Monday, March 27, 2017

The Book of Mormon, DNA

As I studied more about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I soon discovered anachronistic animals, metals and other materials weren't the only issue plaguing the Book of Mormon's claim of total authenticity.  As I stated previously, I was taught growing up the characters in the Book of Mormon were the ancestors of the native inhabitants of the Americas.  This is from the introduction page of the Book of Mormon as I grew up that said the book is “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas”.  Also, regarding the Lamanites, the introduction read, “. . . all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

This was common among Church members.  The story of Nephi and his family inhabiting the "promised land" was history, and therefore the Native Americans and those that occupied Central and South American were descendants of ancient Israelites.  The Mormon church was able to get away with this teaching for so long simply due to the inability to test those claims.  Much like the Book of Abraham would eventually not stand the test of science and time, neither would the Book of Mormon.

“Holy scripture records that “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.” (Ether 13:2.) Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God's decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God's special purposes.

With care and selectivity, the Lord began almost at once 
to repeople the promised land. The Jaredites came first, with stories of the great flood fresh in their memories and the Lord's solemn declaration ringing in their ears: “Whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fullness of his wrath should come upon them.” (Ether 2:8.) (Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland (A Promised Land, The Ensign, June 1976) [emphasis added]

With the advancement of science, the study of DNA has become very prominent.  It has freed many wrongly convicted "criminals" when suddenly the DNA evidence supports their innocence.  It has also shed light on many people's heritage, including the natives of the Americas.  Extensive research has told a story far different than that of the Book of Mormon.  Even prior to the DNA studies, the common theory was of Asians who migrated to the Americas via the Bering Straight over 14,000 years ago.

The DNA studies done only supports this theory.  When researchers tested a large amount of Native American and Central/South Americans, it wasn't a glorifying moment for the Mormons.  It wasn't even a moment they could embrace partly.  The studies show abundantly, from the DNA of those tested, they were of Asian decent.

I found this very interesting, as I would have at least thought there'd be something to validate the historicity of the Book of Mormon in their DNA.  I remember going to some Mayan ruins in South America, and thinking, the Lamanites once dwelt here.  These native Mayans are descendants of the Book of Mormon migration.  Amazing! But, not true!

I then found out, the Mormon church actually began to change the narrative regarding the Book of Mormon ancestry.  To accommodate the new evidence provided by extensive DNA research, the Church actually changed the wording in the Book of Mormon's introduction!  Below I outline the text as I remember it growing up, with the new textual changes implemented after evidence to the contrary.

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

To this,

"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."


“a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas” 

To this,

“a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas” 

By removing the word "the" in the above quotation, they essentially course correct to facilitate the idea of the Book of Mormon people simply being a portion of the inhabitants instead of "the" only inhabitants.  The changes are very subtle, but significant to say the least.  It shows a narrative shift from the Mormon church.  Of course, in expected back peddling fashion, the Church is quick to say, 

"Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church."

The problem here is that it wasn't just spoken by a prophet or apostle of the Mormon church.  It was added to the cannon of scripture.  Of course, the Church says the parts of scripture like the introduction and footnotes and chapter summaries aren't included in the "cannon", but are to be used more like tools.  Convenient.

Collapsing Bookshelf, Pinterest
While I was on my mission, I was told that often times we will come across questions regarding church teachings that we would not have an immediate answer for.  In those circumstances, I was instructed to put those concerns on a "shelf", to answer later.  Not all answers are available at the moment, but they will be delivered through righteous study and prayer.  Much like putting too many things on a physical shelf, my proverbial shelf was beginning to weigh down.  It wouldn't take long, if I wasn't able to remove some things, before it would collapse all together.

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