Darkness through the entire continent
LDS author David G. Calderwood is a recognized authority on ancient north and south american cultures. He has an advanced degree in Art History from University of Texas at Austin. His specialty is Peruvian and Mesoamerican art history. His latest book is Voices From the Dust (2005, Historical Publications, Inc., Austin, Tx 600 pages)
The most significant event described in the Book of Mormon is the massive destruction that took place in the Americas precisely at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. There were great storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions followed by a three day period of total darkness. The sun was seen only after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not long after the resurrection, the Book of Mormon claims that the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared in the Americas where he established His Church as well as healed the blind, the sick and the lame. He apparently appeared in several different areas. He chose twelve disciples and gave them the Priesthood and commanded them to baptize all who showed faith, repentance and a willingness to keep his commandments just as he had done in Jerusalem. The question arises as to how much of this singular event was passed forward in legends and native histories.
Probably the best account comes from Pedro de Cieza de León who finished his book (The Lordship of the Incas) in 1553, never published in any language until 1880. As a soldier, Cieza de León traveled all over the Andes and literally spoke to thousands of natives. He stated that by far the most important event described by the natives was a period of time anciently when they did not see the sun and they suffered great hardships. After the sun came out there came down among them a white God who healed the blind, the sick and the lame. He spoke to them lovingly and meekly, exhorting them to love one another, to do good to one another and to have charity towards all .
Miguel Cabello Valboa, a grand nephew of Nuñez de Balboa, wrote his manuscript in 1586, not published until 1951. He describes the following:
There is a story, passed down by tradition from fathers to sons, that one day, all of a sudden, the earth shook, and the sun (outside of its normal trajectory) was darkened and the rocks were broken up by smashing some against the others, and many graves of men dead since many years earlier were seen open. Many of the animals were greatly disturbed. By conjecture and numerous indications, this appears to have taken place on the holy day of the crucifixion and death of our Redeemer Christ because it was also said that within a few years there were seen in some areas of Peru certain men of venerable presence and appearance with long beards who dealt justly with everyone. They preached ideas of a new, more saintly way to live.
Juan de Betanzos wrote his oft quote Narrative of the Incas in 1557, but it was not published until 1880. Betanzos began his manuscript by referring to ancient legends of a time when the land and the provinces of Peru were dark and neither firelight nor daylight existed. Betanzos then relates that during this time of total darkness, the people were visited by a lord whose name was Contiti Viracocha who went to the area known at Tiahuanaco. Betanzos wrote that he was informed that Contiti Viracocha had also emerged another time before and, on that first occasion, he created the sky and the earth. The Indians said that he was called Contiti Viracocha Pacha-yachachic, which in their language means “God, maker of the world.”
[Ticci Viracocha], who went to the area known at Tiahuanaco. Betanzos wrote that he was informed that Contiti Viracocha had also emerged another time before and, on that first occasion, he created the sky and the earth. The Indians said that he was called Contiti Viracocha Pacha-yachachic, which in their language means “God, maker of the world.”
In Mexico, Fray Diego Durán is considered by many modern scholars to be the foremost Sixteenth Century historian and ethnographer of the Aztec Indians and their pre- conquest history. Durán wrote The History of the Indies of New Spain in 1581. His manuscript was not published during his lifetime and disappeared into the Spanish library repositories for 300 years. Diego Durán discussed in his History a ritual that relates to a period when the natives did not see the sun and were also deprived of fire. He mentioned the Aztec calendar and its fifty-two year century cycle. As part of the celebration and ritual which accompanied this new cycle, the priests and elders “pretended that the sun and the moon were to be hidden for four days and that everything would be enveloped in darkness.” Thus it was ordered that in all the provinces around Mexico-Tenochtitlan all the fires should be put out. No one dared light a fire, even in secret, for four days and then a great fire was rekindled from which the inhabitants might ignite their own fires. This New Fire ceremony, which took place during the month of April, was celebrated with great solemnity and the priests of all the temples were present. There were offerings and incense, together with human sacrifice. Vessels filled with human blood were sent to smear the lintels of the doors, posts, and altars of the temples, and to sprinkle on the statues of the gods. This appeared to have coincided with the Passover theme.
It is significant that the legend of this period of total darkness appears both in North and in South America, which suggests that natives in both continents were privy to this unusual event.
Joseph Smith could not have known about the period of time when the sun did not shine, accompanied with massive destruction and the subsequent appearance of the “creator of the earth” to restore calm. He could not have known about the teaching of “saintly preachers” in the New World. None of the chronicles containing these accounts had been published in 1830.
If Joseph Smith invented the Book of Mormon and fraudulently portrayed it as a “translation” of ancient records, his unsubstantiated descriptions of events, customs, native skills and religious practices recorded in the Book of Mormon would have to withstand future historical and scientific discoveries. Much scholarship has shown many of Joseph Smith’s descriptions in the Book of Mormon are similar to the findings of the chroniclers or art historians and archaeologists. Joseph Smith obviously could not have known about these future discoveries when he “translated” the gold plates and published the Book of Mormon .
David G. Calderwood's book Voices from the Dust: New Insights into Ancient America demonstrates how many of Joseph Smith’s descriptions in the Book of Mormon are similar to the findings of the chroniclers or art historians and archaeologists. Joseph Smith obviously could not have known about these future discoveries when he “translated” the gold plates and published the Book of Mormon .