Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

The Amlicite War as Peasant Revolt: Class Warfare in The Book of Mormon

The purpose of this post is NOT to "prove" the Book of Mormon true. The purpose of this post is to understand the book better, as well as it's author, by treating it as the real history it purports to be. As Grant Hardy has pointed out, Mormon had three competing priorities when writing his history, three roles he was trying to fulfill: historian, writer and moralist.

In this post, I will show how historian gave way to moralist by showing that the Amlicite War was as much a class war, a peasant revolt(?) as it was a religious war. Also, the discontentment with new inequalities in Nephite society are partly responsible for the universalist eschatology of the Nehors and their support for their would be king, Amlici.

In the past, I have argued for Sorenson's basic paradigm for Book of Mormon history, which Olmec Jaredites in the "land northward", Zoquen Nephites in the central depression of Chiapas and Mayan Lamanites in the "land southward". It is …

The Prophecy of Aminadi: What, When and Where.

Aminadi was a prophet of God. At around 82 BC, his descendant, Amulek, tells us that he was the son Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi, the same Aminadi who interpreted the writing on the temple wall, which was written by the finger of the Lord.

What Amulek and, by extension, Mormon do not tell us is what was written on the wall, nor when or where it was written. Presumably, this was insider information, something Amulek's audience was already aware of. 
The mere mention of Aminadi and his interpretation, without giving more information, shows that the incident was a sufficiently important historical event, whose details did not need rehearsing. However, the setting, time and message of the divine temple inscription might be recovered with the use of archeology. The following is something from the great Michael Coe:
Archeologist Marion Hatch and her Guatemalan colleagues have encountered evidence for the existance of a now-extinct lake around whic…

Book of Mormon Geography: An Important Note on John L. Sorenson's Paradigm

Anyone who has read An Ancient American Setting for The Book of Mormon, Mormon's Codex or Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life, or anything else by John L. Sorenson, will notice that he leans on the work of the New World Archaeological Foundation(NWAF). This is because he places the Nephite heartland in the central depression of Chiapas, with the River Sidon being the Grijalva River. 
For me, the convergances in cultural development and in the movements of people, between the Book of Mormon and this region of Mesoamerica, in time and space, stretching from Veracruz, Oaxaca, Chiapas to Highland Guatemala, are impressive. 
As I'v said before, Sorenson's paradigm owes much to the NWAF, a legitimate and respected archeological franchise. Speaking of the his experience with the NWAF, non-mormon archeologist, Michael Coe says:

When I was a graduate student writing my dissertation on very early cultures in the south coast of Guatemala, it was suggested to me…

Mormon, Samabaj and Jerusalem

The other day, I was reading Neal Rappleye's blog post AN ANCIENT AMERICAN SETTING FOR JERUSALEM, and here are my quick thoughts:

I agree with Neal and it fascinates me that Sorenson used the Book of Mormon, in 1985, to predict that because of volcanic activity, an ancient city suddenly sunk into Lake Attitlan. In 1996 such a city was discovered, the first of it's kind to be discovered in Guatemala. Sorenson made a prediction using the Book of Mormon and archeology confirmed that prediction, in general terms. 
I also agree that the late date of destruction, 250 AD, prohibits Samabaj from being a strong candidate for Jerusalem, on the magnitude of Nehem/Nahom, but I think it still qualifies as a candidate for Jerusalem and here is why: 
Even though Samabaj sunk 250 years after the Savior's death and resurrection, by the time Mormon was writing, it had already been underwater for 150 years. So what if Mormon, or his sources, were wrong about when Jerusalem went down? Ancient hi…

Failed 19th Century Attempts at Describing Nephi's Arabian Journey

Modern critics of the Book of Mormon seem to agree that Nephi's inland route of travel, through Arabia, is basically correct, in light of what we know today. 
After fleeing Jerusalem and then leaving their initial base camp, Lehi's family travels in a south-southeast direction, following the coast of the Red Sea. One of the elders of the group dies and is buried in "the place which was called Nahom". Up until this point, the group had named their various stopping points, but the record uses the passive tense here to show that it already had a name. After their stay in Nahom, Lehi's group then travels "nearly eastward", paralleling the frankincense trail, traveling "through affilction", until the reach a lush and verdant coast they name Bountiful. The above correlation with ancient Arabia is strong, as one critic acknowledged:
Among critical historians who accept that the BoM arose as a modern production of Joseph Smith, two main theories have b…

The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Spiritual Eyes and Eye of Faith

I was surfing the internet and found the following on

"The witnesses, by their own admission, seemed to have only seen the angel and plates in a 'visionary state' in their minds as Joseph suggested to them and not really with their natural eyes as members are taught. Why would real, metal plates need to be seen in a vision or with 'spiritual eyes' as many of the witnesses later testified"(mormonthink).

This is completely and totally false. Many have tried to discredit the testimony of the witnesses and many have answered these attacks. Some of the better rebuttals can be found here(Roper, Anderson, Peterson).
I refer the reader to the links I've provided; this post will be short and sweet. The biggest controversy seems to stand around some later testimonies by individual witnesses referring to seeing with "spiritual eyes" or "the eye of faith". Critics will say that these terms refer to imagination or tricks of the min…

Human Deification and Pre-Mortal Existence in The Book of Mormon

Mormonism has a strong Platonist bent. Platonism, to grossly oversimplify, essentially taught that we existed before our mortal births, ultimately with "the Good" in a "world of Forms"; we are here now and we need to figure it all out, through living the philosophic life, and return to the World of Forms, to the divinity that is innately in us. In Mormonism, this is particularly found in the revelations concerning the Prophet Abraham(D&C 132:37; Abraham 3:23).

The most common view of Joseph Smith's doctrinal evolution divides the evolution of Mormonism into three main phases: Palmyra, Kirtland and Nauvoo. Palmyra Mormonism is said to center around the Bible and Book of Mormon. It seems, minus the knew scripture, indistinguishable from mainline Protestantism.

Then as the Saints settled into Kirtland and Campbellites like Sidney Rigdon joined the show, Mormonism became more about spiritual gifts and other charismatic phenomena, coupled with a vision of resto…

The Function of Towers in the Book of Mormon

Towers in the Book of Mormon serve two main functions: war and religion. 
Towers were used for public/religious spectacle(Helaman 7:10-11,14; Mosiah 2:7-8; Alma 48:1). Towers were also used as places of refuge(Moroni 9:7; Mosiah 19:5-6), surveillance(Mosiah 11:12-13; Mosiah 20:8), defense during war(Alma 50:4) and were desecrated by conquerors as monuments of their subject's surrender(Alma 46:36; Alma 51:20).

Torres in Mesoamerica served two main functions: war and religion.
Torres were used for public/religious spectacle(Codex Magliabechiano). Towers were also used as places of refuge(fortified temples), surveillance(high), defense during war(fortified temples) and were desecrated by conquerors as monuments of their subject's surrender(Codex Mendoza).
A Note on Words
Some might balk at the idea of equating temples with towers in the Book of Mormon, especially when towers are described as being next to the temple, but Hernan Cortez himself referred to the Aztec temples as "t…

Fortifications in the Book of Mormon Account Compared with Mesoamerican Fortifications

John Sorenson wrote a fascinating article on mesoamerican fortifications, which can be accessed here. There are several things that jumped out at me. Actually, you should probably read it first. Sorenson shows how the fortifications described in the Book of Mormon mirror those found in Mesoamerica. It's a great read. Two things stick out to me from Sorenson.

Up until at least 1990, there were 10 named fortified sites in the Central Depression of Chiapas, our candidate for Nephite territory. However, there were 30 named fortified defensive sites in Western Highland Guatemala, our candidate for Lamanite territory. No wonder the Nephites never went down to invade and were under constant threat of invasion. It was an impossible task for them but seemingly easy pickings for the Lamanites thus making Nephite victories all the more miraculous.

The above chart shows when the numerous fortified defensive sites were constructed, for all Mesoamerica, not just the Central Depression or Weste…

"A Mark That Satan Cannot Give": Insights From The Journal of Wilford Woodruff

After watching the most recent YSA broadcast with President Nelson and Sister Nelsin, I realized that I read alot of philosophy, maybe too much; it's fun. But I would trade every Han and Greek from antiquity for a few talks from President Nelson. Nothing hits me harder, challenges me more or inspires me to be better like the words of a living prophet. I haven't always felt this way but better late than never, right?

I'm also reminded of an episode from Wilford Woodruff's journal, a selection from which that I first read at Ether's Cave. Woodruff wrote the following:

"I had an interview with Sister Eliza Bromley during the afternoon, & she related to me the following vision which she had on the 8th inst: At one oclock at noon there came a deep sleep upon me & I slept one hour. I was awoke with a hand touching me. I looked around me & saw one s a personage standing by the side of me clothed in linen.

His face had the appearance of much meekness lov…

The Mosiah Migration and Kaminaljuyu

Omni 1:12(about 225 B.C.) 
 Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness.

Sorenson and Gardner locate the land of Nephi in or around the vicinity of Kaminaljuyu. If they are right, then Mosiah I's exodus was actually part of a bigger movement of people from that area.

"Archaeologist Marion Hatch and her Guatemalan colleagues have encountered evidence for the existence of a now-extinct lake around which the earthen platforms of Kaminaljuyu were arranged, as well as a sophisticated system of intensive agriculture. Connected with the lake were various irrigation canals, one of which carried water to an artificial storage basin 52.5ft(16m)wide and 36ft(11m) deep; leading from the…

The Helaman Migration and the Mixe-Zoqueans of Central Mexico

Disclaimer: The following does not represent much original thinking of my own nor does it "prove" Joseph Smith Jr. was a Prophet of God. Checkout Brant Gardner's work; it's my main source for this and other posts.

 In Helaman 3, we read the description of a group of people who, in 50 BC, migrated to a land that:
1)is an "exceedingly great distance" northward of Nephite lands
2)a land of "large bodies of water and many rivers"
3)a place where people are expert in the use of cement.
4)a place that underwent deforestation.
5)a place which had people who hailed from south of the isthmus, Nephites and Ammonites.
6)and whose inhabitants "began to cover the face of the whole earth".

 From about 200 AD to 600 AD the only area in the Americas that possibly matches these six criteria is the city of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is:

1)northward from the central depression of Chiapas.
2)is in the Teotihucan Valley, a side pocket of the Valley of Mexico.…

Once Again: Anachronistic Animals in the Book of Mormon

The following post is a redaction of a History Channel article.

On day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, saw three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren’t made up, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting). Manatees are slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, bulbous faces and paddle-like tails. It is likely that manatees evolved from an ancestor they share with the elephant. The three species of manatee (West Indian, West African and Amazonian) and one species of dugong belong to the Sireni…

The Book of Mormon as History: Assassination and Reconquest

The Book of Helaman has a cycle of events, not seen anywhere else in the Book of Mormon. After a reconquest of lands and cities, in the Book of Alma, Pahoran dies and his son, Pahoran II is chosen to fill the judgement seat.

Paanchi, and his supporters, are upset by the fact Pahoran II is governor and not Pannchi, so they lead a near rebellion but Paanchi is killed before this can happen. Why the attempt at rebellion? Why the dismay with Pahoran II's enthronement? Pahoran II is then assasinated by Paanchi's supporters. His successor isn't assasinated but instead has to deal with a, Mulekite led, Lamanite invasion.

This is followed by another reconquest and the next chief judge has to deal with another (attempted) assasination. His successor doesn't have to deal with assasins either but he does have to deal with yet another, Nephite led, Lamanite invasion. Again, the Nephites reconquer their lands and the next chief judge is assasinated. After an immediate assasination …