Do Mormons teach that the Native American are descendants of the Jews?
Yes, they do. Joseph Smith taught that in ancient times, America was inhabited by two races of people. One race was the Jaredites who came from the Tower of Babel. The second race came from the area around Jerusalem about 600 years before Christ.
Harold B. Lee, Mormonism’s eleventh president, stated:
The Indians on the American continent are descendants of the tribes of Ephraim, Judah, and Manasseh … their dark skin was a curse put upon them because of their transgressions, which in a day to come in their descendants will be lifted and they will become white and delightsome as they accept the Gospel and turn to the Lord.
The introduction to the Book of Mormon states that the Lamanites were migrating Jews from Israel and that they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians. In the July 1971 issue of Ensign, Mormon president Spencer W. Kimball claimed that the term “Lamanite” embraces all Indians, such as the Polynesians, the Guatemalans, the Peruvians, as well as the Sioux, the Apache, the Mohawk, the Navajo, and others.
Isn’t there genetic evidence that conflicts with the Mormon claim that the Jews migrated to the Americas around 600 B.C.?
Yes. The Los Angeles Times for February 16, 2006, had a lengthy article giving the scientific data showing that Native Americans are not of Hebrew ancestry, but instead are of Asian descent. As a matter of fact, archaeologists, biologists, and linguists have all presented overwhelming evidence that physical factors, along with cultural and linguistic ties and molecular data, all indicate an Asiatic origin for Native Americans, not a Hebrew one.
What is the response of Mormon leaders to this new data?
Many Mormon leaders frankly admit that they have a problem. A DVD entitled DNA vs. The Book of Mormon (Living Hope Ministry) has an interview with several Mormon scientists in which they acknowledge publicly that the DNA data soundly refutes one of Mormonism’s major beliefs. Former Mormon bishop and molecular biologist Simon Southerton published a book in 2004 entitled Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church. His book is a refutation of Mormon teaching.
Others try to sidestep the problem by asserting that Mormon teaching provides principles for living today, but that truth statements may be modified with the passing of time and the discovery of new information. In 1890, for example, the Mormons issued a manifesto disavowing polygamy, and in 1978 the Mormon priesthood was opened to blacks.