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The Long Count and Nephite Folk Religion

In his book Did God Have a Wife, William Dever reminds us that there has always been a difference between "book religion" and "folk religion". The Bible is essentially a "revisionist history", with Deuteronomist historians projecting their own religious sensibilities unto the history of their forefathers. The Bible doesn't describe religion as it was, rather as how they thought it should have been. Real Israelite religion consisted of the things the Deuteronomist historians condemned.

The Book of Mormon is an ancient book, written by the Prophet Mormon in the early 400's AD. Mormon was writing about a culture and religion that existed hundreds of years in his past. I suspect that Mormon shared similar limitations and weaknesses with the writers of the Bible. He was part of what had usually been an ethnic and religious minority.

Like the Deuteronomists, he described the history and religion of his forefathers in very idealistic ways. What the Book…

The Mayan Long Count as Interpretive Lens

When looking for a theory to explain something, one of the most important things is that the theory answers more questions than it creates. In my last few posts, I have used the Mayan Long Count as an interpretive lens through which to read the Book of Mormon and explain the behavior and historical context of it's people. 
Here are some of the  tentative fruits of that experiment:
1)Using the Long Count as an interpretative lens puts the Jaredite chronology on more of a sure footing. We now have a reliable end date for the patrelineal lineage described in the book, 400BC. This gets us closer to possibly deciphering the rest of the Jaredite history as well.
Because the Jaredite kings were almost certainly polygamists, had children in their old age and practiced ultimogeniture, I have used the average age of death for ancient Mayan kings as a rough approximation for the average generation length for the old, libidinous, polygamous kings.
The resulting chronology, plus Sorenson…

The Subjective Nature of Nephite Identity

Alma 46:22-23 Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.
 Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.
What's interesting in these verses is that the Nephites identified with their extinct "brethren in the land northward". Captain Moroni, Moron-ite(?), correctivly reminds them of their Israelite heritage and that because of God's promi…

Mulek the Conqueror

In Helaman 8:12, we read: 
And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem?
In Jeremiah 38:6, the Hebrew phrase that is mistranslated as "Malchiah son of Hammelech" is actually Malkiyahu ben-ha-melek(מַלְכִּיָּהוּ בֶן־הַמֶּלֶךְ). In Hebrew, this means "Malkiyahu, son of the King".But was this Malkiyahu(מַלְכִּיָּהוּ) the same person as Mulek? In the case of Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah(Jeremiah 32:12), the long form of his name is Berekyahu. If Berekyahu can be shortened to Baruchthen Mulek is a plausible hypocorism of Malkiyahu. 
John L. Sorenson identifies the city of Mulek with La Venta. However, La Venta was an Olmec site that was abandoned in 400 BC. Mormon tells us that the Nephites named their cities "after the name of him who first possessed them". …

The End of the Jaredites

Whenever the two sources or “witnesses” happen to converge in their testimony, a historical “datum” (or given) may be said to have been established beyond reasonable doubt. To ignore or to deny the implications of such convergent testimony is irresponsible scholarship, since it impeaches the testimony of one witness without reasonable cause by suppressing other vital evidence. (What Did The Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?; William Dever, 2001, pg. 107)
Unlike the Nephites, we don't have a start date or an end date for the Jaredites, in the Book of Mormon, thus we don't have a firm chronology with which to compare with archeology. Past proposals for a beginning date or end date for Ether's lineage history have tended to be too eager to see a connection between the Jaredites and Olmec or too hesitant, my own included.

Any attempt to create a Jaredite chronology must begin with the king list provided by Moroni, in Ether 1; archeology should only be reffered t…

The Messianic Event: Cyclical History and Nephite Calendar Prophecies

One of the intriguing features of the Book of Mormon is the use of the baktun, or 400 year cycle, is it is attested several times in the text (Alma 45:10Helaman 13:5,9Mormon 8:6). It also appears that the baktun and the katun are both attested in Moroni 10:1, 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 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" records 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 exactly what happened on that day; the accounts differ from site to site). Moroni is basically giving …

The Mexican Book of Mormon

Disclaimer: The following post is not political in nature. It is a not a "brown power" or "la raza" manifesto; nor is it intended to be an endorsement or condemnation of illegal immigration into the US. This post is speculative in nature and does not represent the official position of any church. This post is also not an attempt to prove that Joseph Smith Jr was a true prophet of God. We can't prove the Book of Mormon true but we can prove it interesting. 

Who cares about the geography of the Book of Mormon? Does it have a salvific or applicable value? No, from an eternal perspective, Book of Mormon geography is completely irrelevant. The Book of Mormon exists to bring people to Christ, so that they might repent of their sins and follow Him into the waters of baptism. That's it. Nevertheless, some people really like the Book of Mormon and want to know more about it and the people who wrote it. That's where geography comes in.

Just as knowing about the R…

The Book of Abraham in the Historical Context

The Book of Abraham is an enigma. It may be the least read and least quoted scripture in the Church, yet it spells out most clearly one of the most important doctrines of the Church, that we lived with God, as individuals, before we were born. The issues surrounding it are also esoteric. The Hor Book of Breathings, hydrocephali, Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, estimates of papyrus length, geocentric astronomy. formulas, missing papyri, catalysts, pseudepigrapha, Neoplatonism, masonic ciphers and the religious syncretism of Greco-Roman Egypt, all tend to be outside the interests of most people.

Among Latter-Day Saints, there tends to be two theories as to it's origins: Joseph translated it from a currently missing papyrus, or Joseph received the scripture via revelation and mistakenly believed he had translated the papyri. I'm agnostic on the issue as to how God gave us Abraham's book. A third theory posits that the Book of Abraham is a divinely inspired pseudepigrapha, a r…