In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teotihuacan, "The place where men become Gods"

So a little over a week ago I got a DVD for my birthday entitled, “Finding Moroni” by Dane Hurt as he follows Jerry Ainsworth, author of “The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni” and his professional guide Esteban Mejia through Mexico. One of their many intriguing stops is at Teotihuacan. (Pronounced, tayo-tee-wok-on)

Teotihuacan – also known as “The place where men become Gods” according to the Aztecs. It is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals.

The city was thought to have been established around 200 BCE, lasting until its fall sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries CE. At its zenith in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. At this time it may have had more than 200,000 inhabitants, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano. Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence, if not outright political and economic control, can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya Region

My first introduction to Teotihuacan was in the above referenced book by Dr. Ainsworth. He suggested that since this city has no natural land masses or even walls built around the city it may have been built originally by a peaceful people. Only later to be reoccupied by people who didn’t share these same religious and political ideals. If this is the case it would fit soundly into a Book of Mormon setting. In Helaman Chapter 3 we have the People of Ammon a peaceful people who had buried their weapons of war as a covenant to never shed the blood of man but would rather give up their own lives instead to covenant with the Lord that they had changed moving into the land northward. This is taking place around 45 BC. If the land of Zerahemla is indeed in Mesoamerica than this migration northward would put the People of Ammon in the Teotihuacan vicinity.

The layout of Teotihuacan consists of a large pyramid in the middle known as the Pyramid of the Sun and to the right of it is another pyramid a bit smaller called The Pyramid of the Moon and then to the left of the of The Pyramid of the Sun is a smaller one called the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl. In the “Finding Moroni” DVD Dr. Ainsworth suggests the layout for these pyramids is precisely the way it should be to represent the Celestial (Pyramid of the Sun) Terrestrial (Pyramid of the Moon)and Telestial (Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl) layout according to D&C with the Telestial glory to the left hand side of the Sun. He then points out that the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl’s courtyard is surrounded by a U shape of four smaller pyramids to the right, four smaller pyramids to front and four smaller pyramids to the left. Then behind it lays 3 of these smaller pyramids (actually to the east). He points out that this is the exact same layout used by our current 12 apostles and first presidency when the meet together in the temple every Thursday in the SLC temple. It appears to be a priesthood order.

I must admit that when I was first introduced to Teotihuacan through Dr. Ainsworth’s book a few years ago that the idea that the People of Ammon possibly being the original establishers of this community of worship sparked my imagination and influenced my future research. We do know that these temples that we currently see may not be the original temples built because usually the following civilizations such as the Toltecs and Aztecs would build on top of the existing ruins. Along with the change in temples we do know of surrounding volcanoes that did cause an influx of population in the Teotihuacan area. This influx could have influenced the original founders to eventually flee for freedom of worship or fear of war. As Dr. Ainsworth suggested this is presented as pure speculation but historically it does seem to fit. And location wise when taken in consideration with the Hopi migrations this would fit very well.

The Hopi migrations speak of many of the Hopi clans coming from a great Red City in the south known as Palatkwapi as given by the late Chief Tawakwaptiwa several years before his death in 1960 according to Frank Waters “Book of the Hopi”. No one knows where Palatkwapi might have been. Some of the Hopi spokesmen, who are able to read Hopi meanings from symbols and pictographs carved on Mayan stelae and temple walls, believe that the center of the Mayan Old Empire, Palenque, in Chiapas, Mexico was the Hopi legendary city of Palatkwapi. According to Vernon Masayesva a Hopi leader the great Red city is none other than Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan during its prime was a great cement city (which correlates with Helaman 3) that was painted red. As a matter of fact there are still many of the inner and outer walls that still have signs of the red dye used in the past. According to Hopi Legend it was the Kachinas or “respected spirits” who built Palatkwapi.
Some Hopi legends state that the great Red City was a city held in reverence and was also a walled city. Although this description can change depending upon the legend story teller recent Hopi Chiefs went as far as saying that it was none other than Jerusalem. Not only does this also fit in the Book of Mormon but both Teotihuacan and Jerusalem could be considered the Great Red City of the South. One being influenced by the other which was also done in the early city and temple building by the Nephites according to 2 Nephi 5:16,

“And I, Nephi did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.”

On the west side of the main road going through Teotihuacan known as the Avenue of the Dead Dr. Ainsworth and Esteban established through the knowledge of some of the excavators that a certain smaller temple with an underground room was used as a washing point during the ceremonies. It included water and oil. They were told that there were guards at certain stages of the ceremonies allowing those participating to continue on to other stages after making oaths and covenants eventually culminating at the Temple of the Sun.

If this speculation is correct than we would need a peaceful people in the Book of Mormon (The People of Ammon) migrating north to the Teotihuacan vicinity and building temples (Helaman 3:11-14). If this people were to be scattered or provoked to leave their current settlement we would need to look for a group of peaceful people who may have had to migrate beyond the Teotihuacan site more than likely north of it. This is exactly what you have with the Anasazi settlements spotting Central and Northern Mexico and Southern United States. These same peaceful people still exist today in the form of ancestors of the Anasazi known as the Hopi who’s legends of migration, sacred ceremonies and language still fit soundly with the both the history of Mexico and Mesoamerica. The Hopi still to this day through their sacred kiva ceremonies are considered a covenant making and keeping people. Although we are not sure if Teotihuacan was indeed the Great Red City of the south spoke of in Hopi legend one this is for sure, the Hopi do agree that it was a settlement at one point of Hopi migrating tribes eventually on their way to Old Orabi modern day Northern Arizona.


  1. I thought I would also post a link to the Neal A Maxwell Institute's review of Dr. Ainsworths book which I stumbled across in the featured articles on their website. I think this is a very fair review of the book and applaud Dr. Ainsworth for his dedication and hardwork.

    I also wanted to post the youtube link for the commercial for "Finding Moroni" the DVD which I highly recommend to everyone interested in this wonderful type of research.

  2. In the 1980s in graduate school I wrote a paper regarding the "famous Red City of the south." I could not locate anyone else who wrote about 'the City' or who did any research regarding it, so I moved on to other concerns. I have always maintained a lingering interest. Naturally, I am quite happy to have come across this information about the Red City of the south.. .

    1. If you still have access to your Grad paper I would love to read it. I find it extremely interesting as well. Nibley as well as Frank Waters wrote about it in the Book of the Hopi.