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Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief

John E. Clark
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 3849, 7174.
1065-9366 (print), 2168-3158 (online)
Archaeology has much to ofer as a scientifc means
of gathering independent evidence of the Book of
Mormons authenticity. But one must look in the right
place. A cautionary tale is the failed Cluf expedition of
1900, which, assuming a hemispheric model of Book
of Mormon geography, traveled from Provo as far as
Colombia looking for the city Zarahemla. Yet in 1842 the
Times and Seasons (under Joseph Smiths editorship) had
printed excerpts from a popular book on Mesoamerican
archaeology that demonstrated a surprisingly high
level of civilization, implying that Nephite lands did not
extend into South America, thus supporting the theory
of a limited geographic model. Both sides believe that
archaeology is on their side. Book of Mormon critics
also claim that archaeology is on their side, but decades
of archaeological investigation in Mesoamerica and
in the Old World has shown a pattern of increasing
convergence that favors Book of Mormon authentic-
ity. Evidences discussed include, among others, metal
records in stone boxes, ancient writing, warfare, the
tree of life and other metaphors, Old and New World
geography, and cycles of civilization. In a sidebar article,
the fndings of an amateur archaeologist challenge a
popular assumption that the hill was the scene of the fnal
battles depicted in the Book of Mormon.
Title
Author(s)
Reference
ISSN
Abstract
Te wee hours of 22 September 1827 found
Joseph Smith climbing the western slope of a promi-
nent hill near his home to keep his annual appoint-
ment with the angel Moroni.1 Afer four years
of probation, the 21-year-old prophet was fnally
entrusted with the golden plates and the sacred
stones needed to translate them. Te consequences
of this event have been earthshaking. Te Book of
Mormon, translated from this ancient record, is now
available in 105 languages, and close to 130 million
copies have been printed.2
Te Book of Mormon challenges the world to
take it seriously as an account of Gods dealings
with ancient New World peoples. Nothing less than
salvation is at stake. Te world has not taken this
challenge lying down; it pushes back by denying the
books miraculous delivery and authenticity. While
billions of people in fact remain indiferent to the
book, as they do to the Bible, a vociferous cadre of
critics clamor that the Book of Mormon is a fabrica-
tion, an ignorable fction, but one they cant seem to
leave alone.3
relics,
and book of mormon belief
38 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
by john e. clark
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 39
Since 1829 critics have
attempted to discredit the
Book of Mormon by claiming
that it was written by Joseph
Smithnot translatedand
that its history has no ground-
ing in the real world. Tey
believe they are winning the
day, but 175 years of false-
hoods and weak arguments
has not scratched the books
credibility. Because of what
is at stake, let us agree that
charges against the book are
serious and require response.
Te critical question concerns
Book of Mormon authorship.
Did Joseph Smith Jr. write
the book, or was it revealed
through divine means? Tis
is where archaeology steps in
as the only scientifc means
of gathering independent
evidence of authenticity, and
hence authorship. Te Book of Mormon is unique
in world scripture because its claimed divine origins
can be evaluated by checking for concrete evidence
in the real world. Prove the existence of Zarahemla,
for example, and the validity of the rest follows. Te
logic is simple and compelling for both sides.4
Let us consider the anti-Mormon position frst.
If Joseph Smith made the book up, then its peoples
did not exist, its events did not happen, and there
should be no trace of them anywhere. If, afer a
reasonable period of diligent searching, material
evidence is not found, then the Book of Mormon
would be shown to be imaginary, and by implica-
tion Joseph Smith would be exposed as a liar and
the church he founded unveiled as a hoax.
Te Latter-day Saint position is the near oppo-
site. Confrmation of historic details of the Book of
Mormon would substantiate Joseph Smiths account
of how it came to be and thus validate his seership
and the divine origin of both the book and Te
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tis
brings us to the astonishing possibility of being able
to test Joseph Smiths claims through science, a pos-
sibility that critics have long tried to exploit. Te
Book of Mormon is the keystone of Mormonism;
destroy this stone and all that it supports will come
crashing down. Given the
stakes involved, the very pos-
sibility of testing the books
historicity and authenticity
becomes a moral obligation to
do so.
Space precludes a review
of full Latter-day Saint
involvement with these issues;
one example will have to do.
Lets revisit Provos Academy
Square the morning of 17
April 1900. Te assembled
student body of Brigham
Young Academy bade farewell
to their president, 15 fellow
students, and others as they
rode of for South America.
Academy president Benjamin
Cluf Jr. hoped to discover
the ancient Nephite capital
of Zarahemla . . . [and] in
this way . . . to establish the
authenticity of the Book of
Mormon.5 Te expedition began with the bless-
ing of the Church but not its fnancial backing, and
its blessing was withdrawn before the group even
made it out of the United States. Of the original
24 men, 9 crossed into Mexico and 6 made it to
Colombia. Afer the group had boated 630 miles
up the Magdalena River, a point that was 632 days
journey from Academy Square, Colombian ofcials
halted the anxious explorers progress just days
short of their destination.6 Cluf and his students
Opposite page: The Maya site of Becn, in
Campeche, Mexico. Photo courtesy of John E.
Clark. Background: Maya monument sketch by
Frederick Catherwood.
Clockwise from top: Moroni Delivering the Golden
Plates, by Gary Kapp; portrait of Benjamin Cluff
Jr.; embarkation of Cluff expedition.
40 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
never reached Zara-
hemla. Latter-day
Saint scholars and
tourists have been
trying to get there
ever since, but it is
not clear where they
should look, how
they should look, or
how they will know
Zarahemla when
they fnd it.
Cluf returned
to become the
frst president of
Brigham Young
University (the new name of the academy).7 His pro-
posal for the location of Zarahemla was apparently
a popular one among Mormons at the time. He pre-
sumed that Book of Mormon lands included both
North and South America, a theory known as the
hemispheric model.8 Tat it took nearly two years to
meander to Colombia should have given him pause.
Te longest trip specifed in the Book of Mormon
took 40 days, and that group was lost and on foot
(see Mosiah 7:4).9
An argument against the hemispheric model
was provided by Joseph Smith. Te year 1842 in
Nauvoo had been
hectic as the Prophet
moved the work along
on the Book of Abra-
ham and the temple,
all the while dodging
false arrest. He even
assumed editorial
responsibility for the
Times and Seasons, the
Nauvoo newspaper.10
Months earlier he received a copy of the recent best-
seller by John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel
in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, the frst
popular English book to describe and illustrate
Maya ruins.11
Tis book amazed the English-speaking world
with evidence of an advanced civilization that
no one imagined existedno one, that is, except
Latter-day Saints. Te Prophet was thrilled, and
excerpts from the book were reprinted in the Times
and Seasons with unsigned commentary, presum-
ably his. What Joseph recorded is signifcant for the
issues at hand:
Since our Extract [from Stephenss book] was
published . . . we have found another impor-
tant fact relating to the truth of the Book of
Mormon. Central America . . . is situated north
of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced
several hundred miles of territory from north
to south. The city of Zarahemla . . . stood upon
this land. . . . It will not be a bad plan to com-
pare Mr. Stephens ruined cities with those in
the Book of Mormon.12
The ill-fated Cluff expedi-
tion began in Provo, Utah,
and ended prematurely in
Colombia.
In the 1840s Stephenss
book (cover from 1969
edition by Dover) provided
compelling evidence for the
Book of Mormon. Far right:
Map from the book.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 41
As is evident in his
comments, Joseph Smith
believed Maya archae-
ology vindicated the
Book of Mormon. His
placement of Zarahemla
in eastern Guatemala
implied that the Land
Southward described in
the Book of Mormon
was north of Darien, as
Panama was then called;
thus his commentary pre-
supposed a smallish geog-
raphy that excluded South
America. Te Prophet
regarded the location of
Book of Mormon lands
as an open question, and
one subject to archaeo-
logical confrmation. In
the past 50 years, friends
and foes have adopted
Josephs plan of com-
paring ruined cities with
those in the Book of Mor-
mon. Both sides believe
archaeology is on their
side.
Archaeology and Book
of Mormon Arguments
Consider the argu-
ment against the Book
of Mormon circulated
recently by an evangelical
group in a pamphlet:
The Bible . . . is sup-
ported in its truth
claims by the cor-
roborating evidence
of geography and
The Stephens book created a stir
in Nauvoo, prompting this editorial
coverage in Times and Seasons.
42 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
archaeology. That assertion cannot be said for
The Book of Mormon. Several decades of archae-
ological research, funded by LDS institutions,
concentrating in Central America and Mexico,
have yielded nothing that corroborates the his-
toric events described in The Book of Mormon.13
Te only things wrong with this clever argu-
ment are that its claims are false and its logic faulty.
Archaeology and geography support the Book of
Mormon to the same degree, and for the same
reasons, that they support the Bible.14 Both books
present the same challenges for empirical confrma-
tion, and both are in good shape. Many things have
been verifed for each, but many have not. Critical
arguments specialize in listing things mentioned
in the Book of Mormon that archaeology has not
found. Rather than cry over missing evidence, I
consider evidence that has been found.
Te pamphlet lists eight defciencies: frst, that
no Book of Mormon cities have been located, and
last, that no artifact of any kind that demonstrates
Te Book of Mormon is true has been found.15 Tis
last assertion is overly optimistic in suggesting that
such material proof is even possible.
No artifact imaginable, or even a roomful,
could ever convince dedicated critics that the Book
of Mormon is true. Te implied claim that the right
relic could prove the books truth beyond all doubt
is too strong and underestimates human cussed-
ness. Moroni could appear tomorrow with the
golden plates, the sword of Laban, and the Liahona
in hand and this would not satisfy public demands
for more proofs.16
Te logical challenges with the frst assertion,
that no cities have been located, are more subtle.
Book of Mormon cities have been found, they are
well known, and their artifacts grace the fnest
museums. Tey are merely masked by archaeologi-
cal labels such as Maya, Olmec, and so on. Te
problem, then, is not that Book of Mormon artifacts
have not been found, only that they have not been
recognized for what they are. Again, if we stumbled
Cumorahs Cave, by Robert T. Barrett. Early accounts relate that
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery returned the Book of Mormon
plates to a cave filled with such records. Preserving records on metal
plates is an attested Old World practice that supports the Book of
Mormons authenticity.
Above: How They Till the Soil and Plant, copper plate engraving by
Theodore De Bry (152898). Below: The Towne of Pomeiock, by
John White (155093). Nineteenth-century Americans familiar with
Native American lifeways as depicted in these two illustrations could
no longer dismiss the Book of Mormons claim of city-level societies
once the advanced civilizations in Central America came to light.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 43
onto Zarahemla, how would we know? Te difculty
is not with evidence but with epistemology.
One last point about signifcant evidence. Te
hypothesis of Joseph Smiths authorship of the Book
of Mormon demands that truth claims in the book
be judged by what was believed, known, or know-
able in Josephs backyard in the 1820s. Te books
description of ancient peoples difers greatly from
the notions of rude savages held by 19th-century
Americans.17 Te books claim of city societies was
laughable at the time, but no one is laughing now.
As the city example shows, the lower the proba-
bility that Joseph Smith could have guessed a future
fact, the stronger the likelihood he received the
information from a divine source. Consequently, the
most compelling evidence for authenticity is that
which verifes unguessable things recorded in the
Book of Mormon, the more outlandish the better.18
Confrmation of such items would eliminate any
residual probability of human authorship and go a
long way in demonstrating that Joseph could not
have written the book. Tis is precisely what a cen-
tury of archaeology has done.
I consider only a few items. Te one require-
ment for making comparisons between archaeology
and the Book of Mormon is to be in the right place.
For reasons I will explore below, Mesoamerica is the
right place.
1. Metal Records in Stone Boxes
Te frst archaeological claims related to the
Book of Mormon concern the purported facts of
22 September 1827: the actuality of metal plates
preserved in a stone box. Tis used to be considered
a monstrous tale, but concealing metal records in
stone boxes is now a documented Old World prac-
tice.19 Stone ofering boxes have also been discov-
ered in Mesoamerica,20 but so far the golden plates
are still at largeas we would expect them to be.
2. Ancient Writing
Another fact obvious that September morn-
ing was that ancient peoples of the Americas knew
how to write, a ludicrous claim for anyone to make
in 1827. We now know of at least six Mesoameri-
can writing systems that predate the Christian
era.21 Tis should count for something, but it is not
enough for dedicated skeptics. Tey demand to see
reformed Egyptian, preferably on gold pages, and
to fnd traces of the Hebrew language. Tere are
promising leads on both, but nothing conclusive
Altar from Copan, sketched on the spot by Frederick Catherwood for
Stephenss book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and
Yucatan (1841).
The impression made by a roller seal from ancient Mesoamerica (see
photo on next page) displays a sophisticated writing system. Photo
courtesy of John L. Sorenson.
44 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
yet.22 New scripts are still
being discovered, and many
texts remain undeciphered.
One example was recovered
56 years ago and qualifes as
Americas earliest writing sam-
ple, but so far nothing much
has been made of it, and most
scholars have forgotten it exists.23
3. The Arts of War
Te golden plates and other relics ended up in
New York in the fnal instance because the Nephites
were exterminated in a cataclysmic battle. Te Book
of Mormon brims with warfare and nasty people.
Until 20 years ago the books claims on this matter
were pooh-poohed by famous scholars. Now that
Maya writing can be read, warfare appears to have
been a Mesoamerican pastime.24
Te information on warfare in the Book of
Mormon is particularly rich
and provides ample opportu-
nity to check Joseph Smiths
luck in getting the details
right. Te warfare described
in the book difers from what
Joseph could have known or
imagined. In the book, one reads of fortifed cities
with trenches, walls, and palisades. Mesoamerican
cities dating to Nephite times have been found with
all these features.25
Te Book of Mormon mentions bows and
arrows, swords, slings, scimitars, clubs, spears,
shields, breastplates, helmets, and cotton armorall
items documented for Mesoamerica. Aztec swords
were of wood, sometimes edged with stone knives.26
Tere are indications of wooden swords in the Book
of Mormonhow else could swords become stained
with blood?27 Wooden swords edged with sharp
stones could sever heads and limbs and were lethal.
Te practice of taking detached arms as battle
trophies, as in the story of Ammon, is also docu-
mented for Mesoamerica.28
Another precise correspondence is the practice
of feeing to the summits of pyramids as places of
last defense and, consequently, of eventual surren-
der. Conquered cities were depicted in Mesoamerica
by symbols for broken towers or burning pyramids.
Mormon records this practice.29 Other practices of
his day were human sacrifce and cannibalism, vile
behaviors well attested for Mesoamerica (see Mor-
mon 4:14; Moroni 9:8, 10).
Te fnal battle at Cumorah involved staggering
numbers of troops, including Nephite battle units
of 10,000. Aztec documents describe armies of over
200,000 warriors divided into major divisions of
8,000 warriors plus 4,000 retainers each. One battle
involved 700,000 warriors on one side.30 Te Aztec
ciphers appear to be propagandistic exaggeration; I
do not know whether this applies to Book of Mor-
mon numbers or not.
In summary, the practices and instruments
of war described in the Book of Mormon display
This roller seal was found at the
site of Tlatilco, just west of Mexico
City. The writing appears to date
between 400 and 700 BC.
Clockwise from below: The Maya
site of Becn, in Campeche, Mexico;
artists rendering of Becn, which
dates to Nephite times; drawing of
dry moat and fortified wall based on
excavations at Becn.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 45
multiple and precise correspondences with Meso-
american practices, and in ways unimaginable to
19th-century Yankees.
4. Cities, Temples, Towers, and Palaces
Mesoamerica is a land of decomposing cities.
Teir pyramids (towers), temples, and palaces are
all items mentioned in the Book of Mormon but
foreign to the gossip along the Erie Canal in Joseph
Smiths day. Cities show up in all the right places
and date to time periods compatible with Book of
Mormon chronology.31
5. Cement Houses and Cities
One of the more unusual and specifc claims
in the Book of Mormon is that houses and cities of
cement were built by 49 c in the Land Northward, a
claim considered ridiculous in 1830. As it turns out,
this claim receives remarkable confrmation at Teo-
tihuacan, the largest pre-Columbian city ever built
in the Americas. Teotihuacan is still covered with
ancient cement that has lasted over 1,500 years.32
6. Kings and Their Monuments
All Book of Mormon peoples had kings who
ruled cities and territories. American prejudices
against native tribes in Josephs day had no room
for kings or their tyrannies. Te last Jaredite king,
Coriantumr, carved his history on a stone about 400
c, an event in line with Mesoamerican practices at
that time. A particular gem in the book is that King
Benjamin labored with his own hands (Mosiah
2:14), an outrageous thing for Joseph Smith to have
claimed for a king. It was not until the 1960s that
anthropology caught up to the idea of working
kings and validated it among world cultures.33
View of Teotihuacans Sun Pyramid from the pyramid of
Quetzalcoatl. Photo courtesy of Val Brinkerhoff.
Above: Hieroglyphic text from La Mojarra Stela 1 describing a
rulers accession to power. Left: Carved throne from the Olmec
site of La Venta.
46 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
More specifcally, we consider Riplakish, the
10th Jaredite king, an oppressive tyrant who forced
slaves to construct buildings and produce fancy
goods. Among the items he commissioned about
1200 c was an exceedingly beautiful throne
(Ether 10:6). Te earliest civilization in Mesoamer-
ica is known for its elaborate stone thrones.34 How
did Joseph Smith get this detail right?
7. Metaphors and the Mesoamerican World
Not all evidence for the authenticity of the
Book of Mormon concerns material goods. A strik-
ing correspondence is a drawing from the Dresden
Codex, one of four surviving pre-Columbian Maya
books. It shows a sacrifcial victim with a tree grow-
ing from his heart, a literal portrayal of the meta-
phor preached in Alma, chapter 32. Other Meso-
american images depict the tree of life. Te Book of
Mormons metaphors make sense in the Mesoameri-
can world. We are just beginning to study these
metaphors, so check the Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies for future developments.
8. Timekeeping and Prophesying
A correspondence that has always impressed me
involves prophecies in 400-year blocks. Te Maya
were obsessed with time, and they carved precise
dates on their stone monuments that began with the
count of 400 years, an interval called a baktun. Each
Hieroglyphic writing graces the pages of the Dresden Codex, a Maya
book from the Yucatn Peninsula dating to AD 12001250. The
highlighted image shows a tree growing out of the heart of a sacrifi-
cial victim (note the trees entwined roots at the bottom).
Right: Re-created mural from Oxtotitlan Cave, in Guerrero, Mexico,
depicts an Olmec ruler dressed in a bird costume and seated on a
throne. Courtesy of John E. Clark.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 47
baktun was made up of 20 katuns, an extremely
important 20-year interval.35 If you permit me some
liberties with the text, Samuel the Lamanite warned
the Nephites that one baktun shall not pass away
before . . . they [would] be smitten (Helaman 13:9).
Nephi and Alma uttered the same baktun prophecy,
and Moroni recorded its fulfllment. Moroni bids us
farewell just afer the frst katun of this fnal baktun,
or 420 years since the sign was given of the com-
ing of Christ (Moroni 10:1).36 What are the chances
of Joseph Smith guessing correctly the vigesimal
system of timekeeping and prophesying among
the Maya and their neighbors over 50 years before
scholars stumbled onto it?
Te list of unusual items corresponding to Book
of Mormon claims could be extended. Te Latter-
day Saint tendency to get absorbed in specifcs has
been characterized as a method for distracting
attention from large problems by engaging critics
with endless, irrelevant details,37 much as a mos-
quito swarm distracts from the rhinoceros in the
kitchen. Lets take up the dare to consider big issues,
namely, geography and cycles of civilization and
population.
9. Old World Geography
As is clear from the Cluf expedition, if the
geography is not right, one can waste years search-
ing for Zarahemla and never reach it. Book of Mor-
mon geography presents a serious challenge because
the only city location known with certitude is Old
World Jerusalem, and this does not help us with
locations in the promised land. However, geographi-
cal correspondences are marvelous for the Old
World portion of the narrative. As S. Kent Brown
and others have shown, the geography of the Ara-
bian Peninsula described in 1 Nephi is precise down
to its place-names. Te remarkable geographic ft
includes numerous details unknown in Joseph
Smiths day.38
10. New World Geography
For the New World, dealing with geography is a
two-step exercise. First an internal geography must
be deduced from clues in the book, and this deduc-
tion must then become the standard for engaging
the second step, matching the internal geography
with a real-world setting. John Sorenson has done
the best work on this matter.39 Te Book of Mor-
mon account is remarkably consistent throughout.
Nephite lands included a narrow neck between two
seas and lands northward and southward of this
neck. Te Land Southward could be traversed on
foot, with children and animals in tow, in about 30
days, so it could not have been much longer than
300 miles. Te 3,000 miles required for the two-
hemisphere geography is of by one order of magni-
tude. Nephite lands were small and did not include
all of the Americas or all of their peoples. Te prin-
cipal corollary of a limited geography is that Book
of Mormon peoples were not alone on the conti-
nent. Terefore, to check for correspondences, one
must fnd the right place and peoples. It is worth
noticing that anti-Mormons lament the demise of
Map of Book of Mormon lands based soley on internal evidence
from the text itself.
48 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
the traditional continental correlation because it
was so easy to ridicule. Te limited, scriptural geog-
raphy is giving them fts.
Sorenson argues that Book of Mormon lands
and peoples were in Central America and southern
Mexico, an area known as Mesoamerica. We notice
that the confguration of lands, seas, mountains,
and other natural features in Mesoamerica are a
tight ft with the internal requirements of the text. It
is important to stress that fnding any sector in the
Americas that fts Book of Mormon specifcations
requires dealing with hundreds of mutually depen-
dent variables. So rather than counting a credible
geography as one correspondence, it actually counts
for several hundred. Te probability of guessing
reams of details all correctly is zero. Joseph Smith
did not know about Central America before reading
Stephenss Incidents of Travel in Central America,
Chiapas, and Yucatan, and he apparently did not
know where Book of Mormon lands were, so a Book
of Mormon geography correlation becomes compel-
ling evidence that he did not write the book.
11. Cycles of Civilization in Mesoamerica
I mentioned that the Book of Mormons claim
of civilized peoples was verifed in Josephs lifetime.
Tis claim is actually twofold because the book
describes an earlier Jaredite civilization that over-
lapped a few centuries with Lehite civilization. Te
dates for the Nephite half of Lehite civilization are
clearly bracketed in the account to 587 years before
Christ to 386 years afer. But those for the earlier
civilization remain cloudy, beginning sometime
afer the Tower of Babel and ending before King
Mosiah fed to Zarahemla. Jaredites were probably
tilling American soil in the Land Northward at least
by 2200 c, and they may have endured their own
wickedness until 400 c.
Te two-civilizations requirement used to be a
problem for the Book of Mormon, but it no longer
is now that modern archaeology is catching up. I
emphasize that I am interpreting civilization in
the strict sense as meaning city life. In check-
ing correlations between the Book of Mormon and
Mesoamerican archaeology, I focus on the rise and
decline of cities. Te earliest known Olmec city was
up and running by 1300 c, and it was preceded by
a large community dating back to 1700 c.40 Most
Olmec cities were abandoned about 400 c, prob-
ably under duress.41 In eastern Mesoamerica, Olmec
civilization was replaced by the lowland Maya, who
began building cities in the jungles of Guatemala
about 500 to 400 c. As with Olmec civilization,
Maya civilization experienced peaks and troughs of
development, with a mini-collapse about ad 200.42
In short, the correspondences between the Book of
Mormon and cycles of Mesoamerican civilization
are striking.
12. Mesoamerican Demographic History
Reconstructing ancient demography requires
detailed information on site sizes, locations, dates,
and frequencies. It will take another 50 years of
active research to compile enough information to
reconstruct Mesoamericas complete demographic
history. Te Nephite and Lamanite stories are too
complicated to review here; I will just consider the
Jaredite period. To begin, the earliest developments
of Jaredites and Olmecs are hazy, but from about
1500 c onward their histories are remarkably par-
allel. Te alternations between city building and
population declines, described for the Jaredites,
correspond quite well with lowland Olmec develop-
ments. Olmec cities were abandoned by 400 c,43
and the culture disappearedjust as the Book of
Mormon describes for the Jaredites (see Ether 13
15). Tis is a phenomenal correlation. Much more
research in southern Mexico is needed to check the
lands that Sorenson identifes as Nephite. Te little
I know of the region looks promising for future
confrmations.
Possible correspondences between the histories of Book of Mormon
peoples and the histories of Mesoamerican peoples.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 49
Before leaving this issue, it is important to make
one observation on a global question that troubles
some Latter-day Saints. Could millions of people
have lived in the area proposed as Book of Mormon
lands? Yes, and they did. Mesoamerica is the only
area in the Americas that sustained the high popu-
lation densities mentioned in the Book of Mormon,
and for the times specifed.
A Trend of Convergence
To this point, I have shown that the content of
the Book of Mormon fts comfortably with Meso-
american prehistory, both in general patterns and in
some extraordinary details. Many things mentioned
in the book still have not been verifed archaeologi-
cally, but this was true just a few years ago for some
items just reviewed. Te trend over the last 50 years
is one of convergence between the Book of Mormon
and Mesoamerican archaeology. Book of Mormon
claims remain unaltered since 1830, so all the
accommodation has been on the archaeology side.
If the book were fction, this convergence would
not be happening. We can expect more evidence in
coming years.
Coming back to the original question: Did
Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon? He did
not. It has been obvious since 1829 to those who
knew him best that Joseph Smith could not have
written the Book of Mormon.44 Recent fndings
simply make the possibility of his authorship that
much more inconceivable. Te accumulating evi-
dence from archaeology and the impressive internal
evidence demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is
an authentic ancient book of New World origin. Te
only plausible explanation for the books existence is
that supernatural agencies were involved in its com-
ing forth in our day.
Te Book of Mormon still presses the world to
take it seriously, and now science is lending a hand.
Te archaeology that has been undertaken in Meso-
america is confrming historical, geographical, and
political facts mentioned in the text. Archaeology
is powerless, however, to address the books central
challengethe promise that its doctrine leads to
Christ. Although the Book of Mormon does not
provide clear directions for reaching Zarahemla, its
instructions for coming to Christ are unsurpassed,
and this is the infnitely more important destina-
tion. If we are ever to reach this destination, we
must keep the relationship between external Book
of Mormon evidences and belief in proper perspec-
tive. President Gordon B. Hinckley sums up the
matter in his testimony:
The evidence for [the Book of Mormons]
truth, for its validity in a world that is prone
to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or
anthropology, though these may be helpful to
some. It lies not in word research or historical
analysis, though these may be confirmatory.
The evidence for its truth and validity lies
within the covers of the book itself. The test of
its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God.
Reasonable people may sincerely question its
origin; but those who have read it prayerfully
have come to know by a power beyond their
natural senses that it is true, that it contains the
word of God, that it outlines saving truths of
the everlasting gospel.45 !
Fluctuations in population for the Jaredites and Olmecs are striking.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 71
of 2 Nephi 12:16 (no pleasant
pictures), nor does it follow
the preserved Hebrew or Greek
texts of Isaiah 2:16. Such a
representation implies that
these authors think their ren-
dition represents the original
form of Isaiah 2:16, but they
provide no discussion of this
point, a serious omission. This
same configuration of Isaiah
2:16 is repeated, again without
explanation, in Donald W.
Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 2001),
45. See somewhat similarly
David J. Ridges, Isaiah in the
Bible Made Easier (Springville,
UT: Bonneville, 2002), 140,
who explains 2 Nephi 12:16c
(upon all pleasant pictures)
as meaning pleasure ships
upon which the wealthy trav-
eled, without further com-
ment. This, again, suggests
three poetic lines about ships
in 2 Nephi 12:16, for which
there is no available textual
support. Ridges provides the
same explanation for the sec-
ond line of Isaiah 2:16, altering
the pleasant pictures in the
KJV text (p. 4). This results in
a synonymous couplet in Isa-
iah 2:16 (which we accept), but
there is no comment on how
this form of Isaiah 2:16 relates
to 2 Nephi 12:16 or what has
become of the phrase pleasant
pictures.
62. The quotation is from Hug-
gins, Without a Cause and
Ships of Tarshish, 171. His
discussion of Clarkes com-
mentary is on pages 17274.
The research of Robert Paul
(Joseph Smith and the Man-
chester [New York] Library,
BYU Studies 22/3 [1982]:
33356) suggests there was no
copy of Clarkes commentary
in the Manchester, New York,
lending library in the late
1820s. But Hugginss claim
relates to Joseph Smiths stay
in Harmony, Pennsylvania,
and he cites a claim that the
Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, one of
Emma Smiths uncles, had a
copy of Clarkes commentary
and supposedly mentioned it
to Joseph Smith (p. 173).
63. We thank our wives and other
reviewers for their suggestions
for improving this study. We
extend an extra note of thanks
to John A. Tvedtnes for his
careful reading and comments.
As always, all deficiencies are
our responsibility alone.
God in History? Nephis Answer
Roy A. Prete
1. B. H. Roberts, Outlines of
Ecclesiastical History: A Text
Book, 5th ed. (Salt Lake City:
The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, 1979), 221
22, 28486, 28991; Mark E.
Peterson, The Great Prologue
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,
1975); E. Douglas Clarke, The
Grand Design: America from
Columbus to Zion (Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book, 1992).
On the special mission of
America, see Ezra Taft Ben-
son, Conference Report, April
1948, 8287; Ezra Taft Benson,
A Witness and a Warning,
Ensign, November 1979, 3133.
2. For a recent collection of
articles on aspects of the sub-
ject, see Out of Obscurity: The
LDS Church in the Twentieth
Century: The 29th Annual
Sidney B. Sperry Symposium
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,
2000).
3. Gods role in history is a vast
topic, well beyond the scope
of this brief essay. For a fuller
discussion, see Window of
Faith: Latter-day Saint Per-
spectives on World History, ed.
Roy A. Prete et al. (Provo, UT:
BYU Religious Studies Center,
2005).
4. See Ernst Breisach, Historiog-
raphy: Ancient, Medieval, and
Modern, 2nd ed. (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press,
1994); also Mark T. Gilderhus,
History and Historians: A
Historiographical Introduction,
5th ed. (Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003).
5. For a nuanced treatment of the
historiography of providential
history and the issues it faces,
see Brian Q. Cannon, Provi-
dential History: The Need for
Continuing Revelation, in
Window of Faith, 14360.
6. Ronald A. Wells, History
Through the Eyes of Faith:
Western Civilization and the
Kingdom of God (San Fran-
cisco: HarperSanFrancisco,
1989), 34.
7. C. John Sommerville,
Christain Historiograpghy?
A Pragmatic Approach, Fides
et Historia 35 (Winter/Spring
2003), 3.
8. For a discussion of methodol-
ogy in the Latter-day Saint con-
text, see Roy A. Prete, Merging
the Secular and the Spiritual,
in Window of Faith, 12542.
9. For a discussion of the pre-
modern practice of integrating
revealed text with history, see
James E. Faulconer, Scripture
as Incarnation, in Historicity
and the Latter-day Scriptures,
ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo,
UT: BYU Religious Studies
Center, 2001), 1761.
10. For an introduction to the
subject of God in history that
focuses on relevant principles
from a Latter-day Saint per-
spective, see Alexander B.
Morrison, God in History,
in Window of Faith, 112.
11. For a fuller discussion, see
Robert L. Millet, The Influ-
ence of the Brass Plates on
the Teachings of Nephi, in
The Book of Mormon: Second
Nephi, The Doctrinal Struc-
ture: Papers from the Third
Annual Book of Mormon Sym-
posium, ed. Monte S. Nyman
and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo,
UT: BYU Religious Studies
Center, 1989), 20725.
12. For discussions of gospel
dispensations, including that
of the Nephites, see Joseph
Fielding Smith, Doctrines of
Salvation, comp. Bruce R.
McConkie (Salt Lake City:
Bookcraft, 197778), 1:16064;
Bruce R. McConkie, Mor-
mon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt
Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966),
200202; Milton R. Hunter,
The Gospel through the Ages
(Salt Lake City: Stevens &
Wallis, 1945), chaps. 1113;
and Dispensations, in the
Bible Dictionary in the Latter-
day Saint edition of the King
James Version of the Bible,
65758. The Prophet Joseph
Smith stated, It is in the order
of heavenly things that God
should always send a new dis-
pensation into the world when
men have apostatized from the
truth and lost the priesthood.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding
Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book, 1976), 375.
13. See Noel B. Reynolds, Lehi as
Moses, JBMS 9/2 (2000): 2735.
See in particular note 1, which
references literature pertaining
to Nephi as a Moses figure.
14. See Millet, Influence of the
Brass Plates, 21011, which
presents evidence to suggest
that these were prophets of the
tribe of Joseph.
15. According to Terry B. Ball,
Isaiah is the most quoted
prophet in the Book of Mor-
mon, having approximately
35 percent of his Old Testa-
ment writings either quoted
directly or paraphrased by
Nephite prophets. Isaiah,
life and ministry, in Book of
Mormon Reference Compan-
ion, ed. Dennis L. Largey et al.
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,
2003), 340. Nephi quotes 18
chapters of Isaiah completely:
Isaiah 4851 (1 Nephi 2021;
2 Nephi 78); Isaiah 214 (2
Nephi 724); and the greater
part of Isaiah 29 (2 Nephi 27);
plus additional portions, either
quoted (such as 2 Nephi 6: 57;
30:9, 1115) or paraphrased
(e.g., 1 Nephi 22:6). So power-
fully impressed was Nephi
with the prophecies of Isaiah
that of the 55 chapters in 1 and
2 Nephi, approximately one-
third are drawn from Isaiah.
16. Smith, Doctrines of Salvation,
3:87.
17. See Alan K. Parrish, Lehi and
the Covenant of the Promised
Land: A Modern Appraisal,
in Second Nephi, The Doctrinal
Structure, 3941.
18. Nephi must have been person-
ally gratified to receive the
Lords promise that his writ-
ings on the small plates would
be preserved as long as the
earth shall stand, a point he
apparently had not appreci-
ated when he was commanded
to prepare them (see 2 Nephi
25:2123; 1 Nephi 19:3).
19. See Grant Underwood,
Insights from the Early Years:
2 Nephi 2830, in Second
Nephi, The Doctrinal Struc-
ture, 32336.
20. While the precise titles of such
books have not been given
in revelation, there is some
indication from a 1978 First
Presidency letter that Moham-
med, among others, was
inspired to bring forth truths
of God, suggesting that the
Quran and other sacred texts
could be among these. For this
interpretation and a discussion
of world religions with refer-
ences to their sacred texts, see
Roger R. Keller, Why Study
World Religions? in Window
of Faith, 21330.
Archaeology and the Book of
Mormon
John E. Clark
This article was originally a forum
address delivered at Brigham
Young University, 24 May 2004.
72 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
1. See Matthew B. Brown, Plates
of Gold: The Book of Mormon
Comes Forth (American Fork,
UT: Covenant, 2003), for a
detailed account of the events
of that morning.
2. Figures current as of February
2006, Curriculum Depart-
ment, The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints.
3. For a concise review of histori-
cal positions concerning the
origins of the Book of Mor-
mon, see Louis C. Midgley,
Who Really Wrote the Book
of Mormon? The Critics and
Their Theories, in Book of
Mormon Authorship Revis-
ited: The Evidence for Ancient
Origins (Provo, UT: FARMS,
1997), 10139.
4. The most thorough discussion
of these points can be found
in Terryl L. Givens, By the
Hand of Mormon: The Ameri-
can Scripture That Launched
a New World Religion (New
York: Oxford University Press,
2002).
5. Ernest L. Wilkinson and W.
Cleon Skousen, Brigham Young
University: A School of Destiny
(Provo, UT: Brigham Young
University Press, 1976), 151.
6. See Wilkinson and Skousen,
Brigham Young University, 160.
7. See Wilkinson and Skousen,
Brigham Young University,
17980.
8. Copies of the Book of Mormon
available at the turn of the
century would have had the
changes added to the 1879 edi-
tion by Orson Pratt, and these
included footnotes contain-
ing geographical information
based on a hemispheric geog-
raphy. These specific identifi-
cations were removed for the
1920 edition and have been
excluded ever since.
9. For good overviews of Book
of Mormon geographies and
related issues, see John L.
Sorenson, An Ancient Ameri-
can Setting for the Book of
Mormon (Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book and FARMS,
1996); Sorenson, The Geogra-
phy of Book of Mormon Events:
A Sourcebook (Provo, UT:
FARMS, 1992); and Sorenson,
Mormons Map (Provo, UT:
FARMS, 2000).
10. Times and Seasons 3 (15 March
1842): 710.
11. John L. Stephens, Incidents of
Travel in Central America, Chi-
apas, and Yucatan (New York:
Harper and Brothers, 1841).
12. Times and Seasons 3 (1 Octo-
ber 1842): 927.
13. Tal Davis, A Closer Look at
The Book of Mormon (Atlanta:
Home Mission Board, South-
ern Baptist Convention, 1993).
14. Judging supposed deficiencies
of Book of Mormon archae-
ology from the vantage of
biblical archaeology is akin
to gauging the speed of an
oncoming car on the freeway.
Neither driver is in a position
to make the call. The compel-
ling argument from archae-
ology requires the readers
faith and indulgence in the
soundness of biblical archaeol-
ogy as an entry fee to evaluate
Book of Mormon claims. In
truth, biblical archaeology is
riven with pitfalls and dif-
ficulties. Archaeology has not
confirmed the Bible in any
nontrivial sense. For a frank
assessment of some of the
challenges of biblical archaeol-
ogy, see William G. Dever,
What Did the Biblical Writers
Know and When Did They
Know It? What Archaeology
Can Tell Us about the Real-
ity of Ancient Israel (Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001);
Randall Price, The Stones Cry
Out: What Archaeology Reveals
about the Truth of the Bible
(Eugene, OR: Harvest House,
1997).
15. The list of archaeological
objections to the Book of Mor-
mon was taken from an earlier
pamphlet by Hal Hougey,
Archaeology and The Book of
Mormon (Concord, CA: Pacific
Publishing, 1983), 12. The
full list of objections, as they
appear in Davis, A Closer Look
at The Book of Mormon (see n.
13), is as follows: 1. No Book
of Mormon cities have been
located. 2. No Book of Mormon
names have been found in
New World inscriptions. 3.
No genuine inscriptions have
been found in Hebrew. 4. No
genuine inscriptions have been
found in Egyptian or anything
similar to Egyptian, which
could correspond to Joseph
Smiths Reformed Egyptian.
5. No ancient copies of Book of
Mormon scriptures have been
found. 6. No ancient inscrip-
tions of any kind that indicate
that the ancient inhabitants
held Hebrew or Christian
beliefsall are pagan. 7. No
mention of Book of Mormon
people, nations, or places has
been found. 8. No artifact of
any kind that demonstrates
The Book of Mormon is true
has been found.
16. For an excellent discussion of
what physical evidence can
and cannot do for the Book of
Mormon, see John W. Welch,
The Power of Evidence in the
Nurturing of Faith, in Echoes
and Evidences of the Book
of Mormon, ed. Donald W.
Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and
John W. Welch (Provo, UT:
FARMS, 2002), 1753.
17. See John L. Sorenson, How
Could Joseph Smith Write
So Accurately about Ancient
American Civilization? in
Echoes and Evidences, 261306;
and John Gee, The Wrong
Type of Book, in Echoes and
Evidences, 30729.
18. Hugh Nibley called such
improbable confirmations
howlers. Hugh Nibley,
Howlers in the Book of Mor-
mon, Millennial Star (Febru-
ary 1963): 2834; reprinted
in Nibley, The Prophetic Book
of Mormon (Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book and FARMS,
1989), 24358.
19. See William J. Adams Jr.,
Lehis Jerusalem and Writing
on Silver Plates, in Press-
ing Forward with the Book of
Mormon, ed. John W. Welch
and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo,
UT: FARMS, 1999), 2326;
Adams, More on the Silver
Plates from Lehis Jerusalem,
in Pressing Forward, 2728; C.
Wilfred Griggs, The Book of
Mormon as an Ancient Book,
in Book of Mormon Author-
ship: New Light on Ancient
Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 1982),
75101; William J. Hamblin,
Metal Plates and the Book of
Mormon, in Pressing Forward,
2022; Noel B. Reynolds, By
Objective Measures: Old Wine
into New Bottles, in Echoes
and Evidences, 127153; Ste-
phen D. Ricks, Converging
Paths: Language and Cultural
Notes on the Ancient Near
Eastern Background of the
Book of Mormon, in Echoes
and Evidences, 389419;
John L. Sorenson, Challeng-
ing Conventional Views of
Metal, in Pressing Forward,
18789; H. Curtis Wright,
Ancient Burials of Metal
Documents in Stone Boxes,
in By Study and Also by Faith:
Essays in Honor of Hugh W.
Nibley, ed. John M. Lundquist
and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt
Lake City: Deseret Book and
FARMS, 1990), 2:273334.
20. An early stone box is known
for the late Olmec site of Tres
Zapotes, Veracruz; see Chris-
topher A. Pool, From Olmec
to Epi-Olmec at Tres Zapotes,
Veracruz, Mexico, in Olmec
Art and Archaeology in Meso-
america, ed. John E. Clark and
Mary E. Pye (Washington DC:
National Gallery of Art, 2000),
146. Many offering boxes have
been found in the excavations
of the Aztec capital of Tenoch-
titlan (present Mexico City) in
the Templo Mayor excavations;
see Leonardo Lpez Lujn, The
Offerings of the Templo Mayor
of Tenochtitlan (Niwot, CO:
University Press of Colorado,
1994).
21. The different scripts currently
known include Zapotec, Low-
land Maya, Highland Maya at
Kaminaljuy, Tlatilco, Teoti-
huacan, La Mojarra, La Venta
Olmec, and a recent script
from the Olmec heartland that
has not yet been labeled. For
some introductory discussion
of these scripts, see Stephen D.
Houston, Writing in Early
Mesoamerica, in The First
Writing: Script Invention as
History and Process, ed. Ste-
phen D. Houston (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press,
2004), 274309; David H.
Kelley, A Cylinder Seal from
Tlatilco, American Antiquity
31/5 (1966): 74446; John S.
Justeson, The Origin of Writ-
ing Systems: Preclassic Meso-
america, World Archaeology
17/3 (1986): 43758; Justeson
and Terrence Kaufman, A
Decipherment of Epi-Olmec
Hieroglyphic Writing, Science
259 (19 March 1993): 170311;
Joyce Marcus, The Origins
of Mesoamerican Writing,
Annual Review of Anthropol-
ogy 5 (1976): 3567; Joyce Mar-
cus, Mesoamerican Writing
Systems: Propaganda, Myth,
and History in Four Ancient
Civilizations (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press,
1992); Sylvia Mluzin, Further
Investigations of the Tuxtla
Script: An Inscribed Mask and
La Mojarra Stela 1 (Provo,
UT: Papers of the New World
Archaeological Foundation,
1995); Mary E. Pohl, Kevin O.
Pope, and Christopher von
Nagy, Olmec Origins of
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 73
Mesoamerican Writing, Sci-
ence 298 (6 December 2002):
198487; Karl A. Taube, The
Writing System of Ancient Teo-
tihuacan (Barnardsville, NC:
Center for Ancient American
Studies, 2000); Javier Urcid
Serrano, Zapotec Hieroglyphic
Writing (Washington DC:
Dumbarton Oaks Research
Library and Collection, 2001).
22. See John Gee, Two Notes on
Egyptian Script, in Pressing
Forward, 24447; Stephen D.
Ricks and John A. Tvedtnes,
Semitic Texts Written in
Egyptian Characters, in
Pressing Forward, 23743; and
Brian Stubbs, Hebrew and
Uto-Aztecan: Possible Linguis-
tic Connections, in Reexplor-
ing the Book of Mormon, ed.
John W. Welch (Provo, UT:
FARMS, 1992), 27981.
23. See Kelley, Cylinder Seal from
Tlatilco, 74446.
24. See M. Kathryn Brown and
Travis W. Stanton, Ancient
Mesoamerican Warfare (Wal-
nut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press,
2003); Ross Hassig, Aztec
Warfare: Imperial Expansion
and Political Control (Nor-
man: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1988); and Hassig, War
and Society in Ancient Meso-
america (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1992).
25. See John L. Sorenson, For-
tifications in the Book of
Mormon Account Compared
with Mesoamerican Fortifica-
tions, in Warfare in the Book of
Mormon, ed. Stephen D. Ricks
and William J. Hamblin (Salt
Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990),
42544; and Sorenson, Images
of Ancient America: Visualizing
Book of Mormon Life (Provo,
UT: Research Press, 1998),
13233.
26. See William J. Hamblin and
A. Brent Merrill, Swords
in the Book of Mormon, in
Warfare in the Book of Mor-
mon, 32951; Matthew Roper,
Eyewitness Descriptions of
Mesoamerican Swords, in
Pressing Forward, 16976; and
Sorenson, Images of Ancient
America, 13031.
27. For blood-stained swords, see
Alma 24:1213, 15.
28. See Alison V. P. Coutts, From
a Converts Viewpoint, in
Echoes and Evidences, 42152;
Bruce H. Yerman, Ammon
and the Mesoamerican Custom
of Smiting Off Arms, JBMS
8/1 (1999): 4647; John M.
Lundquist and John W. Welch,
Ammon and Cutting Off the
Arms of Enemies, in Reex-
ploring the Book of Mormon,
18081.
29. For towers as the last refuge
in battle, see Alma 50:4; 51:20;
Moroni 9:7. Compare with
Fray Diego Durn, The Aztecs:
The History of the Indies of
New Spain, trans. Doris Hey-
den and Fernando Horcasitas
(New York: Orion Press, 1964),
68: The Tecpanecs, retreat-
ing toward their city, intended
to use their temple as a last
stronghold, but Tlacaelel [an
Aztec leader] reached the
temple before them and, tak-
ing possession of its entrance,
ordered one of his men to set it
on fire, having made prisoner
all those who were within.
Durn, p. 89: When we reach
Totoltzinco the king of Tex-
coco will set fire to the temple
and the battle will come to an
end.
30. See Durn, The Aztecs, 217;
Hubert Howe Bancroft, The
Native Races of the Pacific
States of North America (New
York: Appleton, 1875), 2:425;
and Sorenson, Images of
Ancient America, 12629.
31. See Sorenson, Ancient Ameri-
can Setting.
32. Teotihuacan, located just
north of Mexico City, was built
about this time with massive
amounts of cement. In citing
this correspondence pointed
out by others, I am not claim-
ing that Teotihuacan was
indeed the place mentioned in
the Book of Mormon account;
see Joseph L. Allen, Sacred
Sites: Searching for Book of
Mormon Lands (American
Fork, UT: Covenant Com-
munications, 2003), 8991. At
the moment, no New World
city mentioned in the Book
of Mormon is known with
certainty. Other cities in the
region around Teotihuacan
engaged in similar practices,
so I am drawing attention
here to a region, a time period,
and a cultural practice, all of
which are confirmatory of the
Book of Mormon account if
one concedes that the Land
Southward was south of the
Isthmus of Tehuantepec. For
further references to cement,
see John L. Sorenson, How
Could Joseph Smith Write
so Accurately about Ancient
American Civilization? 261
306; and John W. Welch, A
Steady Stream of Significant
Recognitions, in Echoes and
Evidences, 33187.
33. The notion of working kings
or lesser kings came into the
anthropological literature
with the rise of evolutionary
typologies and the concept of
chiefdoms. For valuable treat-
ments of chiefdoms, see Elman
R. Service, Primitive Social
Organization: An Evolution-
ary Perspective, 2nd ed. (New
York: Random House, 1971);
Morton H. Fried, The Evolution
of Political Society: An Essay in
Political Anthropology (New
York: Random House, 1967);
Timothy Earle, ed., Chiefdoms:
Power, Economy, and Ideology
(Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 1991); Robert D.
Drennan and Carlos A. Uribe,
eds., Chiefdoms in the Americas
(Lanham, MD: University Press
of America, 1987); and Allen
W. Johnson and Timothy Earle,
The Evolution of Human Societ-
ies: From Foraging Group to
Agrarian State (Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 1987).
34. For information on Olmec
thrones, see David C. Grove,
Olmec Altars and Myths,
Archaeology 26/2 (April
1973): 12835; Grove, Olmec
Archaeology: A Half Century
of Research and Its Accom-
plishments, Journal of World
Prehistory 11/1 (1997): 51101;
Grove and Susan D. Gillespie,
Ideology and Evolution at
the Pre-State Level: Forma-
tive Period Mesoamerica, in
Ideology and Pre-Columbian
Civilizations, ed. Arthur A.
Demarest and Geoffrey W.
Conrad (Albuquerque: School
of American Research Press,
1992), 1536; Gillespie, Power,
Pathways, and Appropriations
in Mesoamerican Art, in
Imagery and Creativity: Ethno-
aesthetics and Art Worlds in
the Americas, ed. Dorothea S.
Whitten and Norman E. Whit-
ten Jr. (Tucson: The Univer-
sity of Arizona Press, 1993),
67107; and Gillespie, Olmec
Thrones as Ancestral Altars:
The Two Sides of Power, in
Material Symbols: Culture and
Economy in Prehistory, ed.
John E. Robb (Carbondale,
IL: Center for Archaeological
Investigations, 1999), 22453.
35. The classic statements on
the Maya calendar are those
of Sylvanus G. Morley, An
Introduction to the Study of
the Maya Hieroglyphics (1915;
reprint, New York: Dover Pub-
lications, 1975); and J. Eric S.
Thompson, Maya Hieroglyphic
Writing: An Introduction (Nor-
man: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1960). Most introduc-
tory books on Mesoamerican
archaeology cover the basics
of the calendar. I recommend
any edition of Michael D. Coe,
The Maya (London: Thames
and Hudson). Ernst Wilhelm
Frstemann is credited with
discovering the principles of
the Maya calendar in 1887; see
his article The Inscription
on the Cross of Palenque,
reprinted in The Decipherment
of Ancient Maya Writing, ed.
Stephen Houston, Oswaldo
Chinchilla Mazariegos, and
David Stuart (Norman: Uni-
versity of Oklahoma Press,
2001), 22433.
36. See Alma 45:10; Helaman 13:9;
Mormon 8:6.
37. See Michael Coe, on the fal-
lacy of misplaced concrete-
ness, quoted in Hampton
Sides, This is Not the Place,
Doubletake 5 (Spring 1999):
4655, quotation from p. 51:
Theyre [Mormon apologists]
always going after the nitty-
gritty things. . . . Lets look at
this specific hill. Lets look at
that specific tree. Its exhaust-
ing to follow all these mind-
numbing leads. It keeps the
focus off the fact that its all
in the service of a completely
phony history. Where are the
languages? Where are the cit-
ies? Where are the artifacts?
Look here, theyll say. Heres
an elephant. Well, thats fine,
but elephants were wiped out
in the New World around
8,000 c by hunters. There
were no elephants! See also
Coe, Mormons and Archaeol-
ogy: An Outside View, Dia-
logue 8/2 (1973): 4048.
38. See S. Kent Brown, The Place
That Was Called Nahom: New
Light from Ancient Yemen,
JBMS 8/1 (1999): 6668; War-
ren P. Aston, Newly Found
Altars from Nahom, JBMS
10/2 (2001): 5661; and Brown,
New Light from Arabia on
Lehis Trail, in Echoes and
Evidences, 55125.
39. See Sorenson, Ancient Ameri-
can Setting; and Sorenson,
Mormons Map.
40. The population profile for the
Lowland Olmecs is based on
74 VOLUME 14, NUMBER 2, 2005
data for the history of the two
principal capitals in the area,
San Lorenzo and La Venta, as
well as on some limited survey
around both capitals. I draw
from the following sources:
Michael D. Coe and Richard A.
Diehl, In the Land of the Olmec
(Austin: University of Texas
Press, 1980); Ann Cyphers,
Reconstructing Olmec Life
at San Lorenzo, in Olmec Art
of Ancient Mexico, ed. Eliza-
beth P. Benson and Beatriz de
la Fuente (Washington DC:
National Gallery of Art, 1996),
6171; Cyphers, ed., Poblacin,
Subsistencia y Medio Ambiente
en San Lorenzo Tenochtitln
(Mexico City: Universidad
Nacional Autnoma de Mxico,
1997); Rebecca Gonzlez Lauck,
La Venta: An Olmec Capital,
in Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico,
7381; Stacey C. Symonds and
Roberto Lunagmez, Settle-
ment System and Population
Development at San Lorenzo,
in Olmec to Aztec: Settlement
Patterns in the Ancient Gulf
Lowlands, ed. Barbara L. Stark
and Philip J. Arnold III (Tuc-
son: University of Arizona
Press, 1997), 14473; Symonds,
Cyphers, and Lunagmez,
Asentamiento Prehispnico en
San Lorenzo Tenochtitln (Mex-
ico City: Universidad Nacional
Autnoma de Mxico, 2002);
and Christopher von Nagy,
The Geoarchaeology of Settle-
ment in the Grijalva Delta, in
Olmec to Aztec, 25377.
41. See John E. Clark, Richard D.
Hansen, and Toms Prez
Surez, La Zona Maya en el
Preclsico, in Historia Anti-
gua de Mxico, Volumen 1:
El Mxico Antiguo, sus reas
culturales, los orgenes y el
horizonte Preclsico, ed. Linda
Manzanilla and Leonardo
Lpez Lujn (Mexico City:
Instituto Nacional de Antro-
pologia e Historia, 2000),
437510.
42. For basic information see
the entries on El Mirador,
Kaminaljuy, and Chiapa de
Corzo in Susan Toby Evans
and David L. Webster, eds.,
Archaeology of Ancient Mexico
and Central America: An Ency-
clopedia (New York: Garland
Publishing, 2001).
43. For the demise of the Olmec
civililzation, see the following:
Clark, Hansen, and Prez, La
Zona Maya, 437510; John E.
Clark and Richard D. Hansen,
The Architecture of Early
Kingship: Comparative Per-
spectives on the Origins of the
Maya Royal Court, in Royal
Courts of the Ancient Maya:
Vol. 2, Data and Case Stud-
ies, ed. Takeshi Inomata and
Stephen D. Houston (Boulder:
Westview Press, 2001), 145;
Richard A. Diehl, The Olmecs:
Americas First Civilization
(London: Thames and Hud-
son, 2005); and Gonzlez, La
Venta: An Olmec Capital,
7381.
44. See Terryl L. Givens, By the
Hand of Mormon: The Ameri-
can Scripture That Launched a
New World Religion.
45. Gordon B. Hinckley, Four
Cornerstones of Faith, Ensign,
February 2004, 6.
Lehis Vision of the Tree of Life:
Understanding the Dream as
Visionary Literature
Charles Swift
1. Robert L. Millet, Another
Testament of Jesus Christ,
in The Book of Mormon: First
Nephi, the Doctrinal Founda-
tion, ed. Monte S. Nyman and
Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT:
BYU Religious Studies Center,
1988), 163.
2. Richard Dilworth Rust, Feast-
ing on the Word: The Literary
Testimony of the Book of Mor-
mon (Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book and FARMS, 1997), 4.
3. Leland Ryken, How to Read
the Bible as Literature (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984),
165.
4. See, for example, Robert Alter,
The Art of Biblical Poetry (New
York: Basic Books, 1985); Ber-
nard McGinn, Revelation,
in The Literary Guide to the
Bible, ed. Robert Alter and
Frank Kermode (Cambridge,
MA: Belknap Press of Har-
vard University Press, 1990),
52341; John B. Gabel, Charles
B. Wheeler, and Anthony D.
York, The Bible as Literature:
An Introduction, 4th ed. (New
York: Oxford University Press,
2000); Northrop Frye, The
Great Code: The Bible and Lit-
erature (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1982); and
Northrop Frye, Words with
Power: Being a Second Study of
the Bible and Literature (San
Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1990).
5. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 166.
6. Admittedly, one might argue
that mist of darkness really
means dark mist, the way the
rod of iron might be called
the iron rod. This may or
may not be the case. There
are several other instances in
this account in which adjec-
tives are used before nouns to
modify them (e.g., dark and
dreary wilderness, white
robe, dark and dreary
waste, large and spacious
field, strait and narrow
path), indicating, at least, that
its reasonable to read mist
of darkness to be something
other than just a dark mist
since the words dark mist
could have been used to con-
vey that latter meaning.
7. On the possible connection of
the building of Lehis dream
to ancient South Arabian
architecture, see S. Kent
Brown, The Queen of Sheba,
Skyscraper Architecture, and
Lehis Dream, JBMS 11 (2002):
1023.
8. On the connections to desert
geography and other features of
life in Lehis dream, see S. Kent
Brown, New Light from Ara-
bia on Lehis Trail, in Echoes
and Evidences of the Book of
Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry,
Daniel C. Peterson, and John
W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS,
2002), 6469, 1024.
9. S. Kent Brown, Lehi, Journey
of, to the promised land, in
Book of Mormon Reference
Companion, ed. Dennis L.
Largey et al. (Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book, 2003), 515.
10. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 167;
emphasis in original.
11. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 167;
emphasis in original.
12. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 169;
emphasis in original.
13. Examples of ancient Arabian
houses built after the Baby-
lonian design of Lehis day
were 10 and 12 stories high,
with their windows starting
20 to 50 feet above the ground
for purposes of defense. At
night these lighted windows
would certainly give the effect
of being suspended above the
earth. Early castles of Arabia
looked like they stood in the
air, high above the earth (see
Hugh Nibley, An Approach to
the Book of Mormon, 3rd ed.
[Salt Lake City: Deseret Book
and FARMS, 1988], 257; also
see Brown, Lehi, Journey of,
to the promised land, 515).
The fact that such ancient
houses existed, however,
does not change the argu-
ment that the vision of the
tree of life demands that the
reader deal with unfamiliar
images. The Book of Mormon
is an ancient book written for
modern timesits readers are
the people of today, not those
contemporaneous with Lehi or
anyone else in the book. While
there may be images in the
vision that correspond with
what some people in the book
may have actually seen in life,
these same images are unfa-
miliar to readers of the Book
of Mormon.
14. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 170;
emphasis in original.
15. Leland Ryken, James C. Wil-
hoit, and Tremper Longman
III, eds., Dictionary of Biblical
Imagery (Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 1998), s.v.
Dreams, Visions.
16. Of course, we might choose to
divide up the vision into com-
ponents in several different
ways. For this chart, however,
I have basically chosen to
designate a new component
when the location of the action
changes. Lehis location does
not change once he has par-
taken of the fruit of the tree,
but the location of the events
he is observing and talking
about does.
17. Ryken, Bible as Literature,
17071; emphasis in original.
18. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 171.
19. Leland Ryken, Literature of
the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 1974), 339.
20. Corbin T. Volluz, Lehis
Dream of the Tree of Life:
Springboard to Prophecy,
JBMS 2/2 (1993): 38.
21. Ryken, Bible as Literature, 173.
22. It is interesting that while
people are concerned about the
historicity of symbols, rarely
do they concern themselves
with the symbolism of history.
Just as symbols can corre-
spond to actual events, actual
events can be understood to be
symbolic. I do not refer only
to ritual and ceremony, such
as the sacrament or baptism,
which are by definition sym-
bolic actions. I refer to events
in everyday life that normally
would not be considered any-
thing out of the ordinary but
that can actually be seen as
pointing to meaning beyond
themselves. For example,
Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke
Tui Boox ov Movmo .u 1ui
Oviui ov N.1ivi Amivic.s vvom .
M.1iv.iiv Iuivi1iu DNA S1.uvoi1
Ugo. A. Perego
Background
W
here did Native Americans come from: When did they arrive
in the Western Hemisphere: Which route(s) did they follow:
How many colonization events were there: Tese and other fasci-
nating questions have been at the center of debates among scholars
from dierent disciplines since the rediscovery of the New World by
Europeans more than ve hundred years ago. Archaeologists, lin-
guists, anthropologists, and geneticists are still investigating the pro-
cesses that took place through the millennia that led to the peopling
of Americas double continent. Te considerable number of scholarly
papers that have been published on DNA and Amerindians is a dem-
onstration that despite the 80-year history of genetic studies in the
Americas, the real work is now [only] beginning to fully elucidate the
genetic history of [the] two continents.'
At rst, Europeans believed that the New World inhabitants
were somewhat connected with the biblical account of the lost ten
I am grateful to the following individuals for commenting on this manuscript: Dr.
Alessandro Achilli (University of Perugia, Italy), Jayne E. Ekins, Diahan Southard, and
Dr. Scott R. Woodward (Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, USA), Professor
Antonio Torroni (University of Pavia, Italy), and Dr. Amy Williams (Harvard Medical
School, USA).
1. Dennis H. ORourke, Human Migrations: Te Two Roads Taken, Current
Biology 19/3 (2009): R204, www.sciencedirect.com (accessed 2 June 2010).
192 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
tribes (2 Kings 17:6), leading them to look for cultural and linguistic
similarities between contemporary Jews and Native Americans.` Te
evidence amassed to this point indicates that although sporadic pre-
Columbian contacts with the Old World cannot be completely ruled
out,` the majority of Native Americans share a genetic anity with
Asian populations.
Te notion that some or all American Indians are of Hebrew
descent is still popular among Latter-day Saints. Te Book of Mormon
tells of three relatively small parties (the Jaredites, Lehites, and
Mulekites) that lef their native homeland in the Old World at dierent
times and through divine guidance traveled to a new promised land,
presumably on the American continent. Te Book of Mormon contains
only marginal information about the demographic dynamics and the
geography of the land occupied by the people it describes. Instead,
the volume claims to be primarily an abridgment of thousands of
years of mostly spiritual and religious history and not a full account
of the people. For example, the text does not give direct information
about whether other populations were already established in the land
at the time of the migrants arrival. Tis lack of information leaves
many open questions that have profound implications for the genetic
characteristics that we would expect to nd in present-day Native
2. Michael Crawford, Te Origins of ^ative Americans. Evidence from anthropologi-
cal genetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 2.
3. Geraldine Barnes, Viking America. Te First Millennium (Suolk, England: St.
Edmundsbury Press, 2001). Note that no genetic contribution from Vikings has been
detected to date in the modern Native American population. Either they kept to them-
selves and were not welcomed by native groups, or their DNA has not yet been identied
in contemporary Amerindians. John L. Sorenson, Ancient Voyages Across the Ocean
to America: From Impossible to Certain, journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1
(2003): 6, notes that the Viking presence in North America has been considered to be of
no historical importance and goes on to present decisive empirical evidence of trans-
oceanic distribution of ora and fauna in pre-Columbian times. See also Martin H. Raish
and John L. Sorenson, Pre-Columbian Contacts with the Americas across the Oceans. An
Annotated Bibliography, 2 vols. (Provo, UT: Research Press, 1996).
4. Antonio Torroni et al., Asian anities and continental radiation of the four
founding Native American mtDNAs, American journal of Human Genetics 33/3
(1993): 36390; and Alessandro Achilli et al., Te Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American
MtDNA Haplogroups: Implication for Evolutionary and Disease Studies, PloS O^E 3/3
(2008): e1764.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 193
American populations. Te extent to which these Old World groups
expanded and colonized their new habitat, the level of admixture they
may have experienced with local indigenous populations (if any were
present), and the locations of their settlements would all inuence
the genetic landscape we would observe in Native Americans today.
Furthermore, it is implausible that ancient record keepers would have
had a comprehensive knowledge of all the goings-on of the entire vast
landmass of the Americas, considering that from northern Canada
to Patagonia is about 8,700 miles, a greater distance than that from
Portugal to Japan! Despite these many complex factors, since the
publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, Mormons and non-
Mormons alike have resorted to speculation in an attempt to ll in the
historical and geographical details that are either completely missing
or only briey alluded to in the Book of Mormon text.
Even in light of statements by individual Latter-day Saint church
leaders and scholars on this topic through the years, the church
advocates no ocial position on the subjects of Book of Mormon
geography and the origins of Amerindian populations. Together
with all other members, LDS Church leaders are entitled to their own
opinions and reasoning on this subject, as demonstrated by pre-DNA
comments such as that of President Anthony W. Ivins, a member of
the First Presidency, at the April 1929 General Conference: Te Book
of Mormon does not tell us that there was no one here before the
Book of Mormon peoples. It does not tell us that people did not come
afer. Others have expressed similar opinions more recently.
3. For a summary of the principal theories of Book of Mormon New World geogra-
phy, see http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/New_World (accessed
2 June 2010).
6. Carrie A. Moore, Debate renewed with change in Book of Mormon introduc-
tion, Deseret Morning ^ews, www.deseretnews.com/article/1,3143,693226008,00.html
(accessed 2 June 2010).
7. In Conference Report, April 1929, 1316.
8. See, for example, John L. Sorenson, When Lehis Party Arrived in the Land,
Did Tey Find Others Tere: journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1 (1992): 134; John L.
Sorenson and Matthew Roper, Before DNA, journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12
(2003): 623; and Blake T. Ostler, DNA Strands in the Book of Mormon, Sunstone, May
2003, 6371.
194 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
Over the past decade, critics of the Book of Mormon have promoted
the idea that since the majority of Amerindian DNA lineages are closely
related to Asian populations, and since no perfect genetic anity to
the Middle East has been found, it must be concluded that the Book
of Mormon account is ctional. Tis argument is sometimes bolstered
in part by a common sentiment among Latter-day Saints generally
that all Native Americans are descendants of the Old World migrants
described in the Book of Mormon text, particularly Lehis colony. To
contend with these arguments, some Mormons dismiss DNA studies
as being unreliable for reconstructing history, while others are quick
to embrace any news of possible Middle Eastern DNA in the Americas
as conclusive proof that the migrations to America described in the
Book of Mormon are real.
In this article, I will provide an updated review on the properties
of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and explain how these pertain to
the study of ancient population expansions, specically focusing on
the origin of Native Americans. Tis topic is especially relevant to the
current debate on the applicability of DNA evidence to the question
of Book of Mormon historicity, as such evidence is based mostly
on mtDNA data published during the past two decades. Te major
arguments in this debate have been presented at length in previous
publications and will not be restated herein. Te most pertinent
supporting material that follows will provide a foundation to the
reader regarding the basics of mtDNA heredity, a review and update
on the most recent mtDNA data available pertaining to the origins of
Native American populations, and a summary of how this information
9. Tis issue has been dealt with competently in Daniel C. Peterson, ed., Te Book
of Mormon and D^A Research (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious
Scholarship, 2008). Examples of Book of Mormon criticisms based on alleged DNA evi-
dence are found in Simon G. Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe. ^ative Americans, D^A,
and the Mormon Church (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004); Tomas W. Murphy,
Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics, in American Apocrypha. Essays on the
Book of Mormon, ed. Dan Vogel and Brent L. Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books,
2002), 4777; and Brent L. Metcalfe, Reinventing Lamanite Identity, Sunstone, March
2004, 2023. A seriously awed attempt by a nonspecialist to adduce DNA evidence
in favor of Book of Mormon historicity is Rod L. Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of
Mormon Remnant through D^A (Honeoye Falls, NY: Digital Legend Press, 2009).
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 193
relates to the larger DNA and Book of Mormon discussion. It is
important for readers to understand that while mtDNA and other
genetic motifs are useful in elucidating some historical questions,'
it may not be possible to achieve a full resolution of questions arising
between secular and religious history.
Mitochondrial DNA
Te hereditary features of mtDNA provide unique information
that geneticists use to study the ancient history of humanity. Such
studies are based on the foundational principles of population
genetics. It is essential to have a working knowledge of these principles
when evaluating genetic studies relating to the Book of Mormon,
because those who argue against its authenticity overlook some of
these concepts.
MtDNA is found in mitochondria, which are the organelles within
each cell responsible for life-sustaining processes such as cell energy
metabolism, cell division, and programmed cell death (apoptosis). Each
cell may contain thousands of mitochondria, and each mitochondrion
may contain hundreds of mtDNA genomes. A signicant hereditary
feature of mtDNA is that it is maternally inherited, a fact that aects
the extent of historical information one can learn from its analysis.
Te mtDNA molecule comprises only 16,369 bases and is
therefore very small when compared to the nuclear genome (i.e., the
3.2 billion bases of genetic material that make up the twenty-three
pairs of chromosomes found in the cells nucleus). Te rst complete
mtDNA genome was sequenced in 1981 at Cambridge University and
is called the Anderson or Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS).'' In
1999 Andrews and colleagues resequenced the original Cambridge
mtDNA, which is now referred to as rCRS.'` Tis sequence became
10. See, for example, Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward,
Mountain Meadows Survivor: A Mitochondrial DNA Examination, journal of Mormon
History 32/3 (Fall 2006): 4333.
11. Stephen Anderson et al., Sequence and organization of the human mitochon-
drial genome, ^ature 290 (1981): 43763.
12. Richard M. Andrews et al., Reanalysis and revision of the Cambridge reference
sequence for human mitochondrial DNA, ^ature Genetics 23/2 (1999): 147.
196 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
the industry standard used to compare complete or partial mtDNA
data produced to date. Instead of reporting long lists of genetic bases
for each mtDNA sample, a typical report includes only dierences (i.e.,
mutations) from the rCRS. Tis set of mutations is called a haplotype,
the mtDNA genetic prole descended from the maternal lineage of
an individual. As a general rule, mutational events occur randomly,
and their accumulation over time has resulted in the dierentiation
of the many mtDNA lineages observed in todays world populations.
Analysis of these lineages can therefore be structured hierarchically
in a treelike format called a phylogeny (g. 1). A phylogeny attempts
to model the true hereditary history of mtDNA across populations.
Similar to the Y chromosome (Ycs), mtDNA does not recombine
with the DNA from the other molecules. Tat is, mtDNA is inherited
as a fully intact DNA segment between generations, with variations
from mother to child arising rarely due to random mutations. While
the Ycs is inherited along the paternal line, as noted before, mtDNA
follows an inheritance pattern found on the opposite side of the family
tree, along the unbroken maternal line (g. 2). A mothers mtDNA
is passed to all of her children, but only the daughters will pass
their mtDNA to the next generation. Although there has been one
documented instance of male-inherited mtDNA in humans, this is
considered an exceptionally rare (almost unique) exception, mainly
associated with a pathological status.'`
Te mtDNA genome has two parts: the control region,' which
includes three segments called HVS1, HVS2, and HVS3,' and the
coding region (where all the mtDNAs genes that produce proteins
essential to life are found). Genetic data from an individuals mtDNA
is obtained by the following methods, with each successive approach
yielding more information:
1. Inspection of restriction fragment length polymorphisms
(RFLPs) using enzymes that break the DNA into smaller
13. Marianne Schwartz and John Vissing, Paternal Inheritance of Mitochondrial
DNA, ^ew England journal of Medicine 347/8 (2002): 37680.
14. Also called the hypervariable or D-loop region.
13. Sometimes referred to as HVR1, HVR2, and HVR3.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 197
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198 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
fragments at specic short (usually four to six base pair)
sequences. Depending on the presence or lack of mutations,
the fragment will or will not be broken and the resulting
fragment length indicates the presence or lack of the mutation.
2. Assaying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), where the
type of base at a specic location is identied for comparison
with the reference sequence.
3. Sequencing of part or all the control region (up to
approximately 1,000 bases).
4. Sequencing of the complete mtDNA genome (all the 16,369
basesthe highest level of mtDNA molecular resolution
attainable).
During the 1990s, a number of studies were published presenting
mtDNA data obtained from RFLP and control region sequences (ofen
only HVS1, approximately 300 bases), many of them highlighting
several Native American populations.' Te mtDNA data produced
16. For example, Antonio Torroni et al., Native American Mitochondrial DNA
Analysis Indicates Tat the Amerind and the Nadene Populations Were Founded by Two
Independent Migrations, Genetics 130 (1992): 13362; Antonio Torroni et al., mtDNA
Figure 2. Te strict paternal Y chromosome (Ycs) and strict maternal mitochondrial
DNA (mtDNA) inheritance patterns.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 199
during that decade allowed scientists to investigate for the rst time the
mtDNA variation from diverse populations. From this they advanced
the rst theories about the origin of anatomically modern humans
and the processes of expansion that resulted in the colonization of the
continental masses.
Starting around the year 2000, researchers employing new
technological advances began to produce complete genome sequences
as the standard for the most rigorous mtDNA population studies.'
However, the process of generating a full mtDNA sequence is still
labor intensive and relatively expensive. Recently, a study reviewing
all the published mtDNA full sequences reported that only a very
small fraction of these data are of Native American origin, leaving a
considerable gap to ll in the scientic literature.'
Te opportunity to acquire complete mtDNA sequences
brought several benets to the eld of population genetics, including
resolution of questionable phylogenies based on control region data
(this region has a higher mutation rate and is therefore aected by
recurring mutations), identication of smaller clades within the large
world mtDNA tree, better understanding of events that characterize
the expansion and migration routes followed by our early ancestors,
and an improved understanding of the expected mutation rate of the
mtDNA genome, yielding a better calibration of the molecular clock
and Y-Chromosome Polymorphisms in Four Native American Populations from
Southern Mexico, American journal of Human Genetics 34/2 (1994): 30318; Antonio
Torroni et al., Mitochondrial DNA clock for the Amerinds and its implications for
timing their entry into North America, Proceedings of the ^ational Academy of Sciences
91/3 (1994), 113862; and Peter Forster et al., Origin and Evolution of Native American
mtDNA Variation: A Reappraisal, American journal of Human Genetics 39 (1996):
93343.
17. Antonio Torroni et al., Do the Four Clades of the mtDNA Haplogroup L2 Evolve
at Dierent Rates: American journal of Human Genetics 69/6 (2001): 134836.
18. Lusa Pereira et al., Te Diversity Present in 3140 Human Mitochondrial
Genomes, American journal of Human Genetics 84 (2009): 62840; and Mannis van
Oven and Manfred Kayser, Updated Comprehensive Phylogenetic Tree of Global
Human Mitochondrial DNA Variation, Human Mutation 30/2 (2009): E38694, www.
phylotree.org (accessed 4 June 2010). As of 10 November 2009, the publicly accessible
GenBank database contained 6,747 complete mtDNA sequences, but the number of those
belonging to known Native American haplogroups still suers from signicant under-
representation. See www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nuccore (accessed 4 June 2010).
200 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
the mathematical underpinnings of historical date estimations based
on genetic data.
It is important to remember that population geneticists face the
continuing challenge of correlating their ndings with those of other
disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology, and archaeology. A
multidisciplinary approach allows a consensus to be formed for date
estimates and helps to cross-verify ndings among dierent elds of
study.'
MtDNA Haplogroups
Te dierentiation of mtDNA has been generated by the sequential
accumulation of new mutations along radiating maternal lineages. Over
the course of time, this process of molecular divergence has given rise
to separate mtDNA lineages that are now called haplogroupsthat is,
groups of haplotypes sharing similar characteristics. Haplogroups are
named following a simple but standardized nomenclature procedure,
alternating letters with numbers and starting with a capital letter (e.g.,
K1a4, H1a, A2d2, C1b2a) (g. 1). Coincidentally, the rst time haplogroup
names were given was when the sequence variation of mtDNAs from
Native American populations was investigated. Four major mutational
motifs were identied, and they were therefore originally named A, B,
C, and D.`
Te mtDNA process of molecular dierentiation was relatively
rapid and occurred mainly during and afer the recent process of human
colonization and diusion into dierent regions and continents.
Tus, serendipitously, the dierent subsets of mtDNA variation tend
to be restricted to dierent geographic areas and population groups.
Older mtDNA lineages had more time to accumulate a greater
number of mutations, while younger mtDNA lineages accumulated
fewer mutations and therefore underwent less variation. Mainstream
19. Alessandro Achilli and Ugo A. Perego, Mitochondrial DNA: A Female
Perspective in Recent Human Origin and Evolution, in Origins as a Paradigm in the
Sciences and in the Humanities, ed. Paola Spinozzi and Alessandro Zironi (Goettingen:
V&R unipress, 2010), 4138.
20. Torroni, Asian anities.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 201
population geneticists are in agreement that, based on the available
mtDNA data, the most recent common female ancestor, from whom
all mtDNAs in modern humans derive, lived in Africa about 200,000
years ago and that an initial migration out of Africa took place
around 70,000 years ago, represented by an mtDNA lineage known
as L3. Tis lineage lef the Horn of Africa by migrating eastward
and following a southern coastal route along the Indian Ocean; and
while moving farther east about 63,000 years ago, it gave rise to two
mtDNA daughter branches known as haplogroups M and N. An
oshoot of N shortly afer was haplogroup R. Lineages M, N, and R
are the female ancestors of all the known non-African lineages that
eventually colonized the rest of the continents. Tese lineages are also
known as macro- or superhaplogroups. Te Americas were the last
of all the continents to be colonized by Homo sapiens, approximately
10,00020,000 years ago (g. 3).
Te Basics of Population Genetics
Using the mtDNA mutations as a guide, it is possible to trace all
modern mtDNA lineages back to a single African female ancestor.
Geneticists have named this ancestor the African Eve, but despite
this name, she was not necessarily the only woman on the planet. Te
mtDNA lineages corresponding to other women simply disappeared
because their ospring failed to produce additional continuous
female lineages (a phenomenon known in population genetics as
genetic drif), because of natural or manmade calamities that wiped
out a signicant portion of the population (an event referred to as
a population bottleneck), or because they were selected against due
to the detrimental eect of specic mutations. Tis African Eve
was the only one that was successful in perpetuating her mtDNA
lineage through the generations. Terefore, because of genetic drif,
population bottlenecks, or natural selection, the mtDNA lineages
observed in todays population do not reect the full range of mtDNA
variation that occurred throughout human history. A recent example
from a study in Iceland based on genetic and genealogical data clearly
demonstrated how the majority of people living in that country today
202 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
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Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 203
are just a small representation of people that lived just three hundred
years ago.`' Tis work is a powerful illustration and a rare example
of a controlled study where genealogical, historical, and genetic data
are available to unequivocally demonstrate the eect of genetic drif
and natural selection in a fairly isolated population. Te eect of these
population genetics processes occur globally (including in organisms
other than humans) and are not exclusive to the Icelandic population.
Most relevant to our current discussion, these principles have also
aected populations in the Western Hemisphere. Although some
would like to dismiss the Icelandic model and suggest that it is more
an exception than the rule,`` these population genetics laws cannot
be ignored: they are the fundamental force that shaped the modern
genetic landscape worldwide. It is a well-known fact that mtDNA
lineages have disappeared in the past and that they will continue to
disappear in modern times. Tis process has occurred everywhere in
the world, and the Americas are no exception.``
Native American DNA
With regard to measuring the genetic variation observed among
the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere, molecular anthro-
pologist Michael H. Crawford has stated this problem succinctly and
repeatedly in his book Te Origins of ^ative Americans:
Te Conquest and its sequelae squeezed the entire
Amerindian population through a genetic bottleneck. Te re-
duction of Amerindian gene pools from 1/3 to 1/23 of their
previous size implies a considerable loss of genetic variabil-
ity. . . . It is highly unlikely that survivorship was genetically
random. . . . Tus, the present gene-frequency distributions
21. Agnar Helgason et al., A Populationwide Coalescent Analysis of Icelandic
Matrilineal and Patrilineal Genealogies: Evidence for a Faster Evolutionary Rate of
mtDNA Lineages than Y Chromosomes, American journal of Human Genetics 72/6
(2003): 137088.
22. Simon Southerton, Answers to Apologetic Claims about DNA and the Book of
Mormon, www.irr.org/MIT/southerton-response.html (accessed 4 June 2010).
23. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_drif (accessed 4 June 2010).
204 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
of Amerindian populations may be distorted by a combina-
tion of eects stemming from genetic bottlenecks and natural
selection. . . . Tis population reduction has forever altered
the genetics of the surviving groups, thus complicating any
attempts at reconstructing the pre-Columbian genetic struc-
ture of most New World groups.`
Subsequent research has supported this notion. In an article
dealing with ancient DNA from Native American populations that
was published in the American journal of Physical Anthropology, the
authors made the following statement: Genetic drif has also been
a signicant force [on Native American genetics], and together with
a major population crash afer the European contact, has altered
haplogroup frequencies and caused the loss of many haplotypes.`
Tese statements from experts in the eld of modern and ancient
DNA from Native American populations (experts not involved with
the Book of Mormon and DNA debate) give insight into the inuence
of the major population-altering events of the Columbian and pre-
Columbian eras on the genetic variation of modern Native Americans.
Teir mtDNAs were not immune to the evolutionary processes of
genetic drif and population bottleneck that have been observed in
a similar fashion in other populations. One cannot overstate the
importance of considering both random as well as environmental
factors when studying history using DNA samples from modern
populations, including that of Amerindians. Population genetics
principles guide geneticists who study human history, and genetic
drif and population bottlenecks are among the most basic factors
considered in their work.
Some wonder if ancient DNA samples might shed additional
light on the history of ancient populations such as the ancestral
Native Americans. Tis approach can be valuable when the necessary
samples are available and the DNA is of good quality. Note, however,
24. Crawford, Origins of ^ative Americans, 4931, 23941, 26061.
23. Beth A. S. Shook and David G. Smith, Using Ancient mtDNA to Reconstruct
the Population History of Northeastern North America, American journal of Physical
Anthropology 137 (2008): 14.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 203
that several limitations must be carefully considered when studying
ancient DNA:
a. Accessibility to the ancient remains: In many cases Native
American and First Nation groups consider their burial
grounds sacred and are quite resistant to DNA testing being
performed on their ancestors remains. (Moreover, they are
ofen resistant to testing being done on themselves.)`
b. Contamination: Skeletal remains in museums or personal
collections may have been handled improperly over time.
Tus any attempt to retrieve endogenous DNA from them
may be compromised by the presence of DNA belonging to
those who have touched the samples since the time of their
excavation.
c. Condence that the data obtained are genuine: A general
practice when analyzing ancient DNA samples is to compare
the data obtained with samples from the modern population.
If identical or similar haplotypes are found in the modern
population, then it is assumed that the data obtained from
the ancient specimen are reliable. However, if no matches are
found in the modern population, it can become dicult to
ascertain if the data obtained belong to a lineage no longer in
existence or if the genetic signal comes from contamination
or postmortem damage.
d. Failed sequencing due to environmental factors: Even in
cases when bone fragments are found and proper excavation
techniques are in place, the success rate of extracting and
analyzing ancient DNA is approximately 1 in 3. Extreme heat,
high humidity, gamma rays from the sun, and other factors
can accelerate DNA degradation. During the last decade,
thanks to new technological advancements and a better
understanding of how to work with ancient DNA,` results
26. Amy Harmon, DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Dont Trust Tem,
^ew York Times, 10 December 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/us/10dna -.html:_
r=2&oref=slogin&pagewanted=all (accessed 4 June 2010).
27. Alan Cooper and Hendrik N. Poinar, Ancient DNA: Do It Right, or Not at All,
Science 289/3482 (2000): 1139.
206 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
have improved and the data are more reliable. However, much
of the data published in the 1990s was susceptible to less
rigorous collection and lab procedures that may have resulted
in unreliable DNA data and conclusions.
e. Limited quantity of data obtained: Because ancient DNA is
highly degraded, only small fragments of genetic material
can be sequenced. Most of the ancient DNA data available in
the public literature comes from sequencing short segments
of the control region. To date, only a few complete mtDNA
sequences (the full 16,369 bases of the mtDNA genome) from
ancient human remains have been successfully produced (e.g.,
ve Neanderthals and the Tyrolean Ice Man, Otzi).`
In summary, even though ancient DNA data have the potential
to be extremely helpful in phylogenetic studies and in reconstructing
past population events, scientists are still limited by the amount and
quality of data they can obtain from ancient remains.
A signicant nding that elucidates the usefulness of combining
ancient and modern DNA in the study of Native American populations
comes from a recent publication featuring a short control region segment
sequenced from a skeleton found in Alaska that is approximately 10,000
years old.` Carbon dating conrmed that the remains were clearly
pre-Columbian, but the genetic prole obtained did not match any
of the earlier identied Amerindian mtDNAs (A2, B2, C1, D1, and
X2a). Previously, a number of studies on Native American populations
revealed a small quantity of samples labeled others since they did
not belong to any of the known indigenous mtDNA lineages and were
thought to have been contaminated or to be the result of European
admixture. Based on the mtDNA data retrieved from the ancient
Alaskan specimen, some of those previously unclassied samples
were reexamined and are conrmed as belonging to a novel Native
28. Adrian W. Briggs et al., Targeted Retrieval and Analysis of Five Neandertal
mtDNA Genomes, Science 323 (2009): 31821; and Luca Ermini et al., Complete
Mitochondrial Genome Sequence of the Tyrolean Iceman, Current Biology 18 (2008):
168793.
29. Brian M. Kemp et al., Genetic Analysis of Early Holocene Skeletal Remains from
Alaska and Its Implications for the Settlement of the Americas, American journal of
Physical Anthropology 132 (2007): 60321.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 207
American lineage named D4h3.` Unfortunately, as explained earlier,
it is dicult to access and to obtain data of good quality from ancient
DNA. Terefore, for every reclassied mtDNA lineage, it is probable
that many misclassications remain unknown or unresolved. Te case
of D4h3 is likely to be a rare event in shedding additional light on the
maternal history of Native American populations.
Another serious limitation is the possibility of making inap-
propriate assumptions about which mtDNA candidate haplogroups
to expect from the small groups described in the Book of Mormon.
A survey of modern populations including Middle Easterners and
Asians would reveal a certain number of mtDNA lineages that occur
at high frequencies and are therefore labeled as region-specic for the
modern population, but such a survey would also uncover a number
of mtDNA haplogroups that are more rare. Most likely, these less
frequent mtDNA lineages are the result of relatively recent migratory
events, an occurrence very common throughout history because of
international trade routes (such as those that took place along the Silk
Road) or military expansions (e.g., the Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman,
or Mongol empires). Tese important historical events are responsible
for a partial reshuing of the DNA compositions of geographic
regions throughout the world, adding to the genetic diversity of
aected locations. Although the majority of lineages in one region
could be considered the typical mtDNA expected to be observed in a
specic location in modern populations, the reality is that potentially
any given mtDNA lineage could also be found at low frequencies in the
same geographic area. Any of these low-frequency haplogroups could
be candidates for genetic types that may have been more common
during any previous time period within the last few thousand years.
Tis issue touches on the people of the Book of Mormon because
we dont know their mtDNA aliation. Lehis group could have
included typical Middle Eastern lineages or rare ones, even some
30. Ugo A. Perego et al., Distinctive Paleo-Indian Migration Routes from Beringia
Marked by Two Rare MtDNA Haplogroups, Current Biology 19/1 (2009): 18. A single
haplotype sharing part of the D4h3 motif was also identied in the province of Shandong,
China, out of more than 10,000 Asian mtDNAs.
208 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
with a close Asian anity.`' To elucidate this point, I use my own Y
chromosome (Ycs) haplogroup as an example. As explained earlier,
Ycs is a uniparental marker that, like mtDNA, can be traced along one
specic family tree branch (in this case the direct paternal line), and
for the most part it does not recombine with the other chromosomes
(g. 2). Ycs haplotypes can also be grouped in a large phylogenetic
tree based on common characteristics that in most cases can be
associated with specic geographic regions. I was born and raised
in Italy and can trace my paternal ancestry back several generations
to the mid-seventeenth century .u. However, my Ycs belongs to
haplogroup C, which has a frequency in southern Europe of less than
1 percent. Haplogroup C is mostly found in east Asia with a branch
(C4) found among the aborigines of Australia. How did haplogroup
C become part of my paternal ancestry: One possibility is that it is
a remnant from an ancient military expansion from the East (e.g.,
Mongols or Huns) that reached to northern Italy. With my three sons,
we contribute four instances of this particular Ycs haplotype in the
state of Utah, where we currently reside. If someone took a survey of
Italians in Utah with the purpose of reconstructing the typical Italian
genetic composition, they would include the four of us as part of that
count. Tis would contribute a higher than normal haplogroup C
frequency found among Utah Italians that would in turn provide a
dierent scenario from the one observed in Italy. What if I was the
rst and only Italian that migrated to Utah: What was considered a
rare lineage in the source population (Italy) becomes the totality of the
Ycs lineages for the same population in Utah. By looking at these data,
one may reach the incorrect conclusion that Italians are paternally
related to eastern Asian populations. Tis is a direct result of another
principle of population genetics, the founder eect.
Te same founder eect process can be observed with mtDNA
lineages that are traditionally associated withPaleo-Indians who arrived
in the Americas most likely via Beringia between twelve and 20,000
31. Although some information is available about the ancestry of Lehi and Ishmael,
we know nothing about the origins of Sariah and Ishmaels wife, who were responsible for
passing their mtDNA to future generations.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 209
years ago. Haplogroups A2, B2, C1, and D1 are the most common
mtDNAs found in Native Americans (approximately 93 percent of
the population), but they do not reect the current mtDNA landscape
observed in northeast Asia. For one thing, there are no A2, B2, C1, or D1
lineages in that part of the world (one of few exceptions is subclade C1a,
found only in Asia and not in the Americas).`` Tese four branches of
the mtDNA world tree are exclusively found in the Americas and have
been separated from all other lineages long enough to develop their own
specic mutational motifs. Secondly, a survey of north Asian mtDNA
lineages would reveal a much more diverse distribution and variety of
mtDNA haplogroupsnot a 93 percent frequency of Asian lineages
belonging to subbranches of the roots A, B, C, and D. What happened to
the other Asian lineages: Why are they not found in the Americas too:
Genetic drif and founder eect are again the answer. What we observe
today in the Western Hemisphere are the surviving lineages that Paleo-
Indians brought with them to the Americas at the time of the last ice
age. Te other lineages were simply lost in the process.
What about Haplogroup X?
Although the majority of mtDNA lineages surveyed to date among
Amerindians belong to a subclade of one of the four Pan-American
haplogroups (A2, B2, C1, and D1) having Asian anity, this does not
mean that all the pre-Columbian lineages are of Asian origins. One
exception is the less common and geographically limited haplogroup
X. Te presence of haplogroup X in the Americas has caused no
small perplexity among scientists studying Native American origins.
Research questions include how haplogroup X diers from the other
Pan-American haplogroups with Asian anity, its origins, where else
it is found in the world, what route it followed to the Americas, and
how long ago it arrived there.
With regard to the Book of Mormon and DNA debate, haplogroup
X has also played an interesting role at both ends of the spectrum in
32. Erika Tamm et al., Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American
Founders, PloS O^E 2/9 (2007): e829.
210 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
challenging or defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon. On
one end are those who criticize the Book of Mormon based on the DNA
data. Conversely, there are some within the LDS faith claiming that the
presence of haplogroup X in the Americas supports the truthfulness
of the Book of Mormon. Te mutually exclusive reasoning of these
two factions can be summarized as follows:
Against Book of Mormon historicity: Like other Pan-American
clades, haplogroup X is of Asian origin, arriving in the
Americas via Beringia (the landmass that connected north-
east Siberia with modern-day Alaska during the last ice age).
Tis migration took place more than 10,000 years ago, long
before Israel ever existed.
In favor of Book of Mormon historicity: Haplogroup X is of
Near Eastern origin, and its presence in the Americas rep-
resents the surviving legacy of Lehis party arriving in the
Western Hemisphere some 2,600 years ago.
Tere are probably as many gradients between these two views
as people trying to address this specic topic. However, these two
points summarize most of the issues surrounding haplogroup X and
the proposed association with the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
Following the discovery of the rst, more common Native
American mtDNA haplogroups in the early 1990s (originally termed
A, B, C, and D and later renamed A2, B2, C1, and D1 to distinguish
them from their Asian cousins), a fh haplogroup was identied
in 1996 by Peter Forster and his colleagues and named haplogroup X
(not to be confused with the X chromosome).`` Contrary to nearly all
the world haplogroups, it is not geographically conned but is found
at low frequency among several populations: Europeans, Africans,
Asians, Middle Easterners, and Native Americans. A number of
studies following the initial identication of haplogroup X among
Amerindians conrmed its presence in the Western Hemisphere,`
33. Forster, Origin and Evolution of Native American mtDNA Variation.
34. Michael D. Brown et al., mtDNA Haplogroup X: An Ancient Link between
Europe/Western Asia and North America: American journal of Human Genetics
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 211
its variance from the X lineages found in Eurasia and Africa, and
its geographic distribution conned to northern North America.`
Te Native American clade of haplogroup X is known as X2a to
dierentiate it from the forms of haplogroup X found in northern
Africa and Eurasia. Te root of this lineage is characterized by the
diagnostic control region transition C16278T, and the specic X2a
subclade also includes mutations at A200G and G16213A.`
As already discussed, the Pan-American haplogroups A2, B2,
C1, and D1are clearly nested within a tree of east Asian haplogroups,
thus suggesting an Asian origin followed by a Beringian migration
and the dierentiation of Paleo-Indian lineages from the ancestral
Asian ones. However, the original dierentiation of A, B, C, and D
from their ancestral mtDNA lineages occurred in ancient south Asia
during the early expansion of anatomically modern humans tens of
thousands of years ago (south Asia is a geographic region that is not
any closer to Beringia than is the Middle East). Lineages found today
in central and northeast Asia (e.g., A3, B4a, C4, and D4e, to name a
few) are considered cousins but are not ancestral to the American
A2, B2, C1, and D1 haplogroups (g. 1).
For years scientists struggled to identify a possible Asian source
for haplogroup X that could explain its presence in the Western
Hemisphere. Dierent theories were postulated, including a possible
northern Atlantic migration along the ice cap that connected northern
Europe to northern America during the last ice age. Tis unpopular
theoryreferred to as the Solutrean hypothesiswas supported
by archaeological discoveries revealing the presence of a similar
technology in both continents arising at about the same time period.`
63/6 (1998): 183261; and David G. Smith et al., Distribution of mtDNA Haplogroup
X Among Native North Americans, American journal of Physical Anthropology 110/3
(1999): 27184.
33. Rosaria Scozzari et al., mtDNA and Y Chromosome-Specic Polymorphisms in
Modern Ojibwa: Implications about the Origin of Teir Gene Pool, American journal of
Human Genetics 60/1 (1997): 24144; and Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration.
36. Achilli, Phylogeny; and Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration.
37. Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, Ocean Trails and Prairie Paths: Toughts
about Clovis Origins, in Te First Americans. Te Pleistocene Colonization of the ^ew
Vorld, ed. Nina G. Jablonski (San Francisco: Academy of Science, 2002), 23371; and
212 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
Early studies were limited to the sequence of a few hundred bases
from the control region and therefore were not able to provide the level
of resolution necessary to assess the phylogenetic relationship between
American and Eurasian X lineages. Tis is particularly relevant in
light of the fact that because haplogroup X initially could not be found
in Asia, there was even more uncertainty regarding its origin and
migration route to the Western Hemisphere. Did haplogroup X come
from Europe via the glaciated northern Atlantic, or did it follow the
same Beringian route as the other Native American haplogroups: If
the latter was the case, why was it not found in northern Siberia or
eastern Asia:
Scientists began looking for the presence of haplogroup X in other
areas of Asia and eventually were able to nd it in a small percentage
of the Altai population, on the northern border of Mongolia. In 2001
Miroslava Derenko and his colleagues published a paper in which they
reported the Altaian haplogroup X haplotypes (control region only)
together with Eurasian and American X lineages and suggested that
their intermediary position could possibly represent the population
source for haplogroup X in northern North America.` Its absence in
north Siberian populations could be explained by a rapid expansion or
by its disappearance due to genetic drif. However, when the same data
were analyzed at a higher level of resolutionthat of complete mtDNA
sequencesand compared to other X haplotypes, it became evident that
the Altaian mtDNA cluster (called X2e) was considerably younger than
the Native American X2a. Terefore, the Asian branch of X was not
ancestral to the Amerindian X2a, but it certainly could be a sister clade
derived from a common, now disappeared Asian ancestor. Te authors
suggested that the Altaian Xs were the result of a secondary, more
recent migratory event, possibly from the Caucasus region,` leaving
the question about the origin of Native American X2a unanswered.
Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford, Te North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: a possible
palaeolithic route to the New World, Vorld Archaeology 36/4 (2004): 43978.
38. Miroslava V. Derenko et al., Te Presence of Mitochondrial Haplogroup X in
Altaians from South Siberia, American journal of Human Genetics 69/1 (2001): 23741.
39. Maere Reidla et al., Origin and Diusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X, American
journal of Human Genetics 73/3 (2003): 117890.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 213
Te authors concluded their research by stating that phylogeography
of the subclades of haplogroup X suggests that the Near East is the
likely geographical source for the spread of subhaplogroup X2.
Interestingly, they identied a sample from Iran that shared a single,
fairly conserved coding region mutation with the Native American X2a
cluster: We surveyed our Old World haplogroup X mtDNAs for the ve
diagnostic X2a mutations [A200G and G16213A in the control region
and A8913G, A12397G, and T14302C in the coding region] and found a
match only for the transition at np 12397 [nucleotide position A12397G]
in a single X2 sequence from Iran. In a parsimony tree, this Iranian
mtDNA would share a common ancestor with the Native American
clade.' However, the authors suggested that this could have been
a case of IBS (identical by state, where shared mutations in dierent
populations arise by chance in a parallel manner with no common
ancestor) rather than IBD (identical by descent, where shared mutations
that exist in dierent populations originated from a common ancestor).
In other words, since they could not explain how the Iranian sample
could possibly cluster with the Native American X2a lineages, they
deduced that the common mutation was simply due to chance and not
because of a more recent common ancestry. It wasnt until 2008, with
the publication of two papers on Middle Eastern populations, that more
light on the origin of haplogroup X was shed.` One of them focused on
the Druze population of northern Israel.
Te Druze are a religious group originating as an oshoot of Islam
and numbering approximately one million people living principally
in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. Te authors of the paper on
Druze mtDNAs observed that most of the X lineages found elsewhere
(Africa, Europe, and Asia) were also detected among the Druze, thus
suggesting that they could indeed have been the source population
for the spreading of haplogroup X throughout the world. Although
no Native American X2a mtDNAs were observed among these
40. Reidla et al., Origin and Diusion, 1188.
41. Reidla et al., Origin and Diusion, 1187.
42. Shlush et al., Te Druze: A Population Genetic Refugium of the Near East,
PloS O^E 3/3 (2008): e2103; and Doron M. Behar et al., Counting the Founders: Te
Matrilineal Genetic Ancestry of the Jewish Diaspora, PloS O^E 3/4 (2008): e2062.
214 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
people, the Altaian X2e was one of the haplotypes that the researchers
identied, thus conrming a more recent migratory event that led to
the presence of X2e in modern-day southern Siberia. Additionally,
in 2009 a paper describing mtDNA lineages from Egyptian nomads
revealed a small number of haplotypes carrying the same diagnostic
coding region mutation shared by the Native American X2a samples
and the one from Iran reported in 2003.` Tis nding supports the
conclusion that such a mutation may indeed be ancestral to all of these
samples, leaving the door open to future studies that may contribute
additional knowledge about a possibly more recent (when compared
to the Pan-American and Asian haplogroups) relationship between
Amerindian X2a and Middle Eastern haplotypes.
Tis brief summary of studies focusing on the origin and diusion
of haplogroup X contains some of the details that have been used in
the Book of Mormon debate over the past few years. Some Latter-day
Saint scholars welcomed the association between a small group of
Native American lineages and people of the Middle East as genetic
evidence that indeed there was a group of seafaring Israelites that
arrived in the Americas within the last couple thousand years. On the
other hand, critics of the Book of Mormon dismissed this possibility
by rst referring to the presence of haplogroup X among the Altaians
(and therefore supporting the scenario that this lineage followed the
same Beringian route to the New World at the same time as the other
Pan-American mtDNAs). As already discussed, this rst hypothesis
is now challenged by data from complete mtDNA sequences that
exclude the Asian X lineage from being the potential ancestor to the
American one. A second criticism with regard to a possible association
between Book of Mormon people and the X2a lineage is based on the
current coalescent age of haplogroup X2a, as well as ndings based on
ancient DNA studies supporting a longer presence of this lineage in
the Americasclose in time to the origin of other Native American
43. Martina Kujanova et al., Near Eastern Neolithic Genetic Input in a Small Oasis
of the Egyptian Western Desert, American journal of Physical Anthropology 140/2
(2009): 33646.
44. Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 213
haplogroupsand therefore predating the events recorded in the
Book of Mormon.
Te rst issue deals with the age estimate based on modern DNA.
Tere are currently ve molecular clocks that have been proposed to
calculate the age of mtDNA lineages using data from coding regions
or complete sequences. Only one of these mutation rates is based
on the complete mtDNA genome (both control and coding regions),
providing an age estimate for X2a (12,800 6,600 years ago), which
is similar to the four Pan-American haplogroups. Te ages obtained
using the other molecular clocks are fairly comparable. Te X2a
distribution limited to northern North America strongly suggests a
separate migratory event from Beringia through the ice-free corridor
that was open between the Cordilleran and Laurentide glaciers at the
end of the last ice age. In order for X2a to t within Book of Mormon
chronology, the currently accepted molecular clocks would need
considerable recalibration, or other samples from the Old World
carrying additional mutations shared with the Native American X2a
would be needed. Neither of these two scenarios is currently likely,
and neither may ever become a means for conclusively demonstrating
a link between X2a and Lehis party.
Te discussion of the X haplotype illustrates the challenges en-
countered when attempting to reconstruct genetic scenarios from
43. For details about the ve age-estimate models based on complete mtDNA
sequences, see Dan Mishmar et al., Natural selection shaped regional mtDNA varia-
tion in humans, Proceedings of the ^ational Academy of Sciences 100/1 (2001): 17176;
Toomas Kivisild et al., Te Role of Selection in the Evolution of Human Mitochondrial
Genomes, Genetics 172/1 (2006): 37387; Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration; Pedro
Soares et al., Correcting for Purifying Selection: An Improved Human Mitochondrial
Molecular Clock, American journal of Human Genetics 84/6 (2009): 74039; and Eva-
Liis Loogvli et al., Explaining the Imperfection of the Molecular Clock of Hominid
Mitochondria, PloS O^E 4/12 (2009): e8260.
46. Soares et al., Correcting for Purifying Selection.
47. Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration.
48. Supporters of X haplogroup as evidence for Book of Mormon historicity and its
geographic setting in northern North America rely on the unpopular molecular clock
proposed by a forensic team in 1997. Tis clock was based on control region data only. See
Tomas J. Parsons et al., A high observed substitution rate in the human mitochondrial
DNA control region, ^ature Genetics 13 (1997): 36368.
216 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
modern populations compatible with the Book of Mormon time
line and expected source population. Based on the molecular clocks
currently used by the scientic community, it would be nearly
impossible to distinguish a Eurasian lineage that arrived 2,600 years
ago from those brought by Europeans afer the discovery of Americas
double continent, simply because there would not have been enough
time for these lineages to dierentiate enough to allow discernment
of pre-Columbian from post-Columbian admixture. Te only truly
testable hypothesis that unequivocally evaluates the historicity of the
Book of Mormon from a molecular perspective would be to know the
actual genetic proles of Lehis group, identify them in the modern
Native American populations, and nd exact matches in samples
from their Middle Eastern area of origin (assuming that genetic drif
and population bottlenecks had not obliterated the genetic signal over
time). Unfortunately, as already discussed, to attribute a particular
genetic prole to Lehis group would be pure speculation, making the
testing of this hypothesis impossible.
Tree studies explore the presence of X2a in ancient times in the
Americas. As previously discussed, X2a is dened by ve diagnostic
mutations (two control and three coding region transitions). However,
researchers of ancient mtDNA have been limited to a small segment
of the control region, and therefore their classication of mtDNA
lineages from ancient samples was based solely on one basal mutation
for the root of haplogroup X (C16278T). Tis mutation is shared by
all the X lineages worldwide and is also a mutational hotspota
nucleotide position that recurrently mutates in the world mtDNA
phylogeny. According to a recent publication surveying 2,000
complete mtDNA sequences, C16278T was the twelfh most common
mutation observed. Using this single site as the diagnostic mutation
49. William W. Hauswirth et al., Inter- and intrapopulation studies of ancient
humans, Experientia 30/6 (1994): 38391; Anne C. Stone and Mark Stoneking, mtDNA
Analysis of a Prehistoric Oneota Population: Implications for the Peopling of the New
World, American journal of Human Genetics 62/3 (1998): 113370; and Ripan S. Malhi
and David G. Smith, Brief Communication: Haplogroup X Conrmed in Prehistoric
North America, American journal of Physical Anthropology 119 (2002): 8486.
30. Soares, Correcting for Purifying Selection. A similar outcome was observed
when querying the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation mtDNA database (www.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 217
to place ancient samples into the X haplogroup already poses a serious
limitation to the accuracy of such inferences. Two of the three papers
in question predate the era of gold standards for ancient DNA studies,
which already constitutes a potential concern in condently accepting
the quality of their results and subsequently of the conclusion derived
from such analyses.
Te rst paper dealt with a burial site in Windover, Florida, where
176 individuals were identied and recovered. Te site was carbon-
dated at approximately 7,0008,000 years ago, and a short section
of the mtDNA control region (166 bases from position 16131 to
position 16317) was sequenced for fourteen individuals. Two of the
specimens analyzed yielded the recurrent mutation C16278T, which
is also diagnostic for the whole X haplogroup. However, neither of
them reported the common G16213A transition, which would have
been found within the range that was sequenced. Additionally, the
mutations of these two haplotypes are not sucient to allow an
unambiguous assignment to either haplogroup X2a or any of the
other Pan-American haplogroups. Te authors admitted that given
the limited number of Windover samples currently analyzed and the
restricted length of mtDNA sequences analyzed . . . any inference
regarding Windover structure or its relationship to contemporary
Amerind groups is necessarily tentative.'
Te second paper dealing with haplogroup X2a from ancient DNA
was based on specimens retrieved from a Native American cemetery
at the Norris Farm site in Illinois. Archaeologists classied the site as
being part of the Oneota culture and dated it at about 1,000 years ago, a
time frame that would somewhat t with Book of Mormon chronology.
DNA was extracted successfully from 108 individuals, but only 32 of
them were sequenced for a segment of the mtDNA control region (333
bases, from position 16036 to position 16409). Nearly all haplotypes
were assigned to one of the four major Pan-American haplogroups,
with the exception of two that bore the X-specic C16278T transition
and none of the A2, B2, C1, and D1 diagnostic mutations. However, as
SMGF.org, accessed 8 June 2010). Out of more than 76,000 samples, C16278T was
observed in 8,301 cases in several haplogroups, including all the Pan-American lineages.
31. Hauswirth et al., Inter- and intrapopulation studies of ancient humans, 389.
218 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
with the previous paper, both samples are missing mutation G16213A,
which is found in nearly all modern-day X2a samples.
Contamination, postmortem damage, parallel or back mutations,
and misclassication due to the limited data available might explain
the presence of C16278T and the absence of G16213A, which precluded
a condent determination of haplogroup X in the ancient burial sites
described in these rst two papers.` Currently, the rst convincing
evidence of haplogroup X in pre-Columbian America comes from
a 2002 study reporting ancient DNA data from an approximately
1,340-year-old burial site on the Columbia River near Vantage,
Washington.` It is not excluded that future studiesincluding a more
detailed and controlled analysis of the samples from the 8,000-year-
old Windover burial sitemay eventually conrm the presence of
haplogroup X in preBook of Mormon America. It is also possible that
the specimens analyzed could belong to a rarer or extinct X subclade,
distantly related to the more common X2a found in the modern
native population of northern North America, as demonstrated by the
recently discovered X2g lineage found in an Ojibwa sample.
What about Other mtDNA Lineages Found in the Americas?
Molecular anthropologist Ted Schurr addressed the issue of
Amerindian lineages not belonging to the classical Pan-American
haplogroups by stating that
various studies have also revealed a high frequency of private
haplotypes in individual populations or groups of related
Amerindian tribes. Tese patterns reect the role that genetic
drif and founder eects have played in the stochastic extinc-
tion and xation of mtDNA haplotypes in Native American
populations.
A number of haplotypes not clearly belonging to these ve
maternal lineages have been also detected in dierent Native
32. Malhi and Smith, Haplogroup X Conrmed 83.
33. Malhi and Smith, Haplogroup X Conrmed.
34. Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration, 2.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 219
American groups. Tese other mtDNAs have ofen been
considered additional founding haplotypes or haplogroups
in New World populations. However, most have since been
shown to be derivatives of haplogroups AD that have lost di-
agnostic mutations. Te remainder appears to have been con-
tributed to indigenous groups through nonnative admixture.
In addition, the other mtDNAs detected in archeological
samples may have resulted from contamination with modern
mtDNAs, or were insuciently analyzed to make a determi-
nation of their haplogroup status.
Te process of discovering additional pre-Columbian lineages in
the Americas is somewhat limited by the preconceived notion that if a
lineage does not t with the classical Native American haplotypes, it is
most likely the result of a recent migratory event from the Old World.
For example, a 1999 study on the Cayapa tribe of Ecuador revealed
a number of lineages that did not t with the ve known Native
American haplogroups. Although the authors believed it could
have been a newly identied pre-Columbian lineage and called it the
Cayapa haplotype, others dismissed it as a possible case of European
mtDNA introgression. However, it was only when mtDNA data
became available from the approximately 10,000-year-old Alaskan
skeleton described earlier that the Cayapa haplotype was conrmed
as a genuine pre-Colombian novel lineage. From the initial four
Amerindian mtDNA haplogroups discovered in the early 1990s, at least
feen Native American founding lineages are currently catalogued,
and it is very likely that more will be identied in future studies.
33. Teodore G. Schurr, Te Peopling of the New World: Perspectives from
Molecular Anthropology, Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004): 336.
36. Olga Rickards et al., mtDNA History of the Cayapa Amerinds of Ecuador:
Detection of Additional Founding Lineages for the Native American Populations,
American journal of Human Genetics 63/2 (1999): 31930.
37. Schurr, Peopling of the New World.
38. Kemp, Holocene Skeletal Remains.
39. Achilli, Phylogeny; Perego, Paleo-Indian Migration; Ugo A. Perego, Te
Origin of Native Americans: A Reconstruction Based on the Analysis of Mitochondrial
Genomes (PhD diss., Universita di Pavia, Italy, 2009); Ripan S. Malhi et al., Brief com-
munication: Mitochondrial Haplotype C4c Conrmed as a Founding Genome in the
220 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
Additionally, detailed studies based on complete mtDNA sequences of
haplotypes belonging to peculiar branches of the four Pan-American
haplogroups may reveal interesting distribution patterns reecting
novel migratory events that could not be detected based on control
region data only.
What about Other Genetic Markers?
Te purpose of this essay is to provide an updated review of
mtDNA research on Native American populations in light of the Book
of Mormon debate. In the interest of space, it is not feasible to discuss
in detail data from additional genetic systems, but a brief review of
ndings will be highlighted.
Te Ycs data produced to date are still fairly scarce and have produced
discrepant results, suggesting that considerable work to fully investigate
the history of paternal lineages in the Americas is still badly needed.
Future studies will need to test many more samples at a higher level of
resolution in order to achieve a greater dissection and understanding of
Amerindian Ycs haplogroups, including a better calibration of the Ycs
molecular clock. Additionally, while autochthonous mtDNA lineages
are still found abundantly among both indigenous and mixed American
populations, the European male contribution to the Native American
gene pool was devastating in terms of preserving the Native American
genetic signal. Te genetic bottleneck experienced in Ycs lineages was
tenfold more severe than its female counterpart, thus making studies
based on this uniparental paternal marker far less informative in
elucidating Native American genetic history.
Americas, American journal of Physical Anthropology 141 (2010): 49497; and Ugo A.
Perego et al., Te Initial Peopling of the Americas: a Growing Number of Founding
Mitochondrial Genomes from Beringia, Genome Research (forthcoming).
60. Alessandro Achilli et al., Te mitochondrial DNA landscape of modern
Mexico, American Society of Human Genetics, 38th Annual Meeting, Philadelphia,
1113 November 2008; and Alessandro Achilli et al., Decrypting the mtDNA gene pool
of modern Panamanians, American Society of Human Genetics, 39th Annual Meeting,
Honolulu, 2024 October 2009. Approximately 80 percent of the samples tested for the
Mexican (n = approx. 2,000) and the Panamanian (n = approx. 300) mixed populations
belonged to one of the four Pan-American haplogroups.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 221
With regard to autosomal DNA, the genetic reshuing that
occurs in each generation creates serious limitations in the ability to
trace specic ancestral lineages unequivocally. When compared to
Ycs and mtDNA markers, the study of autosomal DNA is far more
complex and is less forthcoming in straightforward interpretation.
Recent technological advances now allow for the testing of up to one
million polymorphic autosomal sites for an individual, providing an
unprecedented level of resolution in characterizing an individuals
genetic prole. From such an abundance of data, statistical analysis
can give the estimated percentage of an ancestral populations
contribution to an individuals genetic makeup. Tis can provide a
picture of possible genetic inuences from other populations that
may not be reected in the strictly maternal or paternal ancestral
lineage. However, with regard to the Book of Mormon discussion,
autosomal DNA inheritance is subject to the same population forces
as other genetic systems (genetic drif, genetic bottleneck, and
founder eect), and considering the likely demographic scenario
of the Book of Mormon (i.e., a small group of Old World migrants
mixing with a large population of ancient Asian origins), the probable
ndings of autosomal studies are unlikely to contradict results already
achieved with mtDNA and Ycs data. Native American Ycs, mtDNA,
or autosomal DNA data analyzed will likely continue to produce a
predominantly Asian signal.
A recent study based on a small section of DNA found on
chromosome 9 had the objective of determining the origin and
number of Paleo-Indian migrations. Based on their analysis, the
authors concluded that all modern Native Americans . . . trace
a large portion of their ancestry to a single founding population
that may have been isolated from other Asian populations prior to
expanding into the Americas.' Tis study was recently mentioned
as further demonstration that conclusions by critics of the Book of
Mormon in the past are indeed correct, based on the fact that the
study purportedly reported that all Native American populations and
61. Kari B. Schroeder et al., Haplotypic Background of a Private Allele at High
Frequency in the Americas, Molecular Biology and Evolution 26/3 (2009): 993.
222 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
all individuals analyzed carried the same autosomal polymorphic
mutation also found in Asian populations.` Book of Mormon
opponents, however, disregard several key points in their arguments.
First, as already discussed, the presence of indigenous populations of
Asian origins prior to the arrival of Book of Mormon people does not
aect the historicity of the book itself. Tese autosomal ndings are in
line with what is already known about Native American populations
and do not change arguments already presented that propose that
Book of Mormon events are compatible with the Asian-dominated
genetic landscape found in Native Americans today. Population
bottleneck, founder eect, genetic drif, and other population-altering
forces aect all genetic systems, including autosomal DNA. It would
not be unusual to expect that the small autosomal contribution of
Lehi and his followers could be lost over time when mixing with
an already established population of Asian origin. Additionally,
the authors concluded that a large portion and not all the Native
American ancestry can be traced to a single population with Asian
anity. A further important point comes from the idea of hypothesis
construction. Tis research was not designed to identify a possible
presence of Western Eurasianspecic markers in the Amerindian
populations, and thus it is not surprising that none were found.
Of greater relevance to the debate about possible subsequent
migrations to the Western Hemisphere, besides those that occurred
afer the last ice age, is a recent study published in the prestigious
journal ^ature. Te authors reported autosomal DNA data that
were successfully sequenced from hair belonging to a well-preserved
4,000-year-old Saqqaq individual discovered in Greenland.` Tis
research has contributed greatly to the current understanding of events
that led to the peopling of the Americas. Te authors concluded that
the genetic makeup of the ancient Saqqaq individual was very dierent
from that of Inuit or other Native American populations. Instead, he
62. A Quantum Leap in DNA Studies, www.signaturebooks.com/news.htm
(accessed January 2010). Tis article has since been removed from Signature Books Web
site.
63. Morten Rasmussen et al., Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-
Eskimo, ^ature 463 (2010): 73762.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 223
was closely related to Old World Arctic populations of the Siberian
Far East, being separated from them by approximately two hundred
generations (roughly 3,300 years). Tese data suggest a distinctive
and more recent migration across Beringia by a group of people that
were not related to the ancestors of modern-day Native Americans,
who arrived on the American continent nearly 10,000 years earlier.
As the senior author emphasized, the lack of genetic continuity
between the ancient Saqqaq individual and the modern population
of the New World Arctic stands as a witness that other migrations
could have taken place that lef no contemporary descendants. In
commenting about the ndings of this project, population geneticist
Marcus Feldman from Stanford University said that the models
that suggest a single one-time migration are generally regarded as
idealized systems, like an idealized gas in physics. But there may have
been small amounts of migrations going on for millennia. He went
to explain that just because researchers put a date on when ancient
humans crossed the Bering Bridge, that doesnt mean it happened only
once and then stopped. Moreover, a multiple population source/
migration model for the peopling of the Americaswhich may have
included additional routes besides the Bering Strait crossingwas
recently reproposed through the analysis of human leukocyte antigen
(HLA) genes.
Conclusions
Te Book of Mormon is not a volume about the history and origins
of all American Indians. A careful reading of the text clearly indicates
64. Cassandra Brooks, First ancient human sequenced, www.the-scientist.com/
blog/display/37140 (accessed 9 June 2010).
63. Brooks, First ancient human sequenced. Te second quotation is Brookss para-
phrase of Feldman. See Michael H. Crawford, Te Origins of ^ative Americans, 4. In
his lengthy review of data supporting the Asian origins of the Amerindians, he stated
that this evidence does not preclude the possibility of some small-scale cultural contacts
between specic Amerindian societies and Asian or Oceanic seafarers.
66. Antonio Arnaiz-Villena et al., Te Origin of Amerindians and the Peopling
of the Americas According to HLA Genes: Admixture with Asian and Pacic People,
Current Genomics 11/2 (2010): 10314.
224 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
that the people described in the Book of Mormon were limited in the
recording of their history to events that had religious relevance and
that occurred in relatively close proximity to the keepers of the annals.
Te fact that the DNA of Lehi and his party has not been detected
in modern Native American populations does not demonstrate that
this group of people never existed, nor that the Book of Mormon
cannot be historical in nature. Te absence of evidence is not evidence
of absence. Further, the very idea of locating the genetic signature of
Lehis family in modern populations constitutes a truly untestable
hypothesis since it is not possible to know the nature of their genetic
proles. Without our knowing the genetic signature to be located,
any attempt at researching it will unavoidably result in further
assumptions and untestable hypotheses. What were the characteristics
of Lehis DNA and the DNA of those who went along with him:
What haplogroup(s) did they belong to: We will never know. Yet this
key point seems lost on those who insist on using genetic evidence
as a means to validate or reject the Book of Mormon as a historical
narrative. Attempting to make such conclusions is a miscarriage of
logic comparable to collecting and analyzing the DNA of thousands
of people living in the area surrounding a hypothetical crime scene
from which no DNA could be retrieved from the individual who
committed the crime, thus creating a comprehensive database of
all these people. Will the database include the DNA signature of
the criminal: If so, how could the perpetrator be identied among
the thousands of others: Similarly, would a database composed of
thousands of Native American DNA samples provide the necessary
evidence to validate the existence of a small group (perhaps as few
as two mtDNA haplotypes) that migrated from the Old World and
settled somewhere in the Americas: Conversely, could haplogroup X
be undoubtedly inferred as the ultimate proof of the genetic legacy this
group lef, without ever knowing their actual original DNA signature:
Mitochondrial DNA is a powerful tool in reconstructing the history
of our race, as demonstrated by the numerous publications that have
been produced over the past two and a half decades. However, as has
been amply demonstrated, knowing a great deal about the genetic
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 223
composition of modern-day Native American populations does not
give conclusive evidence of the validity or the implausibility of the
Book of Mormons historicity.
An additional caveat is the lack of professional training in
population genetics by those promoting a supposed discrepancy
between the genetic evidence and the Book of Mormon account. Some
of them claim that their conclusions are strongly supported by trained
experts who have been consulted for unbiased opinions about this
particular matter. Tis should raise some concerns, though, since it
is fairly obvious that most people outside of the circle of Mormonism
have very limited knowledge of the Book of Mormon and its contents.
As a further counterpoint to the critics arguments, these experts seem
to be in agreement that DNA lineages from a small Old World group
migrating to an already heavily populated American continent would
disappear. Moreover, it is also noteworthy that what these scientists
know about what Mormons believe has been provided mainly as
one-sided background information from the critics themselves. To
oer a personal anecdote, my scientist colleagues have asked me
about DNA evidence and the Book of Mormon on several occasions.
I respond with a simple summary in which I explain that the DNA
lineages of Lehis colony could have been lost due to genetic drif since
the number of people involved was probably fairly small compared
to the size of the resident Amerindian population. I also explain that
it is not possible to distinguish those lineages from post-Columbian
admixture, simply because 2,600 years is not enough time for Book
67. See, for example, the introduction to Southertons Losing a Lost Tribe or Living
Hope Ministries D^A vs. the Book of Mormon (DVD, 2003).
68. What Happens Genetically When a Small Population Is Introduced into a Larger
One: www.signaturebooks.com/excerpts/DNAAmericas.htm (accessed November
2009). Tis article has since been removed from Signature Books Web site. Te exact
question asked was, If a group of, say, fy Phoenicians (men and women) arrived in the
Americas some 2,600 years ago and intermarried with indigenous people, and assum-
ing their descendants fared as well as the larger population through the vicissitudes of
disease, famine, and war, would you expect to nd genetic evidence of their Phoenician
ancestors in the current Native American population: In addition, would their descen-
dants be presumed to have an equal or unequal number of Middle Eastern as Native
American haplotypes:
226 The FARMS Review 22/1 (2010)
of Mormon mtDNA to dierentiate Lehis descendants from their
Eurasian counterparts. My colleagues typically reply that they are not
convinced that I have accurately represented what Latter-day Saints
believenamely, that Lehis posterity comprises all Native Americans.
Tese personal experiences give context for evaluating genuine
experts opinions, based as they are on what the critics may have
shared as background information regarding the Book of Mormon
and Latter-day Saint beliefs. Ultimately, the critics arguments hold
up only when they prescribe what it is that Latter-day Saints believe.
Since neither the Book of Mormon nor church doctrine indicates that
all Native Americans descend from the Book of Mormon people, the
critics arguments are on a weak footing at the outset.
In light of the information provided in this essay, it should be
evident that the work of reconstructing the history of Native American
populations using molecular data is still under way. Some questions can
be answered while many more remain, spurring further research. Te
genetic evidence of the peopling of the Americas is not fully understood,
and it has evolved substantially over the past two decades. DNA
research, and particularly mtDNA data, has been produced in great
abundance during this time period and has provided an initial glimpse
into the history and prehistory of the indigenous peoples of the Western
Hemisphere. Tis is truly an exciting time to study the genetic history of
Native Americans, for there is much yet to be understood. For example,
how is the high frequency of haplogroup B in Southeast Asia and western
South America reconciled with its rarity in the native populations of
north Siberia and Alaska: Te scarcity of archaeological evidence for
human settlements on either side of the Bering Strait provides a degree
of intrigue, considering that mainstream scientists currently accept
Beringia as the likely refugium for Paleo-Indians during the last ice age,
leaving open the possibility for alternative routes into the Americas.
Mitochondrial DNA is doubtless a powerful tool that can reveal details
about the expansion processes leading to the colonization of the world,
including Americas double continent. However, it is not well suited as
69. Dennis H. ORourke and Jennifer A. Ra, Te Human Genetic History of the
Americas: Te Final Frontier, Current Biology 20/4 (2010): R2027.
Ovici or ^z1ivr Amrviczs (Perego) 227
the ultimate tool to assess the historicity of religious documents like the
Book of Mormon and the Bible. If the DNA of Lehi and his family cannot
be condently detected in the modern Amerindian population, does it
mean that they never existed: Te principles underlying this question
can be further extrapolated to other religious scenarios. Can we use DNA
to decisively prove that the great biblical patriarchsAbraham, Isaac,
and Jacobever existed: What were their own and their descendants
mtDNA haplotypes: What about the other great Old Testament gures,
such as Joseph of Egypt, Moses, and Isaiah: Can we use DNA analysis
to prove that Jesus Christ lived: Te New Testament mentions that Jesus
had brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:3336; Mark 6:3) through whom
Marys mtDNA could have been transmitted to future generations (and
if not through Mary, perhaps through some of her female relatives).
Where is their DNA in todays population: Would it be acceptable to
conclude that these are ctional historical gures and the biblical text a
hoax because of the lack of genetic evidence: As I already commented
on another occasion: I nd no diculties in reconciling my scientic
passion about Native American history with my religious beliefs. I am
not looking for a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon in the
double helix. Te scientic method and the test of faith are two strongly
connected dimensions of my existence, working synergistically in
providing greater understanding, knowledge, and from time to time
even a glimpse into Gods eternal mysteries. Anyone using DNA to
ascertain the accuracy of historical events of a religious naturewhich
require instead a component of faithwill be sorely disappointed. DNA
studies will continue to assist in reconstructing the history of Native
American and other populations, but it is through faith that we are
asked to search for truth in holy writings (Moroni 10:33).'
70. Ugo A. Perego, Current Biology, SMGF, and Lamanites, www.fairblog.
org/2009/02/06/current-biology-smgf-and-lamanites (accessed 9 June 2010).
71. Jerey R. Holland, Safety for the Soul, Ensign, November 2009, 8890, http://
lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,3232,23-1-1117-28,00.html (accessed 9 June 2010).
24 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003
T
he past decade has seen a revolution in
the way in which biologists collect data and
proceed with their research. This revolution
has come about by technological innovations that
allow scientists to efficiently sequence DNA for a
wide range of organisms, resulting in vast quantities
of genetic data from a diverse array of creatures. From
estimating the genealogical relationships among
fleas to understanding the population genetics of
crayfish, DNA sequence information can provide
clues to the past and allow scientists to test very spe-
cific hypotheses in a way that was unapproachable
even a few years ago. The announced completion of
the Human Genome Project is not really a comple-
tion of DNA work at all, but simply one step on the
road toward a better understanding of ourselves as
biological organisms, our shared genetic history as
humans, and the genetic history we share with all
living organisms. Work is under way in many fields
to generate DNA sequences from a wide variety of
organisms for a spectrum of genes to address an al-
most dizzying array of scientific and medical ques-
tions. As it stands, there is possibly no other data
source that holds more potential for biological in-
quiry than DNA sequence data, and this informa-
tion is currently one of the most powerful tools in
the arsenal of scientists.
However, as with all scientific tools, there are
bounds and limits to how this tool is applied and
what questions it can adequately address. This is be-
cause DNA sequence information is useful for only
certain classes of scientific questions that need to be
properly formulated and carefully evaluated before
the validity of the results can be accepted. There are
many interesting questions for which DNA sequence
data is the most appropriate data source at hand, as
current scientific investigations attest. But there are
some classes of problems for which DNA may pro-
vide only tangential insight, and some very interest-
ing biological questions for which DNA is altogether
an inappropriate source of information. Moreover,
there are certain biological problems that scientists
would love to answer but that are complicated and
resist solution, even given DNA information. Within
the scientific community, DNA-based research is
carefully scrutinized to be certain that underlying
assumptions have been tested, that data have been
correctly collected and analyzed, and that the inter-
pretation of the results are kept within the frame-
work of the current theory or methodology. DNA
research is only as good as the hypotheses formu-
lated, data collected, and analyses employed, and the
pronouncement that a certain conclusion was based
on DNA evidence does not ipso facto mean that the
research is based on solid science or that the conclu-
sion is correct. The National Science Foundation re-
jects literally hundreds of DNA-based research pro-
posals every year because they are lacking in some
way in scientific design. The inclusion of a DNA
component does not necessarily guarantee that the
study was properly designed or executed.
Recently, some persons have announced that
modern DNA research has conclusively proved that
the Book of Mormon is false and that Joseph Smith
was a fraud.
1
This conclusion is based on the argu-
ment that the Book of Mormon makes specific pre-
dictions about the genetic structure of the descen-
dants of the Lamanites and that these descendants
should be readily identifiable today. These critics ar-
gue that when the DNA is put to the test, these de-
scendants lack the distinctive genetic signature that
the critics claim the Book of Mormon predicts. They
DNA AND THE BOOK OF MORMON:
A PHYLOGENETIC PERSPECTIVE
Michael F. Whiting

JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 25
bolster their arguments by appealing to DNA re-
search, claim that their conclusions are thoroughly
scientific, and pronounce that the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints must now go through a
Galileo event, in reference to the 17th-century as-
tronomer who discovered that the sun, not the
earth, was the center of the solar system, much to
the consternation of the prevailing religious view.
They have trumpeted this conclusion to the media
and have gained a modicum of press coverage by
playing on the stereotype of modern science being
suppressed by old religion. Moreover, they argue
that the silence at Brigham Young University over
this topic is evidence that their arguments and con-
clusions are above reproach. However, these claims
err scientifically in that they are based on the naive
notion that DNA provides infallible evidence for an-
cestry and descent in sexually reproducing popula-
tions and that the results from such analyses are
straightforward, objective, and not laden with as-
sumptions. Moreover, proponents of this naive view
blindly ignore decades of theory associated with
DNA sequence evolution and data analysis and
rarely speak to the extremely tentative nature of
their conclusions.
The purpose of this paper is to debunk the myth
that the Book of Mormon has been proved false by
modern DNA evidence. What I put forth here is a
series of scientific arguments highlighting the diffi-
culty of testing the lineage history given some of the
known complicating events. This paper should not
be regarded as a summary of current research on
human population genetics nor as an extensive
analysis of all possible complicating factors; rather, it
focuses on the current attempts to apply DNA infor-
mation to the Book of Mormon.
What Is the State of DNA Research on the Book of
Mormon?
The first point that should be clarified is that
those persons who state that DNA evidence falsifies
the authenticity of the Book of Mormon are not
themselves performing genetic research to test this
claim. This conclusion is not coming from the scien-
tists studying human population genetics. It is not
the result of a formal scientific investigation specifi-
cally designed to test the authenticity of the Book of
Mormon by means of genetic evidence, nor has it
been published in any reputable scientific journal
open to scientific peer review. Rather, it has come
from outside persons who have interpreted the con-
clusions of an array of population genetic studies
and forced the applicability of these results onto the
Book of Mormon. The studies cited by these critics
were never formulated by their original authors as a
specific test of the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
To my knowledge there is no reputable researcher
who is specifically attempting to test the authenticity
of the Book of Mormon with DNA evidence.
Is DNA Research on the Book of Mormon
Fundable?
As I am writing this article, I am sitting in an
airplane on my way to Washington, D.C., to serve as
a member of a scientific review panel for the Syste-
matic Biology program of the National Science
Foundation. The NSF is a major source of basic re-
search funding available to scientists in the United
States, and every six months the NSF brings in a
panel of researchers to review grant applications
and provide recommendations for funding. Each
research proposal is a 15-page explanation of what
research is to be performed, how the research proj-
ect is designed, the specific hypotheses to be tested
through the proposed work, preliminary data
Galileos controversial but correct scientific observation that the earth
rotates around the sun was consistent with good science. (Galileo, by
Justus Sustermans, 15971681, oil on canvas; Scala/Art Resource, New York)

26 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003
indicating the feasibility of the particular scientific
approach, careful analyses of these data, preliminary
conclusions based on those analyses, and a justifica-
tion for why the proposed research is scientifically
interesting, intellectually significant, and worthy of
funding. As someone who has received a half-dozen
NSF grants and has written even more research pro-
posals, I recognize how much time and effort go
into writing a successful research proposal and how
carefully thought out that research must be before
funding will ever be made available. While anyone
can claim to do scientific research, it is widely ac-
cepted within the scientific community that the
touchstone of quality in a research program is the
ability to obtain external funding from a nationally
peer-reviewed granting agency and to publish the
results in a reputable scientific journal. To be funded
at the national level means that a research proposal
has undergone the highest degree of scrutiny and
been approved by those best able to judge its merits.
Given that no research program thus far has
been designed to specifically test the authenticity of
the Book of Mormon, I would like to center my dis-
cussion on the following question: If one were to de-
sign a research program with the stated goal of testing
the validity of the Book of Mormon based on DNA in-
formation, what specific hypotheses would one test,
what experimental design is best suited to test each of
these hypotheses, what sort of assumptions must be
satisfied before these tests are valid, and what are the
limitations of the conclusions that can be drawn from
these data? In other words, would a proposal to test
the validity of the Book of Mormon by means of
DNA sequence information have a sufficiently solid
base in science to ever be competitive in receiving
funding from a nationally peer-reviewed scientific
funding agency such as the NSF?
Is the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon
Testable by Means of DNA Information?
One could of course argue that it is impossible
to directly test the authenticity of the Book of Mor-
mon with the tools of science, since the Book of
Mormon lies within the realm of religion and out-
side the realm of science. It would be like asking a
scientist to design an experiment that tests for the
existence of God. There are no data that one could
collect to refute the hypothesis that God exists, just
as there are no data that one could collect to refute
the hypothesis that he does not exist: science simply
cannot address the question, and one might argue
that the same is true for the Book of Mormon. If
one holds this view, and there may be some very
good reasons why one might, then there is no need
to read any further: DNA can tell us nothing about
the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
However, one might argue that it is possible to
indirectly judge the validity of the text by testing the
authenticity of the predictions made within the text.
If one can demonstrate that some predictions are
specifically violated, then perhaps one would have
some basis for claiming that the text is false. This is
the line of reasoning followed by those who pursue
the genetic argument. They suggest that the Book of
Mormon makes specific predictions about the ge-
netic structure of the Nephite-Lamanite lineage, that
this genetic structure should be identifiable in the
descendants of the surviving Lamanites, and that if
the Book of Mormon is true, then these predic-
tions should be verifiable through DNA evidence.
The critics argue that the Book of Mormon predicts
that the Lamanite lineage should carry the genetic
signature of a Middle Eastern origin and that the ge-
netic descendents of the Lamanites are Native
Americans. They then scour the literature to show
that current DNA research suggests that Native
Americans had an Asian origin. These results are
then trumpeted as invalidating the authenticity of
the text.
However, by simply applying the results of popu-
lation genetic studies, which again were never in-
tended to test the Lamanite lineage history put forth
in the Book of Mormon, these critics have ignored
crucial issues that any reputable scientists designing
a research program would have to consider. My the-
sis is that it is extraordinarily difficult, if not impos-
sible, to use DNA sequence information to track the
lineage of any group of organisms that has a histori-
cal population dynamic similar to that of the
Nephites and Lamanites. This is not an argument
I would be just as critical of someone
who claimed that current DNA testing
proves the Book of Mormon is true as
I would of those who claim that DNA
evidence proves it is not true.
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 27
that the Nephite-Lamanite lineage is somehow im-
mune to investigation through DNA evidence be-
cause its record is a religious history, but simply that
the Nephite-Lamanite lineage history is an example
of a class of problems for which DNA evidence pro-
videsat bestambiguous solutions. It does not
matter to me whether we are talking about humans
or fruit flies; you could substitute the term Lamanite
with Drosophila and the argument would be the
same. The lineage history outlined in the Book of
Mormon is a conundrum from a DNA perspective;
the critics have grossly underplayed or are ignorant
of the complications associated with testing this his-
tory. Further, because of the complicated nature of
this lineage history, I would suggest that the Book of
Mormon can neither be corroborated nor refuted by
DNA evidence and that attempts to do so miss the
mark entirely. I would be just as critical of someone
who claimed that current DNA testing proves the Book
of Mormon is true as I would of those who claim that
DNA evidence proves it is not true. The Lamanite lin-
eage history is difficult to test through DNA infor-
mation, DNA provides at best only tangential infor-
mation about the text, and anyone who argues that
it can somehow speak to the authenticity of the text
should consider the following complicating factors.
What Hypotheses Emerge from the Book of
Mormon?
Good science does not consist of someone
dreaming up a pet theory and then quilting together
pieces of evidence to support it from as many dis-
parate sources as possible while conveniently ignor-
ing pieces of evidence that may undercut the theory.
Good science consists of formulating specific hy-
potheses that can be directly tested from a particular
data source. The problem is that, unlike a good NSF
research proposal, the Book of Mormon does not
explicitly provide a list of null and alternative hy-
potheses for scientific testing. For instance, the spiri-
tual promise offered in Moroni 10:4 is not open to
scientific investigation because it does not put forth
a hypothesis that can be tested with any sort of sci-
entific rigor. Likewise, the entire text of the Book of
Mormon was meant for specific spiritual purposes
and was not intended to be a research proposal list-
ing an explicit hypothesis that is open to scientific
investigation. Hence, any hypothesis that emerges
from the Book of Mormon is entirely a matter of in-
terpretation, and any specific, testable hypothesis is
based very much on how one reads the Lamanite
history and considers the degree to which external
forces may have influenced the composition of the
Lamanite lineage. A person cannot test the authen-
ticity of the Book of Mormon by means of genetics
without making some statement about the specific
hypotheses that are being tested, why these hypothe-
ses are an accurate interpretation of the text, and how
these hypotheses somehow speak to the authenticity
of the text. At the very best, one might demonstrate
that the predictions have been violated, but the
question remains as to whether the supposed pre-
dictions were correct to begin with.
From my perspective, there are two possible ba-
sic lineage historiesdiffering in scope, magnitude,
and expectationthat one might derive from the
Book of Mormon. These histories make predictions
that could possibly form the basis of hypotheses that
may be tested to varying degrees by means of DNA
evidence. I have set these up in a dichotomy of ex-
tremes, and certainly one could come up with any
combination of these two scenarios, but the extremes
are useful for illustrating difficulties associated with
applying DNA sequence information to the Book of
Mormon. For lack of better terms, I will refer to
these as the global colonization hypothesis and the
local colonization hypothesis.
The Global Colonization Hypothesis
The global colonization hypothesis is the simplest
view of the Lamanite history and the one most read-
ily testable through DNA evidence. This is the view
that when the three colonizing groups (Jaredites,
Mulekites, and Nephties + Lamanites) came to the
New World, the land they occupied was entirely void
of humans. It presumes that these colonizers were
able to form a pure and isolated genetic unit of
Middle Eastern origin living on the American conti-
nent and that this genetic heritage was never con-
taminated by the genetic input from any other
nonMiddle Eastern sources or peoples during the
time recorded in the Book of Mormon. It also as-
sumes that the colonizers accurately carried the ge-
netic signature of the Middle Eastern source popula-
tion and that such a signature indeed existed both
within the source population and the migrants. It
further requires that genetic input from the time
when the Book of Mormon record ends to the pres-
ent day was negligible or absent and that the direct
genetic descendants of these colonizers exist today
28 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003
and can be identified prior to any genetic analysis.
This hypothesis also incorporates the notions that
these groups expanded to fill all of North and South
America, that there was a tremendous population
explosion from these single colonization events, and
that any subsequent genetic input, if it occurred,
would be swamped out by the strength of the
Middle Eastern genetic signal present in the major-
ity of the population. This hypothesis requires that
introgression (i.e., gene flow from an external popu-
lation to the one under study) of genetic signal from
other sources be negligible or absent and that the
genetics of the individuals compared in an analysis
have remained largely pure since the time of colo-
nization. This interpretation of the lineage history of
the Book of Mormon is the most easily tested hy-
pothesis by way of DNA analysis.
If we grant that the global colonization hypothe-
sis is the correct lineage history emerging from the
Book of Mormon, this hypothesis predicts that the
modern-day descendants of the Lamanite lineage
should contain the Middle Eastern genetic signature.
Since current population genetics suggests that Native
Americans (presumed by some to be the direct
Figure 1. Simplistic representation of population
genetics
Each candy store (A and B) represents a human
population that may be distinguished on the basis
of genetic information. The gumballs represent a
particular genetic marker (or locus), such as an
entire gene, a portion of DNA, or a specific posi-
tion along a strand of DNA. Each gumball color
represents a variant of the genetic marker, such
as a particular form of a gene (allele) or a differ-
ent nucleotide (A, G, C, or T) at a specific site on
the DNA strand. Each gumball machine repre-
sents a collection of all of the variants for a single
genetic marker across the entire population. If
gumball machine A1 contains 100 gumballs, this
means that within population A all 100 individu-
als possess the red variant (and no others) for
that particular genetic marker. Most organisms
(including humans) carry a large number of ge-
netic markers, so think of the candy store as a gi-
ant warehouse stretching out as a seemingly end-
less line of gumball machines. Most populations
consist of a large number of individuals, so think
of the gumball machines as being much larger
than illustrated.
One population (= candy store) may be distin-
guished from another by characterizing the particu-
lar combination and frequency of genetic variants
(= gumball colors) for every genetic marker (=
gumball machine). For instance, candy store A
may be distinguished from candy store B by carry-
ing only red gumballs for genetic marker 1, a high
frequency of green gumballs for genetic marker 2,
and a high frequency of yellow gumballs for ge-
netic marker 3. In relation to genetic marker 1,
the differences between candy store A and B are
discrete differences. That is to say, in candy store
A there is only a single genetic variant (red), and
in candy store B there is also only a single genetic
variant (green). In relation to genetic markers 2
and 3, the differences between candy stores A
and B are frequency differences. While both store
A and B contain blue variants for genetic marker
2, blue is present in a much higher frequency in
store B than it is in store A. The majority of popu-
lation genetic studies rely on such frequency dif-
ferences to characterize populations.
I
l
l
u
s
t
r
a
t
i
o
n
s

b
y

A
n
d
r
e
w

D
.

L
i
v
i
n
g
s
t
o
n
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 29
Figure 2. Influence of founder effect on frequency distributions of genetic variants
Each gumball machine (AD) represents a potential source population for a single genetic marker. Each source population can be distinguished
by a unique frequency of genetic variants (= gumball colors); for example, half of the individuals in source population A possess the genetic
variant yellow. Now assume that the mechanism for releasing gumballs from one machine is broken, so that when you return in the morning
you find gumballs on the floor. This represents a migration event from an unknown source. Suppose this happened three more times. Your task
is to determine which gumball machine was the source population of spilled gumballs for each day in a four-day period.
On day 1, 1000 gumballs spill onto the floor. The inference is that population C was the source population since the frequency of gumballs on
the floor is very close to the frequency in the original population. On day 2, 100 gumballs spill onto the floor and you infer (with less confi-
dence) that the source population is A since the frequency of the spilled gumballs is similar to the frequency of population A. On day 3, only
10 gumballs spill. The source population might be C, but this inference carries a great degree of uncertainty since the frequencies are markedly
different. On day 4, only 3 gumballs spill, and you cannot determine with any degree of confidence the identity of the source population. Thus
as the sample size decreases, the probability that it will not reflect the frequencies in the original population increases. Undersampling of popu-
lations is caused by the migration of few individuals and results in a major shift in frequency distributions of genetic markers, thereby obscur-
ing the genetic link to the source population.

Figure 3. Effects of genetic drift
Assume that a source population consists of 1000 gumballs with the frequencies as illustrated. Sample 100 individuals from the source popu-
lation and the frequency of gumballs will shift (for reasons given in fig. 2). Now establish a new population of 1000 gumballs with frequencies
identical to those of the selected sample at time 1. Sample 100 individuals from this new population at time 2. The frequency of the gumballs
will shift again. Reestablish the population of 1000 gumballs and repeat the process multiple times. When, after repeated rounds of sampling,
you compare the population frequencies with those of the original source population, the frequencies will have drifted over time, thus limiting
the ability to accurately infer the source population.
30 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003

JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 31
genetic descendants of the Lamanites) have an Asian
genetic signature,
2
the above hypothesis is indeed in-
correct. To this point all we have shown is that the
global colonization hypothesis appears falsified by
current genetic evidence. But is the global coloniza-
tion hypothesis the only hypothesis emerging from
the Book of Mormon? This is the crux of the matter.
Critics who argue that DNA analysis disproves the
authenticity of the Book of Mormon need to demon-
strate that the global colonization hypothesis is the
only way to interpret the Lamanite lineage history
and the only hypothesis under question. The au-
thenticity of the Book of Mormon is in question only if
this is an accurate interpretation of the historical pop-
ulation dynamics inferred as existing before, during,
and after the Book of Mormon record takes place.
However, if the above description of the lineage his-
tory in the Book of Mormon is oversimplified, then
these genetic results demonstrate only that this over-
simplified view does not appear correct. But Book of
Mormon scholars have been writing about certain
complicating factors for decades, so this conclusion
about oversimplification really comes as no surprise.
3
The Local Colonization Hypothesis
The local colonization hypothesis is more lim-
ited in scope, includes many more complicating fac-
tors from a genetic perspective, is much more diffi-
cult to investigate by way of DNA evidence, and, in
my view and that of Book of Mormon scholars, is a
more accurate interpretation of the Lamanite lineage
history. This hypothesis suggests that when the three
colonizing parties came to the New World, the land
was already occupied in whole or in part by people
of an unknown genetic heritage. Thus the colonizers
were not entirely isolated from genetic input from
other individuals who were living there or who would
arrive during or after the colonization period. The
hypothesis presumes that there was gene flow be-
tween the colonizers and the prior inhabitants of the
land, mixing the genetic signal that may have been
originally present in the colonizers. It recognizes that
by the time the Book of Mormon account ends, there
had been such a mixing of genetic information that
there was likely no clear genetic distinction between
Nephites, Lamanites, and other inhabitants of the
continent. This distinction was further blurred by
the time period from when the Book of Mormon
ends until now, during which there was an influx of
genes from multiple genetic sources. Moreover, the
hypothesis suggests that the Nephite-Lamanite line-
age occupied a limited geographic range. This would
make the unique Middle Eastern genetic signature, if
it existed in the colonizers at all, more susceptible to
being swamped out with genetic information from
other sources.
The problem with the local colonization hy-
pothesis (from a scientific standpoint) is that it is
unclear what specific observations would refute it.
This is because it makes no specific predictions that
can be refuted or corroborated. For instance, there is
no expectation that the descendants of the Lamanites
should have any specific type of genetic signal, since
their genetic signal was easily mixed and swamped
out by other inhabitants of unknown genetic origin.
Hence, this hypothesis can be neither easily corrobo-
rated nor easily refuted by DNA evidence, since any
observation could be attributed to genetic introgres-
sion, drift, founder effect, or any of the other com-
plicating factors described below.
Local Colonization Hypothesis: Complicating
Factors
Suppose you threw caution to the wind and be-
lieved that the local colonization hypothesis was the
correct one emerging from the Book of Mormon, you
really think it is testable, and you are specifically seek-
ing funding to test it. Further, suppose that someone
with knowledge of modern population genetics,
phylogenetic systematics, molecular evolution, and
the Book of Mormon was sitting on the NSF panel
reviewing your proposal. Below is a short descrip-
tion of some of the complicating factors that you
would have to address in your proposal before the
research could be funded. This is not meant to be
complete or exhaustive, but just an example of some
complicating factors. More detailed descriptions of
these basic concepts can be found in standard popu-
lation genetic, molecular systematics, and molecular
evolution textbooks.
4
1. Was there a unique, Middle Eastern genetic sig-
nature in the source population? In order for the col-
onizers to carry a Middle Eastern genetic signature
with them, that signature needed to first exist in the
source population. It is possible that the Middle East-
ern population may not have had a single genetic
signature that would allow one to unambiguously
identify an individual as being from the Middle East
and from no other human population. This is an
important consideration because there are many
32 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003
cultural and racial groups today for which there are
no discrete markers unambiguously identifying an
individual as a member of that group. Moreover,
typically the larger the population and the greater
that population tends to migrate, the smaller the
probability that a unique, discrete genetic marker
exists for that group.
2. Were genetic variants present in the colonizers?
In order to perform your study, you would need
to present evidence that each of the colonizing
groups possessed the unique and defining Middle
Eastern traits and did not possess any genetic vari-
ants that were atypical of this Middle Eastern ge-
netic heritage.
3. How do you know that small founder size does
not confound your results? The Book of Mormon
makes clear that each colonization event involved a
very small number of founders. Such small popula-
tion sizes would have had profound effects on how
the genetic markers changed over time. In fact, mov-
ing a few individuals of any species from one popu-
lation to a new locality can have such a profound
effect on the underlying genetic profile that it is
considered to be a major mechanism in the forma-
tion of new species. This is called founder effect,
which is caused by undersampling genes from a
much larger population of genes and is closely tied
to the concept of genetic drift (described below). In
other words, founder effect describes the evolution-
ary process that results in the colonizing population
having a gene pool that is not likely to reflect the
gene pool of the original source population.
4. What are the effects of genetic drift? Genetic
drift is the well-established evolutionary principle
that in small populations random sampling biases
will cause certain genetic markers to disappear and
other markers to become widespread in the popula-
tion just by chance. As an example, suppose you go
to the grocery store to purchase a container of 1,000
jelly beans in 10 flavors. When you bring the jelly
beans home, you determine that each of the 10 fla-
vors is present in equal frequency; that is, you have
as many tangerine-flavored jelly beans as you have
lime-flavored jelly beans. Now from that container of
1,000 jelly beans, randomly sample 100 jelly beans
and place them in a new container. If you count the
jelly beans in the new container, you will realize that
the frequency has changed; some flavors happened to
be selected 11 or 12 times, some were sampled only 3
or 4 times, and some might not be sampled at all.
Now instead of sampling 100 jelly beans, this time
sample 30 from your original container. You would
find that the frequency of flavors is more greatly
skewed with the smaller sample size and that you
have lost more flavors. As you reduce your sample
size, you increase the probability that the frequency
of jelly beans in the new sample will be all the more
different from the original population. If each flavor
represents a unique genetic heritage, this means that
the sampling of genes from one generation to the
DNA analysis does not require careful
experimental design.
DNA provides straightforward, unam-
biguous, and internally consistent in-
formation about the past.
DNA can be used to infer the geneal-
ogy of any organism or any species, re-
gardless of circumstance or historical
population dynamic.
DNA conclusions are final, decisive,
and free of assumptions.
The DNA Fallacy
DNA is a very important tool for
inferring history, but
- experiments must be properly
designed,
- hypotheses must be formulated,
- assumptions must be tested,
- analyses must be appropriate for
the data at hand,
- conclusions are the best current
estimate but are open to revision
with additional data or
analytical tools.
The DNA Fact

JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 33
next can cause certain genetic markers to go extinct
and others to be present in higher frequency due en-
tirely to random sampling. When the colonizers left
the Middle East, they brought with them only a sam-
ple of the genetic heritage of that population that
may not have accurately represented the markers
present in the whole population; and when they ar-
rived in the New World, the frequency of those ge-
netic markers was likely to continue to change as the
population was established.
5. What were the effects of the colonizers arriving
to a locality that was not a complete genetic island
(i.e., other humans were present and could contribute
to the gene pool)? If there were other inhabitants al-
ready present on the American continent when the
colonizers arrived, then it becomes extremely diffi-
cult to distinguish whether the genetic signature a
descendant carries is due to its being carried by the
original colonizers or due to gene flow from the
other, original inhabitants. This is especially prob-
lematic if the colonizing population is small and the
native population is large once gene flow commences,
since it will speed up the swamping-out effect of the
colonizers genetic markers with those of the native
inhabitants. John L. Sorenson, among others, has
presented evidence suggesting that the colonizers
were not alone when they reached the Americas; and
as I read the Book of Mormon, I can find no barri-
ers to gene flow between the native population and
those who formed the Lamanite lineage. Note that
this could have occurred early in the colonization
process or later as the Nephite and Lamanite nations
flourished, but the swamping-out effect would be
very similar in either case.
6. What were the effects of gene flow after the
Book of Mormon ends? Certainly there was gene flow
from the time when the Book of Mormon record
closes to when DNA samples are obtained in the
present day. It is preposterous to suppose that there
has been complete genetic isolation in the Lamanite
lineage during this time period. As the designer of
the scientific experiment, you would need to ac-
count for the effects of gene flow in this undocu-
mented time period and provide a justification for
why it did not contaminate the genetic signature of
the Lamanite lineage. Simply speaking, that genetic
signature, if one existed, could be obliterated by
gene flow from outside groups.
7. How do you account for the difficulties associ-
ated with a small population range? The local colo-
nization hypothesis suggests that the geography of
the Book of Mormon was quite limited in scope
and that the Lamanite lineage did not populate the
whole North and South American continent.
5
This
implies that you cannot just sample anywhere in
North or South America, but that you need to have
some basis for deciding where you are going to
sample and why it is likely that you will find pure
genetic descendants of the Lamanite lineage in that
specific location.
All population genetic studies are
bogus.
DNA is an unreliable tool.
The science has so many assumptions
that results are never believable.
What I am NOT saying is . . .
The local colonization hypothesis is hard to test
because of complications associated with the
Lamanite lineage history, such as founder effect,
genetic drift, and extensive introgression.
DNA evidence is not likely to unambiguously
refute or corroborate this hypothesis.
This hypothesis has never been specifically tested.
DNA evidence does nothing to speak to the
authenticity of the Book of Mormon text.
I would be just as critical of a claim that DNA
evidence supports the Book of Mormon as I am
of the claim that it does not.
You cannot claim that an observation is scientific
if you ignore the science.
What I AM saying is . . .
8. Who are the extant genetic descendants of the
Lamanite lineage? If you are treating your research as
a scientific test of the local colonization hypothesis,
you need to identify who these Lamanite descendants
are before you put them to the genetic test. When we
go out to sample Lamanite DNA, whom do we sam-
ple to get that DNA? There is no statement within the
text of the Book of Mormon identifying who these
descendants might be, though later commentators
and church leaders have associated them with the
Native Americans and/or inhabitants of South and
Central America. The introduction to the Book of
Mormon states that the Lamanites were the principal
ancestors of the American Indians, but this, again, is
commentary not present in the original text and was
based on the best knowledge of the time.
9. How do you identify unambiguously the Middle
Eastern population that contains the ancestral genetic
signature that you will use for comparison? Just as the
genetic signature of the colonizers may have changed
over time, the genetic signature of the Middle Eastern
source population may have changed as well, mak-
ing it unclear just whom we should sample to find
that ancestral Middle Eastern genetic marker. We
know that the Middle East has been the crossroads
of civilization for many millennia and that many
events affecting entire populations have occurred
there since 600 B.C., such as the large-scale captivity
of groups and the influence of other people moving
within and through the area. All of these factors
complicate the identification of a discrete genetic
profile characterizing the original Middle Eastern
source population.
10. Has natural selection changed the genetic sig-
nature? One assumption in performing molecular
phylogenetic analyses is that the genetic markers un-
der study are not subject to the effects of natural se-
lection. For instance, if a particular genetic marker is
closely linked to a genetic disease that reduced fitness
(the number of offspring that survive to reproduce)
in a population, then, over time, selection would
tend to eliminate that genetic marker from the popu-
lation and the phylogenetic information associated
with that marker may be misleading. Likewise, a ge-
netic marker linked to a favorable trait may become
the dominant marker in the population through the
results of natural selection, and the marker would
then be of limited phylogenetic utility.
The above tally is not intended to be an exhaus-
tive list of scientific concerns, and many other more
complicated ones abound. For instance, how has
mutation obfuscated the identification of the origi-
nal genetic signature (a process called multiple hits)?
How does the shuffling of genetic markers affect
your results (a process called recombination)? How
do you account for the effects of groups of genes be-
ing inherited in a pattern that is not concordant
with lineage history (a process called lineage sort-
ing)? How do you deal with the well-established ob-
servation that genetic markers almost never give a
single, unambiguous signal about an organisms an-
cestry, but are rather a deluge of signals of varying
strengths (a concept called homoplasy)? How do
you know that your gene genealogy reflects organis-
mal genealogies (a concept called gene tree versus
species tree)? Researchers who use DNA to infer an-
cestry continually worry whether the genetic mark-
ers selected are tracking the individuals history or
the genes history, since one does not necessarily fol-
low from the other.
Driving the Point Home
Lets look at the problem another way. Suppose
you were a scientist going to the NSF to get funding
to study an ancient fruit fly colonization event and
you want to test the hypothesis that a few thousand
years ago a single female fruit fly from a Utah popu-
lation was picked up in a storm and blown all the way
to Hawaii to lay its eggs. You know that the offspring
of this fruit fly can freely mate with the Hawaiian
population and produce viable offspring, but so can
all the other fruit flies blowing in from all over the
world during this time period. Now suppose you use
all the genetic tools in your arsenal to try to detect
that Utah colonization event. Could you detect it?
Perhaps, if the population dynamics were just right.
But your inability to detect this event does not mean
that it did not happen; it just means that given the
particular population dynamics, it was extremely
difficult to test because there was not a genetic sig-
nal remaining for the colonization event. Would you
get funded for this study? Probably not. There are
many better-designed experiments that are more
worthy of funding than this shot in the dark.
Conclusion
Critics of the Book of Mormon have argued that
DNA evidence has demonstrated once and for all that
the book was contrived by Joseph Smith and is hence
a fraud. They appeal to the precision of DNA evidence
34 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003
and tout their conclusions as being objective, verifi-
able, assumption free, and decisive. However, these
critics have not given us anything that would pass the
muster of peer review by scientists in this field, be-
cause they have ignored the real complexity of the is-
sues involved. Further, they have overlooked the en-
tire concept of hypothesis testing in science and
believe that just because they label their results as
based on DNA, they have somehow proved that the
results are accurate or that they have designed the ex-
periment correctly. At best, they have demonstrated
that the global colonization hypothesis is an oversim-
plified interpretation of the Book of Mormon. At
worst, they have misrepresented themselves and the
evidence in the pursuit of other agendas.
I return to my original question: Is testing the
Book of Mormon by means of genetic information a
fundable research project? I do not think so. Given
the complications enumerated above, it is very un-
clear what would constitute sufficient evidence to
reject the hypothesis that the Lamanite lineages were
derived from Middle Eastern lineages, since there
are so many assumptions that must be met and so
many complications that we are not yet capable of
sifting through.
I have not made the argument that DNA is not
useful for inferring historical events nor that popu-
lation genetics is inherently wrong. Current research
in population genetics is providing marvelous in-
sights into our past and, when properly wielded, is a
powerful tool. Nor am I disputing the inference that
Native Americans have a preponderance of genes
that carry a genetic signature for Asian origination.
But what I am saying is that given the complexities
of genetic drift, founder effect, and introgression, the
observation that Native Americans have a prepon-
derance of Asian genes does not conclusively demon-
strate that they are therefore not descendants of the
Lamanite lineage, because we do not know what ge-
netic signature that Lamanite lineage possessed at the
conclusion of the Book of Mormon record.
If you were to go back in time to when the Book
of Mormon is closing and began sampling the DNA
of individuals who clearly identified themselves as
Lamanites, you might indeed find a strong Asian
signature and no trace of a Middle Eastern signature
because of the effects, as we have noted, of genetic
drift, founder effect, and especially introgression,
particularly if the surrounding population was de-
rived from an Asian origin. The point is that the
current DNA evidence does not distinguish between
this and other possibilities because a study has never
been designed to do precisely that.
But in all this discussion of the limitations of
DNA analysis, it is important to remember that sci-
ence is only as good as the hypotheses it sets forth to
test. If you test the veracity of the Book of Mormon
based on a prediction that you define, then of course
you will prove it false if it does not meet your pre-
diction. But if the prediction was inappropriate from
the beginning, you have not really tested anything.
In sum, the Book of Mormon was never intended
to be a record of genetic heritage, but a record of re-
ligious and cultural heritage that was passed from
generation to generation, regardless of the genetic
attributes of the individuals who received that heri-
tage. The Book of Mormon was written more as an
us versus them record, with the us being prima-
rily Nephites and the them being a mixture of the
genetic descendants of Lamanites plus anyone else
who happened to occupy the land at the time. This
interpretation accepts as a strong possibility that
there was substantial introgression of genes from
other human populations into the genetic heritage
of the Nephites and Lamanites, such that a unique
genetic marker to identify someone unambiguously
as a Lamanite, if it ever existed, was quickly lost. It
would be the pinnacle of foolishness to base ones
testimony on the results of a DNA analysis. As
someone who has spent a decade using DNA infor-
mation to decipher the past, I recognize the tentative
nature of all my conclusions, regardless of whether
or not they have been based on DNA. There are
some very good scientific reasons for why the Book
of Mormon is neither easily corroborated nor re-
futed by DNA evidence, and current attempts to do
so are based on dubious science. !
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 35
JOURNAL OF BOOK OF MORMON STUDIES 115
Mosiah 24:4; Alma 7:1 and 9:21;
Moroni 10:1516; and Ether
12:2326.
66. See the discussion in Sorenson,
Ancient American Setting, 5056.
67. See P. Agrinier, Linguistic
Evidence for the Presence of
Israelites in Mexico, S.E.H.A.
Newsletter 112 (Feb. 1969): 45;
the report is greatly amplified
by Robert F. Smith in a manu-
script in possession of Sorenson
and Roper. Alma M. Reed, in
The Ancient Past of Mexico (New
York: Crown, 1966), reprises in-
formation about this study.
68. Quoted in Reed, Ancient Past, 10.
69. See Was There Hebrew Lan-
guage in Ancient America? An
Interview with Brian Stubbs,
Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies 9/2 (2000): 5463.
70. Mary LeCron Foster, Old World
Language in the Americas (see
note 55 herein), copy in Soren-
sons possession and abstracted,
including this quotation, in
Sorenson and Raish, Pre-
Columbian Contact, as item
F146B. See Foster, Old World
Language in the Americas: 2,
unpublished paper presented at
the annual meeting of the Lan-
guage Origins Society, Cambridge
University, Sept. 1992, copy in
Sorensons possession; see
Sorenson and Raish, Pre-
Columbian Contact, item F-146C.
See also Fosters The Trans-
oceanic Trail: The Proto-Pelagian
Language Phylum, Pre-Colom-
biana 1/12 (1998): 113.
71. See Ruhlen, Some Unanswered
Linguistic Questions, 171ff.
72. Otto J. Von Sadovszky, The
Discovery of California: A Cal-
Ugrian Comparative Study (Buda-
pest: Akadmiai Kiad; Los An-
geles: International Society for
Trans-Oceanic Research, 1996).
73. See, for example, E. D. Merrill,
The Phytogeography of Culti-
vated Plants in Relation to As-
sumed Pre-Columbian Eurasian-
American Contacts, American
Anthropologist 33/3 (JulySept.
1931): 37582, which was highly
influential.
74. See John L. Sorenson and Carl L.
Johannessen, Biological Evi-
dence for Pre-Columbian Trans-
oceanic Voyages, in press in a
volume of papers to be published
by the University of Hawaii Press
from a conference titled Contact
and Exchange in the Ancient
World, held at the University of
Pennsylvania, 46 May 2001.
75. Because of their length, full ref-
erences are omitted from this
paper; for details see the pri-
mary article when it appears.
76. See Carl L. Johannessen and
Wang Siming, American Crop
Plants in Asia before A.D. 1500,
Pre-Columbiana: A Journal of
Long-Distance Contacts 1/12
(1998): 936. For the corn, see
Ian C. Glover, The Late Stone
Age in Eastern Indonesia,
World Archaeology 9/1 (June
1977): 4261.
77. For example, see Gordon R.
Willey, Some Continuing
Problems in New World Culture
History, American Antiquity
50/2 (April 1985): 35163.
78. See Wolfgang Marschall, Influen-
cias Asiticas en las Culturas de
la Amrica Antigua: Estudios de
su Historia (Mxico: Ediciones
Euroamericanas Klaus Theile,
1972), 61.
79. Julian Granberry, Amazonian
Origins and Affiliations of the
Timucua Language, in Language
Change in South American Indian
Languages, ed. Mary Ritchie Key
(Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn-
sylvania Press, 1991), 195242.
80. See Emilio Estrada and Betty J.
Meggers, A Complex of Traits
of Probable Transpacific Origin
on the Coast of Ecuador, Ameri-
can Anthropologist 63/5 (1961):
91339.
81. Clinton R. Edwards says, From
the practical seamans point of
view Pacific crossings in such
craft were entirely feasible. See
Commentary: Section II, in
Man across the Sea: Problems of
Pre-Columbian Contacts, ed. C.
L. Riley et al. (Austin: Univ. of
Texas Press, 1971), 304.
82. See Clinton R. Edwards, Abori-
ginal Watercraft on the Pacific
Coast of South America (Berkeley:
Univ. of California Press, 1965);
and Edwin Doran Jr., The
Sailing Raft as a Great Tradition,
in Man across the Sea, 11538.
83. See Norton, El seorio de
Salangone.
84. Dixon, Quest for the Origins of
the First Americans, 13031; for
the changing picture, now see
Heather Pringle, Hints of Fre-
quent Pre-Columbian Contacts,
Science 288/5467 (2000), 783,
about stunning new traces of
the Norse . . . in the Canadian
Arctic.
85. Swadesh (in Culture and History,
896) observes, in parallel, that
new languages probably came
into America in the late millen-
nia just before Columbus, but
their speakers must have been
absorbed . . . without leaving
any language that has continued
to modern times.
86. Joseph Needham, Wang Ling,
and Lu Gwei-Djen, Civil Engi-
neering and Nautics, pt. 3 of
Physics and Physical Technology,
vol. 4 of Science and Civilisation
in China (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 1971).
87. Joseph Needham and Lu Gwei-
Djen, Trans-Pacific Echoes and
Resonances; Listening Once Again
(Singapore and Philadelphia:
World Scientific, 1985).
88. Quoted in Caleb Bach, Michael
Coe: A Question for Every An-
swer, Amricas 48/1 (1996):
1421.
89. See J. Richard Steffy, The Kyrenia
Ship: An Interim Report on Its
Hull Construction, American
Journal of Archaeology 89/1
(Jan.): 71101. This finding was
confirmed by Steffy in an e-mail
message to John L. Sorenson, 18
April 2001.
90. Ales Hrdlicka, The Genesis of
the American Indian, Pro-
ceedings, 19th International Con-
gress of Americanists, Washington,
1915 (Washington), 55968.
91. See, for example, John L. Soren-
son, Images of Ancient America:
Visualizing Book of Mormon Life
(Provo, Utah: Research Press,
2001). A larger selection can be
seen in O. L. Gonzalez Caldern,
The Jade Lords (Coatzacoalcos,
Veracruz, Mxico: the author,
1991) and three published books
by Alexander von Wuthenau:
Altamerikanische Tonplastik: Das
Menschenbild der neuen Welt
(Baden-Baden, Germany: Holle,
1965); Terres cuites prcolumbi-
ennes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1969);
and Unexpected Faces in Ancient
America, 1500 B.CA.D. 1500:
The Historical Testimony of Pre-
Columbian Artists (New York:
Crown, 1975). Some scholars
believe the topic should not be
discussed because Wuthenau
and Caldern are not accepted
experts among orthodox an-
thropologists. Whatever merit, if
any, there might be in such an
exclusivist posture, it does not
eliminate the fact that the fig-
urines actually exist and in
many cases are unquestionably
ancient.
92. See, for example, Matthew W.
Stirling, Great Stone Faces of
the Mexican Jungle . . . , Na-
tional Geographic Magazine, Sept.
1940, 327; John F. Scott, Post-
Olmec Mesoamerica as Recalled
in its Art, Actas, XLI Congreso
Internacional de Americanistas,
27 Sept. 1973 (Mxico, 1975),
2:38086; and the discussion in
Wuthenau, Unexpected Faces,
6970.
93. This point is confirmed with re-
gard to Maya Late Classic (Jaina
style) portrait figurines by two
prominent scholars. Romn Pia
Chan said, They are extraordi-
nary because of their faithful-
ness to their human models
(quoted in Linda Schele and
Jorge Prez de Lara, Hidden
Faces of the Maya [Poway, Calif.:
ALTI, 1997], 11). Schele and de
Lara observed that the Maya
figurines represented individual
people who had readable ex-
pressions on their faces (p. 13).
94. See Kirk Magleby, A Survey of
Mesoamerican Bearded Figures
(Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1979).
95. See Peter N. Jones, American
Indian Demographic History
and Cultural Affiliation: A Dis-
cussion of Certain Limitations
on the Use of mtDNA and Y
Chromosome Testing, Anthro-
Globe Journal, Sept. 2002.
96. Note this observation: However,
with the exceedingly spotty
sampling of Native America
populations, it may be a long
time until we have sampled
enough populations truly to tell
how localized or widespread any
polymorphism really is. See D.
A. Merriwether et al., Gene
Flow and Genetic Variation in
the Yanomama as Revealed by
Mitochondrial DNA, in America
Past, America Present: Genes and
Languages in the Americas and
Beyond, ed. Colin Renfrew (Cam-
bridge: McDonald Institute for
Archaeological Research, Univ.
of Cambridge, 2000), 89124,
esp. 117.
97. Jones, in his study American
Indian Demographic History,
gives a devastating critique of
the typical inadequate sampling.
For example: It is evident that
the population groups current
studies are using to infer Ameri-
can Indian cultural affiliation
and demographic history are
not acceptable. One cannot use
contemporary allele frequencies
from a few individuals of a con-
temporary American Indian
reservation to arrive at an un-
equivocal haplotype for that
group, either presently or pre-
historically.
98. Joseph T. Chang, Recent Com-
mon Ancestors of All Present-
Day Individuals, Advances in
Applied Probability 31 (1999):
100226.
99. Susanna C. Manrubia, Bernard
Derrida, and Damin H. Zanette,
Genealogy in the Era of Geno-
mics, American Scientist 91
(MarchApril 2003): 165.
100. Manrubia, Derrida, and Zanette,
Genealogy in the Era of
Genomics, 165.
DNA and the Book of Mormon: A
Phylogenetic Perspective
Michael F. Whiting
1. The most noted is that of
Thomas W. Murphy, Lamanite
Genesis, Genealogy, and Gene-
tics, in American Apocrypha,
ed. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee
Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Sig-
nature Books, 2002), 4777; see
the Editors Introduction there-
in, viixvii.
2. See Peter Forster et al., Origin
and Evolution of Native Ameri-
can mtDNA Variation: A Re-
appraisal, American Journal of
Human Genetics 59/4 (1996):
93545; and Santos et al., The
Central Siberian Origin for Na-
tive American Y Chromosomes,
American Journal of Human
Genetics 64 (1999): 61928, for
reviews of the evidence.
3. For a review of studies, includ-
ing some from the early 19th
century, see John L. Sorenson,
The Geography of Book of Mor-
mon Events: A Source Book
(Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992),
735. Consult also Sorensons
study An Ancient American Set-
ting for the Book of Mormon
(Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1985),
9195, 138189; and When
Lehis Party Arrived in the Land,
Did They Find Others There?
Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies 1/1 (fall 1992): 134.
4. The distinction in tracking his-
torical relationships among sex-
ually reproducing populations
(phylogeny) versus within sexu-
ally reproducing populations
(tokogeny) was best elucidated
by Willi Hennig in his Phylo-
genetic Systematics (Urbana:

116 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 1, 2003
Univ. of Illinois Press, 1979).
For a standard textbook on mo-
lecular systematics, see David
M. Hillis, Craig Moritz, and
Barbara K. Mable, Molecular
Systematics (Sunderland, Mass.:
Sinauer Associates, 1996). For a
textbook on molecular evolu-
tion, see Wen-Hsiung Li, Mole-
cular Evolution (Sunderland,
Mass.: Sinauer Associates, 1997).
For a textbook on population
genetics, see Daniel L. Hartl and
Andrew G. Clark, Principles of
Population Genetics (Sunder-
land, Mass.: Sinauer Associates,
1997).
5. See John E. Clark, A Key for
Evaluating Nephite Geographies,
in Review of Books on the Book
of Mormon, 1 (1989): 2070;
and Book of Mormon Geo-
graphy, in Encyclopedia of
Mormonism, ed. Daniel H.
Ludlow (New York: Macmillan,
1992), 17679.
Who Are the Children of Lehi?
D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D.
Stephens
1. See John L. Sorenson, When
Lehis Party Arrived in the Land,
Did They Find Others There?
Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies 1/1 (1992): 134.
2. See Sasha Nemecek, Who Were
the First Americans? Scientific
American, Sept. 2000, 81.
3. See Michael H. Crawford, The
Origins of Native Americans:
Evidence from Anthropological
Genetics (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 1998), 3.
4. Crawford, Native Americans, 88.
5. Crawford, Native Americans, 122.
6. Crawford, Native Americans, 3.
7. See Antonio Torroni and
Douglas C. Wallace, mtDNA
Haplotypes in Native Americans,
American Journal of Human
Genetics 56/5 (1995):123436.
8. Anne C. Stone and Mark Stone-
king, Analysis of Ancient DNA
from a Prehistoric Amerindian
Cemetery, in Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society
of London, series B, 354/1379
(1999): 15359.
9. Graciela Bailliet et al., Founder
Mitochondrial Haplotypes in
Amerindian Populations, Ameri-
can Journal of Human Genetics
55/1 (1994): 2733.
10. Antonio Torroni et al., Classifi-
cation of European mtDNAs
from an Analysis of Three Euro-
pean Populations, Genetics 144/4
(1996): 183550.
11. Peter Forster et al., Origin and
Evolution of Native American
mtDNA Variation: A Reappraisal,
American Journal of Human
Genetics 59/4 (1996): 93538.
12. Michael D. Brown et al.,
mtDNA Haplogroup X: An
Ancient Link between Europe/
Western Asia and North
America? American Journal of
Human Genetics 63/6 (1998):
1857.
13. Brown, mtDNA Haplogroup
X, 1853.
14. R. S. Malhi and D. G. Smith,
Haplotype X Confirmed in Pre-
historic North America, Ameri-
can Journal of Physical Anthro-
pology 119/1 (2002): 8486.
15. Brown, mtDNA Haplogroup
X, 1857.
16. Brown, mtDNA Haplogroup
X, 1859.
17. Miroslavia V. Derenko et al.,
The Presence of Mitochondrial
Haplogroup X in Altaians from
South Siberia, American Journal
of Human Genetics 69/1 (2001):
23741.
18. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish
Gene (1976; reprint Oxford: Ox-
ford Univ. Press, 1989), 19192.
19. Susan Blackmore, The Meme
Machine, (Oxford: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1999), xix.
20. Blackmore, Meme Machine, 4.
21. Boyd K. Packer, The Stake
Patriarch, Ensign, Nov. 2002,
4445.
22. John L. Sorensen, Was There
Hebrew Language in Ancient
America? An Interview with
Brian Stubbs, JBMS 9/2
(2000):5463.
23. Albert C. Baugh and Thomas
Cable, A History of the English
Language, 4th ed. (Eaglewood
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1993),
53.
24. Review of God as Divine Kins-
man: What Covenant Meant in
Ancient Israel, by Frank Moore
Cross, Biblical Archaeology Review
(July/August 1999): 32ff.; and
Frank Moore Cross, From Epic
to Canon: History and Literature
in Ancient Israel (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press,
1998), 8.
25. Cross, Epic to Canon, 3.
26. Tad Szulc, Abraham: Journey of
Faith, National Geographic, Dec.
2001, 96.
27. Szulc, Abraham, 118.
28. Szulc, Abraham, 129.
The Word of God
Leslie A. Taylor
1. For a concise overview of the
differing concepts of the Logos
in Hellenism, Judaism, and
early Christian theology, see J.
Lebreton, The Logos, in The
Catholic Encyclopedia: An Inter-
national Work of Reference on
the Constitution, Doctrine,
Discipline, and History of the
Catholic Church, ed. Charles G.
Herbermann (New York: Uni-
versal Knowledge Foundation,
191314), 9:32831.
2. Two uses of the metaphor of the
Logos-tomeus are found in sec-
tions of Isaiah quoted in the
Book of Mormon. The first oc-
curs in 1 Nephi 21:2: He hath
made my mouth like a sharp
sword (compare Isaiah 49:2),
and the second in 2 Nephi 7:8:
Who is mine adversary? Let
him come near me, and I will
smite him with the strength of
my mouth (compare Isaiah 50:8,
which omits the last clause). This
image that associates the word
of God with a sword is also pre-
valent in the book of Revelation
(see 1:16; 2:12, 16).
3. See John A. Tvedtnes, Rod and
Sword as the Word of God,
JBMS 5/2 (1996): 14855.
4. The verb form to divide asunder
seems to possess specific mean-
ing in regard to both sacrifice
and the power of the word of
God. This construction occurs
only 13 times in scripture, 7 of
which are quoted in this article.
Two references in the Old
TestamentLeviticus 1:17 and
5:8state that sacrificial birds
should not be divided asunder.
Hebrews 4:12 (quoted earlier) is
the only instance of this con-
struction in the New Testament.
The Book of Mormon contains
the richest uses of this verb
form. It is found in Helaman
3:29, 3 Nephi 8:6; Helaman
5:33; 12:8; and 1 Nephi 17:45
(the last two will be discussed
later). All five uses of this con-
struction in the Doctrine and
Covenants were quoted earlier.
5. Tvedtnes, in Rod and Sword,
also notes that although in the
Helaman passage the word of
God seems to be compared to a
sword, the common language
and imagery of this passage ties
[Helaman 3:2930] to Lehis vi-
sion, where it is the rod or the
word of God that brings people
safely past Satans obstacles (p.
154). Helaman 3:2930 would
seem to have two intertextual
sources: the unidentified Old
World source that it shares with
Hebrews 4:12 and also Lehis vi-
sion of the tree of life.
6. Philo, Heres 130, in Philo, trans.
F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker
(1932; reprint, Cambridge: Har-
vard Univ. Press, 1958).
7. Philo, Heres 140, in Philo, trans.
Colson and Whitaker. For more
discussion on Philos use of the
Logos-tomeus metaphor, see
David M. Hay, Philos Treatise
on the Logos-Cutter, Studia
Philonica 2 (1973): 922. For a
general background on Philos
life and writings, see David T.
Runia, Philo, Alexandrian and
Jew, in Exegesis and Philosophy:
Studies on Philo of Alexandria
(Brookfield, Vt.: Gower, 1990),
118.
8. In his decision to lead a mission
to the apostate Zoramites, Alma
recognizes that the word of God
can transmit virtue: And now,
as the preaching of the word
had a great tendency to lead the
people to do that which was
justyea, it had had more pow-
erful effect upon the minds of
the people than the sword, or
anything else, which had hap-
pened unto themtherefore
Alma thought it was expedient
that they should try the virtue of
the word of God (Alma 31:5).
9. For a discussion of the striking
parallels between the exodus
story and Nephis account of his
familys journey in the wilder-
ness, see Terrence L. Szink,
Nephi and the Exodus, in
Rediscovering the Book of Mor-
mon, ed. John L. Sorenson and
Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book and FARMS,
1991), 3851.
10. Richard D. Rust notes that feast-
ing on the word is implicitly a
sacramental experience (Feasting
on the Word: The Literary Testi-
mony of the Book of Mormon
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book
and FARMS, 1997), 245.
11. Paul uses the phrase past feeling
in Ephesians 4:19, but it appears
nowhere else in the Bible or in
other LDS scripture besides the
Book of Mormon. The verb to
feel is used to express other
unique concepts in scripture.
For example, to feel after is used
to convey the meaning to seek
after Jesus Christ in Acts 17:27
and D&C 101:8. Jesus Christ
uses the expression in D&C
112:13: Behold, I, the Lord, will
feel after them. Interestingly,
Exodus 10:21 and 3 Nephi 8:20
both refer to a darkness that can
be felt. Like the concept of the
word of God, the verb to feel
possesses rich and varied mean-
ings in scripture.
12. The words an hissing and hiss in
the KJV translate derivatives of
Hebrew raq, meaning to hiss or
whistle as a signal or summons.
13. In 2 Nephi 29 the Lord associ-
ates the gathering of his people
with the gathering of his word:
And it shall come to pass that
my people, which are of the
house of Israel, shall be gathered
home unto the lands of their
possessions; and my word also
shall be gathered in one (v. 14).
Secret Combinations and Flaxen
Cords: Anti-Masonic Rhetoric and
the Book of Mormon
Paul Mouritsen
1. Interestingly, William Morgans
widow, Lucinda, joined the
church in 1834. Some historians
claim she later became a plural
wife to Joseph Smith. Regardless,
there is no evidence that Joseph
Smith knew William Morgan.
2. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows
My History, 2nd ed. (New York:
Knopf, 1945), 65.
3. Brent Lee Metcalfe, Apologetic
and Critical Assumptions about
Book of Mormon Historicity,
Dialogue 26/3 (1993): 171.
4. Dan Vogel, Mormonisms Anti-
Masonick Bible, The John
Whitmer Historical Association
Journal 9 (1989): 29.
5. Robert N. Hullinger, Mormon
Answer to Skepticism: Why
Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of
Mormon (St. Louis: Clayton,
1980), 114, n. 31.
6. My brief electronic search of the
Making of America Archives at
the University of Michigan
(http://moa.umdl.umich.edu)
and Cornell University
(http://moa.cit.cornell.edu/moa)
turned up over 3,000 occurrences
of secret society or secret societies
in 19th-century documents. Only
a relative few refer to Free-
masonry. (These sources were
available online as of April 2003.)
7. Remarks on Secret Societies,

During the ten years since NEARAs 1992 Across Before
Columbus (ABC) conference, the evidence concerning pre-
Columbian transoceanic contacts has advanced mightily,
including through the appearance of the second edition of
John Sorenson and Martin Raishs (1996) massive bibliog-
raphy on transoceanic contacts. I propose today to review
these developments.
CULTURAL COMPARISONS
The tradition in transoceanic contacts studies has been
to make cultural comparisons; that is, to describe cultural
similarities shared by pairs of cultures in the two hemispheres
on the opposite sides of the ocean. This fts well with the aim
of determining the true culture histories of these various
areas.
On the other hand, such comparisons have not been
overly successful in convincing non-diffusionists of the
desirability of considering contact as an explanation for
commonalties. Isolationists can and do continue to assert
that if humans could invent something in one area, they could
do the same in another, and so contact need not be invoked to
account for what is more likely a consequence of independent
invention. No amount of purely cultural evidence seems to
be convincing to such individuals, because they approach the
data from a diametrically opposed theoretical position.
Therefore, the present paper stresses non-culturalthat
is, biologicalevidence. Still, we may take a few moments to
consider the cultural approach since it tends to be convincing
to those of us who can be called diffusionists.
Over the years, several kinds of cultural phenomena
have been forwarded. Highly arbitrary ones provide the best
evidence. Of these, language is the most arbitrary, and I will
deal with it a bit later. But also arbitrarythat is, not called
for by the nature of the materials used, the functions to which
the item is put, simple logic, and so forthare things such as
games (e.g., the classic patolli-pachisi comparison); myths
and folktales, which in a number of instances are shared in
detail between the hemispheres; art styles and iconography,
which have received the greatest attention in comparisons;
calendar systems, to the study of which the two David Kel-
leys have made the greatest contributions, including in the
pages of the NEARA Journal (Kelley); music, dance, posture,
and gesture; and symbols of rank and status such as thrones,
litters, parasols, and so on.
PRE-COLUMBIAN TRANSOCEANIC CONTACTS:
THE PRESENT STATE OF THE EVIDENCE
STEPHEN C. JETT
But having mentioned all these hoary comparisons, we
must observe that few great strides have been made over
the last decade in amplifying the cases for transfer in these
areas of culture, with the brief exception of Paul Shaos (1998)
new fndings with respect to Neolithic Chinese and forma-
tive Mesoamerican art and iconography in the premier issue
of Pre-Columbiana: A Journal of Long Distance Contacts
that I edit.
Then there is the study of involved technologies, tech-
nologies so complex that their invention in the frst place is
rather astounding, but for which the notion of their having
been invented more than once would seem to pass all plau-
sibility. In this line, we have, for example, bark-cloth manu-
facture, the blowgun complex, and metallurgy, all studied in
transpacifc context in past years, but not much added to in
the last decade. There have, however, been a few advances
in other technological realms. At the ABC conference, I gave
a paper on four dyestuffs shared by the two hemispheres (Jett
1998a), and followed that up with a survey of resist-dyeing
methods in the Old and New Worlds. The latter paper was
frst published in a festschrift volume honoring John Sorenson
(Jett 1998b) and later, with minor amplifcation, was reprinted
in the NEARA Journal (Jett 1999). In the piece, I showed the
presence, in Nuclear America, of three complex and labor-
intensive southern Asian methods of obtaining pattern on
cloth: by batikking, tie-dyeing, and ikatting.
Another technological area that has received some
additional attention is that of lacquer and lacquerware.
Celia Heil (1999) has studied lacquer use in East Asia and
West Mexico, and in Pre-Columbiana postulated an Asian
introduction to America followed by West Mexican infu-
ence on Japan. This mention of Japan inevitably reminds us,
too, of Nancy Yaw Daviss (2000) intriguing recent book The
Zuni Enigma: A Native American Peoples Possible Japanese
Connection.
But these studies are about it, as far as I am aware,
concerning recent signifcant contributions in the realm of
complex-technology comparisons.
THE EVIDENCE OF HUMAN GENETICS
For over a century, various workers have pointed to
depictions, in Nuclear American art, of faces that look wholly
or partially Negroid, Caucasoid, and East Asian. Intriguing
and suggestive as these are, today racial assignments on the
basis of visible and measurable phenotypic traits presents
problems, and has largely given way to direct study of geno-
type. Huge advances have taken place here during the last 15
years, especially in the realms of molecular and biochemical
genetics. Although these felds are at an early stage and are
fast-developing, they have already yielded highly relevant
data and have the potential of answering many of our
diffusionist questions.
The virtue of molecular genetics is that a variety of kinds
of genetic variants are so numerous and independent of one
another and seem not to be adaptive that, assuming correct
interpretation, they offer as close to absolute proof as could
be hoped. The works of Mourant (1956) and of Cavalli-Sforza,
Menozzi, and Piazza (1994) have provided an enormous res-
ervoir of data on this subject. Most useful for our purposes
are genetic markers: uncommon genes that have no adaptive
value or phenotypic function but that exist as trace elements
that allow us to conclude historical connections, even for
fairly minor encounters. Jim Guthrie (2000/2001; also, Fahey
2000/2001) has synthesized and analyzed many of the data in
an article in the most recent issue of Pre-Columbiana. I can
mention only a few highlights here.
It was once contended that all American Indians other
than the Blackfoot (who were high in A) were of blood type
O. Asian B was said to be absent. Now, however, we know
that B occurs in over half the samples of American Indians,
particularly among Nancy Yaw Daviss (2000) possibly Japa-
nese infuenced Zuni, and that all four ABO blood types were
present in pre-Columbian Peru, especially in earlier times.
As early as the 1950s, it was noticed that the Diego blood
factor, an East and Southeast Asian type, also occurred among
American groups but was absent in the North. Other blood
factors are showing comparable patterns. These include the
Rhesus and Kell factors, plus transferrins, GM immunoglo-
bins, and human lymphocyte antigens or HLAs. In addition,
there are the glucose-6-phosphodehydrogenase defciency
and mitochondrial DNA. I cannot cover the details here, but
suffce it to say that a variety of foreign genes, especially
from Afro-Asiatic and southern Asian parts of the world, oc-
cur again in the Western Hemisphere, not randomly, but with
defnite concentrations, especially in Mesoamerica and in the
Central to Southern Andean region. This seems impossible
to assign to mere happenstance, and Mediterranean/ Middle
Eastern and greater Southeast Asian/ Oceanian inputs appear
to be the only believable explanation.
I may mention, as well, Asian HLA links with Ecuador
and Colombia, links also supported by presence there of an
uncommon type of human Tlymphotropic virus also found
among the Ainu of Japan, and the absence of the normal Asian
and American mtDNA 9-by deletion. All this is congruent
with Betty Meggerss Jomn-in-Ecuador proposals (Meggers,
Evans, and Estrada 1965).
INTESTINAL PARASITES
Although Old World worms intestinally parasitic on hu-
mans were once generally thought to have been absent in the
pre-Columbian Americas, during the 1980s and 1990s paleo-
pathologistsespecially Brazilianshave not only verifed
the presence of such worms among isolated South American
tribes, but have also archaeologically demonstrated the pre-
A.D. 1492 (sometimes, strikingly early) presence of certain
species in burials in the Western Hemisphere (Reinhard 1992;
Verano 1997). These now include hookworms, the whipworm,
the hairworm, and the giant roundworm. As far as tropical
and subtropical species are concerned, the Bering Strait region
acts as a cold screen for transmission, and leaves only the
possibility of humans traveling to the New World by boat.
THE EVIDENCE OF CULTIVATED PLANTS
George Carter (1950,1953) was a pioneer in utilizing the
evidence of cultivated plants in tracing transoceanic move-
ments. Carl Johannessen then took the baton and has carried
it even farther forward. He and John Sorenson are currently
putting together a book, which identifes scores of cultivated
plants that appear to have been shared between the pre-
Columbian hemispheres (Sorenson and Johannessen 2003).
The beauty of this kind of evidence is that cultivated
plants are genetic entities and can be domesticated only where
the appropriate wild ancestors occur; that is usually strictly
limited geographically. Further, very few such plants can
cross oceans or establish and maintain themselves without
human help. Thus, along with the indications of human
genetics described above, cultivated plants comprise the
smoking guns of transoceanic evidence.
Only a few prominent examples can be described here.
One is the seedless South American sweet potato, discov-
ered archaeologically in Polynesia shortly before the ABC
Conference (Hather and Kirch 1991), and for which there is good
nonarchaeological indication of presence in pre-Columbian
Asia. Another is the amazing archaeological presence of the
South American peanut in Neolithic China at about 2000 B.C.,
frst reported in the 1960s and verifed by Carl Johannessen
(1998:22-25) with Wang in the 1990s.
Readers of the NEARA Journal and Across before Colum-
bus are aware of Johannessens work (1998) on the thousands
of carvings of ears of maize on temples in India, especially
of Karnataka in the south. As far as I am concerned, this ends
any controversy as to that plants pre-Columbian presence in
Asia. Since that time, Carl has also found temple sculptures
that appear to show other American crop plants, including
sunfowers and annonas (Johannessen with Wang 1998). Carls iden-
tifcations have been confrmed and added to by Shakti M.
Gupta (1996) who, being unaware of the transoceanic-contacts
question, concluded that these American plants were, in fact
indigenous to India.
A similar conclusion was once made concerning de-
pictions of annonas and pineapples on Roman murals at
Pompeii. This was in the 1950s and involved identifcations
by pomologist Domenico Casella (1950,1956,1957). His works,
in Italian, will appear in translation in the forthcoming issue
of Pre-Columbiana.
Another example is the plantain or vegetable banana. In
an article about to appear in Pre-Columbiana, anthropolo-
gist William Smole (2001) makes a persuasive circumstantial
case for Southeast Asian domesticates pre-Columbian use
in South and Middle America. This is based on early post-
contact reports; the presence, at that time, of varieties; the
cultural ecology of native plantain use; and linguistics.
Finally, there is the phenomenon of forensic pathologists
identifcation, during the 1990s, of residues of nicotine and
cocaine in ancient Egyptian mummies. Tobacco is, of course,
an American and Southwest Pacifc genus, and coca is native
to the eastern slope of the Andes, none of these places being
anywhere near Egypt. Conventional scholars, disbelieving
the possibility of transoceanic transfers, have done mental
contortions to try to dismiss this evidence. But, as I think I
demonstrate in yet another article in the next Pre-Columbiana,
none of the objections holds up very well (Jett 2001).
LINGUISTIC AND EPIGRAPHIC EVIDENCE
No area of culture is more arbitrary in specifc nature
than is language. For most words, the nature of the item
referred to has no infuence on the sets of sounds selected
to verbally convey that concept. When one fnds extensive
commonalties in vocabulary, especially in connection with
systematic sound correspondences, or in structure, one may
be confdent of a historical connection.
In 1964, David H. Kelley (1964:17), although by no means
averse to the notion of long-distance diffusion, wrote, No
competent linguist has suggested that any language or lan-
guage family of the New World is genetically related to any of
those of the Old World in the period since the rise of civiliza-
tion, and few have suggested relationships at any time depth
. . . . Likewise, in 1973 R. C.Padden (1973:997) noted that no
one has yet established a continuity of linguistic families be-
tween the hemispheres in the pre-Columbian period. Highly
respected (and conservative) linguist Lyle Campbell (1997:
98-99) could still say in 1997 that most specialists fnd no
connections between New World and Old World languages,
and that, All evidence presented to date reveals no such
[linguistic] impact of any post-initial-settlement migrations
to the New World.
More recently, however, a few such putative relation-
ships have not only been suggested but are now being
supported by considerable and compelling comparative
data, professionally presented.
Cal-Ugrian, Athapaskan-Eyak, and Yeniseian. Whereas
speakers of Eskimo (Inuit) and Aleut and those of Na-Dene
are thought to be relatively recent arrivals in North America
via Bering Strait, common current thought, though widely
disputed (e.g., Fahey 2000/2001:189-96), is that all other native
tongues of the hemisphere belong to a single family, Amerind,
and are descendants of the single language brought in via the
initial migration of humans across Beringia from Siberiathe
Greenberg hypothesisand that these languages received
no further extra-hemispheric inputs worth mentioning. Still,
linguist Johanna Nichols (1992) has identifed grammatical
elements in West Coast New World languages that suggest
four ancient circumpacifc migrations by boat around the
Pacifc Rim. Nichols suggested the Hokan and Penutian
phyla as among the linguistic units possibly involved in
circumpacifc linkages.
Regarding Penutian (on a less antique time level), Hun-
garian born linguist Otto von Sadovsky (1996) has made a
detailed comparative study of the Uralic languages of Eurasia
and the Penutian tongues of Central California and has con-
cluded that not only do the Penutian languages belong to the
Uralic subdivision of Ugrian, they relate particularly closely
to the Siberian Ob-Ugrian languages. Von Sadovsky did not
postulate a transoceanic voyage but, rather, a stepping stone
journey by boat from the Ob River delta, along the Arctic
Ocean coast of Siberia, through Bering Strait, and down the
North American coast to the San Francisco Bay area, the
migrants bringing Siberian shamanism and other cultural
baggage with them and arriving about 500 B.C.
A strikingly parallel fnding has been forwarded by
linguist Merritt Ruhlen (1998), who has outlined a seeming
close relationship between Ket, a language of the Yeniseian
family of central Siberia, and the Athapaskan-Eyak family
(part of the Na-Dene phylum) of northwestern North America.
Ruhlen considered boat travel between central Siberia and
Alaska likely. These distances, though not transoceanic, are
great, involving about 160 degrees of longitude.
Uto-Aztecan and Semitic. Of far greater interest are
preliminary fndings that linguist Brian Stubbs of the Col-
lege of Eastern Utah has cautiously presented regarding
a seeming important proto-Northwest Semitic element of
circa 500 B.C., from the area of ancient Palestine/ Phoeni-
cia, in the Uto-Aztecan stock (including proto-UA), whose
historically known languages extend from Idaho to Central
America. Stubbs claims to have identifed around one thou-
sand similarities in lexicon and morphology between the two
language groups. Stubbs presented some of these data in small
circulation monographs in the 1980s and more recently has
published on some ten percent of the comparisons (Stubbs 1998).
Not only are a large number of closely similar or identical
lexical items shared, but systematic sound correspondences
are also demonstrated, along with a number of unusual se-
mantic commonalties, elements of verb morphology, and
other structural elements. As a non-specialist, I must admit
to fnding the presentation convincing. Devising a historical
scenario to account for the connection and creolization is
another matter.
Proto-Pelagian. In the premier issue of Pre-Columbiana,
the late Mary LeCron Foster (1998), a Berkeley anthropologist
specializing in linguistics, made a stunning announcement:
that lexical comparisons indicated that three supposedly
unrelated language familiesOld World Afroasiatic and
Austronesian and New World Quechuanin fact were all
members of a single phylum, which Foster saw as having
spread by sea across the Pacifc and which she accordingly
labeled proto-Pelagian. She provided numerous examples
of common lexical items
In the same issue of Pre-Columbiana as Fosters piece,
linguist Mary Ritchie Key (1998) used word lists to suggest an
Austronesian contribution to many of the languages of South
America, a phenomenon that fts well with my earlier sugges-
tion of Malaysian migrations to tropical South America (Jett
1968), although Key sees the movement as being transatlantic
while I proposed transpacifc input (both may be correct).
Of course, there is epigraphic evidence as well. I will not
review it here, but workers such as the late Bill McGlone,
Phil Leonard (McGlone et al.1993), Huston McCulloch (1993), and
David H. Kelley (1998), have continued to advance studies pio-
neered by Cyrus Gordon and, if in a fawed manner, by Barry
Fell. A model for this kind of work has been provided by Dick
Nielsen (1998), whose work on the Kensington runestone has
put that of professional specialists to shame and who has, for
my money, shown the stone to be authentic. Then, there is
the recent work of Mike Xu (1996, 2002), comparing signs on
Olmec objects from Mexico with identical and closely similar
characters on Shang oracle bones in archaic China.
CONCLUSIONS
I believe that the recently forwarded evidence of human
genetics, cultivated plants, and language are overwhelming,
and put transoceanic infuence studies on a new and much
frmer footing. We no longer need rely solely on cultural
comparisons: hard science, though a hard sell to some, is in
the process of demonstrating what simple cultural compari-
sons alone can never do: folks were traveling the oceans in
amazingly early times and left their genes and their languages
in America and took home American cultigens. They were
there, and if they were there they had the opportunity to exert
cultural infuence.
NOTE
This paper was presented at the 2002 NEARA ABC Plus Ten
conference in Waltham, Massachusetts.
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McCulloch, J. Huston. 1993. The Bat Creek Inscription: Did
Judean Refugees Escape to Tennessee? Biblical Archaeology
Review XIX, No. 4: 46-53, 83.
McGlone, Wiliam, Phillip M. Leonard, James L. Guthrie, Rollin
W. Gillespie, and James P. Whittall, Jr. 1993. Ancient American
Inscriptions: Plow Marks or History? Sutton, MA: Early Sites
Research Society.
Meggers, Betty J., Clifford Evans, and Emilio Estrada. 1965.
Early Formative Period of Coastal Ecuador: The Valdivia and
Machalilla Phases. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology
1. Washington.
Mourant, A. E. 1956. The Distribution of Blood Groups in Animals
and Humans. Springfeld, IL: Charles C Thomas Publisher.
Nichols, Joahanna. 1992. Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nielsen, Richard, and commentators. 1998. On Linguistic
Aspects Concerning the Kensington Runestone. Epigraphic
Society Occasional Papers XXIII: 189-265.
Padden, R. C. 1973. On Diffusionism and Historicity.
American Historical Review LXXVIII, No. 4:987-1004.
Reinhard, Karl J. 1992. Parasitology as an Interpretive Tool in
Archaeology. American Antiquity LVII, No. 2:231-45.
Ruhlen, Merritt. 1998. The Origin of the Na-Dene. Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences XCV:13994-96.
Shao, Paul. 1998. China and Pacifc Basin Art and Architectural
Styles. Pre-Columbiana I, No. 1:37-51.
Smole, William J. 2001. Musa Cultivation in Pre-Columbian
South America: A Review of the Evidence. Pre-Columbiana
II, No. 4. In press.
Sorenson, John L., and Carl L. Johannessen. 2003. Biological
Evidence for Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Voyages. In
Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World, ed. Victor Mair.
Philadelphia: University [of Pennsylvania] Museum Press. In
press.
Sorenson, John L., and Martin H. Raish. 1996. Pre-Columbian
Contacts with the Americas across the Oceans: An Annotated
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Linguistics. Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers 23:109-40.
von Sadovszky, Otto. 1996. The Discovery of California: A Cal-
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Andean South America. Journal of World Prehistory XI, No.
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Contact between China and Mesoamerica. Journal of the
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Daniel Johnson
1
BOOK OF MORMON COMPARISONS
Names and Maya Glyphs
...and Kish reigned in his stead. And it came to pass that Kish passed away also, and Lib reigned in his stead.
(Ether 10:17-18)
Many unique names appear in the Book of Mormon throughout the long histories of several cultures,
however, we are only given a tiny selection from what must have been thousands of personal names. Some
appear only within its pages and others have precedents from the Bible and other ancient documents. What
was a common Nephite or Jaredite name? Did they adopt new local names from surrounding cultures in the
New World? And most importantly, can any trace of these names be found in surviving records from ancient
American peoples?
According to some LDS authors, the answer to the last question is yes. In Exploring the Lands of the Book of
Mormon, Joseph Allen cites the work of LDS archaeologist Bruce Warren to show that the name and birth
date of a Jaredite king named Kish could be found in Maya glyphs on the Temple of the Cross in Palenque.
1

This seemed like a rather bold statement and since there have been concerns about the accuracy of Allens
assertions in the past, we decided to look into the matter. After all, why would an ancient Jaredite king be
mentioned in a Classic Maya text dealing with royal lineage in Palenque? We are pleased to report that Allen
is basically correct, but his description is rather brief and what he leaves out is quite interesting and adds
considerably to our understanding.
The Temple of the Cross was built by Kan Balam, son of the great king Pakal. The famous central image of Kan
Balam receiving divine authority from his deceased father, centered around the Maya cross or sacred tree of
life, is fanked on either side by hieroglyphic texts. These writings proclaim his divine right to rule through his
lineage. The right side traces his immediate ancestry through his father and up to the founder of Palenques
dynasty, a king named Kuk Balam I who acceded to the throne in AD 431. The left side goes back even further,
recording the births of deities from the previous cycle of creation.
2
The name Allen refers to appears twice
on the left panel and once on the right. It is made
up of three diferent glyphs that are read U-Kix-Kan.
In transliterated Mayan phonetics, the sound SH
is written as X. The crucial part of the name, Kix,
is actually a Mayan word meaning stingray spine.
The three phonetic components are really words in
this case, but they ft together to form a compound
name, much as letters ft together to form words.
Kixs birth date is given in the Maya Long Count and
would be rendered as 11 March 993 BC. According
to the text, he was crowned as a divine king of
Could U-Kix-Kan be the Jaredite king Kish?
An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica
2
Palenque at the age of 26. Even though his name frst appears
on the legendary or divine textual panel, he is understood to be
human and not a god because of his realistic age at the time he
became king.
3
Archaeologists are unsure if he was a real person
or not. Although Palenque was inhabited during Preclassic
times, nothing has survived from the time of Kix. If he was real,
there was a gap of almost 1,400 years between his coronation and that of the acknowledged founder of
Palenques dynasty. In fact, when Kix became a king, Palenque as we would recognize it did not even exist.
There may have been a settlement there, but what it was called or who lived there is unknown.
But if this is the same Jaredite king, should not his name in the Book of Mormon be something like Ukishkan?
Not necessarily. Many Maya kings had lengthy royal titles that shared many common elements with each
other. Most kingly names included a long sequence of glyphs that represented the names of gods or
important animals.
4
Kinich Hanaab Pakal is the actual name of Pakal, the well known king of Palenque.
Another Palenque king is named U-Pakal-Kinich-Hanaab-Pakal.
5
In the case of U-Kix-Kan, U can be a third
person pronoun or simply a phonetic sound and Kan means serpent and can refer to a kingdom often
associated with the site of Calakmul. These are common elements found in the names of many Maya kings.
The distinguishing part of his name appears to be the stingray spine, or Kix. But why would Kan Balam refer
to this possibly semi-mythical person, even describing him as a king of Palenque? By writing down Kixs birth
date, he is making a direct connection to a king we now identify as Olmec. The Maya inherited or borrowed
many aspects of their society from this mother culture of Mexico. For Kan Balam, linking his lineage to the
Olmecs legitimized his claim to the throne. Since many LDS scholars identify the Jaredites as connected to
the Olmecs, this may be the Kish from the Book of Mormon.
However, the reading of kix for the stingray spine glyph has come into question in recent years. The glyph
does represent a stingray spine, but since these items were used for sacrifcial bloodletting, it may also signify
a needle, fang, or other sharp implement used for the same purpose. In a wider sense, it also represents
creation and conception, so the same glyph can refer to parentage. Cross-referencing these words in Mayan
dictionaries suggests that the reading of this glyph should be kokan.
6
If this is correct, the name of the king
in questions would be U-Kokan-Kan. But a Yucatec Mayan word, koh-kan, means fang of the serpent and
there is the suggestion that the stingray spine glyph may have originated as a snakes tooth. If this is the case,
the name of the mythical Palenque ruler in question would mean, He is the snake tooth of snake, which
does not make much sense. Apparently for this reason alone, that defnition is rejected in favor of stingray
spine for kokan.
7
It appears now that the case for fnding the Jaredite king Kish is not so iron clad. The Classic-era Maya who
wrote about this ancient Olmec king wrote his name as He is the Bloodletter of the Snake or His Snake
Spine, but would they have called him U-Kokan-Kan instead of U-Kix-Kan? We may never know for sure.
Even in recent scholarly literature, he is sometimes referred to as U-Kix-Kan. The name Kix-Chan (or variant
spellings of it) is still found among the Maya in areas of the Petn in Guatemala.
8
The stingray spine or
bloodletter glyph, whether read as kokan, kix, or some other word, can represent fathership when used as
part of a name. According to some Mayan dictionaries, the serpent glyph can also mean guardian or captor.
Temple of the Wall Panels, Chichn Itz
All glyphs adapted from John Montgomery, Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs
u
he, his
kish
stingray spine
kan/chan
snake, captor
Daniel Johnson
3
It is even possible that this name could suggest these connotations as well. The book of Ether does not give
any details of Kishs reign, but some Jaredite kings rose to power by imprisoning the current king, sometimes
a relative. Other Jaredite kings apparently spent their entire lives in captivity.
All things considered, it is likely that the Classic Maya at Palenque would not have known about Kish, the
Jaredite king, but evidence does seem to exist in support of Kish as an ancient Maya name. It may be
asked if any other Book of Mormon names appear in Maya texts. Currently, we know of no others, but how
many of the countless personal names got written down? Maya texts deal primarily with kings and nobles,
so millions of people left no written record of their names. We then began to wonder if it were possible
to render other Jaredite, Nephite, or Lamanite names with Maya glyphs. In looking through the scriptural
record, we discovered that the overwhelming majority of names are Nephite or from groups associated with
the Nephites. This is to be expected, since the Book of Mormon was written by Nephite record keepers. The
next largest number of names comes from the Jaredites, primarily through Ethers record. Finally, other than
the original Laman and Lemuel, only a handful of Lamanite names appear at all.
Of the many personal names contained in the Book of Mormon, some are Biblical or directly linked to the
Levant. Even Kish is found in the Old Testament as the name of several individuals, including the father
of Saul, frst king of Israel. Also, a quick glance at a dictionary of Maya glyphs shows that they lack several
letters found in Hebrew. Mayan has no counterpart for D, F, G, R, or V. We excluded Book of Mormon names
with these sounds and ones that were obviously brought from the Middle East. Our experiment was to fnd
names that might be indigenous to Mesoamerica or could easily be rendered with Maya glyphs.
At this point, a brief explanation of how Maya writing works is in order. Maya
hieroglyphs comprise a complex and fully functional system of writing using
a combination of logographs and syllabic symbols, similar in some aspects to
modern Japanese. Words and names can be written in a seemingly endless
variety of arrangements using pictures, syllables, or a combination of both.
Also, the same sound can be written using diferent glyphs that all have the
same value. Some glyphs function as words in and of themselves, and some have no meaning other than
as syllabic signs. With this in mind, we see that the name Pakal, which means shield, can be written with a
graphic depiction of a shield or with letters that work together to form the word phonetically. Most Mayan
syllables include both a consonant and vowel sound, but the vowel is usually not pronounced when at
the end of a word. Thus, Pakal is written out as pa-ka-la, but the last A is silent. This feature and another
where the last consonant is spoken but not written are very similar to some ancient syllabic scripts from the
eastern Mediterranean.
9
This explanation is admittedly simplifed, but it does give a basic introduction to
Maya writing. We are not epigraphers or experts in ancient languages, but we have studied many Maya texts
and have some good resources from which to draw.
The following diagram shows a sample of Jaredite names rendered in Classic Maya glyphs. The orthography
has been simplifed somewhat for readability. Because of the redundancy in some of the glyphs, these names
could have been written using other combinations, but this should sufce. A few of these actually may have
meanings in Mayan. Ah-ha means he of the water and is similar in meaning to the title ah-naab, which
refers to artists. Similarly, ah-kish means he of the stingray spine. Kib is the sixteenth day of one of the Maya
pa-ka-l(a) pakal
An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica
4
calendars. Ma-ha can mean no water, and xul is the sixth month of a Maya calendar.
Many Nephite names have their origins in the Old World; some are exactly the same as Biblical names. Even
names like Abinadi and Mosiah that are not found in the Bible appear to have Hebrew etymologies. LDS
scholars and linguists have published insightful and thought-provoking studies showing that some names
found exclusively in the Book of Mormon have unexpected Hebrew and Egyptian origins.
10
Of particular
interest is the name Alma. For many years, it was not recognized as a masculine name outside of the Book
of Mormon and has been criticized as being a feminine form in both Hebrew and Latin. Even though it is
easily rendered with Maya glyphs, it has not been included in our list of Nephite names because recent
discoveries show that it is actually an ancient Hebrew name. It appears in the Bar Kokhba letters, dated to AD
130, referring to someone named Alma ben-Yehuda (Alma, son of Judah).
11
This fnd, certainly unknown to
Joseph Smith, seems to validate the masculine name Alma as authentic, but critics may point out that since
these writings did not exist until centuries after Lehis departure, they cannot be the source of the name.
Notwithstanding that Joseph still somehow came up with an actual ancient Hebrew male name that was
unknown at the time, this is true, but the same
name has also been found on clay tablets from
an ancient Syrian site called Tell Mardikh. They
contain writings in a Semitic language similar to
Akkadian, rendered in cuneiform that predates
the Hebrew alphabet. The name al
6
-ma is found
eight times in the texts.
12
These writings by far
predate the time of Lehi, so the name Alma may
be much older than previously suspected.
We found over 30 Nephite names unique to the Book of Mormon that were compatible phonetically with
Mayan. The table below shows some of the names that seemed to work well. A few of these names could
from the Bar
Kokhba Letters
two diferent renderings of
a(h)-l(a)-ma-(h)a in Mayan glyphs
Alma
ah-ha ah-kix
Aha Akish
ma-ha
Mahah
xi-tz(a)
Shiz
xul
Shule
li-b(i)
Lib
kib
Kib
ko-m(a)
Com
e-te-m(a)
Ethem
yo-x(a)
Josh
kix
Kish
Jaredite names
Daniel Johnson
5
also have Hebrew or Semitic origins, but it is interesting to see how they might look rendered as Maya
glyphs. According to Mayan dictionaries, ah-mulek means he of Mulek and xib-lom could mean man of
the staf. While not a perfect match to Teancum, a king named Tecum is mentioned by the Spanish historian
Juarros in his records of the dynasties of the Quich empire in the Guatemalan Highlands.
13

For Lamanite names, there is a much smaller number to examine. Of all the Lamanites depicted in the
scriptural record, both wicked and righteous, only a few are named. For some reason, Nephite record
keepers did not think it necessary to give us many of their names. There is consequently a much smaller
sample upon which to draw, but some surprising results can be seen. The frst is the predominance of male
names beginning with the letter L. The second is that discarding names that are carryovers or cognates from
ah-mu-le-k(i) che-mi-x(a)
Amulek
xib lo-m(u)
Teancum
te-a-n(a) ku-m(a) se-a-n(a) tu-m(u)
Shiblom
li-m(a)-ha
Limhah
he-la-m(a)
Chemish
he-la ma-n(a)
Helaman Helam
la-ma-h(a)
Lamah
mu-lo-ki-y(a)
Muloki
ma-n(a)-ti-y(a)
Manti Seantum
Nephite names
ab-(bi)-ix a-n(a)-ti-y(a) o-m(o)-no(h)
Abish Antiomno
la-ma-n(a)
Laman
la-mo-ni-y(a)
Lamoni
le-ho-n(a)-ti-y(a)
Lehonti
tu-ba-lo-t(a)
Tubaloth
tu-ba-l(a) emblem glyph
Tubal LamaanAyin
Lamanite names
An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica
6
Hebrew, like Aaron and Samuel, practically all unique Lamanite names are composed only of phonemes
found in Mayan languages. The one exception is Zerahemna, a name that seems obviously derived from
Zarahemla. Ab-ix may mean year of the jaguar in Mayan. Tubaloth seems to be a word taken directly from
Hebrew. Tubal is a name found several times in the Old Testament; the frst is Tubal-cain in Genesis 4:22. The
second is in Genesis 10:2 as Tubal, grandson of Noah through Japheth. This name was eventually applied
to an entire nation or group of people. -oth can be a feminine plural ending in Hebrew. Even though it has
a Hebrew etymology, Tubaloth was included because a Classic Maya site in the Guatemalan lowlands is
named Tubal,
14
so this appears to be a name that could have been passed down in one form or another
among the Lamanites for millennia.
Laman has been included in this list, because even though this name obviously has its roots in the Middle
East, it was still in use in the Americas 1000 years later to describe a numerous group of people, so it may
have had more of an impact on the surrounding cultures. It is also a Mayan word meaning submerged. A
site in Belize is known as Lamanai, but that is actually a corruption of its true name, Lamaan Ayin, which
means submerged crocodile.
15
It is truly ancient, with habitation going back as far as 2000 BC. Lamaan Ayin
is one of the few examples of a site that has retained its pre-Columbian name. That name has survived since
at least the Classic time period, but it is not known how much older it may be.
Many LDS scholars have suggested a connection between the Lamanite/Terminal Nephite cultures and the
early Classic Maya.
16
It is perhaps not coincidental that while Lamanites were emerging as the dominant and
victorious culture at the end of the Book of Mormon, Maya civilization began fourishing and progressing
to its greatest extent. According to the archaeological and written record that has survived, many great
dynasties of Classic-era polities like Palenque, Yaxchiln, Piedras Negras, Calakmul, Caracol, Quirigu, Copn,
and others were founded between the latter half of the 4
th
and the frst half of the 5
th
centuries AD.
17
Perhaps
the disappearance of the righteous Nephite culture created a vacuum that was flled in by the people known
to archaeologists today as the Classic Maya.
The last category to look at is geographical placenames, usually of lands or cities. In some cases, we know
the origin of these names, but many are listed in the Book of Mormon without any provenance, so it is not
known if they are of Nephite, Lamanite, Jaredite, or some other origin. As LDS scholars have shown, some
like Zarahemla, Jershon, and Cumorah have very close ties to Hebrew.
18
But some may have Mesoamerican
origins, especially if they can easily be rendered with Maya glyphs. It is likely that some of these names were
still in use centuries after the close of the Book of Mormon. Names that were of local origin or did not use
sounds foreign to the indigenous languages of the Americas are the best candidates for enduring.
The problem is that we do not currently know of any such examples. The names of locations found in modern
Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras are completely diferent, but they are much more contemporary
in nature. Obviously, any Spanish names were given after the Conquest. Many of the names we see on Maya
sites were given by later peoples after the cities were abandoned or much later by modern archaeologists.
Only in recent decades have some original ancient names come to light. During the height of Maya culture,
cities and regions had names like Lakam-Ha, Toktan, Tubal, Naaman, Motul, Yash-Ha, Laman-Ayin, Shukpi,
Kan, and Zama. The Book of Mormon placenames shown below would ft right in.
Daniel Johnson
7
But Classic-era Maya names for regions, polities, and cities only go back as far as the written record of
Maya hieroglyphs. No names exist that can be confrmed to be earlier than the 4
th
or 5
th
centuries AD. Both
supporters and critics of the Book of Mormon should realize that for many reasons, it would be virtually
impossible to fnd names like Nephi or Zarahemla in the archaeological record of Mesoamerica. Names that
would go back that far have probably not survived to this day.
What insights, if any, can be gained from this study? The frst suggestion is that a close examination of personal
names may shed some light on the language and culture of the people who had them (or at least, their
parents). If Book of Mormon peoples had names with vowels, consonants, and phonetic combinations not
found in languages indigenous to the Americas, then we must look elsewhere for their spoken tongue. We
know that Lehis group arrived with a knowledge of Hebrew and Egyptian. Muleks group arrived with the
same background in Hebrew. We do not know what language the Jaredites spoke. Our comparisons rest on
the assumption that Joseph Smith gave us correct renderings of these ancient names. There is always the
possibility of error here and our English pronunciation of these names difers from other languages. However,
since he spelled out unfamiliar names during the translation process and was under the personal tutelage of
the last Nephite record keeper, it is probably a safe assumption that the transfer of these names into English
was as accurate as possible. Known Biblical names were translated into their English counterparts: Jacob,
Joseph, Isaiah, Benjamin, and so on. Most Hebrew consonants can be satisfactorily rendered in English, so we
are assuming a fairly correct transliteration of names unknown to Joseph Smith or his scribes.
ab-(bi)-lo-m(u) am-ni-hu
Ablom
o-ni-ha
Onti
o-n(a)-ti-y(a) li-m(a)-nah
Oniha
he-x(a)-lo-n(a)
Heshlon
a-n(a) tu-m(a)
Amnihu
ba-xa-n(a)
Bashan Antum
e-la-m(a)
Elam
la-ix
Laish Limnah
xi-m(a)-ni lo-n(a)
Shum
xu-m(a) xi-m(a)
Shimnilon
xi-lo-a(h)
Shiloah
xib-lu-m(i)
Shiblum Shim
Geographical placenames
The second suggestion is that the longer these immigrants from the Old World lived in the Americas, the
more they adopted the local indigenous cultures into their own, perhaps evidenced to some degree by the
names they chose for their children. It is likely that righteous Nephites were the slowest to assimilate, perhaps
preferring to remain a peculiar people like the Old Testament Israelites. Names that can be easily rendered
in ancient Mesoamerican languages like Mayan may be an indication of this assimilation. Conversely, names
that are difcult or impossible to render satisfactorily in Mesoamerican languages may indicate a lingering
connection to the original Semitic cultures. For example, the names Mormon and Moroni appear at the
very end of Nephite history. Trying to write Moroni in Mayan results in mo-lo-ni-y(a). Mormon is perhaps
more problematic: mo-l(o)-mo-n(a). Names like Gid or Gidgiddonah would be impossible without major
alterations. Whatever the lingua franca of the region may have been, Mormon and Moroni must also have
spoken a language in which it would have been easy to pronounce and write their own names. This best
candidates are Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian, both altered by the Nephites. Even if the Nephites eventually
adopted a local language, their prophets and record keepers kept a form of these original languages alive. It is
interesting to note that of the 22 listed Nephite record keepers, 17 had names with strong Semitic infuences
or that are difcult, if not impossible, to render satisfactorily in Mayan. It is possible that this particular class of
Nephites (likely direct descendants of Lehi) deliberately chose names from their original cultural heritage for
their children as a reminder of their position before God. This may also be an indication of a lesser amount of
assimilation into the surrounding Mesoamerican cultures.
The preceding examples constitute but a limited treatment of the possibilities for a Mesoamerican origin
of some Book of Mormon names. There remains much more that could be done on this topic. We invite
those that are trained in ancient Mayan languages and hieroglyphs to examine the comparisons we have
made and ofer any improvements, comments, or suggestions regarding the meanings and renderings of
the names depicted here. Much has already been done to correlate these names with Old World languages,
but there appears to be a great unexplored area of study in connecting them to the New World. A few
interesting comparisons shown here suggest that some Book of Mormon names could have Mesoamerican
origins. The large number of placenames that can be written in Mayan is especially intriguing. It suggests
that Book of Mormon peoples may have used indigenous names for some of their own locations.
The results presented here are merely tentative and should serve more as suggestions or opportunities for
further study than defnitive conclusions. Given the challenging nature of tracing the original pronunciations
of ancient names transmitted through diverse and unrelated languages, much time and efort needs to be
dedicated to this endeavor. It is hoped that this paper will be viewed as an introduction to research on the
topic of Mesoamerican connections to Book of Mormon names.
An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica
8
Notes
1 Joseph L. Allen and Blake J. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Second Edition
(Orem: Book of Mormon Tours and Research Institute, LLC, 2008), pp. 132-133.
2 See Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990),
The author wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Cal Tolman in the areas of linguistics terminology and
ancient languages in the preparation of this paper.
Daniel Johnson
9
pp. 252-254.
3 Ibid.
4 Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens (London: Thames &
Hudson, 2000), p. 15.
5 Ibid., p. 172.
6 See Albert Davletshin, Glyph for Stingray Spine, (Moscow: Russian State University for the
Humanities, 2003).
7 Ibid., p. 3.
8 Floyd G. Lounsbury, The Identities of the Mythological Figures in the Cross Group Inscriptions of
Palenque, Fourth Palenque Round Table, 1980 (San Francisco: Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, 1985),
p. 57.
9 Stephen D. Houston, Reading the Past - Maya Glyphs (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of
California Press, 1989), pp. 39-40.
10 See John A. Tvedtnes, Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon, 13th Congress of Jewish Studies,
(Jerusalem: 2001)
11 Paul Y. Hoskisson, Whats in a Name? Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume - 7, Issue - 1,
(1998), pp. 72-73.
12 Terrence L. Szink, New Light: Further Evidence of a Semitic Alma, Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies: Volume - 8, Issue - 1, (1999), p. 70.
13 See Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: The Native Races, vol. V (San
Francisco: L. Bancroft & Company, 1883), pp. 594-595.
14 Nikolai and Grube, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, pg. 76.
15 <http://www.famsi.org/reports/98037/section05a.htm>
16 See John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book Company, 1985), pp. 130-135, 247 and Allen and Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of
Mormon, Second Edition, pp. 135-137.
17 See Nikolai and Grube, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, pp. 22-23.
18 See Tvedtnes, Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon.