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Thomas W. Murphy is the latest Mormon scholar to challenge key teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Murphy, 35, has likened the Book of Mormon, an essential LDS sacred text, to inspirational fiction.

Narrowly avoiding a disciplinary meeting, Murphy remains an LDS member of record for the time being.

Murphy is chairman of the anthropology department at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. Last year he wrote an essay, "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics," for a Signature Books anthology called American Apocrypha. Murphy concluded, "dna research lends no support to traditional Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans." Murphy's doctoral dissertation is the basis of the essay.

The Book of Mormon details migrations of Israelites to the Western Hemisphere more than 4,200 years ago. According to the book, some of the people were Lamanites, cursed with dark skin because of sin. The current introduction to the Book of Mormon claims that Lamanites were ancestors of American Indians.

In his essay, Murphy reviewed recent human molecular genealogy studies that contradict that claim. "To date no intimate genetic link has been found between ancient Israelites and the indigenous peoples of the Americas," Murphy said.

He noted that researchers genetically link American Indians with native Siberians. Murphy told The Chronicle of Higher Education that some Mormon intellectuals want to debate the Book of Mormon "as fiction, possibly inspired, but as fiction."

Part of the mainstream?


The LDS church disciplines its wayward scholars. LDS spokesman Dale Bills said local councils may excommunicate, temporarily disfellowship, or place a transgressing member on probation for a wide range of ...

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In the Magazine

March 2003

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