DNA Delight

May 14, 2009 | 46 comments
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A recent DNA study has gotten some attention, both on our sidebar and in a post by J. Nelson-Seawright at By Common Consent. The Mormon question that inevitably comes up from such a study is does it cast any light on the question of whether Lehi really landed in the Americas long ago? J. Nelson-Seawright discusses some possible ramifications if the study (or ones like it) do matter. Let me make clear that, for those who think Lehi landed in an already populated America, this study is basically irrelevant.

The research in question involves testing about a thousand people for a certain  genetic marker that tracks at least some part of one’s ancestry back to Asia (more or less).  Not finding the marker does not show you weren’t from Asia, and, as best I can tell, having the marker does not rule out some non-Asian ancestry — just points out at least one line that isn’t.  In any case, the marker is located in about a third of the population sampled.

SO THE BOOK OF MORMON IS A LIE!

No. No. No.  Just kidding there.  But I imagine some will argue that this study bolsters the case, at least a little bit, that there were no Lehites. Which is also pretty much wrong.

Consider the following scenario.  Suppose I think L fraction of the native American genetic code is Lehitish (however you define that), M fraction has the genetic Marker discussed above, and NLNM fraction is not Lehitish, but has no Marker.

Now turn to the study in question.  They tested 900 people from various Native American populations and found that a third of them carried DNA linking them to Asia, but had nothing to say about the other two thirds.  So M is about 1/3. Now, the first big big big BIG problem is if there is nothing that says the Lehites could not have long since picked up that American/Asian marker from the natives in their 2600 years here.  If so, it is hard to see how the evidence could be more irrelevant.

But let’s forge ahead for fun.  Suppose that having the marker definitely, completely, and truly ruled out that one had Lehite ancestry (even though it doesn’t).  From the above work, we estimate tha M=1/3, and so 1/3 is definitely not L (for Lehite) or NLNM (for Non-Lehite Non-Marker).  So, quick question, what is our best guess of L? I’ll help you out:

L + M + NLNM =1  (the fractions sum to the total population)

M=1/3 (information from the study)

Got it? You have two equations and three unknowns. In econometrics, this would be called a case of unidentified parameters. You know that NLNM + L = 2/3, but there are an infinite number of values that make that true, and assuming you didn’t think Lehites made up more than 2/3 of the population, the study has no impact on your prior beliefs. This is without even scratching the surface on the other problems you’d run into trying to make a case from this that Lehites never landed in America.

So in summary, this study vaguely looks like it should be relevant to the Lehite question. But, unless you thought Native Americans were overwhelmingly Lehite in ancestry, it is about as informative as the fact that I had pizza for lunch.

Yummy yummy, pizza.

46 Responses to DNA Delight

  1. Dan on May 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    With as many times as the Nephites and Lamanites were at war with each other, they never really had the time required to grow in size more than a very small number in a small region. Mormon speaks only in the hundreds of thousands at their greatest (while the Jaredites may have gotten in the several million). The Americas are a vast range. And with the technology and transportation of the time, it is simply impossible for them to have expanded to a large enough amount to have influence upon the whole continent. Furthermore, the Book of Mormon accounts that all the Nephites were killed off, with only Lamanites remaining. Since the record-keeping Nephites were killed off, and the non-record-keeping Lamanites remained, we have no clue whether the Lamanites turned on themselves (like the Jaredites) or finally became peaceable.

    Knowing archaeologically that the North American continent was occupied by Asian-descended folks in very large numbers, the remaining Lamanites, if they did assimilate with the Asian-descended emigrants, would not have been able to affect the DNA of the much larger Asian-descended folks. Furthermore, the evidence from the Book of Mormon (scant as it is on communication with others in the land), seems to indicate that the Lamanites stuck to themselves and the Nephites. This could indicate that the Lamanite DNA stayed only within a certain group of people, and we just have to find them. Or that this group met an end somewhere and we will never find their DNA.

    In the end, to me, finding archaeological evidence is just icing on the cake. I really don’t care either way. The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring me closer to Jesus Christ, and in this it succeeds.

  2. threadJacker on May 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Any know the ancestry of the latter-day king david?

  3. Kari on May 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    So let me see if I have this straight. This type of DNA study doesn’t matter because the hemispheric model of BoM geography is clearly for neophytes and know-nothings? Or am I reading too much into the following dismissive statement?

    But, unless you thought Native Americans were overwhelmingly Lehite in ancestry, it is about as informative as the fact that I had pizza for lunch.

    Nevermind that the only prophet that we know of who ever actually spoke to a Nephite seems to have understood and taught that all Native Americans are “Lamanites.” Never mind that the early Saints all understood the Native Americans, at least in the US and west, to be “Lamanites” and were commanded in revelation, now canonized, to take the gospel to them, as “Lamanites.” Never mind that the church, at least through the presidency of SWK referred to all native people in the Americas, as well as the south pacific islands as “Lamanites.” Never mind that the average Mormon (at least in my ward/stake) believes in the hemispheric model. Never mind that no prophet has ever come out and said that the limited geography theory is correct; it’s just been apologist scholars at BYU/FARMS/FAIR.

    Maybe we should just be teaching that the peoples of the BoM are with the lost ten tribes on a “portion of land separated from this earth”? That way we can stop arguing about geography and DNA.

  4. Geoff J on May 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    That’s correct Kari. Never mind all those things you are freaking out about. We are open to new truths in this church. And we do not insist on infallible leaders.

  5. Kari on May 14, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    No one’s freaking out Geoff. If I can easily dismiss Joseph Smith’s teachings about who and where the Lamanites were, in what other things do I get to claim he was errant? The word of wisdom? Polygamy? The Book of Moses? Can I claim as errant his ideas and theology that has been supported by subsequent church leaders?

    There is long history of prophetic teaching and assumptions based upon a hemispheric model of the BoM, but yet I’m not aware of any prophet who has made claims or directed church action based upon a limited geography model (well, I guess that’s not correctly true, the intro to the BoM was recently, and quietly, changed).

    So is it correct to think of the limited geography model as “new truth”? I’m not sure it is. It’s seems to me as just a way to allow us to dismiss population and DNA studies and avoid the questions they raise about the historicity claims of early (and later) LDS leaders.

  6. Dan on May 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Kari,

    You can claim Joseph Smith was errant in whatever you want. The question isn’t the veracity of Joseph Smith as a prophet. Most everything else he talks about is corroborated by other evidences and testimonies. You want to try and see if the Word of Wisdom is errant? Go ahead. Give it a try.

    When we’re looking for archaeological evidences, we tread into science. Science is not searching for “truth.” In the words of Indiana Jones, “Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth…If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”

  7. Frank McIntyre on May 14, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Kari,

    Check the model I specified above. As long as there is a substantial non-Lehite presence the study is uninformative.

    I don’t see why calling Native Americans Lamanites requires them to only have Lamanite blood. In fact, since many of them were Mulekites and apostate Nephites, I think it should be obvious that we allow “Lamanite” to mean more than “all their blood lines flow through Laman”. Or Lehi for that matter.

    So you (and your ward members) can still have a hemispheric model with Lamanite blood running from East to West. As long as you allow that God could bring other people here– like he said he would and, in fact, did.

    Of course, I often suspect that people who defend the hemispheric model in these arguments don’t actually believe the hemispheric model. Do you believe the hemispheric model, Kari?

  8. Geoff J on May 14, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Kari: If I can easily dismiss Joseph Smith’s teachings about who and where the Lamanites were, in what other things do I get to claim he was errant?

    Well since you ask here is my answer: You can dismiss whatever you want — it’s not really my concern.

    PS — You smell like a troll. You might want to do something about that odor.

  9. Kari on May 14, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Jeez Geoff, I thought the discourse around here was going to improve with the departure of Adam. I guess not. I’ve commented plenty around here for over a year, so I’m surprised to be called a troll, but we can’t all be the new cool thang I guess.

    Frank, I am not defending the hemispheric model. And you are correct, I don’t believe in it. But I wouldn’t defend a limited geography model either.

    What I am challenging is the way in which we have moved away from the hemispheric model, which was clearly what early leaders believed and taught and has never been officially repudiated, and the ease at which so many LDS are willing to move away from teachings of early leaders and ascribe them to error and misunderstanding when secular knowledge challenges these teachings.

    Why did we move away from the hemispheric model and towards one of limited geography? Because it became nigh impossible to defend a hemispheric model in light of the secular knowledge that the peoples in the Americas arrived here via land migration long before the Lehites or Jaredites arrived.

    This raises questions of prophet fallibility that I find more interesting than everyone’s theories of immigration, geography, and ancestry of BoM peoples and those we call Native Americans. So I raised them. Sorry for the threadjack.

  10. It's Not Me on May 14, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    While the change in the B of M intro was recent, I thought I’d read that as early as about 1929 a general authority stated something to the effect that Lehi’s people were not the only ones to inhabit this land.

  11. Geoff J on May 14, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Kari: we can’t all be the new cool thang I guess

    True dat.

    What I am challenging is the way in which we have moved away from the hemispheric model

    To what end are you making this challenge? Are you arguing that the hemispheric model is the only true and living model despite any contrary evidence? Or are you arguing that modern prophets must not really be modern prophets (as it smells like to me)? Or is there some other thus-far-inscrutable argument you have in mind here?

  12. Sonny on May 14, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    I thought I had read somewhere that Joseph Smith had said he was not sure if BoM geography was hemispherical or limited to Mesoamerica, and at other times he said it was hemispherical. If he did say both, it says to me that he himself was not sure and perhaps he was assuming the hemispherical. And I could easily see that others would pick up on that assumption quickly.

    Kari, it seems you are bothered by the fact that we have moved away from a hemispherical model because of evidences against it. You seem to be saying that if we move away from this stance, then what is to say we will move away from any and every other past pronouncement. I sense (perhaps incorrectly) that you see the day coming when BoM historicity will be disproven and that the church will have to back away from its claims in some form. I’m not trying to criticize or make you defensive; just trying to understand your position.

    As for me, I don’t see the fact that we have moved away from an earlier assumption about something not critical to our salvation as a slippery slope towards the church backing away from other, more foundational claims, like the historicity of the BoM.

  13. Bridget Jack Meyers on May 14, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I think Kari asks some good questions and I appreciate her (his?) input.

  14. Tom D on May 14, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I think we can answer Kari’s concerns more politely even if they are vaguely trollish.

    I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I have read and pondered that book for many years. I have felt God’s witness in my soul. I am doing my best to live by its precepts. It really has brought me closer to Christ.

    I have found *nothing* in the Book of Mormon that requires me to believe in the hemispheric model and much that correlates well with the limited-area mesoamerica theory. If early latter-day saints were mistaken about the location of the Nephites and Lamanites, then I am not particularly worried. Neither my testimony, nor my salvation hinge upon this.

    What is wrong with 1 Thesselonians 5:21 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”? I think that the mesoamerican theory squares much better with what the book itself says, but I’m not particularly worried about this. I have faith that all of the details will eventually come to light. It seems to me that archeologists have uncovered a lot of details in the last 60 years that were simply unknown in Joseph Smith’s day. I have found it pretty easy to integrate these details into my picture of the Book of Mormon lands.

    Do you have a testimony that the hemispheric model is correct? Or, are you just relying on the words (or reputed words) of another? Have you studied, pondered, and prayed diligently (and specifically) about this subject? As Alma says in Alma 32:35 gaining a testimony in one thing does not mean that your knowledge is perfect.

    We are often urged at church (frankly commanded) to gain our own testimony of *all* gospel principles. This often comes through study and prayer, but this seems to more often comes through living the principles.

  15. Geoff J on May 15, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Jack,

    Which of Kari’s specific questions would you describe as “good”? They mostly seem like tired old criticisms of the Church veiled as questions.

  16. Bridget Jack Meyers on May 15, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Geoff, I thought that Kari’s questions in #5 raised a very good point. If the hemispheric model is being thrown out without input from later prophets, why can’t other teachings be thrown out without prophetic insight? Your answer is that she can throw out what she wishes, you don’t care, but we all know that only works with certain things if you keep quiet about what you throw out. If you throw out or renounce certain things as a ward Sunday school teacher, there’s probably going to be repercussions.

    And I’m a little disappointed to see Kari described as a troll. A simple ‘Nacle search shows that she’s been around for a long time and seems to be a member of the church. Her questions have a tendency to stir people up, but that doesn’t mean she’s just looking to piss people off. Besides, you have me for that, and like hell I’m gonna see my position usurped.

    BTW, let me clarify that I am not one of those evangelicals who attacks the Book of Mormon’s geography or DNA evidences for Native Americans as Lamanites. I’m honestly just learning from listening to both sides of the conversation. This stuff isn’t altogether tired and old to me.

    (Kari — I hope I’m getting your gender right. I had a male friend named “Kari” once, I think he was from Hawaii and it was short for something… anyways, forgive me if I’ve gotten it wrong.)

  17. Tom on May 15, 2009 at 5:16 am

    If the hemispheric model is being thrown out without input from later prophets, why can’t other teachings be thrown out without prophetic insight?

    I think the answer is pretty simple: different teachings have different weight. Prophetic teachings that have been canonized and/or recently reaffirmed by prophets in official Church venues are harder to get around than those that haven’t. The hemispheric model isn’t in the canon and it isn’t being taught by current prophets so it’s in a different category from, say, the Word of Wisdom.

    Most of us Mormons are used to the notion that not everything that every prophet has taught is true or important to believe. Relative to other changes in Church teachings, BoM geography is small potatoes.

  18. john f. on May 15, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Bridget, the hemispheric model isnt’ and wasn’t a “teaching” of a prophet so much as an assumption of early Church leaders — and not something that was ever doctrinal or canonical. As Sonny mentioned, Joseph Smith and early Church leaders vacilated between hemispheric and limited geography understandings, although most of them tended toward hemispheric assumptions. Whether hemispheric or limited geography, it is actually irrelevant to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I don’t think that Kari is describing what has happened in the “shift” very accurately. The “shift” has been that people (including General Authorities) are updating their assumptions about tertiary aspects of the Book of Mormon narrative as more information comes to light. The shift doesn’t indicate an abdication of a belief in Book of Mormon historicity or a jettisoning of prophetic pronouncements. If anything, it indicates a highly practical approach to acquiring and integrating knowledge.

    Of course every ward also has members who have interpreted past church leaders’ hemispheric assumptions as having doctrinal or inerrant import — these are the same people, however, who will get mad if you raise some point about the cultural context of a situation in the OT so as counterproductive as they might be, and even though they step on a lot of toes, their views are pretty irrelevant. An example is what happened to me about six years ago during the Old Testament course in Sunday School — one of these one-dimensional scripture reader types was teaching a lesson and when I raised my hand to offer some cultural context to a point relating to ancient Israel’s relations to Egypt made in a particular verse, the person sort of mocked me and said he didn’t know we had such a “scholar” in the class and that now we know something about Egypt thanks to me.

  19. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Geoff, I don’t think Kari is a troll.

    Kari, I think there are some fine answers up above. I would add the following:

    Do you think early Church leaders considered the hemispheric model to be an inspired teaching or doctrine of the Church, as opposed to an assumption or speculation based on early readings of the Book of Mormon? If so, what is the evidence for that? I am particularly interested in evidence that does not rely upon a particularly narrow and, frankly, non-textual definition of the term “Lamanite”.

  20. Seth R. on May 15, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I thought Kari’s points were fine. You having a bad morning or something Geoff?

    Addressing the original post, Frank, here’s one of the early excerpts from the article you link to:

    “Now, after painstakingly comparing DNA samples from people in dozens of modern-day Native American and Eurasian groups, an international team of scientists thinks it can put the matter to rest: Virtually without exception the new evidence supports the single ancestral population theory.”

    Now, people are going to hear the words “single ancestral population theory” and they are naturally going to conclude that this means no other genetic inputs into the continent. Single ancestral population, after all, does not on its face seem to mean “most people came from one population, but there were a few smaller ancestral inputs.”

    That’s not what they are going to hear based on the bare text of that article. “Single” means single – meaning no other genetic sources.

    I’m just saying that the article is going to disturb some, and make a lot of our critics very happy. Because the bare language seems to rule out even the assertions of the limited-geographic model of the Book of Mormon.

    Your post made a few suggestions as to why this study isn’t a problem, but it really didn’t dive into addressing the article or the study much.

    I would really like to see someone with a bit of info on this field of research weigh in on the issue in detail.

  21. Bridget Jack Meyers on May 15, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Tom & John F. ~ Those seem like fine answers to me.

    See? No need for anyone to be called a troll, we can all be civil here.

  22. Mike on May 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

    One more Nevermind for Kari:

    Never mind that the Doctrine & Covenants which we hold as scripture describes the Lamanites in the Eastern United States, in 8 of its sections.

    Here they are:
    DC 3:18, 20
    DC 10:48
    DC 19:27

    These first three sections don’t exactly pin the Lamanites down to a place or people. But they do confirm that Lamanites exist and are capable of being taught, and definitely are not extinct. Ideas that presume they have vanished are contradicted by these sections.

    DC 28:8-9, 14
    DC 30:6
    DC 32:2

    These three sections are specific mission calls to teach the gospel to the Lamanites. Oliver Cowdery seems to have gotten mixed up with Hiram Page and his seer stone. He is called to teach the Lamanites in DC 28. (Thus begins the tradition of sending guys out on missions to repent?) David Whitmer is to go with him in DC 30. Parley Pratt and Ziba Peterson make it a merry foursome in DC 32.

    If we look at where these 4 missionaries actually went, as instructed by the Lord, they can lead us to the Lamanites. I think it would be safe to say that they went to Indian tribes living in the Eastern US. I will leave it to professional historians to describe exactly which tribes because I can’t spell them.

    For the Lord to call these four leaders in the fledgling church on missions to the Lamanites, if the Lamanites lived in say Malaysia or even Mexico. And then for them to tromp around Ohio- Pennsylvania- New York- wherever, teaching various tribes of American Indians in the neighborhood; this seems entirely absurd to me, if the Lamanites were not those Indians. We have reached a point where we change the very meaning of the words of scripture to suit our purposes. Rational discussion ends.

    One of the interesting results of this mission to the Lamanites was that they roused up Syndey Rigdon and converted him. He brought hundreds of Campbellite Baptists into the church, where before they were converting them one family at a time. The center mass of the church shifted from New York to Kirtland, Ohio. This mission was central to the development of the early LDS church and can not be ignored.

    DC 54:8

    This one really pins some geography down for us. It describes a command to journey to the land of Missouri by the borders of the Lamanites. At that time Kansas and Nebraska, were the lands west of Missouri and they still belonged at least partially to the American Indians. Far West, Jackson County, etc. are on the western borders of Missouri. Oklahoma just to the south was a territory designated for the American Indians. How much more clear would it have to get?

    DC 49:24

    This one resembles the first three, but disturbs me even more than the rest. This verse predicts that the Lamanites shall blossom as a rose. Currently, about half the church speaks Spanish (Ensign articles- too lazy to get the reference) and lives in Latin America. The traditional perspective is that this enormous missionary success is a fulfillment of what has been called the rose prophecy. If most of these people are not actually Lamanites, then we must look for another greater missionary success that will overshadow these millions of converts in order to fulfill the rose prophecy.

    I don’t care where you want to put your illusive Lamanites, I only ask: When are we going to see 5 or 10 million converts among them to fulfill the rose prophecy?

  23. Seth R. on May 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

    For what it’s worth Kari, I believe the current Book of Mormon study guide seems to suggest the limited theory and this has been a common theory of Mormon scholars for over 50 years now.

    Even when I was in sixth grade in a small Mormon town in southern Utah, the impression I came away from church with, was that the Book of Mormon almost entirely took place in Mexico.

    So I don’t think the limited model is as uncommon among “Joe-blow Mormon” as you suggest.

  24. Alex on May 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Frank, when native members (whether North or South America) get their patriarchal blessings, aren’t virtually all of them told they are from the tribe of manassah (through Lehi)? Couldn’t this be considered “an inspired teaching” in some sense?

  25. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Mike,

    What do you think the term “Lamanite” means? Have you looked at how the Book of Mormon uses the term Lamanite? Because it sure can’t mean “descended from Laman”. By the time you get halfway into the book, it does not even mean “descended from Lehi”.

    For that matter, you use the term “Indian”. Do you think Native Americans are from India? Would you have felt better if God had called them “Indians” in those scriptures? Because that would have been even less true, as a matter of ancestry.

    When God calls us the children of Abraham, does that mean that most of our genetic code comes from Abraham? Not even most of _Jacob_’s DNA came from Abraham.

  26. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Alex,

    I don’t know what tribe Native Americans get in their patriarchal blessing, but why can’t those people be from Manassah by way of the part of their ancestry that _is_ from Lehi? Remember, the limited geography theory is about where those people started, not about where their DNA is 2000 years later. 2000 years is a long time for people to spread. In fact, we have scriptures that say they did spread out, even before Christ, beyond the group we have record of. Come to think of it, the Book of Mormon says that it does not record a hundredth part of what went on.

    In fact, the whole patriarchal blessing thing is an excellent example about how this is not about genetics, but about covenants. Brothers can be given patriarchal blessings from different tribes. Declaring someone is from the tribe of Ephraim does not require that at least x% of their genetics be from Ephraim.

  27. Geoff J on May 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Mike — You seem to think this dead horse of subject is somehow exciting and new. It ain’t. As has been pointed out every time this subject comes up, it is entirely likely that every living native American is a descendant of Lehi — assuming the BoM account is historically true. In fact it is likely that every living native American is a descendant of every reproducing person who lived in the Americas 2500 years ago. And as Frank points out — none of the current research precludes that possibility at all. So if the native Americans were called “Lamanites” in the D&C who cares? It is plenty accurate. They almost certainly are descendants of Laman if Laman and his siblings really lived and reproduced here then.

    Jack — I only call them as I smell them. Kari smells like a troll to me. She admits she doesn’t believe the hemispheric model so it appears her only goal was to insinuate fraud in the leaders of the church over the last 170 years. Besides, how do you know this is the same Kari that used that handle elsewhere?

  28. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Geoff, I can see the past comments Kari has posted on T&S. She is not a troll. I suppose all of us have the latent ability to become trolls at some point, so maybe I should say she is not yet a troll.

  29. Jonathan Green on May 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I’d guess the eau de Troll that Geoff detects comes from the insistence that the church must either

    1) defend the most extreme form of a position held by some past church leaders, or

    2) issue a formal renunciation, disavow past leaders, and admit it has strayed from earlier teachings.

    For example: ‘Joseph Smith (or whoever) believed the Earth was 6,000 years old. Why, oh why won’t the church come out and say that we are in fact young-Earth creationists? If we aren’t, then the apostles should issue a formal renunciation of Joseph Smith’s teachings and admit he was misguided in some key prophetic statements.’

    It may not technically count as trolling, but it smells a bit like the questioner is more interested in embarrassing the church than in discovering anything true or useful.

    As for Mike’s references to Lamanites in the D&C, there is a substantial difference between a revelation telling Joseph Smith who the Lamanites are, and a revelation telling Joseph Smith where to send missionaries.

  30. john f. on May 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I think Frank’s comments about “Indians” made a great point. Mike himself calls them Indians even though they aren’t from India. At least in calling Native Americans “Lamanites”, the right continent is referenced.

  31. Mike on May 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    The A**** family lives in our ward and their children are among the best friends of my children. Another person, who lives at my house, got engaged to a devoted LDS Mexican guy last weekend. They are all immigrants from Latin America and they think they are Lamanites and are proud of it. Our ward YM president is a full-blooded Cherokee Indian and among the best men inthe ward. They all subscribe to the traditional hemispheric model for Book of Mormon geography. They read the Ensign and teach lessons out of the standard sources, which have been translated into Spanish. They bear beautiful traditional testimonies. I have considered telling each of them about this issue, in a way as neutral, balanced and non-dogmatic as possible (unlike my comment above), because I think it would be less devastating to their religious convictions if they heard it from a friend, than a hostile source.

    But at the same time, I think that if I engaged any of them in a discussion on this topic, they might not react well. They might decide that I am crazy and to be ignored, avoided, or shunned. Or worse, that if I am correct, they have been lied to about very fundamental principles. A “journey of discovery” that leads swiftly out the front door of the church will have been launched. Part of me thinks that perhaps someone with more wisdom and compassion and clout than I should do the job, like maybe an apostle or the prophet.

    I think we have got to stop pretending that everyone knows about this problem, and stop trying to have it both ways on this issue. At the wardhouse it seems nobody knows about it (you have to hunt for these little hidden hints) and on the Internet everybody seems to know about it (you are considered an idiot if you don’t). And half the active ward members spend half their time on the Internet. Eventually, the damage to the convictions of our “Lamanite” members, from this dodging and waffling, is going to be enormous.

    Does anyone have any experience telling humble, faithful, Latin LDS members that they might not be literal children of Lehi?

  32. john f. on May 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Or worse, that if I am correct, they have been lied to about very fundamental principles.

    But even if you are correct that the mission to the “Lamanites” that is referenced in the D&C has some kind of conclusive import for determining who the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon were, your Native American friends still haven’t been lied to by virtue of assumptions about the hemispheric model. Why should you try to disabuse them of the idea that Lamanites were among their ancestors. Are you that sure that is not the case?

  33. Geoff J on May 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Mike: Does anyone have any experience telling humble, faithful, Latin LDS members that they might not be literal children of Lehi?

    Why would we tell them that when they surely are descendants of Lehi? (See #27)

  34. Mike on May 15, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Frank:

    I missed your comment.

    I don’t know what the term Lamanite means any more. I have been in the LDS faith for 7-8 generations and a faithful active member, served a mission, married in the temple, etc. and consider myself better read than most, all of my life. Read the BofM more than 50 times. I used to think I did, but the more I read the less I “know”. That is the problem.

    I think the term was used to mean something specific by the church for a very long time. When it says in the DC, go preach to the Lamanites, that meant the Indian tribes in the area who were thought to be the children of Lehi. But scientific discoveries seem to be making some waves and it is not entirely clear to me what these waves are going to wash out. We seem to be changing paradigms and definitions, but not all at once for everybody. And it matters to some people.

    As for all of you jackasses who are trying to muddy the waters with this smoke screen about the word “Indian,” I think we all know exactly what that word means. I take it as a joke. If you are serious, then your pot shots come across to me as a pig headed. As a matter of custom, people of my vintage used the term Indian almost exclusively and later other terms became, by convention more correct. You can just insert the term Native American anywhere I have used the older term Indian.

    Geoff thinks this subject is a dead horse? Something stinks, but it isn’t a horse or a deer or a tapir. New or not, people want answers to their questions and your comments have not done much to answer mine.

    Bro. Green #29 ,would you elaborate on your idea? We might be getting somewhere.

  35. john f. on May 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    When it says in the DC, go preach to the Lamanites, that meant the Indian tribes in the area who were thought to be the children of Lehi.

    That’s correct that it meant that in the D&C and it still means that today. Are you so sure that your Native American friends don’t have Book of Mormon Lamanites among their ancestors or that the tribes that were being referred to in those verses in the D&C didn’t have Lamanites among their ancestors? I would think that would be a hard case to make, although those propounding the DNA arguments against the Book of Mormon are trying very hard to make that case.

    It almost seems as though you are saying that since the D&C refers to Indian tribes in Missouri as “Lamanites”, that means that we are supposed to think that DNA studies in the twenty-first century must show middle eastern markers in North American Native American tribes or else something fishy is going on. I don’t think that is a required reading of those verses of the D&C. And none of this requires any playing around with the definition of Lamanite — it seems like you’re trying to force a controversy here or insist that the Church has been lying about something but that isn’t so, even if it is true that most church leaders and members assumed the hemispheric model of BoM geography.

  36. Geoff J on May 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Mike,

    Maybe it really is new stuff to you. It is old around these parts. (See here for a post I put up on it more than 4 years ago and I was late to the game.) Sorry you are missing the point of my #27. Let me make it more clear. There have been studies that explain that over time gene pools intermingle and therefore Lehi at about 600 BC would indeed be the ancestor of all living native Americans. See this quote from the NYT article I posted on back then:

    The mathematical study of genealogy indicates that everyone in the world is descended from Nefertiti and Confucius, and everyone of European ancestry is descended from Muhammad and Charlemagne

    So your latino friends are litereal descendants of Lehi. As are all living people with native American blood.

  37. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Mike,

    You don’t need to take this as a modern phenomenon. The Book of Mormon defines Lamanites in a variety of ways. Even then, the Zoramites and Mulekites, who were not even descendents of Lehi, got called Lamanites.

    Sometime the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon were those who did not follow the teachings of the Church. Sometimes even this characterization fell by the wayside. So it is not at all clear that the scriptures using the term means any more than you calling them Indians. It certainly does not mean you think they are from India.

    I am, by the way, fine with you calling them Indians, I was just clumsily trying to make a point about how loose such terminology really is.

  38. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    FYI, I call myself a McIntyre, but its a fraud. In the last ten generations I have had about 2000 ancestors, but only 10 of them were McIntyres. So even going back only that far I’m only about .5% “McIntyre”.

    Alternatively, I have 1000 ancestors from ten generations ago. Only one of them was a McIntyre, so that registers .1%.

    I’m, in fact, vastly more Irish than I am Scottish. And yet I call myself a McIntyre…

  39. Seth R. on May 15, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    “I used to think I did, but the more I read the less I “know”. That is the problem.”

    Welcome to the world Mike.

    This is true of any subject you take up. The more you learn, the more you realize how hopelessly clueless you were, and still are. Happens to me all the time.

  40. Mike on May 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I just noticed something else, perhaps fundamental.

    Back in #14- by Tom
    “I have found *nothing* in the Book of Mormon that requires me to believe in the hemispheric model and much that correlates well with the limited-area mesoamerica theory. ”

    OK, how do I say this without being a complete ass; I have precisely the opposite reaction, after struggling with this for probably a decade and reading thru the scriptures dozens of times. How can we be reading the same words?

    I wish I was a 19 year old missionary again, confined to his hut, where some of us could sit down with the scriptures and a few reliable scientific sources and spend hours every day for several months going through this verse by verse, unmolested by ZLs. At this point I am not even certain that what I write says to you what it says to me. Perhaps as young missionaries we could reach some level of agreement, at least as to what the problem is and I think it goes beyond terminology. But as I read over this discussion, I definitely think this format is not a good way for me to discuss this problem. Too many ideas going in too many directions and I don’t think I am really communicating what I mean.

    So this cultural Nephite is going to go back into the cave by the borders of the land of Lurk and soon get on his iron horse and ride across the concrete prairie to his teepee in the suburbs. Perhaps the fluff pup who shares half of his DNA (I hope) will want to go camping. And since I have learned too little, I will punt on telling my beloved Lamanite friends anything at this time. Blind leading the blind… Stick to J. Golden Kimball and bear stories around the campfire, where at least I can deny everything the next day.

    Internet=waste of time. Big smoke signal, no fire. No pizza for me either. Thanks for trying. No offense intended and none taken.

  41. Seth R. on May 15, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    See Geoff,

    Now THAT’S what a troll looks like.

  42. Geoff J on May 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Mike: Internet=waste of time.

    Hehe. It is frustrating when facts interrupt your axe-grinding isn’t it? But don’t blame the internet — that is like shooting the messenger.

  43. Seth R. on May 15, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Interesting how trolls always throw in a mention about how the internet is a “waste of time.” I guess they think it makes them look cooler or something.

    Like I mentioned above Mike. Even in sixth grade in the Mormon heartland, I imagined something like the limited geographic model.

    Go re-read the war chapters in Alma sometime. Pay close attention to the march times recorded between major cities and draw yourself a map.

    It won’t be much larger than South Carolina.

  44. Frank McIntyre on May 15, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Geoff and Seth,

    I don’t think Mike was trolling. I think he got tired of the conversation, found it frustrating, and so went camping.

  45. Geoff J on May 15, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    You are a less cynical man that I, Frank.

    I agree Mike found the conversation frustrating. But I think it was because he was surprised to find that his attacks on Mormonism had none of the withering effect he anticipated they would have here. And since he had no solid response to the counter-arguments he encountered here he just stormed off muttering “stupid internet” under his breath.

    Obviously I am cynical more cynical than you about strangers on the Web.

  46. Seth R. on May 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Also liked his stuff about “Lamanite friends.”

    Reminds me of those used car ads where the guys says “buy now or the kitten dies!”