Monday, September 21, 2009

In Search of Lehi's DNA

In their zeal to disprove the validity of the Book of Mormon, critics will pick up on most any new idea. When new DNA research became popular, they jumped on that bandwagon as well. One Protestant group, partly made up of disgruntled x-Mormons, sprang to the opportunity to finally bring the Book of Mormon claim to a halt. In their effort, they brought out a video entitled, DNA verses the Book of Mormon, in which they showed evidence, which was to be conclusive, that the American Indian did not originate with the Lamanite of the Book of Mormon. But, as usual, in the Lord’s own wisdom, He allowed those trying to destroy His work to perform their desperate deeds prematurely. In the Doctrine and Covenants, which is part of LDS scripture, the Lord said the following in regards to those who will try and thwart His work:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that Satan has great hold upon their hearts; he stirreth them up to iniquity against that which is good; And their hearts are corrupt, and full of wickedness and abominations; and they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil; therefore they will not ask of me. Satan stirreth them up, that he may lead their souls to destruction. And thus he has laid a cunning plan, thinking to destroy the work of God; but I will require this at their hands, and it shall turn to their shame and condemnation in the day of judgment.” (D&C 10:20-23.)

“Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord. Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you – there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.” (D&C 71:7-10.)

Up until the time the anti-Book of Mormon video came out condemning it as a fraud, DNA research had not found any evidence than other than DNA strains of A, B, C and D in the Americas — from Alaska down through South America.

BUT, sure enough, not long after the critics came out with their video, based upon their claimed DNA research, the Lord, in His “own due time,” has turned that work to their “shame,” as He said He would do. Recent discoveries regarding mitochondrial DNA (expressed as “mtDNA”) “haplogroup X,” has been found in about 3% of Native Americans. This has challenged many (if not all) of the prevailing scientific beliefs regarding the genetic make-up of the earliest colonizers of the American continents.

Now I am not a DNA scientist, so such research is foreign to me. Therefore, I will leave it to the scholars who are more adept at such study to present their findings on the matter. In doing so, I will present various quotes, with accompanying citations or web sites for your convenience. However, I will take the liberty of doing a little editing for brevity and organize the quotes for my own purpose, yet the information presented is not mine, but of those indicated. So, let’s read what the real scholars have to say about DNA and the Native American:

Let’s begin with Mike Sageloff who points out that, “... geneticists have found a DNA strain in ancient Native Americans that is found in populations of Europe and Asia Minor, to include certain Israelis! Except for a very small pocket of people called Altaians,(1) it is specifically not found in Asians, and even the Altaian strain has been shown to be unrelated to the strain found in Native Americans. So, what does this mean? It means that a small percentage of precolumbian Native Americans derived their genetic lineage from Europe, not Asia. This flies in the face of the popular theory that all Native Americans are descended from Siberians who crossed the Bering Strait some 30,000 years ago.”(2)

Another thing important to consider in DNA research is observed by Cooper Johnson, who said,“Since MDNA is maternally inherited, one obvious limitation is in an instance when a mother bears no daughters. Her MDNA effectively comes to a screeching halt. This will complicate issues. Later generations will not have a trace of the former generation’s MDNA in this case.”(3)

Israelite Traditions and Mitochondrial DNA
“We know from the Old Testament that non-Israelite mitochondrial DNA was introduced into ancient Israel on a systematic basis. The Law of Moses made specific provisions for Israelites to take non-Israelite wives: ‘When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.’ (Deuteronomy 21:10-13).

“While Christ was descended from King David, we will remember that Ruth the Moabite was one of David’s ancestors. All of Ruth’s children and any descendants through the female line would have carried not Israelite mtDNA, but Moabite mtDNA. Christ was also a descendant of Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) –- many of them non-Israelites who would have introduced mitochondrial DNA from much of the known world into ancient Israel. It would be possible to be a descendant of the kingly line of ancient Israel, and yet carry distinctly non-Israelite mitochondrial DNA.

“The DNA trends we see in modern Jewish diaspora populations of having few male founders and many diverse female founders had begun even before the dispersion. Given the frequent warfare between Israel and its neighbors described in the Old Testament, we would expect the mitochondrial ‘pool’ of ancient Israel at the time of the captivity to include influences from much of the known world. For these reasons, modern mtDNA studies appear to offer little if any value in ascertaining Israelite ancestry.”(4)

Y Chromosome Haplogroups 4 and 1C and mtDNA Haplogroup X
“The evidence from mitochondrial DNA, passed on by mothers only, is supplemented by evidence from Y-chromosomes, which are passed on by fathers only. Native American Y-chromosomes show a variety of haplogroups, including haplogroups 4 and 1C (Karafet et al., 1999), which are also characteristic of Jewish peoples (Hammer et al., 2000). Haplogroup 1C is common enough in the New World that it has been proposed as a major founder haplogroup for the New World.

“Researchers had already identified four common genetic variants, called haplogroups A, B, C, and D, in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of living Native Americans (Science, 4 October 1996, p. 31). These haplogroups turned up in various Asian populations, lending genetic support for the leading theory that Native Americans descended primarily from these peoples. But researchers also found a handful of other less common variants, one of which was later identified as X.

“Haplogroup X was different. It was spotted by Torroni in a small number of European populations. So the Emory group set out to explore the marker’s source. They analyzed blood samples from Native American, European, and Asian populations and reviewed published studies. ‘We fully expected to find it in Asia,’ like the other four Native American markers, says Brown.

“To their surprise, however, haplogroup X was only confirmed in the genes of a smattering of living people in Europe and Asia Minor, including Italians, Finns, and certain Israelis.

“Regarding recent discovery of a small group in Siberia with haplogroup X: ‘The recent work of Reidla et al. (2003) confirms the statements above indicating that the haplogroup X DNA in the Americas is not directly related to the unusual little pocket haplogroup X DNA in Siberia (the Altai region).’”(5)

An Ancient Melting Pot
“While some geneticists have argued that the DNA evidence points to only one or two migrations from Siberia, other evidence suggests that the New World has long been a genetic melting pot, filled with groups deriving from multiple sources. Multiple migrations may have occurred, including migrations by boat. This is indicated, for example, in Blake Edwards’ article, ‘Who Was First? Untangling America’s Ancient Roots,’ published in Discovery News, Oct. 21, 1999. Here is a quote: ‘I just think it’s going to be much more complex than we’ve thought in the past,’ says Smithsonian Institution archaeologist Dennis Stanford. He believes that early Americans arrived at different times, from different places, and by different means--on foot, in boats, maybe even by dogsled.’

“As shown above, the Book of Mormon recognizes that other peoples had come to the promised land and were present in the promised land. In fact, there may have been other significant groups also ‘led by the hand of the Lord.’ Thus, there is no reason to interpret Lehi’s statements in a way that requires the entire hemisphere to be a vacuum. Given what we know from the Book of Mormon and from science, it can be reasonably understood to allow for many others in the hemisphere, which was still sparsely populated such that there was space and security for the righteous in their lands of possessions, if they would serve God.”

“Though most genetic studies point toward Siberia as at least a dominant source of the Native Americans, new evidence also requires that Japanese genes be considered as well in the New World melting pot. The possibility of a link between the Japanese and the Zuni tribe of Native Americans merits further attention as well. Significant evidence exists for ancient transoceanic contact with Japan. Their blood type and other genetic features make them surprisingly different from other Native Americans but similar to some Japanese, and a host of cultural traits show Japanese influence.”(6)

Finding Lehi’s DNA
“According to the critics, the Book of Mormon claims that all Native Americans should be direct descendants from Lehi and thus show only Hebraic genes, which is not the case. Evidence of Siberian origins are said to refute Book of Mormon claims. But the critics misunderstand the Book of Mormon.

“The Book of Mormon text DOES NOT claim to explain the origins of all Native Americans. It is an incorrect and unfortunate assumption by early Mormons and many still living that the Americas were peopled by descendants of Lehi’s group alone. No such claim is made in the text. And in spite of the modern foreword in the book, there is no claim that the Lamanites were somehow the ‘principal founders of the American Indians’ (I have read that Bruce R. McConkie, who oversaw the editing of the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon, inserted that phrase in the foreword, apparently on his own and without consulting with others). In reality, there is no clear reason to exclude Siberian migration or other migrations to the New World. There is no reason to assume the Americas were unpopulated when Lehi arrived. In fact, based on information from the text itself, LDS scholars have long recognized that other groups must have been present. Population growth, the persistence of Jaredite names, competing social and religious systems, and other factors point to the existence of other groups, including remnants of the Jaredites (who may have been tied to the Olmec civilization).”(7)

“We know, and the evidence is overwhelming, that when Lehi arrived in the Americas, there were populations already here. Lehi and his group were certainly not the first to arrive here. What effect would the integration of these two populations have on the passing of Lehi’s, or should we say Sariah’s, genetic makeup? Specifically on the mitochondrial DNA structure? Dr. Woodward informs us that although this depends on the size of the populations, among other factors, this would certainly have a great effect. For we know that Lehi’s group was very small.

“The population that existed in the America’s prior to Lehi’s arrival certainly would have been much, much larger and dominated the genetic structure of later generations (i.e. current generations). This proves to be extremely important when looking at today’s Native American genetic information in an effort at determining the origins of this population.”(8)

What is a Lamanite?
“Critics often refer to the mention of ‘Lamanites’ in the Doctrine and Covenants, a term used to refer to the American Indians to whom the Gospel was to be preached. Is it a fatal error to use this term if some or most American Indians are not direct descendants of Laman? It’s important to note that the Book of Mormon uses the term ‘Lamanite’ in more than one sense,... It can have a genetic meaning, referring to a descendant of Laman, but it can also have a sociopolitical meaning, referring to non-Nephites or former enemies of the Nephites in general, without specific genetic requirements. Thus, Nephites who dissent and team up with Lamanite forces are said to be Lamanites. In the book of Fourth Nephi, after the golden era of Nephite history following the ministry of the Lord, when Nephites and Lamanites lived in harmony (and presumably intermarried) without being called ‘ites’ of any kind, an era began in which there was rebellion against the Church and apparently the government of the people. Those who rejected the Gospel ‘were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites,’ while the believers were called Nephites (4 Nephi 1:37,38). These labels seem to be religious and sociopolitical labels more than genealogical markers, consistent with Jacob’s use in Jacob 1:11. This is also consistent with the Lord’s use of the term Lamanite in Doctrine and Covenants 10:48, referring to the preaching of the Gospel to ‘the Lamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions.’

“Political or religious dissent made one a Lamanite, as well as descent from Laman (or the other rebels in Lehi’s group). In its cultural, religious, or political sense, all Native Americans may be termed Lamanites. Nevertheless, given the wide intermixing that appears to have occurred in North America, I would not be surprised if there is not at least one ‘genetic Lamanite’ ancestor in the heritage of most Native Americans. One does not have to be primarily descended from Lehi’s group to be a Lamanite by blood as well as by culture. I am clearly Caucasian, yet am proud to have Native American blood. How much? One part in 512 is Mohawk. Not enough to qualify as an official tribal member, but a portion of my genes are still Native American. Unfortunately, those genes won’t show up in mtDNA or Y-chromosome work. My descent from a Mohawk woman was not along purely maternal lines.”(9)

Asiatic Origins Taught by the Book of Mormon?
“Critics of the Book of Mormon want the world to think that it requires nothing but Jewish ancestry for all Native Americas. This is an absurd simplification. In fact, the account of the Jaredites in the Book of Ether points to Asiatic origins for a very ancient migration. And though Ether saw a great battle with few survivors as the Jaredite civilization collapsed, the Book of Mormon provides subtle hints (discussed above) that Jaredite influence remained in population groups that mixed with the Nephites and Lamanites.

“Thus, given that the apparently Asiatic Jaredites were on the continent long before the Nephites, and given that other migrations from Asia are permitted by the Book of Mormon, finding evidence of mostly Asiatic genes in the Americas does not necessarily pose a problem for the Book of Mormon.”(10)

Haplogroup X (mtDNA)
“In human mitochondrial genetics, Haplogroup X is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup which can be used to define genetic populations. The genetic sequences of haplogroup X diverged originally from haplogroup N, and subsequently further diverged ... to give two sub-groups, X1 and X2. Overall haplogroup X accounts for about 2% of the population of Europe, the Near East and North Africa. Sub-group X1 is much less numerous, and restricted to North and East Africa, and also the Near East. Sub-group X2 appears to have undergone extensive population expansion and dispersal.... It is more strongly present in the Near East, the Caucasus, and Mediterranean Europe; and somewhat less strongly present in the rest of Europe.

“Haplogroup X is also one of the five haplogroups found in the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although it occurs only at a frequency of about 3% for the total current indigenous population of the Americas, it is a major haplogroup in northeastern North America, where among the Algonquian peoples it comprises up to 25% of mtDNA types.

“Unlike the four main Native American haplogroups (A, B, C, and D), X is not at all strongly associated with East Asia. The sole occurrence of X in Asia discovered so far is in Altaia in South Siberia (Derenko et al, 2001), and detailed examination (Reidla et al, 2003) has shown that the Altaian sequences are all almost identical, suggesting that they arrived in the area probably from the South Caucasus more recently than 5000 BC.

“This absence of haplogroup X in Asia is one of the major factors causing the current rethinking of the peopling of the Americas. The New World haplogroup X DNA (now called subgroup X2a) is as different from any of the Old World X2 lineages as they are from each other, indicating a very ancient origin.”(11)

“Now even if haplogroup X could be shown to come from Israel, that would not prove the Book of Mormon to be true. The haplogroup X which links ‘certain Israelis’ and Europeans with Native Americans may have no relation to the Nephites, the Jaredites, or the Mulekites. Indeed, their estimated arrival date is about 10,000 B.C. or earlier, too early to be related directly to Book of Mormon history, if the assumptions behind the dating are correct (and as shown elsewhere on this page, there is good reason to reject those assumptions). But this new study strengthens the possibility of ancient migrations from the Middle East to the Americas, a possibility that has long been denied by Book of Mormon critics and others.”(12)

DNA-Beards Revisited
“Again and again, archeologists are uncovering figurines, sculptures, carvings, and murals depicting possible Caucasians/Semitic peoples sporting beards. Of course, this is supposed to be impossible, since ancient (and even most modern) indigenous Meso-Americans didn’t grow facial hair!

“A 1998 DNA study conducted by The Center for Molecular Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA has discovered a mitochondrial DNA strain in some 3% of Amerindians called ‘Haplo-group X’ which supports a pre-Columbian migration of Caucasians to the Americas. Haplo-group X is NOT found in Asians, demonstrating it did not come across the Bering Strait.” (Right: Bearded figure dated 600 BC found at Monte Alban, Mexico.)(13)

Evangelical Christianity’s “Suicide Bombing”
“Some evangelical critics have latched onto the claims of dissident and ex-Mormon scholars that modern DNA evidence ‘disproves’ Book of Mormon historicity in their effort to discredit the faith of the Latter-day Saints. DNA and dating arguments do not, however, represent an exclusive challenge to Latter-day Saint teachings, although critics would like to paint it as such. Rather, such arguments produce issues for the biblical Judeo-Christian worldview in general. Strict biblical chronology suggests that man has been on the earth for only six thousand years and that a universal flood occurred approximately 2350 BC. If all mankind is descended from Eve, why do not all humans share the same mitochondrial DNA? Where is the archaeological evidence of a great worldwide flood? God promised Abraham: ‘I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the sea shore’ (Genesis 22:17), yet no Abrahamic Y-chromosome has been identified among modern Jews, who consider themselves to be children of Abraham.

“While addressing such topics is beyond the scope of this article, the attempts of critics to characterize Latter-day Saint teachings as unscientific and irrational while failing to apply similar standards of objective validation to their own tenets amounts to a ‘suicide bombing.’ There is something distinctly bizarre about evangelical groups like Living Hope Ministries enlisting agnostic evolutionist scholars as their experts to challenge the Church of Jesus Christ over DNA and the Book of Mormon. If one could continue the interviews by asking these same scholars about many events described in the Bible, one wonders if their admirers would continue to accept their pronouncements with such credulity. Every faith accepts some beliefs that lie outside of the ever-changing scientific and societal consensus. If one were to use popular consensus as the basis for religious belief, what would be left? Studies show that today, most Americans do not believe in the resurrection. Arguments that Latter-day Saint beliefs are scientifically untenable while those of other faiths are well-documented are intrinsically dishonest.”(14)

“We must look with some pity on the state of Living Hope Ministries and other Evangelical and Protestant groups that have latched onto bogus claims of dissident and ex-Mormon scholars that modern DNA evidence ‘disproves’ Book of Mormon historicity in their effort to combat the ‘Mormon threat’ at any cost. When we examine the implications of their claims and apply the same standards of scientific validation to their own belief system, it is evident that their desperate claims amount to a ‘suicide bombing’ devastating to their own beliefs.”(15)

“Revisiting the title of Tom Murphy’s talk ‘Sin, Skin, and Seed: The Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon,’ our discussion has revealed no particular ‘mistakes of men’ in the Book of Mormon, but a great many in Mr. Murphy’s logic. Instead of ‘disproving’ the Book of Mormon story through scientific findings, critics only demonstrate their own failure to accurately grasp modern DNA data.”(16)

“There is still much we do not know about the genetics of ancient and modern populations, but a careful examination of the existing DNA data demonstrates that this data is in no way inconsistent with the teaching of LDS prophets that immigrants from ancient Israel represent the ‘principal ancestors’ of modern Native Americans. Many items in the Book of Mormon that critics had previously claimed as impossible or anachronistic in ancient Native America have since been shown to have existed... Although much is still unknown about the ethnogenetic history of Native Americans, ancient Israelites, and many other people-groups, the claims of some critics that current DNA data disproves traditional LDS beliefs are based in misunderstanding and misrepresentation of science.”(17)

In Summary
As early European settlers of North America ventured westward into Ohio and Illinois, they encountered very large, ancient earthwork-structures on the landscape. Evidence across the New England States, and extending down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to Florida, suggested the former existence of an extensive, “high civilization” that had once occupied vast tracts of North America. These people became known, in popular science and literature, as the Mound Builders. Who were they and from where they came has been the question for many years. To date, strictly scientifically speaking, there is no hard-clad proof of their origin, other than they were, most likely, a blend of various peoples from various lands who migrated here anciently. But that’s strictly scientifically speaking; for you cannot prove God’s work by science, only present evidence of one’s belief.

Indian legends, as recorded in the earliest North American books, show that the earthworks of Ohio were already in place when the Indians first settled in the region. One Indian tradition claims that the works of the Ohio were raised by the “white Indians.” These white Indians, according to the red Indians, were to have come from the east; and when they left the lake without shores (the sea), they came dressed like the palefaces of today. (Rene Chateaubriand, Voyage to America.)

Recent DNA analysis supports the theory of a very early European presence in North America, and that the earliest colonizers could have started out somewhere in Europe or the Mediterranean areas, not in Asia as previously thought. That idea is rooted in a rare genetic DNA link called haplogroup X2, that is passed down through women. Recent genetic DNA samples from remains in Illinois show that the rare European mtDNA-X2 was around centuries before European exploration. Today, haplogroup X is found in about 20,000 American Indians. (Associated Press, 2000). The question is, How did those people with haplogroup X2 get to North America a thousand years before Columbus sailed?

Of course the jury is still out on all of this DNA study regarding just where the Hopewell and Adena Mound Builders came from. But as such studies continue, the evidence continues to mount, and it appears to become more conclusive, that the Mound Builders (haplogroup X2) came from the direction of Europe, especially from the Near Eastern regions (where X2 can be found) and not from far northeastern Asia. If this is proven to be the case, and at this point it appears to be headed that way, then it just might indicate that the Hopewell people were none other than the Nephite people of the Book of Mormon.

I am sure that Joseph Smith had no idea that such a future fuss would be raised over a subject he knew nothing about (the human DNA), in relation to his claim of where both Lehi and the Native American came from. Could this be just another coincidence on his part?

For further information regarding the subject just discussed, the reader might want to check out Rodney Meldrum’s web site, “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography,”(18) where he presents new scientific support of the Book of Mormon, upcoming seminars on the same subject, various other publications, and related information. You can obtain your copy of his DVDs on the subject at,
1. The Altaians call themselves the Altai-Kizhy - “the person of Altai.” The Altaians live in the Republic of Altai (1989 population 59,100). The main body of the Altaians belong to the South Siberian race.
7. Ibid
10. Ibid
16. Ibid
17. Ibid