Will the above discussion have any positive impact on its readers? For nonbelievers—probably not. For believers—perhaps. Analyzing the above comments about the word horse as it appears in the Book of Mormon should sharpen the focus of both believers and honest nonbelievers and, frankly, make both groups realize that the use of the word horse is an asset rather than a liability in helping to verify the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon—especially in connection with Joseph Smith’s statement that he translated the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God.” After thinking through the issue carefully, all Book of Mormon readers should be willing to concede that what is not said about the use of horses among Book of Mormon peoples supports the book’s internal content consistency and validity and is far more important than what is said about the use of horses.

             From a logical perspective, if readers of the Book of Mormon are knowledgeable about the archaeological and historical records of Mesoamerica where the New World events of the book undoubtedly occurred, they will realize that the Maya would have massively exploited the horse had it been part of their culture. For example, only a small imagination is required to imagine what Moroni would have done with horses in the first century BC in the east wilderness. That Joseph Smith did not commit a fatal error by “giving” Moroni horses during this time period is only one example among many to support the oft-repeated contention above that what is not included in the Book of Mormon about horses is just as important as what is included.

             No one knows unequivocally whether the inclusion of the word horse in the Book of Mormon is an example of the “mistakes of men.” Today’s scholars and educators who attempt to decipher handwriting or shorthand symbols from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and earlier can easily see that the symbols Joseph Smith translated could have been mistranslated—at least when they realize that an angel was not standing over his shoulder to whisper the exact words into his ear. That realization should help Book of Mormon readers appreciate the fact that Joseph translated in direct relation to his vocabulary, environment, and perceptions.

             If readers of the Book of Mormon truly understand Joseph’s writing abilities in 1829, they should clearly appreciate his choice of words during the translation process. Although he had access to the Urim and Thummim to help with the translation, he often must have translated by relying on his own acquired expertise. The following incidents about Emma Smith help to reinforce that thinking:

 Although Emma Smith never saw the gold plates in the same way the other witnesses did and was also counseled by the Lord not to murmur because of the things which she had not seen (see D&C 25:4), she did have close contact with the plates and the work of her husband. In response to a question from her son, Joseph Smith III, as to the reality of the plates, she responded:

            “The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him [Joseph Smith Jr.] to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. . . . I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so. . . . I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.”41
            For whatever reason, probably because Joseph Smith had been commanded by the Lord not to show the plates to people, Emma did not see the plates. But she certainly had a conviction that the work of her husband was directed by God and that the Book of Mormon was divinely inspired. To her son, she bore the following personal testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon:

My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.42

            Carefully examining the word horse in the Book of Mormon should convince Book of Mormon readers that the book was translated by the gift and power of God—just as Joseph Smith claimed. If he had authored the book as an outgrowth of his vocabulary, environment, and perceptions, he probably would have committed critical errors by routinely depicting horses as beasts of burden among Book of Mormon peoples. That he did not make such critical errors supports his contention that he translated, rather than authored, the Book of Mormon.

            The above discussion can logically be extended to the names of other mammals mentioned in the Book of Mormon or to words that might seem out of context for Book of Mormon time periods. When readers remind themselves that an angel did not stand over Joseph’s shoulder to whisper the precise words into Joseph’s ear, they can easily see how Joseph could have used his acquired translation skills in dictating words that reflected his vocabulary, environment, and perceptions.

            If Book of Mormon students and scholars honestly deal with anti–Book of Mormon comments about the book or its contents, they will typically come away convinced even more that Joseph Smith translated the book by the gift and power of God and that the contents of the book are true and correct. The outcomes are a clear reflection of the following statements: The Book of Mormon is a real account about real people who lived somewhere in the Americas. It is not a book authored by Joseph Smith as a product of his own invention—he was not a sly charlatan with a very creative imagination.

            In conclusion, anti–Book of Mormon critics are invited to pick on something more substantial than the word horse to prove the book false. When dealing with individual words in the Book of Mormon, they are invited to examine the book’s contents in relation to such substantial and really important words as fall, atonement, condescension, belief, faith, repentance, baptism, agency, hope, charity, humility, endurance, diligence, freedom, grace, guilt, heaven, hell, death, resurrection, sin, justification, sanctification, justice, mercy, revelation, knowledge, love, miracles, opposition, pride, punishment, restoration, or works. By letting the Spirit confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon’s content about such words, readers will arrive at different conclusions than those of the “intellectual critics.”