This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice ( Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.

Skeptics pick out a handful of things that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon but which they say did not really exist in ancient America. Why are these things mentioned if scientists say they didn’t exist in America? We do not have time machines to go back and see for sure what really existed. While science can gather evidence and make some logical models for history, it is illogical to say science discredits religious claims of historic events. There could be any number of explanations for why the Book of Mormon talks about horses. Maybe there were horses in America, or maybe there was some animal that got translated as “horse,” or maybe horses were only to be found among the Nephites. HorsesHorses

The science is not settled about horses in America. We know horses lived in America before the Ice Age–in fact, horses originated in America about 1.7 million years ago and spread to the rest of the world. So yes, horses lived in America. The question is if horses went extinct and when. The popular consensus is that they died out many thousands of years ago. But some scientists say horses lived on even until the time Europeans arrived. Scientists have dated the horse migration over to Asia as happening 17,000 years ago, and the popular consensus is that environmental changes and over-hunting killed them off in the Americas after that. But evidence strongly suggests some horses survived all the way to the time of European explorers.

Evidence For Horses – Horse fossils have been found from Nephite times:

DNA Evidence – It is hard to tell if ancient horse bones came from European horses or native American horses, because they are genetically the same. The E. lambei of North America has identical mDNA to E. cabalus, the modern horse. Genetic studies have found; “neither paleontological opinion nor modern molecular genetics support the contention that the modern horse in North America is non-native.” There is no way for DNA to disprove that horses went extinct. “Not only is E. caballus genetically equivalent to E. lambei, but no evidence exists for the origin of E. caballus anywhere except North America.” It is impossible to tell if the modern horse descended from Europe or America.

Explorer Accounts Of Native Horses – Ancient explorers gave detailed accounts of horses and horse-like animals in North America.

  • Hui Shen – 5th century. “They traveled on horseback and transported their goods with carts or sledges pulled by horses, buffalo, or deer.” (Some skeptics say Fusang is not North America, but all early maps locate Fusang around California.)
  • Bjorn of Iceland – 13th century. He saw horses in an expedition west of Greenland. Winnipeg natives told of ancient White peoples with horses called Onachipounnes.
  • Baron de Lahontan – 1687 in Seneca, New York. “We found plenty of horses, black cattle, foul, and hogs.” (This is later than 1519, but a rather early date for plentiful horses to make their way to New York.)
  • Louis-Joseph La Verendrle – 1642, Lakota Indians. Described a “mountain of the people of the horse” in a distant area of the Great Plains.

New Englanders Believed Horses Were Not Native – The New England community that Joseph Smith grew up in believed horses were introduced from Europe. Why would Joseph Smith introduce such a glaring flaw and contradict common knowledge?

  • British Encyclopedia, 1809: “These American horses are the descendants of those which were introduced by the Spaniards on their discovery of America, as none having previously existed on that continent.
  • American Gazetteer, 1809: “They are a warlike race, catching and taming the wild horses introduced by the Spaniards.

Distinct Characteristics – In Florida and Tennessee, Chickasaws and Seminole horses show distinct characteristics different from European horses, and were found to be plentiful in obscure areas of the wilderness in the early 17th century.

Large Herds Among Native Americans – How did Native tribes became proficient in breeding, riding, and caring for large herds of horses in a matter of years, if they indeed got the horses from the Spanish settlers? North American tribes of the Great Plains claim “they always had horses.” Since the DNA is the same as modern European horses, it is impossible to tell from DNA testing. The only way we could know for sure is if we found more fossil evidence from before the 16th century but after 15,000 BC. Does the absence of more fossil evidence prove that there were no horses anywhere? No.

Cave Drawings – Many cave drawings from within this time frame show horses, including figures riding horses. The Utz-Oneota Tablet 1300 shows a horse shot by a bow. Additional drawings can also be found at the Canyon de Chelly, Arches National Park, Canyonlands, and Anubis Cave. Why does this ancient art show horses if they didn’t exist?

Oral Tradition – Oral traditions for native horses are particularly strong among the Lakota Indians, as described in this scientific study. Lakota Indians say the U.S. government rounded up their horses and destroyed them to keep the Indians on their reservations. Why do so many native tribes believe they “always had horses?”

Did Horses Go Extinct Among Nephites?

Not mentioned later on – Horses are only mentioned a small handful of times in the Book of Mormon. After 3 Nephi (26 AD) they are no longer mentioned at all. We would expect them to be mentioned more in the war chapters, not less. This suggests that the horse may have gone extinct around the 1st century AD.

The Nephites used horses for much different purposes than we do today or in ancient times. Here, the horse:

  • Lives in the forest
  • Eaten for food
  • Never ridden
  • Never gathered in herds

Obviously, growing up on a farm, Joseph Smith knew horses did not behave this way. So if he made it up, why did he describe horses so bizarrely in the Book of Mormon?

Flocks instead of herds? – At first horses are a forest animal. Forest animals? The horse is listed as a source of food, and when driving horses, the Nephites marched alongside them instead of riding them. And they are gathered in flocks rather than herds. Flocks of horses? Why would groups of horses be called a flock? The 1828 dictionary defines flock as: “A company or collection; applied to sheep and other small animals.” Small animals?? But to be fair, the 1828 dictionary also points out: “But the word may sometimes perhaps be applied to larger beasts, and in the plural, flocks may include all kinds of domesticated animals.” So flocks of herds could mean various groups of different animals. Maybe the horses were herded together with smaller animals. But that is still strange. Horses do not herd with other animals such as cattle. When have you ever seen that? Maybe this indicates the “horse” was some other small animal.

Ether 9:19– Listed separately from food – Less useful than elephants, curloms, or cumoms
“And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man…”
1 Nephi 18:25– Horses on American continent when Nephites first showed up – Horse listed as a forest animal
“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…”
Enos 1:21– “Flocks” instead of “herds” of horses – Listed together with food animals
“…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.”
Alma 18:9– Horses were fed – Listed separately from “flocks” – Mentioned together with chariots, though it doesn’t actually say horses pulled chariots
“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…”
3 Nephi 3:22– Explicitly mentioned as a source of food – Listed separate from flocks
“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 4:4– Explicitly mentioned as a source of food – Not ridden. Nephites marched instead
“…we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands… 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…”
3 Nephi 6:1– Horses were fed – Listed separately from “flocks” and “herds”
“…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, and all things whatsoever did belong unto them….”

Some Other Animal Translated As Horse?

Another theory is that the E. Lambei horse did go extinct long ago, and this refers to some other animal. Maybe Joseph Smith picked the most closely related animals he could think of when he came across some obscure animal he had never heard of. He did not have a PHD in anthropology, after all, so he did not know the name of every animal mentioned in the Book of Mormon. He was an uneducated farm boy from upstate New York. Maybe this was just a horse-like animal.

This would explain why they lived in the forest, were eaten for food, gathered in flocks, and were never ridden.

Scholars think “horse” refers to the tapir, deer, or some similar animal. This could make sense, but CES Letter rejects this theory out of hand:

“I was amazed to learn that… horses aren’t really horses.”

(CES Letter)

But this again shows how little CES Letter knows about speaking a second language and translating text. Joseph Smith did not have a book on anthropology sitting on the shelf to look up tapir. So he could have chosen a closely related ungulate that everyone knows about, the horse. It is not an anachronisms to do this.

Did Horses Only Exist Among Nephites? – The Book of Mormon people were a foreign tribe in the midst of vast native populations. How do we know horses didn’t exist briefly among this local tribe? It could be the horse existed in a very small geographical area for a few hundred years and then died out.

Refers To Technology Rather Than Animal? – Another theory is that “horse” refers to the technology of using an animal to pull a chariot rather than a certain kind of animal. This fits with the Book of Mormon’s use of the word “silk.”

Dictionaries from Joseph Smith’s time defined horses and other things on CES Letter‘s list in terms of their use. “Horse” was defined as “a neighing quadruped, used in war and draught and carriage.” There were other animals in the Americas that fit this description.


Obviously, Joseph Smith knew that there were no elephants in North or South America. So if he wrote the Book of Mormon, why would he mention elephants? Why make up something that sounds so ridiculous?

Mammoths are elephants, and Mammoths or Mastodons existed in North America at the time of the Jaradites. There is no anachronism here.


The Musk Ox and American Bison fit the description of ox in the Book of Mormon, and both are types of oxen. Either one could be what is meant.

Also, it is important to note that the bible uses the word ox for “bull,” so this could be referring to bulls.


Sheep are native to America. The most common is the Mountain Sheep, Ovis canadensis. Native Americans used sheep wool.


Pigs are native to America. The peccary pig and other types of swine.


Mountain goats are native to America.


Cattle are native to America, though today’s popular bos taurus cow probably wasn’t.


The Book of Mormon does not mention wheels as existing in North America. Why is wheel on the list?


There are only really two mentions of chariots in the Book of Mormon: Ammon preparing the horses and chariots of King Lamoni, and the Nephites gathering their horses and chariots in the center of the land. We assume King Lamoni was going to ride on his chariot and that it was going to be pulled by a horse, but it doesn’t actually say that. We don’t know what it was for.

In the second mention, the Nephites gather the horses and chariots and then lave them so they can march into battle. Huh? Why would they leave the chariots behind? Isn’t a chariot supposed to be for battle?

So we don’t know what the chariot refers to or what its relationship to the horse was. Maybe it was some kind of vehicle or sled for transportation? The Book of Mormon often uses archaic forms of words, and the archaic chariot is char, which could refer to any number of things, most likely some kind of cart.


Wheat is native to America, and Native Americans commonly used it for food, specifically the amaranth plant.

Besides, the word “wheat” is only mentioned once in the Book of Mormon. How do we know that wheat does not refer to a plant that briefly existed among the Nephite tribe? Lots of things existed that haven’t been found by scientists.


In the Book of Mormon, the word “silk” is always mentioned in the context of a finely cloth, alongside “fine-twined linen.” It is about the technology not the specific object. Joseph Smith did not have a PHD in textiles, so he picked the most closely related word he knew to talk about cloth made of animal woven animal hair. Early European explorers likewise spoke of “silk” in early America, in reference to soft cloth woven from the under-hair of rabbits. Same thing. If silk did not exist in ancient America, why do these early explorers talk about silk?


The Book of Mormon mentions Nephi’s recent descendants forging steel and an old Jaradite leader. That’s it. Two or three people. No mention after 400 BC. It was a technology that very quickly vanished.


Iron was used in ancient America.

So to answer CES Letter‘s question:

“Why are these things mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being made available in the Americas between 2200 BC – 421 AD?”

(CES Letter)

Most of these things existed and were in use in pre-Columbian times. And the others very well could have existed, or refer to things that could have existed.

Anachronisms In The Bible – Abraham’s camels in Canaan. Joseph’s corn in Egypt. Why does the bible mention technology and things that did not exist in that time? Why? Same reasons. “Corn” refers “kernels” or “grain,” and in modern times this word has come to mean maize. This is a question of a word’s definition being different. As for Abraham’s camels, we can’t go back in time and see who all had camels. Science only knows based on carbon-tested bones, and like the case with horses in America, it is ridiculous to discount every living ancient person based on this kind of testing.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

FalsehoodCES Letter groups this list of animals and technologies as available between 2200 BC-421 AD. according to the Book of Mormon. But this is false. The Book of Mormon mentions the elephant existing among the Jaradites shortly after 2400 BC, but does not mention elephants any later than that. Some say the Tower of Babel was built in 2200 BC at the latest, and likely much earlier. Mammoths or Mastodons did indeed live in the Americas many thousands of years ago. Other animals listed by CES Letter have been found. The peccary pig and goats certainly directly existed.
Argument From IgnoranceJust because a few things haven’t been found doesn’t mean they never existed. It is impossible to prove horses did not exist anywhere in Pre-Columbian America.
Etymological FallacyClinging to the “true meaning” of modern words, CES Letter completely ignores the context and translation process of the Book of Mormon. The 1792 dictionary defined “horse” as “a neighing quadruped, used in war and draught and carriage.”
Poison The WellCES Letter ridicules any discussion of linguistics of words, which is inappropriate for a discussion about translating words from another language.
Cherry-PickingThere is a long list of things mentioned in the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith couldn’t have known about, but CES Letter ignores all this.

Rigid Definitions Of Words – By refusing to consider any answer that involves linguistics, CES Letter focuses the frame solely on science. Science says there were no horses, and religion says that there were. This false argument appeals to science as the higher source for truth yet is itself highly unscientific. What, are we supposed to scour every inch of soil in America until we find fossils of every object and animal that is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This is impossible. CES Letter thus puts the burden of proof on Mormons in bad faith.

The scientific thing to do would be to find an object in ancient America that the Book of Mormon claims was never there. That would be a solid argument. But instead, they make a sweeping generalization that something the Book of Mormon mentions once or twice couldn’t possibly have been there. This is science? Actual science should be investigated and celebrated by Mormons and non-Mormons alike, but this is just generalizing. The Book of Mormon was never intended to be an anthropology record or an authority about which animals existed at which time. Mormon was not a scientist who studied animals and plants. He was a military leader writing a volume about theology.

See also:CES Letter Contradiction Strategy

Innuendo Rather Than Logic – Just raising this question makes the pro-science narrative credible to some degree. As with their first argument, CES Letter does not bother giving any explanation to a highly complex subject, because the purpose of this attack is to put the audience in a skeptical frame of mind.

CES Letter drops a bit of leading evidence, and the reader connects to dots in their mind to the inevitable conclusion. If horses and these other things did not exist in ancient America, the Book of Mormon must be false for claiming they did exist. CES Letter does not actually say this, but leads the audience to say it in their minds. They do not give us this logic, but allows the reader’s mind to string it together on their own, because people are much more likely to believe a deduction if they figured it out on their own, subconsciously. They are also more likely to believe the evidences for that deduction.

If we sat down and investigated this question thoroughly, it would be easy to debunk the “contradiction.” So instead, CES Letter rapidly moves on to more severe questions of ‘science vs. Book of Mormon’ before the audience even has time to think about it. They do not bother giving any explanation to a highly complex subject, because the purpose of this attack is to put the audience in a skeptical frame of mind.

Contradiction StrategyCES Letter again uses the contradiction strategy of agitation, and shifts focus to science vs. religion. They present the subject as self-evident and demand Mormons explain every little tiny part of their conflicting claim, rather than just accepting some things are unclear or unknown. Satan likewise pushes people to make sweeping assumptions based on current “science” and refuse to accept something as unknown. They make sweeping generalizations in order to define everything and get to the “particular essence” and replace people’s general understanding. This kind of superstition is the opposite of faith.Complete answers to CES Letter questions about Mormons:

Book Of Mormon Questions Related questions: DNA disproves? Archaeological evidence? Evidence of Hill Cumorah battle? Evidence for civilization? Rock in a hat?Complete Answers to CES Letter
Categories: Apologetics