Book of Mormon/Animals/Lions

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Lions in the Book of Mormon

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Question: Are lions anachronistic to the Book of Mormon?

Several options exist for this

Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that the lion is anachronistic to it. Lions are mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 15:28, 29; 21: 6, 7; 30: 12, 13; Mosiah 20: 10; Alma 14: 29; 3 Nephi 20:16; 21:12; and Mormon 5:24. The passages from 2 Nephi are quoting Isaiah. The rest of the passages aren’t necessarily affirming the existence of a lion but are rather using lion as a simile for behavior that each writer is witnessing. Thus, we need a lion OR we simply need a lion-like animal. The Lion actually presented a similar challenge to the Bible until the late 20th and early 21st century. Michael Ash has written:

Similarly, despite the many references of lions in Israel as noted in the Bible and in a number of ancient and relatively modern texts (up to the sixteenth century A.D.), the absence of lion’s bones perplexed Bible scholars.Such texts mention lions over a thousand years after the Book of Mormon mentions the “horse” yet until just a few years ago, there had never been a single discovery of lion bones in the land of Israel.[1]

Thus we have the presence of Lions in ancient Israel and thus a base for which the Nephite culture established their oft-repeated comparison.

Now we could end our response here. It is possible that the Nephites simply retained the comparisons within the culture through orally transmitted myth. But it may perhaps be necessary to have either a lion or a lion-like animal (the latter more likely) to ground the 13 comparisons to the Lion.

John L. Sorenson as written:

If we look for a moment at the wild animals pictured in the Book of Mormon, a further plausible picture emerges. They “fought like lions for their prey” (Mosiah 20:10) could obviously refer to the jaguar, the most feared animal in tropical America. Other possible “lions” in that area include the cougar, ocelot, jaguarundi, and margay.[2]

The Spanish spoke of jaguars as lions upon their arrival in the New World in the 16th century [3].

Thus this doesn’t present an insurmountable hurdle for the Book of Mormon.

Notes

  1. Michael Ash, “Book of Mormon Anachronisms Part 1: Fauna, Animals” FairMormon, 2003. <https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Anachronisms1.pdf> (accessed 28 August 2019) Ash cites John A. Tvedtnes (1994), Review of Books on the Book of Mormon v6:1 (Provo: FARMS), 29-30; Benjamin Urrutia, “Lack of Animal Remains at Bible and Book-of-Mormon Sites,” Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, No. 150, Aug. 1982, 3-4
  2. John L. Sorenson, “Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book” (Provo and Salt Lake: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and Deseret Book, 2013) 320.
  3. Fray Diego Durán, "The History of the Indies of New Spain" (Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994) 207. See esp. footnote 6. A similar pattern is followed in Bernal Diaz, "The Conquest of Spain" (London: Penguin Books, 1964).