Book of Mormon anachronisms

Book of Mormon anachronisms

There are a variety of words and phrases in the Book of Mormon that are considered anachronistic as their existence in the text of the Book of Mormon is at odds with known linguistic patterns, archaeological findings, or known historical events.

The text of the Book of Mormon spans a period beginning circa 2500 B.C. to 400 A.D. Each of the anachronisms is a word, phrase, artifact, or other concept that critics, historians, archaeologists, or linguists believe did not exist in the Americas during this time period.

LDS scholars and apologists respond to the anachronisms in several ways.

The list below summarizes the most prominent and problematic anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, as well as perspectives by Mormon apologists, and rebuttals.

Historical anachronisms

Jeremiah cast into prison

In the opening chapters of the Book of Mormon, Nephi laments that the prophet Jeremiah has been cast into prison [1 Nephi 7:14] , sometime before the 8th year of the reign of Zedekiah. [The Book of Mormon dates this comment between 600 B.C. and 592 B.C. (see the heading to 1 Nephi chapter 7), with the first year of the reign of Zedekiah being dated to 600 B.C.] However, according to the Bible, Jeremiah was not imprisoned until the 10th year of the reign of Zedekiah. [Jeremiah 32:1-2]

Quoting Isaiah

Book of Mormon prophets in the Americas quote Isaiah chapters 40 - 66 after having left the Jerusalem area around 600 B.C. However, these chapters were written during the Babylonian captivity sometime between 586 B.C. and 538 B.C. (between 14 and 82 years after it could have been known to Lehi and his family).

Apologists claim that by some other means Isaiah's words must have been also recorded on the brass plates, which Lehi took with him.Fact|date=August 2008


Baptism is mentioned as a ritual that is taught and performed among the Nephite civilization, with its first mention being taught by Nephi between between 559 and 545 B.C. However, baptism as a ritual was unknown until after its institution by John the Baptist.

Apologists counter that a similar ritual among the jews called the mikvah may have been known among the Nephites, and that the ritual may have been revealed directly to them by God.

Archaeological anachronisms


Horses are mentioned fourteen times in the Book of Mormon. [Alma 18: 9, Alma 18: 12, Alma 20: 6, 3 Ne. 3: 22] There is no evidence that horses existed on the American continent during the 2500-3000 year history of the Book of Mormon (2500 B.C. - 400 A.D.) Horses evolved in North America, but became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene. [cite web | title=Rapid body size decline in Alaskan Pleistocene horses before extinction | last=Guthrie | first= R. Dale | publisher=Nature | url= | accessdate=2006-12-10] [cite web | title=Late Pleistocene Horse (Equus sp.) from the Wilson-Leonard Archaeological Site, Central Texas | last=Baker | first=Barry W. | coauthors=Collins, Michael B., Bousman, C. Britt | url= | accessdate=2006-12-10|format=PDF] ). Horses did not reappear in the Americas until the Spaniards brought them from Europe. [R. Dale Guthrie, New carbon dates link climatic change with human colonization and Pleistocene extinctions, "Nature" 441 (11 May 2006), 207-209.] Horses were not re-introduced to Americas until they were brought to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus in 1493, [cite web | title=Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife | last=Kirkpatrick | first=Jay F. | coauthors=Fazio, Patricia M. | url= | accessdate=2006-12-10] and to the American continent by Cortés in 1519. [cite web | title=A brief history of the horse in America; Horse phylogeny and evolution | last = Singer | first=Ben | publisher=Canadian Geographic Magazine | url= | accessdate=2006-12-10]

Apologists claim that there is fossil evidence that some New World horses may have survived the PleistoceneHolocene transition, [See Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-columbian Horses from Yucatan," "Journal of Mammology" 58:2 (May 1957), 278 and references cited therein; see also other references cited in John L. Sorenson, "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1996), 295, n.63.] though these findings are disputed by critics.

Others believe that the word "horse" in the Book of Mormon does not refer to members of the genus "Equus". [(Robert R. Bennett, "Horses in the Book of Mormon," FARMS Research Report. [] )] Clarifyme|date=May 2008

Mormon FARMS apologist Robert R. Bennett stated that as a comparison the famed horses of the Huns did not leave an archeological trace yet numbered in the thousands [ [] ] . He also points out the limited evidence of lions in Palestine:

"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."

Critics argue that this rebuttal is not applicable since pictographic and literary evidence of horses in the New World (outside of the Book of Mormon) is unknown.


Elephants are mentioned twice in a single verse in the Book of Ether. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Ether|chapter=9|verse=19 "And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants..."] Mastadons and mammoths lived during the Pleistocene in the New World, however, as with the prehistoric horse, the fossil record indicates that they became extinct along with most of the megafauna about the end of the last Ice Age. The source of this extinction is speculated to be the result of human predation, a significant climate change, or a combination of both factors. [Harvnb|Diamond|1999] [Sharon Levy, “Mammoth Mystery, Did Climate Changes Wipe Out North America’s Giant Mammals, Or Did Our Stone Age Ancestors Hunt Them To Extinction?, Onearth, winter 2006, pp15-19] It is known that a small population of mammoths survived on St. Paul Island, Alaska up until 8,000 B.P., but even this date is thousands of years before the Jaredite record in the Book of Mormon begins.Seealso|Quaternary extinction event

The main point of contention is how late these animals were present before becoming extinct. [Harvnb|Sorenson|1985|p=297] Apologists give two different speculations for this anachronism:
#Despite the indications of the archaeological record, mammoths and mastadons must have survived down to 2500 B.C. to a time when they could have been observed by the Jaredites, and that archaeological evidence exists, but is yet to be found.Fact|date=August 2008
#The word "elephant" chosen by Joseph Smith actually refers to another animal that existed around 2500 B.C.Fact|date=August 2008

Various LDS authors have cited controversial evidence that North American mound builder cultures were familiar with the elephant [Wayne N. May (editor), "Ancient American, Archaeology of America Before Columbus," LDS Special Edition III] . The oldest mound builder societies date to around 2000 B.C. The mound builder / elephant controversy did not originate with the Book of Mormon [ On the subject of the mound builder / elephant archaeological controversy and the original mound builder setting for the Book of Mormon (19th century mound-builder literary genre): Robert Silverberg, “and the mound-builders vanished from the earth”, "American Heritage Magazine", June 1969, Volume 20, Issue 4 ] . In "The Mound Builders, Their Works and Relics", author Stephen Dennison Peet cites instances of exhumed mastodon remains and arguments given for why the remains were believed to be contemporary with mound builders [ Stephen Dennison Peet, "The Mound Builders", pp. 38-44 ] . Elephant effigy pipes, of the characteristic mound builder platform style, were reported as archaeological finds in Iowa, [Stephen Dennison Peet, "The Mound Builders", pp. 11-14. see also M.C. Read, "Archaeology of Ohio", pp 116-117 ] and many have readily identified the animal depicted in the shape of the Wisconsin “elephant mound”, though others question whether this is in fact the animal represented. [ On Elephant platform pipes and the Elephant Mound of Grand County, Wisconsin, see Charles E. Putnam (President of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences), "Elephant Pipes and Inscribed Tablets in the Museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Davenport, Iowa", 1885, pp. 19-20, and U.S. Ethnology Bureau, Vol. 2., 1880-81,Pg. 153; see also Charles Valentine Riley, "The American Naturalist", American Society of Naturalists (Essex Institute), pp. 275-277] The former Iowa state archaeologist Marshall McKusick discusses the evidence indicating that the elephant platform pipes are frauds in his book on the so-called Davenport Tablets. [McKusick, Marshall, "The Davenport Conspiracy Revisited." Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0813803449]

Critics note that the co-existence of man and elephantine animals is congruent with the archaeological record, but does not address the anachronism, since the dates of all elephantine remains have been placed well before their mention in the Book of Mormon.

There are instances of stories preserved orally by Native Americans which some LDS scholarsWho|date=April 2008 believe may describe elephants. One such story is related by the Naskapi Indian Tribe, located in eastern Quebec and the Labrador region of Canada. The story concerns a monster from the Naskapi tradition called "Katcheetohuskw", which is described as being very large, with large ears, teeth and a long nose. [cite journal| last=Johnson| first=Ludwell H III| month=October | year=1952| journal=Scientific Monthly| title=Men and Elephants in America |pages=215–21Johnson states that the stories claimed that the monster was "very large, had a big head, large ears and teeth, and a long nose with which he hit people."] Similar versions of "monster" legends related by other tribes refer to a monster called "Ursida", which is described as more of a large, stiff-legged bear rather than a mammoth. The story of the "monster bear" is considered by some scholars to be purely mythical. [cite journal| last=Siebert| first=F. T. Jr| journal=American Anthropologist| title=Mammoth or "Stiff-Legged Bear" | volume=39| issue=4| date=October-December 1937| pages=721–25| doi=10.1525/aa.1937.39.4.02a00410 ] Delaware and other native American legends of the “mastodon” are likewise said to exist [Richard C. Adams, Legends of the Delaware Indians and Picture Writing, pp. 70-71, 1905; also Johanna R. M. Lyback, Indian Legends of Eastern America, pp. 155-159, 1925]

Cattle and cows

There are six references to "cattle" made in the Book of Mormon, including verbiage suggesting they were domesticated [See for example sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Ether|chapter=9|verse=18] . There has been no evidence recovered that Old World cattle (members of the genus "Bos") inhabited the New World prior to European contact in the sixteenth century AD.

Apologists argue that the term "cattle" may be more generic that suggesting members of the genus Bos, and may have referred to bison, mountain goats, llamas, or other American species. [For example, Enos in the Book of Mormon tells that the Nephites raised “flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind…” - Enos 1:21, see also 2 Nephi 17:25] . According to the Book of Mormon, varieties of "cattle" (including goats and sheep) could be found in ancient America. Without these the Nephites could not have kept the Law of Moses, as directed [1 Nephi 18:25, Mosiah 2:3, 3 Nephi 28:22]

LDS ApologistsWho|date=August 2008 note that the word "cattle" may refer to the ancestor of the American bison, Bison antiquus (of the sub family Bovinae). Bison antiquus, sometimes called the ancient bison, was the most common large herbivore of the North American continent for over ten thousand years, and is a direct ancestor of the living American bison. [ [] ]

However, no species of bison is known to have been domesticated as the "cattle" in the Book of Mormon are suggested to have been. [Harvnb|Diamond|1999|pp=165, 167, 168] Furthermore, it is widely accepted that the only large mammal to be domesticated in the Americas was the llama; no species of goats, deer, sheep, or other "cattle" were domesticated before the arrival of the Europeans to the continent. Apologists counter that the wording in the Book of Mormon does not require the "cattle" to have been domesticated in the strictest sense.


Goats are mentioned three times in the Book of Mormon [1 Ne. 18: 25, Enos 1: 21, Ether 9: 18] placing them among the Nephites and the Jaredites. In two of the verses, "goats" are distinguished from "wild goats" indicating that there were at least two varieties, one of them possibly domesticated, or tamed.

Domesticated goats are not native to the Americas, having been domesticated in pre-historic times on the Eurasian continent. Domestic goats were introduced on the American continent upon the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th centuryFact|date=August 2008, 1000 years after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon, and nearly 2000 years after they are last mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The mountain goat is indigenous to North America, but it has never been domesticated, and is known for being very aggressive.

Matthew Roper, a FARMS writer, discussed the topic of goats in, Deer as "Goat" and Pre-Columbian Domesticate. He noted that when early Spanish explorers visited the southeastern United States they found native Americans herding tame deer. Quoting anearly historian of Spain, Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, recorded:

"In all these regions they visited, the Spaniards noticed herds of deer similar to our herds of cattle. These deer bring forth and nourish their young in the houses of the natives. During the daytime they wander freely through the woods in search of their food, and in the evening they come back to their little ones, who have been cared for, allowing themselves to be shut up in the courtyards and even to be milked, when they have suckled their fawns. The only milk the natives know is that of the does, from which they make cheese." [ [] ]

Mr Roper also noted early Spanish colonists called native Mesoamerican brocket deer goats. He quotes, "Friar Diego de Landa noted, 'There are wild goats which the Indians call yuc.'" He quoted another friar in the late 16th century, "in Yucatán 'there are in that province . . . great numbers of deer, and small goats'" [Deer as "Goat" and Pre-Columbian Domesticate Matthew Roper] .


Swine are referred to twice in the Book of Mormon, [Ether 9:8] and the narrative of the Book of Mormon suggests that the swine were domesticated. [Ether 9:17-18] There have not been any remains, references, artwork, tools, or any other evidence suggesting that swine were ever present in the pre-entrada New World.

Apologists note that that Peccaries (also know as Javelinas), which bear a superficial resemblance to pigs, have been present in South America since prehistoric times. [Gongora, J., and C. Moran. 2005. Nuclear and mitochondrial evolutionary analyses of Collared, White-lipped, and Chacoan peccaries (Tayassuidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution; 34: 181-189.] LDS authors advocating the original mound builder setting for the Book of Mormon have similarly suggested North American peccaries (also called “wild pigs” [”peccary”, The New Columbia Encyclpopedia] ) as the “swine” of the Jaredites [Phyllis Carol Olive, Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, 83] .

Critics rebut that peccaries have never been domesticated. ["Nor were there any animals [in the Americas] which could be domesticated for food or milk...the peccary, or American hog, is irreclaimable in its love of freedom." - Brinton, quoted in Roberts, B.H. Studies of the Book of Mormon, Second Edition. Signature Books. Salt Lake City. Edited by Brigham D. Madsen. 1992. pp. 102-103] It is not inconceivable, however, that captured peccaries held in captivity for food or for trade, could explain their being listed with Jaredite varieties of cattle. The Book of Mormon does not specifically say the “swine” were domesticated. We read that the non-Israelite Jaredites, saw “swine” as “useful for the food of man.” [Ether 9:18]

Barley and wheat

Grains are mentioned twenty-eight times in the Book of Mormon, including barley and wheat. [cite journal| title =Barley and Wheat in the Book Mormon | journal =Featured Papers| publisher =Maxwell Institute| url =| accessdate =2007-01-19 ] The introduction of domesticated modern barley and wheat to the New World was made by Europeans sometime after 1492, many centuries after the time in which the Book of Mormon is set.

FARMS apologist Robert Bennett offered two possible explanations for this anachronism:

"Research on this matter supports two possible explanations. First, the terms barley and wheat, as used in the Book of Mormon, may refer to certain other New World crop plants that were given Old World designations; and second, the terms may refer to genuine varieties of New World barley and wheat," states Mr Benett of the Maxwell Institute. "For example, the Spanish called the fruit of the prickly pear cactus a "fig," and emigrants from England called maize "corn," an English term referring to grains in general. A similar practice may have been employed when Book of Mormon people encountered New World plant species for the first time." [Barley and Wheat in the Book MormonRobert R. BennettProvo, Utah: Maxwell Institute. [] ]

Apologist Robert R. Bennett of FARMS postulates that references to "barley" could refer to Hordeum pusillum, also known as "Little Barley", a species of grass native to the Americas. The seeds are edible, and this plant was part of the Pre-Columbian Eastern Agricultural Complex of cultivated plants used by Native Americans. Hordeum pusillum was unknown in Mesoamerica, where there is no evidence of pre-Columbian barley cultivation, but evidence exists that this plant was domesticated in North America in the Woodland periods contemporary with mound builder societies (early centuries A.D.). [Bennett cites, Nancy B. Asch and David L. Asch, “Archeobotany,” in Deer Track: A Late Woodland Village in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Charles R. McGimsey and Michael D. Conner (Kampsville, Ill. Center for American Archaeology, 1985), 44, pg. 78] . He states that this information “should caution readers of the Book of Mormon not to quickly dismiss references to pre-Columbian wheat as anachronistic.” [ Robert R. Bennett, “Barley and Wheat in the Book Mormon”, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute. [] ] .

Additionally, apologistsWho|date=August 2008 also note that the Norse, after reaching North America, claimed to have found what they called “self-sown wheat” [Commenting on the Norse sagas: Dorothy Duncan, Canadians at Table, pp. 23-24; See also “Leif Ericsson”, The New Columbia Encyclopedia] .

Critics rebut these claims, rejecting the notion that Hordeum pusillum was the "barley" that Joseph Smith referred to in the Book of Mormon. They also note that the earliest mention of barley in the Book of Mormon dates to 121 B.C. [Mosiah 7:22] which is several hundred hears prior to cultivation of Hordeum pusillum in North America, and the arrival of the Norse.

Additionally, apologistsWho|date=August 2008Fact|date=August 2008 postulate that references to "barley" and "wheat" could be generic terms for grains such as chia, a grain that was used by the Aztecs. [Chia Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs Richard Ayerza, Jr.; Wayne Coates215 pp. ] [ [] ]

Chariots or wheeled vehicles

The "Book of Mormon" mentions the use of chariots as a mode of transportation five times. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Alma|chapter=18|verse=9|range=-10,12, sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Alma|chapter=20|verse=6, sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=3 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=22] There is no archaeological evidence to support the use of wheeled vehicles in Mesoamerica. Many parts of ancient Mesoamerica were not suitable for wheeled transport. Clark Wissler, the Curator of Ethnography at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, noted:

"...we see that the prevailing mode of land transport in the New World was by human carrier. The wheel was unknown in pre-Columbian times." [Wissler, Clark. The American Indian. pp=32-39 - as quoted by B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, Second Edition, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1992, pg=99.]

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

Some apologists have pointed to the discovery of wheeled toys left in tombs. [cite book| last =Phillips| first =Charles| coauthors =Jones, David M| title =Aztec & Maya: Life in an Ancient Civilization| publisher =Hermes House| year= 2005| location =London| pages =65] However, several researchers, including W. H. Holmes of the Bureau of American Ethnology suspect that the toys were introduced into the tombs after the arrival of Europeans on the continent. He stated:

"Charnay obtained from an ancient cemetery at Tenenepanco, Mexico, a number of toy chariots of terra cotta, presumably buried with the body of a child, some of which retained their wheels. The possibility that these "toys are of a post-discovery manufacture" must be taken into account, especially since mention is made of the discovery of brass bells in the same cemetery with the toys." (emphasis in original) [Holmes, W. H. Handbook of Aboriginal American Antiquities. 1919. pp=20 - as quoted by B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, Second Edition, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1992, pg=100.]

One LDS researcher responds to the lack of evidence with a comparison to Biblical archaeology, suggesting that though there are no archaeological evidences that any of the numerous ancient American civilizations used wheeled transportation, few chariot fragments have been found in the Middle East dating to Biblical times [Sorenson, p. 59] (apart from the disassembled chariots found in Tutankhamun's tomb). Although few fragments of chariots have been found in the Middle East, there are many images of ancient chariots on pottery and frescoes and in many sculptures of Mediterranean origin, thus confirming their existence in those societies. The complete absence of these images among the hundreds of frescoes, hundreds of thousands of pieces of decorated pottery and pre-Columbian artwork found in the New World does not support the existence of Old World style chariots in the New World.

Referencing the discovery of wheeled chariot "toys" in Mayan funerary settings, Mormon scholar William J. Hamblin has suggested that the "chariots" mentioned in the Book of Mormon might refer to mythic or cultic wheeled vehicles. [See [ Pre-Columbian Contact with the Americas across the Oceans: An Annotated Bibliography]

teel and iron

Steel and iron are mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon. [See sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=16|verse=18, sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=2 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=15, sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Jarom|chapter=1|verse=8, sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Ether|chapter=7|verse=9] There is no evidence of steel (hardened iron) production in North, Central, or South America.

Between 2004 and 2007, a Purdue University archaeologist, Kevin J. Vaughn, discovered a 2000 year old iron ore mine near Nazca, Peru. The discovery demonstrated that iron was mined during the period of time covered in the Book of Mormon. There are also numerous excavations that included iron ore. [Mound 27 and the Middle Preclassic Period at Mirador, Chiapas, Mexico [] ] He noted:

"Even though ancient Andean people smelted some metals, such as copper, they never smelted iron like they did in the Old World...Metals were used for a variety of tools in the Old World, such as weapons, while in the Americas, metals were used as prestige goods for the wealthy elite." [ [ Archaeologist 'Strikes Gold' With Finds Of Ancient Nasca Iron Ore Mine In Peru ] ]

Apologists counter that the word "steel" may be referring to another alloy of hardened metal such as the hardened copper alloy that is translated with the word "steel" in the King James Version of the Bible. [ article by William Hamblin on steel in the Book of Mormon] This alloy is in fact a hardened copper similar to bronze and not hardened iron [ Even in biblical verses where iron is paired with “steel” (Job 20:24, Jeremiah 15:12), “steel” nevertheless refers to hardened copper alloys. See נְחוּשָׁה and נְחֹשֶׁת in the Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew / Aramaic Lexicon) ] Though usually more resistant to oxidation than iron, hardened alloys of copper can oxidize. It is therefore not certain that the mention of “rust” [ Mosiah 8:11 ] is the same as iron oxide.

Metal swords, which had "rusted"

The Book of Mormon makes numerous references to swords and their use in battle. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=2 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=14] When the remnants of the Jaredite's final battle were discovered, the Book of Mormon narrative states that "the blades thereof were cankered with rust." [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Mosiah|chapter=8|verse=11]

Warriors in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica are known to have used wooden clubs with blade-like obsidian flakes, [cite journal| last =Roper| first =Matthew| title =Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon | journal =Journal of Book of Mormon Studies| volume =8| issue =1| pages =pp. 34–43| publisher =Maxwell Institute| year= 1999| url =| accessdate =2007-01-11 "Spaniards who faced native Mesoamerican swords in battle were deeply impressed by their deadly cutting power and razorlike sharpness."] which being stone cannot rust.

Apologists counter that most references to swords do not speak of the material they were made of, and that they may refer to a number of weapons such as the Macuahuitl, a "sword" made of obsidian blades that was used by the Aztecs. It was very sharp and could decapitate a man or horse. However, this does not explain several references to swords that were explicitly made out of steel, and another metal that was capable of "rusting". Obsidian flakes on a Macuahuitl are not capable of rusting.

Researchers have shown that metallurgy did exist in a primitive state in Mesoamerica during the the that span the Preclassic/Formative and Classic periods (which corresponds to the time period in the Book of Mormon). These metals include brass, iron ore, copper, silver, and gold. ["The first Andean evidence for metallurgy dates to around 1500 B.C. " site: it is in the middle of the page.] [Olmec Archaeology and Early MesoamericaSeries: Cambridge World ArchaeologyChristopher PoolUniversity of Kentucky] [D. Hosler and G. Stresser Pean, "The Huastec Region: A Second Locus for the Production of Bronze Alloys in Ancient Mesoamerica," Science, 257 (1992), pp. 1215-1220.] [D. Hosler and Andrew MacFarlane, "Copper Sources, Metal Production and Metals Trade in Late Post-Classic Mesoamerica," Science, 273, (1996), pp. 1819-1824.] [R. Brill and J. Wampler,"Isotope Studies ofAncient Lead," American of Archaeoloe, 71 (1967), p. 63.] [E. Pemika, Archaeometry, 35 (1993), p. 259] [A.F. MacFarlane (Paper presented at the Har,ard Symposium on Ancient Metallurgy, September 1997] [G.L. Cummings, S.E. Kessler, and D. Kristic, Economic Geology 74 (1979), p. 1395] [D. Hosler, "Six Metal Production Sites in the Tierra Caliente of Guerrero" (unpublished research).] [H. Ball and D. Brockinton, Mesoamerican Communication Routes and Cultural Contacts, Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, 40, pp. 75-106] [The Sounds and Colors of Power: The Sacred Metallurgical Technology of Ancient West Mexico by Dorothy Hosler] However, the the metals were never used to make swords; Vaughn noted:

"Even though ancient Andean people smelted some metals, such as copper, they never smelted iron like they did in the Old World...Metals were used for a variety of tools in the Old World, such as weapons, while in the Americas, metals were used as prestige goods for the wealthy elite." [ [ Archaeologist 'Strikes Gold' With Finds Of Ancient Nasca Iron Ore Mine In Peru ] ]


Cimiters are mentioned about ten times in the Book of Mormon. [Enos 1:20, Helaman 1:14] The word "cimiter" (Scimitar) is considered an anachronism, since the word was never used by the Hebrews (from which the Book of Mormon peoples came from), or any other civilization prior to 450 A.D. [B.H. Roberts noted: "The word [cimiter] is of oriental and uncertain origin and appears in various forms. How it came to be introduced into the speech and writings of the Nephites, and how not used in the other Hebrew literature at an earlier date, is so far as I know, unaccountable. The earliest use of the word I have found is in Gibbon, where referring to the alleged incident of finding the sword of Mars for Attila, he there calls that sword of Mars "cimiter"; but that was about 450 A.D." - from Roberts, B.H.; Studies of the Book of Mormon; Signature Books; Salt Lake City; Second Edition; 1992; page 112.] As with swords, there is no evidence that native American peoples had metal blades.

The word cimiter (scimitar) has at different times referred to a long curved sword used by the Persians and Turks, or a smaller curved knife, similar to the kopis of the Turks, or makhaira of the Greeks.

Apologists, including Michael R. Ash, and William Hamblin of FAIR, note that the Book of Mormon does not mention the materials that the "cimiters" were made out of, and postulate that the word is was chosen by Joseph Smith as the closest workable English word for the weapon used by the Nephites [Ash states: "there is enough Mesoamerican artwork and artifacts that display the basic characteristics of a scimitar that the Book of Mormon is vindicated for its usage." See:] that was not made of metal, and was short and curved.

ystem of exchange based on measures of precious metals

The Book of Mormon details a system of weights and measures used by the societies described therin. [Alma 11 [,13,22,25#6] ] However, the overall use of metal in ancient America seems to have been extremely limited. A more common exchange medium in Mesoamerica were cacao beans. [Harvnb|Coe|2002|p=132 " [W] ell into Colonial times the beans served as a form of money in regional markets."]


The Book of Mormon mentions the use of silk six times.Fact|date=August 2008 Silk is a material that is created from the cocoon of the Asian moth "Bombyx mori", and was unknown to the Americas before their discovery.

Mormon scholar John L. Sorenson believes that there are several materials which were used in Mesoamerica which the Spanish called "silk" upon their arrival. [Harvnb|Sorenson|1985|p=232 "The Spanish reported several kinds of “silk.” One kind of silk was spun from the hair of rabbit’s bellies, another may have come from a wild silkworm, and yet a third came from the pod of the ceiba tree. Spanish chronicles report that types of “silk” were spun and woven in Mesoamerica before their arrival."] He alleges that the inhabitants of Mexico used the fiber spun by a wild silkworm to create a fabric. [cite paper| author =Sorenson, John L| authorlink =John L. Sorenson| title =A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution "Statement regarding the Book of Mormon"| publisher =Maxwell Institute| url =| format =HTTP| accessdate =2007-01-17 ]

Knowledge of Hebrew and Egyptian languages

The Book of Mormon describes several literate peoples whose language and writing had roots in Hebrew and Egyptian. Archaeological evidence shows that the only people who ever developed a written language in America were the Mayans, whose written and spoken language has no resemblance to Hebrew or Egyptian.

Additionally, linguistic studies on the evolution of the spoken languages of the Americas agree with the widely held model that the initial colonization of the Americas by Homo sapiens occurred over 10,000 years ago instead of during the time frame given in the Book of Mormon.

Apologists argue that the Book of Mormon may not describe the original settlers of the Americas, but may have been a subset of the larger population, who settled in a limited geographical setting, and that evidence of the knowledge of Hebrew or Egyptian is too sparse to be found. Critics note that this is not congruent with past church teachings, and the preface to past editions of the Book of Mormon.


The Book of Mormon also states that a "compass" was used by Nephi around 600 B.C. The compass is widely recognized to have been invented in China around 1100 A.D., and remains of a compass have never been found in America.

Apologists counter that the compass used by Nephi (the Liahona) was, according to the narrative, created by God himself, and not by the Nephites. They claim that it is possible that the compass used by the Nephites was not copied or used by the civilization, and as such archaeological evidence of compasses may not exist in the Americas. Based on this theory, Joseph Smith would have chosen the word "compass" in his translation of the gold plates as a best fit for the concept of the compass, and as such it is not necessarily an anachronism.


The Book of Mormon describes that the Jaredite people were familiar with the concept of "windows" near the time of the Biblical Tower of Babel (presumably circa 2000 B.C. See Chronology of the Bible), and that they specifically avoided crafting windows for lighting in their covered seagoing vessels, because the windows would be "dashed in pieces" during the ocean voyage [Ether 2:22-23] . It is claimed that transparent window panes are a more recent invention. The earliest known production of glass dates to 3500 B.C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though the specimens are non-transparent beads [Glass, "The New Columbia Encyclopedia"] . The earliest known production of transparent glass panes is much more recent - dating to the 11th century A.D. in Germany [] which is many hundreds of years after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon record.

Apologists note that the Hebrew word "chalon" translated "window" in Genesis 8:6 in the Bible, refers to an opening or porthole that was covered, but by what is not specified. It is not specifically stated that the window referred to in the Book of Mormon was an opening covered by a transparent material. LDS Apologists argue that the word "window" simply parallels the language of the familiar King James Bible. They claim that a wooden or other covering might have been "dashed in pieces" by the "mountain waves" that would "dash upon" them [Ether 2:24] , and that even a thick glass casting would not have provided constant light to the interior of the vessels [Ether 2:25; 6:10] .

Linguistic anachronisms

"Christ" and "Messiah"

The words "Christ" and "Messiah" are used several hundred times throughout the Book of Mormon. [The word "Christ" is used 99 times, and the word "Messiah" is used 13 times in the Book of Mormon] The first instance of the word "Christ" dates to between 559 and 545 B.C. [See 2 Ne. 10:3] The first instance of the word "Messiah" dates to about 600 B.C. [1 Ne. 1:19]

"Christ" is the English transliteration of the Greek word Χριστός (transliterated precisely as Christós); it is relatively synonymous with the Hebrew word rendered "Messiah"." Both words have the meaning of "anointed," and are used in the Bible to refer to "the Anointed One". [ [ - MESSIAH ] ] In Greek translations of the Old Testament (including the Septuagint), the word "Christ" is used for the Hebrew "Messiah", and in Hebrew translations of the New Testament, the word "Messiah" is used for the Greek "Christ". [ [ A searchable online Bible in over 50 versions and 35 languages ] ] If you take any passage in the Bible that uses the word "Christ", you can substitute for it the word "Messiah" or "the Messiah" with no change in meaning (e.g. sourcetext|source=Bible|version=King James|book=Matthew|chapter=1|verse=1|range=, 16, 18).

The Book of Mormon uses both terms throughout the book. In the vast majority of cases, it uses the terms in an identical manner as the Bible, where it doesn't matter which word is used::"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is (Christ/the Messiah), the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall" (sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Helaman|chapter=5|verse=12).:"And after he had baptized (Christ/the Messiah) with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world." (sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=10|verse=10).Apologists state that the original Reformed Egyptian text certainly used Hebrew forms of names and titles exclusively, but when translating Joseph Smith simply used whichever form of the name ("Christ" or "Messiah") was more appropriate in English. [ [ LDS FAQ/Mormon Answers: Questions about Book of Mormon Problems and Alleged Contradictions ] ]

The Book of Mormon occasionally uses the word "Christ" in a way that is not interchangeable with "Messiah". For example in sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=2 Nephi|chapter=10|verse=3, the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob says an angel informed him that the name of the Messiah would be Christ:

"Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ--for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name--should come among the Jews" (sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=2 Nephi|chapter=10|verse=3)
The word "Messiah" was used frequently before this point, but here Jacob says the term "Christ" is a new term, and from this point on the word "Christ" is used almost exclusively in the Book of Mormon.

Richard Packham argues that the Greek word "Christ" in the Book of Mormon challenges the authenticity of the work since, Joseph Smith clearly stated that, "There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of the Lord, translated the Book of Mormon."

Hugh Nibley postulated that the word Messiah could have been derived from Arabic rather than Hebrew [Hugh Nibley, "Since Cumorah", pp. 167-68, discusses the origin, interchangeability, and translated use of the terms “Messiah” and “Christ” as they appear in scripture. Dr. Nibley points out that the Arabic word "al-masih", for instance, could be translated using the Hebrew term “Messiah” or the New Testament term “Christ” depending on the context and translator. See also “Meshiach” (מָשִׁיחַ), “anointed”, Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon] , although Arabic is not mentioned as one of the languages in which the gold plates were written.

Greek names

Joseph Smith stated in a letter to the editor of Times and Seasons, "There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of the Lord, translated the Book of Mormon."Times and Seasons, Vol.4, No.13, May 15, 1843, p.194] Nevertheless, the Book of Mormon contains some names which appear to be Greek, some of which are Hellenizations of Hebrew names (e.g. Antipas, Archeantus, Esrom, Ezias, Judea and Zenos).

Others are non-biblical and their presence in the book is puzzling to both believers and skeptics, since neither Smith nor the Nephites spoke Greek. One explanation has been offered by Brian D. Stubbs, who said that though the language of the Mulekites isn't put forward in the Book of Mormon, it could have consisted of Phoenician, Greek, or Arabic. [Harvnb|Stubbs|1996|p=1]

"Church" and "Synagogue"

The word "church" first occurs in 1 Nephi 4:26, where a prophet named Nephi disguises himself as Laban, a prominent man in Jerusalem whom Nephi had slain:

"And he [Laban's servant] , supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me" (sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=4|verse=26).

According to the Book of Mormon, this exchange happened in Jerusalem, around 600 B.C. The meaning of the word "church" in the Book of Mormon is more comparable to usage in the Bible than Modern English. The concept of a church, meaning "a convocation of believers", existed among the House of Israel prior to Christianity. For instance, Psalms sourcetext|source=Bible|version=King James|book=Psalms|nobook=|chapter=89|verse=5 speaks of praising the Lord "in the congregation of the saints"; the Septuagint contains the Greek word "ecclesia" for "congregation," which is also translated as "church" in the New Testament . The Book of Mormon using the word "church" in the same "style" as the Bible is seen by some apologists as support for the Book of Mormon.

A similar question regards the word "synagogue," found in Alma 16:13:

"And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews" (sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Alma|chapter=16|verse=13).

Scholars have said that synagogues did not exist in their modern form before the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity.Fact|date=April 2007 The usage in the Book of Mormon, instead, is comparable to that of the KJV.Or|date=May 2008 sourcetext|source=Bible|version=King James|book=Psalms|chapter=74|verse=8 reads "the synagogues of God in the land." Similar to the use of the word "church," the word "synagogue" in the Bible generally refers to a place of assembly for religious worship.Or|date=May 2008

Other anachronisms

Critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner and Marvin W. Cowan contend that certain linguistic properties of the Book of Mormon provide evidence that the book was fabricated by Joseph Smith. [cite book
title=The New Mormon Challenge
] [cite book
title=Mormon Claims Answered
] These critics cite linguistic anachronisms such as:
* The Americanized name "Sam" (1 Nephi 2:5,17)


The word "Bible" occurs in the Book of Mormon ten times in the space of 7 verses at 2 Ne. 29: 3-4, 6, and 10, and its usage is dated to between 559 and 545 B.C. However, the word "Bible" was actually coined many hundreds of years later when the Christian canon in the process of being compiled.

Mormon apologists argue one of two things:
#The word "Bible" may have been chosen by Joseph Smith as part of the translation, even though the word was not actually used in the text written on the gold plates.Fact|date=August 2008
#The word "Bible" appears in the text of a vision given to Nephi and may have been given to him by God.Fact|date=August 2008


The French word "adieu" appears once in the Book of Mormon in Jacob 7:27.

Daniel H. Ludlow contends that the anachronism of the French word "adieu", and others, may have been the result of Joseph Smith choosing the best word available to convey the meaning of the original text. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 163]


The Book of Mormon mentions a harlot named Isabel [Alma 39:3] . "Isabel" is a name that only came into use in France and Italy during the late Middle Ages.


Anachronisms perpetuated from the King James Bible

A large portion of the Book of Mormon quotes from the Brass plates which are purportedly another source of Old Testament writings which mirror those that are in the Bible. Several anachronisms exist in the Book of Mormon that have apparently been perpetuated from the King James version of the Bible.


In 2 Nephi 23:21, the Book of Mormon quotes Isaiah 13:21, mentioning a creature called a satyr. A satyr is a mythical creature that is not known to have ever existed.



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