Synopses & Reviews
An LDS leader speaking at Brigham Young University in 1954 said; "A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin and with all the handicaps of that race, seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel, in spite of what they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being born over there." Such was the thinking of the day--not just among Latter-day Saints--which marshaled biblical evidence for a genetic hierarchy. Similarly, Mormons have typically seen Native Americans as a fallen race of Israelite origin. Enter modern genetics to test the claim that ancient Americans were Israelites. The results--including the story of how this research has unfolded over the past few years--indicate how slowly but surely such thinking changes over time.
"From the time of its publication in 1830, both the Book of Mormon and its translator, Joseph Smith Jr., have been the focus of admiration as well as criticism. The book's account of pre-Christian journeys from the Middle East to the Americas and subsequent identification of North American indigenous populations with Israelite tribes was not uncommon among Smith's contemporaries. Southerton, an Australian molecular scientist, explores these claims from a scientific standpoint and concludes that there is no evidence of Israelite descent among American Indians, Polynesians or others identified as ancestors of Book of Mormon peoples. Discussions about genetics and heredity can be a bit impenetrable to the nonscientist, but these constitute only part of the book. The author, raised Mormon but no longer a believer, uses the DNA issue to launch an attack on both bad science and what he perceives as widespread racism in the LDS Church. He blames the Book of Mormon for what he calls the church's 'insidious view of a superior white race.' Southerton proffers a book that is part scientific exploration and part anti-Mormon polemic, so it's likely to be closely studied by the Mormon apologetic community. Readers will decide for themselves how credible his arguments are. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
For the past 175 years, the Latter-day Saint Church has taught that Native Americans and Polynesians are descended from ancient seafaring Israelites. Recent DNA research confirms what anthropologists have been saying for nearly as many years, that Native Americans are originally from Siberia and Polynesians from Southeast Asia. In the current volume, molecular biologist Simon Southerton explains the theology and the science and how the former is being reshaped by the latter.
About the Author
Simon G. Southerton is Principal Research Scientist in the Applied Biotechnology and Genomics area of the Commonwealth Scientific laboratories (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia. His Ph.D. is from the University of Sydney. He has published in New Phytologist, Plant Journal, Plant Molecular Biology, and Plant Physiology. He served an LDS mission to Melbourne in the 1980s.