The Book of Mor­mon is very clear that there were par­tic­u­lar ani­mals among the Nephites and Laman­ites. Thanks to pale­on­tol­o­gists and oth­er researchers, we now know which ani­mals actu­al­ly did live in the Amer­i­c­as dur­ing the Book of Mor­mon peri­od of his­to­ry.

Here are good sum­ma­ry vers­es from the Book of Mor­mon:

1 Nephi 18:25
And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we jour­neyed in the wilder­ness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all man­ner of wild ani­mals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all man­ner of ore, both of gold, and of sil­ver, and of cop­per.

Ether 9:18–19
And also all man­ner of cat­tle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many oth­er kinds of ani­mals which were use­ful for the food of man.
And they also had hors­es, and ass­es, and there were ele­phants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were use­ful unto man, and more espe­cial­ly the ele­phants and cureloms and cumoms.

To get right to the point — cows, oxen, ass­es, hors­es, domes­ti­cat­ed goats (as opposed to wild goats as men­tioned), swine, and ele­phants were not present in any part of the amer­i­c­as dur­ing any time even close to around the the Book of Mor­mon his­to­ry (2500 BC to 400 AD, rough­ly). And this isn’t just a guess, it is well under­stood which ani­mals were are were not present dur­ing that time.

Apolo­get­ics (which are defend­ers of the faith, not apol­o­giz­ers) respond that the cows, oxen, ass­es, hors­es, goats, swine, and ele­phants were not real­ly cows, oxen, ass­es, hors­es, goats, swine, or ele­phants. Instead, Joseph Smith, Jr used those more famil­iar words to refer to what­ev­er oth­er ani­mal was actu­al­ly around in the Book of Mor­mon time, such as bison, deer, tapirs (see pic­ture), or lla­mas.

I just am unable to accept this answer. First, there is no evi­dence of domes­ti­ca­tion of bison, deer, or tapirs — there is only evi­dence of the lla­ma being domes­ti­cat­ed in pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca. The Book of Mor­mon vers­es above and oth­ers clear­ly demon­strate that the ani­mals were com­plete­ly domes­ti­cat­ed.

Sec­ond­ly, and I think maybe more impor­tant­ly, based on how we under­stand the trans­la­tion process, Joseph Smith would basi­cal­ly read the words that would appear in front of him. He start­ed with the Urim and Thum­mim, then he switched and trans­lat­ed most of the Book of Mor­mon by read­ing the words off the peep stone he found in his youth, while putting his head and peep stone inside a hat. See Mar­tin Harris’s and David Whitmer’s descrip­tions of it here. If he was being shown the words to say, would he be shown the word “horse” for some­thing that wasn’t horse? Why would oth­er times unknown names appear, like the “cureloms” and “cumoms”, or “ziff” (an unknown met­al) and “senine” (a mea­sure­ment)? If it wasn’t refer­ring to a known ani­mal, shouldn’t he have read some oth­er word like “cureloms” when he read “horse” or “cow” or “swine”?

Let’s dig into a few of these some more.

Horse and Chariot

From wikipedia:

Hors­es are men­tioned four­teen times in the Book of Mor­mon, and are por­trayed as an inte­gral part of the cul­tures described. There is no evi­dence that hors­es exist­ed on the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent dur­ing the 2500–3000 year his­to­ry of the Book of Mor­mon (2500 BC–400 AD). Hors­es evolved in North Amer­i­ca, but are believed to have become extinct on the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent at the end of the Pleis­tocene. Hors­es did not reap­pear in the Amer­i­c­as until the Spaniards brought them from Europe.They were brought to the Caribbean by Christo­pher Colum­bus in 1493, and to the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent by Cortés in 1519.

Here are the vers­es in the Book of Mor­mon:

1 Nephi 18:25
And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we jour­neyed in the wilder­ness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all man­ner of wild ani­mals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all man­ner of ore, both of gold, and of sil­ver, and of cop­per.

Enos 1:21
And it came to pass that the peo­ple of Nephi did till the land, and raise all man­ner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all man­ner of cat­tle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many hors­es.

Alma 18:9
And they said unto him: Behold, he is feed­ing thy hors­es. Now the king had com­mand­ed his ser­vants, pre­vi­ous to the time of the water­ing of their flocks, that they should pre­pare his hors­es and char­i­ots, and con­duct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appoint­ed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lam­oni, who was king over all the land.

Alma 18:10
Now when king Lam­oni heard that Ammon was prepar­ing his hors­es and his char­i­ots he was more aston­ished, because of the faith­ful­ness of Ammon, say­ing: Sure­ly there has not been any ser­vant among all my ser­vants that has been so faith­ful as this man; for even he doth remem­ber all my com­mand­ments to exe­cute them.

Alma 18:12
And it came to pass that when Ammon had made ready the hors­es and the char­i­ots for the king and his ser­vants, he went in unto the king, and he saw that the coun­te­nance of the king was changed; there­fore he was about to return out of his pres­ence.

Alma 20:6
Now when Lam­oni had heard this he caused that his ser­vants should make ready his hors­es and his char­i­ots.

3 Nephi 3:22
And it came to pass in the sev­en­teenth year, in the lat­ter end of the year, the procla­ma­tion of Lachoneus had gone forth through­out all the face of the land, and they had tak­en their hors­es, and their char­i­ots, and their cat­tle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their sub­stance, and did march forth by thou­sands and by tens of thou­sands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appoint­ed that they should gath­er them­selves togeth­er, to defend them­selves against their ene­mies.

3 Nephi 4:4
There­fore, there was no chance for the rob­bers to plun­der and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open bat­tle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and hav­ing so great a num­ber, and hav­ing reserved for them­selves pro­vi­sions, and hors­es and cat­tle, and flocks of every kind, that they might sub­sist for the space of sev­en years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the rob­bers from off the face of the land; and thus the eigh­teenth year did pass away.

3 Nephi 6:1
And now it came to pass that the peo­ple of the Nephites did all return to their own lands in the twen­ty and sixth year, every man, with his fam­i­ly, his flocks and his herds, his hors­es and his cat­tle, and all things what­so­ev­er did belong unto them.

3 Nephi 21:14
Yea, wo be unto the Gen­tiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy hors­es out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy char­i­ots;

Ether 9:19
And they also had hors­es, and ass­es, and there were ele­phants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were use­ful unto man, and more espe­cial­ly the ele­phants and cureloms and cumoms.

As chil­dren, we were all taught in Amer­i­can His­to­ry class­es about the pro­found impact that hors­es had on the Indi­ans once they were intro­duced to the New World by the Euro­peans. I have a hard time believ­ing that all the his­to­ry books, sci­en­tists, Indi­an records, etc. are all wrong about some­thing that would have been so impor­tant to the Native Amer­i­cans.

The char­i­ots are a huge prob­lem as well. As stat­ed in wikipedia:

The Book of Mor­mon men­tions the use of char­i­ots as a mode of trans­porta­tion five times. There is no archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port the use of wheeled vehi­cles in Mesoamer­i­ca.
Many parts of ancient Mesoamer­i­ca were not suit­able for wheeled trans­port. Clark Wissler, the Cura­tor of Ethnog­ra­phy at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in New York City, not­ed: “we see that the pre­vail­ing mode of land trans­port in the New World was by human car­ri­er. The wheel was unknown in pre-Columbian times.”

A com­par­i­son of the South Amer­i­can Inca civ­i­liza­tion to Mesoamer­i­can civ­i­liza­tions shows the same lack of wheeled vehi­cles. Although the Incas used a vast net­work of paved roads, these roads are so rough, steep and nar­row that they appear to be unsuit­able for wheeled use. Bridges that the Inca peo­ple built, and even con­tin­ue to use and main­tain today in some remote areas, are straw-rope bridges so nar­row (about 2–3 feet wide) that no wheeled vehi­cle can fit (see image and tech­nol­o­gy at Inca rope bridges). Inca roads were used main­ly by chas­ki mes­sage run­ners and lla­ma car­a­vans.

The pic­ture shown here is also from wikipedia. It is a typ­i­cal Inca road, as described in the pri­or para­graph. The use of the char­i­ot behind a horse as a mode of trans­porta­tion between cities is clear in the Book of Mor­mon vers­es. This is just not pos­si­ble. There was no horse, there was no wheel, and there was no suit­able road.

Cattle and Cows

Here are the rel­e­vant vers­es:

1 Nephi 18:25
And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we jour­neyed in the wilder­ness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all man­ner of wild ani­mals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all man­ner of ore, both of gold, and of sil­ver, and of cop­per.

Enos 1:21
And it came to pass that the peo­ple of Nephi did till the land, and raise all man­ner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all man­ner of cat­tle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many hors­es.

Mosi­ah 13:18
But the sev­enth day, the sab­bath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daugh­ter, thy man-ser­vant, nor thy maid-ser­vant, nor thy cat­tle, nor thy stranger that is with­in thy gates;

3 Nephi 3:22
And it came to pass in the sev­en­teenth year, in the lat­ter end of the year, the procla­ma­tion of Lachoneus had gone forth through­out all the face of the land, and they had tak­en their hors­es, and their char­i­ots, and their cat­tle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their sub­stance, and did march forth by thou­sands and by tens of thou­sands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appoint­ed that they should gath­er them­selves togeth­er, to defend them­selves against their ene­mies.

3 Nephi 4:4
There­fore, there was no chance for the rob­bers to plun­der and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open bat­tle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and hav­ing so great a num­ber, and hav­ing reserved for them­selves pro­vi­sions, and hors­es and cat­tle, and flocks of every kind, that they might sub­sist for the space of sev­en years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the rob­bers from off the face of the land; and thus the eigh­teenth year did pass away.

3 Nephi 6:1
And now it came to pass that the peo­ple of the Nephites did all return to their own lands in the twen­ty and sixth year, every man, with his fam­i­ly, his flocks and his herds, his hors­es and his cat­tle, and all things what­so­ev­er did belong unto them.

Ether 9:18
And also all man­ner of cat­tle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many oth­er kinds of ani­mals which were use­ful for the food of man.

Here is the wikipedia infor­ma­tion:

There are six ref­er­ences to cat­tle made in the Book of Mor­mon, includ­ing ver­biage sug­gest­ing they were domes­ti­cat­ed. There has been no evi­dence recov­ered that Old World cat­tle (mem­bers of the genus Bos) inhab­it­ed the New World pri­or to Euro­pean con­tact in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry AD.

Apol­o­gists argue that the term “cat­tle” may be more gener­ic that sug­gest­ing mem­bers of the genus Bos, and may have referred to bison, moun­tain goats, lla­mas, or oth­er Amer­i­can species. Accord­ing to the Book of Mor­mon, vari­eties of “cat­tle” (includ­ing goats and sheep) could be found in ancient Amer­i­ca. With­out these the Nephites could not have kept the Law of Moses, as direct­ed.

Lat­ter Day Saint apol­o­gists note that the word “cat­tle” may refer to the ances­tor of the Amer­i­can bison, Bison antiqu­us (of the sub­fam­i­ly Bov­inae). Bison antiqu­us, some­times called the ancient bison, was the most com­mon large her­bi­vore of the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent for over ten thou­sand years, and is a direct ances­tor of the liv­ing Amer­i­can bison.

How­ev­er, no species of bison is known to have been domes­ti­cat­ed as the “cat­tle” in the Book of Mor­mon are sug­gest­ed to have been. Fur­ther­more, it is wide­ly accept­ed that the only large mam­mal to be domes­ti­cat­ed in the Amer­i­c­as was the lla­ma; no species of goats, deer, sheep, or oth­er “cat­tle” were domes­ti­cat­ed before the arrival of the Euro­peans to the con­ti­nent. Apol­o­gists counter that the word­ing in the Book of Mor­mon does not require the “cat­tle” to have been domes­ti­cat­ed in the strictest sense.

There isn’t much else to say here. There had to be domes­ti­cat­ed cows, sheep, and goats as claimed in the Book of Mor­mon in order to keep the Law of Moses, as claimed in the text. There were none in pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca.

Elephants and Swine

From wikipedia:

Ele­phants are men­tioned twice in a sin­gle verse in the Book of Ether. Mastodons and mam­moths lived in the New World dur­ing the Pleis­tocene; how­ev­er, as with the pre­his­toric horse, the fos­sil record indi­cates that they became extinct along with most of the megafau­na towards the end of the last ice age. The source of this extinc­tion is spec­u­lat­ed to be the result of human pre­da­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant cli­mate change, or a com­bi­na­tion of both fac­tors. It is known that a small pop­u­la­tion of mam­moths sur­vived on St. Paul Island, Alas­ka up until 8,000 B.P., but even this date is thou­sands of years before the Jared­ite record in the Book of Mor­mon begins.

Swine are referred to twice in the Book of Mor­mon, and the nar­ra­tive of the Book of Mor­mon sug­gests that the swine were domes­ti­cat­ed by the Jared­ites. There have not been any remains, ref­er­ences, art­work, tools, or any oth­er evi­dence sug­gest­ing that swine were ever present in the pre-entra­da New World.

Sim­i­lar to the pri­or sec­tions, these ani­mals were not here in Book of Mor­mon times, and fur­ther­more there is no evi­dence of domes­ti­ca­tion of any even vague­ly sim­i­lar ani­mals.

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: My Search for Truth — Wes Trexler« The Book of Mor­mon: Key­stoneBook of Mor­mon Issue 2: Agri­cul­ture »

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