Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, May 5

Book of Mormon | “A Rebutting Critique of the Ox Argument for Others in the Land Theory in 1 Nephi 18:25” by grego

Book of Mormon | “A Rebutting Critique of the Ox Argument for Others in the Land Theory in 1 Nephi 18:25”

by grego
(c) 2009 in this form

Many proponents of the Book of Mormon “Others in the Land” theory–that there were others not mentioned in the Book of Mormon who interacted with Lehite society (hereafter “Others”)—feel that one of the strongest arguments is the use of the word “ox” in 1 Nephi 18:25:

1 Nephi 18:25 And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, *both the cow and the OX*, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.

Many believers of Others-in-the-land theory reason that this “ox” is the equivalent of the modern definition of a domesticated American ox—that is, a castrated, trained bull; thus, there must have been people tending them; thus, there must have been Others already there in the land. If that weren’t the case then Joseph Smith—a farmer who well knew the definition of “ox”—would have used the word “bull” instead of “ox”.

Let’s check out this reasoning.

1. This is the only time in the Book of Mormon that the Nephites write about an “ox” to describe an animal in the land.

2. We are placing our time and usage on a word meaning: “presentism” (a favorite sword in matters of Book of Mormon interpretation, but here it’s found that the other side of the sword has a sharp edge, too). Here’s the 1828 definition of “ox” (which can be found at http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/ox) :
“OX, n. plu. oxen. pron. ox’n.
The male of the bovine genus of quadrupeds, castrated and grown to his size or nearly so. The young male is called in America a steer. The same animal not castrated is called a bull.”

Pretty clear definition for Joseph Smith to use, right? Wait! Here’s the rest of the definition:
“*These distinctions are well established with us in regard to domestic animals* of this genus. When we speak of *wild animals of this kind*, *ox* is sometimes applied both to the male and female, and in zoology, the same practice exists in regard to the domestic animals. So, *in common usage, a pair of bulls yoked may be sometimes called oxen*. We never apply the name ox to the cow or female of the domestic kind. Oxen in the plural may comprehend both the male and female.”

So, if the animal were wild (as in Nephi’s “beasts in the forests…, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men”), then “ox” would be a proper substitute for “bull”, even if “cow” is used in the text for the female. Why would the Nephites write that there are “cows” and “castrated, domesticated bulls” running around? How come there are no “bulls” with them? (Or did Nephi forget to mention/ write that, also?)

3. Why do so many “ox-means-Others” proponents quickly point out (and properly so, as research shows) that “horse” might not really be *our* definition of horse, but perhaps *their* definition of “horse”, or in other words, another animal (especially because of naming animals in a new land, and passing through double translation from original author to Mormon to Joseph Smith). Must one mention of “ox” following “cow” really mean what one wants it to mean, just because it supports one’s theory of Others already in the land?

4. “Ox” might also mean a bovine other than our domesticated American type.
From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ox :
“1. An adult castrated bull of the genus Bos, especially B. taurus, used chiefly as a draft animal.
2. *A bovine mammal*.”
From http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/436367/ox : “OX Bos taurus: (Bos taurus, or B. taurus primigenius), a domesticated form of the large horned mammals that once moved in herds across North America and Europe (whence they have disappeared) and Asia and Africa, where some still exist in the wild state. South America and Australia have no wild oxen. Oxen are members of the Bovidae family.”

5. Why would domesticated, castrated bulls—“beasts”—be discovered by the Lehites in the forests? Is that where domesticated animals roam? (On the other hand, however, note that Nephi mentions “goats” and “wild goats” in the same verse, and “wild animals” comes later, after the mention of what seem to be, or at least definitely could be, domesticated animals.)

6. If the oxen found in the forests were the domesticated type, couldn’t there be a possibility that the oxen were remnants of another civilization? For example, from the Jaredites?:
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.

Anyone who has doubts that cattle can subsist in the wild, just needs to watch a rodeo or meet a bull face-to-face… Or, do an internet search for “wild cattle” and similar terms, which will turn up many references. Here are just a few examples:
—A picture of wild cattle grazing in Nicaragua: http://www.traveljournals.net/pictures/27910.html
—From: www.archive.org/stream/wildlifeininteri00byam/wildlifeininteri00byam_djvu.txt :
“The wild horned cattle of Central America are by far the wildest of any that have come [under] my notice, though not so savage as many that I have seen in the sierras of Spain ; they inhabit the thickest and most inaccessible coverts; they are vigilantly watchful by day and by night, and their great power of smell enables them to scent the approach of danger a long way off, especially from windward.”
www.mcdonaldroad.org/kids/corner/riverbull.html says: “The Swift meatpacking and cattle company owned or leased thousands of acres along this old river. Many of their cattle became wild and lived with the local wildlife for many years. This area ran all the way from lower Lake Kissimmee all the way down to Lake Okeechobee. It was wild and was still a home for the Florida Panther and black bear… The first night we set up camp we were visited by two young bobcats that played like little kittens.”

7. If there were people tending the cow and ox, wouldn’t it be likely one would say “and people tending them”? Yet there is no mention of people at all. (Please, don’t say “there wasn’t space on the plates to write that” and “but that doesn’t have to do with the message of the Book of Mormon”—come up with at least a decent excuse, right?)

8. The words “bull” and “ox” seem to be used interchangeably in the Bible, with “ox” being used more times than not. This includes, it seems, using “ox” to mean “cattle” (both sexes). (You can search “bull” and “ox” in the scriptures at http://www.lds.org.) Curious, would a castrated bull be acceptable as a sacrifice under the law of Moses?
Exodus 34:19 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
Leviticus 27:26 ¶ Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the Lord’s firstling, no man shall sanctify it; whether it be ox, or sheep: it is the Lord’s.
Numbers 7
Deuteronomy 14:4 These are the beasts which ye shall eat: *the ox*, the sheep, and the goat,
5 The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and *the wild ox*, and the chamois.
(Note that here, “ox” and “wild ox” are both mentioned, and so are “goat” and “wild goat”.)

9. References to “bull” instead of “ox” in the Bible—especially in the Old Testament—often have negative connotations. For example, from the “Bible Dictionary: Idol” we read: “*Idolatry* generally meant nature worship in one form or another; e.g., in Egypt the chief objects of worship were the sun and other heavenly bodies, the Nile, and sacred animals, *especially the bull*.” Also, “Guide to the Scriptures: Baal” says, “The *usual symbol for Baal was a bull*. Ashtoreth was the goddess generally worshiped along with Baal.”

Nephi later writes the following:
2 Nephi 25:1 NOW I, Nephi, do speak somewhat concerning the words which I have written, which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah. For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.
2 Nephi 25:2 For I, Nephi, *have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations*.
2 Nephi 25:5 Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.
2 Nephi 25:6 But behold, I, Nephi, *have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews; but behold, I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about*; and I have made mention unto my children concerning the judgments of God, which hath come to pass among the Jews, unto my children, according to all that which Isaiah hath spoken, and I do not write them.

Nephi then writes:
2 Nephi 25:9 And as one generation hath been destroyed among the Jews because of iniquity, even so have they been destroyed from generation to generation according to their iniquities; and never hath any of them been destroyed save it were foretold them by the prophets of the Lord.
2 Nephi 25:10 Wherefore, it hath been told them concerning the destruction which should come upon them, immediately after my father left Jerusalem; nevertheless, they hardened their hearts; and according to my prophecy they have been destroyed, save it be those which are carried away captive into Babylon.

Having recently left about-to-be-destroyed idolatrous Jerusalem, I don’t believe it is a stretch of the imagination to think that Nephi could have preferred to write “ox” instead of “bull” on the plates.

Of course, none of this proves that there weren’t Others in the land when the Nephites got there, or that the “ox” mentioned by Nephi weren’t domesticated.

It just shows that “ox” in 1 Nephi 18:25 clearly doesn’t prove there were others in the land when the Nephites got there, as many Others proponents strive to show.


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