American Indian Mormons in crisis of spiritual identity

Colliding with long-held beliefs, genetic studies question link to ancient Hebrews

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other North and South American Indians were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

“We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people,” said Loayza, a Salt Lake City attorney.

“It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God.”

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity was stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of early American settlers came from Asia, not the Middle East.

DNA vs. The Book of Mormon

The video DNA vs. The Book of Mormon is available at cost to individuals, churches, and ministries who want to use it for outreach and ministry. It is also available for free to LDS members (VHS only) who request a copy from us directly. In addition, the video can be viewed online.

“I’ve gone through stages,” he said. “Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness.”

For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in American Indians is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.

Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Indians it converted. Church leaders have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that American Indian genetics undermine the Mormon creed.

Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings.

Some longtime observers think that, ultimately, the vast majority of Mormons will disregard the genetic research as an unworthy distraction from their faith.

More problems with The Book of Mormon

“All this is why Mormon leaders tell potential converts to ignore criticism of the Book of Mormon and rely entirely upon subjective (completely personal) ‘confirmation.’ Nevertheless, the church’s appeal to subjectivity does nothing to convince a rational person why he or she should believe in the Book of Mormon. To believe without any evidence is troublesome enough; to believe in spite of the evidence is folly.”
What intractable problems face the Book of Mormon?

“This may look like the crushing blow to Mormonism from the outside,” said Jan Shipps, a professor emeritus of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

“But religion ultimately does not rest on scientific evidence, but on mystical experiences. There are different ways of looking at truth,” Shipps said.

The narrative in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ focuses on a tribe of Jews who sailed from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 B.C. and split into two main warring factions.

Over the years, church prophets and missionaries have used the ancestral link between the ancient Hebrews and American Indians and Polynesians as a prime conversion tool in Central and South America and the South Pacific.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Los Angeles Times, via the Houston Chronicle, USA
Apr. 8, 2006
William Lobdell

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 10, 2006.
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