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DNA doesn't prove or disprove Book of Mormon, LDS essay says

Published January 31, 2014 10:02 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Latter-day Saints believe their signature sacred scripture, The Book of Mormon, is a record of three groups of Hebrews who left the Middle East and sailed to the Americas centuries before Christ's birth.

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught that these peoples became the ancestors of American Indians. But recent DNA research has suggested that the majority of Native Americans today carry largely Asian DNA, not Middle Eastern, which critics use to discredit the faith's historical claims about the book.

On Friday, the LDS Church posted another of its "Gospel Topics" essays, this one addressing the issue of DNA and the Mormon scripture.

"The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied," the unsigned essay says, but only "among the ancestors of the American Indians."

Beyond that, it says, "nothing is known about the extent of intermarriage and genetic mixing between Book of Mormon peoples or their descendants and other inhabitants of the Americas, though some mixing appears evident, even during the period covered by the book's text."

"What seems clear is that the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples," the essay says, "likely represented only a fraction of all DNA in ancient America."

After a lengthy explanation of how DNA and genetics work, the piece concludes that "finding and clearly identifying [Book of Mormon peoples'] DNA today may be asking more of the science of population genetics than it is capable of providing."

The essay also warns that efforts to defend the book's historicity through DNA are equally "speculative."

The evidence is "simply inconclusive," the church asserts. "In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon."

All this talk of DNA and genetics aside, the essay reaffirms that the book's "primary purpose" is more spiritual than historical.

Peggy Fletcher Stack