Book of Mormon/Anachronisms/Animals

Animals alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon

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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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In the first place, one should not reject the possibility of "loan-shifting," in which a name for a familiar species is applied for a new species. This is a well-known phenomenon — for example, Amerindians called European horses 'deer' when they first encountered them. The classic example is, of course, the hippopotamus, which name the Greeks gave to an animal they called a "river (potamus) horse (hippo)." Critics who scoff should ask themselves how anyone could mistake a hippopotamus for a horse — the answer, of course, is that the Greeks knew perfectly well that the hippo was not a true horse, but the name stuck. [1]


Part(s) of this issue are addressed in a FairMormon video segment. Click here to see video clips on other topics.
NB: Please note that reference is made to a potential pre-Columbian horse, the so-called "Spencer Lake," horse skull. This has now been determined to have been a fraud or hoax, and should not be considered evidence for the Book of Mormon account.


  1. For a discussion, see 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]), 298.

Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims