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Simon Southerton Talks DNA, Excommunication

DNA & Book of Mormon can be a very controversial topic.  Last year we talked with Dr. Ugo Perego on this topic, and today we’ll get a contrasting point of view.  Dr. Simon Southerton served as a bishop of the LDS Church until he found he could no longer reconcile the science with the story of the Lamanites.

Simon:  My name is Simon Southerton. I’m from Canberra, Australia.  I am retired now from science really.  I was a molecular geneticist with CSIRO[1] for almost 20 years.

I work up in the morning.  I finally knew.  I knew without a doubt that the Book of Mormon wasn’t history.  It’s a great book filled with scripture and all of these stories.  It never happened.  There was never a migration of Jews to the Americas in 2000 B.C. or 600 B.C.

All of my research over the last fifteen years has convinced me that conclusion is 100% correct.  There is no evidence of Jewish DNA or Middle Eastern DNA coming into the Americas.

GT:  Ok.

Simon:  It’s pretty compelling stuff for me, and this is my work.  That’s my research area.  I work with DNA.  I’ve worked with it a long time and led research groups that work in population genetics.  That’s another thing you’ll hear from apologists.  Oh, he doesn’t know population genetics.  It’s such a complex science.

It is a complex science, but I work in population genetics.  I’ve published in population genetics in leading international journals.  When you work in the field and you understand the power, you know the full power of the research, it’s very compelling when you see that evidence.  You just can’t ignore it.

We’ll also talk in detail about his excommunication.  I wasn’t very familiar with that, and I found Simon very candid.

GT:  Ok, well one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you at Gospel Tangents, I like to get a lot of different opinions.  I interviewed Dr. Ugo Perego a few month ago,[2] and you have a little different perspective on DNA and the Book of Mormon, so I wanted to talk to you a little bit about that.  I know you’ve written a book.  Can you tell us about the book?

Simon:  Yes, the book is called Losing a Lost Tribe, and I wrote that and published that in 2004.  The impetus to write the book, I was not happy with the way the DNA science was being interpreted by church apologists.  I thought that was a way of putting them right and correcting them.

Simon:  Everyone that knew me locally liked me, because they knew me.  We had shaken hands.  They had looked me in the eye and knew that I was a good bloke.  But then area leaders wrote to me:  Vaughn J. Featherstone wrote to me, and the whole letter was just designed to scare me back into the church.  He hadn’t even spoken to my stake president.  All he heard was rumors around the grapevine.  The bishop in Brisbane had left the church evidently.

GT:  But you hadn’t left the church.  You were still going to church.

Simon:  No, I hadn’t left the church.  I was aware of the fact that I probably would.  I received it [the letter] while I was still a primary teacher.  I mean, what do you do when you’re the bishop and you don’t believe the Book of Mormon is true?  How can you function as a bishop when you’ve got the keystone of the Mormon religion and you don’t believe it ever happened?  It wasn’t appropriate for me to be a bishop, so I did the right thing.

Anyway, he wrote this three-page letter, and so I wrote him back and I told him off.  I didn’t rebuke him.  I just said it was inappropriate for him to write without talking to my stake president and finding out really what was going on.  He wrote back a letter and apologized, and then gave me more warnings about how life would turn out.

So yes, it has been a tough ride leaving the church, and this is what many members of the church don’t realize.  It’s a very painful process to leave the church.  In fact, during that process, about five years after we left, I was separated from my wife, and then we got back together and we’re still together and are very happy.  It’s just been getting better and better.


Dr. Simon Southerton talks about his controversial book, “Losing a Lost Tribe,” and details why he left the LDS Church.

What are your thoughts?  Check out our conversation…..


[1] Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – is an independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research.

[2] Part 1 of 11 of our interview with Dr. Perego is at  Parts 9, 10, and 11 deal more with the Book of Mormon:  See and and

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Did Nephi Land near the Andes Mountains?

It’s been a fun interview with George Potter, and it’s been fun learning more about the Frankincense trail that Lehi likely followed in the Middle East.  In our next conversation, I’ll ask George where he thinks Lehi and Nephi landed after they left the Frankincense Trail?  George thinks it was probably the Andes Mountains in South America.

George:  My theory is that the Book of Mormon took place in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, parts of Chile.  Why?  I was a missionary in Bolivia and Peru, so naturally that’s where it took place.

When the Spanish got to Peru, they looked at alpaca, they said these sheep are beautiful.  The wool is better than our sheep, they taste better than our sheep.  They had no idea that the alpaca is actually a cameloid.  What did the Incas think of the horses?  They are big alpacas.  What would Nephi have called an alpaca?  He probably would have called an alpaca or a llama a horse.

Anything with a tooth was described as an elephant by the Greeks.  That was the language by Nephi’s time.  Nephi never saw an elephant.  But there are boars in America that had tusks, and anything with a tusk was an elephant.

The Book of Mormon describes the fact that they went into the wilderness and found gold, and silver, and copper in abundance. For heavens’ sake, in Potosi, Bolivia they have taken enough silver to make a rod all the way from Potosi to Spain and back.  I mean when the Spanish got there, they went to the homes of the poor people and there is just gold sitting there.

What does George think of the Mesoamerican model?

But actually, if you look at the archaeology that’s been discovered in the last 15 years, there were civilizations that took place in the Andes Mountains that had most of the attributes of the Book of Mormon in them in the Book of Mormon times.  If you go north of Panama in Book of Mormon times, there is nothing that resembled the Jaredites.

The Maya ruins, most of those classic ruins took place well after the Book of Mormon.  They Book of Mormon was written on golden plates.  There is no gold north of Panama in the Americas before 700-800 A.D.  There were no sheep, no horses, no animals you could refer to as the animal in the Book of Mormon described by Nephi.

Check out our conversation…..


Andes Mountains of South America
George Potter thinks the Nephites settled in the Andes Mountains of South America


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Nephi’s Sea Trials & the Magi

Growing up in Jerusalem, Nephi likely had little experience in sailing.  How did he learn how to sail?  In our next conversation with George Potter, we’ll talk about Nephi’s training as a sailor.  How did he travel?  What were Nephi’s sea trials like?

How did Nephi learn to captain a ship?  It takes dozens of skills that you have to get right the first time and every time if you’re going to sail even out of the harbor, and make it out of the harbor.  What is interesting is that that harbor was used in ancient times to be a shelter during the winter season for the ships of the Indian Ocean.  The Greeks wrote about it.  The Arabs did it before then.

But in the Indian Ocean you sail one way in the spring, and another way in the fall, because of the prevailing winds of the monsoons.  So, the ships would go from Oman to go to India, then they would cross over the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar. Then they would come back to Khor Rori, and then they would wait out the winter there where there’s no wind in that harbor.  These are the only sailors in the world at that time who knew how to sail across open seas, the only ones.  There is no record every of the Phoenicians being able to sail outside of the sight of land.  They are great sailors, but we have no record of them ever sailing outside.

We’ll also talk about the Magi that knew about the birth of Jesus.  How did they get this information?  Is there a Book of Mormon connection?

How in the world did they ever know that the Christ child was born, the Savior of the World?  To my knowledge, only one person knew when the Lord would be born, and that was Lehi had a vision that he would be born 600 years from then.  They came from Oman.  They came from the land of frankincense, myrrh, and gold.  They were wealthy.


George Potter talks about Nephi’s sea Trials. Did Lehi tell ancestors of the Wise Men about Jesus’ birth?  Check out our previous episode about Nephi’s Harbor!

Check out our conversation…..