Book of Mormon/Lamanites/Relationship to Amerindians

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This page is based on an answer to a question submitted to the FAIR web site, or a frequently asked question.

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QUESTIONS

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  • Are all Amerindians descendants of Lehi?
  • Critics claim that Church leaders "seem reluctant or powerless to curtail" the belief among Mesoamerican and South American saints that they are descendents of the Lamanites.
  • Critics say that Joseph Smith said that the angel Moroni told him that all American Indians were "literal descendants of Abraham," but DNA has disproved this.


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

==

TOPICS

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Answer

How have LDS members understood Amerindian origins?

In their more candid moments, the ex-Mormon critics admit that their criticisms revolve around a key assumption. Simon Southerton writes of how some Mormons have argued that

Bottleneck effect, genetic drift, Hardy-Weinberg violations and other technical problems would prevent us from detecting Israelite genes [in Amerindians].[1]

This is a technical way of explaining a relatively simple fact: if a small group is placed in contact with a larger group and allowed to intermarry, it becomes harder to detect the small group’s “genetic signature.”

It is as if one placed a teaspoon of red dye in an Olympic swimming pool, mixed well, and then withdrew a sample. Southerton and his fellow critics are in the position of someone who complains loudly because the sampled water does not seem to be “red”!

Southerton then goes on to say:

I agree entirely. [!] In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2000 or even 20,000 years later. But does such a scenario fit with what the Book of Mormon plainly states or what the prophets have taught for 175 years? Short answer. No! Long answer. Nooo![2]

This is really quite astonishing. Southerton has obliged us by shooting himself in the foot. He admits that there are many genetic objections to his attack, unless we accept that the American Indians are only descendants of Lehi and Mulek.

Contrary to Southerton’s assertion, the short answer is that he is ignorant of the facts.

For those who are interested, we turn to the long answer.

Remember, Southerton claims that we must accept his version, because

  1. the Book of Mormon ‘plainly’ teaches it; and
  2. “the prophets” have taught this doctrine (and no other, we must presume) for 175 years.

Yet, Southerton goes on to state in July 2008:

[LDS scholars] believe that they have conclusively shown that the Lehites entered a continent inhabited by millions, entered the large pre-existing civilizations, and then their DNA was diluted away so that we can't detect it. They also set up the straw man that I am arguing that according to the Book of Mormon all American Indians are descended from Hebrews. I have never claimed this. The vanishing geography theory is utter desperation.[3]

So, by Southerton’s own admission, his model is in fatal trouble if a “whole empty hemisphere” model (as opposed to what Southerton mockingly refers to as the "vanishing" geography model) is not taught by both the Book of Mormon and the prophets. That Southerton would make such a claim, and put his theory on such shaky ground, illustrates how poorly he understands the Book of Mormon and writing about it that has gone on for decades prior to Watson and Crick's discovery of the double helix.

Origin of the American Indians: 19th century views

It is not surprising that some Church members concluded that all Amerindians were descendants of Lehi/Mulek. In fact, this was the initial conclusion drawn by many contemporaries of Joseph Smith. For example:

  • Lucy Mack Smith describing the Book of Mormon: "a history of the origin of the Indians."[4]
  • WW Phelps, 1833: "That wonderful conjecture, which left blank as to the origin . . . of the American Indians, was done away by the Book of Mormon…"[5]
  • Parley P. Pratt [apostle], 1837: "reveals the origin of the American Indians, which was before a mystery." [6]
  • Orson Pratt [apostle], 1875: I refer to the American Indians, all remnants of Joseph and belonging to the house of Israel. [7]

Origin of the American Indians: 20th century views

Contrary to the claims of critics who attempt to use DNA evidence to discredit the Book of Mormon, some readers and leaders reconsidered these ideas. Critics are fond of citing Church leaders such as Spencer W. Kimball, who was certainly a powerful advocate for the Amerindians or “Lamanites." President Kimball often made statements which supported the view that Lehi was the exclusive progenitor of all native Americans. However, many apostles and seventies have made many statements which differ from critics' understanding of the matter, taught them in General Conference, and the Church has published such perspectives in their magazines, study guides, and manuals. The Church’s university has passed them on to their students for generations. The Church’s official spokespeople disclaim the interpretation which critics insist we must hold.

When asked about the Church’s official position on this matter by a writer, a Church spokesman said:

As to whether these were the first inhabitants…we don't have a position on that. Our scripture does not try to account for any other people who may have lived in the New World before, during or after the days of the Jaredites and the Nephites, and we don't have any official doctrine about who the descendants of the Nephites and the Jaredites are. Many Mormons believe that American Indians are descendants of the Lamanites [a division of the Nephites], but that's not in the scripture.[8]

It is astonishing that critics do not realize that this puts a fairly “official” stamp of approval on this perspective—at the very least, it is hardly out of the ‘mainstream’ of Church thought to think that others besides Israelites make up modern Amerindians, and this perspective existed long before the DNA issue came to the fore.

For a detailed response, see: Statements made by Church leaders regarding the relationship between Amerindians and Lamanites

Why have there been different opinions on this matter?

We have seen that Southerton and the other critics’ claim that a “Lehi-only” teaching has been the unanimous voice of the prophets is false. To be sure, there clearly have been Church leaders who felt that all Amerindians were descendants of Book of Mormon peoples (and, as we will see below, population genetics demonstrates that this is true). Some leaders and members have also believed that the Book of Mormon peoples are the only, or major, ancestors of Amerindians.

But, there have also been those who believed that Lehi was only one ancestor among many. Later readers were more likely than early readers to hold a “many ancestors” view. Why?

All readers approach scriptures from their own cultural perspective, and with their own biases. What biases did readers of Joseph Smith’s day have about American Indians?

One further theoretical issue dictated by the discussion in Joseph Smith's day should be mentioned here: only a few early nineteenth-century writers suggested multiple origins for the American Indians. The very term "Indian," as Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., has pointed out, embodied a unitary concept of the native inhabitants of the Americas invented by Europeans. "By classifying all these many peoples as Indians," writes Berkhofer, "whites categorized the variety of cultures and societies as a single entity for the purposes of description and analysis, thereby neglecting or playing down the social and cultural diversity of Native Americans then--and now--for the convenience of simplified understanding."[9]

Thus, in Joseph Smith’s day, it was “common knowledge” that the Indians were a single racial group, and so most likely to have a single origin. Since the Book of Mormon seemed to teach that at least some Indians must have come from Israel, it was a natural conclusion to see them all as coming from Israel since the early Saints likely did not even conceive of there being multiple “groups” of Indians at all. To explain some was to explain them all.

Elder Brigham H. Roberts of the Seventy noted the prevailing wisdom of his era:

[The expert] Boudinot…hold[s] that the same color of the Indian generally is evidence of unity of race.[10]

However, the understanding of "the Indians" as a single, monolithic group began to change, and it is not a recent change brought on by the critics' DNA material!

In 1937, John A. Widtsoe [Apostle] and Franklin S. Harris, Jr., listed as one of the “claims” of the Book of Mormon that

THE AMERICAN ABORIGINES ARE IN PART OF HEBREW DESCENT.[11]

Other members, such as Milton R. Hunter, First Council of Seventy, came to similar conclusions:

At least part of the ancestry of the American Indians came from Jerusalem; however, evidence is available which shows that people from other lands migrated to the Western Hemisphere following the close of Book of Mormon history.[12]

A more recent discussion by James R. Christiansen, published by BYU, said:

Based on figures given sometime after their arrival, these 150 to 200 pilgrims multiplied and spread throughout the land (Ether 6:13-21). Whatever their ancestral composition, these Jaredites were the true Paleo-Indians and must have carried with them the inheritable characteristics that came to typify modern American aborigines. The widespread O blood type, the dental peculiarities, the hair, and facial features were common within the group and became standardized as they intermarried and moved unrestricted, often compelled by war and insurrection, to all points of the compass. In time, language and customs changed, but these basic traits remained dominant.
The next known group to arrive, in 589 B.C., was small (1 Nephi 18:1-25). It too experienced divisions and strife and soon migrated into the wilderness (2 Nephi 5:1-25). There, the followers of Laman, called Lamanites, and some of those who allied themselves with Laman's brother Nephi, called Nephites, met and intermarried with the remnants of the original Jaredite population, thereby becoming part of the established and more ancient gene pool. Within one or two generations, basic physical and cultural characteristics were greatly altered. As they received, however, they also gave, and in time the language, the culture, and the physical makeup of the Paleo-Indian or Jaredite population was indelibly influenced.
Soon after the arrival of the Nephites and Lamanites came a third group, the followers of Mulek, a son of the Jewish King Zedekiah. The Mulekites crossed the ocean and located some distance north of the central Nephite settlements (Helaman 6:10; Mosiah 25:2). In time the remnants of these two societies merged, but retained the Nephite designation. Again their languages and cultures "blended," and within a few generations a new, more complex society emerged. Centuries passed and peripheral mixing of all the inhabitants occurred. A new and distinctly American gene pool was forming, radiating outward from several major areas of influence.
The process heightened following A.D. 33, stimulated by a general combining of the principal Nephite and Lamanite factions. Major divisions followed a two-hundred-year period of integration, resulting in a total breakdown of Nephite society (4 Nephi 1:1-45; Mormon 6:1-20). The ensuing assimilation was final. The foundation population was in place, scattered throughout the Americas. Composed of remnants from prior Jaredite, Lamanite, Nephite, and Mulekite societies, it was further impacted over a 2,500-year period by countless other transoceanic and Bering Strait arrivals. Depending on individual numbers and the extent of their subsequent assimilation, such ingraftings may have profoundly enhanced cultural—especially language—variations among peripheral elements of the population. Thus viewed, the Americanization of the Indian was complete.[13]

Thus, Christiansen saw the Jaredite remnants as playing a key, even dominant, role in the composition of the later Amerindians, and described “countless other transoceanic and Bering strait arrivals” as also important.

The text of the Book of Mormon has not altered on these issues, and yet the perspectives of both members and leaders has undergone a definite shift since its publication in 1829. Clearly, the growing appreciation that “the Indians” were not a single, monolithic block allowed readers of the Book of Mormon to see things that previous generations had not appreciated.

It is vital to recognize that leaders of the Church have expressed opinions on both sides of this question. This would seem to suggest that there is no “fixed” or “official” doctrine on the topic, since why would general authorities, Church publications, and BYU classes spend decades contradicting each other if there was a clear consensus about what the ‘doctrine’ was?

Well-known LDS scholar Hugh Nibley also argued forcibly and consistently for this point of view over a long period:

1947, 1952: once we have admitted that all pre-Columbian remains do not have to belong to Book of Mormon people, . . . the problem of the Book of Mormon archaeologist, when such appears, will be to find in America things that might have some bearing on the Book of Mormon, not to prove that anything and everything that turns up is certain evidence for that book.[14]
1967: the Book of Mormon offers no objections . . . to the arrival of whatever other bands may have occupied the hemisphere without its knowledge. [15]
1980: [it is a] simplistic reading of the book . . . [to] assume that the only people in the hemisphere before Columbus were either descendants of Lehi or of Jared and his brother. [16]

Quite simply, Southerton and other DNA critics are guilty of this “simplistic reading.” And, by his own admission, his theory falls flat if he indulges in it. The cautious reader might suspect that he has more interest in finding an excuse to discard the Book of Mormon, rather than a reason to understand it at a more mature level.

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CONCLUSION

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  1. LDS leaders and members have been of a variety of opinions regarding the degree of contribution which Book of Mormon peoples provided to the Amerindian gene pool.
  2. Church spokesmen indicate that there is no official position.
  3. As Church members have understood that there was more than one "group" of Indians, they have read the Book of Mormon as being only a partial history of Amerindian ancestors
  4. If Lehi had any descendants, population genetics virtually guarantees that all Amerindians have him as a common ancestor.
  5. Church discussions of Lamanite ancestry (or Israelite ancestry generally) is not about genetics, but is focused on covenant promises and blessings.

Endnotes

  1. [note] Simon Southerton, e-mail, “Answering the DNA apologetics,” 15 February 2005, 18h42 (copy in author’s possession).
  2. [note] Ibid.
  3. [note] Simon Southerton, e-mail posted to discussion board, July 5, 2008.
  4. [note] Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, England, 1853), 152.
  5. [note] W. W. Phelps, "The Book of Mormon," Evening and Morning Star (January 1833), ?. off-siteGospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  6. [note] Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, etc. (New York: W. Sandford, 1837), 135.
  7. [note] Orson Pratt, "Redemption of Zion—Persecution—Baptism of Indians—Second Coming of Christ—Every Jot and Every Tittle of Divine Revelation will be Fulfilled," (7 February 1875) Journal of Discourses 17:299.
  8. [note]  Stewart Reid, LDS Public Relations Staff, quoted by William J. Bennetta in The Textbook Letter (March-April 1997), published by The Textbook League (P.O. Box 51, Sausalito, California 94966).
  9. [note]  Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986), 8—9. The reader should be cautioned that Vogel—a former Church member and current atheist—believes that the Book of Mormon is a nineteenth-century fiction concocted by Joseph Smith. For a review of the strengths and weaknesses of this volume, see Kevin Christensen, "Truth and Method: Reflections on Dan Vogel’s Approach to the Book of Mormon (Review of: Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 287–354. off-site
  10. [note]  Brigham H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, 2nd edition, edited and with an introduction by Brigham D. Madsen (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 203; also published by (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985). (needs URL / links)
  11. [note]  John A. Widtsoe and Franklin S. Harris, Jr., Seven Claims of the Book of Mormon: a collection of evidences (Independence, Jackson County, Mo: Press of Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1937), 15, 84, italics added, capitals in original.
  12. [note]  Milton R. Hunter, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1956), 53.
  13. [note]  James R. Christiansen, Book of Mormon: the Keystone scripture, edited by Paul R. Cheesman, (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988), 232–233. (needs URL / links)
  14. [note]  Hugh W. Nibley, Lehi in the Deseret and The World of the Jaredites, 1st edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1952), 253 (emphasis in original). ; reprinted in Hugh W. Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, the World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthew and Stephen R. Callister, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 251. ISBN 0875791328.
  15. [note] Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 249. ISBN 0875791395.
  16. [note] Hugh W. Nibley, "The Book of Mormon and the Ruins: The Main Issues," F.A.R.M.S. paper, 1980.
  17. [note]  Spencer W. Kimball, "Of Royal Blood," Ensign (July 1971), 7. off-site
  18. [note]  W. Robertson Smith, "Sacrifice Among the Semites," from Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, Revised edition, (1907), 273-274.
  19. [note]  Eldred G. Smith, "Lectures on Theology: Last Message Series," Address given at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion (30 April 1971), 2.
  20. [note]  Spencer W. Kimball, "Of Royal Blood," Ensign (July 1971), 10. off-site

Further reading

FairMormon Answers articles


Translated documents (which the Book of Mormon claims to be) have many potential sources of anachronism. When trying to decide if something is a true anachronism, and when making judgments about the Book of Mormon's truth based on an assessment of anachronisms, we must take all these factors into account. Critics rarely do so. (Click here for full article)




  • Was the story of the Jaredites added to the Book of Mormon in order to explain New World animals?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed by some that the story of the Jaredites, as described in the Book of Ether, was added by Joseph Smith as an "afterthought" in order to account for the variety of animals present in the New World at the time of arrival of Lehi's group. Critics suggest that the Book of Ether was simply an "afterthought" added by Joseph Smith to the Book of Mormon in order to explain the presence of a wide variety of animals in the New World at the time of the arrival of Lehi's party. (Click here for full article)
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  • Horses
    Brief Summary: According to the most scientists, the mention of "horses" in the Americas during Book of Mormon times presents an anachronism--something that doesn't fit the time frame for which it is claimed. Is this a death-knell for the Book of Mormon? (Click here for full article)
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  • The ass (donkey) (Click here for full article)
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  • Bees
    Brief Summary: Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World. (Click here for full article)
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  • Cows (Click here for full article)
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  • Elephants
    Brief Summary: Elephants are only present in Jaredite times in the Book of Mormon. Both mastodons and gomphotheres are elephant-like creatures that are plausible candidates. (Click here for full article)
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  • Silkworms (Click here for full article)
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  • Swine (pigs)
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that swine were unknown in the ancient New World. In addition, some have ridiculed the Book of Mormon’s suggestion that swine would be used for food (due to dietary constraints of the Mosaic law). (Click here for full article)
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  • Cureloms and cumoms (Click here for full article)
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  • Serpents and drought
    Brief Summary: In the Book of Mormon, the Book of Ether contains an account of a drought accompanied by a sudden increase in 'poisonous serpents'. Some claim that this is biologically implausible. (Click here for full article)
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  • Malachi text in the Book of Mormon
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it quotes Malachi hundreds of years before Malachi was written (i.e, they claim that Mal. 4:1 is quoted in 1 Nephi 22:15). However, the Book of Mormon claims to be a "translation." Therefore, the language used is that of Joseph Smith. Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using King James Bible language if that adequately represented the text's intent. The translation language may resemble Malachi, but the work is not attributed to Malachi. Only if one presumes that the Book of Mormon is a fraud at the outset is this proof of anything. If one accepts that it is a translation, then the use of Bible language tells us merely that Joseph used biblical language. (Click here for full article)
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  • New Testament text in the Book of Mormon?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it contains material that is also found in the New Testament. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus quotes a paraphrase of Moses' words found in Acts 3:22-26. (Click here for full article)
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  • Deutero-Isaiah
    Brief Summary: The "Deutero-Isaiah" theory is the claim that parts of Isaiah were written later than others. This theory claims that there were three individual authors, whose works were later compiled together under the name of the first author Isaiah (referred to as "Proto Isaiah"). The critical issue raised is that the Brass Plates of Laban quote from sections of Isaiah that this theory ascribes to Deutero-Isaiah, so how could the Nephites have these writings if they weren't written until after they left Jerusalem? (Click here for full article)
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  • Firstling sacrifices
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon report that Nephites offered burnt offerings of the firstlings of their flocks is not consistent with Jewish law or practice. While firstlings were not used for every sacrifice, they certainly did have a role in the sacrificial practices of Israel. The critics have misunderstood the Bible on this point. (Click here for full article)
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  • Holy Ghost
    Brief Summary: Why is the Holy Ghost mentioned so many times in the Book of Mormon prior to the time of Christ (e.g., 1 Nephi 10:17) and yet in the Old Testament there is hardly any mention of the Holy Ghost, especially with regard to his mission of bearing witness of the truth? (Click here for full article)
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  • Jeremiah in prison
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Nephi's mention of Jeremiah being put into prison (1 Nephi 7:14) is anachronistic, since Jeremiah would not have been in prison when Lehi left Jerusalem. (Click here for full article)
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  • Jerusalem as site of Jesus' birth
    Brief Summary: Critics point out that Alma 7:10 says that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Yet, every school child knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They claim that this is a mistake, and evidence that Joseph Smith forged the Book of Mormon. However, it is important to note what Alma's words were. He did not claim Jesus would be born in the city of Jerusalem, but "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Bethlehem is located only five miles from Jerusalem. Thus, the Book of Mormon makes a distinction here between a city and the land associated with a city. (Click here for full article)
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  • Josephites and Jerusalem
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the fact that Lehi was not of Judah, but of the tribe of Joseph, makes it absurd for him to have been living in Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity: "The tribe of Joseph at Jerusalem! Go, study scripture-geography, ye ignorant fellows, before you send out another imposition, and make no more such foolish blunders." (Click here for full article)
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  • Book of Mormon plagiarized from Bible?
    Brief Summary: Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that major portions of it are copied, without attribution, from the Bible. They present this as evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by plagiarizing the Authorized ("King James") Version of the Bible. (Click here for full article)
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  • Mainly altered italics in the KJV?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that in the Book of Mormon material which parallels the KJV, Joseph Smith generally modified the italicized text. (Click here for full article)
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  • Book of Mormon "translation errors" from KJV?
    Brief Summary: Critics wonder why many of the quotes from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon are identical to the King James version. The Book of Mormon incorporates text which seems to be taken from the King James Version, including passages which are now considered to be mistranslations in the King James Version. If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, some claim that it shouldn't contain these translational errors. (Click here for full article)
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  • Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to the Book of Mormon
    Brief Summary: Mistranslations of the King James version of Isaiah have been corrected using the Isaiah version found with the Dead Sea scrolls. Why is it that the quotes from Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have the same translation errors contained in the King James version instead of matching the original ancient text? (Click here for full article)
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  • Snow
    Brief Summary: In 1 Nephi 11:8, Nephi says Lehi describes the Tree of Life by saying "the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow." Since Nephi and Lehi were desert folk from Jerusalem, and then likely lived in tropical Central America, why would they have used "snow" as a description? (Click here for full article)
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DNA samples taken from modern Native Americans do not match the DNA of modern inhabitants of the Middle East. Critics argue that this means the Book of Mormon's claim that Native Americans are descended from Lehi must be false, and therefore the Book of Mormon is not an ancient record as Joseph Smith claimed. (Click here for full article)

  • Geography issues
    Brief Summary: A variety of geographic models have been suggested for the Book of Mormon. Some geographic models introduce other difficulties for the DNA attacks. (Click here for full article)
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  • Haplogroup X2a
    Brief Summary: Some have tried to use a genetic group called haplotype X2a as proof of the Book of Mormon, but the science at present cannot support this. (Click here for full article)
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  • What is Lehi's ancestry?
    Brief Summary: Genetic attacks on the Book of Mormon focus on the fact that Amerindian DNA seems closest to Asian DNA, and not DNA from "the Middle East" or "Jewish" DNA. However, this attack ignores several key points, among which is the fact that the Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his family are clearly not Jews. (Click here for full article)
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  • How does one identify "Jewish" or "Middle Eastern" DNA?
    Brief Summary: Identifying DNA criteria for Manasseh and Ephraim may always be beyond our reach. But, even identifying markers for Jews—a group that has remained relatively cohesive and refrained from intermarriage with others more than most groups—is an extraordinarily difficult undertaking. (Click here for full article)
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    • Lemba and Cohen modal haplotype
      Brief Summary: Some critics use the "Lemba" as an example of a group proven to be Jewish via DNA testing as proof that such a testing should be possible for Book of Mormon people. But, this example is misleading. The Lemba were identified as Jewish because of a marker called the "Cohen modal haplotype." This marker is carried by about half of those who claim descent from Aaron, Moses' brother, and only 2-3% of other Jews. But, the Book of Mormon does not suggest—and in fact seems to exclude—the idea that Levites (the priestly family of Aaron) were among the Lehi party. (Click here for full article)
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  • What methods of DNA tests are available?
    Brief Summary: DNA issues can be complex for the non-specialist (especially those who were in high school more than twenty years ago, before much of the modern understanding of DNA was available). In this article we review the methods of DNA testing that are available, along with their strengths and their limitations. (Click here for full article)
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  • New World death rate after European contact
    Brief Summary: Approximately ninety percent of the Amerindian population died out following contact with the Europeans; most of this was due to infectious disease against which they had no defense.[17] Since different genes likely provide different resistances to infectious disease, it may be that eliminating 90% of the pre-contact gene pool has significantly distorted the true genetic picture of Lehi's descendants. (Click here for full article)
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  • Jaredite influence
    Brief Summary: Critics often over-look the Jaredites, and assume (as in the hemispheric models that the Jaredites can have contributed nothing of consequence to the Lehite DNA picture. But, it is not clear that this must be the case. Some LDS have believed in a total eradication of the Jaredites, others have argued that Jaredite remnants survived and mixed with the Lehites. Bruce R. McConkie, while believing that the majority of Amerindian descent was from Israel (i.e. Lehi, Ishmael, and Mulek) nevertheless wrote: "The American Indians, however, as Columbus found them also had other blood than that of Israel in their veins. It is possible that isolated remnants of the Jaredites may have lived through the period of destruction in which millions of their fellows perished." (Click here for full article)
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  • Fundamentalist "suicide bombing"
    Brief Summary: It should be remembered too that many sectarian critics use DNA science in a sort of "suicide bombing" attack on the Church.[18] The fundamentalist Christian critics are happy to use DNA as a stick to beat the Book of Mormon, but do not tell their readers that there is much stronger DNA evidence for concepts which fundamentalist Christian readers might not accept, such as evolutionary change in species, or human descent from other primates. (Click here for full article)
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Geography

  • Bethabara
    Brief Summary: Alexander Campbell, an early Book of Mormon critic, complained that the Book of Mormon "makes John [the Baptist] baptize in the village of Bethabara." The Book of Mormon, however, uses the same term as the King James Bible: "These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." (John 1:28) (Click here for full article)
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  • River runs into a fountain
    Brief Summary: Is the description of "a river’s running into a fountain" in 1 Nephi absurd? (Click here for full article)
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Government

Items

  • Chariots
    Brief Summary: The Book of Mormon mentions "chariots," which are assumed to be a "wheeled vehicle." No draft animals existed to pull such chariots. 3 Nephi 3:22 notes that the Nephites "had taken their horses, and their chariots" to a central fortified area for protection against robbers. It should be noted that we are not told if these chariots served a purpose in riding, or if they were for transport of goods, or if they had a ceremonial function. One assumes some sort of practicality or ritual importance in war, since they brought chariots to the siege. Conspicuously absent is any role of the chariot in the many journeys recorded in the Book of Mormon. Nor do horses or chariots play any role in the many Nephite wars; this is in stark contrast to the Biblical account, in which the chariots of Egypt, Babylon, and the Philistines are feared super-weapons upon the plains of Israel. (Click here for full article)
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  • Coins
    Brief Summary: Does the Book of Mormon make references to Nephite coins? Coins were not used either in ancient America or Israel during Lehi's day. However, the word "coins" was only added to the chapter heading of Alma 11 much later, and the text of the Book of Mormon itself does not mention coins. The pieces of gold and silver described in Alma 11:1-20 are not coins, but a surprisingly sophisticated system of weights and measures that is entirely consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices. (Click here for full article)
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  • Compass
    Brief Summary: Critics charge that the description of the Liahona as a "compass" is anachronistic because the magnetic compass was not known in 600 B.C. However, believing it was called a compass because it pointed the direction for Lehi to travel is the fault of the modern reader, not the Book of Mormon. As a verb, the word "compass" occurs frequently in the King James Version of the Bible; and it generally suggests the idea of surrounding or encircling something (Click here for full article)
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  • "Gold" plates?
    Brief Summary: Could Joseph Smith, Jr. have manufactured some metal plates out of tin, copper, or some other metal in order to trick witnesses into thinking he had gold plates? Gold plates of the dimensions described by the witnesses would be too heavy (on the order of 200 lbs) to be realistically lifted and carried as Joseph and others described. This assumption, however, assumes a solid block of gold in the dimensions described, and does not account for the fact that pure gold would have been too fragile to form the thin leaves necessary for engraving. (Click here for full article)
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  • Gunpowder!
    Brief Summary: Some have even claimed that the Book of Mormon mentions "gunpowder," and "pistols and other firearms," which are clearly anachronisms. The claim is false. There is no mention of "gunpowder" or firearms, or anything like them, in the Book of Mormon. (Click here for full article)
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  • Temple in the New World
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Israelites would not have built a temple in the New World outside of Jerusalem. This ignores Israelite temples built in the Old World outside Jerusalem. (Click here for full article)
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  • Windows
    Brief Summary: Does the mention of "windows" imply the existence of glass in Book of Mormon times? (Click here for full article)
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Claimed anachronisms related to language used in the Book of Mormon. (Click here for full article)

  • "Adieu"
    Brief Summary: Jacob 7:27 ends with the phrase, "Brethren, adieu." Some claim that because adieu is French, it shows that Joseph Smith composed the Book of Mormon, and not an ancient author. There are at least three problems with the adieu argument against the Book of Mormon. 1) Critics overlook the fact that the word adieu was not on the plates. 2) The translator of a work can use words from any language he chooses in order to convey the meaning of the text to his readers, so that even if "adieu" had been a foreign word (e.g., French) to Joseph Smith, there is nothing either unusual or problematic with his choosing that word in his translation. 3) Critics mistakenly think the word "adieu" is not used as an English word. (Click here for full article)
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  • And it came to pass
    Brief Summary: Some have often complained about the frequent repetition of "and it came to pass" in the Book of Mormon.[1] Mark Twain famously joked that if the phrase were omitted, Joseph would have published a pamphlet instead of a book. As it turns out, however, this much-maligned phrase is actually evidence of the Book of Mormon's authentic antiquity. (Click here for full article)
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  • Greek words: alpha and omega?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it contains "Greek words" ("alpha and omega"). However, the Book of Mormon claims to be a translation. Therefore, the language used is that of Joseph Smith. Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using King James Bible language if that adequately represented the text's intent. (Click here for full article)
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  • Modern phrasing
    Brief Summary: Critics maintain that Book of Mormon phrases or language is too "modern" to be of ancient origin. The Book of Mormon is a translation. As such, it may well use phrases or expressions that have no exact ancient counterpart. Modern Bible translations use similar expressions or phrases, and yet remain translations of ancient documents. (Click here for full article)
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  • Hebrew and Native American languages
    Brief Summary: Is there any evidence that Old World languages (such as Hebrew) had an influence on the languages of the New World? It is claimed that the Book of Mormon provides too short a time for the disappearance of the Nephite/Lamanite Hebrew language. (Click here for full article)
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  • Reformed Egyptian
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Jews or Israelites (like the Nephites) would not have used the language of their slave period — Egyptian — to write sacred records, that there is no evidence in Egyptology of something called "reformed Egyptian," and that the Book of Mormon's claim to have been written in this language is therefore suspect. However, the claim that Israelites would not use Egyptian is clearly false. By the ninth to sixth centuries before Christ, Israelites used Egyptian numerals mingled with Hebrew text. The Papyrus Amherst 63 contains a text of Psalms 20:2-6 written in Aramaic (the language of Jesus) using Egyptian characters. This text was originally dated to the second century B.C., but this has since been extended to the 4th century B.C. (Click here for full article)
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    • Egyptian would not be shorter than Hebrew on the plates
      Brief Summary: It is claimed that Egyptian would be too lengthy and bulky on the plates to account for the Book of Mormon [Egyptian would take] "perhaps four times, or even more than four times, as much room as the English, and it is quite certain that, as the Book of Mormon is 600 pages thick, it would take at least a thousand plates to hold in the Egyptian language, what is there written." (Click here for full article)
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  • Gadianton Robbers as Masons?
    Brief Summary: Some claim that the Gadianton robbers are thinly disguised references to the anti-Masonic panic of Joseph Smith's era. Joseph's contemporaries did not embrace the "obvious" link between the Book of Mormon and masonry. Proponents or opponents of Masonry simply tended to blame their opponents for Mormonism. Given Joseph Smith's long family involvement with the institution of Freemasonry and the fact that he would, in 1842, become a Mason himself, it seems unlikely that anti-Masonry was the "environmental source" of the Gadianton robbers found in the Book of Mormon. The members of his day likewise had little enthusiasm for anti-Masonic sentiments. (Click here for full article)
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  • Cement
    Brief Summary: The Nephites in the land northward built buildings out of cement in Helaman 3:7-11 (circa 47 B.C.). As author John L. Smith put the claim, "There is zero archaeological evidence that any kind of cement existed in the Americas prior to modern times" (John L. Smith, "What about those Gold Plates?" The Utah Evangel 33:6 (September 1986): 8.) In this case, however, an attack on an 'absence of evidence' backfired. Cement is not anachronistic. The Book of Mormon places it in exactly the right spot and time period for Mesoamerican use of this building material. (Click here for full article)
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  • Metals
    Brief Summary: Critics attack the Book of Mormon's mention of metal and metalworking in the Americas: 1) they claim no metal use occurred in the Americas prior to A.D. 900, and 2)they claim certain metals mentioned in the Book of Mormon were not available in the Americas. (Click here for full article)
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  • Metal Plates
    Brief Summary: Is Joseph's report of finding a record on metal plates plausible? (Click here for full article)
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Plants

  • Plants
    Brief Summary: Some plants mentioned in the Book of Mormon are not known to exist in the New World. It this evidence that Joseph fabricated the text based upon his own cultural background? (Click here for full article)
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Population

  • Demographics
    Brief Summary: Critics charge that the initial Lehite colony is too small to produce the population sizes indicated, and that Lehi's group was sent to a land which was kept from the knowledge of other nations, therefore, according to the Book of Mormon, there could not have been "others" present. A superficial reading of the Book of Mormon leads some to conclude that the named members of Lehi's group were the only members of Nephite/Lamanite society. However, the Book of Mormon contains many mentions of "others" that made up part of both societies; indeed, many Book of Mormon passages make little sense unless we understand this. (Click here for full article)
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  • Sweat and skin pores
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the reference to blood coming from a pore is anachronistic, since Nephite authors would not have known about skin pores. Joseph Smith, it is claimed, would have known about pores, and so the Book of Mormon's addition of the word "pore" to the Bible's account in Luke 22:44 of Christ's suffering reflects Joseph Smith's 19th century worldview, and not an ancient author's. (Click here for full article)
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  • Shiz struggles to breathe
    Brief Summary: In Ether 15:31, a final showdown occurs between two warriors, Shiz and Coriantumr. Coriantumr "smote off the head of Shiz...[and] after he had smitten off the head...Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died." Critics insist that this would not, or could not, happen. (Click here for full article)
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  • Three days of darkness
    Brief Summary: Critics argue that the "three days of darkness" in the New World following Christ's death is implausible. (Click here for full article)
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Text

  • Chapter divisions
    Brief Summary: Is the fact that the Book of Mormon has chapters evidence that it is a modern production? The table of contents was a modern insertion; it had no counterpart in the dictated text of the Book of Mormon. It was added just as it is in modern Bibles. However, the first edition of the Book of Mormon did contain chapters (though much longer than the modern chapters), and chapter markers were part of Joseph's dictated text. (Click here for full article)
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DNA samples taken from modern Native Americans do not match the DNA of modern inhabitants of the Middle East. Critics argue that this means the Book of Mormon's claim that Native Americans are descended from Lehi must be false, and therefore the Book of Mormon is not an ancient record as Joseph Smith claimed. (Click here for full article)

  • Geography issues
    Brief Summary: A variety of geographic models have been suggested for the Book of Mormon. Some geographic models introduce other difficulties for the DNA attacks. (Click here for full article)
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  • Haplogroup X2a
    Brief Summary: Some have tried to use a genetic group called haplotype X2a as proof of the Book of Mormon, but the science at present cannot support this. (Click here for full article)
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  • What is Lehi's ancestry?
    Brief Summary: Genetic attacks on the Book of Mormon focus on the fact that Amerindian DNA seems closest to Asian DNA, and not DNA from "the Middle East" or "Jewish" DNA. However, this attack ignores several key points, among which is the fact that the Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his family are clearly not Jews. (Click here for full article)
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  • How does one identify "Jewish" or "Middle Eastern" DNA?
    Brief Summary: Identifying DNA criteria for Manasseh and Ephraim may always be beyond our reach. But, even identifying markers for Jews—a group that has remained relatively cohesive and refrained from intermarriage with others more than most groups—is an extraordinarily difficult undertaking. (Click here for full article)
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    • Lemba and Cohen modal haplotype
      Brief Summary: Some critics use the "Lemba" as an example of a group proven to be Jewish via DNA testing as proof that such a testing should be possible for Book of Mormon people. But, this example is misleading. The Lemba were identified as Jewish because of a marker called the "Cohen modal haplotype." This marker is carried by about half of those who claim descent from Aaron, Moses' brother, and only 2-3% of other Jews. But, the Book of Mormon does not suggest—and in fact seems to exclude—the idea that Levites (the priestly family of Aaron) were among the Lehi party. (Click here for full article)
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  • What methods of DNA tests are available?
    Brief Summary: DNA issues can be complex for the non-specialist (especially those who were in high school more than twenty years ago, before much of the modern understanding of DNA was available). In this article we review the methods of DNA testing that are available, along with their strengths and their limitations. (Click here for full article)
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  • New World death rate after European contact
    Brief Summary: Approximately ninety percent of the Amerindian population died out following contact with the Europeans; most of this was due to infectious disease against which they had no defense.[19] Since different genes likely provide different resistances to infectious disease, it may be that eliminating 90% of the pre-contact gene pool has significantly distorted the true genetic picture of Lehi's descendants. (Click here for full article)
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  • Jaredite influence
    Brief Summary: Critics often over-look the Jaredites, and assume (as in the hemispheric models that the Jaredites can have contributed nothing of consequence to the Lehite DNA picture. But, it is not clear that this must be the case. Some LDS have believed in a total eradication of the Jaredites, others have argued that Jaredite remnants survived and mixed with the Lehites. Bruce R. McConkie, while believing that the majority of Amerindian descent was from Israel (i.e. Lehi, Ishmael, and Mulek) nevertheless wrote: "The American Indians, however, as Columbus found them also had other blood than that of Israel in their veins. It is possible that isolated remnants of the Jaredites may have lived through the period of destruction in which millions of their fellows perished." (Click here for full article)
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  • Fundamentalist "suicide bombing"
    Brief Summary: It should be remembered too that many sectarian critics use DNA science in a sort of "suicide bombing" attack on the Church.[20] The fundamentalist Christian critics are happy to use DNA as a stick to beat the Book of Mormon, but do not tell their readers that there is much stronger DNA evidence for concepts which fundamentalist Christian readers might not accept, such as evolutionary change in species, or human descent from other primates. (Click here for full article)
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FairMormon web site

DNA FairMormon articles on-line
  • David Stewart, "DNA and the Book of Mormon" FairMormon link
  • Allen Wyatt, "Motivation, Behavior, and Dissention" (background on Thomas Murphy's anti-Mormon activity). FairMormon link

Video

The Book of Mormon and New World DNA, FAIR Video, (Link to all FAIR Videos)
The Children of Lehi: DNA and the Book of Mormon, D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens, 2003 FAIR Conference
DNA & the Book of Mormon as Examined by a Molecular Biologist, Ryan Parr, 2005 FAIR Conference, (Link to all FAIR Videos)
DNA and the Book of Mormon, Dr. David Stewart, 2006 FAIR Conference

External links

DNA on-line articles
  • John M. Butler, "A Few Thoughts From a Believing DNA Scientist," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 36–37. off-site wiki
  • John M. Butler, "Addressing Questions surrounding the Book of Mormon and DNA Research," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 101–108. off-site wiki
  • Glen M. Cooper, "Appendix, On Aping Aristotle: Modern-day Simplicios," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): lxiii–lxiii. off-site
  • Brant Gradner, "This Idea: The "This Land" Series and the U.S.-Centric Reading of the Book of Mormon (A review of "This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation; This Land: Only One Cumorah!; and This Land: They Came from the East" by: Edwin G. Goble and Wayne N. May; Wayne N. May; and Wayne N. May)," FARMS Review 20/2 (2008): 141–162. off-site wiki
  • David A. McClellan, "Detecting Lehi's Genetic Signature: Possible, Probable, or Not?," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 35–90. off-site
  • D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens, "Who Are the Children of Lehi?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 38–51. off-site wiki
  • Ryan Parr, "Missing the Boat to Ancient America . . . Just Plain Missing the Boat (Review of: Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church)," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 83–106. off-site
  • Ugo A. Perego, "The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 191–227. off-site wiki
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "Editor's Introduction," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): ix–lxii. off-site
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "Prolegomena to the DNA Articles," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 25–34. off-site
  • Matthew Roper, "Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 91–128. off-site
  • Matthew Roper, "Swimming the Gene Pool: Israelite Kinship Relations, Genes, and Genealogy," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 129–164. off-site
  • James E. Smith, "Nephi's Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon (Review of Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes by John C. Kunich)," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 255–296. off-site
  • John L. Sorenson, "The Problematic Role of DNA Testing in Unraveling Human History," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/2 (2000): 66–74. off-site wiki
  • Gregory L. Smith, "Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt: Rod Meldrum and Book of Mormon DNA (A review of "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA" by: Rod L. Meldrum)," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 17–161. off-site wiki
  • John L. Sorenson and Matthew Roper, "Before DNA," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 6–23. off-site wiki
  • David G. Stewart, Jr., "DNA and the Book of Mormon," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 109–138. off-site wiki FairMormon link
  • David Stewart, Jr., "DNA and the Book of Mormon Rebuttal to Signature Books," cumorah.com off-site
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Reinventing the Book of Mormon (Review of: “Reinventing Lamanite Identity,” Sunstone, March 2004, 20–25)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 91–106. off-site
  • Michael F. Whiting, "DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 24–35. off-site wiki

Printed material

DNA printed materials
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Assessing the Logical Structure of DNA Arguments Against the Book of Mormon," Sunstone no. (Issue #135) (December 2004), 70–72. off-site
  • Blake T. Ostler, "DNA Strands in the Book of Mormon," Sunstone no. (Issue #137) (May 2005), x–y. off-site
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Reply to David A. Anderson (letter to the editor)," Sunstone no. (Issue #138) (September 2005), 8–10. off-site PDF link

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