Monday, May 1, 2017

When is a Horse not a Horse? – Part I

Has there ever been a time in human history that a horse did not serve the purposes of a beast of burden as it has been portrayed down through the ages? Has there ever been a time when a horse in any culture and civilization did not serve as a hauler of goods, puller of plows and equipment, and a means for transportation, either riding or pulling wagons, carts, buggies, etc? 
Indians without horses had to creep up on all fours to attack a buffalo herd, which was very dangerous; without horses, they used dogs to carry travois and loads

    In the case of the North American Indian, their life before horses on the Plains was very different, with dogs being the only pack animals on the plains. The introduction of horses into plains native tribes revolutionized entire cultures, as the harnesses and equipment originally designed for dogs were easily adapted to horses and were quickly used since they could carry much larger loads than a dog.
    Some tribes abandoned a relatively sedentary life style to become horse nomads in less than a generation. Hunting became more important for most tribes as ranges were expanded. More frequent contact with distant tribes increased the likelihood of competition and warfare. Eventually, in most tribes a person’s wealth was measured in horses, and great honors came to those who could capture or steal them from an enemy.
    Horses reached Nebraska by the 1680s, and the upper Missouri by the 1750s. Much of the trade was between tribes—Apache groups took horse herds to Kansas and all the way to the Dakota, trading them for hides and other goods. The Spanish also participated in this trade in a major way. In Nebraska, two different fundamental economies evolved. Tribes in eastern Nebraska (Pawnee, Ponca, Omaha, and Oto) utilized the horse for extensive buffalo hunts, but did not abandon their older pattern of earth lodge villages and maize growing. The western part of the state became dominated by bison-hunting nomads, which are today pictured as the stereotypical Plains Indian. The Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, lived in hide tepees and roamed over most of western Nebraska. These tribes were relative newcomers to the Plains, having moved out of the Great Lakes region onto the Plains in the 1700s. Horses allowed them to expand their traditional nomadic lifestyle over the vast distances of the plains.
The point is, once the Indians obtained horses, they used them in every way possible, riding, hauling, as wealth and for trade. This has pretty much been the value of horses down through the ages. So the question arises why do so many Land of Promise theorists try to change the purpose of the horses mentioned in the Book of Mormon and in the manner the Nephites used them?
    Enos tells us: “And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds … and also many horses” (Enos 1:21).
    From the earliest times, during the age of the Jaredites, horses were had among them, in fact, they are singled out as being important to man, not as much as the elephant, cumom or curelom, but nonetheless important along with the ass (donkey). Moroni in his abridgement put it this way after mentioned that they had fruit and grain, silks and linen, gold and silver and precious things: “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. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:18-19).
Yet, as one theorist writes: “The mention of horses among domesticated animals kept by Book of Mormon peoples has raised questions in some people’s minds, due to the prevailing view that horses were not found in the Americas during pre-Columbian times. Enos says that in his time, the Nephites raised “many horses,” but how and why they were used is not mentioned.”
    The question this immediately raises is why is this a question? Horses have basically one purpose and that is as a beast of burden, to carry, pull or haul things. What other reason would the Nephites, and the Jaredites before them, have for a horse other than for what all cultures and civilizations have used them?
The horses were known even among the Lamanites, as king Lamoni not only had horses, but they are mentioned in both the context of Ammon, as the king’s servant, was feeding them (Alma 18:9) and also preparing them to haul the king’s chariots (Alma 18:10). In that day and age, horses pulling chariots was a common practice and use for horses. So why is there even a question?
    Even when the Nephites were anticipating attacks by the Gadianton Robbers, they gathered all their people into a central area for seven years, taking with them “their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies” (3 Nephi 3:22).
    Again, one of the theorists raises an unusual question; "In this small handful of references, no text ever says that horses were ridden or used in battle. They are sometimes mentioned with chariots, but are never actually described as pulling them. It is hard to determine exactly what kind of role they played in the daily life of Book of Mormon peoples except to say they were 'useful'."
Horses had many uses anciently 
    One can only wonder how might they have been useful? If they were not ridden, not used to pull chariots, not used to haul things (no mention in scriptural of this, either), then what was their purpose?
    This theorist goes on to suggest: “In 3 Nephi 4:4, horses are mentioned as being among the provisions ‘reserved for themselves…that they might subsist for the space of seven years.’ The word ‘subsist’ may imply that horses in that desperate time were raised and used for food.”
    Yet, though food is mentioned that the Nephites took with them, it cannot be shown that horses, since they were singled out, were meant to suggest food or provisions. And when the siege and battle were finally concluded and the Nephites returned to their homes, there is no suggestion that horses were used or meant to be used as food. As Mormon writes: “every man, with his family, his flocks and his herds, his horses and his cattle, and all things whatsoever did belong unto them” (3 Nephi 6:1).
The Nephites had much cattle and moved their herds about; during the Gaddianton Robbers event, they moved all their cattle quite some distance—it is difficult to move large herds of cattle without people on horseback 

    In raising such questions as what were they used for and that answer not being mentioned, we can also say that the purpose of herds and cattle are never mentioned, but we know what herds are cattle are used for in ancient societies as they are today--for food. Yet, another theorist, Brant Garder, states an odd observation: “The Book of Mormon ‘horse’ never fulfills the functions we expect of a horse.”
    However, in the spiritual record, “horse” is often stated in connection with “flocks” and “herds.” They are also mentioned in connection with “chariots,” which require some type of animal to pull them, and horses were the universal animal throughout history and among all cultures and peoples used to pull chariots. They are also mentioned in regard to their usefulness to man—and again, universally, the usefulness of the horse has been easily recognized and written about for their pulling riding conveniences (wagons, buggies), hauling goods with backpacks, pulling tree stumps from the ground, dragging felled logs, etc. So what exact function did Gardner have in mind that the horse did not rise to our expectation? At no time in the scriptural record are we told exactly what role “cattle” played among the Nepbites or Jaredites, yet it would seem reasonable to understand that cattle were there for their main purpose, to provide food. It is true we are not told somebody saddled, mounted and rode off into the sunset on a horse. But at the same time, we are not told that someone milked a cow, butchered a steer or goat, or sheered a sheep. Yet the reason for the Nephites having cattle and herds is unquestionably understood, as having  horses should be.
(See the next post, “When is a Horse not a Horse? – Part II,” for more information on theorists questioning why horses are mentioned in the Book of Mormon and what we can learn from this)

1 comment:

  1. "They are sometimes mentioned with chariots, but are never actually described as pulling them. It is hard to determine exactly what kind of role they played in the daily life". Huh? I'm trying to fathom what other way he thinks horses were used with chariots. Maybe the horses were being pulled in the chariots by tanvirs. ??