Girish Mahajan

Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

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Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

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


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 the time period in which the Book of Mormon claims to have been written.

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

The list below summarizes the most prominent anachronisms, as well as perspectives of Mormon scholars and common apologetic rebuttals.


According to Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon was originally engraved on golden plates, which he received in 1827 from an angel named Moroni, whom Smith identified as a resurrected inhabitant of the American continent. Smith claimed to translate the original text of the plates into English; the book says that the text was written on the plates in "Reformed Egyptian". The Book of Mormon was published in 1830.

The Book of Mormon is said to have taken place somewhere in the Americas from c. 2500 BC to 400 AD, thus placing its events within the pre-Columbian era.

Critics claim that the book's origin lies firmly in the 19th century and that Smith created it with the resources available to him, including the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

Unlike the Bible, no manuscripts in the supposed original language of the Book of Mormon are known to exist. No Reformed Egyptian manuscripts or plates have ever been excavated by archaeologists. Critics and supporters disagree as to whether other archaeological findings support or disprove the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Some Mormon archaeologists and researchers claim various archaeological findings such as place names, and ruins of the Inca, Maya, Olmec, and other ancient American and Old World civilizations as giving credence to the Book of Mormon record.

Quoting Isaiah

Book of Mormon prophets quote chapters 48 through 54 of the Book of Isaiah after having left the Jerusalem around 600 BC. Since Isaiah died around 698 BC, under traditional biblical belief, there would be no conflict. However, modern biblical scholars assert that these chapters were not written by Isaiah, but rather by one or more other people during the Babylonian captivity, sometime between 586 and 538 BC (between 14 and 82 years after it could have been known to the Book of Mormon prophets).


Baptism is mentioned as a ritual that is taught and performed among the Nephite civilization, with its first mention being taught by Nephi between 559 and 545 BC. However, baptism is widely believed to be unknown until its institution in early Christianity many hundreds of years after the practice was ostensibly taught and practiced as related in the Book of Mormon. However, a practice similar to baptism is known to have been practiced by the Jewish Essenes between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD.


"Horses" are mentioned 14 times in the Book of Mormon, and are portrayed as an integral part of the cultures described. There is no evidence that horses existed on the American continent during the timeframe of the Book of Mormon. Horses evolved in North America, but are believed to have become extinct on the American continent at the end of the Pleistocene. Horses did not reappear in the Americas until the Spaniards brought them from Europe. They were brought to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and to the American continent by Cortés in 1519.

Apologists assert that there is fossil evidence that some New World horses may have survived the Pleistocene–Holocene transition.

Others believe that the word "horse" in the Book of Mormon does not refer to members of the genus Equus but instead to other animals such as deer or tapirs.

FARMS apologist Robert R. Bennett stated that as a comparison, the famed horses of the Huns did not leave any archaeological trace yet numbered in the thousands. Archaeological remains of horses have been found at the Hun sites of Boroo Gol, Mankhan as well as at various grave sites directly preceding the Huns.

Bennett also draws an analogy by discussing 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."


"Elephants" are mentioned twice in a single verse in the Book of Ether. Mastodons and mammoths lived in the New World during the Pleistocene; however, as with the prehistoric horse, the fossil record indicates that they became extinct along with most of the megafauna towards the end of the last ice age. The source of this extinction, known as the Quaternary extinction event is speculated to be the result of human predation, a significant climate change, or a combination of both factors. It is known that a small population of mammoths survived on Saint Paul Island, Alaska, up until 5725 BP, but this date is more than 1000 years before the Jaredite record in the Book of Mormon begins.

The main point of contention is how late these animals were present in the Americas before becoming extinct.

Various Mormon authors have cited evidence that North American mound-builder cultures were familiar with the elephant. The oldest mound-builder societies date to around 2000 BC. The mound builder/elephant controversy did not originate with the Book of Mormon. 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. Elephant effigy pipes, of the characteristic mound builder platform style, were reported as archaeological finds in Iowa, 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. 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.

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 Mormon scholars 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. 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. Delaware and other native American legends of the mastodon are likewise said to exist.

Cattle and cows

There are six references to "cattle" in the Book of Mormon, including verbiage suggesting they were domesticated. Critics argue that there is no evidence that Old World cattle (members of the genus Bos) inhabited the New World prior to European contact in the 16th 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. According to the Book of Mormon, "cattle" could be found in ancient America. Without these, the Nephites could not have kept the Law of Moses, as directed.

Mormon apologists 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. It is widely accepted that the only large mammal to be domesticated in the Americas was the llama. 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 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.

Domesticated goats are not native to the Americas, having been domesticated in pre-historic times on the Eurasian continent. Domesticated goats are believed to have been introduced on the American continent upon the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th century, 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 aggressive towards humans.

Matthew Roper, a FARMS writer, discussed the topic of goats in his article, "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:

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.

Roper based his arguments on anecdotes from early Spanish colonists which called native Mesoamerican brocket deer goats: "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'".

However, Yale anthropologist Marion Schwartz noted that in the Americas "The white-tailed deer is a good example of an animal whose solitary behavior precludes its domestication even though it prefers to live in areas that people have opened up. Deer have been tamed and herded but not truly domesticated."


"Swine" are referred to twice in the Book of Mormon, and the narrative of the Book of Mormon suggests that the swine were domesticated by the Jaredites. There have not been any remains, references, artwork, tools, or any other evidence suggesting that swine were ever present in the pre-Columbian New World.

Apologists note that peccaries (also known as javelinas), which bear a superficial resemblance to pigs, have been present in South America since prehistoric times. Mormon authors advocating the original mound-builder setting for the Book of Mormon have similarly suggested North American peccaries (also called "wild pigs") as the "swine" of the Jaredites.

B.H. Roberts noted, however, that peccaries have never been domesticated.

Barley and wheat

Grains are mentioned twenty-eight times in the Book of Mormon, including "barley" and "wheat". 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 scholar 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. 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.

Bennett also 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. Evidence exists that this plant was domesticated in North America in the Woodland periods contemporary with mound-builder societies (early centuries AD) and has been carbon-dated to 2,500 years ago. Barley samples that date to 900 AD were also found in Phoenix, Arizona, and samples from Southern Illinois date between 1 and 900 AD.

Honey bees

In Ether 2:3, it says that the Jaredites "did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees."

The Mayans used Melipona beecheii, a stingless bee, for honey, but this is not the same as the actual honey bee, which is from the genus Apis.

Others have pointed out that the reference in Ether 2:3 refers to bees taken from the Old World to the Americas.

Chariots or wheeled vehicles

The Book of Mormon mentions the use of "chariots" as a mode of transportation five times. There is no archaeological evidence to support the use of wheeled vehicles in pre-Columbian 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."

A broader claim that wheels did not exist in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica is incorrect. Wheels were used in a limited context in Mesoamerica for what were probably ritual objects, "small clay animal effigies mounted on wheels. Lack of suitable draft animals and a terrain unsuitable for wheeled traffic are the probable reasons that wheeled transport was never developed."

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, these roads are so rough, steep, and narrow that they were likely 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. Inca roads were used mainly by chaski message runners and llama caravans. Mayan paved roads at Yucatan had characteristics which could allow the use of wheeled vehicles, but there is no evidence that those highways were used by other than people on foot and nobles who were borne on litters.

Some apologists have pointed to the discovery of wheeled toys left in tombs. 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.

One Mormon 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 (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. Chariots are absent in pre-Columbian frescoes, pottery and artwork found 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.


The Book of Mormon mentions the use of "silk" six times. "Silk" is generally understood to refer to material that is created from the cocoon of the Asian moth Bombyx mori; this type of silk was unknown in pre-Columbian America.

Mormon scholar John L. Sorenson believes that there are several materials which were used in Mesoamerica which the Spanish called "silk" upon their arrival. He alleges that the inhabitants of Mexico used the fiber spun by a wild silkworm to create a fabric.


The Book of Mormon also states that a "compass" or "Liahona" was used by Nephi in the 4th-century BC. The compass is widely recognized to have been invented in China around 1100 AD, and remains of a compass have never been found in America. In the Book of Alma, Alma explains to his son that "our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass".

Apologists counter that Liahona was, according to the narrative, created by God, and not by the Nephites. Also, unlike a normal compass, the Book of Mormon says that there was also writing on the ball that displayed instructions from God. Apologists claim that it is possible that the compass used by the Nephites was not copied or used by the civilization, and that therefore archaeological evidence of compasses would not exist in the Americas. Based on this theory, Joseph Smith would have chosen the word "compass" in his translation of the golden 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, and that they specifically avoided crafting windows for lighting in their covered seagoing vessels, because they feared that the windows would be "dashed in pieces" during the ocean voyage. Transparent window panes are a more recent invention, dating to the 11th century AD in Germany. The earliest known production of glass dates to 3500 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though the specimens are non-transparent beads.

Apologists note that the Hebrew word "חַלּוֹן" ("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. Mormon apologists argue that the word "window" simply parallels the language of the KJV. They claim that a wooden or other covering might have been "dashed in pieces" by the "mountain waves" that would "dash upon" them, and that even a thick glass casting would not have provided constant light to the interior of the vessels.

Uses of metal

The Book of Mormon mentions a number of metals, and the use of metal. However, while pre-Columbian tribes used metal, often beaten, there is no accepted evidence of high-temperature melting. The word "dross", meaning a by-product of smelting, appears twice in the Book of Alma. According to Brent Lee Metcalfe:

The context for the word "dross" in two passages in the Book of Mormon record suggests that the speaker and audience understood the metallurgical process the metaphor implies (cf. Ps. 119:119; Prov. 25:4; 26:23; Isa. 1:22, 25; Ezek. 22:18-19). "Therefore they were not permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness," the text explains. "Therefore they were poor; yea, they were esteemed by their brethren as dross; therefore they were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart" (Alma 32:3). Later it is explained, "[T]herefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men" (34:29). Such apt metaphors suggest that metallurgical processes were an important and generally understood feature of Nephite life.

The Book of Mosiah also mentions "ziff" as a metal, but its modern correlate is unknown.

Steel and iron

"Steel" and "iron" are mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon. There is no evidence of steel (hardened iron) production in pre-Columbian 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; however there is no evidence of smelting, and the hematite was apparently used to make pigments. There are other numerous excavations that included iron ore. 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.

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 KJV. This alloy is in fact a hardened copper similar to bronze and not hardened iron. Though usually more resistant to oxidation than iron, hardened alloys of copper can oxidize. It is therefore not certain that the mention of "rust" is a reference to iron oxide.

Metal swords, which had "rusted"

The Book of Mormon makes numerous references to "swords" and their use in battle. What the swords are made of is mostly ambiguous, except for 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", suggesting that the Jaredite swords were iron or steel.

Warriors in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica are known to have used wooden clubs with blade-like obsidian flakes, which cannot rust because it is stone.

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 the reference in Ether to swords that were able to rust.

Some studies have shown that metallurgy did exist in a primitive state in Mesoamerica during 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. However, the metals were never used to make swords:

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.

The closest evidence to a pre-Columbian metal blade on Mesoamerica come from the Maya, but those artifacts were not swords, but small copper axes used as tools.


"Cimiters" are mentioned about ten times in the Book of Mormon. The word "cimiter" is considered an anachronism, since the word was never used by the Hebrews or any other civilization prior to 450 AD. There is no evidence that native American peoples used scimitar blades.

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 was chosen by Joseph Smith as the closest workable English word for the weapon used by the Nephites that was not made of metal, and was short and curved.

System of exchange based on measures of precious metals

The Book of Mormon details a system of weights and measures used by the societies described therein. 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.

Knowledge of Hebrew and Egyptian languages

The Book of Mormon account refers to various groups of literate peoples, at least one of which is described as using a language and writing system with roots in Hebrew and Egyptian. Archaeological evidence has been found for five or six different Mesoamerican scripts, but archaeological dating methods make it difficult to establish which was earliest (and hence the forebear from which the others developed) and a significant portion of the documented scripts have not been deciphered. None of the documented Mesoamerican language scripts have any known relation to Hebrew or Egyptian. The Book of Mormon describes another literate culture, the Jaredites, but does not identify the language or writing system by name. The text that describes the Jaredites (Book of Ether) refers only to a language used prior to the alleged confounding of languages at the great tower, presumably a reference to the Tower of Babel.

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.

Some apologists argue that the Book of Mormon does not describe all of the original settlers of the Americas, but rather a subset of the larger population, who settled in a limited geographical setting. Thus, their language and writing may have had little to no impact on the culture of the rest of the population.

"Christ" and "Messiah"

The words "Christ" and "Messiah" are used several hundred times throughout the Book of Mormon. The first instance of the word "Christ" in the Book of Mormon dates to between 559 and 545 BC. The first instance of the word "Messiah" dates to about 600 BC.

"Christ" is the English transliteration of the Greek word Χριστός (transliterated precisely as Christós); it is relatively synonymous with the Hebrew word rendered "Messiah" (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Modern Mashiaẖ, Tiberian Māšîăḥ). Both words have the meaning of "anointed," and are used in the Bible to refer to "the Anointed One". 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". Any usage in the Bible of the word "Christ" can be alternately translated as "Messiah" with no change in meaning (e.g. Matthew 1:1, 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 does not matter which word is used:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, 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 (Helaman 5:12).

And after he had baptized 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." (1 Nephi 10:10).

The Book of Mormon occasionally uses the word "Christ" in a way that is not interchangeable with "Messiah". For example in 2 Nephi 10:3, 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 (2 Nephi 10:3)

The word "Messiah" is used in the text before this point, but from this point on the word "Christ" is used almost exclusively.

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."

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research states that the word "Christ" is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "Messiah" and that Smith simply chose the more familiar Greek word to translate the word that appeared in the language of the plates.

Hugh Nibley postulated that the word "Messiah" could have been derived from Arabic rather than Hebrew, although Arabic is not mentioned as one of the languages in which the golden 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." 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, Jonas, Judea, Lachoneus and Zenos).

Other Greek names 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 is not put forward in the Book of Mormon, it could have consisted of Phoenician, Greek, or Arabic.

"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 (1 Nephi 4:26).

According to the Book of Mormon, this exchange happened in Jerusalem, around 600 BC. The meaning of the word "church" in the Book of Mormon is more comparable to usage in the KJV 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 89:5 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 KJV 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 (Alma 16:13).

Scholars note that synagogues did not exist in their modern form before the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. The oldest known synagogue is located in Delos, Greece, and has been dated to 150 BC.

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. These critics cite linguistic anachronisms such as:

  • The Americanized [sic] name "Sam" (1 Nephi 2:5,17).
  • "Adieu"

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

    Supporters of the Book of Mormon argue that the text is a translation into modern English, so the use of a French word is not amiss. For example, Daniel H. Ludlow contends that it may have been the result of Joseph Smith choosing the best word available to convey the meaning of the original text.

    Anachronisms apparently perpetuated from King James's translation

    A significant portion of the Book of Mormon quotes from the brass plates, which purport to be another source of Old Testament writings mirroring those of the Bible. In many cases, the biblical quotations in the English-language Book of Mormon, are close, or identical to the equivalent sections of the KJV. Critics consider several Book of Mormon anachronisms to originate in the KJV.


    In 2 Nephi 23:21, the Book of Mormon quotes Isaiah 13:21, which mentions a "satyr". Satyrs are creatures from Greek mythology, which are half-man, half-goat. The KJV translates Isaiah 34:14 thus:

    The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. ("וְרָבְצוּ־שָׁם צִיִּים וּמָלְאוּ בָתֵּיהֶם אֹחִים וְשָׁכְנוּ שָׁם בְּנֹות יַֽעֲנָה וּשְׂעִירִים יְרַקְּדוּ־")

    Other English-language versions of the Bible, including the New International Version, translate the word שעיר (sa`iyr) as "wild goat"; other translations include "monkey" and "dancing devil".


    Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon Wikipedia

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