Over the past several years there has been a lot of debate over DNA and the Book of Mormon. Anti-Mormon groups claim that a lack of DNA evidence connecting the people of South and Central America to the Middle East is proof that the Book of Mormon is not a true record of Jewish people in the new world.
There are two major problems with this DNA argument. First, it assumes that Mesoamerica is the land of the Book of Mormon. Second, it assumes that DNA studies done 15 years ago or longer are the final word on Native American ancestry.
When the Winter Olympic games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley was asked by a reporter if he had a comment about the DNA Book of Mormon question. He simply responded that all the information wasn’t in yet.
Eleven years later, in 2013, National Geographic Magazine published an article titled “Great Surprise” – Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins.
In his article, reporter Brian Handwerk reported: “Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.”
Before this new DNA evidence, the prevailing theory proposed that Native American ancestors came to North America from Asia across the Bering Strait some 16,000 years ago. That theory may very well hold water, but it doesn’t mean that crossing the Bering Strait was the only way people came to North America. We sometimes jump to false conclusions or make erroneous assumptions because we see known facts as the only facts. We sometimes assume that if we have this, then we cannot have that. If it is a fact that today’s Native Americans have ancestors that came from Asia, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have ancestors and DNA from another area as well. According to the genome study’s co-author Eske Willerslev, “This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians.” (Great Surprise – Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins, Brian Handwerk, National Geographic Magazine, November 22, 2013)
We know that Native Americans have a DNA connection to East Asia, but a nagging question has always been there. Why don’t contemporary Asian populations closely resemble Native Americans? Professor Willersley’s response to this question is: “It’s not like you can say that they [Native Americans] are really closely related to Japanese, Chinese, or Koreans, so there seems to be something missing. But this result makes a lot of sense regarding why they don’t fit so well genetically with contemporary East Asians—because one-third of their genome is derived from another population. Maybe, if he looks like something else, it’s because a third of his ancestry isn’t coming from East Asia but from something like the western Eurasians.”
Some scholars who want to hold onto the Bering Strait theory as the only answer for Native American ancestors arriving in North America are proposing that the Middle Eastern DNA was mixed with Asian DNA while still in the old world. While that is a reasonable hypothesis, the Book of Mormon presents another possibility.
The Book of Mormon tells of three groups of people who came to the Promised Land from West Eurasia.
- The Jaredites left Babel (modern day Iraq) sometime around 2,200 BC.
- The people of Zarahemla, commonly called the Mulekites, came out of Israel sometime around 700 – 600 BC.
- Lehi, father of the Nephites and the Lamamnites, left Jerusalem with his people in 600 BC.
When we combine Book of Mormon history with evidence of Jewish rituals and Hebrew artifacts found in North America, the Book of Mormon can answer the question of where this newly discovered DNA connection came from.
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DNA Strand – pond5.com, cherezoff
Sketch of effigy pipes – Squier and Davis
Hollowhorn Bear – by Edward Curtis, 1907
Bering Strait map – J. Bayly, 1784
Indian Head Nickel – Wikimedia commons, Bobby131313