By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News
Published: Oct. 23, 2007
Brant Gardner, a software consultant with training in Mesoamerican
studies and anthropology, told about 200 people gathered at the Red
Lion Hotel that a lack of DNA evidence showing American Indians are of
Hebrew descent is "the most important non-issue we have in modern
Claims in recent years by LDS anthropologist Thomas Murphy and former
LDS molecular biologist Simon Southerton regarding the lack of genetic
connection to Hebrew blood have caused spirited debate in some
quarters about the origin of the Book of Mormon...
Southerton, a former bishop, was excommunicated from the church after
his writings appeared. Murphy was threatened with church discipline
over his writings.
He said neither Murphy nor Southerton understood that LDS scientists
have known "for 50 years" about DNA evidence linking American Indians
to Asian ancestry rather than Hebrew blood. "For some reason, these
two men think this shocked us. It's been something we've been dealing
with for a very, very long time."
Publicity surrounding the writings of the two scientists has created
doubt for some Latter-day Saints, Gardner said. "Some people I've
talked to are ready to leave the church over this."
Because most genetic mapping is done through mitochondrial DNA, which
tracks only the female line, Gardner said the category of people
excluded from being linked to a living person by genetic testing going
back several generations is huge. "Most tests trace only a few of a
person's ancestors and a small portion of their DNA."
He also referred to what is known to researchers as a "genetic
bottleneck," where "only a few people survive" some major cataclysmic
event "and we end up with only the DNA of the survivors and not the
rest of the population. It's entirely possible other people were here
that had different DNA, and we can't find it because they never made
it through the 'bottleneck event."'
DNA tests also may report false positives or false negatives, he
said, and there are many historical scenarios where physical evidence
of things that are known to have occurred doesn't match what
researchers expected to find using DNA evidence.
Latter-day Saint scientists never have disputed the movement of large
groups of people from Asia to the Americas, he said, though many LDS
members have grown up believing that the only people who ever migrated
to the Americas descended from Lehi's family in the Book of Mormon.
"We're often trying to compare our traditions versus science, but
what does the Book of Mormon actually say? ... No matter how many
opinions someone might have about the Book of Mormon, if the opinion
is wrong, it's the opinion that's wrong and not the book," Gardner
"What we know today about the Book of Mormon is more right than what
we knew 10 years ago, and what we knew 10 years ago had some
misconceptions. Our opinions will continue to change in the future,
but that doesn't change the truthfulness of the book."