DNA and Mormonism

Check out this article that appeared today on the LA Times web site:

Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted 

DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs.

By William Lobdell, Times Staff Writer

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

“We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people,” said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. “It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God.”

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.

“I’ve gone through stages,” he said. “Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness.” (more…)

The article includes interesting information and perspectives on this continuing controversy within Mormonism, presenting critics in a reasonable light while fairly representing the position of the LDS Church:

Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Native Americans it converted. Church leaders have shown no inclination to do so. Indeed, they have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that Native American genetics undermine the Mormon creed. 

Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings.

Something that makes this article stand out for me is the inclusion of the thoughts and emotions of Mormons who had been converted to the LDS Church by assurances that they were of Lamanite/Hebrew descent. This puts a face on the otherwise academic question and helps us understand the deep wounds false religious teachings can cause:

For others, living with ambiguity has been more difficult. Phil Ormsby, a Polynesian who lives in Brisbane, Australia, grew up believing he was a Hebrew. 

“I visualized myself among the fighting Lamanites and lived out the fantasies of the [Book of Mormon] as I read it,” Ormsby said. “It gave me great mana [prestige] to know that these were my true ancestors.”

The DNA studies have altered his feelings completely.

“Some days I am angry, and some days I feel pity,” he said. “I feel pity for my people who have become obsessed with something that is nothing but a hoax.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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One Response to DNA and Mormonism

  1. jer1414 says:

    I also thought the LA Times article was very interesting. The below portions really summed up the whole thing for me…

    “This [DNA] may look like the crushing blow to Mormonism from the outside,” said Jan Shipps, a professor emeritus of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has studied the church for 40 years. “But religion ultimately does not rest on scientific evidence, but on mystical experiences. There are different ways of looking at truth.”

    and further down in the article:

    “I’m willing to live in ambiguity. I don’t get that bothered by things I can’t resolve in a week.”

    I thought about the bottom line that – people believe what they *want* to believe, for the most part. I suppose the determining factor is what they will do when confronted with the evidence – either ignore it and continue in the belief system or realize it and move on.

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