LDS Church Addresses Misunderstood DNA Evidence

The Book of Mormon is amazing. We believe it is true. But beware of the “too good to be true” claims out there. Critics try to paint a all or nothing picture. And even members fall for false DNA claims presented forth as evidences. This article is mainly addressed to members. Floating around the Church is the belief that DNA has proven the Book of Mormon to be true. Furthermore, some LDS members use this claim to support their theories for where they believe the Book of Mormon took place.

Gratefully, the LDS Church has responded to these claims in their Gospel Topics Essay titled “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies.” Of specific interest are these two quotes from the essay directed to LDS members:

“For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”

“Much as critics and defenders of the Book of Mormon would like to use DNA studies to support their views, the evidence is simply inconclusive.”

These essays are approved by the First Presidency. They have even become part of the Church Educational System (CES) curriculum and are even suggested readings in Gospel Manuals. The Church has also added these essays into the Gospel Library App. Elder M. Russell Ballard has been promoting these essays throughout 2016. (See below)

This Gospel Topics Essay goes much deeper into why both critics and defenders can’t decisively use DNA to support their views. Here is a shortened list from the essay, and from the LDS geneticist who contributed to the essay:

  • The samples used to prove this misunderstood LDS theory are actually around 10,000 years old. This is out of the Book of Mormon timeline.
  • Post-Columbian immigration and mixing from European explorers makes it difficult to determine whether DNA is the result of migrations before or after Columbus.
  • Nothing substantial is known about the exact DNA that Lehi brought to the Americas. Being Hebrew is simply not enough. Therefor, we don’t even know what we are looking for.
  • Due to cultures mixing and disappearing, it is very possible that their DNA did not survive the centuries
  • Population bottleneck plays an important role. This is when entire DNA markers are lost due to catastrophes, which the Book of Mormon records among the Nephites.
  • Genetic drift plays an important role. This is when a bigger civilizations overcomes the smaller, and DNA is subsequently lost. Many scholars and Church leaders agree that the Nephites were a minority group. The Nephite civilization became destroyed by the end of the Book of Mormon.
  • The specified DNA (Haplogroup) in this misunderstood LDS theory is not exactly Hebrew specific. It’s unique in itself. Which is why it’s been given a slightly different name.
  • This DNA is actually transmitted exclusively along the maternal line, making it even more difficult when comparing it to male lineages.
  • DNA relationships gets lost quickly. An example is in Iceland where some Icelanders have records of their ancestors going back centuries. Yet when we examine their DNA, the relationships are already lost at the fourth generation.

Scholarship

Elder Ballard promoted these essays while addressing CES teachers in February 2016 and again in the December 2016 Ensign. He told teachers,

“It is important that you know the content in these essays like you know the back of your hand.”

“consult the works of recognized, thoughtful, and faithful LDS scholars to ensure you do not teach things that are untrue, out of date, or odd and quirky.” –The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century

This DNA claim can only be true if one cherry picks smaller incidents from the larger context of DNA studies. One would also need to twist science, such as dating methods, in order to make it true. Ironically, one of the main proponents of this incorrect theory has recently come out with a new book series that attempts to rewrite science.

When it comes to Book of Mormon research, let us use science without twisting basic scientific methods. Even though it is tempting to believe in the “too good to be true” claims rather than taking the time to do research, we can find assurance in knowing that science and scholarship are actually helping the Book of Mormon. We don’t need to fear. There are so many insights and evidences coming forth for the Book of Mormon. Check out Book of Mormon Central’s KnoWhy articles for just a glimpse. We deserve to work hard in this direction, to not fall for false claims, and to strive for scholarship.

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