One of the fundamental tenets taught to Mormon children and new converts is that the Book of Mormon is an account of real people and real events. Mormon leaders, apologists, and scholars have been adamant in declaring the Book of Mormon to be actual history. Dr. Robert Millet, the well-respected professor at Brigham Young University, stated, “The historicity of the Book of Mormon record is crucial. We cannot exercise faith in that which is untrue, nor can ‘doctrinal fiction’ have normative value in our lives…Only scripture-writings and events and descriptions from real people at a real point in time, people who were moved upon and directed by divine powers-can serve as a revelatory channel, enabling us to hear and feel the word of God” (“The Book of Mormon, Historicity, and Faith,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies Vol. 2, number 2, p.1).
One of the claims made in the Book of Mormon is that it records the story of a Hebrew man named Lehi who sees in a vision the destruction of Jerusalem around 600 B.C. He then flees with his family to escape the impending onslaught of Babylonian conquerors and eventually sails to the Western hemisphere. Following the death of Lehi, circumstances led to the colonizers splitting into primarily two groups, known as Nephites and Lamanites. As the story goes, the exploits of the Nephites and Lamanites were recorded on gold plates that were ultimately buried in the ground and found by Joseph Smith several centuries later.
The Hebrew Connection
The introduction to the Book of Mormon states that the book is “holy scripture comparable to the Bible” and that it is a “record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.” Since 1981 this same introduction claimed that the Lamanites “are the principle ancestors of the American Indians.” However, in 2007, the LDS Church changed the wording to say that Book of Mormon Lamanites are now merely “among the ancestors of the American Indians.”
The title page to the narrative states that the Book of Mormon is “an abridgment of the Record of the People of Nephi, and also of the Lamanite– written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the House of Israel.” In an article written for the Mormon periodical Times and Seasons in 1842, Joseph Smith made it a point to mention “that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said title page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation” (3:943.)
We are told in the Book of Mormon that Nephi was “the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh” (Alma 10:3).
Nephi, one of the primary characters in the Book of Mormon narrative, made it clear that the people mentioned in the Book of Mormon “are descendants of the Jews” (2 Nephi 30:4).
Speaking in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1881 Wilford Woodruff, who later became Mormonism’s fourth president, stated, “The Lamanites, now a down-trodden people, are a remnant of the house of Israel. The curse of God has followed them as it has done the Jews, though the Jews have not been darkened in their skin as have the Lamanites” (Journal of Discourses 22:173).
Mormon Apostle James Talmage noted that, “The Nephites suffered extinction about 400 A.D., but the Lamanites lived on in their degraded course, and are today extant upon the land as the American Indians” (Jesus the Christ, 23rd ed., p.49).
Tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in his book Doctrines of Salvation that this connection is also noted in Doctrine and Covenants 3:264: “Not only in the Book of Mormon are the descendants of Lehi called Jews, but also in the Doctrine and Covenants. In section 19, this is found: ‘Which is my word to the Gentile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of whom the Lamanites are a remnant, that they may believe the gospel, and, look not for a Messiah to come who has already come.'”
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, under the subtitle “Native Americans,” states that “the Book of Mormon tells that a small band of Israelites under Lehi migrated from Jerusalem to the Western Hemisphere about 600 B.C. Upon Lehi’s death his family divided into two opposing factions, one under Lehi’s oldest son, Laman (see Lamanites), and the other under a younger son, Nephi” (3:981).
In the fall 1997 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, LDS author Brigham Madsen discussed the difficulty that many Latter-day Saints are having with accepting the Book of Mormon as a historical document (Reflections on LDS Disbelief in the Book of Mormon as History). Many who have closely examined the contents of the book in light of scholarship have come to realize that it cannot possibly be true history. Madsen raised an interesting challenge in his article when he refers to the history and origins of the American Indian. He wrote, “…perhaps it can be anticipated that before long some scholar will examine the DNA of early inhabitants of eastern Siberia and the DNA of early American Indians for confirmation of their relationship. All that would be left would be for an interested Mormon to compare the two findings to the DNA of Israelites who lived about 600 B.C.E.” (p. 91). It appears that the day of DNA confirmation has arrived.
The book American Apocrypha (Signature, 2002) contains an essay titled Lamanite, Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics. The essay’s author, Thomas W. Murphy, is both a member of the Mormon Church and an anthropologist who offers information that conflict with traditional assumptions regarding the heritage of the Indians. He notes, “So far, DNA research has lent no support to the traditional Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans. Instead, genetic data have confirmed that migrations from Asia are the primary source of American Indian origins” (pp. 47-48). He goes on to say, “While DNA shows that ultimately all human populations are closely related, to date no intimate genetic link has been found between ancient Israelites and indigenous Americans, much less within the time frame suggested in the Book of Mormon” (p.48).
Murphy cites the works of several experts in the field of anthropology and genetics, including that of Michael Crawford, a biological anthropologist at the University of Kansas who said, “I don’t think there is one iota of evidence that suggests a lost tribe from Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great story, slain by ugly fact.” Murphy says that Crawford’s “work shows that Amerisraelite Lamanites could not possibly have been the ‘principle ancestors of the American Indians,’ as claimed in the current introduction to the Book of Mormon” (p.53). He also mentions Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes and Russian geneticist Miroslav Derenko “who have substantiated Crawford’s conclusion through agreement that ‘the Indian gene pool is Siberian, not Middle Eastern'” (p.53).
In his essay, Murphy responds to some of the claims made by LDS apologetic groups such as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, or FARMS (now known as The Neil Maxwell Institute), and The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR). On page 62 he says, “FARMS has played a role in offering revisionist interpretations that seek to reconcile faith with science. But the DNA research may make this effort more difficult as the views of intellectuals and those of traditional Mormons continue to diverge.”
In response to an inquiry made to FARMS in 1997, I received the following from Dr. John Tvedtnes: “The most recent mitochondrial DNA study demonstrated that there were three known separate migrations to the New World, one certainly connected to Siberian peoples, the other thought to be Asian. Among Amerindians, samples were taken in Canada, the United States, and Peru. None were taken in Mesoamerica, where most LDS scholars believe the story of the Book of Mormon took place” (e-mail received 11/14/97).
Statements such as this would make it appear that there was still hope that research done in Mesoamerica (which includes countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador) would offer the elusive connection. However, such research has been performed and no link has been established. Murphy states on page 62, “While FARMS researchers are careful to note the importance of cultural influences on the construction of categories, they express confidence in an Israelite genetic presence in Central America and perhaps as far away as Arizona to the north and Colombia to the south. As we have seen, genetic studies of indigenous peoples throughout North, Central, and South America have failed to link Native Americans from these locations to ancient Hebrews.”
In 1997 I wrote to Scott Woodward, the renowned molecular biologist at Brigham Young University, to ask if any DNA studies had been done at BYU. He wrote me the following: “We have an active research project addressing some of these questions but most of the data is still too preliminary to make any hard conclusions. Most of all the evidence to date would point to Asian populations as the source of at least the great majority of contemporary Native American gene pool.” In the same post, Dr. Woodward also stated that he believed “that the Americas were moderately populated at the time of arrival of the Lehi group, the Jaredites and any other group that may have come from the Middle East” (e-mail received 11/14/97).
According to Murphy’s essay, it appears that Woodward is still not at all optimistic that a link will be found. Although Murphy notes how Woodward “believes that the presence or absence of genetic linkages to the Near East in the Americas is neither proof nor disproof of the Book of Mormon” (p. 66), on page 65 he says, “it would not surprise Woodward if geneticists ultimately failed to find any traces of mtDNA [mitochondrial DNA] from Lehi’s party, Jaredites, or Mulekites.”
While speaking on this subject at the 2002 Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City, Murphy cited others who have come to conclusions similar to his. For instance, Dr. David Glenn Smith, a molecular anthropologist from the University of California Davis, said, “Genetic research, particularly that using mitochondrial and Y chromosome markers, provide quite emphatic refutation of any such relationship between Jews and Native Americans.”
Murphy closed his remarks by asking, “Now what do we as Mormons do? We’ve got a problem. Our beliefs are not validated by the science.” Murphy believes that Mormons have a moral and ethical responsibility to relegate this notion as a “mistake of men.”
William S. Bradshaw, a molecular biologist teaching at BYU, responded to Murphy’s Sunstone talk. Bradshaw opened his response by saying, “Let me repose a question that Tom has put to us. Is there scientific evidence based in molecular biology to substantiate the statement in the introduction to the Book of Mormon that Lamanites are the principle ancestors of American Indians? The answer is no.” He admitted that he could not discount the conclusions made by Murphy, but he urged the crowd to be cautious of those conclusions. If true, however, he felt that this mistake of man was no more than “the mistake of overreaching. The mistake of saying we know more than we know.” He also urged listeners not to make judgments “about mistakes that were held by people decades ago without trying to understand the context in which they made those statements.”
Mormonism’s Defenders Respond
As expected, many in the LDS apologetic community vilified Murphy for his public statements. Allen Wyatt, a Mormon apologist writing for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), decried Murphy’s lack of loyalty and his alleged “apostate behavior” in an article titled “Motivation, Behavior and Dissension.” The LDS Church declined to charge Murphy with apostasy for his public statements. Some at least, have chosen to refrain from the typical ad hominem argument so commonly used by Mormon apologists, and have at least attempted to offer some sort of an explanation.
Mormon scholars don’t seem to deny that current genetic evidence shows no connection between Lamanites and Hebrews. In a December 8, 2002 article in the LA Times, Dr. Daniel Peterson, a BYU professor and former researcher with the Neil Maxwell Institute, was quoted as saying, “The idea that America may have been overwhelmingly peopled by folks from northeastern Asia is perfectly compatible” with Mormon doctrine, said Daniel Peterson, a lifelong Mormon and professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young. Genetic evidence that some Native American ancestors came from the Middle East could easily be lost over thousands of years, he said.”
In their essay titled, “Who are the Children of Lehi,” Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens wrote, “As biologists we accept the published data dealing with Native American origins and view those data as reasonably representing American-Asian connections” (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol.12, number 1, 2003, p.38). On page 41 of the same essay they state, “The data accumulated to date indicate that 99.6 percent of Native American genetic markers studied so far exhibit Siberian connections.” On page 42 they say, “There has been little if any evidence seriously considered by the mainstream scientific community that would indicate a Middle East origin, or any other source of origin, for the majority of contemporary Native Americans.” Like many Mormons, they dismiss the conclusion that a lack of a DNA link between Indians and Hebrews discredits Joseph Smith’s claim as prophet.
The LDS Church has now officially admitted that DNA does not show a middle Eastern connection. On its lds.org website, an article titled “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies,” states, “Some have contended that the migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon did not occur because the majority of DNA identified to date in modern native peoples most closely resembles that of eastern Asian populations.” However, in the next paragraph the article tries to give the impression that the data is not conclusive. “Basic principles of population genetics suggest the need for a more careful approach to the data. The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas.”
Like Peterson, Meldrum and Stephens hold to the theory that the genetic gene pool was diluted through intermarriage with other people groups. “We propose that Book of Mormon is the account of a small group of people who lived on the American continent, interacting to some degree with the indigenous population but relatively isolated from the general historical events occurring elsewhere in the Americas” (Ibid., p.44).
Such conclusions are only speculative since there is no hard evidence to support the notion that the Lehi colonizers lived simultaneously with other non-Semitic cultures. Nothing in the Book of Mormon clearly suggests this. To say the genetic link could have been lost gives the impression that the offspring of those in the Lehi party remained relatively small.
First, let’s examine the claim that the offspring of the Lehi party intermarried with another culture. In 2 Nephi 1:6 Lehi prophesies “that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” He goes on to state in verses 8-9, “And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance. Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance.”
We learn from this that no other nation had knowledge of this land at the time of the arrival of Lehi’s party, thus excluding the notion that other cultures shared the same area. We also learn that such an arrangement would continue as long as those who were brought out of Jerusalem continued to keep God’s commandments. However, should the people “dwindle in unbelief,” God would bring “other nations unto them and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (vv. 10,11). As to when exactly such an incursion would take place is not specified in the prophecy.
Acknowledging this prediction, retired BYU anthropologist John Sorenson asks how long it could have been before other nations would have come and intermingled with the Nephites and Lamanites. He notes on page seven of his article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” that the Lamanites “dwindled in unbelief within a few years.” Dr. Sorenson asks, “How then could Lehi’s prophecy about ‘other nations’ being brought in have been kept long in abeyance after that?” He then notes, “The early Nephites generally did the same thing within a few centuries.”
While I agree that both the Nephites and Lamanites had their times of unbelief, the Book of Mormon fails to mentions other nations who came in to “take away from them the lands of their possessions,” especially those whose genetic makeup would take us to Asia. This can only be argued from silence.
J. Reuben Clark, writing for the LDS magazine Improvement Era, stated, “The Lord took every precaution to see that nothing might interfere with this posterity of Joseph in working out their God-given destiny and the destiny of America. He provided, and so told Lehi at the very beginning of his settlement, that: . . it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations ; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance. (2 Nephi 1:8.) The Lord so kept the land for a thousand years after Lehi landed. He so kept it in His wisdom for another thousand years after the Nephites were destroyed, perhaps to give the Lamanitish branch another chance” (“Prophecies, Penalties, and Blessings,” Improvement Era, 1940, Vol. xliii. July, 1940. No. 7). Several LDS leaders have stated that this was fulfilled when the Gentiles came to America.
The Book of Mormon does mention other groups of people, but in most cases it appears that these are merely sub-groups that can be traced back to Lehi or other Jewish groups whose DNA should lead us back to Israel. For example, Omni 1:15 in the Book of Mormon tells of a group of people who lived in Zarahemla who “came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon.” Mulek, supposedly the only son of Zedekiah who was not killed when Jerusalem fell, led the people of Zarahemla. According to Mosiah 25:3, these people, known by Mormons as “Mulekites,” outnumbered the Nephites, but together the Nephites and Mulekites were only half as numerous as the Lamanites.
Dr. Sorenson is among some Mormons who offer the possibility that a remnant of Jeredites intermarried with the colonizers. In an article posted on the Mormon website Meridian Magazine, Geoffrey Biddulph writes, “Chances are extremely high that at least some, and perhaps a majority, of modern-day Native Americans are descended from the Jaredites, and would have Asian blood. And of course Brother Murphy’s writings and public comments virtually ignore the Jaredites” (http://www.meridianmagazine.com/ideas/030128anti.html). Biddulph’s use of the phrase “extremely high” and “perhaps a majority” must be taken as nothing more than hyperbole. There is no way such a comment can be proven.
According to the Book of Mormon the Jaredites came to the western hemisphere around the time God confounded the languages at the Tower of Babel. Even if this theory is correct, we probably have more reason to believe that a genetic link would take us back to the Middle East, not Asia or Siberia, given the fact that the Tower of Babel was believed to have been built somewhere in Babylonia. Hebrews, like Babylonians, both fall within the category of Semitic people. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the record of the Jaredites “hints at an epic genre rooted in the Ancient Near East” (2:717).
The Jaredite theory poses another problem if we are to believe the Book of Mormon record for what it actually says. According to the fifteenth chapter of Ether, King Coriantumr gathers “all of the people upon all of the face of the land, who had not been slain” (except the prophet Ether) for a final battle against the army of Shiz, which also consisted of “men, women, and children being armed with weapons of war” (15:15). Such was the slaughter that in both armies all had fallen by the sword except the two leaders (15:23-29). Shiz is beheaded and Coriantumr, weakened from battle, is later “discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons” (Omni 1:21).
Mormon Seventy B.H. Roberts felt that the Jaredite race came to be extinct. “In their last great war, which resulted in the extinction of the race, to the last man, it is stated that ‘two millions of mighty men had been slain; and also their wives and their children.'” Roberts believed that Coriantumr was the “last Survivor” (Studies in the Book of Mormon, p. 164, emphasis mine) However, Roberts was aware of the argument that quite possibly some Jaredite survivors married into Mulek’s colony but noted that such a theory is “merely a matter of conjecture” (New Witnesses for God 3:137).
Even if we gave this theory the benefit of the doubt, the fact that Mormon leaders and scholars have described the demise of the Jaredites with words like complete annihilation (Ludlow), exterminated (Hunter), wiped out (Nibley), extinction (Roberts), etc., tends to tell us that if there were any Jaredite survivors at all, they would indeed be a very small number. If Mormons wish to cling to the idea that genetic evidence was somehow lost, it would seem more probable that Jaredite genes would be the ones in short supply, not Nephite or Lamanite genes.
Sorenson offers this suggestion, “And if the Lord somehow did not at those times bring in ‘other nations,’ then surely he would have done so after Cumorah, 1100 years prior to Columbus” (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, v.1, Fall 1992). This seems to be the theory held by Seventy Milton R. Hunter. “Following the close of Nephite recorded history, Mongolians, Vikings, and perhaps small groups of wanderers from other lands, came to the Americas and intermarried—to a greater or less extent—with the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples. Their posterity constituted the numerous aboriginal tribes found in the New World by the Europeans” (Archaeology and the Book of Mormon p.15).
If this prophecy came to fruition after the battle of Hill Cumorah, the time frame involved becomes much shorter, making a diluted gene pool less likely.
Lost Genetic Evidence?
Next, let us examine the claim that the genetic gene pool was somehow diluted to the point where we should not expect to find a Hebrew link.
The Book of Mormon gives the impression that the Nephites and Lamanite populations were anything but small. Helaman 3:8 in the Book of Mormon states, “And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.” In commenting on this passage, the Book of Mormon Student Manual, published by the LDS Church, notes, “No one knows the details of Book of Mormon geography. But the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed some information that suggests that at some time in their history the spread of the Nephites unto the ‘land northward’ included what we know today as North America” (1979 edition, p.354). This coincides with Doctrine and Covenants 54:8, which states that the borders of the Lamanites extended to the “land of Missouri.”
Mormon 1:7 adds, “The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.” A footnote at the bottom of the page dates this passage at around A.D. 322.
Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt believed that the Lamanites “gathered by the millions” at the battle of Hill Cumorah! (Journal of Discourses 17:31.) Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie agreed with this assessment when he wrote, “Neither the Nephites nor the Jaredites repented when rivers of blood flowed on their battlefields and millions of their number were slain by the sword” (The Millennial Messiah, pp. 386 –387, emphasis mine).
It could be argued that the battle at Hill Cumorah severely diminished the population of remaining Lamanites. However, this does not seem to be the position of some LDS leaders. For instance, tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith let it be known that the Lamanite influence was not restricted to North America. “The history of this American continent also gives evidence that the Lamanites have risen up in their anger and vexed the Gentiles. This warfare may not be over. It has been the fault of people in the United States to think that this prophetic saying has reference to the Indians in the United States, but we must remember that there are millions of the ‘remnant’ in Mexico, Central and South America” (Church History and Modern Revelation 2:127, emphasis mine).
Speaking in conference in October 1921, Elder Andrew Jenson, a member of the staff of the LDS Church’s Historian’s Office, stated, “We, therefore cast a glance southward into old Mexico and through the great countries beyond — down through Central America and South America, where there are millions and millions of Lamanites, direct descendants of Father Lehi.” (Conference Reports, October 1921, p.120, emphasis mine).
On page 601 of The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth Mormon prophet stated, “About twenty-five centuries ago, a hardy group left the comforts of a great city, crossed a desert, braved an ocean, and came to the shores of this, their promised land. There were two large families, those of Lehi and Ishmael, who in not many centuries numbered hundreds of millions of people on these two American continents” (emphasis mine).
Probably the most damning quote that undermines this notion that the Lamanite genetic link could have been lost to the point of nonexistence is found on page 596 of the same book. Kimball wrote, “Lamanites share a royal heritage. I should like to address my remarks to you, our kinsmen of the isles of the sea and the Americas. Millions of you have blood relatively unmixed with gentile nations” (emphasis mine).
The obvious question is, “How do you lose the genetic link of millions of people who allegedly have not mixed their blood with another people group?” Notice also that Kimball refers to the “kinsmen of the isles of the sea.” LDS leader have taught that the Lamanites were not restricted to merely the western hemisphere. In a message given in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on February 11, 1872, Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt proclaimed, “Here let me say again, according to the Book of Mormon, many of those great islands that are found in the Indian Ocean, also in the great Pacific Sea, have been planted with colonies of Israelites. Do they not resemble each other? Go to the Sandwich Islands, to the South Sea Islands, to Japan–go to the various islands of the Pacific Ocean, and you find a general resemblance in the characters and countenances of the people. Who are they? According to the Book of Mormon, Israelites were scattered forth from time to time, and colonies planted on these islands of the ocean” (Journal of Discourses 14:333).
“What would Lehi’s DNA look like?”
Clinging to the presupposition that the Lamanitish gene pool was diluted, some Mormon apologists have insisted that it would be next to impossible to know exactly what Lehi’s DNA would look like. Perhaps that answers lies with Mormon President Gordon Hinckley.
On more than one occasion, President Hinckley has mentioned the Hebrew/Lamanite connection in dedicatory prayers given at Mormon temples. For instance, in his prayer at the dedication of the Mexico City temple in December 1983, he stated, “Bless Thy Saints in this great land and those from other lands who will use this Temple. Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi” (http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/prayers.cgi?mexico_city&chronological)
In December of the following year, he gave a dedicatory prayer at the Guatemala City, Guatemala temple where he stated, “Thou Kind and Gracious Father, our hearts swell with gratitude for Thy remembrance of the sons and daughters of Lehi… We thank Thee O God, for lifting the scales of darkness which for generations clouded the vision of the descendants of Lehi” (http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/prayers.cgi?guatemala_city&chronological)
In his March 6, 1999 dedicatory prayer given at the Colonia Juaréz Chihuahua Temple, Hinckley he said, “Bless Thy Saints that they may continue to live here without molestation. May they live in peace and security. May they be prospered as they cultivate their farms and pursue their vocations. May the sons and daughters of father Lehi grow in strength and in fulfillment of the ancient promises made concerning them.” (http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/prayers.cgi?colonia_juarez&alphabetical).
In August 1999, Hinckley made a similar statement as he was in Guayaquil, Ecuador to dedicate another new LDS temple. “It has been a very interesting thing to see the descendants of father Lehi in the congregation that have gathered in the temple…So very many of these people have the blood of Lehi in their veins, and it is just an intriguing thing to see their tremendous response and their tremendous interest” (Salt Lake Tribune 11/30/2000).
When James Faust, Gordon Hinckley’s second counselor, gave the dedicatory prayer for the Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico temple on March 12, 2000, he stated, “We invoke Thy blessings upon this nation of Mexico where so many of the sons and daughters of Father Lehi dwell.” (http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/prayers.cgi?tuxtla_gutierrez&chronological)
Thomas Monson, at the time Gordon Hinckley’s first counselor, made the same connection when he prayed at the dedication of the Villahermosa, Mexico temple on May 21, 2000: “May Thy eternal purposes concerning the sons and daughters of Lehi be realized in this sacred house. May every blessing of the eternal gospel be poured out upon them, and may the suffering of the centuries be softened through the beneficence of Thy loving care.” (http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/prayers.cgi?villahermosa&chronological)
Suffice it to say that plenty of sources can be cited to demonstrate that Mormon leaders have taught and believed that not only are Lamanites related to “Father Lehi,” but they can apparently be identified.
Once again members of the LDS Church are placed between a rock and a hard place. They can choose between the spin coming out of Provo or continue to believe that their leaders are incapable of leading them astray. Choosing the former will certainly help them retain their faith in the Book of Mormon; however, in taking this direction, consistency would demand that their divinely appointed prophets and apostles were misleading members when they said that millions of direct descendants of Lehi are now living.
For a February 2014 Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast on this topic, click the following links: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4