Simon Southerton criticizes apologetic arguments related to DNA and the Book of Mormon.

Sep 2005
Simon Southerton

Simon Southerton, "DNA Über-Apologetics: Overstating Solutions—Understating Damages," Sunstone (September 2005): 70–73

Simon Southerton
Reading Public

The DNA research on native populations sent barely a ripple through the scientific community because none of the findings seriously challenge major scientific theories concerning the colonization of the Americas. But the shock waves continue to move LDS apologists to defend the Book of Mormon. And, judging from the various defenses to date, it is clear that these studies have exposed a conspicuous rift between what most Mormons believe and what apologists know about New World pre-history and the possible scale of any Israelite impact.

In this confusing time for Latter-day Saints struggling over what to decide about the DNA challenges, I believe some of the apologetic writings, including those of Ostler and Quinn, border on what I call über-apologetics—a win-at-all-costs approach to defending Book of Mormon historicity. That is, in their urgency to defend the Book of Mormon as a historical record, many apologists are not only misrepresenting the molecular research but also creating a climate that is forcing many Latter-day Saints out of the Church. But even more staggering to me than the smoke screens about the DNA research is the über-apologists’ underappreciation of the damage to Mormon foundations that arises from their challenge to prophetic authority. Astoundingly, Ostler, Quinn, and others argue a heterodox position: that most Church leaders, including Joseph Smith, have misunderstood the scale of the Book of Mormon account. In making this claim, they are profoundly undermining one of Mormonism’s core ideals. As I will argue below, I believe there is a better alternative to such extremism.

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