The Gadianton Robbers and Teotihuacan?


Disclaimer: The following does not represent any 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 post. 

12)And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you.

In Helaman 3, we read the description of a group of people who migrate 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 200AD 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. The Valley of Mexico was home to Lakes Xaltocan, Texcoco, Xochimilco and Chalco.
3)Teotihuacanos made extensive use of cement.
4)It has been proposed that the destruction of the surrounding forests nessecary for the burning of the lime which went into building Teotihuacan contributed to erosion and desiccation of the region.
5)There was a strong Southern(Mayan) presence at Teotihuacan(3).
6)Teotihuacan influence extened into the Gulf Coast of Mexico, Oaxaca and as far south as Guatemala.

If the narrow neck of land is the strait of Tehuantepec then the only place that fits this description is Teotihuacan. However, Mormon's account seems anachronistic. Helaman ch. 3 does not describe the Teotihuacan of 50BC, it describes the Teotihuacan of 250AD and beyond. It does not describe the Teotihuacan of Helaman's day, but the Teotihuacan of Mormon's day, 400AD. It does not describe what Teotihuacan was like during the days of the actual migration recorded in Helaman 3; it describes what Teotihuacan was like when Mormon was alive and writing.

The ancient Greek historian Xenophon did something similar. Xenophon incorrectly records that Cyrus the Great received and distributed gold darics.The daric did not exist until after the lifetime of Cyrus. The daric began to be used during the reign of Darius; the coin(daric) was named after him. Since the daric was used during Xenphon's time, we can see how this mistake was made. As ancient historians, both Mormon and Xenophon took the conditions of their day and retrojected them into the past.

Mormon takes the time and effort to describe a migration to what would eventually become Teotihuacan, because Teotihuacan was very much on his mind. The Teotihuacanos of Mormon's day were doing what the Gadianton Robbers of Helaman's day were doing; that is: they were usurping power and disrupting the social order.

At about 245AD, "the wicked part of the people began again to build up the secret oaths and combinations of Gadianton"(4 Nephi 1:42). "And it came to pass that the robbers of Gadianton did spread over all the face of the land; and there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples of Jesus. And gold and silver did they lay up in store in abundance, and did traffic in all manner of traffic"(4 Nephi 1:46).

By about 326AD, the Gadianton Robbers are among the Lamanites and "infest the land"(Mormon 1:18). By about 350AD, the Gadianton Robbers and the Lamanites are united in war against the Nephites. Nephites forced to enter a "treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided"(Mormon 2:26,27).

By 400AD, Moroni writes in Mormon 8:8-9:"And behold, it is the hand of the Lord which hath done it. And behold also, the Lamanites are at war one with another; and the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war. 9)And now, behold, I say no more concerning them, for there are none save it be the Lamanites and robbers that do exist upon the face of the land.

Speaking of Teotihuacan, Michael  Coe wonders, "where these intruders warriors or traders? They may well have been both. By Aztec times in central Mexico there was a special caste of armed merchants called pochteca, who journeyed into distant countries in search of rare manufactures and raw materials not available in the homeland, all of which were destined for the king. From representations of the pochteca god at Teotihuacan, we know that the institution is at least as old as the Early Classic. Thus, Kaminaljuyu may have been a southeasterly outpost of long-distance traders from that great city, established for the purpose of exporting Maya riches for the Teotihuacan throne"(2).

"This was the mighty city that held dominion over large parts of Mexico in the Early Classic, as the center of a military and commercial empire that may have been greater than that of the much later Aztec(2). Shortly after AD 400, the highlands fell under Teotihuacan domination. An intrusive group of central Mexicans from that city might have seized Kaminaljuyu, where they built for themselves a miniature version of their capital. An elite class consisting both of Central Mexican foreigners and of a local nobility with whom they had marriage ties could have ruled over a captive population of largely Mayan descent"(2).

"Mesoamerican 'empires' such as Teotihuacan's were probably not organized along Roman lines, with total replacement of local administrations by imperial power; rather, they were "hegemonic," in the sense that conquered bureaucracies were pretty much left in place, but controlled through the constant threat of overwhelming military force which could have been unleashed against them at any time. Thus, we can expect a good deal of local cultural continuity even in those regions taken over by the great city; but in the case of the lowland Maya, we shall also see outright interference in dynastic matters, with profound implications for the course of Maya history"(2).

Sources
(1)The Gadianton Robbers in Mormon's Theological History:Their Structural Role and Plausible Identification, by Brant Gardner
(2)The Maya 7th Edition,by Michael Coe. Pg 90-92.
(3) "Tetitla and the Maya Presence at Teotihucan" by Karl Taube

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