Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jewish DNA?

Much of the dispute over DNA and the Book of Mormon is based on erroneous assumptions about what the Book of Mormon says. If you (incorrectly) believe that the Book of Mormon teaches that all Native Americans are descended primarily or solely from Lehi's group, and if you assume that the text requires Lehi's group to have had "Jewish DNA" like that of modern Jews, then, yes, we've got a problem, because most modern Native Americans do not appear to have "Jewish DNA" - whatever that is. But of course, these assumptions are not based on a careful reading of the text. The actual text clearly refers to a limited geography for Book of Mormon lands spanning a few hundred miles, not an entire hemisphere. It does not rule out the presence of others in the land, and even provides internal evidence for the presence of others in Book of Mormon territory (including survivors of the Jaredite era). And it does not teach that Lehi's group carried Jewish DNA. And we are given no clear information that allows us to classify the DNA of anyone in Lehi's group, except that Lehi was a descendant (in some way) of Joseph. We are not required to believe that any of his Y- chromosomes survived into our day, even if we believe that he must have had "Jewish" or "Hebrew" DNA.

Just what is "Jewish DNA," anyway? There is no scientifically acceptable standard for Jewish DNA. Dr. Robert Pollack, a professor of biological sciences and director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University, makes the following important observation in his online article, "The Fallacy of Biological Judaism" (Pollack, 2003):

Unlike asking "Are Jews a family?", as historians have traditionally done, geneticists seeking to advise Ashkenazic families are also, in passing, asking, "Do Jews all share the same versions of one or more genes?" -- a question with a testable, precise answer. As no two people except pairs of identical twins have exactly the same version of the human genomic text, this claim could be confirmed or rejected by a search for versions of the human genome shared by all Jews and no other people.

Given the historical context of the Nazi "experiment," it is all the more remarkable that Jews all over the world have been flocking to the new technology of DNA-based diagnosis, eager to lend their individual genomes -- each a surviving data point from the terrible experiment in negative selection -- to a revisiting of this issue of biological Judaism.

At a recent meeting of the Association of Orthodox Jewish scientists and the Columbia Center for the Study of Science and Religion, it became clear that Jewish curiosity has provided sufficient genetic material to give a perfectly clear negative answer: There is no support in the genomes of today's Jews for the calumnious and calamitous model of biological Judaism. Though there are many deleterious versions of genes shared within the Ashkenazic community, there are no DNA sequences common to all Jews and absent from all non-Jews. There is nothing in the human genome that makes or diagnoses a person as a Jew.
If there is no genetic marker that can identify a person as a Jew, I would ask Thomas Murphy and other critics of the Book of Mormon exactly what DNA evidence we should be looking for to test the hypothesis that a tiny handful of Hebrew people entered the Americas in 600 B.C.? What can be challenged is the once-common LDS assumption that the Book of Mormon told the whole story of the origins of the Americas, but it's much more reasonable to understand that it's only part of the story. Given the way genes diffuse, it is possible that every Native American was in some way a descendant of Lehi, but there is no need to assume that his Y chromosomes - whatever features they had - are still around in large numbers waiting for scientists to puzzle over all the "Jewish DNA" in the Americas. (And of course, if markers related to "Jewish DNA" were found among Native Americans, wouldn't it immediately be assumed to have come from mixing with Europeans? I think the answer is yes.)

By the way, there might be some evidence of pre-Columbian Middle Eastern and European genes entering the Americas based on an analysis of human lymphocyte antigens (HLAs). The article I'm thinking of is not in established journals, which leaves a big question mark over the work, but that doesn't necessarily condemn it. Look at the work of James L. Guthrie and let me know what you think.

36 comments:

Jared* said...

Interesting. I think that is helpful, but it doesn't get us out of the woods.

Another way of tracking migrations is by the microbes people carry, something I talked about here.

Jared* said...

On second thought, I'm not a population geneticist, but I think that while there may be some overlap, the issues surrounding defining a race or ethnic group genetically (my understanding is that in most, if not all, cases it can't be done) are somewhat different than tracking migrations.

NFlanders said...

I have to quibble with this sentence: "If you (incorrectly) believe that the Book of Mormon teaches that all Native Americans are descended primarily or solely from Lehi's group..."

The introduction to the Book of Mormon, approved by modern-day prophets, says exactly this. It is included in EVERY copy of the BoM printed today. Are the prophets who authorized this introduction wrong, because FARMS says so?

Is the Church run by revelation or by the latest apologist arguments? Will the introduction be changed because God wants it to be changed, or because its claims are no longer tenable scientifically? This raises a whole bunch of very interesting questions, but I don't think we should pretend that the Introduction and most former prophets (including JS and BY) whole-heartedly embrace the Hemispheric model.

NFlanders said...

Err, I meant that we shouldn't pretend that the intro to the BoM, JS, and BY don't assert the truth of the hemispheric model, because they clearly do.

Samuel said...

Indeed the introduction does say that. But that is a far cry from saying the Book itself contain that teaching. It in fact doesnt, which makes the sentence absolutely correct. The introduction, history of JS, and even the testimony of the witnesses are not part of the teachings of the Book of Mormon.

Mike Parker said...

Samuel is right — NFlanders' argument is a straw man. In the absence of the Book of Mormon teaching an empty hemisphere, the only place the critics can turn is to the introduction, which is not part of the divinely-translated text of the Book of Mormon, wasn't included until the 1981 edition, and is open to being changed in any successive edition.

Just because the intro is published by the Church doesn't mean it's revealed or infallible.

NFlanders said...

Mike-- are you claiming that the 1981 introduction was NOT approved by the First Presidency?

NFlanders said...

I want to head off a whole argument with Mike who, as usual, is insanely confrontational with anyone who disagrees with him.

Why don't we lay all our cards on the table?

1. There is nothing in the text of the BoM that requires a hemispheric model.

2. The introduction (written presumably in 1981 at the behest of the First Presidency) does indeed make this claim. This will probably be changed when the next edition comes out, mostly due to FARMS's latest arguments.

3. The Church has believed in the hemispheric model until recently. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young defiinitely believed in it, and General Authorities have routinely called Latin Americans and Polynesians "Lamanites."

I don't think any of these facts are in dispute. I really don't enjoy arguing on the internet, so let's leave it at that. Oh, and Mike, please look up "straw man" in a dictionary. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Anonymous said...

I find it curious that the BOM has no references to other, non-Israelite inhabitants (other than the Jaredites). If you read the Old Testament, you get constant references to a complicated myriad of other tribes and peoples constantly interacting with the ancient israelites. Why is this missing from the BOM?

-Kodos

Schuyler said...

There are two sets of records. The larger plates contain a secular history while the smaller plates deal primarily with sacred things. (1 Ne 9 heading) Though the Book of Mormon is an abridgment, I thought it came from the smaller plates.

My guess is the Lord wanted us to receive the spiritual messages rather than a social or geography lesson. I've always believed the Western hemisphere was populated by more than just Lamanites. It always make me cringe when I hear people liberally refer to all native americans as Lamanites. I could be wrong; it's happened before.

NFlanders said...

Actually, Kodos, I think Jeff had a pretty interesting post on this subject not too long ago. I am not convinced that Sherem is a foreigner, but it is interesting speculation.

Mike Parker said...

NFlanders:

I want to head off a whole argument with Mike who, as usual, is insanely confrontational with anyone who disagrees with him.

NO I'M NOT! :-)

Seriously, there are a few things I'm passionate about, and one of them is unfounded attacks on the historicity of the Book of Mormon. I'll stand up here, where I wouldn't stand up on Jeff's entry on bees, Notre Dame, or missionary health.

Why don't we lay all our cards on the table?

Okay.

1. There is nothing in the text of the BoM that requires a hemispheric model.

Agree. And in fact a careful reading of the text requires an area no larger than California. So I would go a step further and state that the text cannot be made to fit a hemispheric model.

2. The introduction (written presumably in 1981 at the behest of the First Presidency) does indeed make this claim. This will probably be changed when the next edition comes out, mostly due to FARMS's latest arguments.

Disagree. It does not make any claims about geography, but it does make a claim about ancestry, claiming that "the Lamanites...are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." An argument could be made that principal means "most important" or "most prominent," but I freely admit that the author of the introduction (most likely Bruce R. McConkie) believed that modern American Indians are descended almost solely from the Lamanites. Interesting, however, that he used "principal" and not "sole" or "only."

3. The Church has believed in the hemispheric model until recently. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young defiinitely believed in it, and General Authorities have routinely called Latin Americans and Polynesians "Lamanites."

There are three points here. The first two I disagree with and the final I agree with, if only in a qualified sense.

By "the Church" I suspect you mean, "the majority of members of the Church"; if so, there has been a slow, but discernible change in members beliefs over the last 50 years, thanks to the writings of Sorenson and other scholars. "Book of Mormon Lands" tours have been going on since the 1960s ... in Mesoamerica (note, not in Argentina or Canada). The paperback edition of the Book of Mormon published from the 1960s through 1981 included pictures of Mesoamerican ruins as examples of ancient, developed societies in the Americas. So the limited geography model has been accepted a lot longer than you claim.

Joseph Smith made several statements about Book of Mormon geography. His last recorded one was in reference to the publishing of John L. Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. Joseph approvingly noted that this work was evidence of the Book of Mormon's veracity. Orson Pratt accepted a limited geography focusing on Peru.

The Lamanite/Polynesian connection has been through the story of Hagoth, who sailed away from the Nephite lands and was not heard from again, so it's not quite accurate to say that Polynesia figures into a hemispheric geography model.

I don't think any of these facts are in dispute. I really don't enjoy arguing on the internet, so let's leave it at that.

Well, they are in dispute, so I can't just leave it at that. Especially when I'm so passionate about it. :-)

Oh, and Mike, please look up "straw man" in a dictionary. I don't think it means what you think it means.

I know precisely what it means, and I used it correctly. Instead of claiming the revealed text of the Book of Mormon made the "principal ancestors" claim (which is the issue), you turned to the unrevealed introduction (which isn't).

NFlanders said...

I appreciate the lowering of temperature on this thread.

I objected to the whole "straw man" argument because I've never deviated from my central point, which is that whoever wrote the 1981 intro (I agree that it was probably BRM) obviously believed that Native Americans were principally descended from the Lamanites. I think we can agree on that.

Furthermore, I think we can agree that the First Presidency and Quorom of Twelve probably agreed with this statement as well (at least the majority of them), since they put it in the intro to the BoM. That is the totality of my point. Nothing controversial.

Mike Parker said...

I objected to the whole "straw man" argument because I've never deviated from my central point, which is that whoever wrote the 1981 intro (I agree that it was probably BRM) obviously believed that Native Americans were principally descended from the Lamanites. I think we can agree on that.

Okay. I just think it's a non-issue, because the introduction is not part of the revealed text, and no claims are made about its infallibility. It first made its appearance in the 1981 edition, and, just as it replaced other introductory statements, it is likely to itself be replaced when another edition is put together. (I'm hoping they do another one when Royal Skousen's critical text project is finished.)

Furthermore, I think we can agree that the First Presidency and Quorom of Twelve probably agreed with this statement as well (at least the majority of them), since they put it in the intro to the BoM. That is the totality of my point. Nothing controversial.

I'll go with you on that, but I don't think they seriously considered the implications of what they wrote in light of limited geography, and DNA research (which was still 20 years in the future).

This is why I get irked (or even insanely confrontational) when the introduction is hoisted up as evidence that the Book of Mormon teaches Lamanites are the sole ancestors of modern Native Americans. It doesn't, but the person who wrote the introduction seemed to think it did. He was wrong, and his fallibility doesn't (and shouldn't) reflect on the claims made by the book itself.

Mormanity said...

Have to agree withi Mike on this.

We don't teach that prophets are infallible, we don't even teach that the scriptures themselves are inerrant, and we certainly don't require that secondary materials, such as introductions and or study guides published with the scriptures are absolute truth.

I also agree that significant voices in the Church were teaching a limited hemispheric model decades before DNA evidence became relevant. I document several examples on my LDSFSQ page on DNA and the Book of Mormon.

Those who attack the Church and the divinity of the Book of Mormon using DNA evidence as their sword would do well to more accurately state their argument: "If the Church is true, all opinions of all Church leaders must be infallible. Bruce R. McConkie and some other Mormons made an incorrect assumption about the scope of the text. Therefore the Church is not true."

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you nailed it. That's why I'm leaving! Plus my Bishop guessed the wrong outcome of the BYU-Notre Dame game. But my home teachers ARE infallible, so maybe I'll stay.

Ian Cook said...

I just recently watched the talk given on the DNA issue, and it was really a lot to chew on. I have to agree with what he says, though I have a limited understanding of DNA.

The one point that I have not heard is of the laminites receiving the skin of blackness. My theory is that this skin of blackness may have changed some of, if not all the genetic structure. This would mean that there is no way to link the Native Americans to the Jews anyway.

That is what comes to my mind on this subject.

Mormontramper said...

I don’t see why we need to apologize for the text in the introduction to the BofM. Maybe BRM wrote – and believed -something about lamanites being the sole ancestors of today’s Indians which before publication were edited by the brethren to the more proper “principal” ancestors.

Principal ancestors are by no means incorrect. I cannot follow Mike Parker here. The BofM teaches that lamanites were more of a cultural or religious identification than anything else – at least in the latter part of the book.

I recently listened to a presentation by a biology professor here in Sweden. He briefly talked about the question whether human evolution is continuing or not. I would like to present to you his answer on that question since it has some implications to the discussion here.

The latest known mutation among Homo sapiens occurred some 6.000 years ago (In Adams days!). That is hard evidence of on ongoing evolution. However if we are focusing on how widespread this mutation is today the answer is very interesting for us here. It turns out that this latest known mutation is represented all over the world among most populations (not very frequent among isolated tribes in Africa etc though). This gives an interesting conclusion. Mutations occur and it spreads rather rapidly among human beings all over the world. As I recall it the gene in question were connected with the brain, the place where mutations occur more frequent among Homo sapiens than in other organs. In other words; the clear evidence indicates that people are mixing.

I regard my Israelite connection through my patriarchal blessing to be my “principal” heritage because it has very powerful implications for my future. It does not mean that I look down with disrespect on my more biologically dominating Viking heritage. It makes my heritage more rich.

I guess that today’s Indians are all connected in some ways with the people that were once called lamanites (culturally and religiously) in the BofM.

So please stop talking about the issue that prophets can be wrong and save that kind discussions to more proper occasions.

The mutation that occurred also gives a satisfying answer how we all can be Adams relatives. It seems that we are all related to him if he indeed existed. The confusion of languages that are the result of building the tower in Babel could and should be seen in this context. Adams posterity started to involve with other peoples and suddenly the language were confused, especially when there many languages that didn’t have any writing.

I always regarded evolution as something that brings flesh upon the earth. How can we say that the biblical term “men” is equal to the biological term “Homo sapiens”? We cannot!

Mormontramper corrects himself, read this one, not the before presented! said...

I don’t see why we need to apologize for the text in the introduction to the BofM. Maybe BRM wrote – and believed -something about lamanites being the sole ancestors of today’s Indians which before publication were edited by the brethren to the more proper “principal” ancestors.

Principal ancestors are by no means incorrect. I cannot follow Mike Parker here. The BofM teaches that lamanites were more of a cultural or religious identification than anything else – at least in the latter part of the book.

I recently listened to a presentation by a biology professor here in Sweden. He briefly talked about the question whether human evolution is continuing or not. I would like to present to you his answer on that question since it has some implications to the discussion here.

The latest known mutation among Homo sapiens occurred some 6.000 years ago (In Adams days!). That is hard evidence of on ongoing evolution. However if we are focusing on how widespread this mutation is today the answer is very interesting for us here. It turns out that this latest known mutation is represented all over the world among most populations (not very frequent among isolated tribes in Africa etc though). This gives an interesting conclusion. Mutations occur and it spreads rather rapidly among human beings all over the world. As I recall it the gene in question were connected with the brain, the place where mutations occur more frequent among Homo sapiens than in other organs. In other words; the clear evidence indicates that people are mixing.

I regard my Israelite connection through my patriarchal blessing to be my “principal” heritage because it has very powerful implications for my future. It does not mean that I look down with disrespect on my more biologically dominating Viking heritage. It only makes my heritage richer.

I guess that today’s Indians are all connected in some ways with the people that were once called lamanites (culturally and religiously) in the BofM.

So please stop talking about the issue that prophets can be wrong and save those kind discussions to more proper occasions.

The mutation that occurred also gives a satisfying answer on how we all can be related to Adam. It seems possible that we are all related to him in one way or another, if he indeed existed. The confusion of languages that were the result of the building the tower in Babel could and should be seen in this context. Adams posterity started to involve with other peoples and suddenly the language were confused, especially when there were many languages that didn’t have any organized system for writing and reading. We know that under those circumstances languages tends to develop rather quickly with the result that people of different groups begins to have trouble understanding one another. I interpret the biblical narrative, repeated in the BofM, in that way. It is a short description about people that were quite closely related begun having problems in understanding one another – since the process took place rapidly is was observed and understood by the people as divine curse.

Instead of disregarding the biblical text as a result of a hopeless literal reading ending in a conflict with discoveries of sciences; we should try to discover the rich narratives and mysteries of the bible. When one – as I do – partake of both Sunday school lessons with scripture reading and results from natural sciences one becomes more enlightened both spiritually and intellectually. I believe in – forgive me for agreing with Karl Marx here – in that duality. It is the way God works!

I always regarded evolution as a mean for bringing flesh upon the earth. BTW how can we say that the biblical term “men” is equal to the biological term “Homo sapiens”? We cannot! Men is flesh and spirit; a spirit of very divine origin. Our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits. He only supervised the creation of our bodies, a creation that served many purposes. I look upon my body as a holy vehicle with a an even holier and sacred passenger!

Natural science can deepen the understanding of our theology if we are guided by the spirit. Natural science cannot, I and want to emphasize this, either prove or disprove our religion.

Jared* said...

I believe I know the mutation Mormontramper refers to. Two points to note:

1. Although the gene is involved in regulating brain size, its precise function and the role of this variant are unknown.

2. It is not the last mutation to occur in Homo sapiens. Mutations occur all the time.

I blogged about it here.

Mormontramper said...

Jared!

I agree with you. We don't know what exact function of the mutation. It is certainly not the last mutation to occur. It is the latest though which I wrote.

The significance of the mutation for us here is this. The mutation occurred in one singular individual some six thousand years ago. This very mutation is now to be found all over the world. This means that mutations do occur and it also presents evidence for the theory of rapid mixing between people.

Bookslinger said...

Asians could have mixed in with the Lamanite population (and the Nephite population for that matter), and have considered themselves, and been considered by others, to be Lamanite (and Nephite) before the close of the Book of Mormon.

However, even this is not necessary, because the Asian DNA that is pointed to by the detractors is the mitochondrial DNA, and could have come from Sariah, or Mrs. Ishmael, or other women in the original party, and have been there all along.

The Introduction to the BoM does not have to be reworked to accomodate the recent DNA studies.

Furthermore, the introduction does not state that the American Indians are primarily descended from "Lehi's group."

It says: "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."

You would be assuming that the surviving Lamanites, at the close of the Book of Mormon, were still of pure Lehite descent. There is nothing in the BoM to preclude the possibility that Asian DNA had already been added to the mix by that time (either during the 1000 year Nephite dynasty, or from the beginning with Asian women in the original party.)

It says __Lamanites__, specifically the ones left at the end, were the principal ancestors. The introduction and preponderance of outside DNA could have happened before the finish of the Book of Mormon, thereby giving the "principal ancestors," I.E., the surviving Lamanites, the Asian DNA to pass along to their daughters.

BYU alter ego said...

Jeff: "If you (incorrectly) believe that the Book of Mormon teaches that all Native Americans are descended primarily or solely from Lehi's group, and if you assume that the text requires Lehi's group to have had "Jewish DNA" like that of modern Jews, then, yes, we've got a problem, because most modern Native Americans do not appear to have "Jewish DNA" - whatever that is."

About the "What is Jewish DNA?" question.

We do know of all the surviving Hebrew lineages. Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahic, Bene Israel etc...

Connections from unsuspecting groups such as the Lemba(African tribe) to Bene Cohanim have been established that predate the BOM timeline.

Making a connection with a surviving line is a straightforward excercise.

Also, what is your reasoning that any of the Lehite/Mulekite people would not have Jewish DNA?

To me it appears that you're arguing that the BOM peoples shouldn't have a connection with modern Jewish lines and that the connection must have died out.

Also, you seem to infer that Lehi isn't the only ancestor(obviously true) and that opens the door for the Jewish connection to be irrelevant? What's that about? The Mulekites were also from Jerusalem, and every indication the BOM gives us is that the Lehite/Mulekites never mixed.

So what other Genetic origin other from people who dwelt in Jerusalem are you referring to?

A couple of points:

1. DNA can easily measure the genetic proximity of two populations. The notion that a genetic profile is qualitative data (ie; either on or off) is wrong. A person is not just "Jewish" or "not Jewish." They statistically fall closer to one pattern or another.

So therefore, we would expect to see some kind of statistical correlation among the Markers between Modern Jews and their putative Book of Mormon cousins, which we do not.

This isn't to say that the statisical analysis isn't definitive. It very much is, in real world practice geography of peoples and migration patterns are clearly discernable.

If American Indian populations ever, ever, had any connection to even the ancient Hebrews, this proximity would exist. This is very, very easy to measure. An objective score can be calculated to represent how "related" one group is to another, it's called a "Distance Matrix."

For any interested in understanding more about Bioinformatics and how Geneticists interpret their data see:
Phylogenetics
and
Bayesian inference

2. Your assertion that there is a lack of, or weak connection between Jewish DNA and BOM peoples, however wrong, ignores the fact that the vast majority of surviving Amerinds have been well defined. 99.4% Mongolian in origin doesn't leave much room for anyone else does it. Only .6% European that date after Columbus remain.

Do you believe then that Lamanite line all died out? Do you think the Nephite/Lamanite peoples could have been connected to Mongolia?

Never mind that DNA Molecular Clock dating, Anthropology and Geologic data agree that the migration event into the Americas predates Adam and Eve, the Flood, the Tower of Babel etc...

Ultimately, you offer far too little to support your theories of Ancient American history. You offer a mix of parallels, conjecture, opinion and alternate theories (LGT) that don't begin to explain the body of data we have on the subject.

Quotes from your FAQ are illustrative:

"One important detail is that there is evidence of genes in Native Americans that may have come from sources other than northeastern Asia, such as the Middle East."

Conjecture

"The bottom line is that the "Asia only" model of ancient migration to the Americas is clearly incomplete."

Opinion (unprofessional at that)

Based on the research published in the "American Journal of Physical Anthropology," many, if not all Anthropologists disagree with you.

"But mitochondrial DNA analysis shows that haplogroup X is found in both Israel and the New World. The problem is that the estimated date of entry of haplogroup X in the New World is many thousands of years before 600 B.C., but that dating is based on an assumed mutation rate that has been shown to be many times slower than actually occurs in modern humans. A more reasonable mutation rate based on actual measurements in humans could allow for a time frame consistent with the Book of Mormon. Of course, this is an area where more information is still needed."(references removed)

Conjecture...mingled with facts.

Molecular clock is more accurate then you describe. Also, it was not the only tool used to date migration patterns.

Also, because the American X and European X are so distant, many have suggested renaming the marker altogether.

The X marker theory of Mormon apologists is dead in the water. FAQ needs an update.

By "more reasonable mutation rate" you fail to mention that the timeframe given would have change by thousands of years, far larger than the margin of error.

Overall Jeff you miss the point that in a pure probability sense the BOM is really remote.

Of course, "anythings possible," but certainly not probable. And in the vacuum of hard evidence FOR the BOM it's plain that your alterior motives for it being true out weigh a fair measure of the facts.

Samuel said...

Nice to see you back BYU Alter Ego.

I guess if the study had shown that the American Indians were full of evidence of Hebrew DNA (whatever that is), you would believe the Book of Mormon to be true? I highly doubt it.

BYU alter ego said...

To Samuel:

Yes, oh my gosh YES! Don't you see??

I personally would not have ever lost my belief.

But if I started out as a non-believer and saw that 99.4% of Amerinds were Hebrew and if I had some awareness of the BOM I would ask, "What is this Mormon thing?"

Faith has to start with some form of truth somewhere. "Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; ... and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand." Alma 32:34

Like a true seed, a fact, however small, is absolutely necessary to begin building faith.

Faith is always consistent with the facts(truth), otherwise it's not true faith. It's where there are no facts that faith becomes really useful.

But putting faith in something in the face of the facts is just the "blind, leading the blind."

Similarly, the problem with the BOM is that there is so very little that weighs against the negative facts.

Thus the loss of faith.

So yes, yes, yes, if science started to agree with LDS thought on the BOM it would at least be a very important beginning foundation for faith.

Bookslinger said...

"what is your reasoning that any of the Lehite/Mulekite people would not have Jewish DNA?"

1. Lehi was tribe of Joseph, not Judah. The Josephites married outside of Israel much more than the Judah-ites.

2. It was many hundred years since the split between Northern/Southern Kingdoms and the time that the remaining faithful Josephites emmigrated to Judah because of the apostasy of the Northern Kingdom. We don't know how much mixing with non-Israelites took place in that time interval.

3. We don't know Ishmael's tribe, whether he was even of Israel/Jacob, or any branch of Hebrew (meaning descendent of Eber), or totally non-Hebrew.

4. We don't know Sariah's or Mrs. Ishmael's lineage, because the women that the sons of Israel/Jacob married were not descended from Israel/Jacob. Back then, there was no Israelite mitochondrial DNA because all the direct heirs of Israel were males. All the females had to have been outsiders.

Joseph married an Egyptian, while his brothers would have married women from other areas. The women the other 11 brothers married were likely Hebrew, or at least Semitic, but not necessarily.

"The Mulekites were also from Jerusalem, and every indication the BOM gives us is that the Lehite/Mulekites never mixed."

They clearly combined in King Mosiah's day. It's in the book of Mosiah.

Bookslinger said...

----
"Like a true seed, a fact, however small, is absolutely necessary to begin building faith. // Faith is always consistent with the facts(truth), otherwise it's not true faith. It's where there are no facts that faith becomes really useful. // But putting faith in something in the face of the facts is just the "blind, leading the blind."
----

"Truth" and "scientific facts" are not synonymous. So many sciences have altered or upgraded their "facts" with the arrival of new evidence, new tests, and new analytical methods.

The history of science has a lot of flip-flops.

You've quoted scripture, but you mis-apply it. You've wrested Alma's words.

As you have previously dismissed the Bible as tall-tales (did you mean literally 'tall'?), one might assume you don't have _any_ religious faith. I would not want to accept the definition of religious faith from a man who has none. I don't think you have standing with which to claim that you know what faith is or should be.

--------

There is "scientific evidence", IE, the results of the DNA tests of Amer-Indians and modern Jews. There's analysis of that evidence, in comparing the two groups.

And then there's interpretation of that evidence, as in "What does it mean?"

There was no border patrol along the shores of the Western Hemisphere. There were no toll-takers on the land-bridge to Asia.

Of all those groups, we also have no record of who married with who.

Therefore, none of us can claim to know with any degree of certainty the makeup and proportions of all the groups that came to the Western Hemisphere.

Even the phrase of the BoM Introduction that you have problems with:
"... except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."
can still be true, if the mixing with Asians occured prior to 400 AD.

The reason for that is the makeup of those described as "Lamanite" by 400 AD was not restricted to the descendents of Laman/Lemuel/Zoram. The definition of "Lamanite" was those who allied themselves with the non-believers, or non-Nephites at the time.

The definition of Lamanite and Nephite, after the coming of Christ and after they started to dwindle in unbelief, took on a whole new meaning. At the time of Christ, when all became believers, there were no more "-ites". 4 Nephi 1:17.

As the people dwindled in unbelief four generations after Christ, "Lamanite" then came to mean non-believer, and "Nephite" meant believer. A division was made. And then, even the group known as Nephites fell into unbelief.

Now if other peoples of Asian origin had mixed in during the 1000 year dynasty, and if the definition of Lamanite and Nephite came to be based on belief, and not lineage, one can then see how "Lamanite", circa 400 AD, does not mean "direct descendent of Laman/Lemuel".

Bookslinger said...

BYU Alter:
These three things taken together:

1. You don't seem to acknowledge that "generally accepted scientific 'facts'" have changed quite often, and therefore "scientific fact" and "Truth" (capital T) don't always coincide;

(Have you ever read any 100 year old scientific texts or medical books? They are amazing in their errors and arrogance.)

Although your DNA _evidence_ may not change, it seems to me arrogant of you that you can't allow that it's _interpretation_ might be changed when further evidence comes to light.

2. A misunderstanding of what faith is;

3. A false belief that "interpretation of evidence" equates to "fact"; not realizing that two experts can look at the same evidence and draw vastly different conclusions;

1 + 2 + 3 = you're not seeing the big picture that others with faith are seeing, or at least allowing the possibility that such a big picture exists.

Bookslinger said...

BYU Alter:

If a certain interpretation of DNA evidence destroyed your faith in the Book of Mormon, what caused you to lose faith in the Bible?

There are plenty of religious Bible-believing scientists who don't believe the Book of Mormon, but do believe the Bible. Where have they gone wrong?

Samuel said...

Boy. BoM in Indy said it all. And I appreciate you BYU Alter having more faith because of it. But I think very few people would be impressed by it. I am hearing lucky guess, lots of people thought the Indians were descended from the lost tribes (IE Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews), it was simply a reflection of the times of Joseph Smith, or just plain silence. Look at Nahom, the name Alma, chiasmus, the witnesses, the consistent geography (also consistent with Mesoamerica), the overall complexity of the work, the term "Land of Jerusalem," the many hebraic structures, etc etc. Non-believers dismiss (or ignore) all that, so I doubt that DNA evidence would be that compelling for most.

And that is the danger of faith building through science. Look at the Shroud of Turin. There is real scientific evidence that the accuracy of carbon dating can be skewed significantly by the bioplastic coating (bacteria and fungi) that exists on fibers in artifacts. This was mainly discovered due to the misdating of some Mayan mummies. That and other events could have skewed the correct date for the Shroud. But many people, whose god is science, believe that the scientific test was the final arbiter and thats that.

I personally believe the Shroud has an excellent chance of being real. And if it is real, it would be terrible to disbelieve the Shroud as a faith building element to Christ because we put so much faith in science.

Which of course is not faith. It is knowledge.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU AE: "Faith is always consistent with the facts(truth)

But our knowledge of the relevant facts is imperfect and constantly changing. And, sometimes, faith is inconsistent with the apparent state of the facts.

This is true far beyond religious matters. I may retain faith in the goodness of a friend despite seemingly contradictory actions on his part, because I'm confident (or, at least, hope) that future facts (e.g., perhaps his explanation of his actions) will put the first reports into different perspective.

Disbelievers in the Book of Mormon have to exercise faith, as well. They need, for instance, to believe that alternative explanations of the experiences of the Witnesses trump the explanations given by the Witnesses themselves. They need to have faith that Hebraic conditional sentences in the Original Manuscript mean nothing at all. They have to believe that the NHM inscriptions from seventh century BC Arabia represent nothing but good luck on Joseph Smith's part. They need to believe that Joseph was either lying or insane. They have to assume a very great number of things that are, in my opinion, quite implausible, or that are, at a minimum, impossible to demonstrate beyond reasonable question.

Anonymous said...

http://www.irr.org/mit/Lamanites-DNA-Book-of-Mormon.html

Daniel Peterson said...

http://farms.byu.edu/publications/dna.php?selection=dna&cat=dna

To which, add Dr. Ryan Parr's essay in the newest issue of the FARMS Review.

Unlike the folks at the "Institute for Religious Research" (aka Gospel Truths Ministries), the scientists who wrote these articles for FARMS have national and international standing in anthropology, genetics, biochemistry, and other relevant fields.

Doug Forbes said...

American Indians do have genetic links to modern Jews. (Shen et al 2004) About 5% of Ashkenazi Jews and 5% of Iraqi Jews have the M45-M242 mutations or Q haplogroup. This is ancestral to the M45-M242-M3 Y-chromosomes that 66% of Amerindians have and fraternal to that of an aditional 16% of Amerindians who have M45-M242 without the M3 marker.

Doug Forbes said...

...And another thing. It is now established fact that Amerindians are more closely related to Europeans than they are to East Asians (at least patrilineally). The M45 Y-chromosome is ancestral to M242 (most Amerindians, some Jews and some Central Asians) and M207 (most europeans Europeans). The M45 marker is not found in the main East Asian lineage groups.

source:Peter Underhill, PHD, Dept of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford CA USA

http://crchd.nci.nih.gov/meetings/conf/Racialization%20of%20Populations,%20Society%20and%20Science/02.%20Panel%201%20-%20Human%20Evolution,%20Migration%20Patterns,%20and%20Genomics%20(Speaker%201)/Underhill.ppt

Anonymous said...

What is most important is that Joseph Smith was a fraud who has established a "church" that lead people to hell faster than a speeding bullet. Joseph Smith was an uneducated, ignorant country boy who has been able to fool thousands with his foolishness.