Lightening and Resurrection
|The resurrection of the Maize god emerging from the earth symbolized by a turtle carapace.|
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 was variously conceptualized as a mountain, a rock, or even a giant turtle carapace.
Keeping this in mind, the association of lightening with resurrection illuminates some of Samuel the Lamanite's prophecy, regarding the Savior's death and resurrection:
And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many.
And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours.
And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days. -Helaman 14:25-27, emphasis added.
In the New Testament, no mention is made of lightening in connection with the Savior's death (Mark 15:37-39; Matthew 27:50-54; Luke 23:44-48; John 19:30-31). Nor is lightening mentioned in connection with his resurrection(Mark 16; Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20).
The Mesoamerican setting of the Book of Mormon explains the expanded feature of lightening, when compared to Matthew's shaking earth and rending rocks. Lightning was associated with fertility, regeneration and resurrection, in Mesoamerica.
For further reading, I recommend "According to Their Language, unto Their Understanding": The Cultural Context of Hierophanies and Theophanies in Latter-day Saint Canon, by Dr. Mark Alan Wright. This post is essentially a quick and dirty paraphrase of only one part of that paper. Read the whole thing:)