Not the least of the church’s problems now is the growing number of highly educated, formerly prominent Mormons who have left the LDS and are only too ready to tell the world exactly why.
As a molecular biologist studying forest trees in Brisbane, Australia, Simon Southerton was in many ways a Mormon role model. He was 10 years old when his parents joined the church and he was baptised into the faith in 1970. He rose steadily through the ranks and became a bishop to his flock. Over the years he was vaguely aware that some of the historical events described by the Book of Mormon did not match the archeological or scientific record. “But I hadn’t dwelt on it,” he said. He loved his church for its emphasis on families and the sense of community it fostered.
Yet there was one key aspect of church doctrine that began to trouble him. The Book of Mormon describes a migration of Israelite clans across the Atlantic to America long before Columbus. The notion of a New Jerusalem, founded on American soil by the ancient forefathers of Mormonism, is one of the faith’s key tenets. Yet Southerton, familiar with the use of DNA to chart early human migrations, began to worry about the sheer weight of scientific evidence undermining the Book of Mormon’s account.
“Once I started looking at it seriously, it didn’t take me very long at all to realise that the Book of Mormon wasn’t real history,” he said. According to Mormon doctrine, Native Americans are descended from one of the Israelite clans. “But there’s been no serious mainstream belief in anything other than Asian origin for Native Americans for much of the last century,” Southerton added.
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