Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Katun 11 Ahau: The Savior and Spain

Image
In my last few posts, I've tried reading the Book of Mormon through the lens of mesoamerican calendar systems, particularly the Short Count, an abbreviation of the Long Count. In my last few posts, I've made a series of arguments for  reading Moroni 10:1 as a thinly veiled invitation to do this. Moroni says: 
Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that *more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.
Moroni wants the future Lamanites to know that it was more than "four hundred and twenty years", 1 baktun and 1 katun, since the sign of the Savior's birth was given. Why does Moroni do this? Because he's assuming the date will mean something to future Lamanite readers. This date, when converted from the Nephite system into the Short Count, is Katun 12 Ahau; see The Jaguar Priest & Moroni(Part 1, 2, 3) for what tha…

Mayan Calendars and Book of Mormon Hermeneutics

Image
When choosing a theory to explain something, a most important requirement is that the theory answers more questions than it creates. In my last few posts, I have used the Mayan Long Count and Short Count as an interpretive lenses through which to read the Book of Mormon and explain the behavior and historical context of it's people.

Mormon described three different ways the Nephites reckoned time: from the time Lehi left Jerusalem, from the beggining of the reign of "the judges" and from the time the astronomical sign was given of the Messiah's birth.

Mormon and Moroni lived during the period of the third calendar, when time was recorded from  the time of the Messiah's birth. Mormon and Moroni were also mesoamericans. Mesoamerican religion influenced Nephite folk religion to the degree that Nephite folk religion was essentially mesoamerican.

What if Mormon and his people had a cyclical view of history and a calendar which used baktuns(20 katuns), katuns(20 tuns)…

Calendars and Failed Prophesy

Image
Five years prior to the Savior's birth, a mesoamerican prophet, "Samuel the Lamanite", prophesied that within five years, the Savior's birth would be heralded to Lehi's descendants via a solar miracle. The sun would go down but the sky would be full of light, followed by a regular day, and in the night, a new star. As clear as this prophesy might seem to us, it wasn't at all clear for the hearers:
But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were aspoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
And they began to arejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.
And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.
But behold, they did watch steadfas…

The Jaguar Priest & Moroni(Part 3): Katun 12 Ahau and Moroni 10:1

Image
Katun 12 Ahau and Moroni 10:1 If we use the Short Count as an interpretive lens, counting backwards,we can see Moroni was writing Moroni 10 in Katun 12 Ahau, which started in 396 CE.
Both the Chilam Balam of Chumayel and the Chilam Balam of Tizimin describe Katun 12 Ahauas a "good katun", where poor men become rich and when the land is peaceful and abundant, with wise rulers governing:
Katun 12 Ahau is the eighth katun of the count. The katun is established at Zaclahtun. Yaxal Chuen is his face, Buleu-caan-chac is his face to the rulers. He shall manifest himself. He is in the sky by day; he is in the sky by night. The great artisan, the wise man . There are kind head-chiefs, kind chiefs; kindness and joy is the law of the entire world. Poor men become rich. Abundance of bread is the word of the katun. It is a rich year; there is an accumulation of wealth also. The katun is good. The rains are good ones; the fruit will form. ... .

Moroni 10:1
The epilogue of Moroni's book(…

The Jaguar Priest & Moroni(Part 2): The Short Count

Image
Part of the challenge in using mesoamerican calendrical systems to read the Book of Mormon is translating Nephite dates and calendar prophecies to the available Mayan calendrical systems. Even if Moroni was familiar with and was using the Long Count, texts like the Books of Chilam Balam utilize an abbreviated calendar system called the Short Count.


The Short  Count The Short Count was an abbreviation of the Long Count; it utilizes a system of 13 katuns, with each katun repeating every 256 years. The Short Count system is attested as early as the fifth century CE, at Caracol. The Short Count also seems to have it's roots in the historical events of Tikal. The attestation of the Short Count in fifth century Tikal is important; it makes the Short Count roughly contemporaneous with Mormon and Moroni. It also reinforces the idea that Tikal was indirectly involved with the Nephite collapse[watch the video above].

Counting backwards along the Short Count, we can see where episodes in th…

The Jaguar Priest & Moroni(Part 1): The Long Count

Image
Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that *more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ. 
When Moroni states that "more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ". What's most interesting in this verse is that Moroni specifically says he wants his brethren the Lamanites to know that it had been more than four hundred and twenty years, because that number would carry much more meaning to the Lamanites than it would to the Gentiles.
The Maya "Long Count" is based on a 360 day year called a tun. 20 tuns make a katun. 20 katuns(400 tuns), make a baktun. The Long Count recorded the elapsed number of periods of 400 years + periods of 20 years + years + periods of 20 days + days since the "creation" day of 13 August 3114 BC (although it's unclear…

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

Image
Disclaimer: 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&q…

Lightening and Resurrection

Image
When studying ancient religious texts, like the Bible, scholars use the religious texts of contemporary and neighboring cultures, as an interpretive lens. The deciphering of Akkadian and Sumerian have been a boon for the understanding of the Old Testament. Dr. David Bokovoy said it best:

Without Babel there would be no Bible. I'm convinced that a familiarity with Akkadian and the literary sources from ancient Mesopotamia, for example, are just as important for properly understanding the Bible (especially the Pentateuch) as a knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic.

The same thing applies for the Book of Mormon. If the Book of Mormon was written in Mesoamerica then Mayan sources can play a role in interpreting the text, as an interpretive lens. The following is Dr. Mark Alan Wright's very brief description of Mayan theology:

A central tenet of ancient Maya theology was that the maize god died, was buried, and was resurrected when lightning cracked open the surface of the earth, which wa…

The Pacifists Who Sent Their Sons to War

Image
Like half of what is on this blog, the following is based on an original insight made by Brant Gardner. See Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History

The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi are an enigma. At first, they were Lamanites and sworn enemies of the Nephites and as Lamanites would have been engaged in the raiding, capturing, enslavement and slaughter of Nephites.

However, the sons of a Nephite king, newly endowed with evangelical zeal, end up converting entire Lamanite cities to the Nephite faith, such that the converted Lamanites make a covenant to adopt their religion and become extreme pacifists, burying their weapons and preferring to be slaughtered by the sword than to defend themselves violently.

After these newly converted Lamanites uproot and are taken in as refugees, by their former enemies, they offer up their adolescent sons to fight in a Nephite war, rather than breaking their pacifistic covenant(Alma 24Alma 53), which theoretically disqualifies them as …

The Mexican Christ

Image
The following is based on a small part, of a larger argument, made by Mark Alan Wright. You can read the full presentation at: Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon.

The visitation of Jesus Christ to ancient America is a great example of God condenseding to his children and speaking to them in the weakness of their own language and understanding(D&C 1:24).

Reading this account through a mesoamerican lens, we can also appreciate the nature of Christ's atonement for our sins, from a different angle. The Gospel of Luke and 3 Nephi both give converging witness of the physical resurrection but with some small variation. When appearing to his disciples, the Savior says:

Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. -3 Nephi 11:1…

Comparing Cuicuilco and Jacobugath

Image
Like half of what is on this blog, the following is based on an original insight made by Brant Gardner, particularly on Teotihuacan. See Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History

Mormon was a writer who was juggling three competing agendas: moralist, historian and poet. Grant Hardy has shown that as a historian, Mormon used methods which, through modern eyes, could be seen as unreliable, namely that for Mormon the reliability of a historical account was tied to the character of the record keeper:

And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record. - 3 Nephi 8:1

By modern standards, this is an irrational standard to hold for we know that bad people can keep accurate records of the past and good people can keep inaccurate records of the past; character is irrelevant when judging the methods of a historian. Mormon was also aware of the imperfect nature of his work:
And whoso receive…