The Book of Mormon Claims Elephants in Ancient America? Latest Findings.
The elephant is mentioned only once in the Book of Mormon (Ether 9:19) and need not have survived in the Americas past about 2,400 B.C. While the jury is still out, there are a number of North American Indian traditions which recount legends of giant stiff-legged beasts which would never lie down, had a big head and large leaf-like ears, round footprints, forward-bending knees, and had a fifth appendage coming out of its head. Scientists agree that mammoths and mastodons once inhabited the Americas, and an article in Scientific Monthly entitled “Men and Elephants in America” suggests that these proboscidean animals (elephants, mammoths, or mastodons) may have survived in the Americas until 1000 B.C. —well within the timeframe demanded by the Book of Mormon.i According to Dr. Sorenson, Mastodon remains have been dated by radiocarbon to around 5000 BC in Florida, around the Great Lakes to 4000 BC, in the Mississippi Valley to near 3300 BC, perhaps to near 100 BC near St. Petersburg, Florida (“low terminal [C-14] dates for the mastodon indicate . . . lingering survival in isolated areas”), and at sites in Alaska and Utah dating around 5000 BC.ii As with the discovery of post-Pleistocene horse bones, mastodon bones which can be dated after the Pleistocene period (about 10,000 years ago) demonstrate that small pockets of these animals survived the mass extinction and may have survived to Jaredite times.
i Ludwell H. Johnson, III, “Men and Elephants in America,” Scientific Monthly (October, 1952), 4.
ii John L. Sorenson, “An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Coe,” at http://www.fairlds.org/authors/sorenson-john/an-open-letter-to-dr-michael-coe (accessed 14 September 2012).
There is good reason to suspect the young radiocarbon age estimates discussed in this piece are the result of contamination and/or contextual problems. They are from the early days of radiocarbon, before it was understood that contamination of bone by recent organic material tends to yield dates that are too young (note the preponderance of dates from the 1950s). I lay out my argument here: http://www.andywhiteanthropology.com/blog/the-elephants-of-ether-mormons-and-the-mastodon-problem
After all of the pro’s and con’s of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon have been stated and argued, if you truely want to know the truth of the matter, it can be found in Moroni 10:3-5, the last chapter of the Book of Mormon.
3. Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.