Transcript of the September 2005 BMAF Conference held at the Red Lion Hotel
Transcript of the September 2005 BMAF Conference held at the Red Lion Hotel
Ammon and the Mesoamerican Custom of the Smiting off of Arms
It’s a real pleasure for me to be here and want to thank the BMAF board for this invitation. My advanced degrees are in education; basically I’m a teacher. But, through some tenacity and a little bit of luck, I’ve been able to be in some pretty extraordinary situations. A few years ago, I wrote a rather obscure article that FARMS picked up on and published; and that’s referenced in your program there; and the board has asked me to speak today. Rather than going through and rereading the article, I’m going to take you through a discovery process and take you through a short tour of the Museum of Anthropology, just one small part, and let you discover with me how we made a connection between some seemingly unrelated things of the Mesoamerican custom of the smiting off of arms and the story that we have in the Book of Mormon.
We have talked a little bit today of what is Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica, basically, starts up north in the mountains of Mexico, and it goes down into El Salvador and Guatemala and a little bit of Honduras and Belize. Mesoamerica means ‘middle America.’ Now, we as eager Latter-day Saints want to go to Mesoamerica, and we want to find the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, but it’s hard to find. When I first went to Mesoamerica as a student many years ago, I had seen "Ancient America Speaks" and "Chichén Itzá" on film. I went to Mesoamerica and it sort of hit me. What I was seeing in Mesoamerica had very little to do with relation to the time of the Book of Mormon, and I became a little bit cynical about what I was looking at. Little did I know that I would return to Mesoamerica and live and work there for ten years. And that healthy cynicism turned into a different look.
Rather than going to Mesoamerica and finding the Book of Mormon, we want to find Mesoamerica inside the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is full of Mesoamerica, and the more we learn about Mesoamerica, the more we can find Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon. And it gets very, very exciting.
I have a bias here. My bias is the best place you can find time to learn about the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica or Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon is at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. If you get the opportunity to travel throughout Mesoamerica and go to the great sites, some of which we have talked about today, take it. My bias is right there in Mexico City; and if you can spend hours and hours there you will find evidences of Mesoamerica that you can really relate to in the Book of Mormon. I had the opportunity in my ten years there to take many courses at night at this museum from the curators of the museum and from professors at the national university, who would come and tell us the Mesoamerica story. Then, later as I gave tours of this museum, up to 100 tours of this museum, if we were giving a Book of Mormon tour or if we were giving a tour to a non-LDS group, it was the same story. We didn’t change the story at all, other than, those interested in the Book of Mormon we would make reference to what they would be seeing there.
When you first go to the museum you’re introduced what is considered the mother culture of Mesoamerica. Those are the Olmecs; those are the people with a big heads that we just saw. Following the Olmecs the next major culture are the Teotihuacanos. The Olmecs would be the pre-classic; the Teotihuacanos would be the classic. Their symbol would be the great pyramids outside of Mexico City. That was that great civilization. This is going to be important for our story a little bit later. Following the Teotihuacanos would be the Toltecs. Their icons, I suppose, would be Tula, which are some ruins north of Mexico City and Chichén Itzá in the middle of the Mayan world; and they were the ones that probably took human sacrifice that already existed, to new heights, so to speak. Following the Toltecs were the Aztecs that are commonly referred to now as the Mexica (Meshica). And following them was the Spanish colonial period.
Now the Maya existed during this entire time, but they followed some of the same patterns in Mesoamerica. Now Mesoamerica is tied together by culture, for example the ball game, a pantheon of gods, the jaguar that we learned about, their religion and their ideas of the calendars and numbers. Here’s the relationship that the Nephites had to those cultures right there and some approximate dates on the side. Mesoamerica, per se, even though people existed before and after really spans about 3000 years of history that is tied together by these cultural tendencies that pass from the Olmec all the way to the Aztec (Mexica).
(The following is a clarification in answer to a question from the audience.) Mesoamerica, as you have seen from the map several times today, is ‘middle America.’ Mesoamerica refers to the area of Mexico from the Sierra Madre Mountains, down through what is now Mexico City, through the Narrow Neck of Land, and then covers the Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas, Guatemala and down into El Salvador and some of Honduras. That’s Mesoamerica; and that’s where scholars feel is the primary location for what is much in the Book of Mormon now. Mesoamerica is tied together with these cultural tendencies of religion, sports, building, architecture, calendar, and language -- things like that. Even though it spans all of these different people, they generally, with some territorial kinds of things, cover the same places, from about 1500 B.C. to about 1500 A.D. Now the Olmecs, arguably, you can take before that time and the Mayans go down, and ironically, the Nephites, who come around about 600 B.C., that’s about the same time that the Mayans really take off as a culture, even though they existed before as a people.
So we’re going to make a comparison today to show you how we’re going to do this with some validity between something that happened in the Aztec time and something that happened in the Nephite time even though those two times are very far apart. But both of those groups if they are within Mesoamerica are going to have some common cultural tendencies, even though they may evolve and change from the time that the Nephites were there and the time that the Aztecs were there.
We’re going to begin our journey today in the Mexica Room at the Museum. Now the Museum of Anthropology is arguably one of the best museums in the world. They built it in 1964. As you enter there is a great courtyard – and we’re standing just inside this courtyard (as seen on the slide) at the far end of the museum. The courtyard is built in the dimensions of Uxmal, the great Mayan city in the Yucatan. So the museum itself is symbolic, and when the architects built the museum, they toured museums all over the world, whether it was the Louvre in France, ore even our museums here in the United States, they decided to build the museum where you’d walk into a room and in order to go to the next section, walk out into the courtyard, rest your mind a little bit and go in and do it again. It’s just a wonderful museum, but the architects, down at the end of the museum, put what they considered to be the most important culture to the Mexicans, the Mexica, from which we get the word Mexico. If you walk into a Catholic church, which many of you have done all over the world, down at the end of the altar, it gives you something of an "aha" feeling, and that’s what happens when you walk into the Mexica Room and the ‘altar’ down at the end being the great calendar stone.
Inside this museum, we’re introduce to the Boquerini Codex, about 20 pages long when it’s spread out, and for some reason it has been ripped off at the end; we don’t know what happened to the other end of it, but it talks about this journey that the Mexica had from the north, and they bring with them one god at the time. He is Huitzilopochtli, the great war god of the Aztecs, or the Mexica. The leave the county of Atitlan, somewhere in the north around 1100 A.D. They speak Nahuatl, which, interestingly, is related to the language of the Indians in Utah and Nevada. Archaeologists and anthropologists do not believe that they began that far north, but that’s an interesting thing that we see. Nahuatl brings us words into English, like ‘cho-co-la-te,’ for chocolate; ‘aguacate’ for avocado; ‘tomate’ for tomato; and a kind of grass in Mexico they call ‘secate;’ and they call corn ‘helote.’ So you see certain patterns from this Nahuatl language.
But they came down from the north with basically four tribes. As they are coming down from the north, we learned today that they stopped in Tula for awhile. Now, these are nomadic people. They’re dirty people and some even refer to them as Chichimeca, the Dog People. They’re not the kind of people that you’d want as your neighbors – that’s why the people of Tula wanted them to just kind of keep going southward. And, as they are descending into Mesoamerica, they’re learning what it’s like to be a Mesoamerican. They’re learning something about pyramids, structures, architecture – they’re learning about gods, they’re learning about the Mesoamerican religion. And their war god, Huitzilopochtli, as he grows in power during their time in Mesoamerica, begins to take upon himself many of the attributes of the other Mesoamerican gods, so that later when the Spanish arrive, Huitzilopochtli is just about everybody. So, they come from the north and stop in Tula and meet the Toltecs; and they even adopt the Toltecs as their grandparents, their mother culture, which may not be unreasonable, considering that the Toltecs also came from the north a few hundred years before.
As we come down into this valley here (on the screen), this is now Mexico City; and there are some estimates that the population then was about 300,000 people already living there when the Mexica arrive there. There are a few stories about the settlement of the Mexica in the valley, that concern a snake and an eagle on a rock in the middle of a lake where nobody else wanted that rock. Within a short amount of time they learned to build chinampas from the people of Xochimilco and they began growing their tomates, helotes, aguacates, chiles – and if you can grow food you can gain some economic power. They were also mercenaries and became very powerful to the point where they could intermarry and intermingle with the other tribes and eventually take them over.
Now, in our history books we learn about the Mexican flag, and having been a school teacher and principal in Mexico City, the way we teach the kids was that they showed up and there was the eagle, standing on a prickly pear cactus on a rock with a snake in its beak. And that’s how the Aztecs knew where to stop. Well, it just didn’t happen quite that way.
(Points to a slide) This is what is called the Codex Mendoza. This was written in very early colonial times, commissioned by the politicians of the time, so the Mexica scribes wrote this codex. This is the center of their world, which is the center of Mexico City or Tenochtitlán. There are four quadrants and four major canals going through the city. The rock that the eagle is standing on is a symbol of the human heart, the glyphic symbol, so to speak. The prickly pear cactus also stands for the human heart. This was an original Mexica symbol. You can begin to see other signs of human sacrifice in this picture. Now, just keep these things in mind as we put other things together here.
We’re going to jump to about 600 A.D. to the Mayan world. The Mexica are actually about 600-700 years after this (picture) Temple of the Rock in Palenque. But I want to show you something. On the top here is a bird with its talons, tail and beak. In this green figure we have a cross, which, according to the Popul Vuh, could be a corn plant, but is also sometimes representative of the Ceiba tree, the Mayan tree of life. So, here is a bird standing on top of the Mayan tree of life. Then down here (on the next slide) is an earth-god (and some of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan are actually built in this shape, and you can walk right in and down into the underworld) to the earth-god.
The point of this is that the Mexica borrowed from the Toltecs, who borrowed from the Teotihuacanos, who borrowed from the Olmecs; and the Mayans were there the whole time, and what is now on the Mexican flag is an ancient Mesoamerican symbol, that was there long before the Mexica ever showed up. There is a leather item in the silent auction in the hall of the tomb of Pacal, and coming out of his chest is this symbol. It’s all over Mesoamerica. The Mayans still honor that symbol in Chiapas today.
The point is that cultures borrowed from each other. And, even though the legend says that the Aztecs stopped when they found the eagle, that isn’t the way it happened.
When the Spanish came from Veracruz, they came up between Popocatepetl and Xihuitl; and Popocatepetl at the time was active. They looked down on Tenotichtlán and they said it was the most beautiful city that they had ever seen. It was like a jewel, glistening in the lake. And, as they got into the city, they said it was the cleanest, most organized city. They had come from Europe, where they were still throwing human waste out the window and spreading the plague around. And here in Mesoamerica they had toilets. I know because I’ve seen them. And they had running water in most places.
The Spanish were introduced into the center of the city, to the great twin temple in the center. The temple to the left is to Tlaloc, the rain god, and on the right to Huitzilopochtli, the war god. Now, Cortéz thought they were doing 2000-3000 human sacrifices a year here. Some of the modern numbers are more like 250,000 human sacrifices a year. When Bernard de Castillo was going through one town on their way over, he counted over 100,000 human skulls in the center of the town. Researchers have excavated there and have only found 300, so to speak. What we do know is that there were hundreds of human sacrifices on this temple in a year. Some say those sacrifices were daily; some say there were 18 festivals at which they did hundreds; but we know from evidence around that this was a big part of Mesoamerican religion. The Toltecs and Mexicas took it to a level that Mesoamerica probably had not seen before. Let’s also hold that thought for a moment.
This next slide is from the Florentine Codex. Here we see evidence of battle and warriors, decapitation and cutting off of arms. We want to talk about this word right here, ‘macuahuitl,’ which translated is, sword. This is a Mesoamerican sword and we see evidence of it all over Mesoamerica from obsidian pieces and from drawings themselves that were rendered during the earlier colonial times. This sword is really a wonderful weapon. When the Spanish came in and were fighting against these swords, Bernard de Castillo writes that these obsidian points here held their fine edges much better than the Spanish metal swords. Obsidian is abundant in Mesoamerica, one can pick shards and pieces of it almost anywhere one would look. However, when obsidian meets with metal, the obsidian shatters. In giving one of my tours, one of the medical doctors pointed out to me that before the invention of high-quality plastics that we have now, obsidian was used in neurosurgery. It was more accurate to use obsidian knives than with high-alloy steel kinds of blades. Now this sword right here has a flat side and it has an edged side, and the Mesoamerican sword will also have a piece of obsidian right on the point. Bernard de Castillo was a soldier with Cortéz, and he writes a history called The True Conquest of Mexico, as opposed to Cortéz’s Conquest, I suppose. He calls them two-handed swords and also as broad-swords. The natives were quite skilled with them. Before coming over the mountains into Mexico City, the Spanish had a pretty terrible battle with the Tlaxcallans. And when you read de Castillo’s book the Tlaxcallans gave up just before the Spanish would have been conquered. That was the story of the Spanish conquest: the Mesoamericans seemed to give up right before they should have. But in that battle, one of the Tlaxcallan warriors takes one of these swords, and de Castillo explains, with one swing of the sword cuts through a horse’s neck completely, except for the skin on the other side. That’s how sharp these swords are and the Spanish knew that; and they knew to stay away from them.
I’m reading a book right now called, Flyboys, about World War II. It has some pretty bad stories of Japanese and American atrocities, and especially the Japanese in China and something about the severing off of heads. There was something that the Japanese had to position themselves for. It was not something that just happened in battle. Yet, here we have a Mesoamerican warrior in battle with a big macuahuitl sword that can slice through a horse’s neck. That’s how sharp these are in these heavy broad-swords.
(New slide) We’re back to the temple now. We’re now looking at a little section of the temple here and there is a stone there that weighs about 27 metric tons. If it were to be stood up, it would go roughly from floor to ceiling. So this is a little bit of perspective. That stone was rediscovered in 1979 when researchers in Mexico were digging down to do some work and they hit a rock and they couldn’t get through it. So they dug down and discovered one of the most significant finds in Mexico City in the last century of the 1900’s. So they called Dr. Solif (he’s the one telling this story in the museum) and he goes down, and he’s ecstatic at what they found, because that stone is at the base of the most important Mexica temple, which they had thought was under the cathedral, but was actually next door. They then cleared off the colonial building that was on top of it, and rising 16 feet out of the ground are the remnants of these two temples. Now why does it rise out of the ground? Mexico City is built on a lake, involving hydrodynamics. If you take a sponge and put a heavy rock on it, the sponge goes down, and when you remove the rock, the sponge goes back up. You put a colonial building on Mexico City and, for those of you who have been there, you know that everything is sinking, when you remove the colonial building, things come back up. So we are now looking up at these pyramids, or what’s left of them.
(Next slide) This is the stone that was found there. This lady here is Coyolxauhqui, the moon goddess of Mesoamerica. She’s one of the protagonists of the story that we’re going to tell here. Coyolxauhqui, here, is dismembered – her arms and legs are cut off; and she’s lying at the bottom of the pyramid or temple of Huitzilopochtli.
Now we’re going to jump to the Tlaxcoloco market, (new slide) in order to understand more. When the Spanish saw this market, they had never seen anything like it in the world, and they had seen many markets around the world. It was enormous, it was massive, it was clean. They could find anything there including a variety of things from all over Mesoamerica. People traveled and traded, and things like that. But, I want to take an even closer look at it and point out a few things that help in our story.
Women who were child-bearing or were married had their hair up in braids. Women who were not married or child-bearing yet had long hair hanging down like this. Some people were very wealthy and wore fine clothing, made out of cotton, with sandals. Here we also have a gentleman wearing sandals, meaning he is probably of the nobler class than the others. Most of the people would be barefoot, and the cloth that their clothing was made from came from the fibers of the maguey plant. It’s a fine cloth, it’s a good cloth. But if you’re of the nobility, you get to wear sandals and finer cloth made from cotton. There is a distinction as to what you can wear and how you can dress, and how you can interact with people, what parties you can go to. In other words, if you’re born a canoe-maker, you’re probably going to die a canoe-maker. If you’re born a pottery-maker, you’re going to die a pottery-maker. In the Aztec world, if you’re born into nobility you’ll be taught certain skills and maybe how to read and write, that the others will not be taught. You get to go to all the right parties and hob-nob with the right people. We’ll keep that in our minds for a moment.
(Next slide) This is the calendar stone, so to speak. This is to the sun-god, but the war-god has now incorporated characteristics of the sun-god and also Quetzalcoatl’s characteristics, so that when the sun-god speaks, it’s as if the war-god Huitzilopochtli is speaking, the main god that the Mexica brought with them. The reason this is called the calendar stone is because we have these 20 calendar-glyph days going around it. It’s not a calendar like, what day is today, but they have a sacrificial knife-day represented here; they have earthquake-day; they have monkey-day; things like that. What this calendar stone is really telling us is their creation story. And that creation story goes something like this – here I am, the sun-god, even the war-god, and sticking out of my mouth is a sacrificial knife as a tongue, with an eyeball looking at you. And I’m saying, "You need to feed me or I’m going to destroy you. Inside my claws here are human hearts with eyeballs looking out at you from the claws, as well." This is kind of an intimidating kind of guy to have for your god. So he’s saying, "Because I went down beneath the temple of the sun and gathered the bones of man and bled over them so that you could live again, you now owe me." In our Judeo-Christian scriptures we have the creations of man. We have Adam and Eve, then we have Noah starting over again. Well, the gods created man, and that didn’t work out, so they sent wild beasts to devour him and that’s why there are wild beasts on the earth now. They created man again, and the alligator here represents a great wind, and some of the men were able to turn themselves into monkeys, so to speak. So, we have monkeys now. They created man again, and this time they sent a ray of fire to destroy man. And what would cause a ray of fire? They had Popocatepetl, an active volcano right in their back yard. Every time it would spit and sputter, imagine what would happen to the human sacrifice ratio. Then, man was destroyed by a flood and some of the men were able to turn themselves into fish. We now live within the fifth and final creation of time, and in this glyph symbol is this ‘x’ that goes around, and it says, "I’m going to destroy you a fifth and final time with a movement of earth – an earthquake. So, imagine what would happen every time Mexico City shook; imagine again the human sacrifice ratio.
(New slide) Now, we’re going to meet another protagonist in our story, Cuatlique, serpent skirt. I don’t know how much she weighs but she’s bigger than both of these stones. She could stand here from floor to ceiling and be much wider than I could extend both my arms. She is in the Museum of Anthropology, and she is basically the goddess of all – the mother earth. Up on top here, we have two snakes looking at each other with their eyeballs also looking out at you. And she’s dressed to kill. On her shoulders are two snakes looking out at you. She has two sets of hands right here, with a human heart covering her breast; and on her belt buckle is a human skull. And, in order for her to look her best, she has snakes around her skirt. She has human hearts dangling from her under-dress, and she has these talons digging into the ground. The sculptor who made her caused her to be leaning forward at you if you look at her from the side. A really aggressive woman. Her story goes like this: she’s on top of her mountain, her pyramid, her temple, her home, sweeping, and all of a sudden this white ball of feathers falls from the sky. She takes those feathers and sticks them in her skirt, and the next day she wakes up pregnant. (Sort of an immaculate conception.)
(New slide) Now Coyolxauhqui, the dismembered woman that we saw before, looks at mom and says, "Mom, what happened." She tells the story of the feathers, and Coyolxauhqui says, "Mom, I’m so disappointed in you. You can’t get pregnant like that. I have to go talk to my brothers and sisters about this. So, Coyolxauhqui goes out to the stars and talks to them; and they come back to kill mom. And as Coyolxauhqui is coming up the mountain (the pyramid), serpent-skirt gives birth to a full-grown warrior, with his macuahuitl sword ready to go. And as Coyolxauhqui comes up he chops her up into little pieces. And, basically when you look at the moon at night, going through its phases, it’s the sun chopping it up into little pieces.
So, this whole thing that was happening on the pyramid was their creation story.
(New slide) Now we need to meet another protagonist in the story, Cihuateteo. There are about five or six of these beautiful ladies in the museum while walking back out. Remember her while we go to the next picture.
(Next picture) Cihuateteo is a woman who dies in childbirth. Now, if you’re a Mesoamerican, there is one way to advance to that class and get to hob-nob with the right people, and that’s to be successful as a warrior. Now, if you’re a woman the one time you can be a warrior is when you’re dying in childbirth. Obviously, not a very good situation to be in to advance in social class. But if you were to advance in social class as a warrior, you could begin to wear the cotton clothing, sandals, and things like that.
(Next slide) We’re back in the market place, and we can see the blood running down the sides of the temples that the Spanish wrote about, and a lot of activity going on in the market place, including a lot of decadent activity.
(Next slide) What we have right here is a Diego Rivera mural in the National Museum. And here is a woman who thinks she is absolutely beautiful, with all these men ogling around her. Notice her hair – half of it is up in a braid and half of it is long. She’s a prostitute. She’s showing for the men here, and she’s a prostitute for the noble class. She’s wearing sandals and is wearing fine clothing; her legs are tattooed and, it’s hard to see in back, but she’s even sharpened her teeth and painted them red. We have this man over here looking at her holding a jade necklace. She’s looking at him, but look at this guy, this Mexica warrior – what does he have in his hand that he is offering to her? He’s offering a human arm; and what Diego Rivera is telling us here is this human arm is as valuable as that jade necklace in their culture.
Now, when a woman dies in childbirth, the way Dr. Solis explained it, is that the family would arm themselves around the woman to protect her from the Aztec warriors, especially the young warriors, who would converge upon her home to cut off her arms as a trophy of a legitimate warrior. Not a very pleasant culture to live in.
Where do we have arms as trophies in the Book of Mormon? We have it with Ammon. Who is Ammon? Ammon is a missionary; he’s there to serve the Lamanites. He’s the son of king Mosiah. What does that make him? Ammon is a prince. That means that Ammon, in Mesoamerican terms, is recognized as a prince. Does King Lamoni recognize Ammon as a prince? He does, straight away. How do we know that? Because he offers his daughter to marry him. You don’t offer your daughter to the canoe-maker or the potter in Mesoamerica. And Ammon does something that’s unheard of that would be worthy of recording in an ancient document in Mesoamerica – he says, no, but I will be your servant. He’s a leader. He’s the one who gets the group together to start the mission, and he’s also the one at the end who reflects with the others on how great this mission was.
I forgot to tell you how to use a macuahuitl sword a little bit. I implied it, but forgot to tell you. The Aztecs would have these flower wars to go out and get people to sacrifice, because when you’re sacrificing thousands of people, you have to go get a supply somewhere. That macuahuitl sword could slice through a horse’s neck with one swing if used on the edge, but if turned on its side, you could hit somebody on the head like a club and just knock them out. Or you could turn it just a little bit and just cut them without killing them. And these Aztec warriors were very skilled at using the sword at just the right way at the right time for their right situation. They could kill somebody, they could decapitate somebody, they could cut off an arm or a leg, or they could simply injure them enough to bring them back for a human sacrifice.
(Next slide) Alma 17:37, Now, you can’t see because they’re camouflaged so well – but these are Mesoamerican turkeys. (Just remember that the Book of Mormon says, flocks, and not sheep.) "But behold, every man that lifted his club to smite Ammon," these were the bad Lamanites, "he smote off their arms with his sword. For he did withstand their blows by smiting their arms with the edge of his sword insomuch that they began to be astonished and began to flee before him. Yea, and they were not a few in number, and he caused them to flee by the strength of his arm." Now the Book of Mormon is interesting in that it distinguishes here with the edge of his sword as opposed to what?
Now in this book that I’m reading about the Chinese, Japanese and Americans, not once in all of these ugly kinds of scenarios do they ever talk about the edge of the sword. In our swordsmanship, we sometimes use the point; and I suppose you could use the edge, but that’s if you’re talking about the flat part, as well.
In the Book of Mormon, it distinguishes it with the edge of the sword. Ammon kills six people with his sling, one more with his sword, then cuts off arms. How many? The record says it was not a few. And then, he doesn’t take them back as a trophy, the other servants take them back. King Lamoni is so impressed with Ammon that he says, "This isn’t a regular man; he’s not a regular prince." I would have conjectured a Mesoamerican prince to bring back one or two arms, but it’s ‘not a few.’ King Lamoni says, "This must be the Great Spirit."
Now, where else does Ammon use his swordsmanship? Well, King Lamoni joins the Church, so to speak, and decides to introduce Ammon to his father. King Lamoni’s father is very upset, so what does Ammon do? In our drawing here, Ammon can use a macuahuitl sword either flat or on its edge. "Now the king stretched forth his hand to slay Ammon, but Ammon did withstand his blows, and he also smote his arm that he could not use it." He could have cut off King Lamoni’s father’s arm, but instead he just smote it, the way a Mexica warrior could in such a way that he could not use it. And that was so significant, what did King Lamoni’s father do? He basically said, "You own me. You can have anything you want, including my kingdom." But, again, Ammon didn’t even take that.
Is there any place else in the Book of Mormon where we see the smiting of arms? "And the Lamanites did fight like dragons and many of the Nephites were slain by their hands, yea, they did smite in two many of their head plates; and they did pierce many of their breast plates, and they did smite off many of their arms, and thus did the Lamanites smite in their fierce anger." So, we have the Lamanites cutting off arms, we have Ammon cutting off arms, and we have the Mexica much later still cutting off arms in Mesoamerica as part of a symbolic gesture in battle. Now, why is this story in the Book of Mormon? The Book of Mormon does a much better job of telling it in a meaningful way. There could be several reasons. One is the analogy of Ammon to Christ.
But, I’m going to end with these two scriptures here: "And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us." This is Ammon talking to his brothers at the end of their mission, and, "we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work."(Alma 26:3) Ammon knew what it was like to be a Mesoamerican, and he knew what tactics or strategies to use that God could enhance, so that he could be impressive as a missionary. And Aaron says to Ammon, "Whoa, I’m afraid you’re boasting and you may sin in your boast." But Ammon responds, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." (Alma 26:12)
And I want to leave that with you – that we each have strengths that our Heavenly Father can use in us, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.