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Response to claim: "pictographic and literary evidence of horses in the New World (outside of the Book of Mormon) is unknown"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The first apologist argument that they did not find archeological evidence of lions in Palestine until very recently is not applicable since pictographic and literary evidence of horses in the New World (outside of the Book of Mormon) is unknown. There were writings and drawings of lions in Palestine and horses used by the Huns yet there are no writings or drawings of any modern-day horses by the natives of the Americas. The Native Americans had absolutely no knowledge of horses until Columbus and the Spaniards introduced them to the New World.

FairMormon Response

  Fact: The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event  
There is limited information regarding the role of horses in Book of Mormon culture. It does not, however, appear that they played the type of role that they did among the Huns. Horses in Book of Mormon times may have simply been used for food.


Question: Why are horses considered an anachronism in the Book of Mormon?

Horses existed in the New World anciently and spread to other parts of the world, however, it is currently believed that "The last prehistoric North American horses died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene." [1]

Modern horses did not arrive in the New World until they were brought by Spanish explorers. Thus, 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.

There are at least two possible resolutions to the "horse" problem in the Book of Mormon:

  1. Horses were present but their remains have not been found.
  2. Definitions of the word "horse" were expanded to include new meanings.


Question: What is the origin of the modern horse in the New World?

Most scientists believe that the horse originated in the Americas and spread across land bridges from the Americas to Asia, eventually migrating into Africa and Europe. Over the course of millions of years the horse evolved from a smaller breed to the larger horses of today. Near the end of the Pleistocene period--about 10,000 years ago--the most recent ice-age came to an end. During this time many large mammals that once roamed the Americas became extinct. Among these were mammoths, camels, and the mid-sized horses that once lived in abundance in the New World. Scientists typically postulate that these animals died off due to climate changes and possible over-hunting. In other parts of the world, however, horses continued to thrive and eventually evolved into modern-day horses. When the Spaniards came to the New World in the early sixteenth century, they brought horses with them. Some horses eventually escaped and multiplied in the wild.

A horse skeleton from the La Brea Tarpits, in Los Angeles, California. The Museum notes that this is an example of the "extinct Western horse". Image taken from [1] on the La Brea Tarpits Museum website.



Verses in the Book of Mormon that talk about "horses"

Horses associated with travel and chariots

  • Alma 18:9-10
    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...Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished...
  • 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...
  • 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.

(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 use in war, since they brought chariots to the siege in 3 Nephi.)

Horse mentioned in quotes of Old World scripture

  • 2 Nephi 12:7
    Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.
  • 2 Nephi 15:28
    Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.
  • 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;

Wild horses

  • 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.

Domesticated horses

  • 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.

Horses as a potential source of food

  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.

It is interesting that the horses are often grouped with cattle, and seem to have played a role in the diet (though this may have been under the exigencies of the siege of 3 Nephi.)


Question: What role do horses not play in the Book of Mormon?

Horses are never ridden or used in battle

Conspicuously absent is any role of the horse 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.

Nor do we see a role for the horse in gallant cavalry charges that were the romantic warrior ideal in Joseph Smith's day. Nor is there any sign of the rapid war of maneuver and skirmish favored by the cavalry of the western nations. These are not the horses of the nineteenth century's practical realities or fanciful dreams.

There are societies in which the horse was vital, such as among the Hun warriors of Asia and Eastern Europe, for whom horses were a sign of wealth and status, and for whom they were essential for food, clothing, and war. Yet, there is no known horse bone from this period in the archaeological record.[2]


Question: Have any ancient horse remains from the Nephite period been found in the New World?

A few non-Mormon scholars have proposed that real horses survived the New World extinction

Wild horses were present in ancient America during the Pleistocene period (Ice Age), yet were not present at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards. Horses thrived once they were re-introduced by the Spaniards into the New World. The question then is: "Why were horses missing when the Spaniards arrived?" Is it possible that real horses lived in the Americas during Book of Mormon times? And if so, why does there seem to be no archaeological support?

At least a few non-Mormon scholars believe that real horses (of a stature smaller than modern horses) may have survived New World extinction. The late British anthropologist, M.F. Ashley Montague, a non-LDS scholar who taught at Harvard, suggested that the horse never became extinct in America. According to Montague, the size of post-Columbian horses provides evidence that the European horses bred with early American horses.[3]

Non-LDS Canadian researcher, Yuri Kuchinsky, also believes that there were pre-Columbian horses. Kuchinsky, however, believes that horses (smaller than our modern horses) were reintroduced into the west coast of the Americas about 2000 years ago from Asians who came by ship. Among Kuchinsky's evidences for pre-Columbian horses are:

  1. Horse traditions among the Indians that may pre-date the arrival of the Spaniards.
  2. Supposedly pre-Columbian petroglyphs that appear to depict horses.
  3. Noticeable differences between the typical Spanish horse and the much smaller American Indian ponies.[4]


Question: Why don't potential pre-Columbian horse remains in the New World receive greater attention from scientists?

Theories that horses survived extinction after the Pleistocene extinction are viewed as fringe by mainstream scholars and are dismissed

Unfortunately for this solution for the Book of Mormon, however, such theories are typically seen as fringe among mainstream scholars. Due to the dearth of archaeological support, most scholars continue to believe that horses became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene period.

We know, for example, that the Norsemen probably introduced horses, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs into the Eastern North America in the eleventh century A.D., yet these animals didn't spread throughout the continent and they left no archeological remains.[5] According to one non-LDS authority on ancient American, the Olmecs had domesticated dogs and turkeys but the damp acidic Mesoamerican soil would have destroyed any remains and any archaeological evidence of such animal domestication.[6]

Even in areas of the world where animals lived in abundance, we sometimes have problems finding archaeological remains. The textual evidence for lions in Israel, for example, suggests that lions were present in Israel from ancient times until at least the sixteenth century AD. Robert R. Bennett of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute Of Religious Scholarship notes,

A parallel example from the Bible is instructive. The biblical narrative mentions lions, yet it was not until very recently that the only other evidence for lions in Palestine was pictographic or literary. Before the announcement in a 1988 publication of two bone samples, there was no archaeological evidence to confirm the existence of lions in that region.6 Thus there is often a gap between what historical records such as the Book of Mormon claim existed and what the limited archaeological record may yield. In addition, archaeological excavations in Bible lands have been under way for decades longer and on a much larger scale than those in proposed Book of Mormon lands.[7]

In the Bible we read that Abraham had camels while in Egypt, yet archaeologists used to believe that this was an anachronism because camels were supposedly unknown in Egypt until Greek and Roman times. More recently, however, some researchers have shown that camels were used in Egypt from pre-historic times until the present day.

The fact is, however, that there does appear to be archaeological support that horses existed in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. In 1957, for instance, at Mayapan (a site corresponding to Book of Mormon lands/times) horse remains were discovered at a depth considered to be pre-Columbian. Likewise, in southwest Yucatan, a non-Mormon archaeologist found what may likely be pre-Columbian horse remains in three caves. Excavations in a cave in the Mayan lowlands in 1978 also turned up horse remains.[8]

As an article for the Academy of Natural Science explains, such discoveries are typically "either dismissed or ignored by the European scientific community."[9] The problem may be one of pre-conceived paradigms. Dr. Sorenson recently related the story of a non-LDS archaeologist colleague who was digging at an archaeological dig in Tula and discovered a horse tooth. He took it to his supervisor--the chief archaeologist--who said, "Oh, that's a modern horse, throw it away" (which he did)--it was never dated.[10]

Dr. John Clark, director of the New World Archaeological Foundation has expressed similar concerns:

The problem is archaeologists get in the same hole that everybody else gets in. If you find a horse--if I'm digging a site and I find a horse bone--if I actually know enough to know that it is a horse bone, because that takes some expertise--my assumption would be that there's something wrong with my site. And so archaeologists who find a horse bone and say, "Ah! Somebody's screwing around with my archaeology." So we would never date it. Why am I going to throw away $600 to date the horse bone when I already know [that they're modern]? ...I think that hole's screwed up. If I dig a hole and I find plastic in the bottom, I'm not going to run the [radio]carbon, that's all there is to it. Because ...I don't want to waste the money.[11]


Question: Could ancient Americans have expanded the definition of "horse" to include new meanings?

Loan shifting: We must consider the possibility that the ancient author was applying familiar terms to unfamiliar animals that were encountered in the New World

Joseph Smith obviously knew what a "horse" looked like. It stands to reason, therefore, that when Joseph said "horse" that this is exactly what he meant. If we consider, however, that Joseph was receiving revelation that simply conveyed what was written by the ancient author, we must consider the possibility that the ancient author was applying familiar terms to unfamiliar animals that were encountered in the New World. It is important to remember that the Book of Mormon itself is not an ancient text—it is a nineteenth-century translation of an ancient text. Modern readers need to have an understanding of what the ancient author was attempting to convey. Some of the things that seem "plain" to us are not so "plain" upon further investigation or once we understand the culture that produced the text.

For a detailed response, see: Loan shifting: "Horses" as deer and tapirs


"Pottery and other cultural materials were found in levels VII and above. But in some of those artifact-bearing strata there were horse bones, even in level II."

The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: [12]

Publications from the late 1950s reported results from excavations by scientists working on the Yucatan Peninsula. Excavations at the site of Mayapan, which dates to a few centuries before the Spaniards arrived, yielded horse bones in four spots. (Two of the lots were from the surface, however, and might represent Spanish horses.) From another site, the Cenote (water hole) Ch'en Mul, came other traces, this time from a firm archaeological context. In the bottom stratum in a sequence of levels of unconsolidated earth almost two meters in thickness, two horse teeth were found. They were partially mineralized, indicating that they were definitely ancient and could not have come from any Spanish animal. The interesting thing is that Maya pottery was also found in the stratified soil where the teeth were located. [13]

Subsequent digging has expanded the evidence for an association of humans with horses. But the full story actually goes back to 1895, when American paleontologist Henry C. Mercer went to Yucatan hoping to find remains of Ice Age man. He visited 29 caves in the hill area—the Puuc—of the peninsula and tried stratigraphic excavation in 10 of them. But the results were confused, and he came away disillusioned. He did find horse bones in three caves (Actun Sayab, Actun Lara, and Chektalen). In terms of their visible characteristics, those bones should have been classified as from the Pleistocene American horse species, then called Equus occidentalis L. However, Mercer decided that since the remains were near the surface, they must actually be from the modern horse, Equus equus, that the Spaniards had brought with them to the New World, and so he reported them as such.[14] In 1947 Robert T. Hatt repeated Mercer's activities. He found within Actun Lara and one other cave more remains of the American horse (in his day it was called Equus conversidens), along with bones of other extinct animals. Hatt recommended that any future work concentrate on Loltun Cave, where abundant animal and cultural remains could be seen.[15]

It took until 1977 before that recommendation bore fruit. Two Mexican archaeologists carried out a project that included a complete survey of the complex system of subterranean cavities (made by underground water that had dissolved the subsurface limestone). They also did stratigraphic excavation in areas in the Loltun complex not previously visited. The pits they excavated revealed a sequence of 16 layers, which they numbered from the surface downward. Bones of extinct animals (including mammoth) appear in the lowest layers.

Pottery and other cultural materials were found in levels VII and above. But in some of those artifact-bearing strata there were horse bones, even in level II. A radiocarbon date for the beginning of VII turned out to be around 1800 BC. The pottery fragments above that would place some portions in the range of at least 900–400 BC and possibly later. The report on this work concludes with the observation that "something went on here that is still difficult to explain." Some archaeologists have suggested that the horse bones were stirred upward from lower to higher levels by the action of tunneling rodents, but they admit that this explanation is not easy to accept. The statement has also been made that paleontologists will not be pleased at the idea that horses survived to such a late date as to be involved with civilized or near-civilized people whose remains are seen in the ceramic-using levels.[16] Surprisingly, the Mexican researchers show no awareness of the horse teeth discovered in 1957 by Carnegie Institution scientists Pollock and Ray. (Some uncomfortable scientific facts seem to need rediscovering time and time again.)


Martin: "no theoretical reason why a herd of mastodons, horses, or ground sloths could not have survived in some small refuge until 8000 or even 4000 years ago"

Paul S. Martin:

Admittedly, there is no theoretical reason why a herd of mastodons, horses, or ground sloths could not have survived in some small refuge until 8000 or even 4000 years ago. But in the past two decades, concordant stratiagraphic, palynological, archeological, and radiocarbon evidence to demonstrate beyond doubt the post-glacial survival of an extinct large mammal has been confined to extinct species of Bison…No evidence of similar quality has been mustered to show that mammoths, mastodons, or any of the other 29 genera of extinct large mammals of North America were alive 10,000 years ago. The coincidence in time between massive extinction and the first arrival of big game hunters cannot be ignored.[17]


Grayson: "extinct North American mammals...losses began in Mexico and Alaska during the Pleistocene and ended in Florida perhaps as recently as 2000 years ago"

Grayson:

In the first thorough review of radiocarbon dates associated with the extinct North American mammals, Martin (1958) concluded that the losses began in Mexico and Alaska during the Pleistocene and ended in Florida perhaps as recently as 2000 years ago (1958:405). Soon after, however, Hester (1960:58) concluded that the great majority of herd animals seemed to have been lost swiftly and together around 8,000 years ago even if some, like the mastodon, may have lingered on beyond then. Hester was thus the first to suggest, based on radiocarbon evidence, that a significant number, if not all, of the North American extinctions were synchronous. [18]


Bernardino de Sahagun: "Fodder was provided the deer—horses—which the Spaniards rode"

Bernardino de Sahagun:

Fodder was provided the deer—horses—which the Spaniards rode....The horses—they looked like deer—neighed and whinnied. They were all sweating; water fell from their bodies....[19]


Sorenson: Horse bones in Yucatan "considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization"

John L. Sorenson: [20]

Excavations at the Post-Classic site of Mayapan in Yucatan in 1957 yielded remains of horses in four lots. Two of these specimens are from the surface and might have been remains of Spanish animals. Two other lots, however, were obtained from excavation in Cenote [water hole] Ch'en Mul "from the bottom stratum in a sequence of unconsolidated earth almost 2 meters in thickness." They were "considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization. Such mineralization was observed in no other bone or tooth in the collection although thousands were examined, some of which were found in close proximity to the horse teeth." Clayton E. Ray somewhat lamely suggests that the fossil teeth were of Pleistocene age and "could have been transported . . . as curios by the Mayans." [21]


Response to claim: "that the horses described in the BOM were really deer or tapirs is absolutely ridiculous"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The second apologist argument that the horses described in the BOM were really deer or tapirs is absolutely ridiculous. Joseph Smith knew what a horse was and certainly the 'most correct book on earth' wouldn't mistranslate deer for horse 14 times. Can you imagine a tapir pulling the chariots as described in the Book of Mormon? Joseph managed to come up with proper nouns like Curelom and Cumom and Ziff, Senine...but he couldn't get the real name for whatever he substituted horse for?

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
Nobody is claiming that horses "were really deer or tapirs." What has been suggested is that an authentic ancient practice called "loan-shifting" may have expanded the name "horse" to apply to other animals.


Question: Do Mormon apologists claim that the horse referred to in the Book of Mormon is actually a deer or tapir?

The origin of the suggestion that that name "horse" could have been "loan-shifted" or expanded to refer to "deer" or "tapir" was anthropologist John L. Sorenson

John L. Sorenson originally suggested the possibility of "loan-shifting" of the word "horse" to "deer" or "tapir" in 1984. Mormon apologists have never claimed that "horses were tapirs." It is a suggestion of plausibility only: They offer it as one possible loan-shift, however, many apologists generally favor the presence of true Equus horses for horses, and tapirs for asses.

The Maya called the Spanish horse tzimin ("beast") and the tapir tzimin che ("forest beast") in order to distinguish them

For example, the Maya used the word tzimin to refer to horses brought to the new world by the Spaniards. They used the word tzimin che ("forest beast" or "forest horse,") to refer to the tapir. Word changes over time. Horses are now quite common, and Maya languages have shifted the primary meaning of tzimin to mean horse. We North Americans use buffalo for bison. Words are reassigned often.

Composite expressions such as this were used in Lowland Maya nomenclature:

Composite expressions also occur for a few generic species when their names indicate an intermediate category. For example, the tapir, tzimin(+)che' ("forest beast"), forms an intermediate category tegether with horse, tzimin, which is optionally marked by the composite expression tzimin(+kaj)("village beast") or tzimin(+kastil) ("Spanish beast"). [22]

Prior to the arrival of the horse, tzimin had a different meaning, but with the shift to horse as the primary meaning, the "forest horse" was added to distinguish the use of the word for "tapir" from what has become the lesser usage. Still, the pre-contact meaning of tzimin was "beast" rather than "horse." It was a word reassigned to horse when they had to describe the new animal, and eventually the horse became the most important reference.

Anyone else who has mentioned the possibility of "horse" as "deer" or "tapir" has based it upon Sorenson's 1984 research

John L. Sorenson said in 1992,

Is "horse" in the Book of Mormon merely a matter of labeling by analogy some other quadruped with the name Equus, the true horse, or does the scripture's use of "horse" refer to the actual survival into very recent times of the American Pleistocene horse (Equus equus)? If, as most zoologists and paleontologists assume, Equus equus was absent from the New World during Book of Mormon times, could deer, tapir, or another quadruped have been termed "horse" by Joseph Smith in his translating?[23]

In 2000, the FARMS Research Department wrote,

Similarly, members of Lehi's family may have applied loanwords to certain animal species that they encountered for the first time in the New World, such as the Mesoamerican tapir. While some species of tapir are rather small, the Mesoamerican variety (tapiris bairdii) can grow to be nearly six and a half feet in length and can weigh more than six hundred pounds. Many zoologists and anthropologists have compared the tapir's features to those of a horse or a donkey. "Whenever I saw a tapir," notes zoologist Hans Krieg, "it reminded me of an animal similar to a horse or a donkey. The movements as well as the shape of the animal, especially the high neck with the small brush mane, even the expression on the face, are much more like a horse's than a pig's [to which some have compared the smaller species]. When watching a tapir on the alert . . . as he picks himself up when recognizing danger, taking off in a gallop, almost nothing remains of the similarity to a pig."[24]

Other zoologists have made similar observations. "At first glance," note Hans Frädrich and Erich Thenius, "the tapirs' movements also are not similar to those of their relatives, the rhinoceros and the horses. In a slow walk, they usually keep the head lowered." However, when a tapir runs, its movement becomes quite horselike: "In a trot, they lift their heads and move their legs in an elastic manner. The amazingly fast gallop is seen only when the animals are in flight, playing, or when they are extremely excited." In addition, tapirs can "climb quite well, even though one would not expect this because of their bulky figure. Even steep slopes do not present obstacles. They jump vertical fences or walls, rising on their hind legs and leaping up."[24] Tapirs can be domesticated quite easily if they are captured when young. Young tapirs who have lost their mothers are easily tamed and will eat from a bowl, and they like to be petted and will often allow children to ride on their backs.[24]

One could hardly fault Old World visitors to the New World for choosing to classify the Mesoamerican tapir as a horse or an ass, if that is what happened. Given the limitations of zoo-archaeology, and also those of other potentially helpful disciplines when probing many centuries into the forgotten past, it is unwise to dismiss the references in the Book of Mormon to horses as erroneous.[25]

John A. Tvedtnes cites Sorenson

John A. Tvedtnes refers to Sorenson's work in 1994 while responding to a criticism of the idea,

Hutchinson's criticism of John Sorenson's work on Book of Mormon geography is a gross oversimplification and the "problems" he claims to identify are mostly nonexistent. For example, he criticizes Sorenson's comment that the cows, asses, and swine of the Book of Mormon might be Mesoamerican animals such as deer, tapirs, and peccaries. "When is a cow not a cow?" he asks. I respond, "When it's a deer!" There are, in fact, many linguistic parallels to the kind of thing Sorenson discusses, wherein people have applied the names of known animals to newly discovered or newly introduced creatures. Thus, the Greeks named the huge beast encountered in the Nile River, hippopotamus, "river horse." The same kind of thing happens with both fauna and flora. For example, the term used for potatoes in a number of the languages of Europe (where the tuber is not indigenous) is "earth apple." When the Spanish introduced horses into the New World, some Amerindian tribes called them "deer." I agree with Hutchinson, however, that dogs are an unlikely explanation for the "flocks" of the Book of Mormon. The term more likely refers to herd animals meeting the requirements for cleanliness in the law of Moses.[26]

Daniel C. Peterson cites Sorenson

Daniel C. Peterson cites Sorenson here, as one theory among many (if anything, favoring actual Equus horses).

Even if one assumes that the true horse (Equus equus) was absent from the Americas during Book of Mormon times, it remains possible that the term horse in the Book of Mormon-which, by the way, does not occur very often, and even then in rather puzzling contexts-refers simply to deer or tapirs or similar quadrupeds thought by the Nephites to be analogous to the horse. (It should be noted, incidentally, that no Book of Mormon text speaks of people riding their "horses.") Both Mayan and Aztec texts, for instance, appear to refer to Spanish horses as "deer" and to their riders as "deer-riders." But there is archaeological reason to believe that horses may, in fact, have existed in the Americas during Book of Mormon times. The question remains very much open.[27]

Peterson's footnote states "Valuable discussions of the evidence can be found at John L. Sorenson, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: An Annotated Bibliography" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992); Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting, 295-6; Welch, "Finding Answers," 8; Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 98-100."

Matthew Roper cites Sorenson

Matthew Roper cites Sorenson's, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (1985), 288-99. in 1997:

Kiddle notes that "The first two naming procedures are hard to study because they require an intimate knowledge of the receiving languages in order to comprehend the thought processes of their speakers."118 This is, of course, extremely relevant in the case of Book of Mormon animal names, which may have similar complexities, since the book purports to be a document translated from another language and deals in part with Old World cultures encountering New World cultures for the first time. What, for example, would Nephi have called a Mesoamerican tapir if he had encountered one? Could he have called it a horse? The tapir is considered by zoologists to be a kind of horse in unevolved form.119 Although the Central American tapir, the largest of the New World species, can weigh up to 300 kilos,120 it can move rather quickly at a gallop and can jump vertical fences or walls by rising on its hind legs and leaping up.121 Zoologist Hans Krieg notes, "Whenever I saw a tapir, it reminded me of an animal similar to a horse or a donkey. The movements as well as the shape of the animal, especially the high neck with the small brush mane, even the expression on the face is much more like a horse's."122 The tapir can also be domesticated quite easily if captured when young.123 Young tapirs who have lost their mothers are easily tamed and can be fed from a bowl. They like to be petted and will often let children ride on their backs.124 When the Spanish arrived in the Yucatan, the Maya called European horses and donkeys tzimin, meaning "tapir," because, according to one early observer, "they say they resemble them greatly."125 After the spread of horses, tapir were still called tzimin-kaax, which means literally "forest horse."126 Some observers have felt that the tapir more accurately resembles an ass. In fact, among many native Americans today, the tapir is called anteburro, which means "once an ass."127 In Brazil some farmers have actually used the tapir to pull ploughs, suggesting potential as a draft animal.128 So tapirs could certainly have been used in ways similar to horses.[28]

Brant Gardner cites Sorenson

Brant Gardner cites Sorenson in 2005 (on tapirs, deer, and other options):

What, then, is the outrageous claim for horses, tapirs, and deer? From Sorenson:

True horses (Equus sp.) were present in the western hemisphere long ago, but it has been assumed that they did not survive to the time when settled peoples inhabited the New World. I recently summarized evidence suggesting that the issue is not settled. Actual horse bones have been found in a number of archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, in one case with artifacts six feet beneath the surface under circumstances that rule out their coming from Spanish horses. Still, other large animals might have functioned or looked enough like a horse that one of them was what was referred to by horse. A prehispanic figure modeled on the cover of an incense burner from Poptun, Guatemala, shows a man sitting on the back of a deer holding its ears or horns, and a stone monument dating to around a.d. 700 represents a woman astride the neck of a deer, grasping its horns. Then there is another figurine of a person riding an animal, this one from central Mexico. Possibly, then, the deer served as a sort of “horse” for riding. (That was a practice in Siberia until recently, so the idea is not as odd as moderns might think. Besides, in the Quiche languages of highland Guatemala we have expressions like keh, deer or horse, keheh, mount or ride, and so on.)[58][29]

Daniel C. Peterson and Matt Roper cite Sorenson here (indeed, it is an explicit defense of an attack on Sorenson's ideas):

Tapir as "Horse." As Professor Sorenson and others have repeatedly pointed out, the practice of naming flora and fauna is far more complicated than critics of the Book of Mormon have been willing to admit. For instance, people typically give the names of familiar animals to animals that have newly come to their attention. Think, for instance, of sea lions, sea cows, and sea horses. When the Romans, confronting the army of Pyrrhus of Epirus in 280 BC, first encountered the elephant, they called it a Lucca bos or "Lucanian cow." The Greeks' naming of the hippopotamus (the word means "horse of the river" or "river horse") is also a good example. (Some will recall that the hippopotamus is called a Nilpferd, a "Nile horse," in German.) When the Spanish first arrived in Central America, the natives called their horses and donkeys tzimin, meaning "tapir." The Arabs' labeling of the turkey as an Ethiopian or Roman rooster (dik al-abash or dik rumi), the Conquistadors' use of the terms lion and tiger to designate the jaguar, and the fact that several Amerindian groups called horses deer represent but a few more examples of a very well-attested global phenomenon. The Nephites too could easily have assigned familiar Old World names to the animals they discovered in the New.[30]

Peterson and Roper mention other possibilities

However, Peterson and Roper also mention other options offered like deer, and genuine Equus horse bones.

Incidentally, horse bones were also found in association with cultural remains at Loltun Cave in northern Yucatan. There, archaeologists identified a sequence of sixteen layers numbered from the surface downward and obtained a radiocarbon date of about 1800 BC from charcoal fragments found between layers VIII and VII.66 Significantly, forty-four fragments of horse remains were found in the layers VII, VI, V, and II—above all in association with pottery. But the earliest Maya ceramics in the region date no earlier than 900-400 BC.67 [31]


Question: What is "loan-shifting"?

The term "loan-shifting" or "semantic extension" refers to a change in the meaning of an established native word in order to extend the number of things to which it applies

Loan-shifting has occurred throughout history. For example, when the Greeks first encountered a large unfamiliar animal in the Nile, they named it hippopotamus, which in ancient Greek means "river horse."[32]:10 Anyone would agree that a hippo bears little resemblance to a horse, yet the Greeks chose to extend the use of the word "horse" to describe this new creature.

Likewise, when the conquistadors arrived in the New World, reintroducing the horse to the Americas, the natives had problems classifying these new animals. The reintroduced Spanish horse was unfamiliar to the Native Americans and so it became associated with either the deer or the tapir. When Cortes and his horses arrived,, the Aztecs simply called the unfamiliar horses "deer."[33]:10 One Aztec messenger reported to Montezuma:

"Their deer carry them on their backs wherever they wish to go. These deer, our lord, are as tall as the roof of a house."[34]

Some of the Maya called the European horses and donkeys "tapirs" because they looked so similar

Some of the Maya called the European horses and donkeys "tapirs" because, at least according to one observer, they looked so similar.[35]:134

The Spaniards likewise expanded the definition of some of their animal categories. They called the native tapir an "ass."[36]

If we find such loan-shifting in verifiable New World sources when the Native Americans and the Spaniards encountered unfamiliar animals, why do some critics think it is impossible that the Nephites would have acted any differently when they encountered unfamiliar items or had to identify different items with a limited written vocabulary? Perhaps the reformed Egyptian word for "horse" was expanded to include other animals that were in some way horse-like. The most likely animals to have been included in the expanded definition of the Book of Mormon "horse" are the deer and the tapir.

"Loan-shifting" simply means that the idea is plausible

This does not mean that loan-shifting must be the answer in this case. What it does mean, however, is that the idea is plausible, and most who mock it evidence little sign that they have understood the argument, or can represent it fairly. They resort, instead, to the logical fallacy of appeal to ridicule.

One of the items which some love to mock is the idea that the "horse" referred to in the Book of Mormon might have actually been another animal, such as a deer or tapir. It is important to remember that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient text--it's a nineteenth-century translation of an ancient text. When we, as modern readers, read texts from ancient or foreign cultures, we need to have an understanding of what the ancient or foreign author was attempting to convey. Some of the things that seem "plain" to us are not so "plain" upon further investigation or once we understand the culture that produced the text.

If 6th century B.C. Egyptians, or people who wrote with an Egyptian script, had lived in the Americas and had left records, they easily could have included the deer, tapir, and perhaps other animals into their expanded definition of the term "horse."

The Book of Mormon never mentions horses pulling chariots or being ridden

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • The Book of Mormon does not mention horses pulling chariots. The BOM does not mention horses being ridden. Horses are mentioned with chariots several times. Assuming that they were present in order to pull the chariots must be extrapolated.
  • The Old Testament and New Testament do mention horses being ridden. The D&C mentions that horses can be ridden.
  • Joseph knew much about horses yet in the Book of Mormon, they are not used in any way he was familiar with. They are not mentioned as being used for work, transportation or battle.
  • Joseph likely knew, as everyone did, that the European horse was introduced by the Spanish. Why, then, did he make such a clumsy error in his forgery?
  • Critics of the Church falsely attributes the possibility of the word "horse" as a description of a similar animal to Joseph mistranslating the text. No one claimed that Joseph "mistranslated" the term deer for horse. The accurate position is that early Nephites may have labeled deer "horses." This conjecture is based on the fact that The Amerindians called horses "deer" when they first saw them.


Response to claim: "why they would let this most useful of all animals disappear and leave absolutely no trace of its existence"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Editor Comments: 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. We have a hard time believing that all the history books, scientists, Indian records, etc. are all wrong about something that was so important to the Native Americans. If the ancient inhabitants of the Americas really had the horse as described in the BOM, we can't conceive of how or why they would let this most useful of all animals disappear and leave absolutely no trace of its existence.

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
The Book of Mormon never indicates that the horse was "most useful of all animals." The fact that they ultimately disappeared depends upon what they were doing with them. During Nephite times, the horse may have been used for food, and it is entirely feasible that they could have gone extinct during this period. To the Jaredites, the Book of Mormon indicates that the elephant was more useful than the horse. Even the cureloms and cumoms were more useful than the horse. If horses were used as a source of food, then it isn't hard to imagine why they disappeared. 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.


Response to claim: "Solomon Spalding, in his fictional piece Manuscript Story, mentions horses in connection with the inhabitants of the New World"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Interesting note: Solomon Spalding, in his fictional piece Manuscript Story, mentions horses in connection with the inhabitants of the New World. So perhaps it's no wonder that the author(s) of the BOM might make the same mistake.

FairMormon Response

  Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader  
You don't need to know anything about Spalding to assume that the inhabitants of the New World might have had horses for a long time—all you have to do is look at what the Indians were riding in the 19th-Century.


Response to claim: "The Church added the word coins starting in 1920 to the chapter summaries in order to clarify what the text of the chapter was about"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

we'd just like to add the following common sense items: The Church added the word coins starting in 1920 to the chapter summaries in order to clarify what the text of the chapter was about. Why would they use the word 'coins'? It was obvious to the Church (and anyone else reading the text) that the text of the BOM was referring to coins and a monetary system. Do you think that the Church just casually adds words to their sacred scriptures specifically for the purpose of summarizing and clarifying the text without being pretty confident they are doing so correctly?

FairMormon Response

  Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader  
The original 1830 text of the Book of Mormon does not contain the word "coins." It was added to a chapter heading upon the assumption that the monetary units described must have been coins, but it was not added in order to "clarify what the text of the chapter was about." However, seeing "coins" in the Book of Mormon occurs when readers apply their modern expectations and an inadequately close reading of the text. Such was the case with the addition of the word "coins" to the chapter heading in the 1920s. The word has since been removed in the most recent edition.


Question: Does the Book of Mormon refer to "coins"?

The actual text of the 1830 Book of Mormon does not mention coins

It is claimed that Book of Mormon references to Nephite coins is an anachronism, as coins were not used either in ancient America or Israel during Lehi's day. One critical website even speculates: "Do you think that the Church just casually adds words to their sacred scriptures specifically for the purpose of summarizing and clarifying the text without being pretty confident they are doing so correctly?" [37]

The actual text of the 1830 Book of Mormon does not mention coins. The word "coins" was added in the 1920 edition to the chapter heading for Alma 11. In the 1948 edition of the Book of Mormon, we see the following chapter heading:

Judges and their compensation—Nephite coins and measures—Zeezrom counfounded by Amulek

Seeing "coins" in the Book of Mormon occurs when readers apply their modern expectations and an inadequately close reading of the text. There are units of exchange (weight-based and tied to grain) in the Book of Mormon, but no coins.

The Book of Mormon chapter headings are not revealed text, and they have been subject to change over the years

Note the absence of the word "coins" from the chapter heading for Alma 11 found in the current edition of the Book of Mormon on the official Church website "lds.org":

The Nephite monetary system is set forth—Amulek contends with Zeezrom—Christ will not save people in their sins—Only those who inherit the kingdom of heaven are saved—All men will rise in immortality—There is no death after the Resurrection. About 82 B.C.

The pieces of gold and silver described in Alma 11:1-20 are not coins, but a surprisingly sophisticated [38] system of weights and measures that is consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices. [39] BYU Professor Daniel C. Peterson notes,

It is, alas, quite true that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of Book of Mormon coins. Not even in the Book of Mormon itself. The text of the Book of Mormon never mentions the word 'coin' or any variant of it. The reference to 'Nephite coinage' in the chapter heading to Alma 11 is not part of the original text, and is mistaken. Alma 11 is almost certainly talking about standardized weights of metal—a historical step toward coinage, but not yet the real thing" [40]

The mention of "Nephite coinage" in the chapter heading of Alma 11 in some editions of the Book of Mormon is in error

The chapter headings are not part of the inspired text. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who composed the chapter headings for the heavily revised 1981 edition of the LDS scriptures, said:

[As for the] Joseph Smith Translation items, the chapter headings, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, footnotes, the Gazetteer, and the maps. None of these are perfect; they do not of themselves determine doctrine; there have been and undoubtedly now are mistakes in them. Cross-references, for instance, do not establish and never were intended to prove that parallel passages so much as pertain to the same subject. They are aids and helps only. [41]

Some critics have attempted to argue that the text's reference to "different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value," means that these were, in fact, coins. In short, they read this as a reference to "gold and silver pieces [i.e., coins]."

Such critics ignore that "pieces of gold and silver" is not necessarily the same as "gold pieces" or "silver pieces." They have not paid close attention to the text.

John L. Sorenson noted in 1985:

Most recently a burial containing 12,000 pieces of metal "money" (though not coins as such) was found in Ecuador, for the first time confirming that some ancient South Americans had the idea of accumulating a fortune in more or less standard units of metal wealth. Such a startling find in Mesoamerica could change our present limited ideas. [42]

Here we see that "pieces of metal" can act as a unit of exchange without being "coins."

Likewise, Webster's 1828 dictionary mentions coins as a possible use of the word in the eighth definition. But, earlier definitions do not require the application to coinage:

1. A fragment or part of any thing separated from the whole, in any manner, by cutting, splitting, breaking or tearing; as, to cut in pieces, break in pieces, tear in pieces, pull in pieces, &c.; a piece of a rock; a piece of paper.

2. A part of any thing, though not separated, or separated only in idea; not the whole; a portion; as a piece of excellent knowledge.

3. A distinct part or quantity; a part considered by itself, or separated from the rest only by a boundary or divisional line; as a piece of land in the meadow or on the mountain.

4. A separate part; a thing or portion distinct from others of a like kind; as a piece of timber; a piece of cloth; a piece of paper hangings. [43]

Clearly, any of these definitions could apply to standard weights of precious metal used in exchange. (It is interesting to note that by 1913, Webster's dictionary shifted the definition involving coins to third place: a suggestion that use of the term may have evolved.)

There are many examples of "piece of gold" or other metal that do not apply to coined money

For example, Brigham Young observed in 1855:

a very ignorant person would know no difference between a piece of gold and a piece of bright copper. [44]

Gold or copper coins could easily be told apart because they are minted to appear different from each other. By contrast, the raw metal gold and bright (i.e., shiny, like gold) copper could be confused.

Writing in the early 1900s, B.H. Roberts said of the California gold rush:

Hudson picked out one piece of gold worth six dollars. [45]

Here we have a "piece of gold" (not "a gold piece") and a value given to it—but this is only raw gold, found and valued without any human coining or refining: it is simply the weight of raw metal. Andrew Jensen likewise wrote of "Mormon Island" in California:

On the 24th of January, 1848, Mr. James W. Marshall discovered a few pieces of gold in a mill race which had just been dug by members of the Mormon Battalion, who had recently received an honorable discharge from military service. [46]

Again, this raw gold is not coined.


John Welch (1999): "This sidelight in the book of Alma contains enough facts to support meaningful parallels between King Mosiah's weights and measures and those used in other ancient cultures"

John Welch,

Midway through one of the most heart-wrenching accounts in the Book of Mormon, when Alma and Amulek were on trial for their lives and Amulek's faithful women and children were put to death by fire, the story is interrupted with an explanation of King Mosiah's system of weights and measures (see Alma 11:3–19). It is a strange interruption, a mundane hiatus, but at least a relieving diversion as the tension mounts in Alma and Amulek's showdown with Zeezrom and the legal officials in Ammonihah. Why would one bring up these incidental economic nuts and bolts at such a point in the record?

Several reasons might explain why this information was included at this point in the Book of Mormon. For one thing, these short metrological details are not only intertwined with the debate between Amulek and Zeezrom (see Alma 11:21–25), but they also provide an important building block in Mormon's grand narrative. By abusing the justice system and misusing the lawful weights and measures, the wicked people of Ammonihah effectively opened the floodgates of God's judgment upon themselves, a pattern that would apply later to Nephite civilization as a whole.

In addition, as this article will show, this sidelight in the book of Alma contains enough facts to support meaningful parallels between King Mosiah's weights and measures and those used in other ancient cultures. For many reasons, these monetary details found in the large plates are weighty matters indeed. The attempted bribery, the overreaching of the lawyers, the royal standardization and official codification of these measures, their mathematical relationships, and the unusual names involved in Alma 11 have long intrigued readers.[47]


Response to claim: "The Book of Mormon explicitly states that the "Liahona", was a DIRECTOR"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Critic's Response: The Book of Mormon explicitly states that the "Liahona", was a DIRECTOR, it was certainly used by Lehi's party to DIRECT them in the wilderness, and Alma the younger even made more clarification of its nature by calling it a DIRECTOR and COMPASS -- this is an anachronism because the COMPASS which DIRECTED one's course wasn't invented yet for many centuries. FAIR grasps at straws by stating “In every case, it is clear that, at least in Jacobean England, the word was regularly treated as meaning either a round object, or something which moved in a curved fashion. We do not live in Jacobean England nor did Joseph Smith nor the Nephites.

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
The Liahona was not a magnetic compass. Directions were provided on the object.


Question: Was the Liahona simply a magnetic compass that was out of place in 600 B.C.?

To use the word compass as a name for a round or curved object is well attested in both the King James Version of the Bible and the Oxford English Dictionary

It is claimed that the description of the Liahona as a "compass" is anachronistic because the magnetic compass was not known in 600 B.C. One critical website notes that "the COMPASS which DIRECTED one's course wasn't invented yet for many centuries." [48]

To use the word compass as a name for a round or curved object is well attested in both the King James Version of the Bible and the Oxford English Dictionary. The Book of Mormon refers to the Liahona as "a compass" not because it anachronistically pointed the way to travel, but because it was a perfectly round object.

1 Nephi 16:10, 30

10 And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.

30 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball.

This object did give directions, however this object was referred as "a compass" because it was a perfectly round object.

The purpose of the two spindles is not explained, however, one assumes that one of them provided directional information

The fact that the Liahona is referred to as a "compass" and that it contained spindles leads one to assume that it was used like a modern compass. However, there is no indication that either of the spindles pointed to magnetic north. If one of the spindles was used to provide directional information, the inference is that it simply pointed the direction that they were to go, which would not be magnetic north.

The Book of Mormon does specifically indicate, however, that the Liahona was used to direct the travels of Lehi's party based upon writing that appeared upon the object

As Nephi put it, the "directions which were given upon the ball":

29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.

30 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball. 1 Nephi 16:29-30 (emphasis added)

This 13th century frontispiece from the Codex Vindobonensis 2554 shows God as creator using a compass—so named not because it is used for navigation, but because it is used to draw arcs and circles.

Alma2 explained why the director the Lord gave to Lehi was called the Liahona

...I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director — or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it (Alma 37:38).[49]

Believing it was called a compass because it pointed the direction for Lehi to travel is a natural interpretation by the modern reader

  • As a verb, the word "compass" occurs frequently in the King James Version of the Bible[50]; and it generally suggests the idea of surrounding or encircling something. Note the following usages:
    • Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 2 Chronicles 4:2
    • They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. Psalms 118:11
    • And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. Joshua 6:3
    • From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. Psalms 17:9
  • A third common situation in the KJV is the use of the phrase "to fetch a compass" (e.g., Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:3; Acts 28:13), which if not recognized as a verbal phrase could be wrongly seen as presenting "compass" as a noun.

In every case, it is clear that, at least in Jacobean England, the word was regularly treated as meaning either a round object, or something which moved in a curved fashion. The Book of Mormon text uses a form of Jacobean English--and does not contain expressions that were introduced after 1700. This has implications for how we read the text. The critic treats something important as insignificant.

Further evidence of the archaic meaning of the word comes from a study of the rather lengthy listing for the word in the Oxford English Dictionary. It includes definition 5.b.:

"Anything circular in shape, e.g. the globe, the horizon; also, a circlet or ring."
  • the clock can also be referred to as a compass, yet it points at the time.

If critics insist on reading this as a "mariner's compass," even this may not be as anachronistic as they have assumed

Naturally-occurring magnetic ore was being mined by the 7th century B.C., and its magnetic properties were first discussed by the early philosopher Thales of Miletos around 600 B.C.[51]

Non-LDS astronomer John Carlson reported finding a Olmec hematite artifact in Mesoamerica, which was radio-dated to 1600 to 1000 B.C. If Carlson is right, this usage "predates the Chinese discovery of the geomagnetic lodestone compass by more than a millennium."[52] Other researchers have suggested the metal is simply part of an ornament,[53] though Mesoamericanist Michael Coe has suggested the use of such ores as floating compasses.[54] Such examples demonstrate how a single find can radically alter what archaeology tells us is "impossible" with regard to the Book of Mormon text.

As Robert F. Smith observed:

it is worth noting that the function of magnetic hematite was well understood in both the Old and New Worlds before Lehi left Jerusalem. Magnetite, or lodestone, is, of course, naturally magnetic iron (Fe3O4), and the word magnetite comes from the name of a place in which it was mined in Asia Minor by at least the seventh century B.C., namely Magnesia.[a] Parenthetically, Professor Michael Coe of Yale University, a top authority on ancient Mesoamerica, has suggested that the Olmecs of Veracruz, Mexico, were using magnetite compasses already in the second millennium B.C. This is based on Coe's discovery during excavations at San Lorenzo-Tenochtitlán of a magnetite "pointer" which appeared to have been "machined," and which Coe placed on a cork mat in a bowl of water in a successful test of its function as a true floater-compass.[b] The Olmecs (Jaredites?) of San Lorenzo and their relatives in the Oaxaca Valley were utilizing natural iron ore outcroppings by the Early Formative period (c. 1475-1125 B.C.), and at the end of the San Lorenzo phase and in the Nacaste phase (c. 1200-840 B.C.). Mirrors and other items were also fashioned from this native magnetite (and ilmenite).[55]

Response to claim: "The FAIR apologists are the same people that make "horse" mean "tapir" and "steel" somehow they make into wooden clubs"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Also notice how the FAIR apologists blame you for taking "director" to mean "director". The FAIR apologists are the same people that make "horse" mean "tapir" and "steel" somehow they make into wooden clubs with obsidian (volcanic glass) chunks all stuck into it called "macahuitl", and Nephite coinage means anything other than gold & silver monetary units, and Lehi & company conquered another race and interbred with them without being mentioned in the Book of Mormon at all in an attempt to cloud and detract from the real problem regarding Native American DNA, and there's a second Hill Cumorah on the grassy knoll.....and a whole litany of things that should be plain and precious from the most correct book on earth.

FairMormon Response

  Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader  
FairMormon does not claim that "horse" means "tapir." FairMormon does not make "steel" into "wooden clubs." FairMormon does not claim that "Nephite coinage means anything other than gold & silver monetary units." (What does that phrase mean anyway?) FairMormon simply notes that the word "coins" isn't part of the Book of Mormon text and was added to a chapter heading in the 20th-century. This is a historical fact. FairMormon does not claim that Lehi "conquered another race." FairMormon does not claim that there is a "second Hill Cumorah on the grassy knoll." FairMormon has extensive information that addresses the issue of Native American DNA.


Response to claim: "LDS apologists will search and search until they find someone that will support their claims"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

LDS apologists will search and search until they find someone that will support their claims, whether they are really qualified or not as shown above. The fact is the vast majority of non-Mormon scientists support the views of the critics as that is where the critics get their information from in the first place - the general scientific community.

FairMormon Response

  Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader  
The critics are using circular reasoning. If a scientist did find the Book of Mormon account persuasive, they would become Mormons--which would, presumably, make them unreliable for MormonThink. Most of the "general scientific community" have not examined the Book of Mormon, and are not willing to comment on it or any other religious text. Believers do not dispute the scientific information as Mormonthink does when it is inconvenient. They simply disagree with the critics about what that information means, and how it ought to be applied to the issues raised by the Book of Mormon. MormonThink unsuccessfully engages in arguing from authority rather than honestly examining and debating the available evidence.


Response to claim: "scientists agree that elephants did not exist in the Americas"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Regarding the elephants cited by the apologists, first off all scientists agree that elephants did not exist in the Americas, however Mastodons, which are not elephants, did exist in stone-age times. Giving Joseph Smith some latitude here and equating elephants with mastodons, here's what one of the most respected scientific organizations in the world, the National Geographic Society says: Mastodons lived in North America starting about 2 million years ago and thrived until 11,000 years ago—around the time humans arrived on the continent—when the last of the 7-ton (6.35-metric-ton) elephant like creatures died off. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/10/061003-mastodons.html . So although Mastodons (once again not elephants) lived in the Americas, they died out several thousands of years before the Jaredites even came to the Americas.

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
There is substantial circumstantial evidence that New World natives were familiar with the elephant, and they only need to have existed during early Jaredite times since they are never mentioned by the Nephites.


Question: In what context are elephants mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

Elephants are only mentioned once in the Book of Mormon in connection with the Jaredites. They were noted as being among the most useful animals. The Jaredites are estimated to have arrived in the New World between 2600 and 2100 BC.

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. (Ether 9:19)

There is no mention in the Book of Mormon of elephants having existed in the New World during the Nephite period.


Wikipedia: Mammoths "were members of the family Elephantidae"

Mammoths could have easily been present in North America at the time of the Jaredites (the only time that elephants are mentioned in the Book of Mormon). The Wikipedia article "Mammoth" notes:

A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, proboscideans commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair. They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,500 years ago[1][2] in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. They were members of the family Elephantidae which contains, along with mammoths, the two genera of modern elephants and their ancestors. [56]


Johnson: "Probably it is safe to say that American Proboscidea have been extinct for a minimum of 3000 years"

The Elephant is only mentioned in the Book of Ether. If the elephants had died off at least 3000 years ago, they would still have been well within range of the Jaredite era. Ludwell Johnson wrote in 1952:

Discoveries of associations of human and proboscidean remains [Elephantine mammals, including, elephants, mammoths, and mastodons] are by no means uncommon. As of 1950, MacCowan listed no less than twenty-seven” including, as noted by Hugo Gross, a “partly burned mastodon skeleton and numerous potsherds at Alangasi, Ecuador...There can no longer be any doubt that man and elephant coexisted in America.... Probably it is safe to say that American Proboscidea have been extinct for a minimum of 3000 years." [57]


Miller and Roper: "This was long enough to bring [mammoths] to the time of the Jaredites"

Elephants are only mentioned in the Book of Ether. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper note that mammoths survived until the time of the Jaredites: [58]

Along with a number of large mammals thought to have become extinct about 10,000 years ago, it’s now known that the mammoth survived for a few thousand years longer. This was long enough to bring them to the time of the Jaredites. A date for a mammoth in northern North America was cited at 3,700 years before the present. [59] An Alaskan mammoth was dated at 5,720 years ago. [60] In the contiguous United States Mead and Meltzer provided an age of 4,885 years for a dated mammoth specimen. [61] As more mammoth (elephant) finds are made, even younger dates will no doubt arise. Generally, when animal species’ populations decrease, they survive longer in southern refugia. Small populations could well have survived in Mesoamerica well past the close of the Pleistocene. The fact that known dates of mammoths in Mesoamerica are numerous up to the end of this epoch helps support this view. It should be pointed out that the mammoth never did range as far south as South America.


Miller and Roper: "Evidence for the survival of the elephant can be found in Native American myths and traditions"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper note that "evidence for the survival of the elephant can be found in Native American myths and traditions": [62]

Gulf of Mexico: "giant beasts with long noses that could trample people and uproot trees"

Indigenous people along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico have traditions of giant beasts with long noses that could trample people and uproot trees.[63]

The Abenaki (New England region): "a kind of arm which grows out of his shoulder"

Abenaki tradition tells of a great “elk” that could easily walk through more than eight feet of snow, whose skin was said to be tough and had “a kind of arm which grows out of his shoulder, which he makes use of as we do ours.” [64]

The Naskapi (Quebec region): "large ears and a long nose with which he hit people"

The Naskapi people tell of a large monster that once trampled them and left deep tracks in the snow had large ears and a long nose with which he hit people. [64]

The Penobscot (Maine region): "huge animals with long teeth which drank water for half a day at a time"

The Penobscot culture hero Snow Owl is said to have gone on a long journey to a far valley in search of his missing wife. When he reached the valley he saw what appeared to be hills without vegetation moving slowly about. Upon closer inspection he found that these were the backs of huge animals with long teeth which drank water for half a day at a time and when they laid down could not get back up. Snow owl was able to trap the large beasts by making them fall on sharpened stakes where he then was able to shoot and kill them. [64]

Native American groups from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico

Similar traditions have been documented for Native American groups from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico persuading some scholars that they are based upon a core memory of actual historical encounters with elephant-like species who may have survived into the region as late as 3,000 years ago. [65]

Mexico: "long tapering arms and could tear up trees as if they were lettuce"

Pre-Columbian traditions from Mexico tell of monstrous ogre-like giants who once inhabited the region and were subsequently killed following the arrival of Aztec ancestors. These tales attribute some human characteristics to these legendary giants, while other ones seem less so. The giants were said to have long tapering arms and could tear up trees as if they were lettuce. [66]

Mexico: "a vague memory of prehensile trunks, something like the `extra arm’ of the Giant Elk in Abenaki and Iroquois myth"

These legends say, notes Adrienna Mayor, “… that the giants destroyed by the ancestors pulled down trees and ate grass, elephant-like behavior.” and she suggests that these stories may reflect “a vague memory of prehensile trunks, something like the `extra arm’ of the Giant Elk in Abenaki and Iroquois myth.” While this cannot be proven, she thinks it possible that “…localized mammoth species (and other large Pleistocene animals and birds) may have survived to later dates in the Valley of Mexico and the Southwestern United States.” … and also that “some aspects of the legendary giant-ogres may have originated in ancestral memories of Columbian mammoths and may have been later confirmed by discoveries of fossils.” [67]


Response to claim: "every soil coring taken in Central America should show traces of wheat, barley, and flax pollen"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

What does archaeology tell us of the presence or absence of the crops Smith claimed were the staples of ancient America? No remains of wheat or domesticated barley have ever been found. In fact, the one possible pre-Columbian specimen of barley discovered at a site in Arizona [not a Book of Mormon location anyway per apologists] is of a species different from the species of domesticated barley allegedly brought from the Near East. And what of flax? No dice, again. Fortunately for lovers of truth, the Mormon apologists cannot simply say we haven't been looking in the right place, or that the remains of these plants have all perished with the passage of time. The reason for our good fortune is the fact that these domestic plants are all flowering plants. As such, they produce pollen - in great abundance. If the Mormonic civilizations had been growing these crops for even a few decades - let alone the thousands of years allegedly chronicled by the Book of Mormon - every soil coring taken in Central America should show traces of wheat, barley, and flax pollen. Pollen is one of the most indestructible natural objects known.

FairMormon Response

  Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader  
So, as we read this, "no remains of wheat or domesticated barley have ever been found"...except the "barley discovered at a site in Arizona," but it doesn't count because it is a "different species of domesticated barley"? Well, never mind the barley, lets talk about flax. As an aside, "So-called Mormonic civilizations"? Who calls them that? The critic is apparently not very familiar with even the basics if they think that this term is ever used in the Church or the scholarly literature.


Response to claim: "all of these animals and plants existed in abundance in the Americas when the Nephites and Lamanites lived as they were brought there by Lehi and his family"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

[A]ccording to the Book of Mormon, all of these animals and plants existed in abundance in the Americas when the Nephites and Lamanites lived as they were brought there by Lehi and his family around 600 B.C. So how can scientists say that none of these animals and plants existed in America when the scriptures clearly report they did? Either the BOM or all of these scientists must be in error.

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
Lehi's family started their journey from Jerusalem with plants and animals. It is unclear, however, that by the time they had reached the Old World seacoast at Bountiful that these things remained with them--given how much they suffered from their eight years' wandering in the wilderness and near-starvation, it seems unlikely that much would have been left. Even if Lehi's group did bring plants and animals with them that they were familiar with, does not mean that all of these things survived. Plants, in particular, are sensitive to climate conditions. The climate conditions in the New World were quite different from those in Jerusalem. Local plants were already domesticated, and would have quickly become staples—witness, for example, how quickly corn (the New World's maize) becomes a key Nephite cereal crop.


Response to claim: "Archaeology says that wheels were not used for travel in Pre-Columbian America"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Archaeology says that wheels were not used for travel in Pre-Columbian America. The knowledge of the wheel for transportation may have been in existence but seems to be limited to the use in toys. If the Nephites and Lamanites used chariots, why wouldn't this extremely valuable idea continue to be used by the descendants of the Ancient Americans?

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
There is no description of "wheels" in the Book of Mormon. MormonThink is again extrapolating beyond the evidence. "Chariots" are mentioned, but it is not clear what they are or what role the played. They do not play the role that chariots played in the Old Testament: they are not used in combat, and the Book of Mormon never states that anyone rides on them.


Response to claim: "If the Lamanites, Nephites or any other peoples used the wheel for any length of time, they would not have simply abandoned its use for any reason"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

If the Nephites and Lamanites used the wheel for transportation in the form of chariots, then they wouldn't have simply stopped using them for "religious symbolism associated with the Sun" as proposed by the apologists. Why on earth would the heathen Lamanites care about offending some 'Sun god' by using a wheel when they didn't care about offending the 'real God' by breaking his commandments continually? If the Lamanites, Nephites or any other peoples used the wheel for any length of time, they would not have simply abandoned its use for any reason.

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
The question is not whether Nephites and Lamanites would have ceased to use them, but whether later Amerindian tribes refused to use the wheel even when they knew about it. MormonThink assumes that anyone who knows about the wheel will necessarily use it. But, this is false, since later Amerindian tribes refused to do so even when the Spanish introduced it. Ancient cultures simply do not always act the way MormonThink claims they would. This is not to say that the Nephites and Lamanites had the wheel--there is no suggestion that they did--but simply to demonstrate that being aware of the wheel does not mean that people will always use it, or continue to do so.

Just because Lamanites reject the "true God" (from the Nephite's point of view) does not mean they wouldn't have their own religious beliefs and taboos. Lamanites did not reject the Nephite view of God and thus become atheists—they had their own religious world-view, with gods that could punish wrongful acts (e.g., Alma 18:5).

"Some American cultures – after the wheel was introduced by the Spanish – refused to use the wheel because of its religious symbolism associated with the Sun.18 For hundreds of years others did not take advantage of the Spanish-introduced wheel because it was not practical in the Mesoamerican jungle terrain." - Mike Ash, "Book of Mormon 'Anachronisms' Part 3: Warfare," Meridian Magazine (15 May 2006). Note that this author does not claim that the Nephites or Lamanites quit using the wheel--but:

  1. some New World cultures rejected the wheel for religious reasons;
  2. some New World cultures rejected the wheel because it was not practical in their environment.

This disproves MormonThink's rather naive view of what people "would not have simply" done, which is all the argument is intended to do.


Response to claim: "there appears to be no existing archeological evidence which directly supports the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Despite some LDS member's claims, there appears to be no existing archeological evidence which directly supports the Book of Mormon. There are scholars within the church that will point to a few scattered indirect parallels within existing Old World and Ancient American history and archaeology in an attempt to lend credence to the possibility that such a civilization existed.

FairMormon Response

  Falsehood: The author has disseminated false information  
This is a popular statement made by ex-Mormons. The reality is that there is plenty of supporting evidence.

∗       ∗       ∗
Note that word “directly.” Archaeology very often doesn’t “directly” support claims. You often are having to draw inferences from the data. You know, the rocks in the foundations of buildings don’t speak for themselves usually, and there are relatively few inscriptions. I mean, even Jerusalem itself: we’ve known from tradition where is was located, but it was only relatively recently that an inscription was found actually identifying that city as Jerusalem. So, there are limits to archaeology. But again I mention John Sorenson, the writing of John Clark, Brant Gardner, Mark Wright. If the author of the letter has dealt with them there’s no sign of it. I don’t see any evidence that he’s engaged them.

—Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference

Question: What criticisms are raised with regard to Book of Mormon archaeology compared to that of the Bible?

Sectarian critics who accept the Bible claim that the Bible has been "proven" by archaeology

Sectarian critics who accept the Bible, but not the Book of Mormon, sometimes claim that the Bible has been "proven" or "confirmed" by archaeology, and insist that the same cannot be said for the Book of Mormon.

The claim that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is incorrect

The claim that, unlike the Bible, there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is based on naive and erroneous assumptions. Without epigraphic New World evidence (which is currently extremely limited from Book of Mormon times), we are unable to know the contemporary names of ancient Mesoamerican cities and kingdoms. To dismiss the Book of Mormon on archaeological grounds is short-sighted. Newer archaeological finds are generally consistent with the Book of Mormon record even if we are unable (as yet) to know the exact location of Book of Mormon cities.

  • What would a "Nephite pot" look like? What would "Nephite" or "Lamanite" weapons look like?
  • Think about the Old World--how do you tell the difference between Canaanite pots and houses and garbage dumps, and Israelite pots and houses and garbage dumps? You can't. If we didn't have the Bible and other written texts, we'd have no idea from archaelogy that Israelites were monotheists or that their religion differed from the Canaanites who lived along side them.
  • We also know very little about the names of cities in the New World from before the Spanish Conquest. So, even if we found a Nephite city, how would we know? We don't know what the pre-Columbian name for a city was (or how to pronounce them)--so, even if we had found, say, "Zarahemla," how would we know?

Note: Many of the topics sometimes addressed in archaeological critiques of the Book of Mormon are treated in detail on the Book of Mormon "anachronism" page.


Question: What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite scripture?

For critics, every time something is found that correlates with the Book of Mormon, it is considered a "lucky guess" and dismissed

A reasonable question for those suggesting that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon would be “What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite scripture?”

Some people might suggest that finding the existence of horses or chariots would constitute proof for the Book of Mormon. This is doubtful. Finding such items would merely demonstrate that such things existed in the ancient New World, and while such discoveries may be consistent with the Book of Mormon, they hardly amount to “proof.”

As an example, the Book of Mormon mentions barley which, until recently, was thought not to exist in the ancient Americas. Critics considered barley to be one of the things that “Joseph Smith got wrong.” However, pre-Columbian New World barley has now been verified, without people flocking to join the Church because of this discovery. For critics, finding such items are too often seen as “lucky guesses” on the part of Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon mentions cities, trade, warfare, towers, and the use of armor—all of which did exist in the ancient Americas—yet their existence has not convinced critics that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text.


Question: How would an archaeologist distinguish a Christian's pot from that of a non-Christian?

Physical evidence doesn’t provide much information unless it is placed within a context

When examining ancient evidence archaeologists work with a very fragmentary record. In general, they find physical evidence, but such evidence in and of itself doesn’t provide much information unless it is placed within a context—a framework by which it can be understood. For instance, if an archaeologist finds a pot (or, more likely, a fragment of a pot), it provides little evidence concerning the civilization that created or used the pot. Contextual clues—such as other artifacts uncovered near the pot—may provide some clues about the timeframe in which the pot was last used, but it certainly doesn’t provide conclusive evidence as to what the civilization, or the individuals in that civilization, were like.

Critics, for example, sometimes deride the idea that Nephites were, for much of their written history, “Christians.” In the critics' view, there should be archaeological remains indicating a Christian presence in the ancient New World. How, exactly, would an archaeologist distinguish a Christian's pot from that of a non-Christian? What would a Christian pot look like? One must also keep in mind that, according to the Book of Mormon, the New World “Christians” were a persecuted minority who were wiped out over fifteen hundred years ago. How much archaeological evidence would we really expect to have survived the intervening centuries?

For the archaeologist, the strongest contextual clues come from writing or markings that are sometimes found on the physical evidence. These are of two general types: epigraphic and iconographic. Epigraphic evidence consists of a written record, such as this text you are reading, while iconographic evidence consists of pictures, or icons. For instance, the word “cross” is epigraphic, but a picture of a cross is iconographic. Epigraphic evidence, providing it can be translated, provides a record of what people thought or did. Iconographic evidence is much more symbolic and its interpretation depends on the context in which the image is used.

The only way archaeologists can determine names is through written records

As noted by Dr. William Hamblin, "the only way archaeologists can determine the names of political kingdoms, people, ethnography, and religion of an ancient people is through written records."

"Iconography can be helpful, but must be understood in a particular cultural context which can only be fully understood through written records. (Thus, the existence of swastikas, for example, on late medieval mosques in Central Asia or on Tibetan Buddhist temples in Tibet does not demonstrate that Muslims and Buddhists are Nazis, nor, for that matter, that Nazis are Buddhists. Rather, medieval swastikas demonstrate that different symbolic meanings were applied to the same symbol in early twentieth century Germany, Muslim Central Asia, and in Tibet.)"[68]

Many ancient peoples, however, wrote on perishable materials that have deteriorated through the centuries. Egypt, for example, wrote on materials that have survived through the ages, whereas the kingdom of Judah generally did not.

"[F]rom archaeological data alone," notes Hamblin, "we would know almost nothing about the religion and kingdom of ancient Judah. Indeed, based on archaeological data alone we would assume the Jews were polytheists exactly like their neighbors. Judaism, as a unique religion, would simply disappear without the survival of the Bible and other Jewish written texts."

"...Methodologically speaking, does the absence of archaeologically discovered written records demonstrate that a certain kingdom does not exist? Or to put it another way, does the existence of an ancient kingdom depend on whether or not twenty-first century archaeologists have discovered written records of that kingdom? Or does the kingdom exist irrespective of whether or not it is part of the knowledge horizon of early twenty-first century archaeologists? Or, to state the principle more broadly, does absence of evidence equal evidence of absence?"[69]


Question: What do we find when we turn to the records of the ancient (i.e. before A.D. 400) Americas?

Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World only the Mayan language can be fully read

Understanding that a written record (epigraphic or iconographic) is necessary for building archaeological context, what do we find when we turn to the records of the ancient (i.e. before A.D. 400) Americas?

Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World (all of which are located in Mesoamerica), only the Mayan language can be fully read with confidence. Scholars can understand some basic structure of some of the other languages, but they cannot fully understand what the ancients were saying. In other words, there is a problem with deciphering the epigraphic record. According to the experts, “the pronunciation of the actual names of the earliest Maya kings and other name-glyphs from other writing systems is not known with certainty.”[70]

For the time period in which the Nephites lived, scholars are aware of only a very limited number of inscriptions from the entire ancient New World that can be read with any degree of certainty. Even with these fragments, however, scholars are still uncertain from these inscriptions just how the ancients pronounced the proper names and place names (toponyms). Four of these readable inscriptions merely give dates or a king’s name—a very limited cultural context. Another five inscriptions contain historical information and proper names—the mention of the cities Tikal and Uaxactun (for which the ancient pronunciation remain uncertain) and five kings from these two cities (whom we know by iconographic symbols and whose ancient pronunciation remains uncertain).[71]

With such sparse epigraphic information, how could we possibly recognize—even if they we discovered archaeologically—that we had found the location of cities we know as Bountiful and Zarahemla, or if the religious rulers were actually named Nephi or Moroni? The critics like to claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, but the truth is that there is scant archaeological data to tell us anything about the names of ancient New World inhabitants or locations—and names are the only means by which we could archaeologically identify whether there were Nephites in ancient America.


Question: How would Book of Mormon archaeology compare to that of the Bible?

There is a lack of readable New World inscriptions from Nephite times

Religious critics frequently like to compare the lack of archaeological support for the Book of Mormon with what they are certain is voluminous archaeological support for the Bible. There is a drastic difference, however, between the two worlds (Old and New) when it comes to epigraphic data, iconographic data, the continuity of culture, and toponyms.

We have already noted the dearth of readable New World inscriptions from Nephite times. From biblical lands, however, we know of thousands of contemporary inscriptions that have survived to modern times. We have pointed out that very few toponyms (place-names) can be read in the surviving few epigraphic fragments from the Nephite-era New World. In contrast, we find for the Bible lands not only scores of epigraphic records identifying ancient Mediterranean cities, but we also sometimes find a “continuity of culture” that preserves city names. In other words, many modern Near Eastern cities are known by the same name as they were known anciently (this is not the case for ancient America). Knowing the exact location of one city helps biblical archaeologists locate other cities, simply by calculating the distances.[72]

Even acknowledging the archaeological advantages for determining the location and historical actuality of biblical lands, we find that only slightly more than half of all place names mentioned in the Bible have been located and positively identified.[73] Most of these identifications are based on the preservation of the toponym. For biblical locations with no toponym preserved, only about 7% to 8% of them have been identified to a degree of certainty and about another 7% to 8% of them have been identified with some degree of conjectural certainty.[74] The identification of these locations without place names could not have been made were it not for the identification of locations with preserved toponyms. If few or no Biblical toponyms had survived in a continuous, unbroken "language chain" from the Bible's era to our own, the identification of biblical locations would be largely speculative.

Despite the identification of some biblical sites, many important Bible locations have not been identified. The location of Mt. Sinai, for example, is unknown, and there are over twenty possible candidates. Some scholars reject the claim that the city of Jericho existed at the time of Joshua. The exact route taken by the Israelites on their Exodus is unknown, and some scholars dispute the biblical claim that there ever was an Israelite conquest of Canaan.[75]


Question: What do we find in Mesoamerican archaeology with respect to place names, such as city names?

In Mesoamerica, toponyms often disappeared from one era to the next

What do we find in Mesoamerican archaeology with respect to toponyms [toponyms = place names, such as city names]? First, unlike the biblical lands where many toponyms survived due to a continuity of culture, there is no reason to assume that Maya languages and Nephite languages were related. Secondly, we find that toponyms often disappeared from one era to the next. Many of the Mesoamerican cities today have Spanish names such as San Lorenzo, La Venta, and El Mirador. The “collapse of the indigenous civilizations before the conquistadors created a sharp historical discontinuity. We have the names of almost none of the Classic Mayan and Olmec cities of two millennia ago, which is why they are known today under Spanish titles.”[76] Archaeologists simply don’t know what many of the original names for these Mayan cities were. If archaeologists don’t know the names of some cities they have discovered, how could one expect to provide English names for those cities, such as names provided in the Book of Mormon?[77]

Additionally, scholars are uncertain as to the pronunciation of Mesoamerican cities for which they do have names. This is because city-inscriptions are often iconographic, and not all scholars agree that such icons represent city names. These icons are not only rare (as noted above) but they are symbolic rather than phonetic. In other words, when archaeologists find an iconographic inscription designating a place as the Hill of the Jaguar, the pronunciation of this inscription would be dependent on the language of the speaker—be it a Zapotec, a Mixtec, or a Nephite.[78] The only way to identify an ancient site is by way of an inscription giving a phonetically intelligible name. Barring further discoveries, we may never know how the names of Mesoamerican cities were pronounced in Book of Mormon times.

If the epigraphic [e.g., inscriptions on stones or monuments] data from the Old World were as slim as the epigraphic data from the New World, scholars would be severely limited in their understanding of the Israelites or early Christianity. It would likely be impossible, using strictly non-epigraphic [i.e., non-written, non-language based] archaeological evidences, to distinguish between Canaanites and Israelites when they co-existed in the pre-Babylonian (pre-587 B.C.) Holy Land.[79] We find that the same problems would be apparent in the study of early Christianity if scholars were faced with the absence of epigraphic data. For instance, if Diocletian’s persecutions of Christianity had been successful, if Constantine had never converted, and if Christianity had disappeared around A.D. 300, it would be very difficult if not impossible to reconstruct the history of Christianity using nothing but archaeological artifacts and imperial Roman inscriptions.[80]

“It is quite possible,” notes Hamblin, “for a religion, especially an aniconic religion [a religion which does not use written, symbolic images], to simply disappear from the archaeological record. Despite the fact that there were several million Christians in the Roman [E]mpire in the late third century, it is very difficult to [discover] almost anything of substance about them from archaeology alone.”[81]

One of the very few ancient cities in Mesoamerica for which the pre-Columbian name is known is named "Lamanai"

Did you know that one of the very few ancient cities in Mesoamerica for which the pre-Columbian name is known is named "Lamanai"? It means "submerged crocodile." According to Wikipedia, "The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam'an'ain." Read about it in Wikipedia: Lamanai. We're not saying that this is a Book of Mormon city, but the name makes you think.

Wikipedia entry on the ancient city of Lamanai located on the Yucatan peninsula. The city of Lamani, unlike other Mesoamerican archaeological sites, retains its original name.


Question: How does archaeology in the Old World compare to the first chapters in the Book of Mormon?

There are recently discovered correlations between the early chapters of the Book of Mormon and the archaeological record of the Old World

Given the inherent advantages (cultural continuity, toponyms, environmental conditions which favor the preservation of artifacts, time and resources invested in archaeological and linguistic field-work, etc.) of Old World studies compared to New World studies, it is interesting to note some recently discovered correlations between the early chapters of the Book of Mormon and the archaeological record of the Old World in ways that would have been unknown at the time the book was translated. In other words, it is impossible that Joseph Smith could have known any of the Old World archaeological data that have come to light since his death—these finds do not contradict the Book of Mormon and, in many instances, are consistent with its stories.

Consider, for instance, a recently discovered altar in Yemen that is consistent with a story related in the Book of Mormon. This altar, discovered by non-LDS archaeologists, has the tribal name of NHM carved into it. The altar is located in the same vicinity in which the Book of Mormon describes the Lehites stopping in Nahom to bury Ishmael, and dates from the same time period.[82] One should here remember that the Hebrew language of Nephi's era has no written vowels, and thus NHM could very likely be “NaHoM.”[83] The name NHM does not just appear out of thin air either, but rather the location of an ancient NHM exists not only within the specific time of the Lehite journey, but also within a plausible location through which LDS scholars believe the Lehites traveled in Arabia before embarking on their voyage to the New World.

Main article: Nahom


Question: How does archaeology in the New World fit with the Book of Mormon?

There is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon

It is also worth noting that 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 provided little support for the claims made by the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon text ran counter to both expert and popular ideas about ancient America in the early 1800s.

As the efforts of archaeology have shed light on the ancient New World, we find in 2005 that forty-five of those sixty items (75%) have been confirmed. Thirty-five of the items (58%) have been definitively confirmed by archaeological evidence and ten items (17%) have received possible—tentative, yet not fully verified—confirmation. Therefore, as things stand at the moment, current New World archaeological evidence tends to verify the claims made by the Book of Mormon.[84]

Status of Book of Mormon evidence in 1842. This chart includes both Old World and New World evidence.
Status of Book of Mormon evidence in 2005. This chart includes both Old World and New World evidence.


Response to claim: "Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the entire Book of Mormon narrative occurred within a very limited geographical location"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the entire Book of Mormon narrative occurred within a very limited geographical location in Central America and therefore would be virtually undetectable by means of modern research. Unfortunately for these scholars, this theory (and the different variations of it that exist) directly contradicts nearly a century and a half of past statements by high-ranking church leaders, past prophets, the Book of Mormon text, the Doctrine and Covenants (which specifically identifies North American Natives as Lamanites) and even Joseph Smith himself. If one is to accept any variation of this 'limited geography theory', one must completely disregard the LDS church's current and past declarations on the matter and basically stand in direct opposition to current and past church teachings.

FairMormon Response

  Falsehood: The author has disseminated false information  
The limited geography model of the Book of Mormon has been around since 1926. Matt Roper notes, "It is not known how much these studies influenced the interpretations of Latter-day Saints; their first versions of a fully limited Book of Mormon geography began to appear in the years from 1920 to 1926. In an article for the Improvement Era, Janne Sjodahl outlined the key features of these interpretations without criticism or condemnation. In addition to his own modified hemispheric view, which placed the narrow neck of land at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Sjodahl reviewed the approaches of George Reynolds and Joel Ricks,111 which generally followed those of Orson Pratt." [85]

∗       ∗       ∗
This [claim that the Limited Geography is a recent invention of apologists] is simply not true. The Limited Geography Model has been created because the Book of Mormon demands it. You can put together all the travel distances and travel times in the Book of Mormon and it’s very clear that they’re not going far in any direction. We’re not talking about Patagonia to the Aleutian Islands. It’s simply not possible. And so, the text forces this. This sort of thing has been in the works for a long time, before there was any talk about DNA, before the discovery of the DNA double-helix model. DNA was not an issue when this was being created. This is not controversial. This can easily be shown that the limited Mesoamerican model has been in the works for decades. It just wasn’t published until the 1980s, but it existed and was distributed in a kind of summarized underground form for a long time before it was actually published.

—Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
  • This is false, and demonstrates that MormonThink does not understand the genetic data at all.
  • It makes no difference whether Nephites and Lamanites filled the entire continent and were the only source of human DNA, or whether Lehi's party was a tiny group introduced into a sea of "natives."
  • Genetically, if Lehi had any descendants, then by Joseph Smith's time (when the Doctrine and Covenants was given) all Amerindians would have been descendants of Lehi. This is basic population genetics.
  • Furthermore, the Church has always insisted that there is no revealed geography. Trying to claim otherwise, as MormonThink does, "one must completely disregard the LDS church's current and past declarations."
  • FairMormon has an enormous collection of statements by LDS leaders and writers. It shows that MormonThink's claim is false.
  • Furthermore, the reason people adopted a "limited geography" view of the Book of Mormon is because of the Book of Mormon text itself. MormonThink is wrong to say that it contradicts the Book of Mormon. If anything, it is a hemispheric model that is unworkable textually.
  • Note, though, that MormonThink does not wish to allow this approach, because it makes their criticisms impotent.

|quote=

  • The essential concept is not intuitively obvious, but it is well established. The key point is this: over time, one's descendants either vanish fairly quickly or expand dramatically. After a certain point, if one has any descendants, then all (or virtually all) people are descendants....one population geneticist...discuss[ed] the question of whether Jesus could have descendants still living:
If anyone living today is descended from Jesus, so are most of us on the planet. That absurd-sounding statement is an inevitable consequence of the strange and marvelous workings of human ancestry. . . . Say you go back 120 generations, to about the year 1000 B.C....your ancestors then included everyone in the world who has descendants living today. . . . If Jesus had children (a big if, of course) and if those children had children so that Jesus' lineage survived, then Jesus is today the ancestor of almost everyone living on Earth. True, Jesus lived two rather than three millenniums ago, but a person's descendants spread quickly from well-connected parts of the world like the Middle East. . . . In addition to Jesus . . . we're also all descended from Julius Caesar, from Nefertiti, from Confucius . . . and from any other historical figure who left behind lines of descendants and lived earlier than a few thousand years ago. Genetic tests can't prove this, partly because current tests look at just a small fraction of our DNA. But if we're descended from someone, we have at least a chance—even if it's a very small chance—of having their DNA in our cells. . . . People may like to think that they're descended from some ancient group while other people are not. But human ancestry doesn't work that way, since we all share the same ancestors just a few millenniums ago.
If everyone now alive can share ancestry with someone who lived two thousand years ago, then it becomes plausible—even overwhelmingly likely—that Lehi would be an ancestor to virtually all modern-day Amerindians, given that he lived half a millennium earlier than Christ....Lehi need not be the dominant or "principal" ancestor—but if there are any Lehi descendants, then the vast majority of the pre-Columbian population shared Lehi as an ancestor prior to contact. - Gregory L. Smith, "Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt: Rod Meldrum and Book of Mormon DNA (A review of "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA" by: Rod L. Meldrum)," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 17–161. off-site wiki

Response to claim: "reports circulated in LDS culture that the Book of Mormon was being used by the Smithsonian to guide primary archaeological research"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

During the early 1980s, reports circulated in LDS culture that the Book of Mormon was being used by the Smithsonian to guide primary archaeological research. This rumor was brought to the attention of Smithsonian directors who, in 1996, sent a form letter to inquiring parties stating that the Smithsonian did not use the Book of Mormon to guide any research, and included a list of specific reasons Smithsonian archaeologists considered the Book of Mormon historically unlikely.

FairMormon Response

  Fact: The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event  
The current Smithsonian letter is correct: The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide.


Question: Does the Smithsonian Institution send out a letter regarding the use of the Book of Mormon as a guide for archaeological research?

In response to inquiries from Mormons and non-Mormons, the Smithsonian Institution sends out a standard letter denying that they use the Book of Mormon as a guide for archaeological research

The Smithsonian Institution sends a form letter to those who inquire about their use of the Book of Mormon for archaeological purposes. The National Geographic Society has a similar letter. The content of the letter has changed over the years; the current version (revised 1998) reads:

Your inquiry of February 7 concerning the Smithsonian Institution's alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in this office for response.

The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research, and any information that you have received to the contrary is incorrect.

Your interest in the Smithsonian Institution is appreciated.

The letter is correct: The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide

Taken at face value, the letter is correct: The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. Its purpose is "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Title Page), not to give a history of all (or even most) ancient Americans.

Previous editions of the letter contained a detailed list of alleged "problems" with the Book of Mormon

A previous edition of the letter contained a detailed list of alleged "problems" with the Book of Mormon. Critics of the Church use this older letter as proof that the Book of Mormon has no archaeological support and is therefore false. One critic even claims that "generations of youth" in the Church have been taught that the Smithsonian uses the Book of Mormon to guide their research.

John Sorenson, an LDS anthropologist, wrote a detailed critique and encouraged the Smithsonian to update their letter to reflect the latest scientific evidence:

For many years, the Smithsonian Institution has given out a routine response to questions posed to them about their view and relation between the Book of Mormon and scientific studies of ancient American civilizations. Statements in their handout pointed out what somebody at the Institutions claimed were contradictions between the text of the scriptures and what scientists claim about New World Cultures.

In 1982 John Sorenson wrote a detailed critique of the Smithsonian piece that was published by FARMS. It pointed out errors of fact and logic in the statement. He revised that in 1995 and included the recommendation that the Smithsonian Institution completely modify their statement to bring it up-to-date scientifically. FARMS officers later conferred with a Smithsonian representative who indicated a willingness to make changes. More recently members of Congress have questioned the Institution about the inappropriateness of a government agency taking a stand regarding a religious book. - Anonymous, "Smithsonian Statement on the Book of Mormon Revisited," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998): 77–77. off-site wiki

While archaeology could be useful in determining where the events of the Book of Mormon took place, the Book of Mormon does not contain the sort of historical detail that would make it useful for non-Mormon archaeologists.

That the Smithsonian does not use the Book of Mormon in its research says nothing about the book's divinity and truthfulness.

For further details, see: John L. Sorenson, "A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution "Statement regarding the Book of Mormon," FARMS (1995).


Response to claim: "it should be fairly easy to locate a temple 'like unto the temple of Solomon'"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Nephi writes that his people constructed a temple "like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine." Where is this temple? There are ruins from a myriad of other non-Book of Mormon peoples that have survived for thousands of years. The Book of Mormon never records the destruction of this temple and therefore it should be fairly easy to locate a temple "like unto the temple of Solomon" which, according to the biblical narrative, took many years and many thousands of workmen to build (though Nephi's original colonizing party could not have numbered more than 30-40 in totality at the time he records the construction of the temple).

FairMormon Response

  Falsehood: The author has disseminated false information  
This is nonsense. Of all the construction that has occurred in Mesoamerica over thousands of years, much of which was constructed upon the ruins of earlier structures, and with only 5% of Mesoamerican ruins explored, the statement that this temple "should be fairly easy to locate" is naive at best.


Question: Were there not enough people available in Nephi's time to build a temple "after the manner of the temple of Solomon"?

Nephi is saying the he built a temple that was of the same pattern Solomon's temple, but he does not say that it was of the same size

This criticism presumes that the Lehite immigrants are the only work-force available, but this is almost certainly not true. (See: Book of Mormon demographics.)

Even if one presumes that the Lehite colony and the Nephite break-off are the only workforce—a dubious assumption—this only means that the temple would have been smaller—this seems likely in any case, since Nephi only says he built it "after the manner" of Solomon's temple, but not in so grand a style because of local restrictions. Consider Nephi's description:

And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. (2 Nephi 5:16). (emphasis added)


Question: Was Nephi's temple "similar in splendor" to Solomon's temple?

Nephi stated that it was not like Solomon's temple" because many "precious things" were "not to be found upon the land"

Nephi is clear that the temple is not to the scale or grandeur of Solomon's temple; he merely patterns the building and its functions after the Jewish temple.

16 And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. (2 Nephi 5:16)

Nephi also probably had access to more workmen than the few members of the original Jerusalem party under Lehi.

One critic, who used to be a member of the Church, actually demonstrates his ignorance of the Book of Mormon by stating that the temple that was built was said to be "similar in splendor" to Solomon's Temple, directly contradicting Nephi's description. Nephi stated that "could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple" because many of the precious things contained in Solomon's temple "were not to be found upon the land." Therefore, Nephi himself confirms that his temple was not "similar in splendor" to Solomon's temple.

This is a good example of the critics reading the text in the most naive, most ill-informed way possible. One should also consider that smaller population would not have needed a massive complex like the temple at Jerusalem anyway.


Response to claim: "the account of Thomas Stuart Ferguson...His efforts and the efforts of his foundation ended in failure"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

[W]e examine the account of Thomas Stuart Ferguson; President of the New World Archaeological Foundation, the only LDS Church-sponsored organization to ever be commissioned with the task of attempting to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon outside the subjective supernatural realm of faith-based testimony. His efforts and the efforts of his foundation ended in failure and the Church has since ceased to sponsor archaeological expeditions to verify its keystone document's authenticity.

FairMormon Response

  Mistakes/Errors: The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources  
Ferguson was not in charge of the archaeology program at BYU. He wasn't even an archaeologist - he was a lawyer for whom archaeology was a hobby.


Question: Was Thomas Stuart Ferguson an archaeologist?

Ferguson never studied archaeology at a professional level - he was self-educated in that area

As John Sorensen, who worked with Ferguson, recalled:

[Stan] Larson implies that Ferguson was one of the "scholars and intellectuals in the Church" and that "his study" was conducted along the lines of reliable scholarship in the "field of archaeology." Those of us with personal experience with Ferguson and his thinking knew differently. He held an undergraduate law degree but never studied archaeology or related disciplines at a professional level, although he was self-educated in some of the literature of American archaeology. He held a naive view of "proof," perhaps related to his law practice where one either "proved" his case or lost the decision; compare the approach he used in his simplistic lawyerly book One Fold and One Shepherd. His associates with scientific training and thus more sophistication in the pitfalls involving intellectual matters could never draw him away from his narrow view of "research." (For example, in April 1953, when he and I did the first archaeological reconnaissance of central Chiapas, which defined the Foundation's work for the next twenty years, his concern was to ask if local people had found any figurines of "horses," rather than to document the scores of sites we discovered and put on record for the first time.) His role in "Mormon scholarship" was largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst.

Ferguson was never an expert on archaeology and the Book of Mormon (let alone on the book of Abraham, about which his knowledge was superficial). He was not one whose careful "study" led him to see greater light, light that would free him from Latter-day Saint dogma, as Larson represents. Instead he was just a layman, initially enthusiastic and hopeful but eventually trapped by his unjustified expectations, flawed logic, limited information, perhaps offended pride, and lack of faith in the tedious research that real scholarship requires. The negative arguments he used against the Latter-day Saint scriptures in his last years display all these weaknesses.

Larson, like others who now wave Ferguson's example before us as a case of emancipation from benighted Mormon thinking, never faces the question of which Tom Ferguson was the real one. Ought we to respect the hard-driving younger man whose faith-filled efforts led to a valuable major research program, or should we admire the double-acting cynic of later years, embittered because he never hit the jackpot on, as he seems to have considered it, the slot-machine of archaeological research? I personally prefer to recall my bright-eyed, believing friend, not the aging figure Larson recommends as somehow wiser. [86]


Peterson and Roper: "We know of no one who cites Ferguson as an authority, except countercultists"

Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper: [87]

"Thomas Stuart Ferguson," says Stan Larson in the opening chapter of Quest for the Gold Plates, "is best known among Mormons as a popular fireside lecturer on Book of Mormon archaeology, as well as the author of One Fold and One Shepherd, and coauthor of Ancient America and the Book of Mormon" (p. 1). Actually, though, Ferguson is very little known among Latter-day Saints. He died in 1983, after all, and "he published no new articles or books after 1967" (p. 135). The books that he did publish are long out of print. "His role in 'Mormon scholarship' was," as Professor John L. Sorenson puts it, "largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst." We know of no one who cites Ferguson as an authority, except countercultists, and we suspect that a poll of even those Latter-day Saints most interested in Book of Mormon studies would yield only a small percentage who recognize his name. Indeed, the radical discontinuity between Book of Mormon studies as done by Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson in the fifties and those practiced today by, say, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) could hardly be more striking. Ferguson's memory has been kept alive by Stan Larson and certain critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as much as by anyone, and it is tempting to ask why. Why, in fact, is such disproportionate attention being directed to Tom Ferguson, an amateur and a writer of popularizing books, rather than, say, to M. Wells Jakeman, a trained scholar of Mesoamerican studies who served as a member of the advisory committee for the New World Archaeological Foundation?5 Dr. Jakeman retained his faith in the Book of Mormon until his death in 1998, though the fruit of his decades-long work on Book of Mormon geography and archaeology remains unpublished.


Peterson: "Thomas Stuart Ferguson's biographer...makes every effort to portray Ferguson's apparent eventual loss of faith as a failure for 'LDS archaeology'"

Daniel C. Peterson: [88]

In the beginning NWAF was financed by private donations, and it was Thomas Ferguson's responsibility to secure these funds. Devoted to his task, he traveled throughout California, Utah, and Idaho; wrote hundreds of letters; and spoke at firesides, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, and wherever else he could. After a tremendous amount of dedicated work, he was able to raise about twenty-two thousand dollars, which was enough for the first season of fieldwork in Mexico.

Stan Larson, Thomas Stuart Ferguson's biographer, who himself makes every effort to portray Ferguson's apparent eventual loss of faith as a failure for "LDS archaeology,"22 agrees, saying that, despite Ferguson's own personal Book of Mormon enthusiasms, the policy set out by the professional archaeologists who actually ran the Foundation was quite different: "From its inception NWAF had a firm policy of objectivity. . . . that was the official position of NWAF. . . . all field directors and working archaeologists were explicitly instructed to do their work in a professional manner and make no reference to the Book of Mormon."


Gee: "Ferguson is largely unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints; his impact on Book of Mormon studies is minimal"

John Gee: [89]

Biographies like the book under review are deliberate, intentional acts; they do not occur by accident.4 Ferguson is largely unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints; his impact on Book of Mormon studies is minimal.5 So, of all the lives that could be celebrated, why hold up that of a "double-acting sourpuss?"6 Is there anything admirable, virtuous, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, or Christlike about Thomas Stuart Ferguson's apparent dishonesty or hypocrisy? Larson seems to think so: "I feel confident," Larson writes, "that Ferguson would want his intriguing story to be recounted as honestly and sympathetically as possible" (p. xiv). Why? Do we not have enough doubters? Yet Larson does not even intend to provide the reader with a full or complete biographical sketch of Ferguson's life, since he chose to include "almost nothing . . . concerning his professional career as a lawyer, his various real estate investments, his talent as a singer, his activities as a tennis player, or his family life" (p. xi). In his opening paragraph, Larson warns the reader that he is not interested in a well-rounded portrait of Ferguson. Nevertheless, he finds time to discourse on topics that do not deal with Ferguson's life and only tangentially with his research interest.


Response to claim: "The Nahom case provides evidence...of the willingness of LDS scholars to look anywhere in their despair to find a shred of validation"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The Nahom case provides evidence, not of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but of the willingness of LDS scholars to look anywhere in their despair to find a shred of validation for their erroneous beliefs. The "NHM" inscription is the most important piece of geographical "evidence" Mormons have for their claims. The refutation of this inscription in regard to the Book of Mormon placename "Nahom" shows once again that there is no archaeological support from Mormonism, and no amount of appealing to "plausibility" will alter that fact. As mentioned at the top of this article, the "NHM" find is a classic example of the fallacy of irrelevant proof.

FairMormon Response

  Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader  
Latter-day Saint scholars are not in "despair," and the evidence related to Nahom is much more than simply "plausible." The critics are trying to spin this item, since there are too many convergences between the location of this inscription and the details of the Book of Mormon narrative. And Latter-day Saint scholars are not looking just "anywhere," they are looking precisely at an area that is documented in the Book of Mormon as part of Lehi's journey in the Old World.


Question: Why does "Nahom" constitute archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?

Written Hebrew does not employ vowels, therefore, Book of Mormon "Nahom" is NHM in Hebrew

The Book of Mormon name "Nahom" becomes NHM when written in Hebrew. This is a significant correlation in name and location.

Three altar inscriptions have been discovered containing the name "NHM" as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC

Three altar inscriptions have been discovered containing the name "NHM" as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC. This is roughly the time period when Lehi’s family was traveling though the same area.

S. Kent Brown: [90]

In one instance, however, Nephi does preserve a local name, that of Nahom, the burial place of Ishmael, his father-in-law. Nephi writes in the passive, "the place which was called Nahom," clearly indicating that local people had already named the place. That this area lay in southern Arabia has been certified by recent Journal publications that have featured three inscribed limestone altars discovered by a German archaeological team in the ruined temple of Bar'an in Marib, Yemen.[91] Here a person finds the tribal name NHM noted on all three altars, which were donated by a certain "Bicathar, son of Sawâd, son of Nawcân, the Nihmite." (In Semitic languages, one deals with consonants rather than vowels, in this case NHM.)

Such discoveries demonstrate as firmly as possible by archaeological means the existence of the tribal name NHM in that part of Arabia in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, the general dates assigned to the carving of the altars by the excavators.[92] In the view of one recent commentator, the discovery of the altars amounts to "the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon."[93]

Nhm altar 1.jpg

These altars are located in the area where the spice route makes an eastward turn to cross the Arabian desert

The spice route proceed southward from Jerusalem and then turns toward the east at the place where the NHM inscriptions were found. Lehi's group proceeded southward and then made an "eastward" change in direction after leaving the "place which was called Nahom."

1 Nephi 17:1:

And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth.

S. Kent Brown:

The case for Nahom, or NHM, in this area is made even more tight by recent study. It has become clearly apparent from Nephi's note—"we did travel nearly eastward" from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1)—that he and his party not only had stayed in the NHM tribal area, burying Ishmael there, but also were following or shadowing the incense trail, a trading road that by then offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. From the general region of the NHM tribe, all roads turned east. How so? Across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, east of this tribal region and east of Marib, lay the city of Shabwah, now in ruins. By ancient Arabian law, it was to this city that all incense harvested in the highlands of southern Arabia was carried for inventorying, weighing, and taxing. In addition, traders made gifts of incense to the temples at Shabwah.[94] After this process, traders loaded the incense and other goods onto camels and shipped them toward the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas, traveling at first westward and then, after reaching the edges of the region of the NHM tribe, turning northward (these directions are exactly opposite from those that Nephi and his party followed). Even the daunting shortcuts across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, which left travelers without water for 150 miles, ran generally east-west. What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn of Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia. In a word, no one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it or who lived in that territory. This kind of detail in the Book of Mormon narrative, combined with the reference to Nahom, is information that was unavailable in Joseph Smith's day and thus stands as compelling evidence of the antiquity of the text.[95]

Hiltonarabia1-captioned.jpg

The name NHM is associated with a burial site and mourning

Nephi indicated that their group had reached a "place which was called Nahom," indicating that the site was already named. Ismael was buried there, and his daughters mourned him there.

1 Nephi 16:34-35:

And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom. And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father...

Critical responses to NHM

Critics of the Church attempt to dismiss this correlation as simply "the willingness of LDS scholars to look anywhere in their despair to find a shred of validation for their erroneous beliefs." [96] However, given the high correlation of the data, it seems that the critics are the ones that have difficulty explaining the data.


The description of Lehi's desert journey matches exactly how one would traverse Arabia

S. Kent Brown:

The entire thrust of these remarks underscores the observation that Joseph Smith could have known almost nothing about ancient Arabia when he began translating the Book of Mormon. Yet the narrative of the journey of the party of Lehi and Sariah through ancient Arabia, written by their son Nephi, fits with what we know about the Arabian Peninsula literally from one end to the other, for their journey began in the northwest and ended in the southeast sector. Nephi's narrative faithfully reflects the intertwining of long stretches of barren wilderness with pockets of verdant, lifesaving vegetation. Recent discoveries have illumined segments of the account, tying events to known regions (e.g.,) and climatic characteristics (e.g., mists along the coastal mountains). People in Joseph Smith's world may have possessed accurate information about one or two aspects of Arabia through classical sources (e.g., incense trade, honey production). But those same sources offered inaccurate caricatures of Arabia that Nephi's narrative does not mirror (e.g., that the peninsula was graced by large forests, etc.). Hence, on both fronts—modern discoveries and more accurate information—the Book of Mormon account shines as a radiant beam across the centuries, inviting us to adopt its more important message of spiritual truths as our own.[97]

Three altar inscriptions containing NHM exist in the correct Old World location, and a non-LDS archaeologist has dated one of them to the seventh to sixth centuries BC.

Stephen D. Ricks: [98]

Surprisingly, evidence for Nahom, the name of the place where Ishmael was buried (1 Nephi 16:34), is based on historical, geographic, and archaeological—and only secondarily on etymological—considerations.
Three altar inscriptions containing NHM as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC—roughly the time period when Lehi’s family was traveling though the area—have been discussed by S. Kent Brown.[99] Dan Vogel, writing in the misleadingly named Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet and responding to two books by LDS authors about Lehi’s journey in the Arabian desert, has objected to the dating of the Arabian word NHM: “There is no evidence dating the Arabian NHM before A.D. 600, let alone 600 B.C.” [100] It should be noted, however, that Burkhard Vogt, perhaps unaware of its implications for the Book of Mormon, dates an altar having the initial letters NHM(yn) to the seventh to sixth centuries BC. [101] This is not insignificant since Vogel’s book was published in 2004, while Vogt’s contribution was published in 1997.

Nhm appears as a place name and as a tribal name in southwestern Arabia in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic period in the Arab antiquarian al-Hamdani’s al-Iklīl [102] and in his Ṣifat Jazīrat al-’Arab. [103] If, as Robert Wilson observes, there is minimal movement among the tribes over time, [104] the region known in early modern maps of the Arabian Peninsula as “Nehem” and “Nehhm” as well as “Nahom” may well have had that, or a similar, name in antiquity.


The location of Arabian NHM is in the correct location for the "Eastward turn" toward Bountiful

S. Kent Brown:

The case for Nahom, or NHM, in this area is made even more tight by recent study. It has become clearly apparent from Nephi's note—"we did travel nearly eastward" from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1)—that he and his party not only had stayed in the NHM tribal area, burying Ishmael there, but also were following or shadowing the incense trail, a trading road that by then offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. From the general region of the NHM tribe, all roads turned east. How so? Across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, east of this tribal region and east of Marib, lay the city of Shabwah, now in ruins. By ancient Arabian law, it was to this city that all incense harvested in the highlands of southern Arabia was carried for inventorying, weighing, and taxing. In addition, traders made gifts of incense to the temples at Shabwah.[105] After this process, traders loaded the incense and other goods onto camels and shipped them toward the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas, traveling at first westward and then, after reaching the edges of the region of the NHM tribe, turning northward (these directions are exactly opposite from those that Nephi and his party followed). Even the daunting shortcuts across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, which left travelers without water for 150 miles, ran generally east-west. What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn of Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia. In a word, no one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it or who lived in that territory. This kind of detail in the Book of Mormon narrative, combined with the reference to Nahom, is information that was unavailable in Joseph Smith's day and thus stands as compelling evidence of the antiquity of the text.[106]


The root for "naham" means "to mourn"

Nephi's party reaches an area "which was called Nahom" (1 Nephi 16:34)near the time that they make an eastward turn in their journey. [107]

It [the root for naham] appears twenty-five times in the narrative books of the Bible, and in every case it is associated with death. In family settings, it is applied in instances involving the death of an immediate family member (parent, sibling, or child); in national settings, it has to do with the survival or impending extermination of an entire people. At heart, naham means "to mourn," to come to terms with a death; these usages are usually translated...by the verb "to comfort," as when Jacob's children try to comfort their father after the reported death of Joseph. [108]

It is intriguing that Nephi tells us that the deceased Ishmael was buried at a spot with a name associated with mourning and death of loved ones.


The ancient process of mourning in desert cultures matches what the daughters of Ishmael did in 1 Nephi 16

It was the daughters of Ishmael who mourned for him and chided Lehi for his death (1 Nephi 16:34-35). Budde has shown that the Old Hebrew mourning customs were those of the desert, in which "the young women of the nomad tribes mourn at the grave, around which they dance singing lightly." The Arabs who farm also put the body in a tent around which the women move as they mourn. "At the moment of a man's death, his wives, daughters, and female relations unite in cries of lamentation (weloulouá), which they repeat several times." 65 It is common in all the eastern deserts for the women to sit in a circle in a crouching position while the woman nearest related to the dead sits silently in the middle—in Syria the corpse itself is in the middle; while singing, the women move in a circle and whenever the song stops there is a general wailing. The singing is in unison, Indian fashion. In some parts the men also participate in the rites, but where this is so the women may never mix with the men. They have a monopoly and a mourning tradition all of their own.66 Mourning begins immediately upon death and continues among the Syrian Bedouins for seven days, a few hours a day. "All mourning is by mourning women and female relatives. No men are present."67 As is well known, no traditions are more unchanging through the centuries than funerary customs.68[109]

Response to claim: "Both books were fifty miles away from where the translation was being done"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. Its library began through donations from private individuals. In 1824, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he hoped his University of Virginia could someday possess the richness of Allegheny's library. In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith. Here is an 1823 catalog: D'Anville's book on ancient geography is on page 18. Niebuhr is on page 44. Both books were fifty miles away from where the translation was being done.

FairMormon Response

  Falsehood: The author has disseminated false information  
MormonThink has since removed this claim, since it was made known that it is completely incorrect and based upon a faulty Google map search.


Question: Did Joseph Smith have access to materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College?

At least two critical websites have asserted that Joseph could have accessed materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College because, they claim, it was only "50 miles from Harmony"

A 1782 map by Carsten Niebuhr shows "Nehem" in the proper location. (See the map at http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~31563~1150042:A-new-map-of-Arabia-divided-into-it) Could Joseph Smith have accessed a copy of this map?

1782 map by Carsten Niebuhr shows the name "Nehem". A copy of this map was located at Allegheny College, which was 320 miles away from Harmony Township, Pennsylvania, during the time that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon

Several websites that are critical of the Church have presented the following argument:[110]

This FAIR Link mentions Niebuhr's and d'Anville's books. It also says that neither were at Dartmouth when Joseph was a boy, nor were they available in Manchester, New York in the lending library.

Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. Its library began through donations from private individuals. In 1824, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he hoped his University of Virginia could someday possess the richness of Allegheny's library.

In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith. Here is an 1823 catalog:

D'Anville's book on ancient geography is on page 18
[Carsten] Niebuhr [1782 map] is on page 44

The critics conclude with the following assertion:

Both books were fifty miles away from where the translation was being done.

This is not, however, the case. These books were actually 320 miles from where Joseph Smith lived.

The "Harmony" located 50 miles from Allegheny College is not the same as the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith lived

Actually, the "Harmony" located 50 miles from Allegheny College is not the same as the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith lived. Indeed, if one simply types “Harmony, Pennsylvania” into Google Maps, it does indicate that a town called “Harmony” is located approximately 50 miles from Allegheny College in Meadville. However, the critics got it wrong. The Harmony Township in which Joseph lived is located 320 miles from Allegheny College. This is easily confirmed by typing “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps.

Allegheny College, at 320 miles distance, was too far from Harmony Township for Joseph to have seen the name “Nahom” on one of the maps located there

FairMormon has acknowledged that two books were available at Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania containing maps which showed the location of Nahom (alternatively spelled Nihm or Nehem). We concluded that even though these books were present, that they were not located close enough to Harmony Township for Joseph to have utilized them. The critics, however, appear to have utilized a faulty Google search to assert that these books were located close enough to where Joseph Smith lived for him to have used them. For example, the critical website MormonThink attempted to refute FairMormon's argument on their "Book of Mormon Problems" page. MormonThink stated in June 2014: "Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. ...In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith." However, after Neal Rappleye and Stephen Smoot pointed out in the paper "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel" that the critics had selected the wrong town of Harmony for their Google map search, MormonThink removed the claim and it no longer appears as of October 2014. The claim still appears on at least one other critical website.[111]

  • Harmony Township, Forest County, Pennsylvania is located 50 miles from Allegheny College, however, this is not the Harmony Township in which Joseph Smith lived.
  • The second possibility is Harmony Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, which is located 86 miles from Allegheny College. But this isn’t the location at which Joseph Smith lived either.
  • Finally, we have Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. This is where Joseph Smith lived and translated the Book of Mormon. The Harmony Township in which Joseph lived is located 320 miles from Allegheny College. This is easily confirmed by typing “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps.

FairMormon therefore stands by its assertion that Allegheny College, at 320 miles distance, was too far from Harmony Township for Joseph to have seen the name “Nahom” on one of the maps located there.

Distance from harmony township susquehanna PA to Allegheny College Meadville PA.png


Notes

  1. Jay F. Kirkpatrick and Patricia M. Fazio, "The Surprising History of America's Wild Horses," LiveScience.com (July 24, 2008) off-site
  2. S. Bokonyi, History of Domestic Mammals in Central and Eastern Europe (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1974), 267.
  3. Paul R. Cheesman, The World of the Book of Mormon (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1984), 194, 181.
  4. http://www.strangeark.com/nabr/NABR5.pdf
  5. William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link
  6. John Tvedtnes, “The Nature of Prophets and Prophecy” (unpublished, 1994), 29-30 (copy in Mike Ash’s possession); Benjamin Urrutia, “Lack of Animal Remains at Bible and Book-of-Mormon Sites,” Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, 150 (August 1982), 3-4.
  7. "Horses in the Book of Mormon" (Provo: Utah, FARMS, 2000). off-site
  8. Clay E. Ray, “Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan,” Journal of Mammalogy 38:2 (1957), 278.
  9. http://www.ansp.org/museum/leidy/paleo/equus.php)
  10. Mike Ash notes that this story was told at the Q&A session following Dr. Sorenson’s presentation, “The Trajectory of Book of Mormon Studies,” 2 August 2007 at the 2007 FAIR Conference; audio and video in author’s possession.
  11. John Clark during Q&A session following Dr. Clark’s presentation, “Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” 25 May 2004 at BYU; audio of Q&A in author Mike Ash's possession.
  12. Anonymous, "Out of the Dust: Were Ancient Americans Familiar with Real Horses?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): N/A–N/A. off-site wiki
  13. See Harry E. D. Pollock and Clayton E. Ray, "Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan," Current Reports 41 (August 1957): 638; this publication is from the Department of Archaeology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. See also Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan," Journal of Mammalogy 38 (1957): 278.
  14. 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), 172.
  15. Robert T. Hatt, "Faunal and Archaeological Researches in Yucatan Caves," Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin 33, 1953. See Peter J. Schmidt, "La entrada del hombre a la peninsula de Yucatan," in Origines del Hombre Americano, comp. Alba Gonzalez Jacome (Mexico: Secretaria de Educacion Publica, 1988), 250.
  16. Schmidt, "La entrada," 254.
  17. Paul S. Martin, "The Discovery of America," Science 179 (1973): 974 n. 3.
  18. Donald K. Grayson (Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195), "Deciphering North American Pleistocene Extinctions," Journal of Anthropological Research, in press (2007 JAR Distinguished Lecture)
  19. Bernardino de Sahagun, The War of Conquest: How It Was Waged Here in Mexico: the Aztecs' own story (University of Utah Press, 1978).
  20. John L. Sorenson, "Once More: The Horse," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 10.
  21. Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan," Journal of Mammalology 38 (1957): 278; Harry E. D. Pollock and Clayton E. Ray, "Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan," Current Reports 41 (August 1957): 638 (Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C., Dept. of Archaeology).
  22. Folkbiology Douglas L. Medin, Scott Altran editors. MIT Press (1999) p. 131.
  23. John L. Sorenson, "Once More, The Horse," Reexploring the Book of Mormon (1992).
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Quoted in Hans Frädrich and Erich Thenius, "Tapirs," Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, ed. Bernhard Grzimek (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company), 13:19—30.
  25. [Horses in the Book of Mormon "Horses in the Book of Mormon,"] Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
  26. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994).
  27. Daniel C. Peterson, "Yet More Abuse of B. H. Roberts," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997)
  28. Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997).
  29. Brant Gardner, "Behind the Mask, Behind the Curtain: Uncovering the Illusion," The FARMS Review 17/2 (2005).
  30. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16/1 (2004).
  31. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16/1 (2004).
  32. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 8–50. off-site
  33. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 8–50. off-site
  34. See http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/contact/text6/mexica_tlaxcala.pdf
  35. Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars (Review of Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism Raised by Mormon Defenders)," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997): 87–145. [ off-site]
  36. 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]), 293-294.
  37. MormonThink.com page "Book of Mormon Problems" http://mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm
  38. See "The Numerical Elegance of the Nephite System": Table 1 and Table 2, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999); John W. Welch, "Did the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica use a system of weights and scales in measuring goods & their values?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): N/A–N/A. off-site wiki; John W. Welch, "Weighing & Measuring in the Worlds of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): 36–46. off-site wiki
  39. Marion Popenoe de Hatch, Kaminaljuyú/San Jorge: Evidencia Arqueológica de la Actividad Económica en el Valle de Guatemala, 300 a.C. a 300 d.C (Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, 1997), 100.
  40. Daniel C. Peterson, "Chattanooga Cheapshot, or The Gall of Bitterness (Review of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism by John Ankerberg and John Weldon)," FARMS Review of Books 5/1 (1993): 1–86. off-site, see especially p. 55.
  41. Mark McConkie (editor), Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1989),289–290. ISBN 978-0884946441. GL direct link
  42. 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]), 232–233.
  43. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "piece."
  44. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:308.
  45. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 3:365–366. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  46. Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Deseret Book Company, 1941), 537.
  47. John W. Welch, "Weighing and Measuring in the Worlds of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8:2 (1999).
  48. MormonThink.com page "Book of Mormon Problems" http://mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm
  49. The Liahona is called a compass in 1 Nephi 18:12,21; 2 Nephi 5:12; and Alma 37:38,43-44.
  50. Biblical references to "compass" can be seen with this search of the lds.org scriptures web site.
  51. Robert F. Smith, "Lodestone and the Liahona," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 12. direct off-site
  52. John B. Carlson, "Lodestone Compass: Chinese or Olmec Primacy? Multidisciplinary Analysis of an Olmec Hematite Artifact from San Lorenzo, Veracruz, Mexico," Science 189, No. 4205 (5 September 1975): 753-760. See also R. H. Fuson, "The Orientation of Mayan Ceremonial Centers," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (September 1969): 508-10; E. C. Baity, "Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy So Far," Current Anthropology 14 (October 1973): 443.
  53. Joseph Needham and Lu Gwei-Djen, Trans-Pacific Echoes and Resonances: Listening Once Again (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 1985), 21.
  54. Smith, "Lodestone and the Liahona"; see also Michael D. Coe, America's First Civilization (New York, 1970).
  55. Robert F. Smith, "Lodestone and the Liahona," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 12. Citations in the original are [a] Thales of Miletus is the first known to have mentioned its strange properties, c. 600 B.Cc; [b] J. B. Carlson, "Lodestone Compass: Chinese or Olmec Primacy?" Science 189 (September 5, 1975): 753-60; R. H. Fuson, "The Orientation of Mayan Ceremonial Centers," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (September 1969): 508-10; E. C. Baity, "Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy So Far," Current Anthropology 14 (October 1973): 443; [c] Kent V. Flannery and J. Schoenwetter, "Climate and Man in Formative Oaxaca," Archeology 23 (April 1970): 149; see also Kent Flannery, ed., The Early Mesoamerican Village (New York: Academic Press, 1976), 318.
  56. “Mammoth,” Wikipedia (accessed 24 Sept. 2014)
  57. Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.
  58. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  59. 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.
  60. 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.
  61. 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.
  62. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  63. John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911), 355.
  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 W. D. Strong, “North American traditions suggesting a knowledge of the mammoth,” American Anthropologist 36 (1934), 81-88.
  65. Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.
  66. Juan de Torquemada, Monarchia Indiana (Mexico, 1943), 1:38; Jose de Acosta, Natural and Moral History of the Indies (2002), 384.
  67. Adrienne Mayor, Fossil Legends of the First Americans (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005), 97.
  68. William J. Hamblin (posting under the screen-name, “MorgbotX”), posted 29 January 2004 in thread, “What Would Be Proof of the Book of Mormon,” on Zion’s Lighthouse Bulletin Board (ZLMB) off-site(accessed 10 April 2005).
  69. Hamblin, "What Would be Proof...."
  70. Hamblin citing Joyce Marcus, Mesoamerican Writing Systems (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992), 212–220 and Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings (New York: William Marrow & Company, 1990), 440, n28.
  71. See Hamblin, posted 29 January 2004 in thread, “What Would Be Proof of the Book of Mormon,” on Zion’s Lighthouse Bulletin Board (ZLMB) off-site(accessed 10 April 2005).
  72. William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link
  73. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems," 164.
  74. William G. Dever, “archaeology and the Bible: Understanding Their Special Relationship,” Biblical archaeology Review (May/June 1990) 16:3.
  75. Daniel C. Peterson, "Chattanooga Cheapshot, or The Gall of Bitterness (Review of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism by John Ankerberg and John Weldon)," FARMS Review of Books 5/1 (1993): 1–86. off-site
  76. See Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems," 167.
  77. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems," 169–170.
  78. [citation needed]
  79. William J. Hamblin, message posted 20 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 2 BoM Challenge,” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005). See also follow-up: William Hamblin, message posted 28 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 3” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005).
  80. William J. Hamblin, message posted 20 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 2 BoM Challenge,” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005)
  81. William J. Hamblin, message posted 28 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 2 BoM Challenge,” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005).
  82. 1 Nephi 16:3–4.
  83. S. Kent Brown, "New Light: "The Place That Was Called Nahom": New Light from Ancient Yemen," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 66–67. wiki
  84. 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.
  85. Matt Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," The FARMS Review 16/2 (2004)
  86. John L. Sorenson, "Addendum," to John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors (Review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 93–119. off-site
  87. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16:1 (2004)
  88. Daniel C. Peterson, [http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1458&index=12 "On the New World Archaeological Foundation," The FARMS Review 16:1 (2004).
  89. John Gee, "The Hagiography of Doubting Thomas," FARMS Review of Books 10:2 (1998).
  90. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  91. See S. Kent Brown, "'The Place Which Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," JBMS 8/1 (1999): 66-68; and Warren P. Aston, "Newly Found Altars from Nahom," JBMS 10/2 (2001): 56-61.
  92. See Burkhard Vogt, "Les temples de Ma'rib," in Y émen: au pays de la reine de Saba (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), 144; see also the preliminary report by Burkhard Vogt et al., "Arsh Bilqis"—Der Temple des Almaqah von Bar'an in Marib (Sana'a, Yemen, 2000).
  93. Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 120.
  94. Brown: "On these ancient laws, see Nigel Groom, Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense Trade (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1981), 169–70, 181, 183–84. Concerning the taxation of incense and the gifts to the temples, see Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 12.32 ( §63)."
  95. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  96. MormonThink.com page "Book of Mormon Problems".
  97. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  98. Stephen D. Ricks, "Some Notes on Book of Mormon Names," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 4 (2013), 155-160.
  99. Brown, “New Light from Arabia on Lehi’s Trail,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 55–125, esp. 81–82.
  100. Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004), 609.
  101. Burkhard Vogt, “Les temples de Maʾrib,” in Yémen: au pays de la reine de Saba (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), 144.
  102. Al-Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Hamdani, al-Iklil, ed. Nabih Faris (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940), 35, 94.
  103. al-Hamdani, Sifat Jazirat al-‘Arab, ed. David H. Müller (Leiden: Brill, repr. 1968), 49, l. 9; 81, l. 4, 8, 11; 83, l. 8, 9; 109, l. 26; 110, l12. 2, 4 126, l. 10; 135, l. 19, 22; 167, l. 15–20; 168, l. 10, 11, where nhm is listed as either the name of a “region, territory” (Ar. balad) or a “tribe” (Ar. qabila); Jawad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Ta’rikh al-‘Arab qabla al-Islam (Beirut: Dar al-‘Ilm lil-Malayin, 1969–73), 2:414, gives “Nhm” as the name of a “region” (Ar. ard) during the period of the “mukarribs and the [ancient] kings of Saba” (Ar. fi ayyam al-mukarribina wa-fi ayyam muluk Saba’); he also gives “Nhm” as a place name, Al-Mufassal, 4:187 and 7:462.
  104. Robert Wilson, “al-Hamdani’s Description of Hashid and Bakil,” Proceedings of the Seminar on Arabian Studies 11 (1981): 95, 99–100.
  105. Brown: "On these ancient laws, see Nigel Groom, Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense Trade (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1981), 169–70, 181, 183–84. Concerning the taxation of incense and the gifts to the temples, see Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 12.32 ( §63)."
  106. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  107. Anonymous, "Nahom and the "Eastward" Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 113–114. off-site wiki
  108. David Damrosch, The Narrative Covenant (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 128–129.
  109. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 19, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  110. MormonThink.com and Mormon Curtain (accessed 4 June 2014). As of 18 October 2014, MormonThink has removed it, while it is still present on Mormon Curtain.
  111. The claim still appears on Mormon Curtain as of 18 October 2014.