Book of Mormon Covenant Lands According to the Best Sources

Species of Animals in Book of Mormon Country


No Mention of Monkeys or Palm Trees

The Book of Mormon names animals like "...horses, and asses, ...elephants ... cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms." (Ether 9:19)

According to the Book of Mormon, varieties of "cattle" inhabited the New World. Without these the Nephites would have been unable to fully keep the Law of Moses. (1 Nephi 18:25, Mosiah 2:3, 3 Nephi 28:22) Mention of "the goat, and the wild goat", "suckling lamb" and "sheep" should be take as literally as their mention in the Bible. Enos tells us that the Nephites raised 'flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind..." (Enos 1:21) The use of the word "flocks" in connection with "cattle" is  appropriate. The Hebrew word translated "cattle", "miqneh" (מִקְנֶה), means any of a variety of domesticated animals that may be bought or sold.      

The animal referred to by the Hebrew word "hamor" (חֲמוֹר) is translated "ass" in the English Bible. "Hamor" is tied to a verb which means "be red". In the New World, Nephi may have called a reddish-brown horse like creature by this name. This animal had apparently descended from a species known to the Jaredites.  

Horses and elephants (mastodons, mammoths) were native to North America in prehistoric times. Did some of these animals survive in America long after the last ice age and the massive floods that baptized the land? (Moses 7:34, Ether 13:2, 1 Nephi 18:25) Ancient encounters with horses and mastodons feature in works of the 19th Century "Mound-builder" genre, and are based on the archeology of the time. (Matthews, Cornelius, Behemoth: A Legend of the Mound-Builders, 1839) See also "Ojibway spirit horses ...", "About the Breed", and "The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse: Deconstructing a Eurocentric Myth".

Ancient elephant remains have been found throughout New York State. One of the richest sites for mastodon related artifacts is in swampland adjacent to what was ancient lake Tonawanda. Excavations have been ongoing in western New York State since 1983. ("Mastodon", Wikipedia. See also "5 Places to see Mastodon Remains in Upstate New York")

Some fragments of an elephant (mastodon) were exhumed from a mound in Wisconsin by a representative (Norris) of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Controversial Elephant effigy pipes, of the characteristic mound builder platform style, have been found in Iowa , and a child might easily name the animal depicted in the shape of the Wisconsin "elephant mound", though others are reluctant to conclude that this is in fact the animal represented.

The Book of Mormon mentions "animals of the forest" and lists various "beasts of the forests" (Ether 10:19, 1 Nephi 18:25), but the word jungle is nowhere in the English translation. (Enos 1:3) There is no mention of any recognizable animal in Nephite or Jaredite scripture that is out of place in a temperate climate. This includes "lions" (cougars). (Mosiah 20:10, Alma 14:29) Unlike "lions", "leopard" is only found in Isaiah quotations. (2 Nephi 21:6; 30:12). There is no instance of "leopard" being used to describe an animal in the American land of promise. This is not to say that the Nephites could not have drawn some parallel with the spotted bobcat.

The Book of Mormon "lion"  may in fact still prowl the bogs and wildness of Niagara's narrow neck. ("Cougar populations roaring back in US and Canada")

The Book of Mormon makes no claim about beekeeping in ancient America. The abridged book of Ether does not state that the Jaredites carried their swarms of "deseret" to America. (Ether 2:3) The honeybee is not specifically mentioned among the "flocks and herds", "beast", "animal or fowl that they should carry with them" across the great deep. (Ether 6:4) There appears to be no clear evidence of honeybees in temperate North America during Book of Mormon times.  

In Central America , the stingless honeybee has long been cultivated by natives. Could beekeeping in Mesoamerica date back to parties of Jaredites who eventually migrated there from the north?

The Hebrew, and possibly Nephite word for "bee" is "devorah"  (דְבוֹרָה, Isaiah 7:18, 2 Nephi 17:18). Being a feminine word, one might think that its plural form would feature the feminine plural ending "ot", hence "devorot". But the plural traditionally uses the masculine ending "im", hence "devorim".

"Devash" (דְבַשׁ) is translated "honey" in the scriptures, but it can mean date-honey, or honey (syrup) made from fruits as well as from bees. The "honey" listed as an article of trade in Ezekiel 27:17 may in fact be grape syrup. (Brown - Driver - Briggs - Gesenius Hebrew - Aramaic Lexicon)

Jacob son of Lehi remarked about buying "wine and milk without money and without price" (2 Nephi 9:50) Jacob's expression may be equivalent to his older brother Nephi's remark about buying "milk and honey, without money and without price." (2 Nephi 26:25) One kind of honey among the Nephites may have been a condensed or evaporated wine, a syrup made from grapes. (3 Nephi 14:16) Though "wild honey" was among the provisions of Lehi's company (1 Nephi 17:5; 18:6), there is no scriptural indication that honeybees were present in the American Promised Land.

If the setting for the Book of Mormon were tropical, we might expect at least one mention of a distinctly tropical species. Monkeys and palm trees, abound in Central America . But, there is no mention in the Book of Mormon of monkeys and palm trees even though there are words for these in Hebrew scripture.

The Hebrew word "qof" (קוֹף) means monkey. The plural form of this word is translated "ape" in the King James Bible. (1 Kings 10:22, 2 Chronicles 9:21) The Israelites may have seen little distinction between apes and monkeys. (II Chronicles. IX.21, Septuagint) Some scholars believe that "qof" is an Egyptian loanword. Lehi, and therefore Nephi, would certainly have known this word. In fact, the Hebrew letter "quf" (ק) may have evolved from a hieroglyph of a monkey with its tail.

The Hebrew / Aramaic word "tamar" (תָמָר) means palm tree. (Deuteronomy 34:3) Why does the Bible mention palm trees? There are, of course, palm trees in the lands surrounding Jerusalem. Why is there no mention in Nephite and Jaredite scripture, of "qofim" (monkeys) and "t'marim" (palm trees)?

The Book of Mormon speaks of "dragons"! In fact, "dragons" are always mentioned in the Book of Mormon in the context of combat:

"...Put on thy strength, O arm of the Lord...Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?" (2 Nephi 8:9, Isaiah 51:9)

A Hebrew word translated "dragon" is "tannin" (תַנִין). In the above verse, "tannin" can be translated "sea monster" or "crocodile". Depending on the context, "tannin" can mean a whale, or a venomous serpent. (Genesis 1:21, Deuteronomy 32:32) The Hebrew word "tannim" (תַנִים), on the other hand, refers to canids, which are doglike animals such as jackals. These are also translated "dragons". (Isaiah 13:22, 2 Nephi 23:22, Lamentation 4:3)

The Nephites envisioned "tanninim" and "tannim" (dragons) as real animals engaged in fierce combat. Hence, " dragons did they fight." (Mosiah 20:11), "yea, they did fight like dragons, and many of the Nephites were slain by their hands..." (Alma 43:44) These verses likely refer to fighting canids. Could something more have reinforced the imagery among ancient American peoples, of a battle with dragons?

A National Geographic article (December 2005), section heading "UNKTEHILA, MONSTERS IN NATIVE AMERICA" (pg 74) relates how native American discoveries of fossilized remains of prehistoric marine reptiles, may have inspired legends of a terrible battle between the Wakinyan (Thunder beings) and the evil Unktehila (Water monsters).


Copyright © 2008 by W. Vincent Coon


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