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Where Did all the Lamanites Come From?

The Three Cherokees, came over from the head of the River Savanna to London.From left to right: Outacite (Man-killer), Austenaco (Judd's friend), and Uschesees ye Great Hunter (Cunne Shote?); 1762, by Henry Timberlake.


Where Science Meets the Book of Mormon: Come Follow Me Lesson: May 27-June 2; Mosiah 25-28

We are told in Mosiah 25:1-3, “And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together. Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness. And there were not so many of the people of Nephi and of the people of Zarahemla as there were of the Lamanites; yea, they were not half so numerous.”

These verses, to me, are the most astounding in the entire Book of Mormon concerning population size at the time.

I stated in my blog of March 30th, “…we learn that Lehi and Sariah had four sons when they left Jerusalem. Zoram joined Lehi’s family when his sons went back to Jerusalem for the plates (1 Nephi 4:35). We also learn that Ishmael had at least seven children: five daughters and two sons. Lehi and Sariah had two sons born in the wilderness (1 Nephi 18:7) and they had at least two daughters. Nephi does not mention his sisters in his record until after the family arrived in the Americas. Ishmael died in the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:34).”

“So, at the time Lehi’s colony arrived in America, there were three older adults: Lehi, Sariah, and Ishmael’s wife; there were at least seven adult couples between the ages of twenty and thirty-five: Ishmael’s two oldest sons and wives, Zoram and his wife, and Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi and their wives; there were also two younger boys: Jacob and Joseph; and two daughters of unknown age and marital status. We also can assume that there were children born to the young couples in the wilderness. Ishmael’s oldest sons probably had children before they left Jerusalem. Let’s guess that those seven couples had an average of two children each at the time the family left the Old World, that’s 28 children under the ages of say ten (accounting for the older children of Ishmael’s older sons).”

Then we read in 2 Nephi 5:6-7, “Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.”


So, after the split between the Nephites and Lamanites, about 559 BC, there would have been seven individuals of reproductive age who went with Nephi, most with spouses and children: Zoram, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and two sisters. Whereas, those remaining with Laman would have been four adults, with their spouses and children: Ishmael’s two sons, Laman, and Lemuel. Ishmael’s daughters were among the spouses. Therefore, the split was apparently 7:4 Nephites vs Lamanites.


If we set the base number of Nephites in 120 BC at 2, then we can set the number of Mulekites at around 3 (because there were more Mulekites than Nephites; Mosiah 25:2), and then we would set the Lamanites at around 11 (because there were over twice as many Lamanites as Nephites and Mulekites combined; Mosiah 25:3). Therefore, the ratio of Lamanites to Nephites, 439 years after their division, was around 11:2; over five times the number of Lamanites vs Nephites; that is a reversal from a 4:7 deficit to an 11:2 superiority. So, where did all the extra Lamanites come from?

I have proposed many times in my previous posts that the Nephites and Lamanites intermixed with the indigenous peoples. Last week, I mentioned the Hopewell Culture. In 2003, Lisa Mills published her PhD dissertation: Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the Ohio Hopewell of the Hopewell Mound Group, in the Department of Anthropology, Ohio State University. Her research was conducted on ancient mtDNA recovered from teeth of 34 individual humans, collected in 1922 and 1925 from mounds at a Hopewell archaeological site in Ross County, Ohio. Mills found that her samples included four of the five major Native American haplotypes (A, B, C, and D, but not X). She also found that the mtDNA of individuals from the Hopewell site were similar to the mtDNA of people in China, Korea, Japan, and Mongolia. Those data agree with the hypothesis that Native Americans, including ancestors of the Hopewell, originated in Asia and migrated to the Americas across the Bering Land Bridge during the past 15,000 years.

Mills also identified some connections between Hopewell mtDNA and that of Chippewa/Ojibwa, Kickapoo, Apache, Iowa, Micmac, Pawnee, Pima, Seri, Southwest Sioux, and Yakima. She specifically looked for evidence of ancestral ties between the Hopewell and Cherokee, because certain oral traditions have suggested a connection, but she discovered that Cherokee mtDNA did not cluster with that of the Ohio Hopewell.

In 2014, a book summary appeared in the DNA Consultants website, of which Donald Yates is the founder and CEO. The book that was summarized was, Old World Roots of the Cherokee, the Secret History of the Cherokee Indians, (McFarland and Company, Jefferson, NC, 2012) by Donald Yates.1 According to the summary, the third chapter is a history of the Cherokee, and “contains the genetic story of the Cherokee Indians based on DNA Consultants’ 2009 study ‘Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA in the Cherokee…’” The material includes references to “…haplogroup X, Egyptian T, Berber U, Jewish J and the personal stories of a selection from the fifty-two subjects who blew the lid off Native American studies with their proof of ancient Middle Eastern and Jewish lineages.”

The review stated, “It was the T’s…that blew the lid off Cherokee DNA studies. Haplogroup T emerges as the largest lineage, followed by U, X, J and H. Similar proportions of these haplogroups are noted in the populations of Egypt, Israel and other parts of the East Mediterranean…The T lineage includes about ten percent of modern Europeans. The closer one goes to its origin in the Fertile Crescent the more prevalent it is.”2 

Furthermore, “Haplogroup X was first detected in North America over a decade ago. It was added to Native American lineages A, B, C and D only reluctantly…What is different about haplogroup X is the suspicion it might be an ancient link between Europe and North America. Some view it as a founding lineage that directly crossed the Atlantic Ocean…The detection of X in our study represents the first report of it among the Cherokee. Previously, it was identified only in certain northern tribes.”3 

A 1998 study, published by Brown et al., found that, “…haplogroup X appears to be essentially restricted to northern Amerindian groups, including the Ojibwa, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth, the Sioux, and the Yakima, although we also observed this haplogroup in the Na-Dene-speaking Navajo. Median network analysis indicated that European and Native American haplogroup X mtDNAs, although distinct, nevertheless are distantly related to each other. Time estimates for the arrival of X in North America are 12,000-36,000 years ago, depending on the number of assumed founders, thus supporting the conclusion that the peoples harboring haplogroup X were among the original founders of Native American populations. To date, haplogroup X has not been unambiguously identified in Asia, raising the possibility that some Native American founders were of Caucasian ancestry.”4 

“Far and away, however, the most explosive evidence revolves around haplogroup X, the third largest haplogroup. The only other place on earth where X is found at such a prodigious frequency is in the Druze, a people who have dwelt for thousands of years in the Hills of Galilee in northern Israel and Lebanon. The work of Liran I. Shlush in 2009 proves that the Druze, because of the high concentration as well as diversity of haplotypes, is the worldwide source and center of diffusion for X.”5

Although the information published by DNA Consultants has been very exciting to some Book of Mormon apologists (c.f. Rian Nelson: Cherokee/Hebrew/Lamanite DNA, at Book of Mormon, I recommend caution in interpreting those findings. First of all, those data have been only published in books by Donald Yates and on the DNA Consultants website. They have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Second, those data do not tell us how or when haplogroups T, U, X, J and H came to the Americas. For example, Brown et al. estimated the arrival of X in North America at about 12,000-36,000 years ago, not 2600 years ago.7


Furthermore, a 2014 paper by Maanasa Raghavan et al, reported the mtDNA results from the humerus of a 24,000-year-old, three-year-old Siberian boy (designated MI-1). The bone was part of a skeleton that had been collected in the late 1920s near the village of Mal'ta in south-central Siberia and had been stored in the Hermitage State Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The report stated, “To our knowledge this is the oldest anatomically modern human genome reported to date. The MA-1 mitochondrial genome belongs to haplogroup U, which has also been found at high frequency among Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers, and the Y chromosome of MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and near the root of most Native American lineages. Similarly, we find autosomal evidence that MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and genetically closely related to modern-day Native Americans, with no close affinity to east Asians…Our findings reveal that western Eurasian genetic signatures in modern-day Native Americans derive not only from post-Columbian admixture, as commonly thought, but also from a mixed ancestry of the First Americans.”8 This study suggests that the people who crossed from Siberia to North America across the Baring Land Bridge had more western Eurasian DNA than previously thought.


It is important to point out that MI-1 was a member of haplogroup U. Lehi’s wife and Ishmael’s wife came from Jerusalem, as did, apparently, the women in Mulek’s party. However, Lehi discovered that he was descended from Joseph (1 Nephi 5:14), whose wife was an Egyptian, Asenath (Genesis 41:45). If the women who came to the Americas were Jewish, they would belong to haplogroup J, but if, as was apparently common in Old Testament times, men married women in close family groups, the women may also have been of Egyptian descent (haplogroup T). And, as stated above, haplogroup T is the largest lineage among members of the Cherokee Nation.


None-the-less, I have always maintained that the Lehite and Mulekite colonies combined were probably only one hundred people – inserted into a native population in the Americas of probably several million. Therefore, their genetic footprint would only be a drop in a bucket, or a drop in a fifty-gallon barrel, and the chances of finding their DNA evidence is like finding a needle in a haystack – a very old needle and haystack at that. I told part of the story of the wording change in the Book of Mormon Introduction (the Introduction was not part of the original Book of Mormon, but was added beginning with the 1981 edition) in my blog posted 22 December 2023. I was directly involved in the panel discussions and other discussion between August 2001 and 2006, which led up to that wording changed. I continue to warn caution in drawing too broad of unwarranted conclusions from any Native American DNA data. While they are interesting, your testimony of the Book of Mormon should be founded upon Moroni 10:4-5, and not on any scientific “evidence” for, or “against,” the Book of Mormon.



Trent Dee Stephens, PhD




2.     Ibid

3.     Ibid

4.     Brown, M.D., et al., mtDNA haplogroup X: An ancient link between Europe/Western Asia and North America? Am J Hum Genet, 63:1852–1861, 1998

5.     DNA Consultants; see also Shlush, LI, et al., The Druze: a population genetic refugium of the Near East, PLoS One, 3:e2105, 2008

6.     Nelson, Rian, Cherokee/Hebrew/Lamanite DNA, Book of Mormon Evidence;, 2023; retrieved 24 May 2024

7.     Brown, 1998

8.     Raghavan, Maanasa, et al., Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans, Nature 505:87-91, 2014

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