Who is a direct descendant of whom?

Like any other subscriber, I have my first glimpse of each new, freshly printed issue of Dialogue only when it arrives in my mailbox. As editor, I have of course read everything in it perhaps a dozen times already. So I give it a final quick check for errors and, hopefully finding none, set it aside. But when a copy of Sunstone arrives in my mailbox, I soon find time to settle down for a pleasant session of seeing what Dan Wortherspoon and his crew have come up with this time. It’s always a stimulating experience.

For example, in the latest issue of Sunstone, March 2007, I find a brief notice of a new book by Vern G. Swanson, titled Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism’s Sacred Bloodline, which asserts “that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that Joseph Smith is a direct descendant of that couple” (77). That is a doctrine that continues to startle me even though I can’t even remember how long ago it was when I first encountered it. I don’t think I am bothered by the Jesus/Mary Magdalene marriage business so much as by the direct descendant idea. It seems we Mormons have a need to magnify the Prophet by anointing him with a genetic relationship to Jesus that the rest of us don’t have.

What does it mean to be the direct descendant of somebody? As I understand genetics, the genes from any given ancestor are halved with each successive generation until at the remove of only eight generations that ancestor’s genes are diluted to a portion of 1/256th. Even at that point, without going further, innumerable people would share a portion of Jesus’ genes, perhaps even myself, (which is an impious thought). Couldn’t we all be thought of as direct descendants of Jesus?

But maybe people mean something else when they speak of the Prophet in that manner. Does “direct descendant” imply a patronymic line of men having the same name–a line of proto-Smiths descending through the 1700 or more years of the Great Apostasy, finally reaching the Prophet at the moment of his conception in 1805? Mind boggling, isn’t it?

As I say, Sunstone is always stimulating. I look forward to the next issue.

Comments

  1. Hehe. Yup — if it were true that Jesus had children, odds are we all are his literal descendants according to a recent study.

    (And no, I don’t buy it if anyone was wondering.)

  2. Hmm, that’s one i’ve never heard before. I thought I heard them all. Where was this claim made?

  3. What don’t you buy, Geoff? That Jesus had children, or that if he did we would all be his descendants?

  4. It seems we Mormons have a need to magnify the Prophet by anointing him with a genetic relationship to Jesus that the rest of us don’t have.

    My surpise that a book is actually being published about this “theory” is only surpassed by my surprise at this broad assertion about Latter-day Saints. To my knowledge, this Joseph Smith as biological descendant of Jesus thing seems to be a fringe folk belief held by an extremely small minority of Latter-day Saints, if any actually do believe it. But of course I wasn’t around in the 1950s.

  5. And, to what extent can a fringe to non-existant folk belief be attributed broadly to any kind of need of Latter-day Saints generally, whether with relation to the bloodline of Joseph Smith or anyone else?

  6. It seems to me that “direct descendant” may be an alliterative redundancy.

    I don’t recall ever hearing of someone being called an indirect descendant.

  7. Peter LLC says:

    John,

    Regarding broad assertions about Latter-day Saints, maybe they don’t run around anointing President Smith with genetic relationships to Jesus as a matter of course, and most likely not to satisfy some undefined need, but my own experience in the Church suggests that Mormons do regard Joseph Smith as a special case, having closer ties with (similarities to?) Christ than your average righteous prophet.

  8. “It seems we Mormons have a need to magnify the Prophet by anointing him with a genetic relationship to Jesus that the rest of us don’t have.”

    It also seems that some Mormons have a need to magnify their own importance by their own genetic relationaships. A close friend who is an adult convert to the church tells me she used to live in the same ward as a “direct decendent” of one of our recent prophets (a daughter.) This person sat next to my friend at a Relief Society function where they met for the first time and she promptly asked my friend, “What is your history in the church?” to which my friend answered, “I’m a convert and the only member of my family who belongs to the church.” The Prophets daughter said, “Oh” and then turned away and didn’t speak to my friend for the rest of the function.

  9. Lamonte, Your story makes me laugh…and cry.

  10. I have to agree with john f., contra Peter LLC. My own anecdotal evidence is that, in 31 years in the Church, I’ve never heard anyone claim that JSJ had any relationship to Jesus, other than as prophet (and, therefore, mouthpiece/representative/whatever). It doesn’t shock me that someone would believe this, any more than anything John Pratt writes shocks me, but endowing either Bro. Pratt’s or Bro. Swanson’s theories with the aegis that they have some relationship to broader Mormon thought seems absurd.

    That said, I’d love to be an indirect decendant of somebody.

  11. Dan does good work, Levi. Thanks for the reminder.

    This should not seem so strange to us. Joseph Smith had already made quite clear that he was Jesus’s “direct” cousin because he was of the line of Joseph son of Israel. This claim is repeated in the Book of Mormon. Incidentally, the Lamanites were maintained to be his cousin by the same association. Now, I suppose one could argue that this is mainly the use of a kind of modified patriarchal necronym (though the practice of necronymy had largely lapsed by the nineteenth century, Joseph arguably invoked it when he named his first son Alvin), but I believe it mattered a great deal to Smith and his colleagues.[1]

    As far as why descendancy matters, I believe that for Smith family, particularly the patriarchal family (hence the importance of such a dramatic ancestor as Joseph of Egypt or better yet Jesus), was absolutely central to mapping existence, both its meaning and its future. This is an example in the modern times of Smith’s ideas of holy or sacerdotal genealogy.

    So this proposal is scientifically absurd but religiously quite potent–the infrastructure that unites humanity (Smith was quite promiscuous in his claims of genealogical connections for other people beyond himself) is intimately based on the relationships between parents and children. That’s a pretty exciting and perhaps even radical religious claim now, one that ought to affect our social behavior rather than have us publish fringe da Vinci code knockoffs.

    and lamonte in 8, that view is just silly provincial aristocracy that we should try to eradicate from our community. If these people were participating in Smith’s system, your friend would have answered: “I am a daughter of Israel and can trace my genes [something we understand in this sense as much more than bundles of genetic material] to Joseph, Jacob, and Abraham. Nice to see you, cousin.” [2]

    Incidentally, I suspect indirect descendant might apply in the case of a step-parent or some other affinal relationship, but I’m not certain.

    ————————–
    [1] Necronymy was the recycling of names of children who had died early. Scholars say that it indicates the instability of personhood for the very young in times of great mortality (they kept trying with the name until it stuck), though there is evidence people believed certain names could be blessed or cursed. Some of this is speculation, but the practice had largely gone away by Joseph Smith’s time.
    [2] If she were petty, she could say, “Wow, just a McConkie-ite? Too bad, I’m an Abrahamite. Whose ancestor is weightier?”

  12. It seems editors of Dialogue have a need to magnify Members of the Church by anointing them with a belief in a genetic relationship of Joseph Smith to Jesus that the rest of us don’t have.

  13. I’m embarassed to confess I’m actually reading this book right now. Not because I believe it, just because it interests me how people came to believe this. I’m interested in the history of this idea–where did it come from?

    It is evident that many members of the 12 have believed that they were descendants of Jesus for a while, some of them within my/our lifetime, including Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith. All of this is documented in Dynasty of the Holy Grail and in other places (if you have doubts, look, for instance, at Apostle Rudger Clawson’s journal published by Signature Books: 11 May 1899 to 11 January 1900, Descendants of Jesus: “His Seed is Represented in This Body of Men”).

    I have a few questions/comments for anyone seriously studying this:

    1. Can you find an unequivocal statement by Joseph Smith that he was a descendant of Jesus? (other than indirect statements such as D&C 113 or the possibly the Second Anointing that are attributable to Joseph). I haven’t finished Swanson’s book yet, but I can’t find one example. Other apostles state this clearly, but not Joseph as far as I can tell.

    2. There are 4 components of this doctrine that are not always mentioned together and may not necessarily follow each other (at least in the order presented below): (i) Jesus was married, (ii) Jesus was a polygamist, (iii) Jesus had children and (iv) many LDS leaders are “direct” descendants of Jesus (hence the perceived need for them to be related to each other).

    3. Orson Hyde appears to be the first to have taught this (at least publicly). Did he pick this up in southern France on his way to the Holy Land from leftover Cathars? (Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Holy Smoke?)

    4. Or is this something derived from British-Israelism transported to America and picked up by the Smiths/Youngs/Kimballs/Hydes from the Zionitic Brethren, the New Israelites, the Ephrata commune, or some other group in the NY/New England area?

  14. didn’t the early Apostles in this dispensation teach that they were also descended from Jesus?

  15. Ardis Parshall says:

    Merely for information, “direct descendant” isn’t as redundant or dumb as it may at first seem. In the genealogical world, it indicates the relationship of A to B through a child-parent-grandparent-greatgrandparent chain (and, to reply to Levi’s query, unless a writer specifies that he is using a particularly narrow definition, the term does not usually imply descent through an exclusively male line).

    The term “collateral descendant” (rather than “indirect” descendant) indicates that the relationship of A to B follows the child-parent-grandparent-greatgrandparent chain, EXCEPT that at the earliest link in the chain the relationship takes a detour to the direct ancestor’s sibling or cousin. That is, somebody who is a direct descendant of Hyrum Smith is also a collateral descendant of Joseph Smith. It indicates that you share the heritage of an extended family member but cannot claim direct descent.

    Then there’s the literary convention that A is the “spiritual” or “philosophical” descendant of B because A shares the same views as B.

  16. Thanks Levi,
    Interesting post. I did a PhD in Genetics and you are correct that we would all theoretically be related to Jesus in some form or other. The silly part is who cares? We are all probably related to some of the most heinous people from history as well. I too (like others here) am surprised that someone actually wrote a book about this subject. I guess one can write a book about anything these days…

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    My understanding of the expression “direct descendant” is the same as Ardis’s, that it is meant to stand in contravention to collateral relatives who share a common ancestor but through a different line.

    One of the good things about the whole DNA and the BoM thing is that it has taught me a lot about population genetics and descent that I never understood before. While I personally disagree with the notion put forward by those touting the DNA studies that this is some sort of a death knell for the BoM, the knowledge that has come from dealing with this issue does make a lot of Mormon lineage ideas sound kind of silly.

    So, for example, #1 is correct: If Jesus had descendants that survive to the present day, then chances are good that we are all descended from Jesus.

    This was a problem I had with the Da Vinci Code. The notion that Audrey Tautou’s character would be the sole living descendant of Jesus and Mary, and that this relationship could be proven by DNA evidence taken from Mary’s body, is absurd. (Someone’s been watching the Maury Show too much.)

    I’m unaware of Joseph ever claiming to be a descendant of Jesus, but it was a pretty common idea among 19th century Church leaders, which persisted even into the 20th century, as Ed notes.

    Other historical Mormon ideas that seem to lack coherence in light of this new understanding are the old “one drop of Negro blood” standard, and the notion of being specifically descended from Ephraim in contradistinction to any other tribe. None of this stuff makes any sense to me.

  18. Ed, I personally suspect this was genealogical analogy from the clear claim of holy lineage for Joseph that is made quite explicitly and frequently by and about him vis-a-vis Abraham and Joseph. I have not found any evidence that he made the connection down as late as Jesus, nor have I found clear evidence that he claimed Jesus was actually married, though all of this flows rather naturally from his broader family system.

  19. The March issue of Sunstone is out? Wonder why my copy hasn’t arrived yet…

  20. I agree with Kevin in #17 above. My wife taught a YW lesson on patriarchal blessings two weeks ago, and asked me about the whole lineage declaration thing. I had to admit that is was probably all figurative (or whimsical). The main significance is that we are children of Abraham, either by descent or adoption.

    I also imagine that a whole lot of us have at least one drop of negro blood in us, including some who held the priesthood before 1978.

    Any guys here want to claim their right as a literal descendent of Aaron to act in the office of a bishop?

  21. Possible correction:

    D&C 107 says you have claim on the office of bishop if you are a “literal descendent of Aaron.” D&C 68 is more specific, and suggests you may have to be “the firstborn among the sons of Aaron.”

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    The Yale mathematical study on common ancestry was about 35 pages of intricate formulae that was way beyond my ability to process. But I came up with a Mormon way to help us conceptualize these issues.

    We love our genealogy and we are all familiar with the concept of a pedigree chart. Let’s assume on average a generation is 25 years (you can change that figure if you want; it’s just convenient for this presentation). So I, living in the year 2000, would have had 16 ancestors living in the year 1900, four generations back; my great great grandparents. So on the far right side of my pedigree chart there are 16 slots for names to fill in.

    If you extend your pedigree chart back another hundred years to 1800, the number of names on the right edge of the chart is not 32 (16 + 16), but rather 256 (16 x 16, or 16 squared). And at 1700 the number of ancestral slots is 16 x 16 x 16, or 16 cubed. These ancestral slots on the pedigree chart grow geometrically as you go back in time.

    If you were to fill out a pedigree chart going back to the time of Jesus (and of course none of us has the information to actually be able to do that), the right side edge of your chart would have roughly 16 to the 19th power names. That is 75,557,863,725,914,323,419,136. That’s a lotta names!

    Indeed, that is more people than have ever lived in the history of our planet. How can this be? The answer is the phenomenon of common ancestors. The same name might show up in millions or billions of those slots.

    So, if Jesus’s name were in even one of those slots, I would be a direct descendant of Jesus. But then, so would you, so there really wouldn’t be anything very special about that at all.

  23. I have a chart of my genealogy going back 26 generations on the wall next to me right now. It’s mindboggling how many names are on it (and it’s nowhere near complete).

    But I’m a direct descendent of Edward Longshanks. Nice to know my family’s always been screwy.

  24. If our 46 chromosomes were indivisible units of inheritance, then there would be some of our ancestors to whom we are not genetically connected at all and others with whom we share more DNA. After all, we have 64 g-g-g-g-grandparents. One person out of every two million people would have no chromosomes from one grandparent and 23 from that grandparent’s mate. The genetic makeup of such a person would be the same as if that dominant grandparent had mated with his/her son/daughter-in-law, and pairing of any two, such as a maternal grandfather with his son-in-law, would be possible. That would be a rare condition, but there would be several thousand such individuals currently living. Moreover, one person out of every 1,025 would have three or fewer chromosomes from one grandparent and 20 or more from another. One person out of every 4.2 million would have that sort of genetic relationship with both sets of grandparents.

    However, chromosomal crossover prevents this. Chromosomes are not indivisible units of inheritance.

  25. I had a New Testament teacher when I was at the BYU Jerusalem Center (this is in 1993) who was teaching us and making some suggestions that led in the direction of stating that Joseph Smith was a descendant of Jesus. In fact I was beginning to feel fairly strongly that he was making his point. So I raised my hand and bluntly asked him “Did I just hear you say that Joseph Smith is a descendant of Jesus?”

    His response: “I didn’t say that … but if that’s what the Spirit told you …”

    That came across to me as a pretty fishy/corny answer. It reminds me a little bit of the approach taken by historical false Messiahs who would never come right out and say “I am” or “I am not” but who would coyly make vague pronouncements that would lead some devout people to draw the desired conclusion.

    If a teacher wants to say something, he/she not make an effort to be shy, evasive or overly clever about the principle being taught.

  26. I also imagine that a whole lot of us have at least one drop of negro blood in us, including some who held the priesthood before 1978.

    My father got into a heated argument with his (quite racist) father one day regarding the Church’s then-ban on priesthood for those with African ancestry. In that argument, my father commented that he was confident that he himiself had “black blood” flowing in his veins.

    His father responded, spluttering, “Well, then you must have gotten it from your mother.”

    IMO, drops of ancestry (whether of the lineal or sanguinal or just name-dropping variety) to people whom we’ve never met are just ways of buttressing our own egos. That is to say, not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be recognized for what they are, and then laid aside so that we can become a community (with all of God’s other creations) that is of one heart and one mind.

  27. Thank you, cousins, for the interesting discussion. If I understand correctly, my beliefs state that I am a direct spiritual descendant of The Father and a collateral spiritual descendant of His son, Lucifer. Those seem extreme enough for me, without invoking mortal descent.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Ray: “spiritual descendant of His son, Lucifer”

    Ray, you do not understand correctly. Lucifer has no descendants.

  29. ed (#3),

    I don’t buy that Jesus had children. If he did I think we would indeed all be his descendants to one degree or another.

  30. Ardis Parshall says:

    #28: Of course Lucifer is a daddy, Steve — he’s the Father of Lies.

    (I think Ray is playing off of my #15.)

  31. Thanks, Ardis. Sometimes my sense of humor gets me in trouble. (Sorry, Steve. I should have referenced #15 directly.)

  32. Danithew (#25): His response: “I didn’t say that … but if that’s what the Spirit told you …”

    Lol! Thanks for the chuckle Dan. That is classic.

  33. I have no problem whatsoever with the idea that Jesus children. However, I don’t know of any authoritative or reliable source on the question that could verify or disprove the idea. So in my view, it’s just a possibility that’s out there. It’s not the kind of question I’d lose sleep over.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    Ahhhh. Got ya, Ray. It’s not your sense of humor that gets you in trouble, it’s lack of context.

  35. I also have no problem with the idea of Jesus having children. In fact, I lean toward it mostly because I can’t stand the convoluted and ignorant reasons many people espouse for believing that Jesus just couldn’t have participated in that “nasty” process that produces them. When you start preaching that Mary’s conception had to have been “immaculate” in order to remove any hint of “sexual sin” from Jesus’ birth (an actual claim I heard in a Divinity School class), you’ve lost me.

  36. Kevin (#22), Great comment. I’ve always imagined it that way and have hoped someone could do the math. In my mind it looks like this:

    On the left side is me, with my ancestors doubling as it moves right, just as you describe. On the far right are Adam and Eve. Their descendants, moving to the left, are going to multiply much more rapidly, since you can have more than two children, but not more than two parents. So somewhere, these two expanding “trees” are going to run in to each other, causing my actual pedigree chart, when 100% complete, to be shaped like a diamond.

    Oh, and a comment on Patriarchal Blessing lineage. My grandfather-in-law is a patriarch. I asked him about this and his explanation was that we all probably have the blood of all the tribes. By declaring a lineage, you are officially declaring which blessings will flow to you. I’ve always thought that’s a very reasonable and acceptable answer.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    Joe B., that’s the way I envision it, too. (I don’t know whether that’s right or not, but that’s the way I see it in my mind’s eye.)

  38. Levi Peterson says:

    I suppose I reacted to the thesis of Swanson’s book as I did because, having lived on the Wasatch Front for nearly fifty years before moving to Washington state, I have been quite aware of a sense of aristoracy among the relatives of some Church leaders.

    My name sake, Levi Mathers Savage, being buried in an ordinary grave in the main Salt Lake City cemetery (next to one of his wives, my grandmother, and very close to his own mother), I have often looked across to the nearby burial plot of the Joseph F. Smith family. By far the largest monument in the entire cemetery belongs to Joseph F. Smith himself, reminding all of us that the closest connection of Utah Mormonism with the royal Smith blood line lies interred underneath that imposing monument. Compared to that, Brigham Young’s grave marker is nothing. And of course the descendants of Levi Mathers Savage can only be grateful that the shadow of the Smith obelisk falls in the direction of their ancestor’s grave at certain hours of the day.

  39. Kevin, what I’ve always been curious about regarding the math is that these two trees, converging, are not going to magically meet in the middle, with one generation containing all the duplicates. The duplicate names are going to appear all over. The further you go back, the fewer names you need (after some critical mass point)

    I guess the easiest way to grasp this would be to make up a fake pedigree for someone 6 or 7 generations (to limit the scope) after Adam and Eve, work backwards, and figure out how it would be done.

  40. Christopher Smith says:

    >>That came across to me as a pretty fishy/corny answer. It reminds me a little bit of the approach taken by historical false Messiahs who would never come right out and say “I am” or “I am not” but who would coyly make vague pronouncements that would lead some devout people to draw the desired conclusion.

    You mean like Jesus in the Synoptic gospels?

  41. Gilgamesh says:

    Though I think the idea is absurd and I am no gentecist –

    If it was a patrimonial genetic link, wouldn’t the Y chromosone remain the same? That would keep Joseph Smith with a 1/46th connection to Jesus. The rest of the chromosomes would alter, but the Y would remain the same.

    Again – I think this is an absurd idea and irrelevant if we believe we all are ingeritors of the divine nature – genetics mean nothing.

  42. (in response to comment #32)

    Geoff J.,

    I agree that it’s a pretty loaded line, in a funny way, if you want to think of it that way. It’s the kind of line that could be repeated for laughs if everyone was in on the joke.

    Maybe I’ll find a way to use it in a future blog comment.

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    Gilgamesh, if Joseph were a pure patrilineal descendant of Jesus, then yes, he would have the same Y chromosome (subject to the mutations that certainly would occur over a 2,000-year period).

    But that would only be the case if Jesus’ name were in the very top slot of Joseph’s pedigree chart at an 1800-year time depth. If it were in trillions and trillions of slots, but not in that one, there would be no Y chromosomal connection between them.

    Thus, genealogical lineal descent and DNA evidence of such are two very different things.

  44. RE: Royaly lineage. There has been several offerings lately and some press attention (Hardy at DNews seems to like the topic, he has written several pieces). Looks like the “orthodox” sellers are loath to cary it, though.

    Also, for fun, on March 11, 1899, George Reynolds wrote B. C. Rich on behalf of the First presidency stating that the idea that Jesus was married is only speculation, despite what anyone might have read from Orson Hyde (see the transcript of the FP Letterpress in the Scott Kenney Research Collection at either UU or BYU).

  45. Levi (38) There is a sense of aristocracy there, but I would be much more apt to relate it to celebrity than to some spurious bloodline Idea.

    Tangentially, my Methodist Aunt had a genealogy guy connect out our bloodline to Charlamagne, then on back to Christ, then on back to Adam. While fancy, it is absolute fiction. In factual genealogy, I can only get back to Thomas Witten, who was either a slave trader or a slave.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    Ha, yeah, tell someone who has a cherished book of remembrance tracing her genealogy all the way back to Adam that it can’t really be done and after a certain point is fictional, and stand back and watch the sparks fly.

  47. What this really means is that Joseph has Jesus’ Y chromosome, passed down from father to son. Everything else mixes.

    What that REALLY means is the Joseph has God’s Y chomosome. Awesome!!!

    One of the wonderful things about Mormonism is that we actually like our bodies and want to keep them. I sure hope that God enjoys sex because if that is perfectable, that would be really nice.

  48. Lonna Mower says:

    My mission president taught us missionaries (71-73) that:
    1. Jesus was persecuted not only for the usual reasons addressed in the New Testament, but also because he was a polygamist. Evil scribes purposely kept this info out of the Bible, in keeping with their own agenda.
    2. Jesus was the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Mr. Universe of his day. He wasn’t the wimpy guy as portrayed by Willem Defoe; His superior physical (and mental) genetics would preclude anything else. He could beat anybody up, including any of them wimps in Championship Wrestling.
    3. As a polygamist, Jesus had many off-spring, and that Joseph Smith was a direct descendent of Jesus, keeping the paternal line in-tact for close to 2000 years.
    4. That the Joseph Smith line held the patriarchal right to the leadership of the Church, ala the Aaron descendant thing. Heber J. Grant, accordingly, because of his mother’s (a polygamous wife) direct sealed relationship to Joseph (although Heber himself was sired by another man) was qualified/adopoted to become a member of the Q12A, then became President through Divine intervention.

    It is interesting to note that my mission president was later disfellowshipped for teaching “uncorrelated” doctrine, among many of other things, such as extortion of Church funds.

  49. My take on this post is a little bit different. If as mentioned in the article a person’s genes are, “As I understand genetics, the genes from any given ancestor are halved with each successive generation until at the remove of only eight generations that ancestor’s genes are diluted to a portion of 1/256th”, I find an interesting dilema for those scholars whom quote genetic studies and condom the Book of Mormon, since they haven’t found any genetic evidence of israelite blood in today’s American Indians. I haven’t calculated how many generations there would be from the end of the Book of Mormon to now, but it does appears as if the blood & DNA that Lehi’s group, would have been very diluted indeed.

  50. On the subject of those fanciful genealogies that go back to Adam, something I’ve wondered about: what is the oldest verifiable lineage; that is, how far back has anyone been able to do their family tree without relying on questionable sources? Charlemagne? The Merovingians? Some Chinese lines?

    I know there is a degree of uncertainty in trusting any longago source, but I think you know what I mean.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    There was an excellent article on this subject in the Ensign many years ago. The answer is the Merovingians.

  52. Sorry for the irreverence (OK, I’m not.), but I’m curious, Brandon, about how one “condoms” the Book of Mormon. (#49) Great Freudian slip in a post about genetics.

  53. Levi (#38): “My name sake, Levi Mathers Savage, being buried in an ordinary grave in the main Salt Lake City cemetery, I have often looked across to the nearby burial plot of the Joseph F. Smith family. By far the largest monument in the entire cemetery belongs to Joseph F. Smith himself, reminding all of us that the closest connection of Utah Mormonism with the royal Smith blood line lies interred underneath that imposing monument. Compared to that, Brigham Young’s grave marker is nothing. And of course the descendants of Levi Mathers Savage can only be grateful that the shadow of the Smith obelisk falls in the direction of their ancestor’s grave at certain hours of the day.”

    Who doesn’t appreciate the subtle wit and gentle sarcasm of Levi Peterson? The above seems like the start of a great Levi short story. Get writing, Levi!

  54. It was a revelation when I learned that the Shroud of Turin has stains of my blood type.

  55. You are probably aware of this, Brandon (49), but regardless of how many generations have passed the Y chromosome in the male line will remain identical. The reason is that only males have Y chromosones. Hence the Y chromosome is exclusively passed on from father to son.

    There is a similar dynamic at work with mitrochondrial DNA, which is passed on along female lines but before I butcher the biology in my ignorance, I will forego an explanation and refer you to an encyclopedia.

    Since there are stable markers, it is possible to track the ethnic composition of populations across thousands of years even though other genetic traits may have been diluted.

    That allowed researchers to determine, for example, that Sally Hemings’ male descendents shared Thomas Jefferson’s Y chromosome.

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