DNA Links Between the Americas and the Middle East: Lessons from a "Great Surprise" in Science
by Jeff Lindsay
webpage on the turbulent topic of DNA and the Book of Mormon,
I have mentioned how bad science or science improperly understood can
lead to tragically incorrect conclusions. Although some critics have
felt that DNA evidence settles the debate and clearly rules out the
Book of Mormon, science does no such thing, though it certainly has
challenged some improper readings and lazy assumptions Latter-day
Saints have made.
reality is that the origins of the Americas are more complicated than
either our critics or early Latter-day Saints may have realized, and
there is room for numerous intriguing stories among the many peoples
who have moved across North and South America over the centuries,
with still plenty of room left for the Book of Mormon.
Latter-day Saint may have gotten overly excited about the new
findings behind this story, but it is still worth considering. The
leading paragraph certainly seems like the kind of thing that would
excite Book of Mormon fans:
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.
intriguing. Read the report, and then realize that while there may be
a significant chunk of Western Eurasian / Middle Eastern DNA among
modern Native Americans, the genetic ties may be too ancient to be of
direct value in Book of Mormon studies. Yet the study does remind us
of several important things:
have not yet figured out the origins of all Native Americans based
on DNA and other evidence.
DNA to trace the origins of people is complex and tentative.
the Book of Mormon due to the alleged lack of Middle Eastern DNA in
the Americans may be a bit premature.
science does not rule out the possibility of ancient migrations of
small groups from Western Eurasia or the Middle East to the New
is forever tentative, with many surprises yet to come. This "great
surprise" should at least open up some interesting new topics
for debate and further discovery regarding the complex genetic roots
of Native Americans.
attempting to interpret DNA evidence in terms of Book of Mormon
issues, it is important to understand that the Book of Mormon does
not claim to describe the origins of all Native Americans, nor does
it require that the continent was uninhabited before the Jaredites or
Lehi’s group arrived.
certainly does not require that the DNA from a tiny boatload of
people arriving in 600 B.C. should be easily detectable today when 1)
there may have already been millions of others in the New World who
would continue to dominate the hemispheric gene pool, and 2) we
really don’t know what the DNA of Lehi and his group was like,
so even if we encountered its traces today in the Americas we might
not recognize it or might mistake it as the result of recent
admixture with Europeans.
if genes from Western Eurasian Jaredites and perhaps some later genes
from Western Eurasian Lehites are part of the “Nearly one-third
of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the
Middle East and Europe,” that would be an intriguing and
welcome surprise indeed.
is certainly a topic for further study, and we eagerly await further
research to more clearly elucidate the nature of these ancient links
between the New World and the Old.
if the seemingly powerful and sometimes deliberately deceptive
DNA-based attacks on the Book of Mormon once shattered your faith, I
hope these new findings will open the possibility that there may be
more to the story than your realized.
fact, I hope you’ll give the Book of Mormon another chance.
faith, patience, and properly managed expectations, you can be an
intelligent Latter-day Saint experiencing the lasting joy that the
Gospel brings and finding great value in the Book of Mormon, an
authentic ancient document written for our day.
Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his
LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on
the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton,
Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra.
He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.
He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent
Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.
Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering
Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US
patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications.
Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.