Sunday, September 24, 2006

Nephi's Neighbors?

(Note:  This is a very interesting phenomina going on right now.  While the bulk of the church is completely unaware of this issue, conservative church scholars are busy redefining an assumption that has been solid since the church's foundation.)
Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian
by Matthew Roper
Critics of Book of Mormon historicity frequently rely on a particular
premise to argue their case: Native Americans are all descended
from Lehi and that non-Lehite ancestry is minor if not altogether
non-existent. To prove this point, these critics turn to statements
made by early LDS leaders as well as to specific verses in the
Book of Mormon itself. These same critics also argue that the idea
that the Lehites may have integrated into a pre-existing culture and
that Lehite genetic material may form a minuscule part of modern
day Amerindian genes is a recent invention by LDS apologists.
In his paper, Roper looks at the evidence and arguments used by
advocates of the Lehi-only ancestry theory. He points out that
statements by early leaders do not exclude the possibility of
significant non-Lehite cultures before, during, and after the Book of
Mormon period. Roper also shows how the idea of a limited geography
Book of Mormon and an extra-Lehite cultural environment is not new at
all, but has been suggested from the earliest days of the Church by a
number of LDS individuals and publications.
Roper concludes that although "the assumption that Native Americans
are of exclusively Israelite heritage" such an assumption is neither
canonical nor revelatory, that many Latter-day Saints have held the belief
in extra-Lehite cultures, and that neither the Book of Mormon nor scriptural
revelations prohibit other nations and cultures from existing in the New
World. Instead "they insist upon a place for Israel in the ancestral heritage
of Native Americans, but they do not  insist upon an exclusive one.


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