William Lobdell’s 16 February 2006 Los Angeles Times story is the latest in a string of stories over the past four years in which journalists have focused public attention on how DNA research on Amerindian ancestry has impacted discussions of Book of Mormon historicity. Until now, the impact of these stories on typical Mormon discourse has been minimal. Perhaps it was the front-page placement of Lobdell’s story, perhaps it was the tug of the human stories it told of Native American and Polynesian Latter-day Saints who had once thought they were Lamanites and now are not so sure, or perhaps it is simply that multiple exposures to the issue are now having a cumulative effect, but it seems that this latest story has begun to reach the ears of and unsettle more Latter-day Saints than ever before. (One evidence for this is the Church’s adding links on its official website, www.lds.org, to seven additional and often more aggressive and speculative responses to the DNA studies than the four it has had links to for the past several years.) In this session, we welcome William Lobdell who will share with us the story of how he came to write this article as well as about his experiences in its wake. We are also excited to hear from other panelists who will help catch us up on the science of DNA and the recent findings that are generating the discussion and how they are being employed by both critics and apologists, provide an overview of the history and politics of “Lamanite identity,” and present fresh perspectives on the relationship between science and human meaning-making. Where does the discussion of Book of Mormon historicity currently stand? Is a major paradigm shift for understanding this foundation scripture on the immediate horizon? If so, what might it look like?
Dan Wotherspoon, William Lobdell, Angela Campbell, Armand Mauss, and Clifton H. Jolley