Thomas W. Murphy (anthropologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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. 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]

His academic publications focus on wildlife corridors,[3] social marketing,[4] environmental education,[5] and Mormon representations of Native Americans and have 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,[6] the 2002 book American Apocrypha: More Essays on the Book of Mormon, edited by Brent Lee Metcalfe and Dan Vogel.

Controversial essay[edit]

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."[where?]2002 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.[7]

Murphy posited that DNA evidence suggests that Native Americans are descendents 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]

In his essay, Murphy writes:

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.[7]

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.[8]

Subsequent action[edit]

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.[9] Such a council might have resulted in Murphy's disfellowshipment or excommunication from the church.[10]

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.[10] Finally, on February 23, 2003, Latimer informed Murphy that all disciplinary action was placed on permanent hold.[11] 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[12][not in citation given]


  • Murphy, Thomas W., "Brief Summary of Jetty Island History" (May 6, 2008). SSRN 2177737.
  • —— "Double Helix: Reading Scripture in a Genomic Age" (September 19, 2003). SSRN 2203585
  • —— "Inventing Galileo." Sunstone, March, 2004: 58-61. SSRN 2203605
  • —— Imagining Lamanites: Native Americans and the Book of Mormon, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2003. SSRN 2177734
  • —— "Simply Implausible: DNA and a Mesoamerican Setting for the Book of Mormon." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 36(4) [Winter, 2003]: 109-131. SSRN 2177709
  • ——, "Sin, Skin, and Seed: Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon (March 24, 2004)." John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 25 (2005): 36-51. SSRN 2177700
  • —— "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 - Online reprint at
  • ——, Blaustein, Peter, Richards, Susie, Burt, Chris and Johnson, Amy, "Washington Watershed Education Teacher Training (WWETT) Program: Progress Report, 10/1/10-9/30/11" (November 26, 2012). SSRN 2181105
  • ——, Blaustein, Peter, Richards, Susie, Burt, Chris and Johnson, Amy, "Washington Watershed Education Teacher Training (WWETT) Program: Progress Report 10/1/09-9/30/10" (November 26, 2012). SSRN 2181138
  • ——, Green, Penny and Quirk, Lisa, "A Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of the Septic Industry in Snohomish County, Washington" (April 29, 2009). SSRN 2177683
  • —— and Southerton, Simon. "Genetic Research a 'Galileo Event' for Mormons." Anthropology News 44(2) (February 2003): 20 SSRN 2203607

See also[edit]


  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. ^ "SSRN Author Page for Murphy, Thomas W". SSRN. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  7. ^ a b "T. Murphy, "Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics"". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Thomas W. Murphy. "Double Helix: Reading Scripture in a Genomic Age". doi:10.2139/ssrn.2203585. SSRN 2203585. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  10. ^ a b Lyke, M.L. (2003-01-13). "Church put to DNA test". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  11. ^ "Story with an Unexpected Happy Ending", BY COMMON CONSENT (Newsletter), Mormon Alliance (, 9 (2), March 2003, archived from the original on 2008-08-20
  12. ^ "DNA and the Book of Mormon", item 8, dated February 23, 2003, at

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]