A ADAM Alma 12:21-22 briefly mentions the fall of ADAM, but much of the Nephites’ information on the Garden of Eden came from the Brass Plates Nephi secured from Laban. There is one particular story in Mesoamerica that rings true with the first man. When his wife plucked a flower from the tree in paradise in the beginning, he fell from the starry realms down to earth. He is shown in the Borgia Codex twice in the same scene.1 At the left he is falling down the stairs of heaven (the stairs have star eyes), and to the right he is seen blindfolded, showing he is guilty of a transgression according to the German anthropologist, Edward Seler.2
AND THEN IT CAME TO PASS This phrase, or others with a similar wording, appears on a regular basis throughout the Book of Mormon. The phrase “AND THEN IT CAME TO PASS” in its various forms appears many times in Maya hieroglyphs, and is not to be taken lightly for the similarity of literary styles.3
B BAPTISM Baptism is mentioned many times in the Book of Mormon, but the verse in Moroni 8:9 bears special attention. Mormon, writing to his son Moroni, explained that it was “mockery before God” to baptize little children. This rite was inappropriately performed during the last days of the Nephite nation. In the Maya Madrid Codex there are several illustrations of small children being baptized with sprinkling by a woman. Three things were lacking in this ceremony to be performed in the correct manner: accountability of the individual; immersing the individual; and done by the proper authority. Nevertheless, it was being performed in Mesoamerica. In Mosiah 27:25 we read the expression “born again” with regard to baptism. The Mayan word for baptism was zihil, which literally means “to be born again.4
BEES In the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, we learn that the Jaredites brought with them a honey BEE (Ether 2:3). The Maya domesticated stingless BEES in pre-Columbian times.5
BLOOD SACRIFICE Alma warned the people that no man could sacrifice his own blood to atone for sins (Alma 34:11). This practice was performed by the elite in Mesoamerica and is known as “auto-sacrifice.” A woman is seen in Mesoamerica piercing her tongue with a stingray spine and then running a rope with thorns through her tongue. Her blood is collected in a bowl. Hieroglyphs above explain, “this is her image of her penance.” This custom was even more prevalent among men, not necessarily their tongue, but in other body parts.6
BOX On September 22, 1827, Joseph Smith went to a designated hill in Palmyra, New York, as he was instructed by the angel Moroni to remove a record on golden plates from a stone BOX, which contained writings of the inhabitants of this continent recording their history and theology. Moroni having 35 years to travel to North America from Mesoamerica after the Nephite and Lamanite wars, would have been very familiar with storing precious religious items in a stone BOX. Numerous stone BOXES have been found in Mesoamerica, even one which held a Maya book called a codex.7
C CANNABALISM At the end of the Book of Mormon period CANNABALISM was a practice for victory of the Lamanites over the Nephites. This disgusting ritual can be found in Moroni 9:8, 10. It was also a practice in Mesoamerica, particularly by the Aztecs.8
CEMENT In Helaman 3:7 we learn that CEMENT was used in their construction efforts. Stucco, plaster, andCEMENT were used by Mesoamericans extensively in their architecture and HIGHWAYS.9 This can certainly not be said for North America where structures were composed of compacted earth and sometimes wood.
CHIASMUS CHIASMUS is a literary style that sets phrases in a certain order, has a central idea, and then retraces the wording in the opposite order. This is done in three places that are significant to Latter-day Saints: 1. In the Old Testament, 2. In the Book of Mormon, and 3. In Mesoamerica, more particularly on some of their stone stelae and the Quiché Maya’s Popol Vuh.10
CHILDREN In Moroni 8:10-12 we learn that little CHILDREN are “alive in Christ” because they are innocent and sinless. If they die as CHILDREN (before the age of accountability), their destiny is eternal life (Mosiah 15:25; D&C 137:10). In Mesoamerica, CHILDREN were sent by the Heavenly Creator Couple down to earth and considered “precious jewels.” In the Mexican Codex Rios deceased children sit under a fruit-bearing tree that drips milk to nourish the CHILDREN. A non-LDS professor remarked about this page of the codex: “These deceased infants were extremely important to the fate of the human universe, because, in the future, when the current great world age came to an end . . . their spirits would leave the tree and return to repopulate the earth.” 11 We know these CHILDREN will return in the Millennium to righteous parents.
COUNCIL OF GODS This subject is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. However, the Nephites were in possession of the Brass Plates of Laban, which contained the first five books of Moses. Therefore they would have had knowledge of the creation and the COUNCIL OF GODS. Mesoamericans knew of the council before the world was created, as can be seen in the painted vase called “Vase of the Seven Gods.” They planned the creation, as is also told in the Maya Quiché’s Popol Vuh.12
CUBIT Measuring accurately was not only important to the Nephites (3 Ne. 13:27), but to the Mesoamericans. Garth Norman, MA has done extensive measuring of sculptures throughout Mesoamerica, starting with his intensive study at Izapa. He found that both the Egyptian CUBIT and the Royal Babylonian CUBIT were used in Mesoamerica. Garth Norman has an excellent article on the Internet.13
CUMORAH CUMORAH is referred to in the Book of Mormon several times and was a place for safekeeping Nephite records (Morm. 6:2-6; 8:2, 4; Ether 15:11). In the Book of Mormon the Hill CUMORAH was located not many days’ journey from the narrow neck of land. The New York Hill CUMORAH is not. CUMORAH was surrounded by cities. The New York Hill CUMORAH was not. The Hill CUMORAH was close to the borders of an eastern sea. The HillCUMORAH in New York does not meet any of the geographical criteria here. Latter-day Saint archaeologists and scholars think the Hill CUMORAH of the Book of Mormon may be El Vigia in the Tuxtlas Mountains of southern Veracruz. After the great wars, Moroni stated that he hid up the records in the earth that his father gave him, but never specified where (Morm. 8:3-4). He had 35 years to travel after the demise of the Nephite nation to deposit the plates where the Lord directed him to a hill in New York that was composed of glacial deposits. Writing from Nauvoo, Joseph Smith referred to the hill where he obtained the golden plates only once in his personal writings when he wrote, “Glad tidings from Cumorah” (D&C 128:20). Early members chose to call the hill where he obtained the plates, CUMORAH. Two maps were drawn by Patriarch William McBride, who was a contemporary of Joseph Smith. McBride claimed that the Prophet was their ultimate source. The map shows Moroni’s route, drawn from the land Bountiful in Central America to the HillCUMORAH in New York State.14
D DEFORESTATION Due to the making of cement/stucco, DEFORESTATION occurred in Mesoamerica.15 Making stucco was a precise skill where limestone needed to be burned with high-moisture wood. Kilns needed ten loads of wet freshly cut wood and two loads of limestone to produce a single load of lime-cement. Consequently,DEFORESTATION took place and the Nephites had to go elsewhere to procure timber (Hel. 3:5, 7, 10).
DEIFYING MEN King Benjamin had to warn his people that they should not think of him other than a mortal man (Mosiah 2:10). Around 23 BC, one of the later men called Nephi had a revelation from God and knew what transpired with political fractions and especially what they were thinking in their hearts. Some of the people put Nephi on a pedestal and considered him a god (Hel. 9:41).
E EVE Our first mother ate of the fruit of the forbidden Tree in the Garden of Eden (2 Ne. 2:19), and because of her actions, death was brought into the world. In Mesoamerica there is an uncannily similar story of the first woman of mankind. She is shown in several codices and is responsible for plucking a flower from the Tree at the center of Paradise. This action consequently brought death to herself, her husband, and all future generations.16
F FASTING Part of the Law of Moses was to fast, and the Nephites made it a practice when they supplicated the Lord for various things. One example of FASTING is given in Alma 5:46. The Mesoamerican community also fasted, both the priests and the populace, sometimes for days.17
FORGETFULNESS Not everything is mentioned in the Book of Mormon regarding Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, because they had a fuller account in the Brass Plates. Turning to the Mexican Borgia Codex we see the first man falling from heaven. When the couple were banished to the world, their eyes were blinded with ashes (thus the blindfold), and could no longer see as they did before.18 In the Popol Vuh we have a similar story of the first couple: “Their eyes were merely blurred by Heart of Sky [the Creator]. They were blinded like breath upon the face of a mirror. Thus their eyes were blinded. They could see only nearby; things were clear to them only where they were. Thus their knowledge was lost.”19
FORTIFICATIONS Alma 50:1, 6 and 53:3-4 mentions FORTIFICATIONS in the Book of Mormon. There are many Mesoamerican sites with FORTIFICATIONS, but perhaps none more well known than Becan in Campeche and El Mirador in Guatemala. These cities are renowned for their walls and fortifications. Almost every Preclassic site in Mesoamerica dating between 400 BC and AD 250, which is in the heart of Book of Mormon times, is known to have aFORTIFICATION surrounding it. It is true that some North American sites had earthen fortifications, but none like those of Mesoamerica nor as numerous.
G GARDEN OF EDEN Paradise, or the GARDEN OF EDEN, is referred to a few times in the Book of Mormon (2 Ne. 2:19; Alma 12:21, 42:2). Verses speaking of Adam and Eve are scattered throughout the Book of Mormon. In Mesoamerica there was a nearly identical story of a paradise called Tamoanchan. The names of the first couple of course are not the same (due to language differences), but the scenario is similar. The supreme Creator gives the first couple a wonderful place to live where there is no death and they have great knowledge. The wife was tempted, plucked a flower from the forbidden tree, and as a result she and her husband were driven out of Tamoanchan, forgetting what they once knew. They and their prodigy will face death in the world outside of the Garden.20
GENEALOGY Family lines were extremely important to cultures of the Book of Mormon (for example, see Jacob 6:4, Omni 1). This concept parallels the great need for recording GENEALOGICAL history in Mesoamerica. This was done in stone or in books called codices.21
H HIGHWAYS HIGHWAYS are mentioned in Helaman 14:24, and one needs to note that this scripture reads “many highways cast up,” and that is exactly what the Mesoamericans did—cast up their roads. For example, causeways at the Preclassic site of El Mirador, Guatemala, were 12’ high and 40’ wide, with the longest one being 30 Kilometers. Moreover, they were surfaced with hard, smooth cement. HIGHWAYS were built for over 1,000 years in Mesoamerica. At Chichen Itza their causeways radiated out to all the surrounding centers. North America had some road systems, but none like the grand HIGHWAYS in Mesoamerica.
I IDOLS The Book of Mormon condemns IDOLS numerous times. (2 Ne. 9:37; Mosiah 12:36; Alma 31:1). It is a well known fact that the Mesoamerican community worshiped IDOLS.
ISRAELITES In the Book of Mormon we read that when there will be a marvelous work among the Gentiles (Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon), the Indians of Israelite blood will be gathered to their land of inheritance after they are scattered (1 Ne. 22:8, 12). Where are the Indians joining the Church by the thousands? Not in North America, but it is in the lands of Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America).22
J JAREDITES In the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon is the record of the JAREDITES. The Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica lived during the same time period as the JAREDITES, approximately 1200 – 400 B.C.
JUDGES Around 92 BC it was decided among the Nephites to appoint JUDGES instead of kings (Mosiah 29:11). Late in the history of Mesoamerica the same rule was held in certain areas. This council, instead of kings, was called multepal “mul meaning ‘together’, tepal meaning ‘to govern’.”23 The multepal council was the ruling authority and was responsible for judging the people. Although the multepal was organized much later than the Preclassic times when the Nephites lived, very little is known about the government in Mesoamerica during the Nephite (pre-Columbian) timeframe.
KINGS Throughout the Book of Mormon we read of kings. Those times that the Nephites had judges, the Lamanites still had kings. In the Old World where Lehi’s group came from, when a new KING was established on a throne, building renovations were the rule of thumb. That is exactly what they did in Mesoamerica. Sometimes a new structure was built over the old, and a new stela was installed to commemorate the new KING and a new beginning.
L LAW OF MOSES The Nephites kept the LAW OF MOSES (2 Ne. 5:10). One of the rituals in keeping the LAW OF MOSES was the Feast of Tabernacles. After the Lord’s visit when he came to minister to them, he explained that theLAW OF MOSES was fulfilled in him (3 Ne. 15:5). From then on such practices were discontinued by the Nephites. According to several scholars, the scriptures that point to the Feast of Tabernacles in the days of King Benjamin are in Mosiah, chapters 2 through 4.24 With the apostasy, the Lamanites may have clung to their previous rituals. This particular ceremony reaches likes hands across the waters as it can clearly be seen in Mesoamerica in the Cha Cha’ac ceremony. For those who are interested in the parallel details, see Diane E. Wirth, Decoding Ancient America: A Guide to the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon, (Springville, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 2007), 27-33.
- http://www.bmaf.org/sites/bmaf.org/files/color/garland-5d6f44b3/menu-lea...); background-color: transparent; background-position: 1px 0.35em;"> LIQUOR We know from Alma 55:32 that the Nephites made LIQUOR—and so did the Mesoamericans, both east and west. The Aztecs had a type of beer called pulque, and the Maya had various fermented drinks mixed with chocolate.25
M MULEKITES The People of Zarahemla were responsible for rescuing Mulek (Omni; Mosiah 25:2; Hel. 6:10, 8:21). Living among the MULEKITES was one of the last members of the Jaredite nation, Coriantumr (Omni 1:21). Coriantumr, who may be portrayed in stone on Stela 3 at La Venta, Tabasco, Mexico, which has been dubbed the “Uncle Sam” Stela and dates to about 600 BC. Persons floating in the upper register of Mesoamerican art represent deceased ancestors. Some LDS scholars have proposed that the man to the right with a beard is a Mulekite greeting a Jaredite, namely Corinatumr, who is relating the demise of his nation.26
N NEPHITES Lehi’s group had their origin in the Middle East, however the NEPHITES did not intermarry as much as their Lamanite brothers with the indigenous population when they came to the Western Hemisphere. In Mesoamerica there are about 350 pieces of art (ceramics, stone sculptures, codices, etc.), that depict men with beards, some quite lengthy. Native Americans do not have a genetic capability of growing full beards, and any sparse hairs were plucked for cosmetic reasons. Are these bearded men remnants of the NEPHITE lineage?
O OTHERS The vast number of people mentioned in the Book of Mormon in their last war would be impossible if there were no OTHERS in the land. Statistics and reason agree that the small group arriving with Lehi in 600 BC could not have produced the kind of population mentioned, unless we consider the OTHERS who would “smite” the Nephites if they became unrighteous—and that’s exactly what happened (2 Ne. 1:11). Many natives classified as OTHERSintermarried with the Lamanites or joined forces with their cause. OTHERS undoubtedly also joined with the Nephites who believed in their religious beliefs (2 Ne. 5:6, 9), as did the Mulekites.27
P PROMISED LAND Lehi’s group believed they were going to the LAND OF PROMISE (1 Ne. 2:20, 10:13). Before them, the Jaredites were directed towards the PROMISED LAND (Ether 6:5). Mythology from several groups in Mesoamerica reveal that they too also believed the land they arrived at was the PROMISED LAND.28
Q QUETZALCOATL The Feathered Serpent is a translation of the name QUETZAL-COATL, and may be one and the same as Christ who visited his people in the city of Bountiful. However, one has to be extremely careful when reading about QUETZALCOATL in the Mexican chronicles because there were many men who took upon themselves the name of their god Quetzalcoatl, just as men today take on the name of Mohammed. It is extremely difficult to separate the attributes of the god from the attributes of various rulers.29
R RECORDS Nephites kept extensive records (Hel. 3:13). There were also a great many RECORDS kept by the Mesoamericans. The central Mexican cultures and the Maya to their east made picture books on animal skins known as codices. Codices have accordion-like pages that run many feet in length. These codices contained genealogies, history, mythology, and astronomical information. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, mounds of these codices were cast into bonfires by Catholic clergy.
RESURRECTON Rebirth or RESURRECTION is mentioned many times in the Book of Mormon, giving detailed explanations (Mosiah 23:22; Alma 5:15, 11:45; Hel. 14:16). Two cultures stand out in the way of a belief in theRESURRECTION and they are the Egyptians and the Mesoamericans. Numerous art works depict this act in both locales, but none more than the cultures of Mesoamerica.30
S SACRIFICE (Human) At the end of the Book of Mormon we read of horrendous sacrifices by the Lamanites of Nephite men, women, and children (Morm. 4:14, 21). Anyone who has studied the history of Mesoamerica knows that there was no other place on the face of the earth that committed insurmountable sacrifice as did the Mesoamericans, especially the Aztec.
SERPENT The Nephites were well aware of SERPENT symbolism as a result of their knowledge of Moses and the Israelites incident of being bitten by fiery SERPENTS (1 Ne. 17:41; Hel. 8:14; 2 Ne. 25:20; Alma 33:19). They also knew that the serpent was a symbol of their future redeemer, Jesus Christ. This may be the reason the god Quetzalcoatl took on the image of the feathered SERPENT.
SEVEN TRIBES The seven lineages that are referred to in the Book of Mormon from its inception to the end are: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites (2 Ne. 5:6; Jacob 1:13; 4 Ne. 1:37-38; Morm. 1:8). There is a great tradition in Mesoamerica of the people’s ancestors originating from SEVEN TRIBES, which are portrayed many times in illustrations contained in the codices.31
SILK Weaving was an accomplishment for many cultures on the American continent. The particularly fine fabric ofSILK was mentioned in the Book of Mormon six times, as is in Alma 1:29. Mesoamerica of course did not have the silkworm, but they did weave fabric from pods of the Ceiba tree. They also used a silky fiber of a wild pineapple plant and even rabbit hair to make SILKY fabrics.32
T TREE OF LIFE 1 Nephi chapters 8 and 11 speak of both Lehi’s and his son Nephi’s vision of the TREE OF LIFE. Artwork portraying the TREE OF LIFE is ubiquitous in Mesoamerica. The concept of a Tree at the center of the world was a concept that was so profound to the Mesoamerican community, that it cannot be ignored.33
U URIM AND THUMMIM Although the Book of Mormon calls them Interpreters, we know that these scriptures refer to the URIM AND THUMMIM (Mosiah 8:19, 28:20; Alma 37:24; Ether 4:5). In light of the people’s apostate condition at the close of the Book of Mormon, the practice of divination by shamanic priests in Mesoamerica is significant. Sometimes quarts, crystal stones which they called “stones of light.”34, were used for divination ritualsHowever, the practice of the Mesoamericans would have been considered priestcraft by the Nephites.
V VIRGIN Mary, the mother of Jesus is mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon, and of course, she was a VIRGIN. There are two instances where gods were born of a VIRGIN in Mesoamerica. One was Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, named after his god Quetzalcoatl, who is said to have been born miraculously by a VIRGIN named Chimalman.35 They painted their history to match what the gods did or what happened to their gods. The other were twins, Hunahpu and Xiblanque, dying and resurrecting Maize Gods whose mother was Lady Blood, a VIRGIN.36
VOLANCOES In 3 Nephi 8-9, at the death of our Savior, we can deduce that the devastation where this occurred on the Western Hemisphere fits quite well with Mesoamerica. Not only were VOLCANIC eruptions typical, but earthquakes and hurricanes frequent.
W WAR When going to WAR the Nephites wore thick clothing (Alma 43:19). In Mesoamerica a type of padded clothing was worn by warriors to protect them from weapons.37 Swords are mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon. A weapon called macuahuitl was used in Mesoamerica, both early and late in their history. It was a long-paddled wood piece with multiple obsidian blades on both edges of the weapon, and was extremely sharp—enough to cut off a head.38There were also curved weapons used in Mesoamerica that could be what is referred in the Book of Mormon as a “cimeter.” The Book of Mormon states that ARROWS were “thrown” at them (Alma 49:22), not shot at them. In Mesoamerica they used what they called atlatls, which is an elongated arrow, much like a javelin.39
WHEELS Although chariots are mentioned in the Book of Mormon they do not specifically mention vehicles withWHEELS (Alma 18:9-10, 20:6). What we do know is that in Mesoamerica there were miniature objects with wheels. They were buried with the dead and have sometimes been called wheeled toys. It has been determined that the makers knew how to attach an axle in five different ways, so they were not novices at constructing small WHEELED figurines. Whether or not Mesoamericans decided to use them for utilitarian purposes is debatable. In the Middle East they had similar objects buried with the dead that were meant to symbolically transport the deceased in the afterlife, and this may have been the same intent.40
WRITING In 1 Ne. 1:2 we learn that the record of the Nephites was written in Reformed Egyptian, consisting “of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” Maya hieroglyphs differ from Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the individual glyphs were pronounced in a similar way, in other words, they both used a phonetic system to pronounce syllables. The Mayan written language wasn’t the only one used in Mesoamerica, in fact, some scripts have not yet been deciphered.41
X XIBALBA Mesoamerican scholars don’t like to refer to XIBALBA as Hell, but its description is akin to the place where some of the deceased go after their life on earth. In the Book of Mormon, hell is the place where the wicked suffer before the final judgment (numerous scriptures). The Quiché’s Maya word XIBALBA means “place of fright,” and the deceased had to go through many trials such as dangerous waters, slashing knives, arrows, and cold in this underworld location.42
Y YEAR ROUND CLIMATE Fevers were very frequent in the lands of the Book of Mormon (Alma 46:40). This points to a tropical climate where frequent fevers are caused by insect bites. The eastern portion of Mesoamerica is a hot, tropical YEAR ROUND CLIMATE. Alma 51:33 mentions “the heat of the day.” Snow is never mentioned except when Nephi is given a vision of the Tree of Life, which is understandable since he came from a land that was acquainted with snow (1 Ne. 11:8).
Z ZARAHEMLA In the land southward in the Book of Mormon was the city of ZARA-HEMLA, the city of the Mulekites. When the Nephites found these people, they accepted the Nephite king, Mosiah (Omni 1:13-14). In Joseph Smith’s editorial in the Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842, it states: “ . . . Central America, or Guatimala [sic] is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south.—The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land . . .” Joseph Smith allowed editorials to support North, Middle, and South America, which is evidence that he really didn’t know the exact locale of the Book of Mormon. Today, with the advancement of archaeology, we can pinpoint the area.