I will go into this in more depth at some time, but until just recent­ly (2006), the intro­duc­tion page in the Book of Mor­mon said all of the peo­ple chron­i­cled in the book “were destroyed, except the Laman­ites, and they are the prin­ci­pal ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.” The new intro­duc­tion reads much the same, but says the Laman­ites “are among the ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.”

This change does not agree with the Book of Mor­mon or what has been taught by most Church lead­ers since Joseph Smith, Jr. The Church lead­ers have affirmed until very recent­ly that the Amer­i­can Indi­ans are the direct descen­dants of Lehi and Mulek and their fam­i­lies — who were all of the House of Israel (Jews). No oth­er groups of peo­ple are dis­cussed as being encoun­tered in the Book of Mor­mon oth­er than the Jared­ites, who all died in a mas­sive bat­tle. I think the word­ing change in the Book of Mor­mon title page is in direct response to the devel­op­ing body of DNA and oth­er evi­dence that show the Amer­i­can Indi­ans are not Israelites.

The Book of Mor­mon is a record of the fore­fa­thers of our west­ern tribes of Indi­ans; hav­ing been found through the min­is­tra­tion of an holy angel, and trans­lat­ed into our own lan­guage by the gift and pow­er of God, after hav­ing been hid up in the earth for the last four­teen hun­dred years, con­tain­ing the word of God which was deliv­ered unto them. By it we learn that our west­ern tribes of Indi­ans are descen­dants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt.” — Joseph Smith, Jr, Teach­ings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 17

It has been said by many of the learned and wise men, or his­to­ri­ans, that the Indi­ans or abo­rig­ines of this con­ti­nent, are of the scat­tered tribes of Israel. It has been con­jec­tured by many oth­ers, that the abo­rig­ines of this con­ti­nent are not of the tribes of Israel, but the ten tribes have been led away into some unknown regions of the north. Let this be as it may, the prophe­cy I have just quot­ed ‘will fetch them,’ in the last days, and place them in the land which their fathers pos­sessed.” — Joseph Smith, Jr, Teach­ings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 85

The Nephites suf­fered extinc­tion about 400 A.D., but the Laman­ites lived on in their degrad­ed course, and are today extant upon the land as the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.” — Apos­tle James Tal­mage, Jesus the Christ, 23rd ed., p. 49

Not only in the Book of Mor­mon are the descen­dants of Lehi called Jews, but also in the Doc­trine and Covenants. In sec­tion 19, this is found: ‘Which is my word to the Gen­tile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of whom the Laman­ites [Native Amer­i­cans] are a rem­nant, that they may believe the gospel, and, look not for a Mes­si­ah to come who has already come.’ ” — Prophet Joseph Field­ing Smith, Doc­trines of Sal­va­tion, v. 3, p. 264

Laman­ites share a roy­al her­itage. I should like to address my remarks to you, our kins­men of the isles of the sea and the Amer­i­c­as. Mil­lions of you have blood rel­a­tive­ly unmixed with gen­tile nations.” — Prophet Spencer W. Kim­ball, The Teach­ings of Spencer W. Kim­ball, p. 596

So, what does the DNA evi­dence say? DNA evi­dence indi­cates Amer­i­can Amer­i­cans descend­ed from Asia, not Israel as the church teach­es. Asian migrants have pop­u­lat­ed this con­ti­nent for over 50,000 years. The thou­sands of DNA sam­ples from every known tribe of Native Amer­i­cans indi­cate an Asi­at­ic rather than Semit­ic ori­gin and give greater sup­port to the the­o­ry of a pre­his­toric Asi­at­ic migra­tion across the Bear­ing Strait. Here are a few quotes about the DNA evi­dence.

So far, DNA research has lent no sup­port to the tra­di­tion­al Mor­mon beliefs about the ori­gins of Native Amer­i­cans. Instead, genet­ic data have con­firmed that migra­tions from Asia are the pri­ma­ry source of Amer­i­can Indi­an ori­gins… While DNA shows that ulti­mate­ly all human pop­u­la­tions are close­ly relat­ed, to date no inti­mate genet­ic link has been found between ancient Israelites and indige­nous Amer­i­cans, much less with­in the time frame sug­gest­ed in the Book of Mor­mon.” — Thomas Mur­phy, Mor­mon anthro­pol­o­gist, Amer­i­can Apoc­rypha, 2002, p. 47–48

I don’t think there is one iota of evi­dence that sug­gests a lost tribe from Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great sto­ry, slain by ugly fact.” — Michael Craw­ford, anthro­pol­o­gist at Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas.

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: My Search for Truth — Wes Trexler« Book of Mor­mon Issue 4: Lan­guageBook of Mor­mon Issue 6+: Every­thing else »

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