Thursday, February 16, 2006

DNA and the Book Of Mormon

Today there was a page one article in the Los Angeles Times which attempts to cast doubts on the veracity of the Book of Mormon, based on DNA studies of Native Americans and Polynesians. You can read the Times article which is titled: Bedrock Of A Faith Is Jolted. (Registration required to access the article. You can also read the article here - no registration required.) The article comes across as a "Gotcha" piece. Like we've really got you Mormons between a rock and a hard place now! The author does try to present the church's point of view, and gets quotes from those who defend the church, along with the critics. However the tenor of the article as a whole is that these DNA studies should cause a real crisis of faith among LDS faithful.

The article cites DNA studies that claim Native Americans, from North, South, and Central America are descendents of Asiatic peoples -- consistent with the traditional Alaska land-bridge theory of migration. Some find this troubling, expecting to find some DNA evidence that would link Native Americans to those of Jewish ancestry which would be supportive of the Book of Mormon narrative. Unfortunately, there are those who have left The Church over such studies. And as usual, some of the harshest critics of the church are from apostates. Some apostates have even gone so far as to call upon the church to "apologize" to Native American peoples, and Polynesians for having "lied" to them about their true heritage.

In response to the article, The Church has posted the following on its website:
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is exactly what it claims to be -- a record of God's dealings with peoples of ancient America and a second witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The strongest witness of the Book of Mormon is to be obtained by living the Christ-centered principles contained in its pages and by praying about its truthfulness.

Recent attacks on the veracity of the Book of Mormon based on DNA evidence are ill considered. Nothing in the Book of Mormon precludes migration into the Americas by peoples of Asiatic origin. The scientific issues relating to DNA, however, are numerous and complex. Those interested in a more detailed analysis of those issues are referred to the resources below.
You can read The Church's response, along with links to several papers that defend the Church's position with regard to DNA studies and the Book of Mormon here.

There is an LDS Blogger, Jeff Lindsay, PhD, who frequently discusses historical and physical evidences of the Book of Mormon. His Blog is called Mormanity, in which you will find some interesting reading. He also has a more formal website called LDS FAQ, which answers questions about the LDS Church. If you look at the link above to the Official Church website, you will notice that one of the articles referenced for further information on DNA and the Book of Mormon is by Brother Lindsay. The paper is rather long, but you can read the short summary of the paper here. You can also access the full-length paper from this link as well.

As for me, my testimony of the Book of Mormon is not based on physical evidences, or scientific studies. The Book of Mormon is a spiritual document, and to be understood, it must be understood by spiritual means. I have read the Book of Mormon several times. I have earnestly prayed to know of its truthfulness, and I have received my own witness, many times over, that it is the Word of God. Building the foundation of your testimony of the Book of Mormon by spiritual means is like building upon the Rock of Revelation.

Those who build their testimonies by intellectual means, by physical evidences, or upon scientific studies are building the foundation of their beliefs upon the sand. The next big archeological finding, or scientific study that seems to be in conflict with the Book of Mormon will cause the sands to shift upon which they have built their "intellectual testimony".

In this life, there will always be questions that will have to go unanswered for now. The supposed conflicts between DNA evidence, and the story of the Book of Mormon will one-day be answered. Maybe not in this life, but ultimately the answers will come. It is similar to other questions we have about science and religion, such as: the creation, the dinosaurs, evolution, and geologic time vs. biblical time. We know that one-day, after the Second Coming, all the books will be opened, and everything about the earth and its inhabitants will be revealed from the creation on through to the end of the earth.

Our belief in the Book of Mormon is meant to be a matter of faith. ". . .For ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6) From time to time our faith might be tried and tested. That's part of what we agreed to when entering mortality. The Book of Mormon was never intended to be a history book. It was never intended to be a mere archeological relic. That's one reason why we don't have the Gold Plates displayed in a museum today.

The Book of Mormon has always been intended first and foremost to be a witness of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It carries with it the fullness of His Gospel. It is intended to persuade all men to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and invites them to come and follow him. No scientific study will ever change the true purpose and meaning of the Book of Mormon. In the due time of the Lord, any seeming conflicts will be resolved, and those who have been deceitful and made false allegations will be revealed for who and what they are as well.

14 comments:

Woody said...

Mayhap there was a reason Pres. Hinckley asked us to read the book before the end of last year, hm? Sneaky old guy...

Tigersue said...

Good comment Woody!
My understanding too, of the DNA sampling was that it only sampled a very, very, small population. Hardly enough to be conclusive about anything. You are completely right that this is a spiritual book, to be read and prayed about to understand the truthfulness of it. I love Br. Lindsay. I find him to be very articulate with out being rude or harsh, and tries to speak with a voice of reason, calmness, with out any rashness, and unafraid to defend his faith.

SalGal said...

I have to confess that there are times when I wonder (privately, of course) if all of this is true. When it comes down to it, I just can't believe what the others preach and so I'm left with what I've had all along and there's nothing anyone can say or do to destroy that. Even if when we die it turns out we were wrong, I don't think there was a better way to go than with what we (the LDS) have got. That sure makes me sound like a waffler, doesn't it?

posted by said...

Salgal, you are not allowed to wonder even privately, you might get into trouble with the greater powers, you know those higher powers that visit wards each month pretending to give talks but are really compiling a list of those weaklins that struggle with FAITH, opps sorry david this is not my blog , hmm yes dna and the mormon church well hmm could not give a hutt about it, but the thought crosses my mind why this blog entry as its been doing the rounds for maybe two years

Woody said...

Huh? Higher powers? You can't possibly mean the High Council. Their predominant power seems to be putting innocent people to sleep early on a Sunday morning. I haven't seen one yet who was organized enough to remember a Bishop's name let alone compile a list of anything besides stale jokes with which to begin their talks.

Not that I'm bitter.

You are quite right about the DNA argument being old... quite older than two years, I might add. It's one of those things that gets dusted off every few years so that some journalist can write a pithy piece, as Mr. Lebdoff did just a few days ago. Which is why the matter comes up again.

Me? I'm going back to bed. 'Night.

SalGal said...

Within Mormonism > Huh???

Alpha Male said...

DNA and book of morman only proves somebody read it or wrote it right???

Lisa M. said...

Great post!

I read the article and just sat there shaking my head.

Good heavens.

David B. said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by, and for all your comments. Its nice to see a real-live discussion thread here at The Whole Note.

Salgal: There was a time when I felt like you do now. I wasn't sure of what comes next after this life, but I came to the realization that a life lived within gospel standars is a life well-lived. It made the most sense to me. I knew that I could live my life as a Latter-day Saint, and have no regrets in the end.

Eventually, I was able to gain a stronger testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, and of the restoration. Stay with it. Keep studying and praying, and living the best you can. As you do this, your testimony will grow, and you can have the greater assurance that you desire.

Uh, Woody: Got any stale jokes you can send my way? ;)

Thanks again for all your comments. I hope you all have a wonderful week.

posted by said...

Woddy good to see your not bitter

Woody said...

Not bitter, just better.

David, so happens we just had Ward Conference, and a member of our Stake Presidency told one about an exercise plan that he said originated in Idaho (his wife is from Idaho).

The plan is to stand in the middle of your floor so as to have maximum arm room. Start by taking two five pound potato sacks and holding them straight out as if you were doing the Iron Cross in gymnastics. Do that for a solid half hour every day for a week. Next do the same thing with two ten pound potato sacks, then a week later graduate to two twenty five pound potato sacks. In the last week you should be up to two fifty pound sacks. (I should note here that most Californians have never even seen a fifty pound sack of potatoes.)

The next week you should then put one potato in each sack.

You can worm that into your next talk any ol' which way you please.

Jettboy said...

Lest we forget, the Bible has its own problems equally demanding of Faith. I only mention this because those who are using this issue the most to question the LDS Church are the ones who can afford such kinds of criticism the least. Then again, the hypocracy of Christian evangilicals has been known for years.

Another irony is for the more secular critics. As usual they will trump their own horns as if "once the intellectuals have spoken, the thinking has been done." The viewpoints of the faithful, regardless of the degrees and research they have, becomes simply "pandering" or a silly label of "apologitics" as if doubt and secularism is the default truth. Secularism has its own One and Only True Viewpoint beliefs.

David B. said...

Excellent comments Jetboy. Thanks for stopping by!

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