Thomas W. Murphy (anthropologist)

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Thomas W. Murphy (born circa 1967) is an American anthropologist and writer. His work has focused on environmental issues and various Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-related topics.



Murphy is a member of the LDS Church. He earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington in 2003. As of 2013, he teaches in the Department of Anthropology at Edmonds Community College in Washington state. He founded the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School in 2006. The LEAF School offers field-based service-learning courses in human ecology and archaeology and specializes in the application of traditional ecological knowledge to sustainability projects. The Washington Association of Conservation Districts selected Murphy as its Conservation Educator of the Year in 2011. [1] The Puget Sound Regional Council selected the Japanese Gulch Fish Passage Project in 2012 for a Vision 2040 Award, highlighting the anthropology and archaeology field training led by Murphy. [2]

University of Washington Public research university in Seattle, Washington, United States

The University of Washington is a public research university in Seattle, Washington.

Edmonds Community College

Edmonds Community College is a public community college in Lynnwood, in the metropolitan area of Seattle, Washington, United States. More than 21,000 students annually take courses for credit toward a certificate or degree at the college in Snohomish County, Washington. The college employs more than 1,600 people, including 138 full-time and 511 part-time instructors and 277 students.

Washington (state) state of the United States of America

Washington, officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Named for George Washington, the first U.S. president, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. The state, which is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, Oregon to the south, Idaho to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia is the state capital; the state's largest city is Seattle. Washington is often referred to as Washington State to distinguish it from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C..

His academic publications focus on wildlife corridors, [3] social marketing, [4] environmental education, [5] and Mormon representations of Native Americans. In 1997, he located an isolated LDS faction in Mexico of the Third Convention group, which scholars previously believed to have died out decades earlier. [6] Murphy's research been published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion ; Ethnohistory ; the Journal of Mormon History ; the Review of Religious Research; Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought ; Sunstone ; Social Science Research Network, [7] the 2002 book American Apocrypha: More Essays on the Book of Mormon, edited by Brent Lee Metcalfe and Dan Vogel.

Mormonism Religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement

Mormonism is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity started by Joseph Smith in Western New York in the 1820s and 30s.

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pre-Columbian inhabitants of North, Central and South America and their descendants

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.

The Third Convention was a dissident group of Mexican Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who broke away from the main body of church authority in 1936 over a dispute about local governance and autonomy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.

Controversial essay

Murphy drew attention in the media and from the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) after the publication of his essay, "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics" in the 2002 book American Apocrypha. This essay discusses the genetic evidence for the geographic origin and lineage of Native American groups. It relies on evidence regarding mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited directly from the mother; the Y chromosome, inherited from the father; and nuclear DNA. [8]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nontrinitarian Christian restorationist church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, is a nontrinitarian, Christian restorationist church that is considered by its members to be the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. The church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States, and has established congregations and built temples worldwide. According to the church, it has over 16 million members and 65,000 full-time volunteer missionaries. In 2012, the National Council of Churches ranked the church as the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States, with over 6.5 million members there as of January 2018. It is the largest denomination in the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith during the early 19th century period of religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening.

Mitochondrial DNA DNA located in cellular organelles called mitochondria

Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in mitochondria, cellular organelles within eukaryotic cells that convert chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondrial DNA is only a small portion of the DNA in a eukaryotic cell; most of the DNA can be found in the cell nucleus and, in plants and algae, also in plastids such as chloroplasts.

Murphy posited that DNA evidence suggests that Native Americans are descendants of individuals from northeastern Siberia—corroborating conclusions that anthropologists have long held. He notes the 99.6 percent absence of genetic heritage outside of known indigenous Native American haplogroups. (The remaining 0.4 percent is near-universally agreed among anthropologists and biologists studying the issue to represent genetic markers that were introduced after the year 1492.)[ citation needed ]

DNA Molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known organisms and many viruses

Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses. DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are nucleic acids; alongside proteins, lipids and complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides), nucleic acids are one of the four major types of macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life.

Siberia Geographical region in Russia

Siberia is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Eurasia and North Asia. Siberia has historically been a part of modern Russia since the 17th century.

A haplotype is a group of alleles in an organism that are inherited together from a single parent, and a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a single-nucleotide polymorphism mutation. More specifically, a haplogroup is a combination of alleles at different chromosomes regions that are closely linked and that tend to be inherited together. As a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, it is usually possible to predict a haplogroup from haplotypes. Haplogroups pertain to a single line of descent. As such, membership of a haplogroup, by any individual, relies on a relatively small proportion of the genetic material possessed by that individual.

In his essay, Murphy writes that DNA and other research contradicts numerous LDS doctrinal claims, such as that Native Americans are descended from Middle Eastern people who immigrated to the Americas circa 600 BC:

From a scientific perspective, the BoMor's [Book of Mormon'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. [8]

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,[ citation needed ] a Utah-based evangelical Christian ministry that produces literature and films that question and criticize Mormonism.

In a review in 2006, the FARMS Institute responded to Murphy's claims. [9]

Subsequent action

Murphy's review of genetic research was 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 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. [10] Such a council might have resulted in Murphy's disfellowshipment or excommunication from the church. [11]

Murphy's situation received widespread media attention and generated protest actions from some Mormon intellectual groups. On December 7, 2002, less than 24 hours before the scheduled meeting time, Latimer indefinitely postponed Murphy's disciplinary council. [11] Finally, on February 23, 2003, Latimer informed Murphy that all disciplinary action was placed on permanent hold. [12] In a note Murphy sent to several supporters for wide public distribution, Murphy expressed hope that other scholars in similar positions might benefit from Latimer's decision:

We hope that other stake presidents will follow this most recent example of President Latimer and likewise refrain from using the threat of excommunication as tool for disciplining scholars.

-- Thomas Murphy, open letter dated 23 February 2003 [13]


See also

Related Research Articles

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Standard works Scriptural canon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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The Lamanites are one of the four ancient peoples described as having settled in the ancient Americas in the Book of Mormon, a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement. The Lamanites also play a role in the prophecies and revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants, another sacred text in the Latter Day Saint movement.

The Indian Placement Program, or Indian Student Placement Program (ISPP), also called the Lamanite Placement Program, was operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States, officially operating from 1954 and virtually closed by 1996. It had its peak during the 1960s and 1970s. Native American students who were baptized members of the LDS Church were placed in foster homes of LDS members during the school year. They attended majority-white public schools, rather than the Indian boarding schools or local schools on the reservations.

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Dr Simon G. Southerton is an Australian plant geneticist and co-founder of Gondwana Genomics, an Australian technology firm specialising in Marker-assisted selection for tree breeding. Southerton published the book Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church. The book uses genetic evidence to examine the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon and related claims about the Lamanite people.

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This is a bibliography of works on the Latter Day Saint movement.


  1. Slager, Melissa (2011-11-29). "Edmonds Community College professor wins state conservation award | – Local news". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  2. "Japanese Gulch Fish Passage Wins VISION 2040 Award". 2012-10-15. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  3. Thomas W. Murphy; Jocelyn Oakley. "Wildlife Passage in Snohomish County: September 2010 to April 2011". doi:10.2139/ssrn.2181128. SSRN   2181128 .Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. Thomas W. Murphy; Penny Green; Lisa Quirk. "A Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of the Septic Industry in Snohomish County, Washington". doi:10.2139/ssrn.2177683. SSRN   2177683 .Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. Thomas W. Murphy; Peter Blaustein; Susie Richards; Chris Burt; Amy Johnson. "Washington Watershed Education Teacher Training (WWETT) Program: Progress Report, 10/1/10-9/30/11". doi:10.2139/ssrn.2181105. SSRN   2181105 .Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. Thomas W. Murphy (1998). ""Stronger Than Ever": Remnants of the Third Convention". The Journal of Latter Day Saint History. 10: 1, 8–11. Retrieved 2014-01-27.[ permanent dead link ]
  7. "SSRN Author Page for Murphy, Thomas W". SSRN . Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  8. 1 2 "T. Murphy, "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics"". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  9. David G. Stewart Jr. "DNA and the Book of Mormon – David G. Stewart Jr. – FARMS Review – Volume 18 – Issue 1". Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  10. Thomas W. Murphy. "Double Helix: Reading Scripture in a Genomic Age". doi:10.2139/ssrn.2203585. SSRN   2203585 .Missing or empty |url= (help)
  11. 1 2 Lyke, M.L. (2003-01-13). "Church put to DNA test". Seattle Post-Intelligencer .
  12. "Story with an Unexpected Happy Ending", BY COMMON CONSENT (Newsletter), Mormon Alliance (, 9 (2), March 2003, archived from the original on 2008-08-20
  13. "DNA and the Book of Mormon", item 8, dated February 23, 2003, at

Further reading