"Keep a Journal: How else are you going to get a good look at who you were?"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Found something interesting recently:

Alma 46: v24 - "...let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said -- Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment."

One of the recent arguements against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as scripture has been a study which claims to show little or no similarities in modern Jewish DNA and modern DNA from North and South American aboriginal peoples. It's being trumpeted as the death-knell for the LDS church.

Personally, I think the whole premise is flawed.

Now, I don't know anything about mitochondrial DNA analysis, or haploid combination comparisons, or statistical relevancy vs "contamination". I do hope the scientists who published this study didn't decide what they were going to find before the results were in.

In any case, the results came as no surprise to the anthropological community. The DNA analysis shows that most, if not all, North and South American aboriginal peoples have primarily Asian ancestry.

No Jewish DNA found.

Okay...let's look at this a little more carefully:

First of all, Lehi's descendants did NOT cover all of North and South america. Their civilization most likely fit rather comfortably in Mesoamerica. Somewhere in Mesoamerica. That covers from as far north as Mexico to as far south as Colombia and perhaps even Ecuador and Peru. The assumption that they did cover the entire western hemisphere was naivety on the part of some of the early leadership of the church. This assumption did not last (at least among the early church leaders) much past the 1840's. If you are trying to prove or disprove that American aboriginal peoples had Israelite DNA; and therefore were or were not the Nephites and Lamanites spoken of in the Book of Mormon, looking outside of Mesoamerica would be somewhat pointless.

Secondly, Lehi's descendants had been living in Mesoamerica from about 591 BC (when they made landfall) to about 279 BC (the chronology markers in Omni say "between 279 and 130 BC") when they encountered the people of Zarahemla. These were the descendants of Mulek (last and only remaining son of Zedekiah, King of Judah) and those he brought with him after escaping the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah. Lehi's descendants were israelites of the tribe of Joseph and it wasn't until about 300 years after their arrival that they could have started to intermarry with Mulek's descendants - whom I presume were of the tribe of Judah.

The nephites and lamanites eventually intermingled, to the point where the designation "nephite" and "lamanite" denoted more ones political and religious affiliation than actual ancestry. Those espousing the "nephite" banner (whether actual descendants of Nephi or not) were destroyed about 385 AD. This left the lamanites, who were a hybrid of mostly israelite blood from the tribe of joseph, and some admixture of joseph and judah. The Book of Mormon also states that after the Lamanites had wiped out their rivals the Nephites, they then went on and began destroying each other. As they didn't leave any records (those inclined to keep and preserve them were all dead at the time), we have no idea how much of the Lamanite civilization was left between 400 AD and whenever the first Europeans showed up in Mesoamerica.

IF (note the big if) we are to take the Patriarch Jacob's prophecy literally, then I don't see how a comparison between modern day descendants of the lamanites (mostly tribe of Joseph) and modern day jews in Israel (mostly tribe of Judah) is going to prove or disprove anything...

To wit: according to Jacob's prophecy; there aren't any descendants of the tribe of Joseph left in modern-day Israel to make a comparison with. It's a simplistic view, I admit...but sounds an awful lot like "apples and oranges" to me. Personally, I'd be surprised if the study found any correlations whatsoever...

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