DNA Evidence and Interpretation of the Book of Mormon:  Statements on Indian origins by LDS leaders.

Complied by Eleazar, 2003


    Compiler's note:   This document contains published quotes from LDS leaders regarding the identity of the American Indian.   The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is believed that they provide a fair sampling of similar statements made over the course of many years.

Up until recently, LDS doctrine has maintained that the American Indian (Amerindian) and other native Indian races of North and South American are literal descendents of Lehi in the Book of Mormon and that the Book of Mormon contains a literal-factual history of the ancient peoples of the Americas.    It has been taught in LDS doctrine over many years that Indians are literally and factually Jewish (using vernacular, really Jacobite; tribe of Joseph) in blood and genes, or at least predominantly so.   However, controversy about this doctrine has arisen in the past few years due to the use of new DNA fingerprinting methods that can trace genetic lineage with great confidence.  These methods have been used on numerous samples from living Indians as well as exhumed bones of their ancestors to show that Indians are predominately of Asian origin, but no evidence has been found to suggest they are of Israelite descent. 

In this continuing controversy, a variety of alternative hypotheses have emerged from those who are reluctant to give up the traditional LDS interpretation regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon.    As a part of these apologetic hypotheses, there also seems to be a subtle effort to distance the modern church from its earlier claims.  One alternate hypothesis that is gaining popularity among LDS apologists is that the relevant Lehi-derived Israelite DNA has been enormously diluted by intermingling their DNA with others (e.g. peoples from Asia) and this is purported to be why Israelite DNA has not been found by the DNA fingerprinting studies on Indians.   Despite this hypothesis having no scientific evidence whatsoever to support it, LDS scientists generally promulgate it as the hypothesis that is the most believable.   More importantly, there seems to be reluctance on the part of LDS scientists to acknowledge or discuss prior interpretations made by LDS leaders on the subject, despite the fact that the Book of Mormon is unarguably a religious document.     

            It is not the purpose of this compilation to tear at the faith of the LDS religion in their most revered religious document.    Rather, it is to suggest that the document should be not be looked upon as a historical record, which for some unspecified reason, many feel is essential to uphold its philosophical/religious value.    The complier of these quotes does not claim the Book of Mormon has no value, but rather that its greatest message is sealed (hidden) from those who claim to be custodians of its truth (LDS leaders) as well as from those who miss the point of its meaning by thinking that it is essential for it to be a factual historical record.      

            If the Book of Mormon is not a literal history of the America's, then what is it?   Click here to read a few comments that might get one started in a new direction.     


Statements made by LDS Leaders on the Identity and Origins of the Lamanite/Indian Peoples

(Again, science has established that Indians are predominantly Asian in genetic origin.  Some of the following quotes leave little room for alternative interpretations in regard to what LDS leaders have taught on it):

 

(We believe).... "That the existing Indian tribes are all direct descendants of Lehi and his company, and that therefore they have sprung from men all of whom were of the house of Israel." --   James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p.293     

"When Columbus discovered America, the native inhabitants, the American Indians as they were soon to be designated, were a people of mixed blood and origin.    Chiefly, they were Lamanites, but such remnants of the Nephite nation as had not been destroyed had, of course, mingled with the Lamanites.   Thus the Indians were Jews by nationality.... [since then] there has been [a]...  dilution of the pure Lamanitish blood. ... But with it all, the great majority are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, the dominant blood lineage is that of Israel.   The Indians are repeatedly called Lamanites in the revelations to.... become again a white and delightsome people as were their ancestors a great many generations ago."    --   Bruce R. McConkie,  Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed., 1966,  pp. 32-33.

"... that the Book of Mormon is about the only historical document we have at the present time of this great western world?  ... . It tells, briefly, it is true, a story that at once could be accepted by scientists, philologists and all other men who would investigate it. Every year brings to our knowledge something that corroborates that book as a true historical document"  --  Andrew Jensen  Conference Report, October 1907, p.96  

"Here (holding the Book of Mormon in his hand) we present a record of this American continent, a history of a branch of the tribe of Joseph, for nearly 600 years before Christ, and until 420 years after Christ, a history of the Lord's dealings with them from the time they left Jerusalem until one of their principal nations fell in battle, because of their apostacy; and the descendants of the remaining remnant are this degenerated people we call Indians, who still exist. ....     which afterwards became a "multitude of nations," according to the blessing pronounced by the ancient patriarch Jacob, when [p.174] blessing his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh." --  Orson Pratt Journal of Discourses Vol. 19,  p.173

"We can pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus, to convert these Indian tribes around us ...  that they shall be instructed not only in relation to their fathers and the Gospel contained in the record of their fathers...    because they are of the blood of Israel" -- Orson Pratt, Journal of Discoursess Vol. 17,  p.301, (1875)

"...  the blood of Manasseh is found in the tribes and nations of the Indians of North and South America."   --   Hyrum G. Smith, Conf report April 1929, p 123

"And we have scarcely touched the Indian races. There is an immense field spreading out before the Elders of this Church in the redemption of these poor remnants of the house of Israel. ...   But here stretches out before us this immense continent on the south, peopled with descendants of the house of Israel" -- ; George Q Cannon, Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p.269

"These natives belong to the house of Israel....   The Lord has taken from this race any disposition for improvement even to this day; the best of them consider it a disgrace to work. Whatever drudgery is performed is done by their squaws, or by slaves captured from neighboring, tribes or bands. Ask any of them to work; the reply is, "me big Indian, me no work."...    It is prophesied by Nephi as follows: "For after the book [Book of Mormon] of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed [the present American Indians.] And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews."  -- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 10,  p.359

"...  to serve and to teach hundreds of the children of Father Lehi.  One expression of appreciation from an Indian boy included these moving words: "Before I took LDS seminary I didn't have very much to live for. ... I had always felt that Indians could not do things as well as white people. Now I know that I am a child of God. I know that my people are of the house of Israel. ... " --  Neal A. Maxwell Conference Report, October 1970, p.93

"I have had the privilege of laboring among the true blood of Israel, through the loins of Joseph, through the two branches of the House of Israel--Ephraim and Manasseh -- a people whom the Lord loves -- a people whom the Lord chastens and forgives because of their great faith." --  E. Wesley Smith Conference Report, October 1950, p.47 

"Here he [God]  has the Indian or Lamanite, with a background of twenty-five centuries of superstition, degradation, idolatry, and indolence....   I present to you a people who, according to prophecies, have been scattered and driven, defrauded and deprived, who are a "branch of the tree of Israel -- lost from its body -- wanderers in a strange land"--their own land....  I beg of you, do not disparage the Lamanite-Nephites ... Do not scoff and ignore these Nephite-Lamanites... Do not prate your power of speech or your fearlessness unless you too could stand with the Prophet Samuel on the city wall, dodging stones and spears and arrows while trying to preach the gospel of salvation. The very descendants of this great prophet are with us. They may be Navajos or Cherokees.... Mayas or Pimas.... Piutes or Mohicans....    And in these living descendants ... will be redeemed, will rise and will become a blessed people. God has said it."    Spencer W. Kimball,  Conference Report, April 1954, p.106-108

"In a sense I do not feel sorry for the Indian people because they are children of promise, belonging as they do to the house of Israel and are the posterity of Abraham, the father of the faithful, through whose lineage the Lord promised that all nations of the earth are to be blessed; therefore, they are a chosen race and people unto God, possessing a divine and royal heritage."   Delbert L. Stapley , Conference Report, April 1956, p.56

"I presume that a majority of the brethren and sisters who are here this afternoon have read in the Book of Mormon the statement made by one of the writers, quoting the words of our Savior, in regard to the city of New Jerusalem, that the Gentiles should be called to assist the Lamanites, or the seed of the house of Israel, in the erection and building of that city. ...  I begin to see a little of the preparatory work that I think is going to fit and prepare the seed of Lehi, or the Lamanites, to perform this great and glorious work that has been predicted upon their heads. One of the ancient prophets predicted that kings and queens should be the nursing fathers and nursing mothers of the seed of Israel in the latter days; and I find that, in a sense, this is being fulfilled in the stake over which I preside. The government of the United States, which, I presume, may be classed with the kingdoms of the earth, is establishing schools, and there is one in our neighborhood that I desire to refer to briefly. It is upon the San Juan river, among the Navajo Indians, and is costing several hundreds of thousands of dollars."   --  Elder Walter C. Lyman , Conference Report, October 1907, p.86 

"Guatemala is a country of about three million people. About half of them still dress in the Indian costume of a thousand or two thousand years back. They are wonderful people, very simple....   . I went... to present them with a Book of Mormon. I started to say, "I come to give you a copy of the Book of Mormon, a history of your people," and two chiefs immediately arose on their feet, and I started to say, "You are of the house of Israel," but before I could get it out of my mouth they jumped to their feet and said, "We are of the House of Israel."     Elder Gordon M.  Romney, Conference Report, April 1957, p.80

"That is the destiny of our Indian tribes...   the Lord has rewarded unto them double for all the sins that were committed by their ancient fathers in their apostacy, and when he has visited them in judgment according to the prophecies that are contained in this Book of Mormon, and the times of the Gentiles who noir occupy this land are fulfilled, then the Lord will make have his arm, and he will redeem these remnants of Israel, that they may inherit the blessings promised to their ancient fathers."   --  Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses Vol. 16,  p.353  (1874)

"Neither will He suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren"—that is, the Lamanites proper.  They were not to be permitted to destroy Nephi's seed that should be mingled among the Lamanites, nor should they be permitted to destroy the Lamanites—that is, the descendants of Laman and Lemuel.   Nephi predicted this.  To-day it is said that the Indians will perish, and that it is impossible to save them. Here is the word of God recorded in this sacred book. ...  And strange to say—if anything can be said to be strange connected with the work of God—the descendants of those ancient covenant people of the Lord, have gladly received the testimony of the servants of God. Wherever we have gone and mingled with those people, with those Red Men, and been able to communicate to them the truths of which we are in possession, which God has revealed to us, ... and everywhere where those men with red skins dwell, they have gladly received the testimony of God's servants concerning the Gospel, and they rejoice in its fullness and in the knowledge that their fathers once possessed, and of the redemption that Jesus Christ has wrought out for them."  --  George Q Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 25, p.124, (1884)


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