DNA and the Book of Mormon: Science, Settlers, and Scripture

Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst, eds. The LDS Gospel Topics Series: A Scholarly Engagement (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2020), 69-95.

28 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Thomas W Murphy

Thomas W Murphy

Edmonds College

Angelo Baca

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: September 15, 2020

Abstract

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published an online essay entitled "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies" on January 31, 2014 that conceded the failure of DNA evidence to provide affirmative support for the scripture's historical claims. Yet, the essay insists on a priority of scriptural over historical claims and offers possible reasons for the lack of genetic evidence of the ancient migrations from the Near East described in the Book of Mormon. This chapter summarizes the church's essay, the historical context behind the issues it addresses, and offers constructive and critical analysis of its claims. The chapter examines the settler colonial context out of which the Book of Mormon emerged and considers Indigenous critiques of the Book of Mormon alongside scientific analysis. The church's essay fails to engage Indigenous perspectives, ignores historical anachronisms in the Book of Mormon and avoids a discussion of oral history, archaeological, ecological, and linguistic evidence contradicting the Book of Mormon's portrayal of a white race of Nephites in ancient America. A more forthright confession of a nineteenth-century origin of the Book of Mormon and a more explicit repudiation of its racism are still needed if church leaders hope to rebuild trust with skeptical members and to establish more diplomatic and equitable relations with American Indians.

Keywords: Book of Mormon, DNA, American Indian, Native American, Indigenous, settler colonialism, racism, archaeology, scripture

JEL Classification: Z10, Z12

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Thomas and Baca, Angelo, DNA and the Book of Mormon: Science, Settlers, and Scripture (September 15, 2020). Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst, eds. The LDS Gospel Topics Series: A Scholarly Engagement (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2020), 69-95., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3950642

Thomas Murphy (Contact Author)

Edmonds College ( email )

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United States
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Angelo Baca

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

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