Book of Mormon/Anachronisms

Book of Mormon anachronisms

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.

Anachronisms claimed to exist in the Book of Mormon

"Anachronism" = out of time; something which is not in its proper historical context. It is claimed that a number of items or concepts in the Book of Mormon are not consistent with what is known about ancient American geography, history, or anthropology. These "errors" used as evidence that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work rather than an ancient record.

Basic principles related to potential anachronisms

Summary: Translated documents (which the Book of Mormon claims to be) have many potential sources of anachronism. When trying to decide if something is a true anachronism, and when making judgments about the Book of Mormon's truth based on an assessment of anachronisms, we must take all these factors into account. Critics rarely do so.

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Animals alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon

Was the story of the Jaredites added to the Book of Mormon in order to explain New World animals?

Summary: It is claimed by some that the story of the Jaredites, as described in the Book of Ether, was added by Joseph Smith as an "afterthought" in order to account for the variety of animals present in the New World at the time of arrival of Lehi's group. Critics suggest that the Book of Ether was simply an "afterthought" added by Joseph Smith to the Book of Mormon in order to explain the presence of a wide variety of animals in the New World at the time of the arrival of Lehi's party.

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Summary: According to the most scientists, the mention of "horses" in the Americas during Book of Mormon times presents an anachronism--something that doesn't fit the time frame for which it is claimed. Is this a death-knell for the Book of Mormon?

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The ass (donkey)

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Summary: Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World.

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Summary: Bones of domesticated cattle (Bos taurus) have been reported from different caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. In one instance these bones were found with those of an extinct horse, Equus conversidens.


Summary: Elephants are only present in Jaredite times in the Book of Mormon. Both mammoths and gomphotheres are elephant-like creatures that are plausible candidates which may have lived up until Jaredite times.

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Swine (pigs)

Summary: It is claimed that swine were unknown in the ancient New World. In addition, some have ridiculed the Book of Mormon’s suggestion that swine would be used for food (due to dietary constraints of the Mosaic law).

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Cureloms and cumoms

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Serpents and drought

Summary: In the Book of Mormon, the Book of Ether contains an account of a drought accompanied by a sudden increase in 'poisonous serpents'. Some claim that this is biologically implausible.

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Alleged biblical anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

Malachi text in the Book of Mormon

Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it quotes Malachi hundreds of years before Malachi was written (i.e, they claim that Mal. 4:1 is quoted in 1 Nephi 22:15). However, the Book of Mormon claims to be a "translation." Therefore, the language used is that of Joseph Smith. Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using King James Bible language if that adequately represented the text's intent. The translation language may resemble Malachi, but the work is not attributed to Malachi. Only if one presumes that the Book of Mormon is a fraud at the outset is this proof of anything. If one accepts that it is a translation, then the use of Bible language tells us merely that Joseph used biblical language.

New Testament text in the Book of Mormon?

Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it contains material that is also found in the New Testament. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus quotes a paraphrase of Moses' words found in Acts 3:22-26.


Summary: The "Deutero-Isaiah" theory is the claim that parts of Isaiah were written later than others. This theory claims that there were three individual authors, whose works were later compiled together under the name of the first author Isaiah (referred to as "Proto Isaiah"). The critical issue raised is that the Brass Plates of Laban quote from sections of Isaiah that this theory ascribes to Deutero-Isaiah, so how could the Nephites have these writings if they weren't written until after they left Jerusalem?

Firstling sacrifices

Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon report that Nephites offered burnt offerings of the firstlings of their flocks is not consistent with Jewish law or practice. While firstlings were not used for every sacrifice, they certainly did have a role in the sacrificial practices of Israel. The critics have misunderstood the Bible on this point.

Holy Ghost

Summary: Why is the Holy Ghost mentioned so many times in the Book of Mormon prior to the time of Christ (e.g., 1 Nephi 10:17) and yet in the Old Testament there is hardly any mention of the Holy Ghost, especially with regard to his mission of bearing witness of the truth?

Jeremiah in prison

Summary: It is claimed that Nephi's mention of Jeremiah being put into prison (1 Nephi 7:14) is anachronistic, since Jeremiah would not have been in prison when Lehi left Jerusalem.

Jerusalem as site of Jesus' birth

Summary: Critics point out that Alma 7:10 says that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Yet, every school child knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They claim that this is a mistake, and evidence that Joseph Smith forged the Book of Mormon. However, it is important to note what Alma's words were. He did not claim Jesus would be born in the city of Jerusalem, but "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Bethlehem is located only five miles from Jerusalem. Thus, the Book of Mormon makes a distinction here between a city and the land associated with a city.

Josephites and Jerusalem

Summary: It is claimed that the fact that Lehi was not of Judah, but of the tribe of Joseph, makes it absurd for him to have been living in Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity: "The tribe of Joseph at Jerusalem! Go, study scripture-geography, ye ignorant fellows, before you send out another imposition, and make no more such foolish blunders."

Book of Mormon plagiarized from Bible?

Summary: Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that major portions of it are copied, without attribution, from the Bible. They present this as evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by plagiarizing the Authorized ("King James") Version of the Bible.

Mainly altered italics in the KJV?

Summary: It is claimed that in the Book of Mormon material which parallels the KJV, Joseph Smith generally modified the italicized text.

Book of Mormon "translation errors" from KJV?

Summary: Critics wonder why many of the quotes from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon are identical to the King James version. The Book of Mormon incorporates text which seems to be taken from the King James Version, including passages which are now considered to be mistranslations in the King James Version. If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, some claim that it shouldn't contain these translational errors.

Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to the Book of Mormon

Summary: Mistranslations of the King James version of Isaiah have been corrected using the Isaiah version found with the Dead Sea scrolls. Why is it that the quotes from Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have the same translation errors contained in the King James version instead of matching the original ancient text?

Climate in the Book of Mormon


Summary: In 1 Nephi 11:8, Nephi says Lehi describes the Tree of Life by saying "the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow." Since Nephi and Lehi were desert folk from Jerusalem, and then likely lived in tropical Central America, why would they have used "snow" as a description?

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Cultural issues in the Book of Mormon


Summary: The Book of Mormon calendar is not identical to the calendar used by modern peoples. Learn about Nephite calendar(s) here.

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Olive horticulture

Summary: Does the Book of Mormon's account of olive horticulture in Jacob 5 match what we know about this subject?

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Legal codes and concepts

Summary: Do the legal concepts in the Book of Mormon better match Joseph Smith's day, or the ancient world?

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The Book of Mormon and DNA evidence

Responding to critical claims regarding DNA evidence and the Book of Mormon

Summary: DNA samples taken from modern Native Americans do not match the DNA of modern inhabitants of the Middle East. Critics argue that this means the Book of Mormon's claim that Native Americans are descended from Lehi must be false, and therefore the Book of Mormon is not an ancient record as Joseph Smith claimed.

Geography issues

Summary: A variety of geographic models have been suggested for the Book of Mormon. Some geographic models introduce other difficulties for the DNA attacks.

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Haplogroup X2a

Summary: Some have tried to use a genetic group called haplotype X2a as proof of the Book of Mormon, but the science at present cannot support this.

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What is Lehi's ancestry?

Summary: Genetic attacks on the Book of Mormon focus on the fact that Amerindian DNA seems closest to Asian DNA, and not DNA from "the Middle East" or "Jewish" DNA. However, this attack ignores several key points, among which is the fact that the Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his family are clearly not Jews.

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How does one identify "Jewish" or "Middle Eastern" DNA?

Summary: Identifying DNA criteria for Manasseh and Ephraim may always be beyond our reach. But, even identifying markers for Jews—a group that has remained relatively cohesive and refrained from intermarriage with others more than most groups—is an extraordinarily difficult undertaking.

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Lemba and Cohen modal haplotype

Summary: Some critics use the "Lemba" as an example of a group proven to be Jewish via DNA testing as proof that such a testing should be possible for Book of Mormon people. But, this example is misleading. The Lemba were identified as Jewish because of a marker called the "Cohen modal haplotype." This marker is carried by about half of those who claim descent from Aaron, Moses' brother, and only 2-3% of other Jews. But, the Book of Mormon does not suggest—and in fact seems to exclude—the idea that Levites (the priestly family of Aaron) were among the Lehi party.

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What methods of DNA tests are available?

Summary: DNA issues can be complex for the non-specialist (especially those who were in high school more than twenty years ago, before much of the modern understanding of DNA was available). In this article we review the methods of DNA testing that are available, along with their strengths and their limitations.

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New World death rate after European contact

Summary: Approximately ninety percent of the Amerindian population died out following contact with the Europeans; most of this was due to infectious disease against which they had no defense.[1] Since different genes likely provide different resistances to infectious disease, it may be that eliminating 90% of the pre-contact gene pool has significantly distorted the true genetic picture of Lehi's descendants.

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Jaredite influence

Summary: Critics often over-look the Jaredites, and assume (as in the hemispheric models that the Jaredites can have contributed nothing of consequence to the Lehite DNA picture. But, it is not clear that this must be the case. Some LDS have believed in a total eradication of the Jaredites, others have argued that Jaredite remnants survived and mixed with the Lehites. Bruce R. McConkie, while believing that the majority of Amerindian descent was from Israel (i.e. Lehi, Ishmael, and Mulek) nevertheless wrote: "The American Indians, however, as Columbus found them also had other blood than that of Israel in their veins. It is possible that isolated remnants of the Jaredites may have lived through the period of destruction in which millions of their fellows perished."

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Fundamentalist "suicide bombing"

Summary: It should be remembered too that many sectarian critics use DNA science in a sort of "suicide bombing" attack on the Church.[2] The fundamentalist Christian critics are happy to use DNA as a stick to beat the Book of Mormon, but do not tell their readers that there is much stronger DNA evidence for concepts which fundamentalist Christian readers might not accept, such as evolutionary change in species, or human descent from other primates.

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Alleged Book of Mormon anachronisms related to geography.


Summary: Alexander Campbell, an early Book of Mormon critic, complained that the Book of Mormon "makes John [the Baptist] baptize in the village of Bethabara." The Book of Mormon, however, uses the same term as the King James Bible: "These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." (John 1:28)

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River runs into a fountain

Summary: Is the description of "a river’s running into a fountain" in 1 Nephi absurd?

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Alleged anachronisms in the Book of Mormon related to government

Legal codes and concepts

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Items alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon


Summary: The Book of Mormon mentions "chariots," which are assumed to be a "wheeled vehicle." No draft animals existed to pull such chariots. 3 Nephi 3:22 notes that the Nephites "had taken their horses, and their chariots" to a central fortified area for protection against robbers. It should be noted that we are not told if these chariots served a purpose in riding, or if they were for transport of goods, or if they had a ceremonial function. One assumes some sort of practicality or ritual importance in war, since they brought chariots to the siege. Conspicuously absent is any role of the chariot in the many journeys recorded in the Book of Mormon. Nor do horses or chariots play any role in the many Nephite wars; this is in stark contrast to the Biblical account, in which the chariots of Egypt, Babylon, and the Philistines are feared super-weapons upon the plains of Israel.

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Summary: Contrary to the claims made by some, the precolumbian New World had many examples of curved bladed weapons ("scimeters" or "cimeters").

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Summary: Does the Book of Mormon make references to Nephite coins? Coins were not used either in ancient America or Israel during Lehi's day. However, the word "coins" was only added to the chapter heading of Alma 11 much later, and the text of the Book of Mormon itself does not mention coins. The pieces of gold and silver described in Alma 11:1-20 are not coins, but a surprisingly sophisticated system of weights and measures that is entirely consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices.

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Summary: Critics charge that the description of the Liahona as a "compass" is anachronistic because the magnetic compass was not known in 600 B.C. However, believing it was called a compass because it pointed the direction for Lehi to travel is the fault of the modern reader, not the Book of Mormon. As a verb, the word "compass" occurs frequently in the King James Version of the Bible; and it generally suggests the idea of surrounding or encircling something

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"Gold" plates?

Summary: Could Joseph Smith, Jr. have manufactured some metal plates out of tin, copper, or some other metal in order to trick witnesses into thinking he had gold plates? Gold plates of the dimensions described by the witnesses would be too heavy (on the order of 200 lbs) to be realistically lifted and carried as Joseph and others described. This assumption, however, assumes a solid block of gold in the dimensions described, and does not account for the fact that pure gold would have been too fragile to form the thin leaves necessary for engraving.

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Summary: Some have even claimed that the Book of Mormon mentions "gunpowder," and "pistols and other firearms," which are clearly anachronisms. The claim is false. There is no mention of "gunpowder" or firearms, or anything like them, in the Book of Mormon.

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Temple in the New World

Summary: It is claimed that Israelites would not have built a temple in the New World outside of Jerusalem. This ignores Israelite temples built in the Old World outside Jerusalem.

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Summary: Does the mention of "windows" imply the existence of glass in Book of Mormon times?

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Claimed anachronisms related to language used in the Book of Mormon.


Summary: Jacob 7:27 ends with the phrase, "Brethren, adieu."

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And it came to pass

Summary: Some have often complained about the frequent repetition of "and it came to pass" in the Book of Mormon.[1] Mark Twain famously joked that if the phrase were omitted, Joseph would have published a pamphlet instead of a book. As it turns out, however, this much-maligned phrase is actually evidence of the Book of Mormon's authentic antiquity.

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Greek words in the Book of Mormon

Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it contains "Greek words" ("alpha and omega"). However, the Book of Mormon claims to be a translation. Therefore, the language used is that of Joseph Smith. Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using King James Bible language if that adequately represented the text's intent.

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Modern phrasing

Summary: Critics maintain that Book of Mormon phrases or language is too "modern" to be of ancient origin. The Book of Mormon is a translation. As such, it may well use phrases or expressions that have no exact ancient counterpart. Modern Bible translations use similar expressions or phrases, and yet remain translations of ancient documents.

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Hebrew and Native American languages

Summary: Is there any evidence that Old World languages (such as Hebrew) had an influence on the languages of the New World? It is claimed that the Book of Mormon provides too short a time for the disappearance of the Nephite/Lamanite Hebrew language.

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Reformed Egyptian

Summary: It is claimed that Jews or Israelites (like the Nephites) would not have used the language of their slave period — Egyptian — to write sacred records, that there is no evidence in Egyptology of something called "reformed Egyptian," and that the Book of Mormon's claim to have been written in this language is therefore suspect. However, the claim that Israelites would not use Egyptian is clearly false. By the ninth to sixth centuries before Christ, Israelites used Egyptian numerals mingled with Hebrew text. The Papyrus Amherst 63 contains a text of Psalms 20:2-6 written in Aramaic (the language of Jesus) using Egyptian characters. This text was originally dated to the second century B.C., but this has since been extended to the 4th century B.C.

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Egyptian would not be shorter than Hebrew on the plates

Summary: It is claimed that Egyptian would be too lengthy and bulky on the plates to account for the Book of Mormon [Egyptian would take] "perhaps four times, or even more than four times, as much room as the English, and it is quite certain that, as the Book of Mormon is 600 pages thick, it would take at least a thousand plates to hold in the Egyptian language, what is there written."

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Freemasonry and the Book of Mormon

Gadianton Robbers as Masons?

Summary: Some claim that the Gadianton robbers are thinly disguised references to the anti-Masonic panic of Joseph Smith's era. Joseph's contemporaries did not embrace the "obvious" link between the Book of Mormon and masonry. Proponents or opponents of Masonry simply tended to blame their opponents for Mormonism. Given Joseph Smith's long family involvement with the institution of Freemasonry and the fact that he would, in 1842, become a Mason himself, it seems unlikely that anti-Masonry was the "environmental source" of the Gadianton robbers found in the Book of Mormon. The members of his day likewise had little enthusiasm for anti-Masonic sentiments.

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Materials alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon


Summary: The Nephites in the land northward built buildings out of cement in Helaman 3:7-11 (circa 47 B.C.). As author John L. Smith put the claim, "There is zero archaeological evidence that any kind of cement existed in the Americas prior to modern times."[3]In this case, however, an attack on an 'absence of evidence' backfired. Cement is not anachronistic. The Book of Mormon places it in exactly the right spot and time period for Mesoamerican use of this building material.

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The use of metals in the Book of Mormon

Some attack the Book of Mormon's mention of metal and metalworking in the Americas: 1)It is claimed that no metal use occurred in the Americas prior to A.D. 900. 2) It is claimed that certain metals mentioned in the Book of Mormon were not available in the Americas. Metal and metallurgy was more common and of earlier date in Mesoamerica than has been assumed. Critics also sometimes read the text anachronistically, inserting 21st century ideas about metals (such as steel) into Joseph Smith's 19th century context, and the Book of Mormon's pre-Christian context. Not every issue concerning metals can at present be correlated with archeological data, but the case has been strengthened considerably even in the last 50 years. Given the linguistic evidence for metal at an early date, it is premature to suppose that no physical evidence of metal will turn up for those periods still in question. Rejecting the Book of Mormon on these grounds commits a fallacy in which the absence of evidence is turned into evidence of absence.

Metallurgy and use of metals in the Book of Mormon

Summary: It is important first of all to realize that the Book of Mormon tends to use metals as sources of wealth and for ornamentation, and relatively rarely for 'prestige' weapons (e.g. sword of Laban) or items (e.g. metal plates for sacred records). It does not appear that Nephite society had as extensive a use of metal as the Middle East of the same time period. Attempting to insist otherwise misrepresents the Book of Mormon.

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Summary: "Brass" is an alloy of copper and zinc. It is a term used frequently in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Some occurrences in the Bible have been determined by Biblical scholars to actually reflect the use of bronze (an alloy of copper and tin), rather than brass.

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Metal Plates

Summary: Is Joseph's report of finding a record on metal plates plausible?

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Plants alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon

Some plants mentioned in the Book of Mormon are not known to exist in the New World. Is this evidence that Joseph fabricated the text based upon his own cultural background? Not at all: None of the Book of Mormon's plant species causes a problem — Spanish conquerors described pre-Columbian products in exactly the terms used by the Book of Mormon. Barley, silkworms, and grapes were known. One of the terms unknown to Joseph's day (the Akkadian sheum) is impressive evidence for the Book of Mormon's antiquity.


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Flax and linen

Summary: Flax for linen.

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Summary: Plants used to make wine.

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Alleged anachronisms related to population and demographics


Summary: Critics charge that the initial Lehite colony is too small to produce the population sizes indicated, and that Lehi's group was sent to a land which was kept from the knowledge of other nations, therefore, according to the Book of Mormon, there could not have been "others" present. A superficial reading of the Book of Mormon leads some to conclude that the named members of Lehi's group were the only members of Nephite/Lamanite society. However, the Book of Mormon contains many mentions of "others" that made up part of both societies; indeed, many Book of Mormon passages make little sense unless we understand this.

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Scientific questions related to the Book of Mormon

Sweat and skin pores

Summary: It is claimed that the reference to blood coming from a pore is anachronistic, since Nephite authors would not have known about skin pores. Joseph Smith, it is claimed, would have known about pores, and so the Book of Mormon's addition of the word "pore" to the Bible's account in Luke 22:44 of Christ's suffering reflects Joseph Smith's 19th century worldview, and not an ancient author's.

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Shiz struggles to breathe

Summary: In Ether 15:31, a final showdown occurs between two warriors, Shiz and Coriantumr. Coriantumr "smote off the head of Shiz...[and] after he had smitten off the head...Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died." Critics insist that this would not, or could not, happen.

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Three days of darkness

Summary: Critics argue that the "three days of darkness" in the New World following Christ's death is implausible.

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Alleged anachronisms related to the Book of Mormon text

Chapter divisions

Summary: Is the fact that the Book of Mormon has chapters evidence that it is a modern production? The table of contents was a modern insertion; it had no counterpart in the dictated text of the Book of Mormon. It was added just as it is in modern Bibles. However, the first edition of the Book of Mormon did contain chapters (though much longer than the modern chapters), and chapter markers were part of Joseph's dictated text.

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Warfare and weapons

Warfare in the Book of Mormon

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Summary: Contrary to the claims made by some, the precolumbian New World had many examples of curved bladed weapons ("scimeters" or "cimeters").

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Summary: Are Book of Mormon swords anachronistic? Have New World swords answering to the Book of Mormon's description been found?

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  1. Suzanne Austin Alchon, 'A Pest in the Land: New World Epidemics in a Global Perspective,' Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, c2003.
  2. The expression "suicide bombing" in this context comes from Stewart, "DNA and the Book of Mormon."
  3. John L. Smith, "What about those Gold Plates?" The Utah Evangel 33/6 (September 1986): 8.

Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims