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Nephi’s Horse

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There is an old joke that poses the question, “What was Nephi’s horse’s name.” The answer is “Beuntoyou” for Nephi was always saying, “Wo, be unto you.”  Of course Nephi did not have a horse.  Lehi’s family did not bring any animals with them on the boat, it is only after uniting with the Mulekites that there is any mention of horses and earlier in Ether.   The Jaredites who came over just after the flood of Noah brought with them horses, elephants, honeybees, and other useful animals.   At the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon the prevailing wisdom was that horses did not exist in America until they were introduced by the Spanish Conquistadors. Many critics of the Book of Mormon say that this error alone proves the Book of Mormon to be false.  Horses are not a central part of any story in the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith was making the whole thing up it would seem quite foolish to even mention horses, for this one item alone would completely discredit the story.  If, however, it came to light later through scientific research that there were indeed horses in pre-Columbian times, that would lend credence to the Book of Mormon as a genuine historical document.

While searching the Internet I found several references to “Pre-Columbian” horses.  Most of the articles were written either by LDS writers or anti-Mormons.  Obviously, both were biased and had something they wanted to prove.   However, I did find one article that was a part of the “North American BioFortean Review” at http://www.strangeark.com/nabr/NABR5.pdf. An article titled “Indian Pony Mystery” by Uri Kuchinsky is found on page 20. Kuchinsky goes through archeological, anthropological, historical, and even genetic evidences of pre-Columbian horses in his paper.

The first hole in the theory that horses were introduced by the Spanish in 1541 comes from the fact that the Spanish always kept mares in corrals and only allowed stallions and geldings to roam the range. Since horses were in widespread use among Native Americans 50 years later, it seems quite implausible that a large breeding stock could have spring from a mostly male escapees. Indian ponies are noted for their spots, pintos, and “paints.”  The famous Nez Perce Appaloosa is a prime example.  European and Arabian horses, on the other hand, were bred to be solid colored since markings beyond a blaze on the nose was considered a defect.  Even today it is rare to find multicolored horses that are not descendants of the Indian ponies.  Wild horses in Mongolia are fairly uniform in coloration and markings.  It seems quite unlikely that paint, pinto, and spotted horses would suddenly appear from European breeding stock if left to breed in the wild.

Even more convincing is the archaeological evidences of pre-Columbian horses.   In 1957 Clayton E. Ray published an article in the Journal of Mammalogy (May 1957) entitled, “Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan.”  In it he details the discovery in Marapan, a Post-Classic Mayan site that yielded the remains of horses at a depth of two meters underground which were “considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization.”

I have in my hand three pictures that show evidences of pre-Columbian horses.  The first is of a carving depicting a horse and a rider on the Temple of Plaques in Chichen Itza, Mexico.  The engraving was made between A.D. 967 and A.D.  987.  Another is taken from an Incan wall in Cuzco, Peru.  Cuzco was established about 1,100 A.D. The third picture is of a wheeled toy horse discovered in Mexico of an unknown date.  Similar artifacts and horse skeletons have been found in ancient burial mounds in North America.

Kuchinsky is neither pro nor anti Mormon and only mentions the Book of Mormon in passing. He is, however, amused that Mormon apologetics have not seized upon the growing evidences of pre-Columbian horses. His conclusion is “The likeliest scenario is that some party of Asian travelers arrived to the West Coast of America, possibly 2000 years ago, and brought the horse with them in their ship or ships. (Ancient horse transportation by ship is widely attested around the world, and Gloria Farley is a good source on this.)  The visitors stayed for a while, or possible settled in America, and taught the locals about their ways with horses, The horse spread from there, and eventually migrated to the Great Plains, a perfect habitat for horses. But they probably didn’t make it down South from there, where the conditions are not nearly as suitable.  Then the Europeans arrive to conquer the Aztecs, and since the Aztecs did not have the horse, they conclude that nobody in the New World has the horse.   And once this opinion is set in stone, all further evidence is coerced merrily into conforming with this preconception.”

This does not prove that the Book of Mormon is true, but neither can the mention of horses in the Book of Mormon be used as proof that it is false.  Other animals are also mentioned like camels and elephants and this too was ridiculed.  Of course now we know that camel and elephant (wooly mammoth) skeletons have been found in Loa Angeles in the La Brea tar pits and throughout the Americas.

The Book of Mormon purports to be a history of two peoples, one light skinned and the other dark skinned.  In the nineteenth century this fact was also offered as a “proof” that the book was false.  Obviously there are no white Indians running around the Americas.  The explanation the Book of Mormon has is that most Nephites (light skinned people) were killed about 420 A.D. In Chichen Itza murals are found on the walls of the Temple of Warriors depicting white and dark people and again in Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico giving evidence that the Book of Mormon is historically accurate on this point.

The idea of ancient writings on metal plates was also ridiculed in Joseph Smith’s time. Since then there have been many metal plates with writing on them in both the Old and the New Worlds. There are even those today who claim that brass and steel had not been invented by the time Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.   Yet the Bible tells of Moses making a “brazen serpent” out of brass and both David and Jeremiah mention steel.  David even mentions a broken bow of steel. This is merely an attempt by misinformed or deceitful people to prove the Book of Mormon false by all but the true standard of truth.

The Bible would never stand up to the intense scrutiny that has been given to the Book of Mormon.  If Nephi had been swallowed by a whale there would be volumes written about the impossibility of trans-baleen travel.  Biblists want solid archaeological proof of a Nephite civilization, yet where are the evidences left behind by 3 million Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years?  Where is the mention of Moses or the Exodus in written Egyptian history? Joshua 10 says the sun stood still giving Joshua more time to complete his victory over the Amorites.  More details are given in the book of Jasher, but alas, this is one of the missing books of the Bible. Such an event would have had cataclysmic consequences with momentum carrying the seas far beyond their shores.  Yet there is no geological evidence of any such happening.  Galileo lost his freedom and almost lost his life when trying to reason about this obvious contradiction with truth.

Joseph Smith is criticized for writing Christ was born in the land of Jerusalem.  Surely he knew differently, yet he used “land of” just as we would use Los Angeles to refer to the greater city and suburbs. The New Testament contradicts itself many times, both in the delineation of events and in doctrine, yet these are explained away as “anachronisms.”   You would think that the life changing event of Jesus appearing to his apostles after the resurrection would be so etched in the minds of those present that the gospel writers would all agree on the location and witnesses. Yet Matthew says there were eleven present on a mountain in Galilee. (Matthew 28:16-17) Mark and Luke say it happened in Jerusalem as the eleven “sat at meat.”   John says that Thomas was not present (John 20:24) and Paul says that Jesus first appeared not to Mary, but to Cephas then to the twelve (1 Cor 15:5.)

There is the question of witnesses.   When John, Isaiah, Daniel, and Moses recorded their revelations there were no other witnesses to these events.  Only rarely in the New Testament is there more than one witness to any heavenly manifestations.  Who can confirm that an angel appeared to Mary or that God spoke to Moses face to face?  Even the events on the Mount of Transfiguration are second hand stories, not written down by those that were actually there. Contrast that to the restoration of the gospel in our times.  Oliver Cowdery was present with Joseph Smith when John the Baptist appeared to restore the Aaronic priesthood. Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith together saw Jesus Christ in Hiram, Ohio.  Many saw angels when the Kirtland Temple was dedicated.  Three men besides Joseph Smith signed a sworn affidavit that the Angel Moroni appeared to them with the Gold plates in hand. Even though David Whitmer left the church never to return, he always reaffirmed his testimony when interviewed.  To me the fact that he left the church and yet never denied having witnessed an angelic visit by Moroni strengthens his credulity.  Another 8 witnesses testified that they had seen and handled the gold plates.  Today, in any court of law this would be irrefutable evidence that their testimonies were true.

While visiting my son in San Diego last year I was working in the yard and a couple of missionaries from another church approached me wanting to share a message about Christ.  After they delivered their short message I asked them how they knew the Bible was true.  One responded by saying that there were historical evidences that the Bible was factual at least as a historical document.  I then told them that there are historical evidences that Mohammed existed, does that mean that the Koran is the word of God?  They then asked me if I thought the Bible was not true and I responded that I did not say that it was not true, I just wanted to know how they knew it was true.  I then asked them how they knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. They replied, “The Bible says so.”  I then reminded them that they had not proved the Bible was the word of God and could not use that as a proof.

So then, to let them off the hook I asked them, “How did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ?” We then reviewed Matthew 16 when Christ asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they wais some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias: and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ the son of the living God.”  Then Jesus proceeded to teach the disciples the important lesson that flesh and blood, meaning neither him nor any other living being had told them this truth, but it had been revealed to them by the Father which is in heaven.  Men may lie or be deceived, but the Holy Ghost reveals only truth.  Peter knew because it was revealed to him.  I then testified, “That’s how I know that Jesus is the Christ, because it has been revealed to me.”   They then told me they had an appointment to keep and left not offering to return later.

This brings us to the final standard of truth, that of the witness of the Holy Ghost.  Jesus said, “whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”  (Matt 12:32) In other words, if you believe just because your parents or peers said they believe, you are no better than the Moslem in Arabia who believes Mohamed was a prophet because everyone else around him says it is true.  In fact, if you had been born in Arabia, you would probably be a Moslem following blindly the teachings of your local mullah. You can even believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth, but if your testimony has not been confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost, your faith is no better than that of a Hindu, for you will have missed the central and overlying principles of the Restoration.

In D&C  76,  Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith penned these immortal words. “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.”

To that I add my testimony that I know that Christ lives, for it has been revealed to me in ways that are too sacred to relate and in other ways that are as mundane as holding a baby in my arms.

I do not disbelieve the Bible because of its apparent contradictions.  I take it for what it is: Accounts sometimes written by men trying to recount events decades and even centuries after they happened.  Mark and Luke were not even present when most of the events they write about took place.  Unlike many of other faiths, I do not believe the Bible to be the source of all religious truth.  Instead, I believe that God is the source of all truth and the best method of ascertaining truth is from the Author, not the scribe.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:58  

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