Episodes

Radio Free Mormon: 210: DNA and the Book of Mormon

Tonight I have the distinct honor of interviewing Dr. Simon Southerton, whose 2004 book, “Losing a Lost Tribe,” made headlines around the world and sent shockwaves through the Mormon Community!  The reason this book made such a splash is because it demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that a Semitic tribe such as depicted in the Book of Mormon did not exist in the New World.  And it was all right there in the DNA!

Dr. Southerton talks about his early years that led up to his writing, “Losing a Lost Tribe,” and how advances in DNA studies since that time continue to corroborate the original conclusion.

We even take a crack at the LDS Gospel Topics essay on DNA and the Book of Mormon!  Come along for the ride!

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20 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 210: DNA and the Book of Mormon

  1. Hi RFM, sorry this is a tiny bit off topic, but I have a friend who was wondering where she could find the official word on the situation you mentioned with John Delin a year ago regarding a child of yours who left the church when she was told that her new siblings would be connected in the eternities with you, not their biological father (your ex wife’s new hubby). There are a bunch of us Aussies having dark nights of the soul right now, and it is difficult navigating through the technical rules from the church’s end. Many thanks in advance if you know where this teaching is kept in the church literature.

  2. RFM….great episode!

    My TBM convert husband of 50 years plus in the church is a First Nations Canadian. It is not politically correct to call them ‘Indians’ in Canada. Its somewhat equivalent to using the ‘N’ word in the US. Anyway…..

    He had his DNA profile done a few years back and it’s not in front of me right now, but he has Mongolian and a small trace of Australian Aborigine in him….and you guessed it…ZERO middle eastern anything. As surprising and unusual as that is, here’s what is even more notable, strangely…

    I was still a TBM at the time of the profiling. Both he and I had taught the Book of Mormon over the years in Gospel Doctrine as the teacher….deeply studied it. He has also worked professionally as a liaison between his culture and the government in their social issues for decades, where has has made significant inroads into preserving his culture. For example , he has been instrumental in writing curriculum on Metis culture for Canadian schools. And his mother was the first aboriginal woman called to the Senate of Canada.

    His pull among other things to joining the church, was and is the strong place in an important history, where an entire “white” religion has based themselves around the notoriety of knowing who the American Indians actually are and gathering these special people who were once God’s chosen back His one true church.

    In the context of the history of abuse that these people have suffered at the hands of the Europeans all but destroying them and their culture, I believe there is an unspoken validation that keeps what is left of this culture in the church , even after they are faced with irrefutable evidence of them NOT being who the church has said they are.

    Now to the point I’m trying to make…..While both my husband and I are very intelligent, savvy people, when we got the results of his profile, Im at a lose to explain why, neither one of us noticed the expected middle eastern connection missing…nor did we even look for it!!!!!!

    That is just bazaar! It wasn’t until John Deylin did something on the DNA with your guest, I think, that the lightbulb went on…DUH.. DUH ..DUH!!!!

    By this point I was out and he is still in and things between us where the church were concerned, made and continues to make a conversation with him about this impossible as of yet.

    As condemning as this DNA info is to the historicity of the BofM, I have found it more disturbing to discover the extent to which our minds have been controlled by the brainwashing of a lifetime of mormon rhetoric, as evidenced by our lack of an appropriate reaction or even acknowledgement of the disruptive power of this info.

    Even if my husband is aware of this problem, I can better understand his reluctance to act against his faith because of the vindication I believe it gives him..( even tho it’s racist! )…But what is my excuse??? It boggles my mind that this could have just completely NOT registered in either of our brains.

    I really appreciated your guest emphasizing at the end, the cost to the cultural history of these people and the damage the Book of Mormon has done to them. I am a personal witness in the trenches , of that very thing. It’s more complicated than one might think for these members to face that factor in their faith crisis’.

    Those are the thoughts I wanted to share…..

      • The response in the link you shared falls short on a several levels:
        – Both the BoM and D&C are clear that the Americas was hidden from the world and preserved for god’s chosen people tribes. The blog’s attempt to cloud that claim is paltry.
        – The BoM story line itself disproves apologists response. No, the BoM is not a story about the Lehites landing in the Americas; avoid being slaughtered by the native inhabitants; and are somehow able to not only integrate but actually take over their religious and cultural belief systems; exhalt themselves to both religious and political leadership positions over millions of people. No, the BoM is none of that.
        For comparison, the old testament is an excellent example of the realities of culture and religious clashes that are inevitable when different heritages bump up against each other. Instead, the BoM story line is about the interactions between the Lamanites and Nephites. In short the apologists completely ignore the massive elephant in the room.
        – Recent advances in DNA analysis enabling whole genome mapping provides infinitely more information about heritage than previously possible. While this new technology has revealed new migrations to the Americas, none of them include Jaredites or Lamanites.
        – DNA findings have always fit hand and glove with archeology, and from this point of view the Mormon apologists are still on the outside looking in.
        – Although people don’t take it seriously, linguistic analytics are incredibly accurate and there are zero remnants of Hebrew or Egyptian in the Americas.

      • The problems you describe are apologetic explanations for why Semitic DNA vanished from the New World.

        6,500 Indigenous Americans from South America and Mesoamerica have recently had their entire genome analysed. Not a trace of pre-Columbian Semitic DNA was found. The only Semitic DNA they found (scattered across the continent) arrived in the Americas at exactly the same time as Spanish DNA. It was derived from Spanish Converso Jews, who had left the Middle East and migrated to Spain centuries before Columbus sailed.

        But feel free to continue your god of the gaps games.

        • Thank you, Dr. Southerton, for this great interview with RFM. I really enjoyed it. My dad was a missionary in Australia way back in the 50s. He loved it and always wanted to get back there for a return visit but never accomplished it (we lived on a farm, and, alas, it seemed we never quite had the time or money for the trip). Anyway, I’m with you and “VAanRF” (above), these attempts maintain the BOM as some kind of real history are growing more ridiculous. RFM alluded to the supposed implied demographic clues, including the Anti-Christ Sherem. I think the problems in this part of the narrative are rather glaring (but somehow easily overlooked). Sherem just shows up one day. He’s heard of Jacob but apparently hasn’t met him before. So he can only be one of these indigenous others. And what does this indigenous other want to debate with Jacob? Whether the Law of Moses is not sufficient in itself for salvation! So, not only did the Nephites assume fairly immediate, and, apparently, friendly hegemony over the natives. They also managed, within a very short time, to produce a convert to the Torah, but one who just refuses to take the next step and see how it all points to Jesus. Not only is he an Anti-Christ, he’s one of history’s greatest prodigies! Miracles are one thing; absurdities are another. Anyway, it’s just one thing among many, but as you and RFM were discussing it, it occurred to me just how incredible such a thing would be.

    • Your husband seems like a wonderful person. Wherever your doubts and fears lead you, I hope you’re not inclined to leading him from what he knows is right. Doing so based on the misinformation that Simon and hate groups spread would be tragic.
      There’s overwhelming evidence for the Book of Mormon. In addition, there is not only a DNA connection, but also a religious, cultural etc. connection.
      The idea that “the Church” is a “white Church” is also false. The BofM was written by people who left the Middle East and were most likely brown skinned people, and most Church members are also brown skinned. Lehites were descended from Joseph (whose ancestors are first known to have lived in Central Asia) and Asenat (an “Asiatic”). We wouldn’t expect to find much Canaanite etc. DNA among their descendants. However, Simon is dishonest about any things, including his claims that the BofM teaches that the Americas were empty when Lehites arrived, same with Jaredites.

      STILL, there is a clear relationship between peoples of the Middle East and Indigenous Americans. As many as 1/3 share common ancestors. In addition, the most ancient major Indigenous religious views are, without doubt, related to Middle Eastern and early Christian.

      If your husband would enjoy more information I’d love to share it.

      • That’s a lovely bunch of assertions, Joey. Yep, anybody who doesn’t believe is just a dishonest hater, spreading “misinformation.” I’m sure Jesus says that somewhere, right?
        But I swear I remember something about love being kind and longsuffering. I suppose that’s a different gospel.

      • Thank you for your concern Joe. It was not doubts and/or fears that lead me out of the church after 60 years of devotion…it was the actual truth.

        I have no intention of sheltering my husband from truth. And I’m sure you’ll agree that doing what one knows to be right should always be based on truth. I am not imposing anything on him, but it is insulting for you to imply that my husband is in some kind of spiritual peril now that I have exited the church.

        If you presume that I walked away from the Mormon church easily, you are very mistaken.

        I was not just a cultural mormon and was fiercely loyal and well studied in the given scriptures , history and approved narrative….for a lifetime!

        I don’t need to be corrected by you about my experience with the racism my husband has experienced in the church, nor the fact that the church was founded primarily by white men and is lead today by primarily white men. Thats a fact, not an opinion.

        The mental gymnastics you describe are anything but reasonable especially when they fly in the face of facts that cannot be disputed.

        I refuse to give mormon apologetics one more ounce of my energy. I have a responsibility to preserve what sanity I have left. I wish you well.

        • Hi, I feel that you and Bryan have misinterpreted some things, including from me. But I don’t mind. My Native and Black family members have never felt discriminated against by the Church, but have felt it from those who attack faith. I wish you well on your journey 😊❤️

          If your husband is interested in discussing any of this tell him to let me know, thanks 😊

          https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/
          “Great Surprise”—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins
          “Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.”..Why is it important? Prevailing theories suggest that Native Americans are descended from a group of East Asians who crossed the Bering Sea via a land bridge perhaps 16,500 years ago..”This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians…It’s approximately one-third of the genome, and that is a lot,” he added. “So in that regard I think it’s changing quite a bit of the history.”.”The meeting of those two groups is what formed Native Americans as we know them.”..
          Many questions remain unanswered, including where and when the mixing of west Eurasian and East Asian populations occurred.”It could have been somewhere in Siberia or potentially in the New World,” Willerslev said.”

          So , Willerslev doesn’t know (I’m sure your friends are frantically calling him right now…trying to get a “it’s ok hate Mormons” statement… ; )).
          .

          https://www.jogg.info/pages/11/coffman.htm

          A MOSAIC OF PEOPLE: THE JEWISH STORY AND A REASSESSMENT OF THE DNA EVIDENCE
          2005
          Dienekes (2004) also wrote that he found the continued silence of researchers about the presence of haplogroup Q among Ashkenazim “puzzling.”

          Haplogroup Q is found in high frequencies in only a few regions of the world. Native American’s possess very high percentages of Q, particularly a sub-group known as “Q3” … probable ancestral homeland – the Altai Mountains…Native Americans and Ashkenazi Jews–may share common ancestors…”

          https://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/27/world/geneticists-report-finding-central-asian-link-to-levites.html
          Geneticists Report Finding Central Asian Link to Levites…A team of geneticists studying the ancestry of Jewish communities has found an unusual genetic signature that occurs in more than half the Levites of Ashkenazi descent. The signature is thought to have originated in Central Asia, not the Near East,…52 percent of Levites of Ashkenazi …genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it is also found less frequently in the Middle East. …DNA variations known as R1a1…signature did reach the Near East, probably before the founding of the Jewish community…”

          They say that 52 percent of Levites of Ashkenazi origin have a particular genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it is also found less frequently in the Middle East. … The signature did reach the Near East, probably before the founding of the Jewish community, but it is still rare there.

        • Since that comment might not pass moderation (with links copied from a conversation with Simon), I’ll cut those and add, the BofM is written by a group of Native Americans, there is overwhelming evidence for it, Mormon was not “white” (in the modern sense) nor was Jesus, the nickname of the Church and the Head and official Church names are derived from them.
          The BofM makes it clear that the Gentiles are instruments in the hands of Jesus, that, if they are to remain in the Americas, they will need to be adopted; that “white” was not a racial term for them and they don’t share our modern racist views; etc.

          oe says:
          Hi, I feel that you and Bryan have misinterpreted some things, including from me. But I don’t mind. My Native and Black family members have never felt discriminated against by the Church, but have felt it from those who attack faith. I wish you well on your journey 😊❤️

          If your husband is interested in discussing any of this tell him to let me know, thanks 😊

          nationalgeographic.com
          “Great Surprise”—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins
          “Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.”..Why is it important? Prevailing theories suggest that Native Americans are descended from a group of East Asians who crossed the Bering Sea via a land bridge perhaps 16,500 years ago..”This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians…It’s approximately one-third of the genome, and that is a lot,” he added. “So in that regard I think it’s changing quite a bit of the history.”.”The meeting of those two groups is what formed Native Americans as we know them.”..
          Many questions remain unanswered, including where and when the mixing of west Eurasian and East Asian populations occurred.”It could have been somewhere in Siberia or potentially in the New World,” Willerslev said.”

          So , Willerslev doesn’t know (I’m sure your friends are frantically calling him right now…trying to get a “it’s ok hate Mormons” statement… ; )).

          A MOSAIC OF PEOPLE: THE JEWISH STORY AND A REASSESSMENT OF THE DNA EVIDENCE
          2005
          Dienekes (2004) also wrote that he found the continued silence of researchers about the presence of haplogroup Q among Ashkenazim “puzzling.”

          Haplogroup Q is found in high frequencies in only a few regions of the world. Native American’s possess very high percentages of Q, particularly a sub-group known as “Q3” … probable ancestral homeland – the Altai Mountains…Native Americans and Ashkenazi Jews–may share common ancestors…”

          .nytimes
          Geneticists Report Finding Central Asian Link to Levites…A team of geneticists studying the ancestry of Jewish communities has found an unusual genetic signature that occurs in more than half the Levites of Ashkenazi descent. The signature is thought to have originated in Central Asia, not the Near East,…52 percent of Levites of Ashkenazi …genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it is also found less frequently in the Middle East. …DNA variations known as R1a1…signature did reach the Near East, probably before the founding of the Jewish community…”

          They say that 52 percent of Levites of Ashkenazi origin have a particular genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it is also found less frequently in the Middle East. … The signature did reach the Near East, probably before the founding of the Jewish community, but it is still rare there.

  3. I need to rant about this Holland quote for a minute regarding secular evidence neither proving nor disproving the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

    Two points:

    1) “Secular evidence” is synonymous with “evidence”. Within the subtext of this quote is implication that there is such a thing “spiritual evidence”, and that it is the only kind of evidence that matters. This is complete nonsense. Someone who takes Moroni’s promise and receives a witness is using this experience as evidence and justification for their belief. This evidence is secular in nature by necessity. The individual receiving a witness in t his manner is relying upon the internal and external inputs within their own brain in order to come to a conclusion. Regardless of the origin of that input, the fact is they are having a tangible, measure, and physical experience that would fall under Holland’s definition of the word “secular”. Claiming otherwise would necessarily admit to believing because of an event that is indistinguishable from one which did not occur.

    2) Of course there is secular evidence that could disprove the Book of Mormon. Imagine this theoretical scenario: someone breaks into the Church’s vault and finds a collection of documents that have been withheld from the public. Within these documents we find numerous early drafts of the Book of Mormon, along with a full confession written in Joseph Smith’s own hand explaining how he made everything up. Imagine that all of this documentation is verified by forensic analysis. Imagine that once this evidence is discovered the Q12 gets up in general conference and admits that it’s all made up and that they’ve been keeping this a secret this whole time. This would be a case of secular evidence (e.g. “evidence”) proving the Book of Mormon to be inauthentic beyond any reasonable doubt. (On a side note, I would argue that existing body of evidence against the case for the Book of Mormon’s historical authenticity is equally as compelling as this hypothetical).

    The underlying problem with apologetics is that it all eventually boils down this: “You can’t prove a negative, therefore my belief is justified.”

    Holding that position is necessarily irrational, as it would necessitate that you believe all positions both held and not held by all people at all times simultaneously, as it is logically impossible to prove a negative. This is why the burden of proof lies with the Church, not the other way around.

  4. RFM….this was incredibly interesting and enjoyable!

    Your guest was overflowing with great charm, wit and intelligence. His observations, in the trenches across the pond were exceptionally astute and refreshing…even though he didnt really speak of things we haven’t all thought, heard, or seen ourselves to some degree.

    He just had a great way of concisely cutting to the heart of the matter with regard to how the Leadership of the church is miserably failing its grass roots members in Europe….and how that is all heading our way.

    His unedited honesty and accurate, pointed conclusions , coming from a TBM is so very unusual and rare. Your adjective, as applied to him, ‘brilliant’ is no exaggeration.

    It was particularly great to get an insiders peek at the statistics of the decline, or should I say demise of the church in Europe. Forgive me for secretly enjoying said report!

    It’s not that I don’t feel tremendously for the members there, its just that the church doesn’t deserve one more ounce of the loyalty , devotion or money of such good people like your guest.

    Its hard to miss the obvious extra slack the church cuts its European apostates( their accusation, not mine ) versus their American equivalents.

    It just confirms to me how badly its bleeding members over there and they can’t afford to just dispose of their people as easily as they do here.

    I LOVE what he said he would tell his local leaders , should they choose to court marshal him…the part about why have all their children left the church if its so great and they have all been exemplar Mormons??? And what difference would his objections actually have , if such is the case? A great point, that rises above the nitty gritty of getting bogged down in the details of his so called apostasy.

    Whatever happens, whatever he ultimately does or does not do, will be up to him in the end, in his own timing. My heart goes out to him and all the good people like him whose lives and best energies become squandered by this diabolical, deceitful corporation.

    Please have him on again…you did a great job interviewing him!

    • oops…this comment was meant for the episode about the “Christians vs. the Pharisees”…duh

  5. Here’s how truth works in the Mormon church. Forget any evidence that can be seen, measured, or be objectively evaluated. Instead,pray and ask God. So how do you know if god is giving you truth? By that burning in your bosom ! You know, good feelings. What if I get a good feeling Mormonism isn’t true? Obviously you’re looking at porn then.

  6. Dr. Southerton, I really enjoyed this interview. Thank you RFM for putting this together.

    How do DNA studies support or refute the historicity of the Bible? I’m thinking specifically about Adam and Eve, the flood of Noah (a rather tight bottleneck), the spread of people following the Tower of Babel, etc. Can you point me to a good source that discusses this?

  7. I was an undergrad student with Scott Woodward. This was right around the time that his Science article about extracting dinosaur DNA was published. Only after I graduated did I find out that article was flawed. I knew he had left BYU shortly after.

    I heard Dr. Southerton’s claim that Woodward was interviewed by President Hinkley and subsequently fired with interest. I hadn’t heard that before. To be honest, I wonder if there was another reason for him to leave. I agree that it’s quite a fall from grace to leave academics as a tenured professor to join an institute. I had wondered if there was a bigger issue with his debunked Science article that just made it better for him to leave BYU quietly. It would seem that him being fired from BYU abruptly would raise a lot of eyebrows, both within and outside of BYU.

    Is there any other evidence that Woodward was forced out of BYU because of pressure from the president?

  8. A brilliant episode. We know it’s brilliant because the crackpot TBMs showed up to comment. 🙂

  9. Looking for a link to the Salt Lake Tribune article by Gregory Prince that Simon Southerton mentions at 1:46:09 in this podcast episode. Please help if you can. Thanks.

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