Animals and Plants

Cattle in the New World

The Book of Mormon claims that both the Nephites and the Jaredites had “cattle,” yet there is no evidence of domestication of cows in the New World prior to the arrival of the Spaniards.

Book of Mormon RussianThere are seven references to cattle in the Book of Mormon.Of these, two are citations from the Old Testament (2 Nephi 17:25; Mosiah 13:18). One reference occurs in the land of Nephi during the time of Enos (Enos 1:27), three occur in the land of Zarahemla near the time of Christ (3 Nephi 3:22; 4:4; 6:1) and one occurs during the reign of the Jaredite king Emer (Ether 9:18). (Read More)

Dogs in the New World

The Book of Mormon mentions dogs (Mosiah 12:2; Alma 16:10; Helaman 7:19), but there were no dogs in the New World until after the arrival of Europeans.

This assertion, though made by a critic who is a biologist, is incorrect. It is a well-established fact that dogs have been present in the New World since the first inhabitants arrived. Dogs were domesticated in Mesoamerica during the Olmec period. DNA tests have confirmed that the Carolina dogs living in the wild in the southeastern United States are descendants of the dogs that accompanied the first humans to the New World thousands of years ago. (Read More)

Oxen in the New World

When Nephi states that he and his family journeyed in an uninhabited region (“wilderness”), how was it possible for them to find oxen roaming in the wilds (1 Nephi 18:25; see also 2 Nephi 21:7; Ether 9:18)? Did the author of the Book of Mormon fail to realize that an ox is in fact a castrated bull? If nobody was inhabiting the land, who castrated the bulls?

There is plenty of evidence for others living in the land when Lehi arrived.But that point is minor compared to the fact that those who raise this question are wrong about the meaning of the term “ox.” Here is the entry for “ox” in Webster’s 1828 dictionary, which reflects usage in American English in Joseph Smith’s time: (Read More)

Horses in the New World

The Book of Mormon mentions that there were horses in America during both Jaredite and Nephite time. (1 Nephi 18:25; 2 Nephi 12:7; Enos 1:21; Alma 18:9-12; 3 Nephi 3:22; 4:4; 6:1; 21:14; Ether 9:19).  This is a gross anachronism, since horses were not introduced to the Americas until after the arrival of the Spaniards.

It was long thought that native American horses died out 10,000 BC, with the end of the ice age, but many specimens have been found that postdate that event, sometimes by thousands of years. (Read More)

Elephants in the New World

The Book of Mormon mentions elephants being useful to the Jaredites (Ether 9:19), yet the only elephant species to have existed in the Americas, the mammoth and the mastodon, died out many centuries before Book of Mormon times.

The Book of Mormon text does not even suggest that elephants were ever numerous, only that at one time they were “useful unto man” (Ether 9:19). This may suggest that some species of the mammoth or the mastodon survived in the Jaredite region into at least the third millennium BC, but then afterward became extinct in the region inhabited by Book of Mormon peoples due to climactic changes. There is a variety of evidence that suggests that limited species of mastodon or mammoth may have indeed survived in scattered regions of the New World until fairly recent times. For example, some have argued that elephants are depicted in pre-Columbian Mayan art in Mexico. Even more significant, for Book of Mormon purposes, is the fact that mammoth and horse bones discovered near Saint Petersburg, Florida, were radiocarbon-dated to about 100 BC. The remains of a butchered mastodon  found in Ecuador were dated to the first or second century AD from pottery found on the site. Lumps of charcoal used to cook parts of the animal (whose bones had burn traces) were subsequently radiocarbon dated to ca. AD 150. (More)

New World vs. Old World Animal Species

The Jaredites, who lived in the region before the Nephites and Lamanites, brought with them on their ocean-going barges “food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them” (Ether 6:4). Yet the animal species known from the New World are not the same as those known in the Old World from which the Jaredites supposedly came.

It is possible that the Jaredites brought animals on board the barges only for food during their lengthy ocean voyage. We do not know if any of them survived to arrive in the New World, nor do we know if they were domestic fowl or a mixture of domestic and wild fowl. The Book of Mormon does not claim that American animal species descended from animals imported by the Jaredites or any other people, and we should be careful not to read this into the text. Once settled in the New World, the Jaredites had a number of domesticated animals (Ether 9:18-19; see also Ether 9:31; 10:12), but we cannot be sure which of these, if any, came on the barges and which were domesticated from native American stock. (Read More)

Old World vs. New World Fish

Though the Book of Mormon has the Jaredites bringing fish with them (Ether 2:2), the species of fish found in the Old and New Worlds are not identical, suggesting that New World species were not brought by the Jaredites.

The passage says that “they did also prepare a vessel, in which they did carry with them the fish of the waters,” but this was when they first left their homeland, traveling overland. Following that, they spent “many years . . . in the wilderness” (Ether 3:3) and lived four years on the seashore before constructing barges to bring them across the ocean (see Ether 2:13-14). By the time they prepared to cross the ocean, they brought into their barges “flocks and herds, and whatever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them” (Ether 6:4), but fish are not mentioned.

Jaredite Bees

The Book of Mormon notes that the Jaredites brought honey bees with them from their homeland (Ether 2:3). But the honeybee was actually brought to the New World after the arrival of Europeans.

The Book of Mormon never says that the Jaredites brought bees with them to the New World, only that they carried them during their Old World travels. They spent “many years . . . in the wilderness” (Ether 3:3) and lived four years on the seashore before constructing barges to bring them across the ocean (see Ether 2:13-14). (Read More)

Silk and Linen in the New World?

The Book of Mormon claims that people in the New World had “silk and fine-twined linen” (Alma 1:29; 4:6; Ether 9:17; 10:24; see also Mosiah 10:5; Helaman 6:13). Linen is made from flax, which does not grow in the Americas, and silk comes from silkworms, which have a very specific diet (mulberry leaves), which requires a climate such as that of China, where they are raised.

There are actually five varieties of wild silkworm in the New World, one of which ranges from northern South America into the southwestern part of the United States. Silk from a wild Mexican silkworm was used to spin fiber that the Spanish Conquistadors called seda, their word for “silk.” (Read More)