7th December 1998
10 Stavewood Court
Samford 4520 QLD

Dear Elder Featherstone,

Thank you for your recent letter. It was very gracious of you to send it and I appreciate it.

I have received an email from Scott Woodward in which he discusses the issue that concerns me.  Since I was asked by the Area Presidency to speak to Scott about this issue I think you should know Scott’s response.

It would appear that many in the research community at BYU don’t accept that the living American Indians are derived primarily from the Lamanites. The DNA studies have convinced Scott, while lack of archaeological evidence has led others to the same conclusion. Scott has serious concerns about the Church’s public position that the American Indians are predominantly living descendants of the Lamanites.  I think the church position is supported by statements from all the prophets including Joseph Smith, and the prophecies and statements in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.  I would also suggest that the Book of Mormon is very explicit about the Lamanites in the last days and that the prophets had good reason to make those statements.  Members of the church I know believe as I did that the American Indians and South Pacific Islanders are Lamanites.  Many would be horrified at the things the intellectuals now believe about the Book of Mormon in the face of the evidence.  My primary concern is not the statement in the introduction to the Book of Mormon.  My concern is that the Lamanites are unrelated to living American Indians.

I recently met with President Maurer and I agreed not to tell other members about the research.  As I attempt to defend my reputation, which is under attack due to gossip flying around the Church, I think it is almost impossible for me to continue indefinitely to be silent about this issue.  As the possibility of a disciplinary counsel has been flagged, I would like to know what I am expected to do.  Since I was asked to seek answers from Scott Woodward at BYU should I accept what he is saying?  Should I believe that the Lamanites were restricted to Central America and have virtually all died out?

I see this as a serious problem for the Church.  I am concerned for the many members of the Church who will soon confront the same issue.  I think the leaders need to be aware of this so that they are prepared to deal with the situation.  I still believe them to be honourable men and respect them, as I do my local leaders.

Thank you again for your letter.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards

Simon Southerton