Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

Anachronisms are objects, people, names, or concepts that do not belong in the correct historical timeframe. Some say that the Book of Mormon contains anachronisms and that this proves it is not an authentic ancient text. Are there anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, and if so, what does that mean for its historicity?

What is an anachronism?

An anachronism is something or someone that is referenced in an incorrect historical or chronological time.[1] For example, in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar it mentions a mechanical clock in the context of ancient Rome.[2] Because mechanical clocks weren't invented until the twelfth century AD, this would be considered an anachronism.[3]

Do anachronisms in a supposedly ancient manuscript indicate that it might be fake?

No, not necessarily. Authentic historical texts may contain anachronisms for various reasons.[4] For example, despite anachronistic references to "silk," the sixteenth-century documentation of the New World by Diego de Landa is an authentic document.[5] The Bible also contains a number of anachronisms. (See table below.)

Examples of Purported Anachronisms in the Bible

Anachronism Type



The Old Testament of the King James Bible is a translation of Hebrew, but it contains the French word "bruit"[7] in Jeremiah 10:22.[8][9]

Another example is the familiar word "candle" instead of "oil lamp" used in the King James translation.[10]

References to certain cities and peoples

Some scholars consider the reference to the Philistines, Arameans, and Ur of the Chaldees in Genesis anachronistic.[11]

Other scholars have said this could result from transmitters and copyists of the Bible updating the text for their particular audiences.[12][13]

References to animals

Some consider references to camels in Genesis to be anachronistic.[14]

In the twenty-first century, others have argued for evidence that camels were present during the era described in the Genesis patriarchal narratives.[15]

Cultural or social practices

Some saw the references to pastoral nomadism in the earliest chapters of Genesis as anachronistic, though recent work has now disputed this.[16]


The siege weaponry mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26:15 is an anachronism introduced by the editors of the text.[17]

The description of the technology and shipping expeditions during King Solomon's reign in 2 Chronicles 8:17-18 are also considered anachronistic.[18]


There are examples of anachronistic terms and individuals in the text of 1 Maccabees.[19] "Seron" is described as the head of the Seleucid army, and the term "Mysians" is used incorrectly.[20]

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Are there anachronisms in the Book of Mormon?

Yes. Various types of anachronisms have been identified in the Book of Mormon. (See table below.)

Types of Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

Anachronism Category



The Book of Mormon mentions the existence of crops in ancient America such as wheat and barley that some argue are anachronistic.[21]


Many animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, such as horses and elephants, are considered anachronistic.[22]


Some of the technology described in the Book of Mormon is believed to have been unknown in ancient America, such as steel.[23]


The Book of Mormon describes cultural concepts and practices that some believe to reflect nineteenth-century America, not the ancient world.[24][25]

The Book of Mormon is also said to contain theological concepts unknown to pre-exilic Israelites but discussed in the nineteenth century.[26]


The Book of Mormon contains names and words that some believe are out of place, such as the French word "adieu."[27]

The Book of Mormon also contains allusions to or direct quotations from texts that are said to be out of place historically, such as Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55), which is believed to have been written after Lehi left Jerusalem.[28][29]

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In the 1978 Book of Mormon Stories, Ammon and King Lamoni speak with King Lamoni's father, with an artistic interpretation of a chariot in the Americas.

Don't all these anachronisms make the Book of Mormon a forgery?

Possibly, but not necessarily. Latter-day Saint scholars have offered several explanations for the anachronisms found in the Book of Mormon. (See table below.)

Responses to Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

Type of Response




Also called semantic transfer or semantic extension, loan-shifting is when the meaning of a word changes from one language to another or extends the meaning of a word in the same language to include new items or categories.[30]

The Book of Mormon horse may be a loan shift name for another animal.[31] This has happened in other ancient cultures.[32][33]

Archaeological Attestation

As more archaeological work is done, additional artifacts are uncovered that provide a fuller understanding of the ancient world.[34]

The scimitar, referred to as "cimeter" in the Book of Mormon, was thought to have been invented in the seventh century AD, after the Book of Mormon.[35] However, in the 1990s scholars began to identify curved swords as pre-exilic Israelite and Egyptian weapons, placing them within the Book of Mormon timeframe.[36]

Epigraphic Attestation

Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions.[37] As more inscriptions are discovered and translated, knowledge of and attestation for previously unknown names and words increases.[38]

The names Alma and Sam were once thought to be anachronistic.[39] Sam is now attested as an ancient Israelite name,[40] while Alma is now also attested as a Semitic masculine name.[41][42]

Linguistic Attestation

Linguistic attestation is when a word or phrase is known in a language's lexicon.[43] With ancient languages, sometimes the word for an object might be known but there is no surviving attested physical example of the object.

There is evidence that words for metals appeared early in languages spoken in Mexico long before Lehi's arrival in the New World.[44] However, no archaeological evidence for large-scale metalworking has been discovered so far in Mesoamerica during Book of Mormon times.[45]


Modern translations of ancient texts, such as the Bible, introduce unintentional anachronisms in the translation.[46]

Some have argued that "adieu," a word that is French in origin, is anachronistic in Jacob 7:27.[47] "Adieu" was adopted into the English language by Joseph Smith's time[48] and had appeared in other English translations contemporary with the Book of Mormon.[49][50]

Modern Expansion

Translators sometimes expand their translations beyond the "literal" meaning of the underlying text to make conceptual and linguistic connections with the intended readers.[51]

Similar to the Aramaic Targums,[52] Joseph Smith may have added his own conceptual and linguistic expansions to the translation of the words on the plates.[53]

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What are the most commonly cited anachronisms and how have they been addressed?

The anachronisms in the Book of Mormon can be broadly categorized into the following groups: flora, fauna, technology, culture/religion, and language.[54] (See the tables below.)

Examples of Anachronistic Flora (plants) in the Book of Mormon




Possible Resolution


Mosiah 9:9; 3 Nephi 18:18[55]

Wheat (T. aestivum) was unknown in pre-Columbian America.[56]

The Lehites introduced wheat to the New World but the crop did not survive long, or "wheat" could describe some other unknown cereal grain.[57]


Mosiah 7:22; Alma 11:7[58]

As with wheat, barley (Hordeum vulgare) was unknown in pre-Columbian America.[59]

A species of native pre-Columbian barley (Hordeum pusillum) has been discovered in the Mississippi River valley and the southwest United States.[60]


Alma 1:29; 4:6.[61]

Protein silk obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of silkworms was unknown in pre-Columbian America.[62]

The "silk" in the Book of Mormon could be any variety of native pre-Columbian fiber obtained from various plants or moth or butterfly cocoons.[63][64]


Mosiah 10:5; Helaman 6:13; Ether 9:17; 10:24.[65]

Linen derived from flax (Linum usitatissimum) was unknown in pre-Columbian America.[66]

The "linen" in the Book of Mormon could be referring to any number of native pre-Columbian plant fibers that were woven into fabric.[67]

At least one native species of flax was used for weaving by North American Indian groups.[68]

Wine (Vineyards)

Mosiah 11:15; 22:7; 3 Nephi 18:1–3; Ether 15:22.[69]

The grape species vitis vinifera was unknown in pre-Columbian America.[70]

The "wine" drunk by Book of Mormon peoples could have been an alcoholic drink derived from any number of native fruits.[71]

Several different native wild grape species are attested in both North and Central America from thousands of years ago.[72]

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Examples of Anachronistic Fauna (animals) in the Book of Mormon




Possible Resolution


1 Nephi 18:25; Enos 1:21; Alma 18:9–12[73]

The horse (Equus ferus caballus) was introduced to the New World by the Spanish.[74]

The "horse" could be a Nephite loan shift for another animal[75][76] or a translator's anachronism.[77]

Recent findings suggest the presence of pre-Columbian horses in Mexico.[78]


Ether 9:19[79]

The mammoth or mastodon (M. americanum) does not appear to have survived in ancient America into Book of Mormon times.[80]

Specimens of mammoth remains have been identified that seem to push the extinction of the animal down closer to Jaredite times.[81]


Ether 9:18[82]

Swine (Sus domesticus) were introduced to the Americas by the Spanish.[83]

The peccary (family Tayassuidae), an animal native to Central America, could qualify as the "swine" mentioned in the text.[84][85]


1 Nephi 18:25; Ether 9:18[86]

Sheep (Ovis aries) and goats (Capra hircus) were introduced to the New World by the Spanish.[87]

The "sheep" or "goat" in the Book of Mormon could be a loan shift for animals such as the tapir or pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana).[88]

There is a native species of sheep in northern Mexico, the bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana).[89]


1 Nephi 18:25; Ether 9:18.[90]

Domestic cattle (Bos taurus) were introduced to the New World by the Spanish.[91]

Native bovid species in ancient America as well as the possibility of loan shifting could account for oxen or cattle mentioned in the text.[92]


1 Nephi 18:25.[93]

The donkey or ass (Equus asinus) was introduced to the New World by the Spanish.[94]

"Ass" could be a Nephite loan shift for another animal.[95]

Honey bee

Ether 2:3[96]

The European or western honey bee (Apis mellifera) was not introduced to the New World until Spanish colonization.[97]

The only mention of bees in the Book of Mormon is in the context of the Old World Jaredite migration.[98] Beekeeping is abundantly attested in the ancient Near East.[99]

There are known native species of bees in the New World that produce honey.[100] Beekeeping is attested in Mesoamerica as early as 300 BC.[101]

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Examples of Anachronistic Technology in the Book of Mormon




Possible Resolution


2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 8:10; 11:3, 8–10; Ether 7:9: 10:23[102]

There is no evidence for the kind of metallurgy described in the text in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.[103]

While evidence for metallurgy during Book of Mormon times is not currently available, the date for metal working in pre-Columbian America keeps being pushed closer to that time with new discoveries.[104][105]


Alma 18:9–12; 3 Nephi 3:22[106]

Pre-Columbian peoples did not use wheeled vehicles for travel.[107]

The "chariots" mentioned in the Book of Mormon are never depicted in the context of warfare and are not explicitly said to be pulled by horses (although horses are mentioned with them). They could be something like a litter or palanquin.[108][109]


1 Nephi 18:12, 21; 2 Nephi 5:12; Alma 37:38, 43–44[110]

The mariner's compass (the magnetic compass) was not invented until the Middle Ages.[111]

The Book of Mormon is not describing a magnetic or mariner's compass, but some other round or circular object.[112]


Alma 11[113]

Coinage was not used in the Old or New Worlds before Lehi left Jerusalem, and no such Nephite "coins" have been discovered.[114]

The text describes a system of weights and measures, not coinage.[115]


Helaman 3:7–11[116]

No evidence for "cement" has been found in ancient America.[117]

The use of cement in ancient America, including Mexico and Guatemala, now has widespread attestation.[118][119]


Helaman 7:10[120]

Highways were unknown in pre-Columbian America.[121]

Highway systems were used among the ancient Maya.[122]


Ether 2:23; 3:1[123]

Glass and glass windows were unknown anciently.[124]

Glassmaking is attested as early as the third millennium BC in Mesopotamia and Egypt.[125][126]


Enos 1:20; Alma 27:29; 44:8[127]

The scimitar was not invented until after the rise of Islam in the late first millennium AD.[128]

Any number of curved weapons from the ancient Near East or Mesoamerica could satisfy the Book of Mormon's description of "cimeters."[129][130]

Steel Weapons

1 Nephi 4:9; 1 Nephi 16:18; 2 Nephi 5:15; Ether 7:9[131]

Steel did not exist circa 600 BC in ancient Israel as depicted in the Book of Mormon.[132]

Steel (carburized iron) was being made in ancient Israel well before 600 BC.[133][134]

A sword discovered at Vered Jericho, dating to the late seventh century BC, is made of steel.[135]



Gunpowder and firearms did not exist anciently.[136]

The Book of Mormon does not refer to gunpowder or firearms.



Steamboats are anachronistic for the ancient world.[137]

The Book of Mormon does not refer to steamboats.

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Examples of Anachronistic Culture and Theology in the Book of Mormon




Possible Resolution


2 Nephi 25:19–20; Mosiah 3:8–12; Alma 5:48[138]

The Nephites' explicit knowledge of Jesus and his role as Messiah goes beyond what is found in the Old Testament and is thus anachronistic.[139]

The Nephites gained their knowledge of Jesus as the coming messiah from revelation that was grounded on Old Testament concepts.[140]


Alma 16:13; 21:11, 16, 20; 31:13; Helaman 3:14; Moroni 7:1[141]

The synagogue did not exist until after Lehi left Jerusalem.[142]

While the synagogue known today did not arise until after the Exile, the concept of Israelites gathering in a dedicated space for worship and other reasons predated Lehi's departure from Jerusalem.[143][144]


Mosiah 29:25–29[145]

This is a reference to modern American democracy that would have been unknown in the ancient world.[146]

The Book of Mormon does not describe true American democracy of elections by popular vote.[147]

Other ancient cultures had similar conceptions of choosing political leaders by democratic means.[148][149]


Alma 30:44; Helaman 12:15[150]

A heliocentric model of the cosmos did not gain prominence until the Copernican revolution in the sixteenth century AD.[151]

The ancient Maya tracked the movement of planets, so the Nephites could have derived their understanding from this astronomical knowledge;[152] or, these passages are modern expansions by Joseph Smith.[153]

At least one known ancient cosmologist posited a heliocentric model.[154]


Helaman 6:18 and 3 Nephi 3:9[155]

The Gadianton Robbers are a thinly-veiled allusion to the Freemasons, who were distrusted in the 1820s as a secret society.[156]

The Gadianton Robbers are guerrillas engaging in tactics used to subvert the government and are unrelated to Freemasons.[157]


2 Nephi 28:7–9[158]

The Book of Mormon's anti-universalism reflects theological debates of the 1800s.[159]

The scope of salvation and ideas of universal salvation are not unique to the nineteenth century and are found anciently.[160]


2 Nephi 31:13–17; Mosiah 18:21; 21:35; Alma 7:15; 19:35; Moroni 6:2)[161]

Baptism was a Christian, not Jewish, practice, and does not predate the New Testament.[162]

Ritual immersion or cleansing with water predates the Christian era.[163]

Infant Baptism

Moroni 8[164]

The condemnation of infant baptism in the Book of Mormon shows signs of nineteenth-century Protestant theological debates.[165]

The practice of washing or "baptizing" infants is documented among the Maya and Aztecs.[166][167]


1 Nephi 13:29; 22:15; 2 Nephi 2:17–18; Alma 8:9; 10:25; 12:17[168]

The concept of Satan as the supernatural evil enemy of God did not arise until after Lehi fled Jerusalem.[169]

The Book of Mormon's understanding of Satan may have been informed by Biblical texts and mythological concepts common to the ancient Near East.[170]

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Examples of Anachronistic Language in the Book of Mormon




Possible Resolution


2 Nephi 10:3, 7; 2 Nephi 25:16, 19; Mosiah 3:8[171]

"Christ" is a Greek word and thus anachronistic to the Book of Mormon.[172]

"Christ" is an acceptable English rendering of the Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah).[173]


2 Nephi 29:3–10[174]

The word "Bible" comes from Greek and is thus anachronistic to the Book of Mormon.[175]

As a translation, the Book of Mormon's use of the word "Bible" is the result of the English rendering of the text.[176]

Greek Names

3 Nephi 1:1; 19:4[177]

Greek names in the Book of Mormon are anachronistic or at least implausible.[178]

Evidence of Greek contact and exchange in ancient Israel before the time of Lehi, so these names could have transferred.[179]


1 Nephi 4:26; 2 Nephi 25:14; Mosiah 18:17; Alma 1:19[180]

The word "church" is of Greek origin and thus anachronistic to the Book of Mormon.[181]

As a translation, the Book of Mormon's use of the word "church" is the result of the English rendering of the text.[182]


Jacob 7:27[183]

A word in French origin, adieu, is anachronistic for a book purporting to be from 600 BC.[184]

As a translation, the Book of Mormon's use of "adieu" is simply the English equivalent of whatever ancient term was used on the plates.[185][186]


1 Nephi 2:5[187]

Sam is a "Yankee" name unknown in the ancient world.[188]

The name Sam is attested in ancient Semitic inscriptions.[189]


2 Nephi 1:14[190]

This appears to be a quotation or paraphrase of Shakespeare's Hamlet and is thus anachronistic to the Book of Mormon.[191]

This phraseology is not unique to Shakespeare; it also appears in the Bible and other ancient texts.[192]


1 Nephi 20–21 (Isaiah 48–49); 2 Nephi 6:16–8:25 (Isaiah 49:24–52:2)[193]

Most biblical scholars believe these portions of Isaiah were written after Lehi left Jerusalem, thus posing a problem for the Book of Mormon.[194]

Latter-day Saint scholars have approached this issue with a variety of responses.[195]

New Testament Citations

Moroni 7:45 (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)[196]

Since the New Testament was written centuries after Lehi left Jerusalem, it is anachronistic to have Book of Mormon prophets citing language and concepts from it.[197]

Both the Nephites and the New Testament writers were citing earlier sources;[198] or, Joseph Smith in his translation introduced the New Testament citations.[199][200]

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With all these anachronisms, doesn't it seem like this should be convincing evidence that the Book of Mormon is not literal history?

One perspective is that because purported anachronisms continue to be resolved from newly discovered archeology or scholarship that this increases the evidence to support the Book of Mormon.

Another perspective is that despite many anachronisms being resolved, the ones that remain are enough to consider the Book of Mormon as not representing a literal history.

Okay, but is the Book of Mormon true?


The Facts

  • Anachronisms are objects, animals, technologies, or practices that don't belong in a historical timeframe.

  • The Book of Mormon mentions objects, animals, technologies, or practices that many believe did not exist in the Americas during the periods its stories cover (roughly 2200 BC to AD 421).

  • Many anachronisms in the Book of Mormon have been resolved, while others have not.

Our Take

An anachronism is an object, animal, technology, or practice that is out of place in a historical context—like finding the word "computer" in an ancient text. Anachronisms are sometimes found in ancient texts, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon. So, do these anachronisms mean the Book of Mormon is not literal history, or that it may be a forgery?

Within a few years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, critics began accusing the book of being a forgery due to anachronisms. Some of these accusations were untrue, such as claiming the existence of steamboats and gunpowder in the Book of Mormon. However, other claims, such as the appearance of steel in the ancient Middle East for the sword of Laban, weren't resolved until archaeological discoveries in the 1970s and 1980s. Other anachronisms have yet to be resolved, such as the appearance of elephants on the American continent in the time of the Jaredites.

While not all of these anachronisms have been resolved, this doesn't necessarily mean that the book is not literal history, or that it's a forgery. The more time that passes, the more archaeological discoveries and research support the Book of Mormon, but ultimately, a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon can only be found through a personal spiritual witness.

What's Your Take?

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These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Jake
    I think it's important that we need faith to believe in the Book of Mormon. Having faith is necessary so that we can decide for ourselves, it's all part of God's plan.
  • Jace
    Frauds generally look worse over time but in the case of the Book of Mormon it looks better the more time passes as many of the original anachronisms have found support in later years.
  • Joseph K.
    The number of anachronisms that have been resolved since Joseph's day is incredible. A book that is a forgery should look more dishonest as time goes on, but the Book of Mormon continues to be more and more true to history as time goes on.
  • Tyler
    Thanks for putting this together! I appreciate it!