Letter sent to Living Hope Ministries
I am pleased to say that your information is outdated and useless in your most unsuccessful fight against Mormonism.
Joseph at Themmormons
Response from Living Hope Ministries
Thank you for your e-mail. If you would kindly share with us
is outdated, we would appreciate it.
Scott, for Living Hope
First response to Living Hope Ministries
Dear Scott at Living Hope Ministries,
Thank you for your inquiry. Sorry if this information I have gathered is a little long!
DNA is my first choice, as it is irrelevant in proving the fallacy of The Book of Mormon. The biggest problem with the
claim involving DNA and the Book of Mormon is not so much the lack of scholarship about DNA as it is the lack of scholarship
concerning the Book of Mormon. Critics are using tentative scientific findings to discredit common misconceptions about the
Book of Mormon, not what the text actually teaches. Abandoning errant interpretations of the text is a healthy process, not
one that requires changing denominations or becoming an atheist.
The Book of Mormon speaks of three migrations to the New World. The first one is described in the Book of Ether.
A group called the Jaredites were led by the Lord after the time of the tower of Babel. They founded a civilization, perhaps
around 3000 B.C. or later, which collapsed in civil
war around the time that Lehi and his family (Nephi, Laman, and others) arrived around 590 B.C. Lehi's group would split into the Nephites and Lamanites, both of whom would form societies
that frequently would be at war with each other. A third migration involved a group of refugees from Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian conquest, including Mulek, said to
be a son of King Zedekiah. At least some of the descendants of Mulek's group would later be assimilated by the Nephites.
Of all the people brought to the New World in these three migrations, we can only specify the ancestry of a small
handful.Lehi and his sons were of the Israelite tribe of Manasseh (part of the tribe of Joseph), being descended from Manasseh
(Alma 10:3)--not necessarily along a purely paternal line. Knowing that Lehi was from Manasseh tells us nothing about his
Y chromosome. A Hebrew tribal affiliation does not rule out the presence of non-Hebrew haplotypes in his DNA. We do know that
the Jews were scattered to many parts of Europe
and Asia. What about the lost tribe of Joseph? Did some of its members later settle in Asia, bringing their Y haplotype 1C
and mtDNA haplotype X with them?
Mulek was almost certainly Jewish (of the tribe of Judah), but we know nothing about the genetics of others that
came with him. The bottom line is that of the 32 individuals specifically named in the three migrations to the New World reported
in the Book of Mormon, all we know for sure about their genetic origins is that one male was Jewish. Others may have been
Jewish or at least largely Hebrew in their genetic constitutions, but we don't know for sure. It is simply sloppy thinking
to reject the Book of Mormon based on the relative lack of "Jewish DNA" in the Americas, when the Book of Mormon itself doesn't
even teach that the Nephites had DNA that we would recognize as Jewish. One Jewish male is identified, and there is no need
to assume that his DNA survived among the later Nephites.
As for the mtDNA, we know nothing about the genetic make-up of Ishmael's wife, who would be the source of mtDNA for
the children of Lehi (e.g., Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel). We know nothing about the DNA of Lehi's wife, Sariah, who would pass
her mtDNA to Nephi's sisters. And we know nothing about the mtDNA of whatever locals Lehi's descendants encountered and married.
If we could show that a portion of the women in ancient Jerusalem
had mtDNA haplotypes A, B, C, or D, would our critics
admit that the DNA evidence adds plausibility to the Book of Mormon? Not a chance. The uncertainty in the genetic composition
of Lehi's group makes it impossible to use DNA data to evaluate the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and makes the attacks
of publicity-seeking Book of Mormon critics ring hollow.
Step back for a moment and recall what the Book of Mormon is. The Book of Mormon is primarily a record of the Nephite
line (founded by males from the tribe of Manasseh, with uncertain genetic features, and then greatly augmented by the larger
group we call the Mulekites, who very likely had mixed with local natives, resulting in a rapid loss of their Hebrew language).
The book records their prophecies, their wars and struggles, and events of religious significance, particularly the ministry
of Christ after His Resurrection. The focus is on the Nephites and their story. The record depicts the tragic collapse of
the Nephites and their destruction as a people in war against the Lamanites 400 years after the ministry of Christ.
Based on analysis of the text and the geography of the Americas, the best candidate for the location of the peoples
and civilizations described is Mesoamerica, including southern Mexico and Guatemala. 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).
Here are some key points on why there were others in the Book of Mormon:
- "Nephites" and "Lamanites" are initially defined as political terms, not genetic labels. See Jacob 1, where Jacob
explains how the terms will be used. In Jacob 1:13, he states that "the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless,
they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites." Here the term Lamanite
can have the broad meaning of non-Nephite and yet, in a more narrow sense, refer to those descended from Laman. And if the
term "they" in this verse refers to the "Nephites" (as would be the normal way of understanding a sentence of this form, though
it could also refer to Nephite and Lamanites together), then the broad group called "Nephites" includes people of multiple
lineages, including some descended from Laman, Lemuel, and Ishmael. Further, in Jacob 1:14, Jacob explains that "Nephites"
or "the people of Nephi" are "those who are friendly to Nephi, ... according to the reigns of the kings." (v. 14). Thus, it
seems that the people of Nephi or the Nephites are those who follow Nephite kings. "Lamanites" are those "that seek to destroy
the people of Nephi" (v. 14). Note also that the blessings of the Lord are upon Nephi and "whomsoever shall be called thy
seed" in Alma 3:17, indicating that one can be included among Nephi's posterity without being his direct descendant. And in
Alma 26:17, a group of converted Lamanites (former enemies of the Nephites) changed the name of their group to "Anti-Nephi-Lehies"
and "were no more called Lamanites." Again, the term Lamanite can be a cultural rather than genetic indicator.
- Nephite and Lamanite populations grew far too rapidly to explain by normal means. Incorporation of other peoples into
these groups must have occurred. The same applies to the people of Zarahemla and the Jaredites. Assimilating or grouping with
native peoples appears to have occurred more than once. The early outbreak of wars among these groups also indicates population
- The use of maize ("corn") as a crop very early in Nephite history cannot be explained by an import from the Old World.
As a domestic crop requiring human cultivation, there must have been natives present who showed the Nephites how to raise
- The story of Sherem in Jacob 7 indicates that strangers had been incorporated into the Nephite people. At this early
time in Nephite history, when Jacob is old yet still active as a preacher, there couldn't have been more than about 50 adult
"Nephite" males descended from Nephi and his brothers, yet Sherem approaches Jacob and indicates that they have never met.
This makes little sense unless the scope of Nephite influence has extended into native populations.
- Numerous hints occur in the text pointing to other groups incorporated within the Nephites. Many dissenting groups
appear to have little loyalty to Nephite law or religion, and may have been natives brought under Nephite power. For example,
there are the Amalekites, whose origins are never given; the "king men"; the large body of people assembled by the dissenter
Amlici and called Amlicites; the Zoramites, who dissented politically and thus "became Lamanites" in Alma 43:4, again pointing
to the political and not genetic nature of the term; and those who follow "the order of Nehor." The people of Ammonihah that
Alma meets are one such dissenting group, but there is a man there, Amulek, who shows kindness to the Nephite Alma and says,
"I am a Nephite" (Alma 8:20)--a statement that would be utterly obvious unless there were plenty of non-Nephites in the city.
We also find many Jaredite names among the Nephites, indicating that surviving peoples who avoided the Jaredites suicidal
civil war were still on the scene, incorporated into the Nephite people.
- Hints also point to other groups among the Lamanites. Some people are described as "Lamanitish"--apparently
indicating that they are only partly "Lamanite"--suggestive of status as a foreigner of some sort. "Ishmaelitish women" are
also mentioned. We also find that the Lamanites plunder non-Nephite groups who are not "the brethren" of the Lamanites.
- Linguistic evidence in the Book of Mormon points to the presence of other languages that influenced the Lamanites
and the people of Mulek, such that their language changed relative to that of the Nephites much more rapidly than could be
expected for a language in isolation. For the initially Hebrew language of the Mulekites to have become unintelligible to
the Nephites in a few generations, the Mulekites probably had to be surrounded by others with a different language.
One interesting point that I wish to add concerns the term "Amalickiahites" in Alma 49:9. Amalickiah was a Nephite
dissenter who used murder, deception, and great cleverness to become a Lamanite king and wage war against the Nephites. Verse
9 says "the Lamanites, or the Amalickiahites, were exceedingly astonished" at the Nephite defensive preparations. In this
passage, the Amalickiahites are referred to as if they were a subset of the Lamanites. The term "Amalickiahites," describing
the combination of Nephite dissenters and Lamanite warriors following king Amalickiah, clearly indicates a political, not
genetic, relationship, and strengthens the concept that the term "Lamanite" also is not a purely genetic adjective.
Brant A. Gardner notes additional factors that point to the presence of others that Lehi and his group almost certainly
encountered upon coming to the Americas (Gardner, 2001; see also Brant Gardner's online article, "A Social History of the Early Nephites"). For example, 2 Nephi 5:5,6 lists people in Lehi's group who went with Nephi as he split from Laman and Lemuel and
their followers. Nephi lists his family, Sam and his family, Zoram and his family, Jacob and Joseph, his sisters, "and all
those who would go with me." He then explains that "all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings
and revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words" (2 Nephi 5:6). It appears that Laman, Lemuel, and the sons
of Ishmael, who had been antagonistic to Nephi, are those left behind. The group of unnamed "others" seems by necessity to
have included people other than those who came with Nephi from Jerusalem. If there were only one or two others, we would expect Nephi to list them. It's hard to say how many
there might have been, but perhaps members of a local hamlet or group of hamlets may have allied with the technologically
superior Old World group, helping the latter to learn how to survive in the New World while benefiting from their technology
(particularly knowledge of metals).
Significant numbers of "others" is again implied when Nephi wrote that his people wanted him to be made their king
(2 Nephi 5:18)--a silly gesture if there are only a couple dozen people, but logical if there is a sizable group. Further,
Nephi wrote that Jacob and Joseph were made priests and teachers "over the land of my people" (2 Nephi 5:26), which would
make no sense if there were only a couple of families besides Jacob's and Joseph's.
Gardner also points to economic indications that the Nephites quickly became part of an economy that involved multiple
villages of "others." In addition to Sorenson's above-mentioned analysis of Jacob's encounter with Sherem, Jacob's writings
also suggest that Nephites were part of an economic system in which abundant local gold and silver were being traded for precious
items elsewhere. Jacob 2:12,13 refers to abundant local ores that are resulting in riches for some. For an early Nephite culture,
what would an easily obtained local resource be worth? Gardner's analysis of this passage points to commerce with others to
whom the metals were precious and could be used for trade. Similar implications are found in Jacob's condemnation of those
who are acquiring "costly apparel." If the Nephites are a small isolated group, making their own clothing, Gardner asks where
"costly apparel" would come from? Members of the group could simply copy the patterns of the best looking goods if everyone
was making their own materials from the same basic raw materials. The presence of "costly apparel" again points to active
commerce with others from other communities that comprise a large population base.
On the other hand, several verses in 2 Nephi 1 are often interpreted to support that idea that the Book of Mormon
claimed the hemisphere was empty:
5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have
obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me
should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever,
and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none
come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.
7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according
to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down
into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes,
but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold,
many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.
9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land
of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall
prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves.
And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be
none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever. . . .
11 Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from
them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.
Lehi speaks of a promised land for his posterity in 2 Nephi 1. Is "this land" just his local area in Mesoamerica
or a much broader territory? In the context of related passages about the promised land, such as Ether 2, I think Lehi is
probably talking about more than just the limited region where Book of Mormon events take place (a portion of Mesoamerica).
But Lehi does not say that there was nobody else in the land (whether it be a limited region of Mesoamerica, a continent,
or a hemisphere). In fact, he implies that "other nations" are available to threaten his descendants if they become wicked.
Nephites became wicked within a couple hundred years of Nephi's arrival and had to flee north from their first inheritance,
where they met the people of Zarahemla. Laman's group became wicked right away. And by 400 A.D., everyone was wicked. Must
we assume that the only other nations that would come and affect life for Lehi's descendants would be the Gentiles who would
not come until 1492 A.D.? Lehi's prophecy makes little sense unless there were other nations already on hand--as we surely
know from archaeology and linguistic studies of the Americas.
Now it may be that there were other people upon the land, whose ancestors had been brought to the continent by the
Lord (even across the Bering Strait, for all we know), but they were not powerful or organized enough--at least in Mesoamerica--to
pose any sort of threat to Lehi's descendants. When verse 9 speaks of the land being kept from other nations, what is meant
by "other nations"? Does this phrase mean that no one was on the continent, or that no other group had ever set foot on the
continent? No. After all, the Jaredites had already been here and probably still had scattered remnants upon the land, and
the Mulekites had probably just landed. And Lehi had already referred to this as a land of promise for other peoples who would
come or had come (like the Jaredites) from "other countries" in verse 5. Verse 9 cannot exclude those whom the Lord had already
brought to that sparsely populated continent, where there was plenty of space for an inheritance. I think it means being kept
from common knowledge of other Old World nations who might invade and take over the place. Those who were already here had
not given away the secret of the promised land to other nations. There may have been many on the continent who had been led
from "other countries," yet the knowledge of the land had still been kept from "other nations"--such that the only ones here
were those whom the Lord had originally led (not kings or military leaders), and such that there was adequate place and reasonable
security for Lehi's descendants, if they would be righteous.
We should also realize that collections of small hamlets and villages--the type of population groups Lehi's family
probably encountered upon coming to the New World--might not even be considered as "nations."
Considering the length of this information, I will send you more in another document, if you wish, concerning other
aspects on your website.
Joseph at Themmormons
P.S. I am sincerely sorry if my first email came off as offensive