Response to Stoddard's "Maya Problem"
Joe V. Andersen
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1. “Lowland Maya” Equates to Book of Mormon “Wilderness”; “Highland Maya” Equates to Book of Mormon “Mountains” (hereafter denoted as “Equates”). www.bmaf.org/articles/implications_radiocarbon__stoddard
2. Implications of Radiocarbon Dating for Book of Mormon Credibility (hereafter “Carbon Dating”). www.bmaf.org/articles/lowland_highland_maya__stoddard
3. The “Maya Problem” (hereafter denoted as “Stoddard’s Maya Problem") www.bmaf.org/articles/implications_radiocarbon__stoddard
First of all I want the reader to know that Ted Stoddard and I are friends even though we disagree passionately on many of the “finer points” (all-be-it very important points) of the geography of the Book of Mormon in Central America.
As to the article Carbon Dating, I appreciate Ted picking up on a suggestion that he write an article about radio carbon dating to give the student of the Book of Mormon greater confidence in the reliability of carbon 14 dating. The first half of the article is very well done and it adds significantly in corroborating the setting of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. I agree wholeheartedly with Ted’s final statement:
Perhaps amazingly, radiocarbon dates from Mesoamerica are, in general, positively correlated with dates found in the Book of Mormon. Could any reputable archaeologist of the nineteenth century have foreseen that Mesoamerican dating outcomes would so closely parallel associated dates in the Book of Mormon?
If for no other reason than the positive correlations of Mesoamerica radiocarbon dates and Book of Mormon dates, we can conclude that Joseph Smith did not author the Book of Mormon as a figment of his imagination. Rather, we are justified is stating simply that he did what he claimed he accomplished—he translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.
In the twenty-first century, outcomes of radiocarbon dating from Mesoamerica should be used routinely as a significant criterion in helping determine the locations of Book of Mormon geographic landmarks.
I really wish Ted would have kept the content of the article, Carbon Dating, within those parameters as stated in the thesis statement in his first draft, and make a separate article dealing with his proposed “Maya Problem”. I will show in this article that there are many important assumptions and conclusions, yes and even “epiphanies,” in the above three articles that simply do not comport with the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon quotes will be italicized. Stoddard’s quotes will be smaller type and indented. My comments within the quotes and related references will be in red.
I also want the reader to know that I do not mind any attacks or questioning of any of my articles, in fact I wish more readers would study what I have written and show from the Book of Mormon where I have misquoted, not quoted, or misapplied any relevant Book of Mormon scripture.
On page 6 of Carbon Dating Ted attacks John L. Sorensen, F. Richard Hauck and me saying:
11. Any geographic area of Mesoamerica that reflects cultures of the Late Preclassic Period and the first 150 years of the Early Classic Period should be examined carefully to determine its potential relationship with the Nephite culture of the Book of Mormon. [I agree completely.]
In that respect, two models for Book of Mormon geography come to mind here: John L. Sorenson’s model and the model proposed by F. Richard Hauck and supported by Joe V. Andersen. Both models disregard two significant territories with high population densities during the Late Preclassic Period: (a) the lowland jungle area of the Peten and Belize and (b) the entire south to north area off the east coast of Belize. In both models, these geographic territories are overlooked or ignored in correlations of Mesoamerica and Book of Mormon territories.
At least as to Dr. Hauck and me this statement is not true. I respect John Sorensen’s work and believe it is also not true as to him. We have “examined carefully” the radio carbon dating evidence and the archeological and anthropological evidence of those territories and have concluded that they have nothing to do with specific places mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The two areas (Peten and Belize) are not the east wilderness of the Book of Mormon as claimed by Stoddard. To claim otherwise is to “disregard” “overlook” and “ignore” radiocarbon dating and archeological evidence in the area. More importantly it also “ignores, overlooks and disregards” what the Book of Mormon really says about where the east wilderness was located and how large it was.
I enjoyed David Swingler’s responsive article, and found it meritorious. He is probably right that the Nephite people “were little fish in a big pond full of many ferocious fish. (1) I submit that the Peten and Belize and the whole area proposed by Stoddard as the east wilderness is just too big of a pond with too many bigger fish in it for it to have been the Book of Mormon east wilderness or to be a part of any reasonable geography of the Book of Mormon.
Stoddard seems to have many “unequivocal “and sacrosanct assumptions and conclusions, the veracity for which he apparently has received “epiphanies.
I will examine the following erroneous conclusions that he makes stemming from his understanding of Alma 50 and Helaman 11 as discussed in the three articles above mentioned:
I. That the fortifications in Alma 49 were located in the East Wilderness/Maya Lowlands.
II. That the East Wilderness included all of Peten and Belize.
III. That the term “all Lamanites” in Alma 50:7 & 9 did not mean all Lamanites.
IV. That all Mesoamericanists have a “Maya Problem.”
V. That in BC 15 almost all Maya, highland and lowland, were members of the church.
VI. That the term “Wilderness” in Helaman 11 means “all of lowland Maya” in Guatemala and Belize.
Stoddard claims that the East Wilderness encompassed part of the Yucatan (Dzbanche/city Bountiful), all of the Peten and all of Belize, and that all the Maya located therein were either Nephites or Lamanites or at least controlled by the Nephites, calling them either the Nephite Maya or the Lamanite Maya. Stoddard states in “Carbon Dating” about page 6 paragraph No. 11:
In other words, “wilderness” here means the east wilderness of the land of Zarahemla. I think that territory is the lowland jungle area of the Peten and Belize…
Therefore, I maintain that excluding either the lowland jungle area of the Peten and Belize or the east-sea territory along the eastern coast of Belize from a realistic model for Book of Mormon geography is akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water—if for no other reason than the extensive Late Preclassic Period radiocarbon dates from these Mesoamerican territories.
I submit that including the Peten and Belize as the east wilderness is akin to having no baby in the bathwater. It has no merit. Stoddard then confirms in Equates at page 3:
Using the jargon of today, I think that Mormon in Helaman 11 is alluding to the territory of the Lowland Maya when he uses the terms “into the wilderness,” “out of the wilderness,” and “the wilderness.” And I think Mormon is alluding to the territory of the Highland Maya when he uses the terms “into the mountains,” “upon the mountains,” “out of the mountains,” and “the mountains.”
In other words, “wilderness” here means the east wilderness of the land of Zarahemla. I think that territory is the lowland jungle area of the Peten and Belize.
I prefer the “jargon” of the Book of Mormon. According to the “jargon” of the Book of Mormon, the east wilderness was a relatively small area located east of Zarahemla that bordered upon the east sea. It also bordered the northern and eastern part of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness. It did not and could not have included, for example, El Mirador in the Peten, or Lamanai in Belize, as I will show from the Book of Mormon. He relies on Alma 50 and Helaman 11 to support his theory.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR UNDERSTANDING ALMA 50 AND HELAMAN 11
First let’s set the stage leading up to the events in Alma 50 (67 BC) and Helaman 11 (20 BC). Between about 200 BC and about 72 BC the Nephites had so many serious wars that their numbers could not have grown sufficiently large that they could have either converted or conquered the millions of Maya in Peten and Belize and this in less than the one year time period required in the Book of Mormon.
The following summary of armed conflicts indicates how difficult it was for the Nephites to maintain religious, economic, and political control over their own people and, therefore, could not possibly have even attempted it against their one million plus Mayan neighbors (and perhaps trading partners) some 300 miles to the north (of Santa Rosa/Stoddard’s Zarahemla) in the Peten and Belize:
About 200 BC a few thousand remaining Nephites fled Nephi and joined the more numerous Mulekites at Zarahemla.
About 200 BC Omni 1:17 “[the Mulekites] had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time.”
About 190 BC Omni 1:13-14: “…the Lamanites came down out of the land of Nephi to battle against his people…he [King Benjamin] did fight with the strength of his own arm, with the sword of Laban. 14….until they had slain many thousands of the Lamanites…until they [Nephites] had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance." [This land of inheritance was at that time the city/land of Zarahemla and did not include the east sea area yet]
About 160 BC in Mosiah 10:20, it shows that the people of Limhi (in the land of Nephi) killed so many Lamanites they did not count them. Many smaller skirmishes followed until Limhi’s people were delivered by Ammon about 121 BC. Notice that it was not until 120 BC that King Mosiah granted to Alma the authority to establish seven churches in the land/city of Zarahemla. This indicates to me that the numbers of the loyal Nephites and Mulekites were still relatively small. This also indicates that neither the Nephite armies nor the Lamanite armies were sufficiently strong at that time to have even considered taking on the millions of Maya in Peten and Belize.
About 87 BC the Amlicite rebellion killed at least 30,000 Nephites and Amlicites.
About 81 BC all of the thousands of Nephites were killed at Ammonihah. It appears to me that Ammonihah at that time was probably the most distant city under Nephite/Mulekite political and military control. Being located about 3 or 4 days northward from city of Zarahemla it was still too far for them to protect the Ammonihahites from the Lamanites in the year 81 BC.
About 76 BC thousands of Nephites and tens of thousands of Lamanites were killed at Jershon near the east sea coast.
From 200 BC to 76 BC the Nephites had “driven many Lamanites” to “the east by the seashore” (Alma 22:29). This was the east wilderness that was full of Lamanites. The Nephites had not gone into the east wilderness yet.
By 76 BC the Zoramites were residing in Antionum, located east of Zarahemla, having defected from the Nephites and had:
…gathered themselves together in a land which they called Antionum, which was east of the land of Zarahemla, which lay nearly bordering upon the seashore, which was south of the land of Jershon, which also bordered upon the wilderness [narrow strip of wilderness] south, which wilderness was full of the Lamanites (Alma 31:3).
(Jershon was the area where the Ammonites had settled (about 76 BC) (3) which bordered north of Antionum. The Nephites had established their armies between Antionum and Jershon to protect the Ammonites and the converted Zoramites from the Lamanites and from the people of Antionum).
About 76 BC the Lamanites had followed the Ammonites from the city of Nephi to Jershon and a tremendous battle ensued. At Alma 28:2-3 it states:
2. And thus there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad.
3. Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi; nevertheless, the Lamanites were driven and scattered, and the people of Nephi returned again to their land. [These Lamanites were scattered in the east wilderness and this took place before Moroni became captain of the Nephite armies in 74 BC (see also Alma 22:29). These Lamanites were not the Maya from Mirador or Belize].
During 74 BC the Ammonites were moved from Jershon to Melek, located west of the city of Zarahemla.
About 74 BC Moroni became captain of all the Nephite armies at age 25. This was only about 125 years after all the Nephites had fled the city and land of Nephi.
During 74 BC Moroni fought a battle with the Lamanite army in the narrow strip of wilderness near Manti losing many Nephite soldiers. This was the same army led by Zarahemnah who was afraid to fight Moroni on the east sea coast between Antionum and Jershon. Alma 44:21 states “…the number of their dead was not numbered because of the greatness of the number: yea, the number of their dead was exceedingly great, both on the Nephites and on the Lamanites.”
In 73 BC Mormon raised the Standard of Liberty and squelched the civil rebellion by the king-men in the city of Zarahemla, losing many additional Nephite soldiers.
In 72 BC the escaped dissident leader of the king-men, Amalickiah, by stratagem, became the Lamanite King in the city of Nephi and swore to kill Moroni and conquer Zarahemla.
The point of this exercise is to show the enormous loss of lives both by the Nephites and Lamanites from about 200 BC, when Mosiah fled to Zarahemla, to 72 BC (130 years later). The Nephites had to establish themselves with the Mulekites, convert them, establish the church there, establish an army and protect themselves not only from dissidents like the Amlicites but from the Lamanites as well. They did not have the time or resources to have even considered conquering the east wilderness, let alone El Mirador and Lamanai where more than a million Maya resided.(4)
Erroneous Assumption No I
Prior to 72 BC, no fortifications in the east wilderness had been built. About 74 BC Moroni had fortified Noah and Ammonihah with extensive walls and trenches. Alma 49:8 states “…Behold to their [Lamanite armies at Ammonihah] uttermost astonishment, they were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi….” These cities were located about 3 or 4 days west and north of the city of Zarahemla, therefore, these fortifications were not located in the east wilderness as mistakenly implied by Stoddard at page 3 of Equates.(5)
At the beginning of the 72nd year BC, Moroni began fortifying all the cities possessed by the Nephites. He had not chased the Lamanites out of the east wilderness area yet and the only cities that had been established by the east sea were Antionum and Jershon. Both were located very close to the narrow strip of wilderness to the south and near the east sea. Beginning of 72 BC, no city Bountiful had been established.(6)
Alma 50:1-15 states (about 72 BC):
1. And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, that they should commence in digging up aheaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.[The term “all the land” is limited within the scripture to that part of the land that was possessed by the Nephites. This did not include the east sea wilderness because the Lamanites were still living there and had nearly surrounded the Nephites. It was not until the later part of 72 BC that Moroni drove all the Lamanites out and began establishing the cities on the east sea coast to keep the Lamanites out of the east wilderness.]
6. Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land. [Except for Jershon and Antionum, the east sea wilderness area was not yet possessed by the Nephites, and the Zoramites in Antionum had defected].
Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say that fortifications were built by the Nephites in the east wilderness except only those named cities, all of which were located by the east sea coast. Therefore the Book of Mormon does not support Stoddard’s premise that the fortifications in the Maya lowland or in Belize require the conclusion that the Maya Lowlands of Peten and Belize were the east wilderness of the Book of Mormon.
Erroneous Assumption II
That the term “all Lamanites” in Alma 50 did not mean all Lamanites
By the end of 72 BC, Moroni drove all Lamanites out of the east wilderness. Stoddard explains that all does not mean all.(7)Continuing the quote from Alma 50:
7. And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his armies should go forth into the east wilderness; yea, and they went forth and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla. [These were the lands of Nephi which were south of the narrow strip of wilderness. The Book of Mormon “unequivocally” states “drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands.” It says it twice. How much more clearly can it be expressed? If Stoddard’s theory is correct then all the millions of Maya living in Peten and Belize in the year 72 BC would either have to have been conquered and driven to the land of Nephi south of the narrow strip of wilderness or all would have to have been converted and controlled by the Nephites and all this within in the year 72 BC. Where in the Book of Mormon can one possible justify such a scenario? Where in all the archeology of the area of the Peten, Yucatan, and Belize does it corroborate that all Maya were moved out of that area or that all Maya changed from their religion and polity to a different religion and polity? It does not and it did not happen. I do not subscribe to Stoddard’s explanation that “all Lamanites does not mean all Lamanites.”(See also Uchtdorf’s comment at footnote No.15 that “all means all.”]
I believe the Book of Mormon and its authors said what they meant and meant what they said and they said and meant that all of the Lamanites were driven out of the east wilderness and driven to their own lands south of the narrow strip of wilderness in the lands of their possessions in the land of Nephi.
Erroneous Assumption III
|9. And it came to pass that when Moroni had driven all the Lamanites out of the east wilderness, which was north of the lands of their own possessions, he caused that the inhabitants who were in the land of Zarahemla and in the land round about should go forth into the east wilderness, even to the borders by the seashore, and possess the land. [Which land was it? It certainly was not all of Peten and all of Belize. It was the much smaller area called the east wilderness, from where Moroni had just driven “all” of the Lamanites out. Clearly, all the east wilderness was cleaned out of all the Lamanites.]|
The next scriptures describe how Moroni further fortified the defensive line of the narrow strip of wilderness from the east sea to the west sea, including the middle part of said wilderness.
10 And he also [meaning in addition to the placing of armies in the east sea area] placed armies on the south, in the borders of their [Nephite] possessions, [The referent here is the city/land of Zarahemla (Nephite possessions). This is the northern part of the narrow strip of wilderness] and caused them to erect fortifications that they might secure their armies and their people from the hands of their enemies. [This was the center of the land and included the pass (Manti) between city of Nephi and the city of Zarahemla that Moroni was fortifying].
11 And thus he cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, [If Stoddard’s theory is correct then there could have been no more strongholds of the Lamanites in the Peten and Belize because there were no more Maya or Lamanites located there! Impossible! The carbon dating and archeological evidence in the Peten and Belize does not reflect that there ceased to be Maya living in these areas about 72 BC or at any time until after about AD 150] yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi [Moroni also cleared the west sea area of Lamanites. This was the design of Moroni to establish a line of defense from the east sea to the west sea along the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness which design he accomplished after he had “driven all the Lamanites out of the east wilderness…yea and also on the west] from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon—the Nephites possessing all the land northward [from the narrow strip of wilderness] [Therefore there could not have been any Lamanite/Maya northward from the narrow strip of wilderness]. yea, even all the land which was northward of the land Bountiful, according to their pleasure. In order to understand this scripture one must realize that the city of Bountiful on the east sea had not been established yet in the year 72 BC. The first reference to the east sea land Bountiful was when Jershon was identified as being located south of land Bountiful about 76 BC (Alma 27:22). Until the end of 72 BC no cities had been established north of Jershon. Therefore I believe that the “land which was northward of the land Bountiful” must be referring to the Jaredite land northward which was located northward of the line between Bountiful and Desolation, both of which were located on the west sea coast area. I believe this means that by the year 72 BC the Nephites had started to settle the vacated Jaredite land northward and they were free to go there at their pleasure. This was not an escape route as Stoddard claims. If the land bountiful in this scripture would have meant north of land bountiful on the east sea coast then that would have placed the Nephites going into the land occupied by the millions of Maya.
12 Thus Moroni, with his armies, which did increase daily because of the assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them, did seek to cut off the strength and the power of the Lamanites from off the lands of their possessions, that they should have no power upon the lands of their possession [By the end of 72 BC this would have been everything north of the narrow strip of wilderness. According to this scripture, if Peten and Belize were possessed by the Nephites, then the entire Maya population would have to have been Nephite, or Nephite sympathizers with no power over the Nephites and the Nephites would have controlled them from Santa Rosa/Zarahemla, 300 miles away! The Book of Mormon does not justify such a conclusion].
By the end of 72 BC Moroni had established his defensive line from the east sea to the west sea (the dividing line being the narrow strip of wilderness). He began building new cities on the east sea coast northward of Antionum and northward of the line of possessions of the Lamanites near the east sea.
13 And it came to pass that the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city Moroni; and it was by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites. [This area seems to be the same area between Antionum and Jershon where Moroni had established his armies to protect the Ammonites and converted Zoramites in the year 74 BC.]
14 And they also began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni; and they called the name of the city, or the land, Nephihah. [Because Aaron is never associated with the east sea or any sea, then it can be reasonably assumed that it was located westward from the east sea toward Zarahemla and because Nephihah was located between Moroni, on the east sea coast and Aaron, then Nephihah must have been located west of Moroni inland toward Zarahemla and was not located near the east seacoast. Moroni was creating a wall of city/lands from Zarahemla eastward and bordering on the southern part of the narrow strip of wilderness to the east sea and then northward from Moroni along the east seacoast in order to keep the Lamanites from coming back into the east sea area and threatening Zarahemla].
15 And they also began in that same year to build many cities on the north, one in a particular manner which they called Lehi, which was in the north by the borders of the seashore. [I submit that “in the north” refers to north from Moroni. In fact all the other cities named in these chapters were located on the east seashore and not out in the east wilderness. I submit that “in the north” or “on the north” does not mean Dzibanche or Kohunlich in Yucatan or Cerros in northern Belize as claimed by the Allens in Exploring at pages 92-95. These cities were built almost 1,500 years before 72 BC by the Maya whereas the cities of Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, and Mulek were built new (beginning at the end of the year 72 BC) by the Nephites and were built on or very close to (not more than a half day’s march from) (8) the east seashore. Therefore I also submit that all of the named cities on the east sea shore were very close to each other forming a defensive wall to keep the Lamanites out of the east Wilderness. Since Mulek, Gid, and Bountiful were located within less than a half day’s march from each other, and since Morianton and Lehi were closer than that to each other, then I believe that the total distance between Moroni and city Bountiful could not have been more than about 30 miles or so. (See footnote 8).
16 And thus ended the twentieth year.
The following map shows how impossible it would have been for the east wilderness to have included all of the Peten, and all of Belize and to have been controlled from Santa Rosa.
Erroneous Assumption IV
That all Mesoamericanists have a Maya Problem
Stoddard and the Allens are on record proposing that most Maya were Nephites;(9) that all of Peten and Belize was the east wilderness; that the cities of “El Mirador, Bonampak, Uaxactun, Rio Negro, Lamanai, and Altun Ha began being populated at 150 BC;” and that they were conquered by the Nephites in the year 72 BC.(10) This is the basis for Stoddard’s “Maya Problem”. Now Stoddard is desperately trying to support such an impossible claim. I agree with Stoddard in that he does have a “Maya Problem.” Fortunately he has now had an “epiphany” and realizes that the Maya predated 150 BC asking “What do we do with the historical and radiocarbon-dated data that date the origins of the Maya as early as 1500–1000 BC—long before the origins of the Nephite and Lamanite cultures? “ (11)
It is his problem and not one for the all Mesoamericanists in general unless they, like Stoddard and the Allens, believe that almost all Maya were Nephite/Lamanites and that the “east wilderness” included all of the Peten and Belize. Certainly Dr. Hauck and I do not have a “Maya problem.” Dr. Hauck has recognized since before 1988 that the lowland Maya in Northern Peten and almost all of Belize were not part of the Book of Mormon geography. (12) I have confirmed this with my independent research since about 2002. Archeologist David Swingler also says he does not have a Maya Problem.(13)
Anyone who continues to believe that the Peten and Belize were part of the east wilderness of the Book of Mormon will always have an irreconcilable “Maya Problem.”
Erroneous Assumption V
That by BC 15 almost all Maya were members of the church.
Throughout the Book of Mormon the Nephites maintained themselves as a separate and distinct culture living the Law of Moses and believing in Christ. Therefore the Nephite culture could never have been considered Nephite/Maya. Archeologist David Swingler confirms this in his article saying that the Nephites were separatists and it was difficult to change their Hebrew way of life.(14)
One must understand the definition in the Book of Mormon of the terms “Nephite” and “Lamanite”. A Nephite was any person, including Maya, by blood or belief or even sympathetically associated with the Nephite culture, religion, and polity. Anyone or everyone not so associated was a Lamanite (4 Nephi 1:36-38 & Alma 43:13). I believe that all Maya or any other culture that did not believe or support the Nephite way of life was deemed a Lamanite by the Book of Mormon writers. Swingler describes it as the term “ Lamanites,” merely meaning “non-Nephite” or “Goyim.” (15) By the end of the Nephite era the definition of a Lamanite evolved into anyone who did not believe in Christ (Moroni 1:2-3) and of course by AD 400 all of those believers were hunted down and killed except for Moroni.
I do not believe it possible that all the Maya were members of the Church at any time especially about 15 BC. In Equates Stoddard cites Helaman Chapter 11 (about 15 BC) and more specifically verses 20-21 and concludes:
|From these verses, we should note that, at this time, “the more part of the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites,” belonged to the church and that “the church did spread throughout the face of all the land.” To me, those words from Mormon sound like a majority of all the people in Maya country (the land southward) belonged to the church. That doesn’t necessarily mean they became Nephites and thereby adopted the social customs and religious practices of the Nephites. As a consequence, I think we have something to learn here about the Lowland Maya territory—the lowland jungle territory of the Peten and Belize.|
I submit that what we have to learn and accept is that the lowland Maya in Peten and Belize were never part of the Nephite culture and they never “belonged to the church.”
A more careful and complete reading of chapters 10 and 11 of Helaman, reveal the impossibility that the lowland Maya belonged to the church. The key here is to answer the questions; What is the meaning of the term “face of all the land? And what does “all” mean? And what does “the land” mean?
President Uchtdorf confirms the obvious by emphasizing that “all means all”. (16) All therefore must be limited only by the area or object to which it applies as stated in the relevant scriptures. For example the term “all the Lamanites in the east wilderness” is limited to the “east wilderness”. It does not mean “some”of the Lamanites living in the east wilderness were driven out of the east wilderness nor does it mean from some other wilderness. Therefore, according to the Book of Mormon, there could have been no Lamanites or Maya left in the east wilderness by the end of the year 72 BC. That would have to mean there could have been no more Maya living in El Mirador and Lamanai, if these areas were part of the east wilderness.
I suggest that the reader take a serious look at the following map showing the relationship of all the areas of the Nephite/Lamanite/Mulekite occupations as proposed by the Allens and Stoddard and ask if it is reasonable, possible, and in conformity with the Book of Mormon that most all the people including all the Maya in Yucatan, Peten, Belize, Guatemala and southern Mexico were members of the church of the Nephites in the year 15 BC? Is it possible that the Nephites could have conquered, converted and controlled all of this territory from Santa Rosa/Zarahemla? And all in the year 72 BC?
The instant question then becomes, did the term “all the land” in Chapter 11 of Helaman mean all of the Peten and all of Belize? I submit that the answer is definitely no.
Let’s set the stage for understanding that Chapter 11 of Helaman refers to the lands/villages around the cities of Nephi and Zarahemla. It does not refer to all Mesoamerica or all the Yucatan peninsula. Beginning at chapter 6 of Helaman it states:
(About 29 BC): Helaman 6:1 …the Lamanites had become, the more part of them, a righteous people…[which ] righteousness did exceed that of the Nephites…[Does this mean that the more part of the million Maya in Peten were more righteous than the Nephites?]
4-…many of the Lamanites did come down [from Nephi] into the land [city area] of Zarahemla… and exhort them.
10. Now the land south [south of the narrow strip of wilderness] was called Lehi and the land north [north of the narrow strip of wilderness] was called Mulek…for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, [North of the narrow strip of wilderness where the city of Zarahemla was located, not the land northward of the Jaredites.] and Lehi into the land south [of the narrow strip of wilderness] [The land north at the time when the Lord brought Mulek into the land north did not include the east wilderness and never included the east wilderness until the end of the year 72 BC].
11….there was all manner of gold in both these lands [north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness] and of silver and precious ore of every kind;…[This statement alone should exclude the Peten because there has never been any gold, silver or ore of every kind there.]
12…they did multiply and wax exceedingly strong in the land [land of Nephi and land of Zarahemla, north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness]
34 [24 BC] And thus we see that the Nephites [north of the narrow strip of wilderness] did begin to dwindle in unbelief…while the Lamanites [south of the narrow strip of wilderness] began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their god…
37. [by 23 BC] …The Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites [in the land of Nephi south of the narrow strip of wilderness].
38 ….On the other hand the Nephites did build them up and support them…until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites [north of the narrow strip of wilderness]….
39. And thus they [the Gadianton robbers] did obtain the sole management of the government [located in the city of Zarahemla].
Helaman 7:1 [in the year 23 BC]…Nephi, the son of Helaman, returned to the land of Zarahemla from the land northward [this means back to the city of Zarahemla from the Jaredite land northward].
3 ….they did reject all his words insomuch that he could not stay among them, but returned again unto the land of his nativity.
10…it came to pass that it was upon a tower, which was in the garden of Nephi, which was by the garden of Nephi which was by the highway which led to the chief market which was in the city of Zarahemla.
[The foregoing indicates that the lands being discussed above were the lands around the city of Zarahemla and the city of Nephi. It is not referring to all of Mesoamerica. After the incident at Nephi’s garden there followed the scene of the murder of Seazoram and the Lord told Nephi to return to the multitudes near the city of Zarahemla.]
12. …he did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about the face of the land,…[This clearly means the land immediately surrounding the city of Zarahemla. The “face of the land” certainly did not include the east wilderness. How could Nephi have “returned to the multitudes” in the east wilderness/Maya Lowlands if he was living at Santa Rosa/Zarahemla some 300 miles away?
The people of the Nephites became “divided against themselves and began to slay one another with the sword”. The Lord, at Nephi’s request, caused a drought and famine from the east sea to the west sea, and on the north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness. This famine lasted until the Nephites had also extinguished the Gaddianton Robbers about the year 16 BC.
Having set the stage for understanding chapter 11 of Helaman to mean the land/city of Zarahemla and the lands/city of Nephi, let us now consider chapter 11:
Helaman 11:10..[the Nephites]…have swept away the band of Gadianton from amongst them insomuch that they have become extinct…
20…the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land [beginning in the land surrounding city of Zarahemla], and began to build up their waste places and began to multiply and spread even until they did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward [of the narrow strip of wilderness] and on the southward [of the narrow strip of wilderness] from the sea west to the sea east.
21…and the church did spread throughout the face of all the land [north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness]; and the more part of the people both the Nephites and the Lamanites, did belong to the church; and they did have exceedingly great peace in the land and thus ended the seventy and seventh year. [The land here is clearly where the Nephites and Lamanites were residing being north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness and the principal occupation centers].
24 [in 13 BC]…there were a certain number of the dissenters from the people of Nephi who had some years before gone over [over the narrow strip of wilderness into the land of Nephi] unto the Lamanites who had taken upon themselves the name of Lamanites, and a certain number who were real descendants of the Lamanites, being stirred up to anger by them, or by those dissenters, therefore they commenced a war with their brethren. [beginning in the land of Nephi south of the narrow strip of wilderness. Clearly these Maya/Lamanites were not members of the church].
25. And they did commit murder and plunder; and then they would retreat back into the mountains and into the wilderness and secret places, hiding themselves that they could not be discovered…[the mountains and wilderness and secret places clearly meant in the narrow strip of wilderness. How could those robbers have retreated from the city of Nephi across the mountains, across the land of Zarahemla, and then northward over 200 miles from Santa Rosa crossing the Lacandon wilderness, the Usumacinta River, the Passion River to get into Stoddard’s east wilderness? Which band of robbers would stay in the “mountains” and which would retreat over 300 miles or more to El Mirador in Stoddard’s lowland Maya?]
26. And thus in time, yea even in the space of not many years, they became an exceedingly great band of robbers; and they did search out all the secret plans of Gadianton. [Clearly this was “a band of robbers” and not many bands of robbers therefore this corroborates that the wilderness in these scriptures must have been within the mountains and not in the Maya lowlands hundreds of miles away.]
27. …these robbers did make great havoc, yea, even great destruction among the people of Nephi, and also among the people of the Lamanites.
28. …it was expedient that there should be a stop put to this work of destruction; therefore they [Nephites and Lamanites] sent an army of strong men unto the wilderness and upon the mountains to search out this Band [singular] of robbers, and to destroy them.
29, [12 BC].But behold, it came to pass that in that same year they were driven back even into their own lands. [Being the city of Zarahemla and the city of Nephi].
30.[11 BC]. In the commencement of the eighty and first year they did go forth again against this band of robbers and did destroy many; and they were also visited with much destruction.
31.And they were again obliged to return out of the wilderness and out of the mountains unto their own lands [land of Zarahemla and land of Nephi. They certainly did not return from Peten, cross the Usumacinta River, cross the Lacandon wilderness some 200 or more miles to Santa Rosa/Zarahemla or, even more impossible, to Kaminaljuyu/Nephi?].
32….And the robbers did still increase and wax strong, insomuch that they did defy the whole armies of the Nephites, and also of the Lamanites; and they did cause great fear to come unto the people upon all the face of the land. [being the lands and population centers on both sides of the narrow strip of wilderness] [Notice also that the robbers were dealing with the armies of both the Nephites and the Lamanites].
33. they did visit many parts of the land, and did do great destruction unto them; yea did kill many, and did carry away others captive into the wilderness,[narrow strip of wilderness] yea and more especially their women and their children.
37….in the [8th year BC] they did wax stronger and stronger in their pride, and their wickedness; and thus they were ripening again for destruction.
The Nephites became more wicked and the robbers also did more and more destruction, especially in the land around the city of Zarahemla until the time of Samuel the Lamanite. It surely does not sound like the many Gaddianton Robbers were members of the church. Nor does it sound like the majority of the Nephites in the Zarahemla area were members of the church either by the year 8 BC.
Helaman13:1…[in the 6th year BC] ,the Nephites did still remain in wickedness, yea, in great wickedness, while the Lamanites [in the land of Nephi] did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God, according to the law of Moses. [Can you imagine the Maya in Kaminaljuyu living the law of Moses in the year 6 BC or for that matter at any time? Can you imagine all the “Maya” in El Mirador complex and in Lamanai being members of the church? And living the law of Moses?
2. …Samuel a Lamanite came into the land of Zarahemla…and they did cast him out, and he was again about to return to his own land [the city of Nephi south of the narrow strip of wilderness].
The Lord told him to return the city of Zarahemla. After he had called the Nephites to repentance from the wall (at the end of 6 BC), Helaman continues:
|Helaman 16:7 “…he did cast himself down from the wall, and did flee out of their lands [areas around the city of Zarahemla], yea, even unto his own country and began to preach and to prophesy among his own people [South of the narrow strip of wilderness].|
From this time of 6 BC until the time of the birth of Christ wickedness prevailed upon the land of the Nephites and the land of the Lamanites with the exception of a few “all save it were the most believing part of both of the Nephites and also of the Lamanites…(Helaman:16:15) . It then states at verse 17:
|…And they began to know that the son of God must shortly appear, yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth, from the west [sea] to the east [sea], both in the land north [of the narrow strip of wilderness] and in the land south,[of the narrow strip of wilderness] were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth. [The scripture itself defines the limits of what the term “whole earth” meant from the east sea to the west sea and north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness where the bulk of the Nephites and Lamanites were living].|
The “whole earth” certainly did not include China, Jerusalem, or Africa but was limited to everyone within the area defined in the Book of Mormon being that area between the east and west seas and north and south of the narrow strip of wilderness where the Nephites and the Lamanites lived. These are the ones that fell to the earth. These are the ones that all became members of the church. This did not include the Maya in the Peten or Belize. It did not include the people in North American or in South America. This was limited to the major population centers of the Nephites and the Lamanites.
ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTION VI
During this time, and until about AD 15, the Gadianton robbers were gaining strength in the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness (see Helaman 11). Lachoneus, governor of the city and land of Zarahemla received an epistle from Giddianhi saying that he was “governor of this the secret society of Gadianton” and he threatened to come down out of the wilderness to destroy the Nephites; at Nephi 3:17 it says: “…Lachoneus did appoint chief captains over all the armies of the Nephites, to command them at the time that the robbers should come down out of the wilderness against them…”
How could the robbers come down out of the wilderness if the wilderness was the “Maya lowlands in the Peten? The elevation of the Peten is about 500 feet. The elevation of Santa Rosa/Zarahemla is 2100 feet and is more than 200 miles away. The elevation of Kaminaljuyu/Nephi is 5000 Ft. and it is also located more than 200 miles away.
The above scripture confirms that the wilderness where the Gadianton Robbers lived was within the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness. So does 3 Nephi 4:1, which says: “…in the latter end of the eighteenth year those armies of robbers had prepared for battle, and began to come down and to sally forth from the hills, and out of the mountains, and the wilderness…"
This clearly means that the robbers came down from the wilderness to the cities which were later vacated in the land of the Nephites and the land of the Lamanites. If the Lowland Maya, the Peten, equates with the “wilderness”, and if Zarahemla was located at Santa Rosa, (elevation 2100 Ft) then how could the robbers have come down out of the wilderness (Peten lowlands elevation 500 Feet) against the Nephites at Santa Rosa? And how was it possible for the robbers to have made almost daily murders and plunders against Santa Rosa/Zarahemla from the wilderness from the Peten and then retreat back into the wilderness over 200 miles away?
Certainly the Gadianton Robbers and the Lamanites and the numerous Nephites that joined them and took over control of the city of Zarahemla were not members of the church in the year 17 BC. The majority of the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla were not members of the church in the year 11 BC and again at the time of Samuel the Lamanite in the years 6-8 BC. If the Nephites themselves could not remain members of the church during these years then how could they have possibly converted the millions of Maya in the rest of Central America? It is beyond all reasonableness and the intent of the Book of Mormon to suggest that most Maya located in the area south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec became members of the church about 15 BC, or at the time of Samuel the Lamanite or at the birth of Jesus Christ or at the time of the resurrection of Christ.
It does seem plausible that the Nephites, converted Lamanites and many Maya in the areas surrounding Zarahemla and city of Nephi and the area of the west sea land Bountiful centering on Izapa, could have had all things in common and relative peace for about 150 years. I do not believe that that same relationship existed among all the Maya in other areas such as Peten, Yucatan, Belize, or yes even Kaminaljuyu.
Dr. Hauck and I propose that Izapa was the Bountiful where Christ appeared and that all the area between Izapa and the “Line” at Desolation from the west sea to the east about 12 to 20 miles to the Sierra Madre Mountains was the west sea land Bountiful. The Maya in Peten and Belize were still fighting among themselves and began diminishing their numbers beginning about AD 100. They were not a part of the peace that the Nephites enjoyed. Neither were the Maya living in Kaminaljuyu. The people at Kaminaljuyu were also continuing to expand and had not changed their religion, culture, polity etc, but continued as they had always been living.
Indeed, the Nephites were a group of “small fish in a very big pond containing many ferocious fish”. (17) So long as they maintained a modicum of righteousness they were protected from those ferocious fish.
Notice that after Nephi and Lehi went on a mission beginning at the northernmost Nephite city of east sea Bountiful in the year 30 BC, the city Bountiful and the east sea Bountiful and even all the east sea coast cities are never mentioned again in the Book of Mormon. The only exception is when the city of Moroni was sunk into the depths of the east sea at Christ’s death AD 34. For the next almost 400 years the east sea wilderness and all the cities located therein are never mentioned again. Why?
I suggest that the Nephite populations had moved into the west sea land Bountiful from Izapa northward to the Papaloapan Basin (the area of the Epi-Olmec) xviiiduring the years before and following Christ’s resurrection. When Christ appeared about the end of AD 34, He did not appear at Zarahemla or the east sea city Bountiful but at the temple located at the west sea land Bountiful at Izapa.
That the Lamanites, in their quest to destroy the Nephites and all vestiges of Christianity, conscripted the help of any and all Maya and or cultures anywhere they could is exactly what happened. That most of these other cultures, including the Maya, ever became a part of the Nephite religion, seems to me to have been without merit or possibility and certainly without Book of Mormon support and without supporting archeological and anthropological evidence.
The Nephites had an irreconcilable Lamanite/Maya problem and it got the best of the Nephites because of their own apostasy. Hopefully we can overcome Ted’s “Maya Problem,” recognizing that the lowland Maya does not equate to the Book of Mormon “Wilderness;” that the east wilderness of the Book of Mormon did not include all of the Peten and Belize with its millions of Maya; That most Mesoamericanists do not have a “Maya Problem;” and that most Maya never became members of the church in the year 15 BC or after Christ’s resurrection.
However, we can now be hopeful that many, if not most, of the Lamanite/ Maya of today will become members of Christ’s Church.
 Looking at the "Maya Problem" from a different Perspective " by David Swingler March, 2012 located at www.bmaf.org/articles/maya_problem_different_perspective__swingler. I hope in this brief essay I have explained the perceptions I see as I look at the thousand years of the "Lehiaic Invasion" and its minimal impact on the evolving histories of the indigenous peoples, and how the massive impact of these "Goyim" or "Lamanites" upon the Lehiaic Group, led unto its utter destruction. We can see it today: they were little fish in a big pond full of many ferocious fish. It is a miracle they survived in this milieu for 1,000 years.
 See page one of Equates.
 See Alma 27 and 28:7-10. The four sons of Mosiah leave for land of Nephi in the year 92 BC and return about 15 years later with the Ammonites. They settle in Jershon about the year 77 or 76 BC and leave Jershon for Melek about 74 BC having lived in Jershon only about 2 years. Melek was located west of city of Zarahemla
 See my article located at BMAF entitled Why city Bountiful was not located in the Yucatan, the Peten or Northern Belize.
 Stoddard states “This lowland jungle area is also the location of large numbers of defensive earthworks that are described by today’s archaeologists with descriptive language that parallels almost precisely that of Alma 49-50…” implying that the described defensive earthworks of Ammonihah were the same as the ones located in Peten or implying that the Nephites built the ones in Peten and Belize because Moroni was the “inventor” and builder of them..
 The first land Bountiful mentioned in the Promised Land is in Alma 22:29-30 about 80 BC. This land bountiful is clearly located on the west sea. The first mention of east sea land Bountiful is in Alma 27:22 (about 76 BC) when the Ammonites were given Jershon located just south of land Bountiful on the east sea coast. No city Bountiful had been built. Moroni established his military camp just north of Morianton. The east sea land bountiful, or camp of Moroni, was mentioned several times until in the year…about 64 BC when it was first mentioned as a city (Alma 52:17). At Alma 53:3 it says “land or city of Bountiful” clearly indicating that the city and land Bountiful were the same area and that the east sea land Bountiful was not a large area but was describing the supportive area surrounding the city Bountiful.
 For an explanation of Stoddard’s “all” see end note No. 7 in his article Carbon Dating.
 On page 6 of Exploring it says “In all probability—for the most part—the “Nephites” consisted of people whom we know as the Maya and the Olmecs,”
 Exploring at pages 595-598
 See Carbon Dating
 See F. Richard Hauck, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988)
 See article by David Swingler located at BMAF.ord entitled “Looking at the Maya Problem from a different perspective: “For myself, an archaeologist by vocation and profession, there never has been any “Maya Problem” with the Book of Mormon.”
 David Swingler, supra. See the section regarding “Separatism.”
 See Swingler, Supra: A fourth key perception is reading “Goyim” for “Lamanites” every time we try to interface the BofM with Mesoamerican excavations. It is paramount that we remember: "Lamanites" indeed refers to ALL "Goyim" whether actually involved by blood with Laman and Lemuel's lineages or merely dark-skinned indigenous predecessors living in the regions peripheral to the "Lehiaic Invasion" – the outlying lands of the “Lamanites.” This is an important perception, which must be recognized. “Lamanites” merely means “non-Nephite” or “Goyim.” We read that the Goyim surrounding the Nephites were widespread and numerous.
. Providing in the Lord’s Way Dieter F. Uchtdorf October 2011 General Conference. We are all enlisted. “All” means All” means all all—every Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holder, rich...
 See David Swingler, supra: “For myself, an archaeologist by vocation and profession, there never has been any “Maya Problem” with the Book of Mormon. This does not mean I don't have many unanswered questions - unanswered in the factual sense of evidences answering the questions. It just means using my own intellect, seeing the geography, and knowing what I do know about history as academia currently believes the history to be - I see various potential, viable and very satisfactory answers. Any of these answers I see can – eventually - by evidences be validated. I don't worry about which may be eventually validated - or if some totally yet undiscovered answer is some day found. The geography is there, and, the Nephite Record is one tiny surviving history set within this geography.”
 See my article entitled Nephites and the Epi-Olmec located at www.bmaf.org/articles/nephites_epi-olmec__andersen