In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Navajo Knowledge of Christ's Visit to the Americas as Shared by Golden R. Buchanan

Navajo Shaman from late 1800's early 1900's
I decided to share this portion of a talk given by Golden R. Buchanan who spent a large portion of his life in the service of the Native Americans. He is also known as the "father of the Indian Placement Program" for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He was  my Uncle William Bush's mission president.  My uncle spent many years  as a counselor for the Indian Placement Program working hand in hand will the Indigenous of this country.  This is just a portion of Golden Buchanan's talk called "Indian Traditions" in the Improvement Era magazine in 1955.  I decided to share this article because it shows the traditional stories in which Christ chose twelve disciples on the American continent.  This one in particular was shared by an older Navajo shaman and if these traditional stories are indeed true they add support and authenticity to the historicity of the Book of Mormon which proclaims the same message of the visitation of Christ to the Americas shortly after his death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Enjoy!

Some months ago I spent a few days in the hinterlands of the reservation. Among others that I visted was an old medicine man. His home was so remote that up to this time he had never heard the gospel. As we sat in his home, I began the story of the gospel, using his lovely daughter as an interpreter. As the story progressed, I could see his interest rising, and by the time our story reached the part of the visit of the Savior to this continent and his choosing of the Twelve, he could contain his eagerness no longer.

In his native tongue, for he could speak no English, he said, "I know of that," and putting up his hands he named the Twelve disciples chosen by the Savior. He gave them all names and in order. As the story continued, more and more he entered into the discussion, supplying parts of it. He was so completely enthralled that he seemed not to notice that we were white people. He fitted in the stories of the people with the message of the restoration.

Christ's visit to the Americas
Later on in the day, as we sat in the shade visiting, I asked him if he would let me have and write the names of the Twelve as he had given them. He thought a while and then cautioned that should I write, I must never give them to the world. They were sacred, and not to be used lightly. But, since I was his friend and knew the story anyway, he would give them to me and I might write them if I would keep them to myself. He then named them one by one, each in its place; there could be no variation.

As we sat there visiting, I thought to try him on another point. "Which of these Twelve are the three that did not die?" I asked. His eyes flashed, he looked at me searchingly. I seemed to read the thoughts in his mind, which were something like this. "How could you white men know about such things?"

I said further to him, "Yes, I know about it. It is here in your book, the Book of Mormon. It is no secret. Your forefathers wrote it, and we have it here. I just wanted to see if you could give me the names of the three."

He sat for some time with his head bowed, and then finally looked up and said, "The names of the Twelve I
have just given you, are not the Twelve that he chose on this continent, they are the Twelve that were with him across the waters before he came here. Their names are sacred and must not be used lightly." After some little time I asked him if he would give me the names of the Twelve chosen here. He looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "My friend, you have had enough for one time. Come again some other time." He got up from the log and hurried away and busied himself with some sheep that were in the pen. As I sat there pondering, his wife came over and warned me again of the sacredness of what I had learned and suggested that they should only be used on rare occasions.

Artists depiction of Christ's visit to the Americas
and his calling of twelve disciples

On other occasions I have been told the story of the three who never died. Some of the old patriarchs claim that they have seen the three, that they have sat with them in conference and have discussed the program of the Navajo people. But, said one, "They are not just like us although they look like it. They are not dead, but something has happened to their bodies because they can sit with us in council and then, quick as a flash, they are clear across the reservation with another group of Navajos. I do not know how they do it, but I know them and have talked with them many times."

I have scarcely scratched the surface of even the few things that I know, and I am sure that there are countless items of interest and information that have not come to my attention. It is interesting to note, in closing, that I know of no Indian language in which one can take the name of the Lord in vain. Indeed, I do not know of an Indian language in which they can even swear. They have to learn English or some white man's language before they can defile the name of Deity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ancient Hebrew Ceremonies in Mesoamerica

Tabernacle (Sukkot)
Back in April of last year I did  a blog post on the ties between King Benjamin's address to his people when coronating his son Mosiah to take his reign as the new king and compared it to the Hebrew practice known as Sukkot or the Feast of the Tabernacles.  This comparison was triggered by an article I had stumbled across a few years ago by John A. Tvedtnes that found over 20 similarities between these two ceremonies.  Today I will attempt to add the third piece to the puzzle with insights given by Diane Wirth in her book, "Decoding Ancient America, A Guide to the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon". In her book Diane presents the corolations between the Mayan Cha-Cha'ac ceremony and that of the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot).  The Cha-Cha'ac ceremony is a Mesoamerican ceremony still practiced today in the Yukatan, Mexico just as the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Feast of Booths) is still practices in Israel and all over the world today.

The Feast of the Tabernacles was to take place on the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the seventh month. At this time the Israelites were to construct rough temporary living quarters, called sukkot (singular sukkah), or “booths”, in order “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43). The booths (Sukkah) were structures that were made strictly for this festival after the harvest.  The roofs were made by weaving green branches with leaves and represented the temporary dwellings made by their ancestors in the desert after being led out of Egypt by Moses. Much like the Sukkah the Maya build an altar/table and it to is composed of young leafy branches that were hung over the table and have gourds of water hanging from the sides.  Both the Sukkah and the Mayan altar/table have open roofs that were used to open communication between God and man.

Artists depiction of Mayan Cha-Cha'ac
Both the Israelites and the Mayan's made sacrifices to their Gods at these festivals.  Today the Maya sacrifice chickens during the Cha-Cha'ac ceremony. Once the ceremonial sacrifice is completed like Sukkot both the Maya and the Israelites then partake in a feast.  Another similarity is fire (or light) used in both the old world (Israel) and new world (Mesoamerica).  The Maya use candles and the Israelites use oil lamps and men dance carrying torches.  Another tie between the two and that is the use of bread.  The Israelites baked bread for the feast with a braid on the top of the bread that represented a latter to heaven and the Maya instead baked bread in many layers which represented the layers of heaven or the cosmos.  As a side note the Hebrews also believed that there were many layers to heaven. 

As can be seen there are many similarities between the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the Cha-Cha'ac ceremony.  How could the Mayan's have such a similar ceremony to that of the Israelites?  It has been supposed that father Lehi and his family (in the Book of Mormon) who was from Jerusalem and was lead by the Lord to the new world (Mesoamerica) would have been the one who introduced these ancient practices to the Mayans.  We know that Nephi the son of Lehi followed the law of Moses because he stated in 2 Nephi 5:10 that "And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses".  As the father of the Nephites in the new world Nephi's handing down of the ancient Jewish traditions would have included the Feast of the Tabernacles and would explain why such an event seems to be present in the coronation of Mosiah as the king years later and again with the Maya centuries later.  All the above similarities and many more make a great case for these ceremonies being from the same ancient roots. Either way both of these ceremonies are still practiced to this day. I have included the link to the previous post where I discuss the similarities between the Feast of the Tabernacles and the coronation of King Mosiah from his father King Benjamin. Along with with a youtube video of a modern day practice in Yukatan of the Cha-Cha'ac.