Source:Sorenson:Ancient American Setting:297-298:Elephants

FairMormon Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Sorenson: "all scholars agree that mastodons and mammoths...once lived in the Americas. The dispute today is how late they lived"

John L. Sorenson:

The only place that elephants are mentioned in the Book of Mormon is in Ether 9:19 in approximately 2500 B.C. Thus any elephants existing upon the American continents need not have survived past about 2400 B.C...Besides the traditions, five elephant effigies have been found in ancient Mexico. Dr. Verrill, a well-known (non-Mormon) archaeologist describes one of these figures as “‘so strikingly and obviously elephantine that it cannot be explained away by any of the ordinary theories of being a conventionalized or exaggerated tapir, ant-eater or macaw. Not only does this figure show a trunk, but in addition it has the big leaf-like ears and the forward-bending knees peculiar to the elephants. Moreover, it shows a load or burden strapped upon its back. It is inconceivable that any man could have imagined a creature with the flapping ears and peculiar hind knees of an elephant, or that any human being could have conventionalized a tapir to this extent’”...

The oral traditions, written records, and artwork depicting elephants lends strong support for the claim that the elephant existed in ancient America. Even more substantial support-- actual remains-- have also been discovered. Today all scholars agree that mastodons and mammoths (which are unquestionably elephants to zoologists) once lived in the Americas. The dispute today is how late they lived. According to the Book of Mormon they need not have lived later than 2400 B.C. Within recent years archaeological evidence has demonstrated that the elephant could very well have survived to such a late date. Butchered mastodon bones were recently discovered at one archaeological site which dates to shortly after the time of Christ. Another site, dating to approximately 100 B.C. has yielded the remains of a mammoth, a mastodon, as well as a horse.[1]


  1. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]),297–298.