In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Casting Up of Highways In Ancient Mesoamerica as Foretold in the Book of Mormon

"cast up" highway from Dziblchaltun (Yucatan),
1.6 miles long.
It has been well documented for years that the Mayans and Aztecs and other Mesoamerican groups had highways and roads which conforms perfectly with what the Book of Mormon states.  In 3 Nephi 8:13 it speaks of both highways and level roads.  This is interesting because the wording makes them two distinctly different types of roads.  This is confirmed in 3 Nephi 6:8 which states,

"And there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city and from land to land, and from place to place."

John Sorensen speaks of these two scriptures and explains that, "The phrasing indicates at least two levels of technological sophistication - highways were "cast up" while roads were "made".  The most striking roads in the lowland Maya area (less is known for other regions) were "cast up". The principal "sacbe", or highway, at Dziblchaltun (pronounced as zeeb-ill-chal-tune) was 66 ft. (20 m) wide and up to 7ft (2m) high, with edges made of great limestone blocks.  Between the limestone edges, coarse fill was leveled with fine gravel and then paved with plaster.  This highway ran for some 1.6 miles.  Seven such highways led from the site to secondary centers.   Such massive construction qualifies as "cast up".  The date is approximately the same as when the Nephite record mentions highways.  In addition, of course several sorts of roads were "made" as enumerated by Sahgun (Benardo Sahgun)." 

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Future of Book of Mormon Studies by Mark Alan Wright

This was one of my favorite talks from the 2013 BMAF Conference.  Actually I had multiple favorites but I just wanted to share this talk because Mark Alan Wright has offered so many insights to the study of the Book of Mormon with his expert knowledge of Mesoamerica.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nephite Costly Apparel, Color Concepts with Phoenician Origins Practiced in Mayan Societies.

Ancient Phoenician and Mayan practice of using
purple Shellfish to make purple dye for clothing.
My recent studies on the Book of Mormon have lead me to John Sorenson's newest book "Mormons Codex" which has proven to be a treasure trove of parallels between the Mesoamerican civilizations and the populations of the Book of Mormon.  This blog post is going to focus on another one of the informative insights found in that book.  It is on correlations between the practice of making certain dyes originating in the Old World (Phoenicia) and the same practice being found in the New World  (Mesoamerica).  Although Sorenson talks about two colors of dyes that have Old World origins (purple and crimson) due to space and time constraints this blog post will only cover one of them.

Sorenson states, "we may presume that Nephite "costly apparel"  would have entailed dyeing, although the text says nothing about colors or techniques.  Two famous dyes were available both in the Near East /Mediterranean area and Mesoamerica.  One is purple derived from small shellfish, and the other is crimson from the cochineal scale insect.  [Wolfgang] Born is one of many observers who have described the intricate process for obtaining purple shellfish dye.  Mexican collectors entered rocky coastal waters where the shellfish are found, picked up each individual mollusk, carefully squeezed out its fluid onto a piece of cloth, and (usually) replaced the mollusk to be "milked" again later.  The purple dye is not obvious at first; the color becomes visible only slowly as the mollusk's body fluid is exposed to the air.  Great effort and endurance are required to harvest the dye; hence cloth so dyed is very expensive.  Purple was considered symbolic of fertility and royalty.  Off the Phoenician coast the exact same process was followed, and the symbolism associated with the dyed fabric was similar.  Because of the extreme unlikelihood that such an intricate combination of concepts and techniques could have arisen twice independently, numerous investigators besides Born (Carter, Jackson, Jett, Nuttall, Johnson, and Gerhard) have believed that this cultural complex represented a transfer of ideas and skills from the eastern Mediterranean (where it was known as early as 1600 BC in the area that became known as Phoenicia) to the New World."

Once again the Book of Mormon does not state anything about "dyes" but the transfer of the ideas and techniques for obtaining some of the colors associated with "costly apparel" in both the Phoenician and Mayan cultures fits well with what we are told about travel between the two continents.  Besides, Sorenson also reminds us that the "Mulekites (from the Book of Mormon) likely traveled in a Phoenician ship."

For more information on the ancient ties to the making of the crimson color please see John Sorenson's "Mormons Codex".


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Secret Societies of Mesoamerica; The Mayan Nahautlistas/Nonotzaleque, the Hopi Ya-Ya Ceremony and the Gadianton Robbers of the Book of Mormon

Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni
making preparations to battle
the Gadianton Robbers
When we speak of the populations and groups in the Book of Mormon we tend to primarily break them down into two groups of people or societies.  These are the Nephites and Lamanites.  We read in a few placed in the Book of Mormon (4 Nephi 37-38) that these two main groups were broken down into many other groups including Jacobites, Josephites, and Zoramites (all these were considered believers in Christ and thus under the Nephite Umbrella) and also Lemuelites and Ishmaelites  (under the Lamanited umbrella). Throughout the Book of Mormon they both flip-flop from good wholesome people to evil loathsome blood thirsty people and back repeatedly. Including each having numerous fractional groups break off to join their sworn enemies (usually due to political or religious differences or through conversion) .  Usually it is assumed that the Nephites for the most part were good people and the Lamanites were the bad and for most of the timeframe covered in the Book of Mormon this may be the case but we have a tendency to leave out another important group.....the Gadianton Robbers.

The Gadianton Robbers span throughout the entire Book of Mormon history from the precursor Jaredite civilization to the later Nephite and Lamanite civilizations.  At times they disappear only to resurface hundreds of years later.  Without going into a deep chronology of their history it will suffice to say that this group lead to the downfall of both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations.  In order to keep this blog post short and sweet it will suffice if we just focus on the Gadianton Robbers among the Nephite/Lamanite civilization and timeframe and their equivalent in the Mayan and Hopi civilizations.

The prophet Mormon first introduces the Gadiantons around 50 b.c. in Helaman Chapter 2.  In their first appearance during the Nephite timeline they succeeded in overthrowing the entire Nephite government only to be defeated by a game plan improvised by Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni the Nephite Chief Judge and Military leader.  At this point they disappear for over 250 years after the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ only to resurface and according to Mormon's account they were in "all the land".  The Gadianton Robbers were known for their secret plots to commit murder, rob, steal "and to plunder that they might get gain".   They mixed and mingled with the general society and  populations of the Nephites and Lamanites and used secret signs to be recognized by other members who would assist in their evil designs.   As their story continues they are known as being a secret warrior type of people after political gain who even used sorcery to achieve their plans.  Mormon informs us that the Gadianton Robbers were included in the northward migrations described in the book of Helaman.

So the question at hand is if there are groups that fit this same description of the Gadianton Robbers in the Mesoamerican area around the same time frames?  Brant Gardner in his article, "The Gadianton Robbers in Mormon’s Theological History: Their Structural Role and Plausible Identification" along with John L. Sorenson in his book "Mormons Codex" give us some prime examples a few groups that seem to be a direct hit.  I will take this one step further by tying in another group that would have been part of the northern migration well beyond Teotihuacan.

Guerrero Jaguar Mural from Cacaxtla 
Brant first advised why the task at hand is hard to do.  This is because we are extremely limited on pre-conquest texts so some of the sources quoted will be from post conquest writings.  We will start of with his first sources which does happen to be pre-conquest source known as the Florentine Codex which Brant informs us is a Nahuatl text written by the native informants of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun.  From these Nahuatl texts father Sahagun created his Spanish-language opus on the history and culture of the Aztecs. In these texts it speaks of a group called the "nonotzaleque who went about carrying its hide [jaguar]-the hide of its forehead and of its chest, and its tail, its nose, and its claws, and its heart, and its fangs and its snout.  Its is said that when they went about their tasks with them-that they did daring deeds, that because of them they were feared; that with them they were daring. Truly they went about restored.  The names of these of the [nonotzaleque], guardians of tradition, debasers of people.

Anderson and Dibble translated nonotzaleque as "conjurers", no doubt because of the connection to the magically  powerful jaguar pelt.  Brant Gardner goes one step further to translate the word to "conspirators" and Sahagun himself translated it as "assassins" and noted that this is a group "accustomed to and daring to kill".  So we have a group of conspiring, conjuring, assassins who secretly murdered and who were know for causing political upheavals who were tied to the jaguar pelt as a sign of affiliation.  This sign of affiliation may even be linked to the later Aztec jaguar warriors of their military.

Both Gardner and Sorenson have tied the nonotzaleque with the post conquest group known as the "nahaulistas" who like the nonotzaleque also were recognized due to the jaguar skin and where accustomed to kill.  Sorenson points out that "to obtain this power, one had to be trained in black magic after undergoing severe initiation." In continuing the pre-Columbian culture they formed a powerful stronghold all throughout Mesoamerica.

This finally brings us to the Hopi Ya-Ya ceremony.  This is an ancient ceremony that dates back to Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Canyon and the Great Kiva at Aztec New Mexico.  It was a ceremony that was initially done in these ancient locations which were inhabited during the ancient migrations from clans moving northward from Mexico, Guatemala and even further down south.  According to Frank Waters in his book entitled "Book of the Hopi", it is said that the name comes from the man who would announce the ceremony singing, "Yah-hi-hi! Yah-hi-hi!" in honor of the chief deity named Somaikoli. It was taught to members who performed this ceremony that Somaikoli  only made the sound of a panting animal "Huh Huh" thus the great powers of the Ya-Ya were invoked from the animal kingdom.  This ceremony and its initiates seem to be more focused on the secret witchcraft side of the Gadianton traditions.

Hopi Village of Walpi where the last known
Ya-Ya ceremony was held in 1961
These great powers according to ancient lore included performing many miracles such as walking and rolling on hot coals, the ability to move people or throw people without hurting them and many other miracles.  Apparently the ceremony eventually got profaned and the power to perform these great miracles ceased.  From this point on it became a secret ceremony that was kept underground and is still said to be practiced by certain initiates in Hopi today.  The last known ceremony was held during the fall of 1961 in Walpi village.

Now with its initiates attempting secret ceremonies underground or in hiding it is said to be a form of  witchcraft were the performers are more like medicine men or shaman who are bent on causing others grief and bringing evil upon society.  These people (male and female) who are said to still practice it are in all clans in Hopi and are said to be "two hearts" or "powaqa" having their own human hearts and that of an animal and are able to perform a transition between human form and that of an animal also known as shapeshifters. The result of this group is to break down Hopi ceremonial and social structure.  As noted by Waters, "there has never been a religion, a mysticism, without its negative side.  So we have among the Hopis a profound religious structure of nine great ceremonies and one extinct ceremony that embodies all the fears and faults of a people whose innate mysticism is being perverted into witchcraft.

Since the workings of these types of  societies was largely kept secret it is highly unlikely that we will ever be able to obtain much more information on their history and practices but when looked at as a larger picture it seems that Mormon's view of secret organizations have a lot of correlations with Mesoamerican secretive structures and those they influenced as well.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Book of Mormon Lands Conference! October 19th 2013

Really looking forward to this.  Check out the flyer and be sure to come and check it out.  Some of the top names in LDS scholarship and a diverse array of topics. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

'President Joseph Has Translated a Portion': Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates by Don Bradley 2011 FAIR Conference

This is Don Bradley's FAIR Conference presentation from the 2011 FAIR Conference.  He is presenting on the supposed translation of the Kinderhook Plates by Joseph Smith.  The Kinderhook Plates translation has been used as ammunition against the church for years by those who produce anti-Mormon propaganda but now Don has resolved this issue once and for all and done so in a brilliant manner.  I'm glad he's on our side!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Biblical Prophetic Speech Formulas and Samuel the Lamanite

Samuel the Lamanite
Through the ages the Lord has used different ways to instruct his prophets and because of this his prophets have used different speech forms to relate his messages.  In his article entitled "Thus Saith the Lord":Prophetic Language in Samuel's Speech"  John Welch outlines six different formulas used by prophets of old and new, that have all been applied and can be found in the works of Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon. 

1. Messenger Formula. "Thus saith the Lord" Either God or a prophet is the speaker of the messenger formula.   This is used 39 times in the Book of Mormon and twice by Samuel (Helaman 13:8, 11).

2. Proclamation Formula.  "Listen to the words of Christ" or "Hearken to the word of the Lord" Samuel used the phrase "hearken unto the words which the Lord saith" (Helaman 13:21).  This phrase is often used at the beginning of a revelation or prophecy.

3. Oath Formula. "As the Lord liveth" This terminology is usually added to a testimony to add emphasis.  Samuel stated: "As surely as the Lord liveth shall these things be, saith the Lord" (Helaman 15:17 and Helaman 13:26).

4. Woe Oracle.  Usually found as part of a judgment speech. Professor Welch breaks down the Woe Oracle into 4 characteristics 1. the accusation 2. the addressee 3. the intent of the accusation 4. and the promise of judgment.  Samuel the Lamanite used many woe oracles here is one from Helaman 13:16-17:

Accusation: Yea, and wo
Addressee: be unto all the cities which are in the land round about
Intent: because of the wickedness and abominations which are in them
Promise of Judgment: And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts

5. Announcement Formula. "I say unto you" In this formula the Lord usually speaks to an individual or group in first person. This formula is found at the beginning of a clause usually starting with the words yea, behold or therefore. Samuel uses this formula three times.  (Helaman 15:6, 12, 14)

6. Revelation Formula. "The word [of the Lord] came unto me, saying".  At the beginning of Samuel's ministry to the Nephites, he said, "behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him" (Helaman 13:3) Samuel told the Nephites that they would cry unto the Lord, "O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us" (Helaman 13:36).

As  you can see all six of these formula's are present in the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite to the people of Nephi in Zarahemla.  These formulas are used all throughout the Book of Mormon by other prophets as well.  As John Welch suggested the presence of these formulas does add authenticity to the Book of Mormon as something that Joseph Smith Jr. wouldn't have been aware of.  With that said further research into the teaching styles of prophets throughout history could add greatly to our understanding of prophetic language in all scriptures.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Correlations Between The Book of Mormon and The Narrative of Zosimus (History of the Rechabites)

Bedouin desert dwellers
Many of you are familiar with the Book of Mormon and even more so with the story of Lehi's dream found in 1st Nephi in the Book of Mormon but very few are familiar with the Narrative of Zosimus.  According to John Welch "the first known reappearance in modern times of the Narrative of Zosimus was its translation into Russian from an Old Church Slavonic text in the 1870's, almost fifty ears after the translation of the Book of Mormon into English." This story is now found in the series called "The Ante-Nicene Fathers". The story of the Narrative of Zosimus is about a righteous man named Zosimus who dwelt in a cave in the desert and prayed to the Lord in hopes of obtaining the land of blessedness.  

In order to get to this promised land or land of blessedness Zosimus wanders in a wilderness until he is so exhausted that only through prayer and divine intervention he finally reaches his destination.  In this land he encounters a wall of darkness eerily similar to Lehi's wandering in darkness at the beginning of his dream.  Zosimus is able to transport past the cloud of darkness by the help of two trees and their branches.  He then crosses water and sits by a beautiful tree eating fruit and drinking of its life sustaining water that flows from its roots.  He is then met by an angel who asks him what he wants and then becomes his escort through this journey.  He sees a vision in which he thinks he sees the Son of God who introduces him to a group of sons of God. If any of the story so far sounds familiar (which it should) it then becomes really interesting.  Zosimus is told by this group of sons of God their history.  Their history is engraven on stone plates and they speak of being led by their father and escaping Jerusalem's destruction at the time of Jeremiah.  Through this they survived the scattering of Israel and were able to occupy as Welch puts it "this otherworldly land of paradise and abundance only because of their righteousness." Later on Zosimus gets shown a book in which he learns that although the people in Jerusalem are wicked that eventually mercy will be extended to them in which he finds great joy.  Although this is a really quick synopsis of the Narrative of Zosimus there are many parallels between this apocryphal story and the early chapters of the Book of Mormon.  Here are just a few pointed out by John Welch:

- Dwelling in the desert (1 Nephi 2:4)
- Being led by prayer and faith (1 Nephi 1:5, 11:3, and 16:29)
- Wandering through a dark and dreary waste (1 Nephi 8:7)
- Being caught away to the bank of a river (1 Nephi 8:3)
- Crossing to the other side of a river or abyss and passing through a great mist (1 Nephi 8:32)
- Coming to a tree whose fruit is most sweet above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:11)
- Eating from the tree, which also gave forth a fountain of living waters (1 Nephi 11:25)
- Being greeted by an angelic escort (1 Nephi 11:2-3)
- Being interrogated as to desires (1 Nephi 11:2)
- Beholding a vision of the Son of God or of those like sons of God (1 Nephi 1:6, 11:29)
- Keeping records on soft plates or tablets (1 Nephi 3:24, 9:1-6)
- Recording the history of a group of people who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem at the time of  Jeremiah. (1 Nephi 1:4, 7:14)
- Being led to a land of promise and of great abundance because of righteousness (1 Nephi 18:25)
- Practicing constant prayer (Alma 34 :21-27)
- Keeping high standards of chastity and piety (Jacob 2:25-28)
- Receiving revelations concerning the wickedness of the people of Jerusalem and the Old World (1 Nephi 10:11)
- Obtaining assurances of the mercy to be extended to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the world who repent and enter into covenants with God (1 Nephi 1:14, 10:3)

Father Lehi and the Liahona
The Narrative of Zosimus as Welch points out may reflect someones memory of Lehi and his departure from Jerusalem although the Narrative in its present form doesn't date anywhere near the time frame of Nephi and Lehi who left Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah in 597 B.C.  I suppose it is possible that Lehi's expedition could have influenced other groups on the departure of 11 years in the desert 8 of which were traveling to modern day Oman or Yemen from Jerusalem.  Another possible common influence between these two groups is that of the Rechabites.  The Rechabites were a nomadic religious group located in the southern deserts of Israel. They date back from Jonadab ben Rechab, the founder who lived some time during the ninth century B.C. (2 Kings 10:15-17).  Although not much is known about this group we do know that Jeremiah thought highly of them inviting them into the temple in Jeremiah 35.  They were know for abstaining from wine and dwelling in dents as nomads.

Lehi knew and respected Jeremiah in the Book of Mormon and heavy emphasis is placed on Lehi when he dwelt in a tent.  Lehi was called many things including a visionary man and his family at time complained of many things but never his ability in the desert.  This may be because as Nibley suggests he was a trader who spent much time in the desert.  As such he would have surely been familiar with the Rechabites.  In the Book of Mormon the drinking of wine is looked upon in negative connotations except in sacramental circumstances. 

Bedouin tent
Since it can be seen that there are numerous parallels between these two texts and enough correlations between the visions and experiences of Zosimus and that of Nephi and Lehi that even an unfamiliar reader should admit that further studies would be promising.  I for one would be intrigued with a more in-depth study of the two texts but can also admit that the studies that have been done point towards an authentic ancient near eastern background for the Book of Mormon.

For the original article from John Welch I have posted a link to his website and highly recommend reading in and many others.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Sword of Laban and the War Scroll (of the Dead Sea Scrolls) Description of Ancient Israelite Swords

War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls
I will be briefly summarizing some of John W. Welch's notes on the correlations between how the Book of Mormon's description of the Sword of Laban and the War Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls and how it describes ancient Israelite swords and I will leave a link to the article from John Welch entitled "The workmanship Thereof Was Exceedingly Fine" below for further research.  To start off with we will remember that Nephi obtained the Sword of Laban when he found Laban the Jewish Military leader drunk in Jerusalem and Nephi used Laban's sword to decapitate him.  Because of Laban's political/military position it is safe to assume that his sword would probably differ to some degree from the average Israelite soldiers sword but probably not by much maybe by length and workmanship.

In 1 Nephi 4:9 Nephi states, "And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof: and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of most precious steel.

Luristan, circa 1500–500 BC. A cast bronze short
 sword with parallel-sided blade, integral guard
 and hilt
In the War Scroll it states, "The swords shall be of purified iron, refined in a crucible and whitened like a mirror, work of a skillful craftsman; and it will have shapes of an ear of wheat, of pure gold, encrusted in it on both sides.  And it will have two straight channels right to the tip, two on each side.  Length of the sword: one cubit and a half.  And its width; four fingers.  The scabbard will be four thumbs; it will have four palms up to the scabbard and diagonally, the scabbard from one part to the other (will be) five palms.  The hilt of the sword will be of select horn, craftwork, with a pattern in many colours: gold, silver and precious stones."

Welch points out that Laban's sword blade is made of "the most precious steel," while the swords of the Israelite army will have blades "of purified iron...whitened like a mirror." Nephi describes the hilt as being made "of pure gold."  The Israelite swords will have a hilt "of select horn...with pattern in many colours: gold, silver and precious stones," though designs in pure gold are also mentioned.  Both the Nephite and Qumran descriptions speak of the quality or "workmanship" of "craftwork" of the swords saying they were "exceedingly fine" or "of a skillful craftsman."

John Welch then goes on to compare the lengths.  Because the War Scroll is very precise in the description of the length of the sword it makes it interesting because the Book of Mormon does not give the length of the Sword of Laban.  Without knowing the measurement of a cubit used by the Israelites it can give us a couple of interpretations of the War Scroll sword length.  It tells us that it was a cubit and a half in length, so if a cubit measured 17.5 inches then the total sword length would have been 26.25 inches long (just over two feet) while a cubit of 20.4 inches would give a length of 30.6 inches or 2.5 feet long.  Welch reminds us at this point of a 7th century sword found in Verde Jericho which measured 3 feet in length and quotes William J. Adams who purposed that Nephi would have had a much easier time decapitating Laban using the longer sword.  So is it possible that an Israelite leader such as Laban may have had a longer sword than the average soldier?  This may or may not be the case but either way because Laban would have taken place before the War Scroll his type of sword may have been a direct influence for the "ideal" Israelite sword described in the War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Layard’s Monuments of Nineveh, published in 1853, all of which I believe come from the Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal (ruled 883-859 BC) at Nineveh and show the use of long swords.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ancient Jewish, Mayan and Hopi Ceremony Correlations (continued)

(Video of 1913 Hopi Snake Ceremony, the Kisi is the tree looking object to the right of the video that the dancers pass by and gather around as well)

So a few months ago I put together a blog post about ancient Hebrew ceremonies with similar correlations that are found in Mesoamerica.  The focus of this post was centered mainly on Sukkot or the feast of the tabernacles an ancient Hebrew ceremony and what seems to be its new world equivalent in the Mayan Cha Cha'ac ceremony still practiced to this day in the Yucatan in southern Mexico.  In this post I wanted to continue with the a Hopi practice that also has similarities to Sukkot. This is the use of the Hopi Kisi.  Here is a link to the first half of this post.

Although the Kisi is involved in ceremonies that differ from Sukkot or the Cha Cha'ac to some degree, it is the use and structure of the Kisi that is reminiscent of the alters from both of the previously mentioned ceremonies. According to Tom Cryers in his book Visual Testament he states the Kisi is the most prominent Hopi setting, and the one most available to the public eye, and the one most widespread in the Americas, and the one used in both the Flute and Snake festivals or ceremonies which take place in the full moon of the fall.  The Kisi is a bower made of leafy cottonwood branches.  Kissay in Hebrew means "covered throne".  According to Hugh Nibley all over the ancient world , the King sat in a Kissay of green bowers at the New Year. (Nibley 1975:170).  Keh' seh, in Hebrew, means "full moon festival, appointed time."  The Hopi kisi is a little booth with its opening facing east and is sometimes walled and carpeted inside with buffalo robes.  The leaves are left on the branches that cover it on the outside.  The entrance is covered with a buckskin or a wedding robe.  Cryers also noted that the construction of such a leafy structure was practiced by the children of Israel in Moses' day as part of the "feast of tabernacles," which is also called the Feast of booths or the Fest of Ingathering (Sukkot). 

Hopi Antelope Dancers with Kisi (tree looking structure to
the left of the picture)
So you may ask what is the importance of finding similarities between the Jewish Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), the Mayan Cha Cha'ac ceremony and the use of the Hopi Kisi?  The religious use of these as noted in the above noted blog post have a lot in common as well.  With the Hopi Kisi we can also see a similar reason for the use of the structure.  The ceremonies in which the Kisi is used all have a surrounding theme of the need for rain.  This was also an important part of the previous two examples.  These seem to have roots in Sukkot which was done for the same reason as noted in Zechariah 14:16-17 which states,

"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 

And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain."

This is also important to the relevance of the Book of Mormon which claims to be the record of a group of Jews who were commanded to leave Jerusalem around 600BC and were lead by the Lord into the new world where they became a great civilization that divided amongst itself and were known as the Nephites and Lamanites.  We know that during their existence (from 600 BC to at least 400AD) that the Law of Moses was practiced by the Nephites and more than likely apostate forms by the Lamanites.  These were practiced until the law was fulfilled and a new law given by the resurrected Savior Jesus Christ which appeared to the Nephites and Lamanites in 33AD.  Many of these old law practices and new practices can be found in the religious ceremonies of the indigenous around Mesoamerica and the Native Americans of the Southwest of the United States mainly the ancient Maya and Ancient Pueblo (Anasazi and Hohokam) who are the descendants of our modern day Hopi, Zuni, Pima, Gila River and many other tribes .  So if links between these civilizations and their religious ceremonies and beliefs can be tied together with those of the Jewish old world they stand as evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

More Mesoamerican Influence in Hohokam Society (Casa Grande Arizona)

The Big House (Casa Grande) in Casa Grande, AZ
Hohokam 1350AD
Here are a few pictures form my families recent visit to some more ruins found in Casa Grande, AZ.  This is known as the "Big House" or "Casa Grande".  The ruins here date to around 1300-1400 AD.  Some date back earlier such as the unexcavated ball court which dates back to 900 AD.  Inside the ball court they found a ball but many of these ancient rubber balls have been found.  These ball courts differ in size at most locations. Although this one is unexcavated it is easy to see it is a bit smaller than the one at Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix although similar in shape.  In between these two is a larger square ball court much more reminiscent of the Mayan and Aztec ball courts.  This is the Snaketown ball court that was reburied shortly after excavation on the Gila River Reservation.  The last picture is a piece of shell artwork used in a bracelet that is a snake and bird which archaeologists state may have been influenced by the art from the Southern Mesoamerican tribes (the Mayans).  The purpose of these last two blog posts is to show that the direction of migration made by many of the civilizations found in Mesoamerica (mainly the Mayans) was to relocate to the north.  This is consistent with what the Book of Mormon teaches of the various groups that migrated north (Helaman 3:3,7)

3. And it came to pass in the forty and sixth, yeah , there was much contention and many dissensions; in the which there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land.

7. And there being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell.

Thus we see that the Pueblo people (the Hohokam and Anasazi) were more than likely ancestors of those Nephite/Lamanite people who migrated northward.  This also matches with many of the migration stories held by the tribes still in the American Southwest today. The use of cement or what is known as caliche (cuh-LEE-chee), a concrete like mix of sand, clay and calcium carbonate (limestone) was used to build whole permanent settlements throughout the southwestern Sonoran desert.  The book of Helaman in the Book of Mormon also speaks about the use of wood.  I took over 200 cedar and other types of trees that were carried from more than 60 miles away used to make the roofs of the Big House.

Casa Grande Hohokam Ruins

Me in front of the west side of Casa Grande

Unexcavated ball court at Casa Grande that dates to 900 AD.
There was a ball found in this court when first discovered.

Mesoamerican influence on shell fragments for bracelet.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Follow up to Zelph Post Evidence of Mesoamerican Influence in NorthAmerica

I decided to show some evidence of Mesoamerican influence from Mayan times found here in North America. The following pictures I took less than a half hour from my house in Phoenix Arizona. The last picture is less than 10 minutes from my house in Chandler Arizona on the Gila River Indian Reservation. These are pictures of ancient Hohokam ball courts that were influenced by the Mayan ball courts although the rules of play may have differed. The time frame for these ball courts is estimated at 500AD-1200AD. Archaeologists and anthropologists assume that the ball courts probably date to the earlier dates on that spectrum because they appeared to be unused around 1200 AD and this may be due to changes in religious practices. I will be adding future influences that show travel and influence up to and through the Heartland theory lands of Michigan and Ohio Valley.

Me infront of Ancient Hohokam ball court in Phoenix AZ.

Me and my crew at ancient Hohokam ball court panorama view.

Artists depiction of Hohokam ball game at Pueblo Grande
in modern day Phoenix AZ.

Ancient Hohokam ball court in Snaketown Gila River Indian Reservation
showing Mesoamerican (Mayan) influence.   This ball court has been buried
by Pima/Gila River Indian Government for preservation. (South of Chandler AZ)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Zelph and the Lands of the Book of Mormon

Zion's Camp group at Zelph Mound
One of the main stories that always seems to surface when speaking to Heartlanders or those who think that the Book of Mormon took place in North America is the story of Zelph.  The story goes something like this.  During the Zion's Camp march to Missouri a handful or so of the members came upon what is known as Naples Mound 8 or now more commonly known as Zelph mound and discovered the remains of a skeleton about a foot underneath the surface of the mound.  We know of the experience because we have the noted stories or journals of seven of the members who were there. In an article by Tyler Livingston (no relation) in April of 2010 entitled "Zelph in relation to Book of Mormon Geography" he noted that each of the recorded experiences of the 7 members differed in details.  He then noted that John Lund in citing Kenneth Godfrey, notes what the accounts do agree upon. 

1. On June 2, 1834 members of Zion's Camp, traveling through Illinois, unearthed skeletal remains of a man near the top of a large burial mound.
2. Joseph Smith learned what he knew about the skeletal remains by way of a vision after the discovery.
3. The man was a white Lamanite named Zelph, a man of God and a great warrior who served under a known leader named Onandagus.
4. Zelph was killed in a battle with the Lamanites by the arrow found with his remains.

It must be noted that we do not have an official statement from Joseph Smith in relation to this story but he did comment in a letter to his wife Emma the next day and stated something to the effect of "wandering the plains of the Nephites" and noted that picking up skulls as an authentication of the Book of Mormon but for some reason never mentions Zelph or Onandagus.  It is because of this statement that many state that the Book of Mormon must have taken place in North America for Joseph Smith to note that they were "wandering the plains of the Nephites" while they were in Illinois.  There is more to this story though as we look a bit deeper.

Tyler also notes that John A. Widtsoe a member of the Quorum of the twelve apostles stated: "This is not of much value in Book of Mormon geographical studies, since Zelph probably dated from a later time when Nephites and Lamanites had been somewhat dispersed and wandered over the country."  Tyler than hammers the nail in the coffin with the account of Levi Hancock which he noted was the longest and most detailed of the accounts.  Levi stated that in his version while Joseph was under inspiration he stated that "This land was called the Land of Desolation."  If Joseph Smith were speaking about the same "Desolation" mentioned in the Book of Mormon, this statement would place Zarahemla, Bountiful, Manti and most of the Book of Mormon cities too far south for a Heartland/Great Lakes geography. If we accept the story of Zelph as fact we must also accept the implications. Thus if the land of Desolation is in fact in Illinois this displaces the whole North American  Heartland geography.

Ancient Hohokam Ball Court on Gila River Reservation
(now buried for preservation)
So where does this take us with the story of Zelph and the revelation by Joseph Smith?  Well there a few different options.  One is that this group of Nephites or Lamanites found in North America were part of (or ancestors of) the many different migration groups mentioned in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 63 it speaks of multiple migrations including Hagoth building a large ship and sailing "into the land northward".  We also read in Helaman 3 of many people including most of the "People of Ammon" migrating to the land north.  If the Book of Mormon did take place in Mesoamerica (Southern Mexico/Guatemala area) than these travels northward by migrating groups could be the reason that Nephite and Lamanite bones are found as far north and north east as Illinois or farther. But is there any evidence of these migrations?

We know that long before the Book of Mormon times (600b.c.-400a.d.) there were trade routes between North and South America. As I have noted in many of my other blog posts we know that the People of Ammon were a covenanted peaceful people.  Interestingly enough if they did indeed travel northward as noted in Helaman 3 than we could expect to find a peaceful people north of Mesoamerica which is exactly what we find with the Hopi Indians in northern Arizona (Hopi actually means "peaceful little ones".  There is a lot of correlation between the Hopi and the Nephite and Lamanites found in the Book of Mormon which I have already covered in other blog posts so we will just chalk this up as the first sign of evidence for now.  Also in Phoenix and  south east Phoenix (Casa Grande) Arizona we have remains of the Hohokam people part of which is now on the Gila River Indian Reservation.  These remains include  ball courts which without doubt would be a direct influence from the Mayans and Olmecs from Mesoamerica. 

Cahokia Mound in Illinois/Missouri
There are many other signs of influence of Mesoamerica found in North America and these include the building structure of many of the larger mounds in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys one in particular is Cahokia who bears a resemblance to many of the Mayan Temples only Cahokia is made of earth.  Other signs include copper ear spools and pottery found among the remains of the Hopewell civilization that could be considered markers of southern influence.  Also of note is that in 1870's and 1880's further excavations in the Zelph mound were made with bore relics with connections to both Michigan and Mexico. 

If these signs of southern influence are indeed the case of Mesoamerican influence and migrations than Joseph Smith would still be correct in stating that remains of Book of Mormon people are had among North America.  They just wouldn't have been the same groups that we read directly about in the Book of Mormon, instead we would be dealing with satellite groups and or their ancestors. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Nibley Challenge

This is the challenge that Dr. Hugh Nibley used to give his students.

Tribute Drawing of Hugh Nibley
Since Joseph Smith was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well educated at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of , say , five to six hundred pages in length. Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history. Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times; have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicisitudes [daily activities]; give them names -- hundreds of them -- pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 B.C.; be lavish with cultural and technical details -- manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites, and traditions, include long and complicated military and economic histories; have your narrative cover a thousand years.

Keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once; feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting; observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials. Above all, do not ever contradict yourself! For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up -- we have our little joke -- but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as fiction or romance, but as a true history! After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it...What is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible. If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim -- they will love that! Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel. Now go to work and good luck! [the Prophetic Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., 221-222]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Answers to Mormon Reformation ('s) 95 Theses Questions

Martin Luther
Recently a blog called Mormon Reformation posted a list of 95 Theses questions that they suggested should be posted on the doors of every LDS chapel on the 16th of Feb in the spirit of Martin Luther's 95 Theses questions.  There are many reasons in spirit why Martin Luthers questions or concerns differ form these posted by Mormon Reformation.  The spirit behind these have a lot of the same old Anti-Mormon rhetoric that has been cycling for years.  I have put together a pretty lengthy document (219 pages) that goes over these concers and gives answers to each of them.  Now I admit in putting these together my answers to these concerns that over 90% of my answers have been copy and pasted from FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) and the rest from other websites including my blog or my own opinion.  I hope you enjoy them as they were put together pretty quick in order to meet the deadline.

Click here to download the answers to the 95 Theses questions

Or here is another link if the above post doesn't work.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Olmec/Jaredite History and Hopi Ceremonies

Hopi Katchinas performing during a ceremony
This post has been put together to share what may be possible ties of the Hopi Pueblo tribe to that of the Jaredites.  I have shared multiple blog posts that show correlations between the Hopi and the Nephite and Lamanite civilizations but this time I will be sharing a short insight shared by Helen Sekaquaptewa in her book "Me and Mine" that shows knowledge of past times of the confounding of languages at the tower of Babel.  This is where the Jaredite civilization began.  If we read in the Book of Mormon in the Book of Ether 1:33 we read,

"Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered". 

It was this group of Jared and his brother (Mahonri Moriancumr) and their friends and families that were lead to a promised land where they grew to be a great civilization that ultimately due to pride and greed destroyed the majority of its population divided through war.  It is believed that this civilization is the Olmec civilization found in central America also known as the father civilization to the Maya. The time frame of the Olmec and the Jaredites in the Book of Mormon fit nicely together (around 2500 BC to 500 BC). 

If the Hopi traditional stories and sacred ceremonies tell the truth about their past than many of the clans that make up the Hopi once resided in Mesoamerica or the land southward.  They state that the Maya were Hopi that didn't complete following there wanderings and as I stated in a previous post this may be a case of the tale wagging the dog but either way their past involved their ancestors at one point in time residing in Mesoamerica.  It may very well be that they are descendants of not only of the Maya but of their predecessors the Olmec.  

Olmec Alter
In speaking of the traditional ceremonies that tell the stories of their past Helen Sekaquaptewa shared the following. "One Hopi ceremony re-enacts the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel.  We were in Hotevilla two times during this performance.  It is done during the night.  Those men not eligible to participate, and the women and children of the village were not allowed to stay in their own homes if they lived close to certain kivas, but had to go to the other end of the village and spend the night with relatives or friends.  I was curious and didn't go to sleep .  I could hear the tinkle of tiny bells, then big bells, and then the tramping of many feet as the performers came together in the middle of the night.  You never heard anything more confusing; all talking at the top of their voices; none speaking their own tongue, but rather making a babble of sound, yelling loudly.  Certainly a dramatic reproduction of the Tower of Babel. 

If indeed the above shared traditional ceremony is done in remembrance of the ancestors who took part in the confounding of tongues this would make the placement of the Jaredites and Hopi and the correlation between their history in the right locations as well.  This would also add authenticity to the history of the Book of Mormon.  Although we only have traditional stories this is something that future research may be able to add more too.