Monday, March 14, 2011

The Book of Mormon Actually Supports the Latest DNA Findings

I look at the Book of Ether as reconciling the DNA issues of our day - once we move past the former assumptions of the early saints (including the leaders). The record states quite clearly that the Nephites were religious separatists by nature, so it's perfectly reasonable to assume that the Lamanites outnumbered them so heavily (despite disproportionate death in warfare) because the Lamanites assimilated some of the remnants of the Jaredite nation that didn't die in the great battle that destroyed the nation itself. That assimilation could even have been of a more numerous people (like the Nephites and the Mulekites), if the Jaredites lacked social cohesion and wanted social stability they had lost. In fact, I think that is the most logical conclusion, since even AFTER the Nephites assimilated the Mulekites the Lamanites STILL outnumbered them substantially.

There's no reason to demand that they all were wiped out in that battle (Coriantumr's claim notwithstanding) - that the Jaredites were any different than the Nephites (or any other hyperbolic historical description of total annihilation) in that regard. Many could have fled and refused to gather, joining a separate civilization instead. The Nephites certainly wouldn't have distinguished them as anything other than "Lamanites" in their records - since "Lamanites" meant "anybody not with us" right from the start.

Therefore, the "Lamanites" (as defined expansively by the Nephites themselves) not only would have outnumbered the Nephites, but they easily could have been primarily of Jaredite descent - and the description of the Jaredites leads me to believe they originated in the Upper East Asian steppes. (Hugh Nibley also reached this conclusion in "The World of the Jaredites".) If that is true, the "Lamanites" would have been primarily of Asian descent quite quickly in their existence, which the current DNA research indicates is the best possibility.


Morgan Deane said...

I've done a bit of research that builds on Nibley's analysis and come to the same conclusion. There is no reason to fear looking at Asiatic influence in the BoM, especially in studying the book of Ether.

David B said...

Nephi was very clear that only a "remnant of his seed" would remain in the Last Days. Knowing this, we should not expect a majority of Native American DNA to be from the Middle East.

raedyohed said...

In case my comment got lost in the shuffle here it is again:

It's nice to see how population genetics, anthropology, archeology etc. can help us construct a model to better understand the Book of Mormon peoples. On that same note recent archeological evidence has suggested a similar scenario of assimilation and cultural domination of the Canaanite peoples as ancient Israel moved into Palestine. In a seeming contradiction Biblical accounts speak of this period in stark terms of military dominance. I wonder if there is some sort of historical or spiritual metaphor or hyperbole which we find difficult to access and assess as modern readers of these ancient texts.

It seems reasonable to suppose that "Nephites," "Lamanites," "Jaredites," and other "ites" are more cultural and spiritual designations than genetic types. The text itself stresses that. It's entirely reasonable to think that what in fact occurred was the incorporation of aboriginal peoples into the dominant Asiatic or Near Eastern cultures of Lehi, Mulek, and Jared. This model clarifies parts of the Book of Mormon narrative, harmonizes it with the general theories of ancient American history, and also teaches us about our own modern cultural dynamics.

I also wanted to add one caution, and that is that while an Asiatic view of the Jaredites may be encouraging given DNA support of an Asiatic expanstion into the america's, keep in mind that the DNA evidence also indicates that expansion took place several tens of thousands of years ago.

Papa D said...

Thank you, Morgan, David and raedyohed.

The example of the Israelites and Canaanites is an interesting one, and I also appreciate the caution.