Thomas W. Murphy

Thomas W. Murphy

Thomas W. Murphy (born circa 1967) is a Latter Day Saint anthropologist and writer. Murphy earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington in 2003, and he is now the chair of the Department of Anthropology at Edmonds Community College in Washington State. His academic work focuses on Mormon representations of Native Americans and has been published in the "Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion", "Ethnohistory", the "Journal of Mormon History", "Review of Religious Research", "", "Sunstone", the book "American Apocrypha: More Essays on the Book of Mormon," edited by Brent Lee Metcalfe and Dan Vogel, and elsewhere.

Controversial essay

Murphy drew attention in the media and from the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the publication of his essay, "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics." This essay discussed available genetic evidence regarding the geographic origin and lineage of Native American groups. It relies primarily on evidence regarding mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited directly from the mother.

This DNA suggests that all Native Americans are descendents of individuals from northeastern Siberia—corroborating conclusions that anthropologists have long held on the basis of linguistic, physiological, and other anthropological evidence. Murphy notes the 99.6% absence of any genetic heritage outside of known indigenous Native American haplogroups. (The remaining 0.4% is near universally agreed among anthropologists and biologists studying the issue to represent genetic markers that were introduced after the year 1492.)

To mostWho|date=March 2008 DNA researchers--including an increasing number of researchers who identify themselves as Latter Day Saints--this evidence raises issues regarding the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon, a work of Mormon scripture that records the experiences of a group of Israelites who emigrate to the Americas, and that the evidence contradicts the dominant and widely accepted view among Latter Day Saints that the Book of Mormon is a true and accurate account of the people whose history it purports to document. In his essay, Murphy writes:

From a scientific perspective, the BoMor's origin is best situated in early 19th century America, not ancient America. There were no Lamanites prior to c. 1828 and dark skin is not a physical trait of God's malediction. Native Americans do not need to accept Christianity or the BoMor to know their own history. The BoMor emerged from Joseph Smith's own struggles with his God. Mormons need to look inward for spiritual validation and cease efforts to remake Native Americans in their own image. []

Murphy concluded that "DNA research lends no support to traditional Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans" and he has likened the Book of Mormon to inspirational fiction. Murphy has reaffirmed this point several times since the initial publication of his essay in interviews and in videos produced by [ Living Hope Ministries] , a Utah-based evangelical Christian ministry that produces anti-Mormon literature and films.

Mormon scholars have criticised Murphy for his work because they say it ignores the Mormon perception of cultural historicity.Fact|date=June 2008

ubsequent action

Murphy's studies were expanded upon by molecular biologist Simon Southerton, a former Mormon Bishop, with his study "Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans DNA, and the Mormon Church", Signature Books, 2004, which gives a more complete accounting of the current status of Polynesians and Native Americans in context with national studies, Mormon scholars and concessions by geneticists from BYU. Other researchers such as Scott Woodward are critical of Southerton's work.

In response to the publication of "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics", Murphy's LDS stake president, Matthew Latimer, asked him to either recant his position regarding DNA evidence and the Book of Mormon or resign his membership in the LDS church. Murphy declined both suggestions, so Latimer scheduled a disciplinary council for December 8, 2002. Such a council might have resulted in Murphy's disfellowshipment or excommunication from the church.Fact|date=March 2008

Murphy's situation received widespread media attention and generated protest actions from some Mormon intellectual groups. Less than 24 hours before the scheduled meeting time, Latimer postponed Murphy's disciplinary council. Finally, on February 23, 2003, Latimer informed Murphy that the council would be indefinitely postponed. To date, Murphy remains a member of the church, although he admits that he has not attended a church service since 1993.Fact|date=March 2008


* Murphy, Thomas W. "Inventing Galileo." "Sunstone," March, 2004: 58-61.
* Murphy, Thomas W. "Imagining Lamanites: Native Americans and the Book of Mormon," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2003.
* Murphy, Thomas W. "Simply Implausible: DNA and a Mesoamerican Setting for the Book of Mormon." "" 36(4) [Winter, 2003] : 109-131.
* Murphy, Thomas W. "Genetic Research a 'Galileo Event' for Mormons." "Anthropology News" 44(2) [February, 2003] : 20.
* Murphy, Thomas W. " [ Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics] ." In Vogel, Dan and Brent Metcalfe, eds. "American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon" Salt Lake City: Signature, 2002: 47-77. ISBN 1-56085-151-1

ee also

* Archaeology and the Book of Mormon
* Genetics and the Book of Mormon
* Criticism of Mormonism
* Simon Southerton - Molecular biologist excommunicated by LDS church, co-authored article with Murphy


External links

* [ Tom Murphy's Home Page]
* Kennedy, John W., " [ Mormon Scholar Under Fire] ", "Christianity Today", posted 02/19/2003
* [ DNA and the Book of Mormon] , 16 February 2006 press release by the LDS Church
* [ DNA] , information at BYU's Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
* [ Motivation, Behavior, and Dissension] , Allen Wyatt, FAIR

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