In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chocolate Wine in the Book of Mormon?

Wicked King Noah the wine bibber
I think that some of my fascination in regards to the Book of Mormon began upon realizing there were numerous things that I read through multiple times that technically wouldn’t make sense happening in a Mesoamerican setting and somehow never seemed to set off any alarms to me.  Once I started hearing of a few of these and seeing how they actually do fit in with a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon I became “addicted” to this type of research, which I think is a perfect description in regards to this blog post

The Book of Mormon speaks of the use of wine in many instances, including in Mosiah when wicked King Noah built wine-presses to make wine in abundance and became a wine bibber and also his people (Mosiah 11:5).  Or in his son Limhi’s escape from the Lamanites when they paid their taxed tribute of wine in order for the Lamanite guards to become drunk allowing the people of Limhi to escape through a back route according to the plan of Gideon.  This use of paying tribute with wine was attempted many times including from the Lamanites to the Nephites without success according to Alma 55:30.

Now I have read the Book of Mormon more times than I have fingers and probably toes as well but for some reason it never struck me that it would be hard to produce wine in Mesoamerica due to the challenge of growing grapes or olives, but apparently this is the case and has been a key issue with the anti-Mormon crowd.  Dr. Michael Coe the famous Mesoamerican archeologist and anthropologist noted that in the Book of Mormon there was no mention of cacao or chocolate which raised a flag because of its known heavy use in ancient Mesoamerica.  At a first glance Dr. Coe would be right but when we actually take the time dig into the text we can see that this isn’t actually the case. 

Ripe cacao tree
In a somewhat recent study done by Cornell professor of anthropology John Henderson and his colleagues they found traces of caffeine and theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine but specific to cacao, in 11 shards dated to 1100 B.C.  According to Patrick McGovern Scientific Director of Biomolecular Archeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia:
“We, and by we I’m also including fellow-scientist Jeff Hurst at Hershey Chocolate, analyzed pottery sherds belonging to long-necked jars. Such vessels from Honduras are among some of the earliest pottery yet found anywhere in Mesoamerica, dating back to around 1400 B.C. They preceded the first urban communities of the Olmecs, centered on the Gulf Coast of what are now Mexico’s Veracruz and Tabasco provinces.

Vessels of the long-necked jar type from Puerto Escondido tested positive for theobromine, which is the fingerprint compound for cacao since the compound only occurs in chocolate fruit and beans in Mesoamerica. The style of the vessel was another give-away or advertisement of its contents–it had the shape and characteristic ridges and indentations of the cacao fruit. What we propose, based on the chemical and archaeological evidence, is that the jar was once filled with a fermented chocolate beverage made from ripe chocolate fruit.”

drawing of ancient  cacao-wine
vessel used to add froth
The use of this cacao based chocolate wine was common in the Olmec and Mayan times and continued even to the Aztecs who knew this formula as the drink of the Gods.  As pointed out by Jeff Lindsay the Friar Diego de Landa when writing about his time in Mesoamerica during the conquest stated:

“The Indians are very dissolute in drinking and becoming intoxicated, and many ills follow their excesses this way. . . . Their wine they make of honey and water and the root of a certain tree they grow for the purpose. . . .”

Later McGovern noted:
“In later Mesoamerica, the Mayans and then the Aztecs increasingly turned to the beans, rather than the fruit, to make their cacao beverage. They also mixed in lots of additives–honey, chilis of all kinds, variously scented flowers, and achiote or annatto (Bixa orellana) which colors the beverage an intense red in keeping with its association with human sacrifice. If a victim atop one of the pyramids faltered, he was given a gourd of chocolate, mixed with blood which had been caked on the obsidian blades of earlier sacrifices.”

So as we can see wine was found in abundance throughout the history of Mesoamerica including during the same time periods mentioned during the Book of Mormon so the mentioning of it would make complete sense and also alleviate the question why chocolate or cacao was not mentioned.  So once again another criticism about the Book of Mormon only stands to solidify it’s authenticity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

LDS Prospective of the Hopi Nakwach and the True Pahana or Lost White Brother

Awanu (horned serpent) petroglyph
The true Pahana (or Bahana) is the Lost White Brother of the Hopi. Most versions have it that the Pahana or Elder Brother left for the east at the time that the Hopi entered the Fourth World and began their migrations. However, the Hopi say that he will return again and at his coming the wicked will be destroyed and a new age of peace, the Fifth World, will be ushered into the world.  He will bring with him a missing section of a sacred Hopi stone in the possession of the Fire Clan, and that he will come wearing red.Traditionally, Hopis are buried facing eastward in expectation of the Pahana who will come from that direction.  For more information on the Hopi stone see:


The legend of the Pahana seems intimately connected with the Aztec story of Quetzalcoatl, and other legends of Central America. This similarity is furthered by the liberal representation of Awanyu, the horned or plumed serpent, in Hopi and other Puebloan art. This figure bears a striking resemblance to figures of Quetzacoatl, the feathered serpent, in Mexico. In the early 16th century, both the Hopis and the Aztecs believed that the coming of the Spanish conquistadors was the return of this lost white prophet. Unlike the Aztecs, upon first contact the Hopi put the Spanish through a series of tests in order to determine their divinity, and having failed, the Spanish were sent away from the Hopi mesas.

One account has it that the Hopi realized that the Spanish were not the Pahana based upon the destruction of a Hopi town by the Spanish. Thus when the Spanish arrived at the village of Awatovi, they drew a line of cornmeal as a sign for the Spanish not to enter the village, but this was ignored. While some Hopi wanted to fight the invaders, it was decided to try a peaceful approach in the hope that the Spanish would eventually leave. However, Spanish accounts record a short skirmish at Awatovi before the Hopis capitulated. Frank Waters records a Hopi tradition that the Spanish did ignore a cornmeal line drawn by the Hopis and a short battle followed.

Nakwach Sacred Hand Clasp
Tovar [the leader of the Spanish] and his men were conducted to Oraibi. They were met by all the clan chiefs at Tawtoma, as prescribed by prophecy, where four lines of sacred meal were drawn. The Bear Clan leader stepped up to the barrier and extended his hand, palm up, to the leader of the white men. If he was indeed the true Pahana, the Hopis knew he would extend his own hand, palm down, and clasp the Bear Clan leader's hand to form the nakwach, the ancient symbol of brotherhood (According to Hopi legend this sacred handshake will also be required to enter into the fifth world).  Tovar instead curtly commanded one of his men to drop a gift into the Bear chief's hand, believing that the Indian wanted a present of some kind. Instantly all the Hopi chiefs knew that Pahana had forgotten the ancient agreement made between their peoples at the time of their separation. Nevertheless, the Spaniards were escorted up to Oraibi, fed and quartered, and the agreement explained to them. It was understood that when the two were finally reconciled, each would correct the other's laws and faults; they would live side by side and share in common all the riches of the land and join their faiths in one religion that would establish the truth of life in a spirit of universal brotherhood. The Spaniards did not understand, and having found no gold, they soon departed.

Hugh Nibley interpreted this story in his own way:

Jesus Christ
In 1540 when Pedro de Tovar came up to Bear Chief, who was standing to greet him on the rise at Old Oraibi, the chief reached out his hand to establish the visitor’s identity by offering him the sacred handclasp, the nachwach-was he really the promised White Brother? Naturally, the Spaniard, who had come looking for gold and nothing else, thought he was asking for money and placed a gold coin in his hand. Have you any signs or tokens? asked the chief. Yes, I have money, replied the visitor. From that moment the Hopis knew it was not the one they were looking for, and to this day they have never been converted to Christianity. (Hugh Nibley. Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints. 98-99)

From what we have read above it seems to stand as evidence that the Hopi awaiting the return of the lost white brother would be in relation to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the use of the Nakwach hand clasp has a direct relation in purpose to some of the sacred signs that are found in the LDS temple ceremony.  This would also confirm that they may have obtained this knowledge as direct descendents of the People of Ammon or Nephite/Lamanite relatives of whom I have spoken of extensively in previous posts. This also attests to the ancient origin of the LDS temple ceremony. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zeno's Allegory of the Olive Tree serves as added evidence and insight!

Olive tree and vineyard
This post is focused on my recent reading of Jacob 5, Zenos's allegory of the olive tree.  This is the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon.  In this chapter an ancient Isrealite prophet named Zenos likens the history of  Israel to an olive tree and vineyard.  Zenos's allegory goes into great detail regarding the grafting, dunging, digging about and pruning process  involved in the olive tree culture thus proving that whoever Zenos was he had a great understanding of horticulture and botanical knowledge especially involving the olive tree and vineyard.

  Many of the ancient practices are still used today and wouldn't have been common knowledge in Joseph Smith's day especially in the upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont area.  As pointed out by Jeff Lindsay in his blog there is an amazing comparison in Brant Gardners Multidimensional Commentary for Jacob 5 and Romans 11 which is commonly referred to when compared by those who do not accept the Book of Mormon but anyone who has taken the time to read them both will not only realize that Paul's comparison is the inferior of the two but  should also realize that Paul may actually be getting his information from the same source as Jacob...the one and only Zenos.

 Jeff also quotes from John Gee and Daniel C. Peterson,'s "Graft and Corruption: On Olives and Olive Culture in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean," in The Allegory of the Olive Tree. Peterson and Gee state that it is almost inconceivable to state that Joseph Smith would have had access to the information needed to put together Jacob 5.  The knowledge of olive horticulture was basically un-had in upstate New York.  They point out that in order for Smith to have obtained that knowledge in 1829 he would have needed to have had access to the writings of four classical authors and would have need to have read all four works because individually they do not cover all the knowledge needed to have composed such a work.  These authors and there works were

1.Cato, De Agri Cultura 2. Varro, Rerum Rusticarum 3. heophrastus, Historia Plantarum 4. Columella, Rei Rusticae.  This is what Peterson and Gee stated about the likely hood of Joseph having access to these writings:

Josesph Smith jr.
"Yet Joseph Smith probably did not have access to these works. And even if he had, he could not read Latin and Greek in 1829. Theophrastus's Historia Plantarum first published in English in 1916, [Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, trans. Arthur Hort (London: Heinemann, 1916)] and no part of his De Causis Plantarum was available in English until 1927 [Robert E. Dengler, ... Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1927]. While English translations of Cato, Varro, and Columella were available to the British in 1803, 1800, and 1745 respectively [Thomas Owen, M. Porcius Cato concerning Agriculture (London: White, 1803), ...], it is hardly likely that they were widely circulated in rural New York and Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith could have known nothing about olives from personal experience, as they do not grow in Vermont and New York. Can it reasonably be supposed that Joseph simply guessed right on so many details? And even if he somehow managed to get the details from classical authors, how did he know to put it into the proper Hebrew narrative form?"

Gee and Peterson then go on to point out the proper Hebrew narrative which I highly recommend reading.  In my eyes the wonderful readings of Jacob chapter 5 stand as one of the most powerful testimonies for the future of Israel and "gentile" nations as well but also as some of the most compelling evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and for the prophet Joseph Smith.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Native games of chivalry present in the Book of Mormon

Ammon at the waters of Sebus
With the numerous evidences and insights that have come to light regarding the practices of the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica and Southwest United States and the similarities of those practiced in the Book of Mormon it makes one wonder how leading archeologists, and anthropologists have failed to give credit where credit is due or at least take the seriousness of what the Book of Mormon claims to be with sincerity. I say this in part because as I have been studying the Book of Mormon in preparation for this next years gospel doctrine class and I have been accompanying my studies with Hugh Nibley’s teachings of the Book of Mormon. It seems to me that every time I listen to his lectures he continues to amaze me with more of these correlations.

While reviewing one of my (and most 9 year old boys) favorite stories in the Book of Mormon, that of Ammon at the waters of Sebus cutting off the arms of the Lamanites who were gathered to scatter the flocks belonging to the king being watched by Ammon and some of the kings other servants, I couldn’t help but to ponder on the oddities of this story. Especially how it was common practice for Lamanites to scatter the kings’ flocks and then feel comfortable in the presence of the kings courtyard days later. We know this was common practice because the servants feared for their very lives because of their knowledge of what had happened to other servants of the past who had been sacrificed for allowing the exact same practice to transpire while on their clocks.

Percy Lomahquahu explaining the holes
along the cliff edge of ancient Pivanhonkiapi
Nibley likened this practice of sacrifice during ceremonial games of chivalry to many examples throughout
history. His parallels varied in “standard Nibley fashion” from Homeric duels like David and Goliath to modern day tag team wrestling. I choose to focus my attention to those examples that specifically took place mainly in areas considered to be Book of Mormon lands. These examples would include the infamous Mayan games played on the ball courts leading to a sacrifice of either one key player or worse case scenario a whole team. Other ceremonial games of death included those that have since been removed from practice by the modern day Pueblo including the Hopi wa-wa ceremony spoken of by Frank Waters in his book called “Book of the Hopi” but due to lack of space I’ll use Dr. Nibley’s description:

“Equally horrendous was the Wa-Wa rite of the Hopis and some of the other pueblos. It is still celebrated in Quatemala at the spring equinox. There is a tall pole, and they swing [people] around it head down. When the Hopis did it, up until 1900, the pole protruded over the edge of the mesa and the drop was 300–400 feet. The pole was cut half-way through and was supposed to break. Human sacrifice was expected, and that satisfied the necessary killing for the year.”

To this day although the ceremony itself is no longer practiced by the Hopi there are still holes in the ground where the tall poles used to be inserted. As noted by Nibley in Guatemala there is a similar tradition which no longer involves death or sacrifice but is known as Palo Volador. In Claire Boobbyer’s “Guatemala handbook: the travel guide” she states,

The Palo Volador
The only pre-Columbian dances are Palo Volador and the Rabinal Achi, which is a drama-dance. The Palo Volador originates from the k’iche’ Maya. Its origins stem from the pole being seen as the centre of the world. A pole is erected and two ropes that are long enough to reach the ground are fixed to the top. The aim is for two men to attach themselves to the rope and swing out from the top- as the rope unwinds the men swing further and further out until they reach the ground. This is performed in Chichicastenango, Cubulco, San Cristobal Verapaz and Joyabaj.

Nibley also noted that one way we as readers could tell that the game being played at Sebus was a ceremonial practice was because the Lamanites drew their clubs or as Nibley stated “their ceremonial clubs” rather than using swords except for the leader who upon seeing enough damage decided to draw his sword and was actually killed by Ammon. In any event it seems highly unlikely that Joseph Smith Jr. would have known of the use of these “Games of Chivalry” used to gain some sort of status through pillage or sacrifice, especially since sacrifice among the Maya was completely unheard of until the past 50 years when archeologists and come to the conclusion that sacrifice and war were both very integral parts of Mesoamerican society. So once again we see that the Book of Mormon stands the test of time and is actually a record of the ancient inhabitants of these American lands and not a mere fictional book made from the figments of Joseph’s imagination.