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Did Perego write the Gospel Topics Essay on DNA?

In January 2014, the LDS Church produced a new Gospel Topics Essay on DNA and the Book of Mormon.  I asked Dr. Ugo Perego if he had anything to do with writing that essay.  I think you’ll find his answer very interesting.

Ugo:  I actually took the lead on the project of writing that.  I wrote a much more extensive paper which has been published as well in the Interpreter, the online Mormon journal.  It’s about 40 pages long and then from that the Church condensed it down to what is the in Gospel Topics today. Some people will say, well if this is doesn’t say—they wanted to keep it short.  There are a lot of footnotes.  You can go and read more.  You have the full article on the other page.  There is another article with me in the other article[1], a more extensive article, and then we have several geneticists, even known Latter-day saint geneticists that I sent the manuscript, and asked, “what do you think about it?”  Forget that you don’t know, or you know about the Book of Mormon, but does the story make sense with the genetic context.  Am I presenting genetics and the principles in a fair manner, an honest manner?  I incorporated their feedback, and then I submitted that to the Church and that’s what we have today.  I was the main guy behind it but it was others, even known LDS geneticists that were involved.

[1] Other author is Jayne E. Ekins.  See http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/is-decrypting-the-genetic-legacy-of-americas-indigenous-populations-key-to-the-historicity-of-the-book-of-mormon/

We’ll also talk about Rodney Meldrum’s claim to have found DNA in Native Americans here in the Americas.

Rod Meldrum honestly, the Heartlanders, the people who promote the Book of Mormon geography in North America, and I don’t have a problem if they like to put the Book of Mormon there but as of today, we have absolutely no genetic evidence of their claims.  Fortunately they are hammering that nail DNA continually, saying that DNA is proving their theory, but it is not.  They can have other good evidence to support their theory but they should not use today DNA.  Maybe down the road there will be some new discoveries that will change how we are interpreting the data today, and we might be saying, oh maybe it was Middle Eastern.  Maybe we’re going to find X2A in Jerusalem that we never found before, right?  But as of today there is no evidence.

Critics of the Book of Mormon say this is the nail in the coffin.  Rod Meldrum says this is the nail in the coffin for his theory.  It depends how you look at it.  I honestly think that we are far from using DNA in favor or against the Book of Mormon.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our discussion about DNA and the Book of Mormon.  Check out our conversation…..

 

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How Do Lemba Tribe & Vikings Relate to DNA & Book of Mormon? (Part 2)

We’re continuing our series on DNA & Book of Mormon.  How to Lemba Tribe & Vikings DNA relate to the Book or Mormon?  If you’ve listened to my interviews on the Book of Mormon, I’ve asked a few people, like Jim Vun Cannon and David Rosenvall about the Lemba Tribe in Africa.  They’re a tribe that has Middle Eastern DNA, unlike Native Americans who don’t. Dr. Ugo Perego gives a good introduction into the Lemba Tribe, and why similar DNA is or is not found in America.

Lemba Tribe from Africa

 

Ugo: The Lemba Tribe is an African tribe.  Traditionally they claim to have Jewish ancestry but physically they are African.  They did this DNA study, this was done several years ago, and actually things have changed a little bit since then.  The original thing that made a huge impact that people still remember is the fact that Jewish researchers identified a marker among Jewish families called the Cohen haplotype.

Cohen is the priestly class.  It’s a surname which is linked back in time of the Levi or Aaron, brother of Moses, and that would be the priestly class that was found among the different Israelite tribes.  The first research says we identified these markers.  It’s very dominant among the Cohen families which traditionally was the priestly family.  They have the marker.  The other families don’t have it as much as they do.

Do all the Cohen people have the marker?  No.  Do people that are not Cohen have the marker?  Yes, but the majority of the Cohens has it, so they are linking to them.  It’s never 100%, it’s never all or none.  They have it.  We link it to Jewish families, we link it to the priestly class.  Now the Lemba Tribe says we are part of the Jewish family too.  They found the Cohen haplotype among them as well, so you think genetically it makes more sense.

GT:  Right.  The story that I remember, it seemed to me, and correct me if I’m wrong.  It seemed to me they kind of had a similar story as Book of Mormon people.  They both left Jerusalem about the same time.

Ugo: Yes.

GT:  600 B.C. In the case of the Lemba tribe, they travelled through and ended up in southern Africa, married with the local population, and they have this…

Ugo interrupts: this marker.  That’s the simple story.  There are other things that could happen.  One of them is that Jews accept converts.  You are not biologically a Jew only because you are …{pauses}

GT:  born Jew.

Ugo: born Jew.  They accept converts.  What I think is that most of these Lemba thing could also be a result of a sort of a mixture, some sort of founder effect, but not much as a migration as much as they thought, maybe like a few people that came and had an interaction and then there was maybe this gene that spread.  Another thing that they discovered, this is today’s knowledge.

This marker is found among all of the Middle Eastern population, not just Jews.  It pre-dates Aaron’s time.  Arabs have it.  Muslims have it.  It matches other types of markers.  It is not Jewish-specific or Jerusalem-specific marker.  It’s a lot more spread and common than we think it is.

It’s good.  They did a study on a Jewish population.  They did a study on another population, and they did find something in common between them.

Viking versus Columbus DNA

We’ll also talk a little bit about Viking DNA. Can that be distinguished from Columbus DNA?

Ugo:  Do you think we can determine DNA from 1800 versus DNA from 1000 A.D. from Europe found in America?

GT:  I would think so.

Ugo: The answer is no.  Do you know the Vikings were in Greenland from 1000-1400 A.D., 400 years?  We have written documentation that they were here, the Icelandic woman actually kept their record of their voyages.[1]  We have villages, remains of Viking villages in Greenland that around 1400, they just left.  They just left.  We also have DNA from Native Americans in Iceland, which pre-dates Christopher Columbus, that’s been there.  So we know probably these Vikings took some women to Iceland, and that’s why we have their DNA there.  But where is the Viking DNA in America?

GT:  That’s a great question.  I have no idea.

Ugo: Well I’m sure it’s there, but there is not enough time for the post-Columbus DNA, to differentiate it from the pre-Columbus DNA.  So whenever we find European, Middle Eastern, or African DNA in the Americas, even among tribes, native tribes, by default, scientists always say, we think this is post-Columbian admixture.  But we don’t know, because the rate of mutation of DNA is not as fast as 100 years or 200 years.

Mitochondrial DNA, we actually measure one mutation every 5,000 years, mitochondrial DNA, which is one of the studies that have been done.  So the point is we do find European DNA among Native tribes, but we always think that came with the Spaniards or with the Europeans.  The first 200 years that they were here, they did whatever they wanted.

So you go to a reservation and you test a hundred people, you find 60 of them that might have Native American DNA, and then you find 40 that have European DNA.  You think, well, this is the Spaniard mixing with them.  They kept culturally their identity, but genetically we don’t know.  We don’t know where that came.  2,600 years ago is not enough time to differentiate DNA from Europe, from post-Columbian to pre-Columbian DNA.  It took 15,000 years for DNA to slightly differentiate it from the Asian counterpart.

Even today if you take a DNA test with Ancestry.com or with 23andMe or Family Tree DNA, they put Asian and Native American together in the same group, because they can’t make the differentiation.  So if you find European DNA in a native group, you put it with Europe, but you think by default.  In fact if you read any paper by any population scientist, they will not say, this is post-Columbian DNA.  They say, most likely it is post-Columbian DNA, but we don’t know.

Were you aware that scientists can’t distinguish between Viking DNA and Columbus DNA?  Do you think it’s possible that the DNA from Lamanites simply can’t be distinguished?  Check out our conversation…..

 

[1] Her name is Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir.  Basic information is found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudrid_Thorbjarnard%C3%B3ttir

 

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Why Isn’t there a Match with DNA & Book of Mormon? (Part 1)

DNA & Book of Mormon: It’s a favorite topic of anti-Mormons because evidence seems to show that Native Americans came from Asia rather than from the Middle East as the Book of Mormon implies.  Dr. Ugo Perego is a population geneticist.  How does he explain this?  Would you be surprised that he talks about concubines?

Ugo:  We cannot deny scientifically that there were people here before Lehi.  We don’t know anything about the Jaredites really.  We think we know but we don’t know anything about the Jaredites.  Could the Jaredites play any role with pre-Lehites?  We don’t know to what extent.  We know there were people, probably millions of people.

So Lehi’s family comes.  They come from Jerusalem.  These people that are here come from Asia.  They are closely related genetically to Asian people.  Lehi’s family comes, 30, 40, 50 people.  There are the Mulekites that are coming too.  We don’t know how many.  We don’t know if they are a population isolated.  We don’t know if they mix with locals.  People say, “The Book of Mormon doesn’t say anything about others here, so they didn’t exist.”  True, but the Book of Mormon is also summary.  It is not a full record.  It’s what Mormon decided to put in there, and if its focus is to bring people to Christ, it’s going to talk about what people were doing to get ready or not ready for that.  It’s going to leave a lot of the details out.

This is first generation.  Is that possible that because they had the gospel and they encounter other people and then teach them the gospel and they become part of their group?  You go to Jacob chapter two.  Jacob, first generation in the Book of Mormon lands, how many people are there right now of that group, the original group?  How long have they been there?  In Jacob chapter two is frustrated with the Nephites for taking too many wives and too many concubines.  You have got a group of people that are what, 60-70, they are all cousins.  Where do you get these concubines from?  How are you satisfying your sexual desires with this?

Actually I’ve been doing some discussions lately with some other people around here, according to Israelite tradition, because in the Old Testament it talks about concubines, and Hagar was a concubine of Abraham.  The reference to concubine usually—you can take wives, multiple wives according to Jewish tradition.  They are wife as long as they are part of your same culture or your same social status.  But concubines are usually foreign women.  They do not have the same status as your family, so you treat them as some sort of wife, there is a legal binding, but they do not have the same status.  Could it be that the Nephites were doing the same, some foreign women, some local indigenous women?

GT:  Today with ISIS[1] in the Middle East, a lot of times they are taking these Yazidi women and they are basically sex slaves.  Is that kind of…?

Ugo:  Sex slaves, that’s another word for concubine.  It depends culturally where you are.  Sex slaves is probably the worst situation you can have.  I mean you are really there only to satisfy sexual pleasure.  Concubine has some rights as well.  In fact even today with Islam you can have up to four wives and as many concubines as you want but the problem is that when the husband dies, the inheritance only goes to the first four wives.  As long as the man is alive, the concubines have the same rights as the women, the same lifestyle or status, but then when the husband dies they don’t get anything.  They leave.

Then you have Jacob chapter seven, you have Sherem, the first anti-Christ that goes to Jacob and he says, “I have been looking for a long time to meet with you.”  How long does it take to meet somebody that just came with you from across the ocean?  You were on the same ship together for heaven’s sake.  How long does it take to talk together?

Then he says, in verse 4, Jacob 7:4 he says that Sherem was much learned with the language of the people.  Why would you have to make that reference about him knowing the language if he was part of the same group?  Why did he have to learn that language?

Ugo:  if there were really a lot of people here and Lehi’s group was very small, and there was as it looks like from these Book of Mormon passages that we talk about it, some sort of mixture, intermingling, their DNA would have disappeared within five or six generations.

GT:  Really?

Ugo: Yeah.

What do you think of his explanation?  Was Lehi’s group so small that it is impossible to detect?  In our next episode, we’ll talk about the Lemba Tribe.  This is an African Tribe that seems to have Jewish DNA.  (We touched on this previously in our conversations with Jim Vun Cannon and David Rosenvall.)  Are there differences between the Lemba Tribe and the Lamanites?

 

[1] ISIS stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Taking advantage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as well as the Syrian Civil War, the group took over large swaths of land between 2006-2017 in Iraq and Syria, capturing, torturing, and killing local populations and forcing conversions to a brutal brand of Islam.  They have claimed responsibility for several high profile terrorist acts.