King Lamoni and Xibalba
The following post is a regurgitation of the concluding remarks of John E. Clark's presentation at the 2005 FAIRLDS conference.
One of the strangest exchanges in the Book of Mormon, strange to us, takes place between Ammon and King Lamoni, in Alma 18. Having finally gained his attention and the opportunity to teach him the true religion, Ammon and Lamoni have the following exchange:
And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?
And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.
And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels. And king Lamoni said: Is it above the earth?
And Ammon said: Yea, and he looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart; for by his hand were they all created from the beginning.
Using Mayan texts to illuminate the Book of Mormon, the way a student of Hebrew Bible might use Akkadian texts, Lamoni's ignorance of the location of "the heavens" is understandable. In the Popol Vuh, we learn that the Quiche Maya had a class of dieties which literally lived under the earth, in Xibalba.
In the Popol Vuh, the hero twins Hunahpu and Xiblanque played ball and the playing annoyed the Lords of Xibalba, the way noisy neighbors on the second floor might annoy apartment dwellers trying to sleep in the first floor. In response, the Lords of Xibalba challenged the hero twins to descend into their underworld and play a match down there.
As an ancient mesoamerican, Lamoni probably had some notion of underworld dieties and thus might be naturally confused by, what to him, would be the vaguries of Ammon ' s worldview.