This blog is designed to share research and evidences that I find interesting or informative in regards to the Book of Mormon, Bible, and other standard works. I usually focus on the ceremonial ties between the Israelites the Hopi and those found in Mesoamerica or the possible lands of the Book of Mormon.
I consider myself a student of the standard works (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price) but with greater emphasis on the Book of Mormon and as such I admit that I am late to John L. Sorenson’s “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon”. Although through my previous reading and research I consider myself to be very familiar with Book of Mormon evidences and geography theories but I still decided to get a copy of the book and give it a “good reading”. Even though I have not finished it I am enjoying it and have stumbled across many evidences that this book seems to give additional information on. One of the evidences claimed by Sorenson was the infamous Stela 3 of La Venta. This Stela is thought to date about 600 B.C. or later, basically during the end of the Olmec/Jaredite timeframe and the beginning of the Maya/Nephite timeframe. The issue surrounding the Stela is that it seems to show to two people meeting and one of them being a prominent bearded man which would be a rarity for the indigenous culture of Mesoamerican regions. The bearded figure is commonly referred to as the “Uncle Sam” figure.
In 1946, the famous "Uncle Sam" figure on Stela 3 at La Venta, was described by Mexican archaeologist Miguel Covarrubias as a "fully bearded man with an enormous aquiline nose. . ., a personage with surprisingly pronounced Semitic features" (Covarrubias 1946: 90). Two decades later, art historian Tatiana Proskouriakoff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington referred to the same bearded figure on Stela 3 as a "visitor" and with related low relief carvings as representing a racially distinct group of "strangers." These foreigners ultimately gained ascendancy over another stocky racial type on carvings. These La Venta carvings are also described as "credibly realistic portraits and descriptions of historic scenes," from a highly developed religious society. (Proskouriakoff 1968: 121-122)
"Uncle Sam" Bearded
Figure (Stela 3)
If indeed the figure on the right is a “Semitic” figure or represented a “Semitic” person who could it have been? Those familiar with the Book of Mormon instantly think of Lehi and his party as being people of Semitic features who could be represented in the formal meeting taking place in the Stela. Dr. Sorenson has suggested that this may actually be the other group of people of a Semitic background spoken of in the Book of Mormon, known as the Mulekites, this is partially because La Venta as a location would suffice as an Olmec Jaredite territory. There are multiple theories for what city La Venta would have been called anciently such as the City of Mulek or the City of Lib but either way the location would suffice for a place where the story of the Mulekites meeting the Jaredites being inscribed on a large relief Stela would geographically make sense. This is what Dr. Sorenson had to say about the location of La Venta and Stela 3:
“A particularly interesting case of such external evidence involves a scene on a monument located at an archaeological site that I consider to be the prime candidate for the city of Mulek. As explained elsewhere, the site of La Venta in southern Mexico qualifies remarkably well as the city of Mulek. It was one of the great centers of Olmec civilization, whose distribution and dates remind us of Jaredite society. Stela 3 at La Venta is a basalt slab fourteen feet high and weighing fifty tons. It is thought to date to about 600 B.C., or a little later, at or just after the late Olmec (Jaredite?) inhabitants abandoned the site.
Carved on the stone is a scene in which a person of obvious high social status, whose facial features look like those shown in some earlier Olmec art, confronts a prominent man who appears to a number of (non-Mormon) art historians like a Jew. This scene has been interpreted by archaeologists as a formal encounter between leaders of different ethnic groups. For instance, the late expert on Mesoamerican art, Tatiana Proskouriakoff, considered that Stela 3 shows "two racially distinct groups of people" and that "the group of the [Jewish-looking] bearded stranger ultimately gained ascendency." She concluded, thus, that "the culture of La Venta [thereafter] contained a strong foreign component." Latter-day Saints may wonder whether Mulek or some other person in his party might even be represented on Stela 3, considering the date and the location at a site very suitable to have been the "city of Mulek." At the least we see that ethnic and cultural variety existed in Mesoamerica where and when we would expect evidence of Mulek's group to show up.”
So whether La Venta was the Ancient City of Lib or Mulek is still up for schoolyard debate but we still seem to have a very interesting piece of what may be considered Book of Mormon evidence in the scene depicted on Stela 3 and this seems to be somewhat confirmed by non-LDS art historians and archeologists whether they meant to or not.
I love this song and think that alot of these Christian Hip-Hop artists are really doing a good thing when they dedicate their time and talents into making positive songs like this. I know that Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) like myself usually avoid the "cross" symbol because we prefer to focus on the fact that not only did he die for us but he more importantly was raised for us and overcame death. I know that main stream Christianity use the cross quite often and having served my mission among the Bible Belt. I don't wear one but I understand what it means to a main stream Christian so I don't take offense to it by any means either so I would hope that any Mormons who follow my blog and see me posting these hip-hop videos that do display these type of mainstream Christian symbols would not take offense to it either.
There is a tapestry in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City that may in fact show some of the migrations of the seven tribes that make up the Nephites and Lamanites. I first came across this document when it was presented in Dr. Jerry Ainsworth's book "The Life and Travels of Mormon and Moroni". If any readers of my blog have not noticed yet I quote this book extensively and recommend it to anyone who is truly interested in learning more about the people and cultures and evidences of the Book of Mormon. On the tapestry in question, as noted by Ainsworth it shows a group of people coming out of the ocean in what appears to be a womb. Anyone familiar with any Native American traditional stories will know that the womb is very common among traditional stories representing the "Mother Culture".
Father Lehi and the Liahona
This tapestry appears to confirm Lehi's landing. The group of people exiting the womb appear to be following a leader who is holding a round object in front of them. The Quiche name for the object in the tapestry is the "Giron-Gagal" which means, "compass" or "director". As Dr. Ainsworth notes the Quiche Maya believe that whoever had the Giron-Gagal could not be defeated in battle because they had the blessings of the Gods. This is very similar to the Biblical story of the Ark of the Covenant that was carried with the Israelites to battle as a sign of bringing the God of Israel along with them to war in which they could not be defeated either. In the Book of Mormon father Lehi was also lead by a round curious object similar to a compass called the Liahona. The Liahona was more than just a compass because it lead according to the faith of those who had it.
The tapestry also shows a group of nine people on turtles leading the group as well. This may represent a few things but I tend to lean towards the real mother group of the ancestors of those who live in Mesoamerica. This would include the Maya and the Olmec civilizations. The group could actually represent the barges of the Jaredites whom many LDS scholars associate with the Olmec civilization. Not that the Jaredites are the Olmecs but that the Olmecs associated with the Jaredites or that the Jaredites may have been part of the Olmec civilization. This same thought process goes for the Nephite and Lamanite civilizations and the Maya. The Nephites and Lamanites are not the Maya but definitely associated with each other and more than likely they were part of the Mayan civilization. Anyway that it is looked upon one cannot ignore the uncanny resemblance of the history told in the tapestry and that of the Book of Mormon.
student collects soil samples at ancient bustling market site
I've been spending every spare second I've had recently reading my copy of John Sorenson's "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon". Although this book has been in circulation for years it is still the best place to turn for Book of Mormon archaeology in my eyes. I have been re-reading many of his previous articles at the Maxwell Institute and continue to find insights that for some reason have slipped by me. The most recent piece of evidence and insight that caught my attention was the mention in Helaman 7:10 of both "highways" and "markets". It states:
"And behold it came to pass that it was upon a tower, which was in the garden of Nephi which was by the highway which lead to the chief market, which was in the city of Zarahemla; therefore, Nephi had bowed himself upon the tower which was in his garden, which tower was also near unto the garden gate by which led the highway."
As Sorenson notes, "No one knowledgeable of Pre-Columbian Mexico has had any doubt that markets were found in all sizable settlements. Cortez and his followers were amazed by the market in Tlatelolco in the valley of Mexico, by its diversity of goods, and by the complexity of its organization. Yet until recently, only little attention has been given to the fact that a number of these cities had multiple markets. It has been noted of markets in Monte Alban, Teotihuacan, El Tajin and the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Apparently Zarahemla was no different."
Avenue of the Dead Teotihuacan
One of the most notable highways that extend to the late pre classic period of the Mayan influence is found in Teotihuacan. It is commonly known as the "avenue of the dead". This city had one of the greatest influences on almost all major Maya cities. As I have noted in older posts there are many interesting points in the city of Teotihuacan that add insights and evidences to what we know of the ancient Nephite and Lamanite cultures.
Both the markets and highways were once thought of as obvious errors of what Joseph Smith would have known about the ancient inhabitants of America when the Book of Mormon was brought to light. This can only be seen as evidence of its authenticity as everything it proclaims itself to be, especially an ancient record written by the prophets of old on the American continent.