This is a serialization of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee.” You can download the whole PDF here, and you can also participate in the Latter-day Saint Survey Project by joining or creating one of the Canonizer camps in the links at the bottom of this post.
This is a line-by-line response to Jeremy Runnells’s October 2017 iteration of the CES Letter. Jeremy’s original text appears in green, the color of life. My response text appears in black, the color of darkness.
4. DNA analysis 10 has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia. Why did the Church change the following section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition 11 Book of Mormon, shortly after the DNA results were released?
“…the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians”
“…the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians”
UPDATE: The Church conceded in its January 2014 Book of Mormon and DNA Studies essay that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA. The Church, through this essay, makes a major shift in narrative from its past dominant narrative and claims of the origins of the Native American Indians.
The change in a non-scriptural introduction was made because the new sentence is likely more accurate than the original sentence. If the translated text of the Book of Mormon concedes that it contains errors, surely we shouldn’t expect a non-revelatory introduction written well over a century after Joseph Smith’s death to be inerrant, should we?
As for DNA, we are both way out of our depth, although it’s safe to say that your facile conclusion that all Native Americans are of Asiatic descent is scientifically indefensible.
I first responded to the CES Letter in 2016, so I presumed the Church’s 2014 DNA essay had been incorporated into that earlier version. I can understand why you ignored it for so long, as it decimates your contention that DNA science has issued a definitive conclusion about Native American ancestry. Anyone who still has questions or concerns about what DNA research has to say about the Book of Mormon ought to read that essay, as it covers topics that neither you nor or I have any qualifications to address.
What’s important to realize is that science rarely, if ever, reaches a final answer. It is always open to new information, some of which it received in 2013 when a study determined that some Native Americans do, in fact, have Middle Eastern and European DNA. Another 2014 study found that “Cherokee Native Americans have Middle Eastern ancestry – ancestry that cannot be accounted for by modern admixture, but which is rooted in the ancient origins of the people.”
Indeed, a great deal of scientific information has come out about Native American origins since you first published your letter and the Church published its essay. The Journal of Nature conducted research which found that the conventional theory about an initial migration across a Bering Strait ice bridge is probably false. As reported in the LA Times, the journal Science discovered evidence of Australian and Micronesian ancestry in Native American DNA and concluded “that founding migrations occurred in more than one wave.”
Certainly none of this proves the Book of Mormon – are Australian Nephites fair dinkum? – but it demonstrates that reaching a sweeping, final conclusion about Native American origins is, at this point, scientifically impossible.
Tomorrow, we discuss Book of Mormon anachronisms. In the meantime, take look at the Canonizer camps below. I’ve added a new topic about Book of Mormon DNA, so if you think I’m completely wrong, you can join the camp that says so – or create one of your own!