America from before the Clovis people traveled over the Bering Strait. Where did they come from?
One important study, largely ignored, found African DNA in pre-Columbian America–“Indigenous Mexican- African admixture occurred prior to the European discovery of America. The date for the African skeletons indicate that there were several waves of West Africans who probably introduced African haplotypes into the Americas. The 25,000 Malians who sailed to America in 1310 probably had a major influence on the exchange of African genes in the Americas.”
DNA indicates a variety of immigration events to America, including from the Middle East.
Why Don’t Modern Indians Have Israelite DNA?
So we have Book of Mormon DNA evidence for the Jaradites. Oh, but what about the Nephites? If the Nephites came from Israel, why don’t modern Native Americans have Israelite DNA?
Maybe because the Nephites got killed off? Remember that? Joseph Smith said the principal ancestors fell in battle and left today’s American ancestors with “remnants,” the Lamanites.
The Book of Mormon says the Lamanites developed a dark skin that was different than the Nephites. How did that happen? Well, either their DNA mutated or they interbred with other civilizations–civilizations that apparently came over the Bering strait. Either way, the Book of Mormon tells us the Lamanites had Israelite original genetics bred out. So it’s no wonder that we don’t see archaeological genetic similarities when it comes to the descendants of Lehi.
This was not the case for the Jaradites. Their civilization of millions collapsed in a great final battle, but there is no indication that everybody got wiped out.
Imagine a family of Israelites shows up in a totally foreign land and looks totally different than everyone else. Imagine that some of this group interbreeds with the natives and tries to kill off the other part of the group. It would not be hard for the Lamanites to visually identify Nephites and wipe them out. So the Israelite DNA got wiped out. Simple as that.
Why Haven’t We Found Israelite DNA In Archaeology?
Oh, but shouldn’t we at least find some Israelite DNA in buried remains?
Well that depends how many buried remains scientists have sampled. It would take many thousands of samples from all over North and South America to reliably give us an idea. How many samples are scientists using?
For one study, a few dozen
Nope. Sorry. It’s going to take a lot more digging to come across Nephite DNA markers. If you look closely at the map of DNA samples you see that there are zero samples from the great plains, where Joseph Smith came across some bones that he said was a general among the Nephites. Zero samples. Maybe try digging around Ohio?
There is only one sample on the Yucatan Peninsula, where many Mormons place the Book of Mormon civilization. Just one. It is 12,000 years old, far outside the time frame of the Book of Mormon, and found at the bottom of a water pit where no Israelite would ever bury his dead.
The Nephites and Lamanites were fanatical about burying their dead, so their remains won’t be found except by widespread excavation. Even if remains are found, Israelites did not embalm their dead like the Egyptians did, so the DNA might not be preserved.
So the reason Nephite DNA has not been found by archaeologists is because they have not come across evidence that is likely to prove or disprove the Nephite model.
There are other studies that use more local samples. One study of the Mayan populations found a “complex demographic history” with all kinds of gene flow. Yet they found “founder events in the different ethnic groups or relative isolation.” Isolated communities.
Another study found that lots of DNA markers simply got wiped out, exactly like the Book of Mormon indicates:
While that doesn’t necessarily mean that the genetic diversity of the pre-Columbian era has been completely wiped out – other lineages not traced in this study may exist… But the find demonstrates what the researchers bluntly term the ‘high extinction rate’ for indigenous American people.
The best evidence for Nephite DNA is found in a study on Cherokee Indians. John Adair wrote in the 18th century that some Cherokees were known to speak a kind of Jewish language. A recent study found an ancient Cherokee princess with Jewish DNA, or rather DNA markers from Middle Eastern-North Africa. This branch of Cherokee is “genetically more likely to be Jewish than the typical American Jew of European ancestry.”
One very important part of this study is that the Cherokee experienced the same kind of complex gene flow and isolation as the Mayans. In fact, Cherokee communities “often carried Maya DNA.” So perhaps some of the Nephites who moved north mixed with these Cherokee communities.
Book of Mormon DNA Evidence Is Poor Either Way
Archaeology is very shaky science to begin with, and when you add to that the difficulty of mapping DNA–sporatic mutations, poor preservation, few samples, post-Columbian DNA mixture–it becomes a nightmare.
The title of this article is misleading. I did that on purpose, to ridicule the anti-Mormons who think DNA evidence proves anything. Book of Mormon DNA evidence doesn’t prove the Book of Mormon model. It doesn’t disprove it. Archeological DNA can’t prove anything either way.
All we know is some skeleton with similar genetics to another skeleton somehow ended up somewhere. That doesn’t tell us much.
The science of human origin locations is rapidly changing. Just last week an important study came out that found humans originated in Europe, not Africa. Maybe next year a study will find humans originated in Australia? In Missouri?
Actually I am glad that we do not have more Book of Mormon DNA Evidence either way. The Catholic church has all of their ancient relics that supposedly provide physical proof of bible stories. They tried to definitely reconcile science and religion, and it didn’t end well. Because what is the purpose of faith? Flimsy scientific evidence is just superstition.
If a scientist dug up Laban’s sword and a rock with the inscription “Hi! My name is Nephi and I wrote the Book of Mormon,” we would descend into a narrative of physical evidence and the role of faith would diminish. The LDS church has always been careful to never provide physical objects as “proof” of Mormon claims, never to give us relics. I think this keeps our belief in the Book of Mormon grounded on faith.
To look at a tiny sample of ancient bones as the basis for your belief in the Book of Mormon, either way, is a stunning display of superstition.