Saturday, November 30, 2002 BY PATTY HENETZ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A graduate student at the University of Washington says he likely will be excommunicated next week for articles he has written questioning the validity of the Book of Mormon. Thomas W. Murphy, 35, wrote an article in the May 2002 Signature Books anthology American Apocrypha that used genetic data to discredit the Book of Mormon claim that American Indians are descendants of ancient Israel. The conclusion also is the thesis of his doctoral dissertation. "We're told to tell the truth, but not if the truth contradicts church doctrine. I would prefer to tell the truth," Murphy said. Lavina Fielding Anderson, who in 1993 was excommunicated along with several other historians, biblical scholars and amateur theologians, said Murphy is one of at least three scholars similarly threatened with expulsion or excommunicated in the past three months. "It's kind of deja vu, a repeat of things we've seen several times in the past," said Brent Metcalf, who edited the anthology. "This is it for Tom, I think." Murphy, chairman of the anthropology department at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Wash., will face a church disciplinary council Dec. 8. There, he will be allowed to make a statement and council members may try to change his mind about the Book of Mormon. He won't, because he has made it his quest to expose racism in the scriptures, starting with the teaching that American Indians are descendants of Middle Easterners known as Lamanites, the heathen antagonists in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is a history of the Americas beginning in 600 B.C. Scripture teaches that a group of Lamanites who decided to forgo violence and war became Christians -- and white. "That's racist," Murphy said. "If we present the Book of Mormon as the history of the Americas, the racist depictions of Lamanites hurt real people." He also objects to church teachings that dark skin is a curse from God. Murphy questioned the lack of minority representation in church leadership, the church's political campaigns against women's and homosexual rights and "the policy of excommunicating scholars who honestly confront problems with church history and doctrines." In a Tuesday e-mail to Signature Books, Anderson said the two other scholars under fire were hoping to avoid public exposure. "Such ecclesiastical actions are deeply distressing," she wrote. Anderson was excommunicated after she presented a history of ecclesiastical troubles between church leaders, scholars and feminists at a Sunstone conference on Mormon scholarship in 1992. High-profile excommunications waned significantly after current church President Gordon B. Hinckley was ordained in 1995. Dale Bills, church spokesman, declined to comment specifically on Murphy's case. "Matters of church discipline are handled on a confidential basis between church members and their local leaders. Local church leaders determine what, if any, disciplinary action is appropriate," Bills said.
Trent Stevens, a professor of anatomy and embryology at Idaho State University in Pocatello, met Murphy two years ago when both were panelists at a Sunstone symposium looking at the Book of Mormon and science. He agrees with Murphy's genetics data that virtually all DNA samples so far analyzed link the genetic markers in the current Indian population with native Siberians. But he disagrees with what Murphy has concluded. The Book of Mormon, Stevens said, makes no claim that every American Indian descended from the original displaced Israelites. "Scientific evidence says that's not the case," Stevens said. But that doesn't mean the Book of Mormon is a fiction. "The issue is, it was stated by Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion," Stevens said. "So when you look at genetic and anthropological data regarding native Americans, and say the data prove the book is not of ancient origin, I would say that's grounds for excommunication." Murphy, who described himself as active in Mormon intellectual circles but not a regular churchgoer, said being excommunicated will hurt his relationship with his southern Idaho family, descendants of the first Mormon pioneers. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// /// ZION LIST CHARTER: Please read it at /// /// http://www.zionsbest.com/charter.html /// ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// ==^================================================================ This email was sent to: email@example.com EASY UNSUBSCRIBE click here: http://topica.com/u/?aaP9AU.bWix1n.YXJjaGl2 Or send an email to: [EMAIL PROTECTED] T O P I C A -- Register now to manage your mail! http://www.topica.com/partner/tag02/register ==^================================================================