A Scientist Looks at Book of Mormon Anachronisms

Send to Kindle
  • Formats:
  • PDF
  • ePub
  • MOBI
  • Kindle store
  • NOOK store
  • MP3 Audio
  • Print now
  • Order Print Copy

Review of Wade E. Miller, Science and the Book of Mormon: Cureloms, Cumoms, Horses & More (Laguna Niguel, California: KCT & Associates, 2010). 106 pages + viii, including two appendices and references cited, no index.

Abstract: Anachronisms, or out of place items, have long been a subject of controversy with the Book of Mormon. Several Latter-day Saints over the years have attempted to examine them. Dr. Wade E. Miller, as a paleontologist and geologist, offers a some new insights on this old question, especially regarding animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, including a report on some preliminary research which might completely change the pre-Columbian picture for horses in America. Overall, this is an indispensable resource on Book of Mormon anachronisms.

Ever since the Book of Mormon came off the press in 1830, anachronisms have been some of the most common reasons given for dismissing the Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient text (anachronisms are items that are chronologically out of place). This remains true despite the evidence that has turned up for many items once thought to be anachronisms in the text.1 While some alleged Book of Mormon anachronisms are conceptual (e.g., the seemingly overt Christian concepts in [Page 124]1 Nephi),2 the ones most frequently brought to bear against the text are scientific. Archaeologist John E. Clark explains, “The most frequently mentioned deficiencies of the book concern the lack of hard evidence in the New World for the right time periods of precious metals, Old World animals and plants, and Book of Mormon place names and personal names.”3 Aside from the absence of proper names, each of these deficiencies is, at least in part, a question of science. Were there—or at least could there have been—the right kinds of animals, plants, and materials (such as metal, glass, and certain textiles) in the Americas when the Book of Mormon took place? Dr. Wade E. Miller is certainly not the first Latter-day Saint to explore this question.4 Given his particular expertise, however, his contribution is both unique and welcome, particularly when it comes to animals in the Book of Mormon.

Miller begins by mentioning the Smithsonian Institute’s history with the Book of Mormon (pp. 2–4). The Smithsonian has long gotten letters from folks asking about the Book of Mormon. The Institute used to send out a long response listing several perceived inaccuracies in the Book of Mormon but has [Page 125]since tempered its response.5 Nonetheless, the impulse to test the Book of Mormon against science continues, and Miller seeks to contribute to the discussion. “The intent of this book is to add to the body of knowledge relating to science and the Book of Mormon using my paleontological and geological background” (p. 3). Miller also takes time to clarify that he follows John L. Sorenson in associating Book of Mormon lands with Mesoamerica (pp. 6–8).6 Miller then discusses with considerable brevity matters such as steel and glass (pp. 10–13), linen and silk (pp. 16–18), and food plants (pp. 20–22). Then the remainder of the book discusses animals (pp. 24–84), save a brief summary at the end (p. 86). Miller explains, “I will discuss the animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon in greater depth than other scientific aspects because of my own research specialization” (p. 4).

Before launching into his discussion on animals in the Book of Mormon, Miller offers a couple of cautions. The first is that, “We can’t be positive that each animal with its translated name corresponds exactly to our present understanding of that animal” (p. 24).7 This important point has long been derided by critics of Mormonism on the Internet, but I’ve yet to see anyone else explain just what Nephi, with his Hebrew or Egyptian language, was supposed to call a tapir or any other species discovered in his new environment for which his native language had no words. Both loan-shifting and translator’s [Page 126]anachronisms are common enough phenomena that they should not be quickly discounted, given the legitimacy of the Book of Mormon as a translation of a document written by Old World peoples migrating to the New. In fact, such practices are arguably expected in such a text.8

Some protest that the Book of Mormon is the “most correct book,” “translated by the gift and power of God,” and hence should not manifest such “incorrect” labeling. Matters of translation are complicated, however, and very often fuzzy notions of “literal” translation hinge more on unexplored assumptions than actual data.9 What’s more, if the Nephites applied Old World terms meaning horse, sheep, cattle, or pig to New World species, then those were the “correct” labels within Nephite taxonomy. As such, translation using those terms is no more “incorrect” than continued American usage of terms like “robin,” “elk,” and “buffalo,” all of which originally referred to completely different Old World species before being borrowed and applied to unfamiliar animals in the New World by European settlers. In light of this, Miller’s advice that, “Care needs to be taken in the interpretation of stated animals in the Book of Mormon,” that, “It’s best to allow some flexibility in thinking” (p. 24 n. 4) seems appropriately prudent.

Miller also mentions the challenge of bone preservation. “Then, as now, the vast majority of bones left after death would disintegrate upon exposure to the elements, turning to dust” (p. 28). He points out that in Mesoamerica, “Climatic conditions [Page 127]would have been unfavorable for preserving evidences of life” (p. 29). While critics tend to see such caveats as subterfuge, recognizing the limitations and challenges of certain kinds of evidence is absolutely essential to any attempt to determine just what the evidence can and cannot tell us. Miller concludes, “Considering all the circumstances, I’m not surprised by so little evidence being available to support the animals reported in the Book of Mormon. However, some evidences do exist. These should leave open the probability of more being found” (pp. 29–30).

Miller first discusses cattle (pp. 32–37) then swine (pp. 40–42) followed by sheep and goats (pp. 44–48). Throughout his discussion, Miller draws on evidence that hints at the presence, in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, of Old World species called by these labels but also points to possible candidate species for which Old World labels may have been applied by either the Jaredites or the Nephites. In doing so, Miller shows no hesitation in drawing on species thought to be extinct by Book of Mormon times (though, in most cases, he also points to animals that still have living populations today). While this may be seen as a weakness to some, it seems sensible to ask, before quickly discounting the possibility, what Miller—an internationally recognized geologist and paleontologist—might know or understand about both the limitations and capabilities his disciplines that gives him confidence that at least some of these extinct species survived longer than generally believed? Perhaps there is something he has learned though decades of training and experience that is not obvious to the untrained, lay reader—especially when that untrained reader is anxious to score points against the Book of Mormon.

Miller’s discussion of elephants (pp. 50–55) is extremely informative because I had previously read on a critical website that, “All scientists agree that elephants did not exist in the Americas; however Mastodons, which are not elephants, did [Page 128]exist in stone-age times.”10 What goes unmentioned by these critics is that mammoths were also known in the Americas, and that mammoths are elephants. “For many years,” Miller reports, “paleontologists called mammoths elephants, as they wrote about them. Some still do.” (p. 50). Miller cites an example as recent as 1993 (p. 50 n. 7)! What’s more, Miller explains, “The Columbian mammoth of North America, based on studies of its fossils, is more closely related to the Indian (or Asian) elephant than the Indian elephant is to the African one!” (p. 50). Miller has personally been involved in excavating mammoth remains in Mexico (p. 51). He explains, “The Columbian mammoth (actually a true elephant) … was a common animal from Alaska through Central America in the Pleistocene epoch. It apparently survived beyond this time.” (p. 54). In light of this, it seems that insisting that there never were any true “elephants” in the Americas, as indicated in the critic’s quote above, is entirely untenable. If mammoths can be called “elephants” by scientists in the late 20th and early 21st century, then what objection remains for Joseph Smith using the label for an American species in 1830?

There is still the issue of when the mammoth went extinct. Miller explains, “Until the last few decades, almost all scientists were convinced that mammoths did not survive the Pleistocene (Ice age) epoch. This was 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.… However, more and more datings on these fossils show that they lived much longer. How long did they survive? That question is still being debated by paleontologists.” (p. 55). Miller goes on to cite some of the late dates given, including one from Alaska that dates to approximately 3,700 years ago (1700 bc), which gets us into Jaredite times; and another from Florida that dates to [Page 129]2,040 years ago, or about the time of Christ, though this date is considered questionable by most scientists, Miller adds (p. 55). While the question is not yet settled, it does not require a huge leap of faith to accept that elephants (mammoths) could have been present in Mesoamerica in Jaredite times.

Miller includes a comparably long discussion of possible candidates for the cureloms and cumoms (pp. 58–73). Part of the reason is because so little is known about these animals, there exists a broad range of possibilities. Miller wisely does not come to any firm conclusions but amply demonstrates that the single, vague mention of these animals is not problematic, since plenty of species could fit the bill. Miller simply concludes, “Unfortunately the Jaredite record keepers did not include drawings of cureloms and cumoms” (p. 73).

Perhaps the most important chapter in this book is the one on horses and asses (pp. 76–83). This is so for a couple of reasons. The first is that while several animals (such those mentioned above) are considered anachronous, the horse nonetheless tends to draw the most attention from the critics. Miller himself recognizes this, explaining, “I think that more than any other animal mentioned in the Book of Mormon, the horse has generated the most debate” (p. 78). But this chapter is also important because it presents some preliminary findings that could, if further testing confirms them, completely change present scientific understanding.

Like mammoths and several other animals, it is widely accepted that horses were in the Americas up until the end of the last Ice Age (p. 80). “A number of Carbon-14 dates on horse fossils,” however, “show ages extending well past the close of the Pleistocene” (p. 80). Miller cites several examples from the scientific literature on this subject before reporting on the unpublished dates of several bone specimen which he has collected and sent out for independent testing. The range of dates on these specimens goes from ca. 6,000 bc to ad 1,400 [Page 130](see dates given on p. 82). Hence, Miller concludes that “small scattered populations” of horses “probably survived in North America until shortly before they were reintroduced by the Spaniards” (p. 82).

The range of dates clearly includes the Book of Mormon time period. However, we should remain cautious. First, none of the specific dates given actually falls within the Nephite period (a couple appear to be of Jaredite age), though one would assume that since there are dates from both before and after this timeframe (ca. 600 bcad 400), horses were in the Americas during that time. Second, none of these bone specimen come from Mesoamerica, the area widely believed to be the region where the Book of Mormon took place.11 This could feasibly be chalked up to the issues of climate and bone preservation mentioned earlier, but it still provides good reason not to hang too much on this evidence just yet. Finally, this work is still preliminary and needs to undergo further testing, and, according to Miller, will need to be corroborated by additional finds dating to the same time period. While Miller is optimistic that this “eventually will come” (p. 82), these current limitations should be kept in mind. While caution is warranted, however, these results are promising, perhaps justifying a cautious optimism that the horse in the Book of Mormon was, in fact, what we today would call a “horse.”

Miller concludes that his mind is “satisfied” by the available evidence (p. 86). I too am satisfied, though I acknowledge that problems remain. Further work needs to done to flesh out the picture, but the chasm one must cross with a “leap of faith” has been made much smaller by Miller’s careful treatment of these issues. This book is an indispensable resource on the topic of [Page 131]anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. In my opinion, it ought to have much wider circulation than it has thus far enjoyed.


  1. For some examples, see “Howler’s Index,” at Ether’s Cave: A Place for Book of Mormon Research, at http://etherscave.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_20.html (accessed March 21, 2014). 

  2. For some brief discussion of these types of anachronisms, see Stephen David Ricks, “Anachronisms, alleged” in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 55–57. 

  3. John E. Clark, “Archaeological Trends and the Book of Mormon Origins,” in The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2006), 95. 

  4. For previous treatments of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, see John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985), 184–187, 232–238, 278–299; Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, “Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons,” FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 189–215. Also see the following entries in Book of Mormon Reference Companion: Daniel Justin Fairbanks, “Agriculture in the Book of Mormon,” 31–32; Brian Michael Hauglid, “Animals,” 61–62; William Revel Phillips, “Metals of the Book of Mormon,” 539–540. A more recent discussion, which incorporates some of Miller’s work, is John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2013), 302–361. 

  5. For further information, see “Smithsonian Statement on the Book of Mormon Revisited,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998): 77; “FairMormon Answers: Book of Mormon/Archaeology/Smithsonian Statement,” http://en.fairmormon.org/Smithsonian_statement_on_Book_of_Mormon_archaeology (accessed April 6, 2014). For a response to the original Smithsonian letter, see John L. Sorenson, “A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution ‘Statement regarding the Book of Mormon,’” (FARMS Paper, 1995), online at http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=964&index=1 (accessed April 6, 2014). 

  6. See Sorenson, Ancient American Setting; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex

  7. See discussion in Sorenson, Ancient American Setting, 293–294. 

  8. For my attempt at making such an argument, see Neal Rappleye, “Anachronisms and Expectations: Assessing the Role of Anachronisms in the Debate over Book of Mormon Authenticity,” at Studio et Quoque Fide: A Blog on Latter-day Saint Apologetics, Scholarship, and Commentary, August 19, 2013, at http://www.studioetquoquefide.com/2013/08/anachronisms-and-expectations-assessing.html (accessed March 18, 2014). 

  9. For the most detailed study of translation and the Book of Mormon, see Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2011). 

  10. “Elephants,” a sub-section of the online article, “Anachronisms,” at MormonThink, http://mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm#didntexist (accessed March 18, 2014), screenshot in my possession. Emphasis mine. 

  11. The locations offer no more direct support to the “heartland” model either, since none of the specimens mentioned by Miller were collected within the eastern United States. 

45 thoughts on “A Scientist Looks at Book of Mormon Anachronisms

  1. I’ve always wondered why Joseph Smith would mention elephants, horses, cureloms and cumens at all if he was trying to perpetuate a fraud. Seems foolish.
    Also, remains of small mammoths have been found on the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. The interesting thing is that they were killed, butchered, barbecued and eaten by the human population in the area (see Santa Barbara museum).

  2. Have you have wondered why you don’t find anachronisms, say, in the Bible, the Koran, the Zend Avesta, in Plato’s or Cicero’s works? Maybe because these works date from the time and cultural environment they pretend to be, and not from the 19th or 20th or 21st century?

    No talks about turkeys or potatoes in the Bible?

    Can you imagine an Andean llama (or some yet unknown North or Meso-American species) pulling a chariot?

    Can you imagine such a genial invention as the wheel falling into disuse?

    Isn’t the best answer to how to solve the problem of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon simply to concede that it is a 19th century piece of sacred literature?

    This would make things easier for everyone, wouldn’it it?

    • J. Martins:

      There are, in fact, anachronisms in Bible, both in the KJV translation, and in the original documents. The anachronisms in the original documents contribute to part of the reason why many scholars believe the stories were written, or at least edited, many centuries after they were supposed to have taken place.

      For me, this does not negate the historicity of most Biblical narratives because there is also evidence that best fits the original period in which those narratives were supposed to have taken place. So, while later transmission of the stories may have caused some corruption and anachronisms to be inserted into the tale, there are also details that appear to be genuine history. (Then, even with the bible, there problem of incomplete archaeological data may also be contributing to apparent anachronisms, but all of that is a story for another day.)

      I have no trouble believing the same thing about the Book of Mormon. It, too, has a transmission history, and although that process of transmission is far simpler than that of the biblical documents, it is nonetheless a problem since the earliest documents from that transmission that we can access only date to the 19th century. As a translation, modeled after the KJV (which, as mentioned, does have translator anachronisms in it), it comes as no surprise that it imports some 19th century culture into the Book of Mormon.

      But I also find plenty of evidence for antiquity, and anachronisms go both ways. Things can be chronologically out of place because they are too old to fit the setting as well, and if we move the date of composition to the 19th century then, in my opinion, we have all sorts of ancient elements that are now out of place, i.e., they become “anachronisms.”

      So the question is not really “how do we eliminate anachronisms?,” but rather “how do we best explain the anachronisms our chosen paradigm (ancient or modern) requires?,” or better yet, “which paradigm best explains the chronological anomalies that accompany it?” For me, the answer to that last question is that the ancient paradigm, with its possibilities for yet-undiscovered-evidence, loan-shifting, and translator anachronisms proves a more efficient paradigm for solving these kinds of problems, than any proposal I’ve seen to try to account for much of the ancient evidence that becomes problematic when we assume 19th century origins.

    • The Bible is true but you may be surprised that many non-believers have ridiculed it for the same apparent problem that some think the Book of Mormon has. The King James Version, for example, mentions dragons, unicorns, fiery flying serpents, and other strange creatures. Those who defend the Bible against the critics are quick to point out the difficulty of understanding and translating various terms for animals (especially for extinct or unfamiliar species) and indicate how it is unclear in many cases what actual creature is referred to.

      A recent National Geographic article states “Until the 1993 discovery of a ninth-century B.C. stela inscribed with ‘House of David’ there was no non-biblical evidence that David actually existed.” (National Geographic, Dec, 2010, p 73)

      The National Geographic article goes on: “Despite decades of searching archeologists had found no solid evidence that David or Solomon ever build anything.” (Ibid) And “The once common practice of using the Bible as an archeological guide has been widely contested as an unscientific case of circular reasoning. . . No contemporary text exists to validate their claims. Since the dawn of biblical archeology, scholars have sought in vain to verify that there really was an Abraham, a Moses, an Exodus, a conquest of Jericho.” (Ibid p 79)

      Don’t misunderstand me. I believe the Bible is true and is the word of God. But the scholarly case for believing the Bible is often over stated and the evidences for the Book of Mormon are almost always understated. The Bible suffers from many of the same problems that critics apply to the Book of Mormon

    • You may be surprised to find that many of the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon are continuing to fall by the wayside as the discoveries mount up. Many things once thought to anachronisms are turning out to be authentic pre-Columbian features mentioned in the Book of Mormon such as horses, pigs, barley, cement, cattle, elephants, writing on metal plates, head plates and body armor and scimitars, silk. Other features of the Book of Mormon are also being confirmed such as Hebraisms, chiasmus, correct details of the incense trail including the correct location of Nahom and Bountiful, metalworking and steel swords, authentic names, various customs, methods of warfare, and more. These were not know in Joseph Smiths day. He could not have fabricated them and happen to just guess right. Yet the Book of Mormon gets these and other details correct.

      There is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon. Dr. John Clark of the New World Archaeological Foundation has compiled a list of sixty items mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The list includes items such as “steel swords,” “barley,” “cement,” “thrones,” and literacy.

      In 1842, only eight (or 13.3%) of those sixty items were confirmed by archaeological evidence. Thus, in the mid-nineteenth century, archaeology did not generally support the claims made by the Book of Mormon. By 2005 forty-five of those sixty items (75%) have been confirmed. Therefore, as things stand at the moment, current New World archaeological evidence tends to verify the claims made by the Book of Mormon. (John Clark, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon”, presentation at the 2005 FAIR Apologetics Conference (August 2005). Co-presenters, Wade Ardern and Matthew Roper. S. Kent Brown, “New Light: ‘The Place That Was Called Nahom”: New Light from Ancient Yemen,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8, no. 1 (1999): 66-68.)

    • Actually, there are so many thousands of anachronisms in the Bible (and all other literature) that the field of apologetics has been very busy dealing with them for centuries now (at least since Abelard “Sic et Non,” a thousand years ago). There are voluminous books dedicated on the one hand to using such anachronisms to prove Christianity or Judaism untrue, and on the other to explain that such problems are merely misunderstandings.

      Bart Ehrman is one of the most famous modern commentators on the realistic appraisal of Holy Writ, and even debates evangelical opponents, as for example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRQ9WaxEjvc .

      The few anachronisms attributed to the Book of Mormon pale into insignificance compared to those bedeviling the Bible.

  3. All authors writing about a period or place unfamiliar to them face troubles connecting the foreign environment taxonomically. It is as problematic looking forward in time as it is looking backwards. (See Orson Scott Card)

    We believe that many prophets “saw our day,” including Nephi, Moroni, Moses, and John the Beloved. John writes about the final war, Gog and Magog, etc. How does he describe modern military technology from a point of view 2,000 years ago? (Helicopters, tanks, etc) For that matter, even understanding “modern” technology and its current rate of change, how would we describe a final battle if it were to still be 200 years off? (again, see OSC)

    Card would add that one of the toughest things to accomplish is to not “overtly explain” the things that are foreign to the current environment. To do so is a clear tell that is is not authentic. Our lack of more detailed information about Cureloms and Cumoms may be seen as a greater sign of authenticity.

  4. J. Martins, just wondering if your Bible happens to begin with Genesis like mine? There seem to be a number of scientific challenges that require lots of adjusting assumptions, exploring other possibilities, or old fashioned back pedaling for those of us who accept the Bible but also wish to understand and deal with the gaps. Horses in the Book of Mormon are a trivial problem compared to fitting the animals of the world into Noah’s ark, for example, or fitting the geologic record into the 7 days of Creation.

    Meanwhile, some Bible-believing critics laugh at the alleged anachronism of Laban’s steel sword mentioned by Nephi in 600 BC in Jerusalem, apparently not noticing that their KJV Bible mentions steel in much earlier times. See Job 20:24 or 2 Samuel 22:35. And if it’s mammalian anachronisms you want, consider the case of unicorns in the Bible, which are mentioned 9 times in the KJV.

    Sure, there are explanations and alternate explanations that can be offered by Bible apologists, just as Book of Mormon defenders can offer explanations and analysis to deal with apparent problems in the text. But to say there are no apparent anachronisms or scientific problems to deal with is a wildly inaccurate statement. It’s the kind of confidence that we should NOT instill in young believers, because it makes it far too easy for critics to knock the wind out of their faith. Both the Book of Mormon and Bible have their challenges that require thoughtful analysis, and it’s good to recognize this.

    • Thanks for your replies.

      Maybe I should say, for fairness´ sake, that I am not a “Bible-believing critic of the Book of Mormon”. I am certainly not a Bible-believer, and to be honest with you I can´t even say I am a critic of the BoM.

      Yes, based on all evidence I reject it as an ancient work: for me, as for virtually all non-LDS scholars, and for many LDS as well, it is a product of the 19th century – just as the Bible, or the Koran, are products of their times and cultures. But this rejection doesn´t make me a critic of its value as sacred literature or as a community-shaping tool. It certainly doesn´t make me an “anti-Mormon”.

      You are right concerning my statement on anachronisms in the Bible, it was too absolute.

      Scientific problems (Ark, Flood, 7-day Creation) and anachronisms are actually dealt with by most scholars (not “many”, but most) by explaining, and this since 150 years or so, that the Biblical texts have been written or edited much later than people once believed, and that most of its content doesn´t correspond to historical facts. Only fundamentalist Christians accept that Moses is the Pentateuch´s author. Only the very hardened fundamentalist ones believe that the Earth (or the Universe) was created in seven literal days.

      But the quality of these anachronisms, and scientific problems, doesn´t even get near to their amount (and relevance, given its claims) present in the Book of Mormon. This is my critic.

      Thanks again for allowing a dissenting opinion to be published here.

      • ” based on all evidence I reject it as an ancient work”

        Have you examined “all evidence”? I am curious as your reaction to how Joseph Smith nailed Arabia. Or got the Semitic manner of oath-taking so right. In short, if you just took First Nephi seriously for five minutes, it might raise your curiosity level some.

        Also, Skousen’s “Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text” reveals the Semitic structure of the English, and how it more closely resembles 17th-18th Century English rather than 19th Century English.

        The Book of Mormon is not nearly as easy to dismiss as you claim. It continues to surprise.

        • “Also, Skousen’s “Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text” reveals the Semitic structure of the English, and how it more closely resembles 17th-18th Century English rather than 19th Century English.”

          Isn’t that what you’d expect from a book imitating and heavily plagiarizing a 1769 edition of the KJV?

          • No, it reveals that the original translation was more Semetic in style than the English that Joseph Smith spoke in his day.

          • Given that no baseline data is provided to support Skousen’s claim, it is a tenuous one at best.

          • Hebraisms are found in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith did not know Hebrew. Yet many phrases in the Book of Mormon that seem awkward in English are beautiful sentence structure in Hebrew. Many of these have been found in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith could not have known about these. (See John A. Tvedtnes, “The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon,” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon [hereafter Rediscovering] (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991); John W. Welch, ed.Rediscovering, 77—91.)

            For example, a feature of language is the use of idioms. Different languages use different idioms. In English we say “I’m pulling your leg.” Upon hearing this we immediately know that we are being teased. However, upon second thought we realize that “I’m pulling your leg” has a completely different literal meaning than the way we use it. If we made a literal translation of this into another language it would come across as awkward, out of context, and nonsensical. If a translator made a literal translation of “I’m pulling your leg” from English into another language an astute scholar reading the text in the target language may be able to determine that the source language was English because “I’m pulling your leg” is an idiom of the English language. When many of these bleed overs from the source language occurr the ease and certainty of correctly identifying the source language increases.

            Each language has its own idioms that tend to be unique for that language and the Book of Mormon contains many such indications of a Semitic source language. In English we talk about shooting arrows. But in the Book of Mormon arrows are “thrown” (Alma 49:22) That seems awkward in English but it is a perfectly good Hebrew idiom for, “shooting an arrow.” In Hebrew arrows are thrown even when shot from a bow. This indicates that the source language of the Book of Mormon is probably Hebrew. Many examples like this are found in the Book of Mormon.

          • Dwight, none of your arguments have any merit until someone presents baseline data for books similar to the BoM written in the same time period. Does The Late War have all the same “evidences”? What about The First Book of Napoleon? What about any random book written in the early to mid 1800s?

      • Yes to what Michael Towns said. There are scores of details in the Book of Mormon which Joseph Smith could not have guessed right. Nobody in his time could have. The discoveries had not yet been made. Yet the Book of Mormon gets them right. I could provide examples if you would like.

          • Where and when was Tolkein claiming the The Lord of the Rings took place? Was he even claimuing it to be history? I fail to see the relevance of your comment.

          • There are many things that are claimed in the Book of Mormon for which no evidence existed when it was first published in 1830. Now, many of the details of the book are substantiated by discoveries and research not available in Joseph Smith’s day linking the Book of Mormon to an ancient real world setting and time. I don’t thin that Lord of the Rings links up to any real world time or place like the Book of Mormon does. The Book of Mormon gets far too many things right for anyone to have been guessing or fabricating.

          • You guys are missing the point. If some fictional story happens to match up with actual places, is that compelling evidence that it really happened? I posted a link to support my point but someone was offended by it and removed it.

          • The link wasn’t removed because it offended, but because we allow very few links to outside sites. I admit it is a judgement call, but it was not a judgement made because of offense.

          • Will, you say that we are missing the point. I respect your right to have that opinion. I think, however, that you are the one missing the point – no offence intended. For instance the author of a fictional history about a time and place about which little is known might guess a few things right by chance. However, most details produced in his way – by fabrication – will turn out be wrong. If the Book of Mormon were a fabrication we would expect that more and more details in the Book of Mormon would be shown to be false as more discoveries in archeology and other fields are made.

            Conversely, if the Book of Mormon is a real authentic history, then, over time, we would expect that various branches of science and archeology, language studies, cultural studies, etc… would produce a convergence of data and evidence that supports the book. Even if there was no, or little, evidence to support the Book of Mormon in 1830, we would expect now, after 184 years, that at least some significant discoveries would have been made which verify or support different parts of the Book of Mormon. These would have to be discoveries or information that was not available to Joseph Smith in 1830 and which were discovered since that time and which verify or support various parts of the Book of Mormon. These would be things that an author, who was fabricating a book, could not get right by guessing.

            That’s exactly what has been occurring and continues to occur as more data comes in. It turns out that the longer we go, the more evidence is discovered which confirms, and is consistent with parts of the Book of Mormon. There are literally scores and scores, probably several hundred, Book of Mormon details that are now confirmed or supported by evidence that was not available in Joseph Smith’s time. Conversely most of the criticisms made of the Book of Mormon have, and continue to fall by the wayside in light of better and more current research. However, this has not stopped the critics from continuing to use long outdated information.

          • “Conversely most of the criticisms made of the Book of Mormon have, and continue to fall by the wayside in light of better and more current research.”

            This is so completely untrue. If this statement were true, there would be non-Mormon scientists saying so. In reality, what’s happening is Mormon scientists and apologists are making tenuous connections between scientific findings and the Book of Mormon, none of which make the book’s historicity any more plausible than it ever was (see: confirmation bias, Texas sharpshooter fallacy). Not a single civilization has ever been located that fits all the correct BoM descriptions. Not one. There are some that overlap in some areas, but they are always missing key items or contradict the BoM in other ways.

            For example, the Hopewell civilization is believed by some apologists to be BoM peoples. However, DNA testing on Hopewell subjects links them to lineages found in China, Korea, Japan, and Mongolia. These same apologists are forced into hiding under the umbrella of unfalsifiability and ever-so-slight plausibility in light of continuing evidence of this sort, which is part of why non-Mormon scientists do not take the connections to the BoM seriously.

          • On the Hopewell civilization – I agree with you. The Hopewell civilization does not match up well with details in the Book of Mormon and some major things blatantly contradict. Those Latter-day Saints who support the Hopewell theory are not in the majority. However, a much better match is southern Mexico and Guatemala. Many things are matching up with that area – things that Joseph Smith, or anyone in his day, could not have known.

            Many things once thought to be anachronisms are turning out to be authentic pre-Columbian features mentioned in the Book of Mormon such as horses, pigs, barley, cement, cattle, elephants, writing on metal plates, head plates and body armor and scimitars, silk. Other features of the Book of Mormon are also being confirmed such as Hebraisms, chiasmus, correct details of the incense trail including the correct location of Nahom and Bountiful, metalworking and steel swords, authentic names, various customs, methods of warfare, demographics and population studies, and more. These were not known in Joseph Smiths day. He could not have fabricated them and happen to just guess right. They have surfaced in studies and discoveries made since the publication of the Book of Mormon. Yet the Book of Mormon gets these and other details correct.

            And it is definitely true that most, if not all, of the most used criticisms of the Book of Mormon are out of date to say the least. More accurately, the critics are continuing to use arguments that have been debunked by new and better evidence. It is true that if you have made up your mind then no amount or quality of evidence will change it. But if you are open minded to new and continuing evidence, the Book of Mormon is looking good indeed!

            There is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon. Dr. John Clark of the New World Archaeological Foundation has compiled a list of sixty items mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The list includes items such as “steel swords,” “barley,” “cement,” “thrones,” and literacy.

            In 1842, only eight (or 13.3%) of those sixty items were confirmed by archaeological evidence. Thus, in the mid-nineteenth century, archaeology did not generally support the claims made by the Book of Mormon. By 2005 forty-five of those sixty items (75%) have been confirmed. Therefore, as things stand at the moment, current New World archaeological evidence tends to verify the claims made by the Book of Mormon. (John Clark, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon”, presentation at the 2005 FAIR Apologetics Conference (August 2005). Co-presenters, Wade Ardern and Matthew Roper. S. Kent Brown, “New Light: ‘The Place That Was Called Nahom”: New Light from Ancient Yemen,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8, no. 1 (1999): 66-68.)

  5. So… where do Dr. Miller’s bone specimens come from? You only shared where they didn’t come from (Mesoamerica or the Eastern United States), so now I’m a little curious.

    • I cannot respond to the source for Dr. Millers bone specimens. But perhaps this will help:

      The theory is that horses were extinct in the Americas until the Spanish re-introduced them after Columbus.

      That’s the theory, but a growing body of evidence, supports a survival of very small populations. Some sources, including the Book of Mormon and Native American cultural tradition, say horses were present in the Americas before Columbus. Some folks contend the original Appaloosa horses of the Nez Perce tribe, which were distinct from other horses, were a remnant of the original equines of the Americas. Some scientists have Carbon-14 dates on horses that are as recent as 800 years. Other dates from 1200 years to 1400 years ago – well before Europeans re-introduced the horse in the Americas.

      It is also worth noting that extinction dates given by archeologists only represent the date of the latest known fossil found by them. As one team of scientists has observed, “The youngest reliably dated macrofossil (usually a bone or tooth) of an extinct species is commonly taken to represent the approximate time of its disappearance. In practice, however, there is a very low probability of discovering fossil remains of the last members of any species, so ages for extinction based on dated macrofossil finds will likely be [show as] older than the true ages.” [1]

      Most living things don’t become fossilized. Most remains disappear. Only a minute percentage, estimated to be much less than a tenth of one percent, ever becomes preserved and even most of those are never found. Archaeologists as well as paleontologists have discovered that most animal remains are not preserved and are lost for all time. [2]

      Therefore, as a species tends towards extinction, the population decreases and the last remaining groups of survivors are the ones most unlikely to be preserved or found by archeologists. Thus, actual extinction dates are often more recent than believed.

      The Book of Mormon mentions horses once during the earlier Jaredite period (Ether 9:19) and several times during the later Nephite period. Only in one instance are “many horses” mentioned (Enos 1:21). The term “many” is a relative term and would reflect what “many” meant to Enos. It could refer to thousands of horses, or, it could refer to ten or so. If Enos was used to seeing only one or two horses from time to time then ten would seem like “many” to him. The mention of horses seems to diminish as time passes with the last mention being about the time of Christ (3 Nephi 6:1). The Book of Mormon, therefore, seems to indicate a dwindling number of horses – quite consistent with the evidences now being found. Some dating on horses indicate they were around in Mesoamerica about 2,000 years ago – exactly the time of the last mention of horses in the Book of Mormon.

      Fortunately, there is hard evidence of modern horses in ancient Mesoamerica. What may be surprising is that this is not a controversial claim and it has been known for some time. Remains of a horse were discovered, dating to approximately 100 B.C. [3]

      In Mesoamerica, where the soil is acidic from heavy rainfall, a heavy rate of decay ensues resulting in a dearth of any remains. Most remains quickly deteriorate and disappear. One exception is caves. If animal remains are deposited in a cave, they stand a better chance of being preserved. Thus, one of the best places to look for such remains in Mesoamerica is in caves. The caves found in the Yucatan Peninsula have produced some rare and important finds. Both extinct and extant faunas have been discovered in caves with human artifacts. [4]

      In 1895, Henry Mercer explored 29 caves in the Yucatán Peninsula looking for evidence of prehistoric habitation. In the Loltún Caves of the Yucatán he found the bones of many ancient animals, but no fossils. [5] These horse remains were found alongside potsherds and other human artifacts which date to pre-Colombian time periods. [6] Between this early dig and 1977, ancient horse bones were found in the Huechil Grotto of this same cave system. Exactly how they got there is unknown, but it is probable that they were brought in by early inhabitants, since it is believed that early man hunted native horses. [7] Horse bones were also found by Hatt in Yucatan caves which, evidence suggests, are pre-Columbian. [8]

      C. E. Ray reported finding horse bones in deep layers of the water hole at Mayapan (Yucatan). [9] . Horse teeth were found in Cenote Ch’en Mul at Mayapán, a major Postclassic site on the Yucatan Peninsula. Like the earlier examples, they were found along with pottery fragments, and judging by their stratigraphic location and degree of mineralization, are thought to be pre-Columbian as well. By at least 1957, this information had been published in scientific journals. Experts had to admit that there were indeed pre-Columbian horses in the Yucatán, but did not wish to imply that they were known among the Maya, vaguely stating that the remains must be from a pre-Mayan time. Oddly enough, this seemingly revolutionary information was relegated to one page of the General Notes section near the end of the Journal of Mammalogy. [9] Some horse bones found at Mayapan were dated to 1805 B.C. (± 150 years) [10]

      In 1988, Peter Schmidt, who was unaware of Ray’s find, discovered horse bones in Loltun Cave scattered through a number of layers of early pottery-bearing debris. He observed, “Something went on here that is still difficult to explain.” [11] Why is it difficult to explain? Because the data being discovered flies in the face of the old standard belief that horses died out in the Americas. The evidence is contradicting his old belief. There are also further evidences for pre-AD 1500 dates of other horse bones (including three radiocarbon-dated finds from North America). This is an “unfinished” archaeological story, in this case defying the dictum that “there were no horses” for the last ten thousand years in America.

      According to Hunter and Ferguson, the claim made by the Book of Mormon that horses were on this continent and used in ancient America for purposes similar to the uses we make of them today finds strong support in the numerous fossil remains of horses that have been obtained from the asphalt deposits of Rancho La Brea in southern California. Of course, it is claimed that those fossil remains pre-date Book of Mormon times. However, there is no logical reason for believing, since horses were here prior to the arrival of the Jaredites and the Nephites, that horses could not have still been in America during the period in which those ancient civilizations flourished. . . . We could do no better at this point in dealing with this subject than to quote from an official publication of the Los Angeles County Museum on the subject of the existence of horses in early times in America: The presence of herds of horses in the vicinity of the asphalt deposits during the period of accumulation is clearly testified to by the numerous remains of these mammals found at Rancho La Brea.

      Another example is a recent discovery in California. Philip Ireland reported, “Archaeologists working against the clock in Carlsbad have unearthed another nearly intact skeleton of a horse that may have lived and died 50 years before the Spanish began their conquest of California.” In this article it was said remains of another horse and a burro (ass) were buried at the same level. [12]

      John Sorenson notes two radiocarbon dates for horses from Beringia dating to 2600 B.C and 200 B.C. [13] In an unpublished article three other instances of horse bone fines were dated to pre-Colombian times. One found in a cave near El Paso, Texas dates to between 6020 and 5890 B.C. Another radiocarbon date was from a cave in Colorado, providing an age of 1260 to 1400 A.D. A third date on horse bone from a cave in the Yucatan has been dated between 1230 and 1300 A.D. [14]

      The fallacy that horses are not native to this hemisphere and were introduced by Europeans still lingers with us, even though these and other examples of ancient horses have been known for many decades. The fact that they were found in this area of the cave almost certainly indicates contact with ancient man; this can no longer be denied.

      Less than a year ago archeologists in Carlsbad CA unearthed several intact horse skeletons. Radiocarbon dating of 340 years, plus or minus 40 years, puts the death of the horse sometime between 1625 and 1705, Therefore, the horses died at least 50 years before San Diego Mission de Alcala, the first of the California missions, was founded in 1769. The other horse and the burro were buried at the same level, suggesting that they were buried about the same time. The bones of the horses and the donkey showed no signs of having been shod, an indicator that the horses were not brought by the Spanish, who fitted their horses with iron shoes, said Larry Tift, a researcher with Dennis Gallegos of Gallegos and Associates. One horse and the donkey appear to have been buried ritualistically with their heads to the north, faces to the left, and their bodies “flexed” in the fetal position, an American Indian method of burial.

      A breed of horse, known alternately as the Bashkir Curly or the North American Curly, is unusual not only for its curly, hypoallergenic coat. Its origins are still unknown and the subject of much debate. In the early 1800s, Charles Darwin noted curly horses in South America long before any known documentation of their transportation from Asia an indication that horses were already in the Americas. There is even some speculation outside the LDS community among horse experts that Curlies may have crossed over the Bering Strait from Asia anciently (http://www.abcregistry.org/about.asp) and survived until modern times, becoming essentially a native American breed. They then may have gone undetected by European settlers until the 19th century.

      Although most of this information has been available for decades critics have long pointed to the mention of horses in the Book of Mormon as an anachronism and evidence of its modern invention. It turns out that the critics are wrong and the Book of Mormon is right.

      1.James Haile, Duane G. Froese, Ross D. E. MacPhee, et al., “Ancient DNA Reveals Late Survival of Mammoth and Horse in Interior Alaska,” PNAS 106/52 (December 29, 2009), 352

      2. Elizabeth J. Reitz and Elizabeth S. Wing, Zooarchaeology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008), 117-151; Terry O’Conner, The Archaeology of Animal Bones (Sutton Publ., 2008), 19-28; E. Chaplin The Study of Animal Bones from Archaeology Sites (London and New York, Seminal Press, 1971), 14-19.

      3. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]),297–298. ISBN 1573451576

      4. Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales and Ticul Alverez, “A preliminary report of the late Quaternary mammal fauna from Loltún Cave, Yucatán, México,” In B. W. Schubert, J. I. Mead and R. W. Graham (eds.) Ice Age Faunas of North America (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2003), 263-264; Peter J. Schmidt, “La entrada del hombre a la Península de Yucatán,” In J. Gonzales (ed.) Origenes del Hombre Amerícano (Seminario), Secretaría de Educación Pública, México, (1988), 245-261.

      5. Andrew Coe, Archaeological Mexico (Chico: Moon Publications, 1998), p. 304; Henry C. Mercer, The Hill-Caves of Yucatan: A Search for Evidence of Man’s Antiquity in the Caverns of Central America (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1896

      6. Clayton E. Ray, “Pre-Columbian Horses From Yucatan,” Journal of Mammalogy vol. 38 no. 2 (May 1957), p. 278

      7. Coe., pp. 304, 321

      8. Robert T. Hatt, “Faunal and Archaeological Researches in Yucatan Caves,” Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin 33 (1953); e.g., Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales and Oscar Polaco, “Caves and the Pleistocene vertebrate paleontology of Mexico.” In B. W. Schubert, J. I. Mead and R. W. Graham (eds.) Ice Age Faunas of North America (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2003), 273-291. Peter. J. Schmidt, “La entrada del hombre a la Peninsula de Yucatán. In J. Gonzáles (ed.) “Origenes del Hombre Amerícano (Seminario), Secretaría de Educación Pública, México (1988), 245-261; Clayton E. Ray, “Pre-columbian horses from Yucatan.” Journal of Mammalogy 38 (1957), 27; Robert T. Hatt, “Faunal and archaeological researches in Yucatan caves.” Cranbrook Institute of Science 33 (1953), 1-42.

      9. C. E. Ray, “Pre-Columbian horses from Yucatan,” Journal of Mammalogy 38 (1957): 278.

      10. R. Velázquez-Valadez, “Recent discoveries in caves of Loltún, Yucatán, Mexico,” v. II, Mexicon (1980), 54

      11. Peter J. Schmidt, “La entrada del hombre a la peninsula de Yucatan,” in Origines del Hombre Americano, comp. Alba Gonzalez Jacome (Mexico: Secretaria de Educación Publica, 1988), 250.

      12. Philip Ireland, “Centuries-old bones of horses unearthed in Carlsbad [CA],” North County Times (July 17, 2005).

      13. John Sorenson (personal Communication to.Wade Miller and Matthew Roper

      14. This was a report submitted to the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) by Steven E. Jones and Wade E. Miller, “State-of-the-art physical analysis of archaeological finds and historical artifacts: pre-Columbian horses in the Americas, July 30, 2004. The three yielded dates that were post-Pleistocene and pre-Columbian: Pratt Cave, Texas 6020-5890 B.C, Wolf Spider Cave Colorado 1260-1400 A.D.., and Cozumel Island, Mexico 1230-1300.

    • Critics have claimed that the Book of Mormon’s mention of pre-Colombian elephants in the New World is hogwash. The Book of Mormon mentions elephants in one single verse in the Jaredite account (Ether 9:19). The Jaredite civilization ran from about 2500 BC to about 300 BC. Critics claim that Elephants or Mammoths died out about 10,000 BC. However, more and more evidence that they survived down into Book of Mormon times continues to surface.

      It is also worth noting that extinction dates given by archeologists only represent the date of the latest known fossil found by them. As one team of scientists has observed, “The youngest reliably dated macrofossil (usually a bone or tooth) of an extinct species is commonly taken to represent the approximate time of its disappearance. In practice, however, there is a very low probability of discovering fossil remains of the last members of any species, so ages for extinction based on dated macrofossil finds will likely be [show as] older than the true ages.” [1]

      Most living things don’t become fossilized. Most remains disappear. Only a minute percentage, estimated to be much less than a tenth of one percent, ever becomes preserved and even most of those are never found. Archaeologists as well as paleontologists have discovered that most animal remains are not preserved and are lost for all time. [2]

      Therefore, as a species tends towards extinction, the population decreases and the last remaining groups of survivors are the ones most unlikely to be preserved or found by archeologists. Thus, actual extinction dates are often more recent than believed.

      Dictionaries define Proboscidea as any order of large mammals including elephants and mastodons. Mastodons are true elephants. So the generic term Elephant can refer to any one of the various members of that family including mastodons and mammoths. The most widespread and abundant North American mammoth was Mammuthus columbi. This in all probability was the elephant referred to in Ether 9:19. This animal ranged over most of North America, including Mesoamerica. Its fossils are numerous throughout northern Mesoamerica. [3]

      The Woolly Mammoth thought to be extinct by about 10,000 years ago, survived much past this event on Wrangle Island northwest of Alaska. Radiocarbon dates demonstrate that this animal was still living until approximately 2000 B.C. [4]

      Butchered mastodon bones were recently discovered at one archaeological site which dates to shortly after the time of Christ. Another site, dating to approximately 100 B.C. has yielded the remains of a mammoth, a mastodon, as well as a horse. [5]

      Mastodon remains have been dated by radiocarbon to around 5000 BC in Florida, around the Great Lakes to 4000 BC, in the Mississippi Valley to near 3300 B.C. [6]

      Mastodons may have survived down to near 100 BC near St. Petersburg, Florida (“low terminal [C-14] dates for the mastodon indicate . . . lingering survival in isolated areas.” [7]

      This is well past the range needed for consistency with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon mention of elephants dates to the third millennium BC, which is within the range of some of the dating now coming to light. The Book of Mormon never mentions elephants again – quite consistent with the data coming to light.

      Dr. Nicholas Leon, archeologist of the national Museum of Mexico, documents the discovery of an ancient buried city near Paredon in the state of Coahuila Mexico which was suddenly destroyed by a flow of water and mud. “many massive walls have been found, but they are covered with a mass of deposited earth, sixty feet in thickness. And mingled in this earth are human skeletons, the tusks of elephants…”

      “‘Most remarkable of the minor finds that have been made at Paredon is that of the remains of elephants. Never before in the history of Mexico has it been ascertained positively that elephants were ever in the service of the ancient inhabitants. The remains of the elephants that have been found in Paredon show plainly that the inhabitants of the buried cities made elephants work for them. Elephants were as much in evidence in cities as horses. Upon many of the tusks that have been found were rings of silver. Most of the tusks encountered so far have an average length for grown elephants, of three feet, and an average diameter at the roots of six inches. Judging from the remains of the elephants so far unearthed, the animals were about ten feet in height and sixteen to eighteen feet in length, differing very little from those at present in existence.’[8]

      Elephants have been found at sites in Alaska and Utah dating around 5000 BC. They have been found dating to only a few hundred years ago in Novi Scotia.

      It is now know that the mammoth survived several thousand years longer than the dates usually given for their extinction. They survived long enough to overlap with Jaredite times making the Book of Mormon statement in Ether 9:19 in harmony with the scientific findings. A date for a mammoth in North America is 1,700 B.C. [9]

      Multiple evidences of the coexistence of mammoths and man in Mesoamerica are being found. [10] [11] [12] [13]

      French trappers in the 1700’s reported that the Indians hunted mastodons and that they were rare but a few were still around in North America at that time.

      Josiah Priest, in his popular American Antiquities, describes a cave on the Ohio river in which pictures of three animals “like the elephant in all respects except the tusk and tail” are found, along with representations of human figures whose clothing “resembles the Roman.” [14]. American Indians of the Coast of Mexico have traditions of giant beasts with long noses that could trample people and uproot trees [15]. Abenaki Indians of Main and Canada have traditions of a great “elk” that has mammoth like features. The Nadkspi Indians of Canada tell of a large monster that once trampled them and left deep tracks in the snow with large ears and long nose. The Penobscot of Main have stories of elephant like creatures. [16]. Similar traditions are documented for other Native American peoples from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico persuading some scholars that they are based on memories of actual historical encounters with elephant like animals. [17]. Similar traditions of the Pre-Colombian natives from Mexico, tell of a similar creature killed off after the arrival of the Aztecs [18] that pulled down trees and ate grass. [19].

      “The Pharaohs of the XVIII Dynasty record that they hunted elephants in Syria–where are their remains? None have been found. Prof. Mallowan says that the wonderful Birs Nimrud ivories which he discovered were made from the tusks of a now extinct breed of elephant that was being hunted in Mesopotamia as recently as the 8th century B.C. Who would have guessed that ten years ago?” Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, pp. 256-257. ” This demonstrates that creatures, even as large as Elephants, can exist in certain areas without leaving remains. This would especially be true of the jungles of Mesoamerica where organic remains don’t survive long.

      The Book of Mormon gets it right again!

      1.James Haile, Duane G. Froese, Ross D. E. MacPhee, et al., “Ancient DNA Reveals Late Survival of Mammoth and Horse in Interior Alaska,” PNAS 106/52 (December 29, 2009), 352

      2. Elizabeth J. Reitz and Elizabeth S. Wing, Zooarchaeology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008), 117-151; Terry O’Conner, The Archaeology of Animal Bones (Sutton Publ., 2008), 19-28; E. Chaplin The Study of Animal Bones from Archaeology Sites (London and New York, Seminal Press, 1971), 14-19.

      3. Wade E. Miller, Carlos René Delgado de Jesús, Rosario Gómez-Núñez, José Ignacio-Vallejo Gonzáles and José López-Espinosa, “Preliminary report of Pleistocene mammals from the state of Coahuila, Mexico,” Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series 41 (2008), 344-346.

      4. K. A. Arslanov, G. T. Cook, S. Gullilksen, S. Harkness, D. D> Kankainen, T. Scott, S. L. Vartanyan and G. I. Zaitsevag, “Consensus dating of mammoth remains from Wrangle Island,” Radiocarbon 40 (1998), 289-294. S. L. Vartanyan, K. A. Arslanov, T. V. Tertychnaya and S. B. Chernov, “Radiocarbon dating evidence for mammoths on Wrangle Island, Arctic Ocean until 2000 B.C.,” Radiocarbon 37 (1995), 1-6.

      5. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]),297–298. ISBN 1573451576

      6. Robert A. Martin and S. David Webb, “Late Pleistocene Mammals from the Devil’s Den Fauna, Levy County,” in Pleistocene Mammals of Florida, ed. S. David Webb (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1974), 144–45; Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., Report for 1974 (New York, 1975), 22, reporting work by Dr. Warren L. Wittry; Steven Williams, “The Island 35 Mastodon: Its Bearing on the Age of Archaic Cultures in the East,” American Antiquity 22/4 (April 1957): 359–72.

      7. Jim J. Hester, “Late Pleistocene Extinction and Radiocarbon Dating,” American Antiquity 26/1 (1 July 1960): 74. See also Jim J. Hester, “Agency of Man in Animal Extinction,” in “Pleistocene Extinctions: The Search for a Cause,” ed. Paul S. Martin and H. E. Wright Jr., Proceedings of the International Association for Quaternary Research, VII Congress (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), 6:185.

      8. Elephant remains in Mexico Anonymous; American Antiquarian, 25:395-397, 1903.

      9. S. L. Vartanyan, V. E. Garutt, and A. V. Sher, “Holocene dwarf Mammoths from Wrangle Island in the Siberian Arctic,” Nature 362 (1993),337-340.) An Alaskan mammoth was dated at 3,706 B.C. [David R. Yesner, Douglas W. Veltre, Kristine J. Crossen and Russell W. Graham, 5,700-year-old Mammoth Remains from Qagnax Cave, Pribilof Islands, Alaska. In L. D. Agenbroad and R. L. Symington (eds.), The World of Elepahants (Short Papers and Abstracts of the 2nd International Congress, 2005), 200-204] Another, found in the United States, dates to 2871 B.C [James I. Mead and David J. Meltzer, “North American late Quaternary extinctions and the radiocarbon record, In P. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds.) Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution, (Tucson, University of Arizona Press. 1984), 440-450.

      10. Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, Oscar J. Polaco and E. Johnson, “A preliminary view of the coexistence of mammoth and early peoples in México,” Quaternary International (2006), 142-143.

      11. Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.

      12. Paul S. Martin, Twilight of the Mammoths (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2005),150.

      13. Paul S. Martin, Twilight of the Mammoths (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2005), 150-151; Mario Picardo, “Vasequillo biostratigraphy IV: Proboscidean ecospecies in Paleoindian sites,” Anthropologischer Anzeiger Jahrgang 62 (2001), 41-60. Richard S. MacNeish and Antoinette Nelken-Turner, “The preceramic of Mesoamerica.” Journal of Field Archaeology 10 (1983), 71-84; Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.

      14. Josiah Priest, American Antiquities, 146, 149

      15. John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911), 355.

      16. W. D. Strong, “North American traditions suggesting a knowledge of the mammoth,” American Anthropologist 36 (1934), 81-88.

      17. [Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.]

      18. Juan de Torquemada, Monarchia Indiana (Mexico, 1943), 1:38; Jose de Acosta, Natural and Moral History of the Indies (2002), 384.

      19. Adrienne Mayor, Fossil Legends of the First Americans (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005), 97.

      • Thanks so much for your long, detailed comments, and for the citations, Dwight. Very helpful.
        One can do much the same for the Old World. Especially the Levant.

        It always surprises people to learn what Syro-Palestine looked like in ancient times, and what sort of animals lived there. Human activity has so degraded the environment in the past five thousand years (including destruction of animal habitat and extensive hunting) that only very recent Israeli reforestation and reintroduction of extinct species have reversed the trend toward rampant soil erosion and denuded landscapes.

        Most people just don’t realize that Elephants, Lions, Cheetahs, Hippopotami, Crocodiles, Onagers, Aurochs, Hartebeest, Arabian Oryx, Brown Bears, Ostriches, and the like, once inhabited the area – in historical times. All were hunted to extinction, some finally disappearing completely only in the 19th and 20th centuries.[1]

        Other animals disappeared more anciently. The horse, for example, went extinct for a time in the 3rd millennium BC in Transjordan, only to be reintroduced a thousand years later.[2] Something similar happened to the advanced 4th millennium BC Ghassulian culture in Transjordan. They left wonderful paintings and artefacts, but otherwise disappeared without a trace – as did the Olmec of ancient Mesoamerica.

        1. Ella Tsahar, Ido Izhaki, Simcha Lev-Yadun, and Guy Bar-Oz, “Distribution and Extinction of Ungulates during the Holocene of the Southern Levant,” PLoS ONE. 4/4 (Apr 29, 2009): e5316; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005316; PMCID: PMC2670510; online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2670510/ .
        2. Some extinctions may have been due to the very dry climate in the late 3rd millennium BC (= the First Intermediate Period in Egypt): Sturt W. Manning, M. W. Dee, E. M. Wild, C. Bronk Ramsey, K. Bandy, C. B. Grigg, C. L. Pearson, and A. J. Shortland, “High-precision dendro-14C dating of two cedar wood sequences from First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom Egypt and a small regional climate-related 14C offset”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 46 (June 2014), online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030544031400082X .

    • Russell,

      I was deliberately vague about the locations of Miller’s bone specimen and the specific dates because I did not want to “steal his thunder,” so to say. As I tried to make clear in my review, his work on horse bones is what I feel is his most significant contribution to the conversation. As such, I did not want give that away and hence give people an excuse not to consult Dr. Miller’s work directly.

      So, while I apologize for the inconvenience, if you really want to know, I would encourage you to look up Miller’s book, or perhaps see if he gives those details in the FairMormon presentation (from 2009, I think), or in the blog post here on Interpreter co-authored by Miller and Matt Roper.

  6. Discussion of this issue could be helped by clarifying what we mean by “anachronism.” Rather than any element of a text that seems out of place, it should really refer to those things that are certainly alien to a known environment.

    When Shakespeare has a clock strike the hour in Julius Caesar, that’s an anachronism, because we know that time and place so well (indeed, it’s part of the continuous chain of our own cultural heritage) that we can say with no doubt that there were no chiming clocks in ancient Rome.

    However, if a text claimed that a certain tool or technology existed thousands of years ago in an area that has not been known and studied deeply throughout history–say, Mesoamerica–then we could not definitively call it an anachronism. We would need to investigate the relevant details and compare it with what is known of that place and time, to see how plausible such a claim is.

    The point is that as we conduct these explorations of Mesoamerica, we find the Book of Mormon claims to be more plausible by the day.

    • This distinction makes sense to me. Are there really anachronisms in the Book of Mormon? There are matters we do not know enough yet, to be sure, but are there any clocks chiming in Ceaser’s day? If not, perhaps the title of the article is somewhat off? Whether it is or not though, I appreciated learning of more recent developments.

  7. The bible (Old Testament) was redacted by ancient Jewish scholars and is full of so called anachronisms, as pointed out above. David Bokovoy does a great job in highlighting the biblical scholarship in this area. It’s possible that Joseph Smith redacted the ancient Nephite record, but I’ve always been fascinated why he threw in some definitively non-19th century proper nouns, such as certain animal species and the weights and measure system. Perhaps there was just no modern equivalent? While it would be tempting to accept the BOM as inspired (channeled?) 19th century fiction, it would also open up more questions than it solves. Ted Brewerton’s article at BMAF.org, where he quotes a Spanish soldier’s history written in the 1500’s, not translated until 1880, describing the visit of a white god to the Americas, who healed the sick and taught righteousness, and the blocking out of the sun for several days, puts the BOM on the map of real history.

  8. “I’ve yet to see anyone else explain just what Nephi, with his Hebrew or Egyptian language, was supposed to call a tapir or any other species discovered in his new environment for which his native language had no words.”

    Have you even read the Book of Mormon? If so, please tell me what cureloms and cumoms are. JS thought tapir were horses but he identified cureloms and cumoms? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take your defense of that criticism seriously.

    • Will,

      Whether you intended to or not, what you have done is pulled a rhetorical slight of hand, swapping out my Nephi for your Joseph Smith. I did not say that “JS thought tapir were horses”, but asked what Nephi was supposed to call tapirs (or any other unfamiliar species in his new environment) with his Old World languages. I would propose that he necessarily had to loan-shift Hebrew/Egyptian terms for familiar species (horse, sheep, cattle, etc.), and that as such, those are perfectly “correct” translations. Your retort does not really address that issue.

      As for cureloms and cumoms, I would propose that Moroni, when translating the Jaradite record, did not know what animals (in his language) those terms referred to (perhaps because they went extinct before Nephite times?), and so he did not translate them, and thus Joseph Smith subsequently did not translate them.

      Whether you want to take such proposals seriously or not is your own prerogative. Failure to give it serious thought, however, probably reveals more about the individual than the subject at hand.

      • All your claims are highly, highly speculative and have no sound evidence whatsoever to support them. None. They are weak attempts to intellectualize anachronisms that make the critical rational thinker uncomfortable. It’s arguments like these that make it such that no reputable scholars that aren’t Mormons take this kind of work seriously. It’s why this work and ones like it don’t submit their findings to peer review.

        I’m glad you ended off with an ad hominem so that we have an idea of how seriously we can take these arguments. I find it extremely ironic that you offer “evidence” for the BoM and then don’t even reflect the love of Jesus when you interact with others.

        • I confess to reluctantly adding this particular comment. Accusing someone of providing no sound evidence while not providing any evidence at all is interesting. To top it off with an accusation of ad hominem attach (someone will have to explain to me how ad hominem became associated with disagreement with an idea presented by a person rather than the person), and then accuse Nea of not reflecting the love of Christ simply furthers the head-scratching I have to do with this comment.

          I do agree that I don’t see any evidence in your comments that you have actually carefully read the arguments that are involved in the linguistic issue. Without evidence that you understand the argument, an adamant denial is a personal opinion, but not particularly convincing.

          If you would like to continue to make comments, we would really appreciate it if you could make them interactive with the actual information presented and not simply your opinion that it must be wrong. In particular, it would be really nice if you would begin to do in your own comments what you appear to ask of others.

          • I confess to reluctantly replying to this particular comment. It would seem as though you did not read Mr. Rappleye’s comment in its entirety.

            “Failure to give it serious thought, however, probably reveals more about the individual than the subject at hand.”

            This is an attack on character, otherwise known as ad hominem. Someone will have to explain to me how this particular statement by Mr. Rappleye can be construed as “disagreement with an idea presented”.

            Now that we have that out of the way, back to tapirs, which is the focus of this particular conversation thread. The idea that supposed BoM authors “loan-shifted” familiar animal names is totally 100% speculative, lacking in evidence, and frankly quite absurd. What evidence must one present to refute that? It seems clear that the only evidence one needs is to ask: what animals was Joseph Smith familiar with? When viewing the BoM as a 19th century creation of Smith, it seems obvious that he would mention animals he was familiar with in the story. As he likely did not know how sheep, horses, cattle, etc. arrived in the Americas, he probably thought they had been there much longer than they actually were, hence the anachronistic usage.

          • That the Book of Mormon authors used loan-shifting is speculation, as is the idea that word “horse” in a translated text must, of necessity, describe Equus equus. I don’t happen to believe that the language clash issue occurred with the original authors but rather with the translator. I believe I have some evidence for that position.

            However, the point remains that insistence that a horse is a horse because it says it is a horse is applying a very limited understanding of texts and translation to the Book of Mormon. If you would like to try an interesting experiment, try to find any passage in the Book of Mormon where a horse is ridden, where it specifically says that it pulls anything, or where it influences the people in the text in any manner (quotations from Isaiah excepted for obvious reasons). That would be data and evidence rather than speculation. You will find that there is a reference to someone feeding the “horse” (that doesn’t narrow the field much) and that it moves (that doesn’t help either). Other than that, you cannot find any text that tells you what a “horse” does or how it acts. All of that is data and not speculation. Combine that information with the way translations occur, and you have a hypothesis that is much stronger that simply speculation.

          • Will,

            It seems self-evident to me that a person who has not given serious thought to a topic cannot, therefore, contribute to serious thought on the subject. Hence, when they opine on the matter they reveal more about themselves and their own attitudes and assumptions than the topic itself. I fail to see how pointing out what seems inherently obvious is an “attack on character,” or an ,ad hominem. Especially since it was you who (twice!) said you could not take it seriously.

            Now, you said “The idea that supposed BoM authors ‘loan-shifted’ familiar animal names is totally 100% speculative, lacking in evidence, and frankly quite absurd. What evidence must one present to refute that?”

            Well, yes, it is speculative, but it is not lacking in evidence (unless you want to define evidence very, very narrowly). The evidence is that this is what people in similar situations as Lehi and his family have done repeatedly throughout history. Many on the modern common names for animals are the result of doing exactly that. Is it really “quite absurd” to assume that Nephi (if he was a real person) would have done exactly as everyone else in his situation has done throughout history? It actually seems quite rational, to me. This is why I argue (follow the link in n. 8) that such phenomena are not only possible, but to be expected if the text is authentic.

            As for evidence against it, I agree that it cannot be proven one way or the other. Just because something is unfalsifiable does not mean it is not a legitimate possibility that must be considered. It does mean, however, that such things are not useful for proving (or arguing) for historicity one way or the other. Hence, because loan-shifts (or, as Brant points out, possible translator anachronisms, or even the possibility that there is yet undiscovered evidence) can potentially explain these anachronisms, they cannot be used against the Book of Mormon. Unless you can come up with a way to legitimately rule out that possibility–which is the point of my question, what was Nephi supposed to call a tapir? To do so would probably involve carefully scrutinizing every reference to every animal in all of the Book of Mormon to try and determine what the possibilities are. That, of course, would require that a person take the matter quite seriously.

  9. In response to Brant A. Gardner’s comment on 5/28, there are at least three references to a horse being used in connection with a chariot – Alma 18: 9-10, Alma 20: 6 & 3 Ne 3: 22.

    • Of course. What is the relationship between the horse and the chariot? They are in the same sentence. They are both “prepared.” However, from textual evidence, there is no way to know what the relationship is–unless you make assumptions about the text first.

  10. During a tour of the Yucatan and Chiapas a few years ago, it seemed obvious to me that even if the Maya did not directly experience living elephants, they certainly had a cultural memory of such creatures from their ancient past. There are hundreds of sculptures of elephants throughout the region, representing the “big-nosed god” Chaac. (For some examples, google images of “Chaac Mayapan” or “Chaac Kabah.”)

    Chaac can be depicted in a human form, but in the elephantine sculptures he is shown with large ears, large eyes, large eyelashes, large flat teeth, tusks, and a long trunk that moves up and down, and even sprays water. Clearly someone, sometime had seen an actual elephant and was so impressed that he turned it into a deity.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.

*



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>