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Those pesky Book of Mormon horses and elephants!!!


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Found this interesting in a documentary regarding new discoveries in the amazon with LIDAR. 

The segment I have linked below has paintings of a mastodon, giant sloth and early horse. If the link doesn't open correctly it's at 58:30 in the video. Be aware that there is some indigenous nudity in the surrounding documentary so keep that in mind depending on the audience.

There has been fossil evidence of pre-columbian horses etc. for a long time and now we have newly discovered pictorial evidence of the overlap with humans.

 

 

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At the 59:04 mark:

So-Clearly-a-Horse.jpg

"And another completely unexpected animal."

"That is so clearly a horse, right?"

So-Clearly-a-Horse2.jpg

"One of the interesting aspects of this horse is the head shape.  This head shape, okay, it's quite a crude representation, but that's a head shape we expect of one of the earliest horses.  Horses are native to the Americas, but the went extinct in South America  around 13,000 years {ago}."

Thanks,

-Smac

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5 hours ago, gav said:

There has been fossil evidence of pre-columbian horses etc. for a long time and now we have newly discovered pictorial evidence of the overlap with humans.

I don't think its disputed that early Americans overlapped with Pleistocene horses, sloths, and mastodons. I think the prevailing theory is that their populations were thinning out because of climate change and that early humans eventually hunted them to extinction. 

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

At the 59:04 mark:

So-Clearly-a-Horse.jpg

"And another completely unexpected animal."

"That is so clearly a horse, right?"

So-Clearly-a-Horse2.jpg

"One of the interesting aspects of this horse is the head shape.  This head shape, okay, it's quite a crude representation, but that's a head shape we expect of one of the earliest horses.  Horses are native to the Americas, but the went extinct in South America  around 13,000 years {ago}."

Thanks,

-Smac

A woman who earned a master's degree under Barry Fell published a book on pre-Columbian horse artwork.  I came across it at the Berkely library.  I have searched for it on the internet and haven't found it.  I took notes but couldn't find it. 

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

................."One of the interesting aspects of this horse is the head shape.  This head shape, okay, it's quite a crude representation, but that's a head shape we expect of one of the earliest horses.  Horses are native to the Americas, but the went extinct in South America  around 13,000 years {ago}.".........................

We have sedimentary DNA from the Yukon showing that both horse and mammoth lived in that area as late as 5600 BC.  Rapid extinction is assumed after that.  Yet, as the scholars doing that sedaDNA study point out:

Quote

...sedaDNA evidence for mammoth and horse persisting into the Holocene in interior Alaska is incompatible with such rapid extinction and indicates that late-surviving mammoths in the New World were not confined to islands in the Bering Sea that might have afforded protection from human hunters (10, 34). The protracted survival of mammoth and horse is also inconsistent with the hyperdisease hypothesis (5) (which requires their swift demise following human contact) and with megafaunal extinction due to end-Pleistocene environmental changes associated with abrupt climatic events (35), altered vegetation patterns (2), or intense wildfires sparked by a presumed extraterrestrial impact (6, 7).  ....... the duration of human/megafaunal overlap was probably even greater than suggested by our sedaDNA results, raising questions about the mode and tempo of extinction.  James Haile, et al., “Ancient DNA reveals late survival of mammoth and horse in interior Alaska,” PNAS, Dec 17, 2009, online at http://www.pnas.org/content/106/52/22352.full .

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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51 minutes ago, katherine the great said:

Anywhere humans lived, the mega fauna were in extreme danger. But I don’t see any reason to believe that isolated pockets couldn’t have survived in non human-occupied areas well past the currently supported dates. It would be nice to have fossil evidence though. 🤷‍♀️

What is interesting about the BoM references is that they weren't simply survival relics but that a degree of domestication is implied. Elephants and those pesky cureloms and cummoms are present with the early Jaredites but get no mention from the later migrants. I find these nuances to the faunal references very intriguing.

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1 hour ago, gav said:

What is interesting about the BoM references is that they weren't simply survival relics but that a degree of domestication is implied. Elephants and those pesky cureloms and cummoms are present with the early Jaredites but get no mention from the later migrants. I find these nuances to the faunal references very intriguing.

There are various possibilities unknown to Joseph Smith, including alpaca, vicuña, chinchilla, guinea pig, llama (domesticated guanaco), tapir, agouti,  capybara, iguana, gomphothere,[1] etc.

[1] Gompotheres were known to be eaten by humans in the early Holocene.  It is not known when they became extinct.  “New Evidence from Earliest Known Human Settlement in the Americas,” ScienceDaily.com, May 9, 2008, available online at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080508143324.htm ; “Seaweed Validates Human Settlements,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2008, A11.

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As Katherine mentioned, it’s fairly well accepted that early indigenous Americans hunted and ate horses and mammoths. What is in dispute is whether or not horses and elephants were available for eating and other “useful” things (1), in the Meso-American region (or North America if you are a ‘Heartlander’) during the time of the Jaredites. It's believed the Jaredites, as an identifiable historical group, existed in the Americas sometime between 3500-2200 BC and 400 BC.(2)

If you wish to translate “Elephant” as the modern African or Indian animal we see in our zoos the answer is no. The Jaredites didn’t have modern elephants. If you are willing to include the mammoth and mastodon as legitimate “elephants” then the answer is ‘improbable’. Mastodons, as far as we know, were gone.
Little pockets of mammoths continued to survive on Wrangel Island, (far northeastern Russia) and Saint Paul Island, Alaska until 3700BC.(3) But these were cold, humid climates. That mammoths could comfortably exist in the Meso-America climate in 2200 BC and survive in large enough numbers to be considered “useful” is the part that is improbable. Improbable doesn’t mean impossible, but it does mean other theories should continue to be explored.

If you wish to think of the word "elephant" in the context of translating text of an ancient language and you don't have a word for a particular animal in your modern vocabulary, you could potentially include any animal that might be visually similar to an “elephant”.  Many animals have been suggested by LDS apologists, but the tapir is my favorite candidate under this theory. Taxonomically speaking, the tapir is related to a horse. It looks like a horse with a very long nose, making it a popular contender for the “horse” in the BOM as well, but I'm going to stick with "elephant".  They've got a long nose, they existed in the right time period, they were commonly eaten during that time period, and they are very comfortable in the Meso-American climate. The only kicker to this theory is the "elephant" is listed under "useful" animals in the BOM text, not under "useful for food" animals. That somewhat suggests useful for something besides food, and I don't think tapir have any use beyond food.

If you want to opt for a “we just haven’t discovered the fossils yet” position then you open up other possibilities.  I think the Gomphotheres is a better proposition for a Meso-American elephant survivor than the mammoth.  The Gomphotheres was much smaller and his range is known to have been in Central and South America so he was adapted to that terrain. If you are a proponent of the Heartland Theory, you’ll be interested to know that the most recent skeleton remains were found in North America in 2007. Since 2007 we know that Clovis tribes hunted Gomphotheres, so he’s already turned up when he supposedly was gone.  (He was previously thought to have been extinct prior to 13,500 BC.) He may yet surprise us again. (4) Gomphotheres is currently my favorite “Jaredite Elephant” – but I’m still open to other possibilities. (Robert F. Smith also brought this up as a possibility while I was in the process of typing up this lengthy reply.)

 As far as horses go, my current opinion is that the traditional theory is just plain wrong.   “Horses: Native or Not Native?” has been a political debate for the last decade or so in the United States (5), so a fair amount has been written about the topic. At this point, I think there is enough evidence to entertain the possibility that there were already horses in America when the Spaniards arrived. Perhaps not in Meso-America anymore, but the Northern Plains Indians insist that they not only had them, but had domesticated them.   

But even if someone comes up with definitive proof that the horse has always been around, don’t expect sudden capitulation from the population at large. Old ideas, particularly ones taught in elementary school textbooks, die slowly. For example, the first skeletons of the avian type dinosaur, Paleontologists armed with better tools started seeing suggestions of non-avian dinosaur feathers before 1987. Non-avian dinosaurs with feathers were definitively identified by 1996. In 2004, a tyrannosaur type dinosaur was shown to have feathers (to the consternation of my husband and other lovers of dinosaur films.)   But some paleontologists still disagree and resist the idea that “true” dinosaurs have feathers (there’s even a coined word for it “dinobird denialists”).  So here we are in 2021, and the latest Jurassic Park animated series is indoctrinating a new generation of children with the idea that all dinosaurs sport bare lizard skin. To which I can only say, it’s not just the Saints that occasionally need to have their heads knocked with a beetle.(6)

 

1.      Ether 9:18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.
         Ether 9:19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

2.      CES literature favors 2200 BC for the approximate date of landing, counting backwards from when the Jaredite records were found by the Nephites. Other scholars, citing the very common problem of ancient historical records losing centuries when certain power groups were in disfavor with the most recent record keepers, prefer 3500-2400BC, which is closer to the similarly vaguely calculated “counting backward in the Bible” Noah’s Flood/Tower of Babel time period.  

3.      St. Paul and Mammoths https://www.pnas.org/content/113/33/9310

4.      Gomphotheres 13,400 Years Ago. http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/science-clovis-people-hunted-gomphotheres-02063.html

5.      https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/yes-world-there-were-horses-in-native-culture-before-the-settlers-came-JGqPrqLmZk-3ka-IBqNWiQ

https://awionline.org/content/wild-horses-native-north-american-wildlife

https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/indian-horses-before-columbus/

6.   Quoting Joseph Smith:    “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].”

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2 hours ago, katherine the great said:

Where is this implied?

Ether 9:19

And they also had ahorses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

The word "useful" could be read as meaning some degree of domestication.  Either that or "especially tasty." :D

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15 minutes ago, Emily said:

If you wish to think of the word "elephant" in the context of translating text of an ancient language and you don't have a word for a particular animal in your modern vocabulary, you could potentially include any animal that might be visually similar to an “elephant”.

 

That analogy only works for translations being done where the translator is fluent in both languages.

In the case of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith didn't actually read Reformed Egyptian. And the translation process was precise enough to convey words that Joseph Smith didn't know, so it wasn't limited to words Joseph Smith had in his vocabulary.

I mean, once you have a process that can convey words like "Coriantumr", "Zemnarihah" and "Riplakish" (not to mention "cumom" and "curelom"), it's kind of hard to say that the translation process couldn't convey words like "tapir" or "chinchilla."

Edited by cinepro
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2 hours ago, cinepro said:

That analogy only works for translations being done where the translator is fluent in both languages.

I both agree and disagree with you on this point.

My disagreement falls in that we don't know exactly how the translation was done. There are some intriguing theories that Joseph was helped by someone whose grasp of the English language was a few centuries behind Joseph's "English." If this is true, Joseph may not have known reformed Egyptian (although by the time he got to Ether he might have known at least a little) but whoever helped him with the translation did know reformed Egyptian, but may not have been perfectly schooled in 18th century English. Alternately, this person who peppered the text with anachronistic English might have learned Reformed Egyptian as the second language, but didn't have a grasp on every word.

I only bring this up as an example of the many potential theories that would mean the "loan" word theory is still possible.

Which doesn't mean I'm entirely convinced. Hence I also agree with you. Which is why I favor theories which leave elephants as elephants and horses as horses. But I keep an open mind.

 

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2 hours ago, ksfisher said:

The word "useful" could be read as meaning some degree of domestication.  Either that or "especially tasty." :D

Could mean hides were used for clothing and other fabric needs, bones used for knives and arrowheads, etc. 

Domestication isn’t about how an animal is used, but how they are bred and controlled to be available for use, correct? (Herded, etc)

Edited by Calm
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2 hours ago, strappinglad said:

Then there is that pesky coelocanth (sp) that was extinct for millions of years until one was found ,now we have a bunch. 

I saw that thing years ago in the natural history museum (or section of the museum) in San Francisco. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It just looked so incredibly ancient. I use it as an example in some of my classes when discussing index fossils because sometimes creatures we think have been extinct for millions of years can show up. However, to be totally objective, there is a lot more space for aquatic creatures like that to hide in the Pacific ocean than populations of large, social, continental animals. 

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3 hours ago, cinepro said:
3 hours ago, Emily said:

If you wish to think of the word "elephant" in the context of translating text of an ancient language and you don't have a word for a particular animal in your modern vocabulary, you could potentially include any animal that might be visually similar to an “elephant”.

That analogy only works for translations being done where the translator is fluent in both languages.

In the case of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith didn't actually read Reformed Egyptian. And the translation process was precise enough to convey words that Joseph Smith didn't know, so it wasn't limited to words Joseph Smith had in his vocabulary.

I've always considered this to be a nomenclature issue for the Jaradites or Nephites, and not a translation issue, although the translation consideration may compound the problem.   If you arrive in a new world and see something that reminds you of a horse or elephant, you may call it a horse or elephant for lack of a better word.  If that was the case, the Reformed Egyptian word for "horse" or "elephant" may have been used in the Book of Mormon text.

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1 hour ago, InCognitus said:

I've always considered this to be a nomenclature issue for the Jaradites or Nephites, and not a translation issue, although the translation consideration may compound the problem.

Precisely. The 'anachronisms' (using the term in the broadest possible sense, including, for example, loan-shifting) and words adopted from local languages in contact literature are artefacts of the original authors and their linguistic mediation of the environment. The translator then faces the task of what to do with them. I've been in this very situation numerous times. Sometimes we can read modern meanings back into old texts with accuracy, whether the word is a local adoption or a loan-shift, sometimes we can make informed guesses, and sometimes we can do neither. But even when we can, there is no consensus on what should be done at that point. The texts I have worked in, for example, very clearly speak of people living on figs and toasted bread. I know with certainty that these were bananas and sago cakes. As a translator, what do I write? Am I true to the original text, preserving its historical character as contact literature, or am I more concerned about accurately communicating these details to modern readers -- and, in the process, erasing from the text important traces of the original authors' mediation of both language and environment as a migrant population? In the end, it all depends on the purpose of the text.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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13 minutes ago, InCognitus said:

If that was the case, the Reformed Egyptian word for "horse" or "elephant" may have been used in the Book of Mormon text.

This is a good point. And actually, "Reformed Egyptian" is just the symbols used in the records. We have no idea what the underlying language was on the Golden Plates- there are some indications that Hebrew and Egyptian were both part of the language, but it's inevitable that the language of the indigenous people became part of the common Nephite language.

There are also indications that the plates were written in a language no longer understood by most Nephites by the time Mormon started his abridgement. Somewhat like Latin remained the official language of the Catholic priests and educated aristocrats long after the language was lost to the general population.

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3 hours ago, Emily said:

As Katherine mentioned, it’s fairly well accepted that early indigenous Americans hunted and ate horses and mammoths. What is in dispute is whether or not horses and elephants were available for eating and other “useful” things (1), in the Meso-American region (or North America if you are a ‘Heartlander’) during the time of the Jaredites. It's believed the Jaredites, as an identifiable historical group, existed in the Americas sometime between 3500-2200 BC and 400 BC.(2)

If you wish to translate “Elephant” as the modern African or Indian animal we see in our zoos the answer is no. The Jaredites didn’t have modern elephants. If you are willing to include the mammoth and mastodon as legitimate “elephants” then the answer is ‘improbable’. Mastodons, as far as we know, were gone.
Little pockets of mammoths continued to survive on Wrangel Island, (far northeastern Russia) and Saint Paul Island, Alaska until 3700BC.(3) But these were cold, humid climates. That mammoths could comfortably exist in the Meso-America climate in 2200 BC and survive in large enough numbers to be considered “useful” is the part that is improbable. Improbable doesn’t mean impossible, but it does mean other theories should continue to be explored.

If you wish to think of the word "elephant" in the context of translating text of an ancient language and you don't have a word for a particular animal in your modern vocabulary, you could potentially include any animal that might be visually similar to an “elephant”.  Many animals have been suggested by LDS apologists, but the tapir is my favorite candidate under this theory. Taxonomically speaking, the tapir is related to a horse. It looks like a horse with a very long nose, making it a popular contender for the “horse” in the BOM as well, but I'm going to stick with "elephant".  They've got a long nose, they existed in the right time period, they were commonly eaten during that time period, and they are very comfortable in the Meso-American climate. The only kicker to this theory is the "elephant" is listed under "useful" animals in the BOM text, not under "useful for food" animals. That somewhat suggests useful for something besides food, and I don't think tapir have any use beyond food.

If you want to opt for a “we just haven’t discovered the fossils yet” position then you open up other possibilities.  I think the Gomphotheres is a better proposition for a Meso-American elephant survivor than the mammoth.  The Gomphotheres was much smaller and his range is known to have been in Central and South America so he was adapted to that terrain. If you are a proponent of the Heartland Theory, you’ll be interested to know that the most recent skeleton remains were found in North America in 2007. Since 2007 we know that Clovis tribes hunted Gomphotheres, so he’s already turned up when he supposedly was gone.  (He was previously thought to have been extinct prior to 13,500 BC.) He may yet surprise us again. (4) Gomphotheres is currently my favorite “Jaredite Elephant” – but I’m still open to other possibilities. (Robert F. Smith also brought this up as a possibility while I was in the process of typing up this lengthy reply.)

 As far as horses go, my current opinion is that the traditional theory is just plain wrong.   “Horses: Native or Not Native?” has been a political debate for the last decade or so in the United States (5), so a fair amount has been written about the topic. At this point, I think there is enough evidence to entertain the possibility that there were already horses in America when the Spaniards arrived. Perhaps not in Meso-America anymore, but the Northern Plains Indians insist that they not only had them, but had domesticated them.   

But even if someone comes up with definitive proof that the horse has always been around, don’t expect sudden capitulation from the population at large. Old ideas, particularly ones taught in elementary school textbooks, die slowly. For example, the first skeletons of the avian type dinosaur, Paleontologists armed with better tools started seeing suggestions of non-avian dinosaur feathers before 1987. Non-avian dinosaurs with feathers were definitively identified by 1996. In 2004, a tyrannosaur type dinosaur was shown to have feathers (to the consternation of my husband and other lovers of dinosaur films.)   But some paleontologists still disagree and resist the idea that “true” dinosaurs have feathers (there’s even a coined word for it “dinobird denialists”).  So here we are in 2021, and the latest Jurassic Park animated series is indoctrinating a new generation of children with the idea that all dinosaurs sport bare lizard skin. To which I can only say, it’s not just the Saints that occasionally need to have their heads knocked with a beetle.(6)

 

1.      Ether 9:18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.
         Ether 9:19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

2.      CES literature favors 2200 BC for the approximate date of landing, counting backwards from when the Jaredite records were found by the Nephites. Other scholars, citing the very common problem of ancient historical records losing centuries when certain power groups were in disfavor with the most recent record keepers, prefer 3500-2400BC, which is closer to the similarly vaguely calculated “counting backward in the Bible” Noah’s Flood/Tower of Babel time period.  

3.      St. Paul and Mammoths https://www.pnas.org/content/113/33/9310

4.      Gomphotheres 13,400 Years Ago. http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/science-clovis-people-hunted-gomphotheres-02063.html

5.      https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/yes-world-there-were-horses-in-native-culture-before-the-settlers-came-JGqPrqLmZk-3ka-IBqNWiQ

https://awionline.org/content/wild-horses-native-north-american-wildlife

https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/indian-horses-before-columbus/

6.   Quoting Joseph Smith:    “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].”

I can't give you a rep point yet but thanks for the explanations and references!  And you are so right about not willingly giving up our childhood beliefs.  I will go to my grave arguing that there are nine planets in our solar system.  :lol:

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10 hours ago, Emily said:

Ether 9:18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.
         Ether 9:19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

 

7 hours ago, Calm said:

Could mean hides were used for clothing and other fabric needs, bones used for knives and arrowheads, etc. 

Domestication isn’t about how an animal is used, but how they are bred and controlled to be available for use, correct? (Herded, etc)

Another nuance is that swine are in the list of useful for food... but Jaredites were pre law of Moses so that wouldn't be too much of a problem then.

Horses and asses seem to not be on the menu (also law of Moses unclean)but useful and in a similar category with the elephants etc. Horses and asses very easily fall into a domestication category. That is how I think domestication of the elephant like creature is implied, something not without precedent as with horses and asses also.

Edited by gav
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Where elephants are domesticated they are very "useful" in forestry and logging operations. We also know that the Jaredites were very prolific builders with wood to the point of deforesting some of their lands so that later peoples had to build with "cement". Hence the "Land Desolation" which corresponds well geographically with Oaxaca province and the dating of its deforestation and erosion correlates well too.

Edited by gav
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20 hours ago, Emily said:

 

 As far as horses go, my current opinion is that the traditional theory is just plain wrong.   “Horses: Native or Not Native?” has been a political debate for the last decade or so in the United States (5), so a fair amount has been written about the topic. At this point, I think there is enough evidence to entertain the possibility that there were already horses in America when the Spaniards arrived. Perhaps not in Meso-America anymore, but the Northern Plains Indians insist that they not only had them, but had domesticated them.   

 

The Nez Perce say they had their Appaloosa before Columbus.  Althought Appaloosa were found all around the world, they were especially in use by the Chinese. 

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17 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I've always considered this to be a nomenclature issue for the Jaradites or Nephites, and not a translation issue, although the translation consideration may compound the problem.   If you arrive in a new world and see something that reminds you of a horse or elephant, you may call it a horse or elephant for lack of a better word.  If that was the case, the Reformed Egyptian word for "horse" or "elephant" may have been used in the Book of Mormon text.

But that still leaves the translation problem. If the translation is tied that closely to the actual text (the word for "horse" or "elephant" must be translated as "horse" or "elephant", even if it's referring to a different animal), then how is it possible to have 19th century artifacts or influences in the translation?

Ultimately, you have two different translation theories: the "loose" translation and the "tight" translation, and defenders must insist that both were used, with Joseph ping-ponging back and forth between a tight translation and a loose translation. Such an elastic theory might be useful for defending the belief that it is an ancient document, but I'm not sure if it actually makes sense.

Edited by cinepro
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