January 28, 2009

The same blood flows in my veins.

I just read this post on By Common Consent: There is an End to Race. As a teenager, I was fascinated by the doctrines concerning lineage. In seminary we'd learn things about being the lineage of Ephraim and how someone adopted into that lineage literally had their blood changed. Now, we learned a lot of things in seminary that ended up not being true, but that literal blood change thing is based on a quote by Joseph Smith: “the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham.” I remember hearing from a friend that their friend's brother's roommate's cousin's step son (or something like that) found out that in their patriarchal blessing that they were from the tribe of Dan. We had a Young Women's lesson with the stake patriarch where someone asked if siblings could be from different tribes. He said that it was possible, and compared it to hair color or eye color. I remember thinking that was so cool, and being a little jealous that I, like everyone else, was the tribe of Ephraim. From the article I just read:

... one of the most significant findings of the Human Genome Project: that human beings have only (approximately) 20,000 genes.

Let’s do some math. You share exactly 1/2 of your genetic material with either of your parents. Move to an individual a generation back, and that person shares only 1/4 of your genetic material with you. You see what’s coming? How many generations back do you think you have to go before you pass the 1/20,000 threshold? The answer is that you share virtually no genetic material with your ancestors who were contemporaries of Christopher Columbus. Let me repeat that in more general terms: you are no more genetically related to your distant ancestors than you are to any randomly selected individual from anywhere on the planet. On the other hand, you do share an astonishingly high (compared to other species) percentage of your genetic material with virtually every person now living or who has ever lived.

So what does this mean in terms of tribal lineage? The blog writer draws this conclusion:

This means that being the literal, biological descendants of Abraham, or Noah, or Ham, or Seth, or Cain, or Adam is meaningless. Meaningless in the sense that, well so what — everyone else is too; and meaningless in the sense that you are not any more genetically related to any of them any more than you are to anyone else.

So really, we're all the tribe of Dan and the tribe of Ephraim, genetically speaking. Now if you read the entire article (which I highly recommend), you see that these conclusions don't automatically mean OH NOES! THE CHURCH ISN'T TRUE!! You really have to draw your own conclusions, but I like where the blog author goes with this. It makes the sudden blood transformation I pictured when I first heard this doctrine a little less dramatic. But it allows for a lot of 'what if' speculation that people like me love to think about, and most gospel doctrine teachers dread.

So what if that stake patriarch from my Young Women's class was right, and lineage really is like hair color or eye color? If we really are genetic descendants from every tribe (that has descendants), what determines dominant and recessive "tribe" genetics? Does that give new or different meaning to the literal gathering of Israel? I will quickly expose the limit of my knowledge on lineage doctrine and genetics pretty quickly if I keep going with the what ifs, so I'll stop. I guess this whole lineage thing still fascinates me, and this article just renewed my interest in it.

1 comment:

Deja said...

That is fascinating. I never got too interested in the lineage thing, just because it seemed to get so confusing so fast. But this does seem an important development. I love it when science gives new insight to doctrine/scripture, even when it slightly changes our perspective.