FAIR conference, number seven: Ugo Perego, ‘Book of Mormon Genetics: A Reappraisal’

Ugo Perego has a doctorate in Genetics and Biomolecular Sciences from the University of Pavia (Italy). He has given more than 200 lectures on DNA topics. He has authored and co-authored many publications, including several on Book of Mormon genetics. He lives in Rome, Italy with his wife and children.

Perego says it is very common for people with a shallow understanding of genetics to make sweeping statements about DNA issues in Latin America. He used a recent example from Sunstone that made a sweeping claim about native American DNA that is clearly wrong in a variety of ways (including a claim that certain science is settled). Sunstone cited an eight-year-old paper that Perego says does not make the point that Sunstone claims it does.

Perego then cited a new study from a few months ago. This paper says central questions regarding native American DNA have not been resolved. This paper says people in the Americans came from three different Asian gene flows. In summary, Perego said issues regarding native American genetics are still being studied, and new discoveries come about all the time. Very little is “settled.”

Perego says that some native Americans clearly traveled to the Americas from Asia over the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. The people there had time to develop their unique genetic structure. There were millions of native Americans when Lehi arrived. They had been there for thousands of years.

The Europeans brought disease and death when they came in 1492. Only one out of 25 survived the impact of the Europeans. This population reduction forever altered the genetics of the surviving groups. This will complicate any attempts to reconstruct the pre-Columbian genetic structure of most new World groups.

He also pointed out that all of the wars in the Book of Mormon would have created “more genetic loss.” Of course, one problem is that we do not know what the DNA of Lehi and Sariah looked like. Native Americans will most likely have a C and a Q genetic type (called haplogroups). There are people from the Middle East and Asia who have these genetic types. The closest cousins to the Q haplogroups are the Yemenite Jews. So, making sweeping claims that there is no DNA evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is completely incorrect.

Perego said new studies have shown that when a new population (like the Nephites) encounter and mate with another population (native Americans who were already in the Americas), it is more likely that the native American gene type will dominate.

The genetic evidence seems to show that there were probably more than one (and perhaps many) movements of humans to the Americas. A recent discovery shows evidence of pre-Columbian contact in Iceland in which native American DNA made its way to Iceland.

Perego (an Italian) says he is from the C haplogroup, which is primarily from Asia. He speculates (in jest?) that he is descended from Attila the Hun, an Asian who invaded Italy.

Perego points out that haplogroup X has a presence in the Americas and also in the Middle East. The closest relative to native Americans is in Iran. There are also Egyptian bedouins that have DNA similar to native Americans.

Like many other issues with the Book of Mormon, the evidence on genetics show that there is some evidence that supports the Book of Mormon, but there is no final proof either for or against.

In conclusion:

1)We don’t know Lehi’s DNA.
2)Scientists are still studying genetics, and still disagree.
3)No one has come forth with a testable research hypothesis on how to go about identifying pre-Columbian Old World DNA in the Americas.
4)There is a difference between the different migrations.
5)DNA does disappear over time and over generations.
6)There is Old World DNA in the Americas.
7)You must play by the rules of genetics.
8)Beware of anybody who said DNA is the ultimate proof of Book of Mormon historicity, either for or against.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

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