Thursday, August 20, 2015

Printer's Manuscript

Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen gave a presentation on the printer's manuscript this evening in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. They were the volume editors of the 11th volume published in the Joseph Smith Papers Project which will eventually run to at least 24 volumes. Skousen, Professor of Linguistics and English at BYU, has been the principal researcher on the Book of Mormon Critical Text since 1988. Jensen is a historian employed by the Church.

28% of the original text is extant. 25% is owned by the Church. 2% is owned by the Wilford Wood family in Bountiful. 1% is owned by various individuals, the University of Utah, and the Community of Christ. John Gilbert was the 1830 typesetter. Most of the printer's manuscript was penned by Oliver Cowdery. Cowdery made approximately 3 errors per page as he copied the original to the printer's manuscript. Gilbert made approximately 3 errors per page as he set type from the printer's manuscript. The original manuscript was finished in June, 1829. The printer's manuscript was begun in August, 1829 and completed in January, 1830. Helaman chapter 13 through Mormon chapter 9 (one sixth of the text) was typeset from the original, not the printer's manuscript, because in February, 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page and others had the printer's manuscript in Canada trying unsuccessfully to secure the Canadian copyright which would have provided intellectual property protection throughout the British realm.

John Gilbert added punctuation in pencil directly on the printer's manuscript and on the portion of the original manuscript he used to set type. Gilbert also added the letter "p" where he wanted a new paragraph to begin. Joseph Smith made hundreds of changes as he edited the printer's manuscript for the 1837 Kirtland edition. Changing "which" to "who" was his most common change. We now know the revealed text was rendered in Early Modern English where "which" is a perfectly good personal pronoun. The Prophet was trying to make the verbiage in the 1837 edition more like Modern English to make it more respectable in Jacksonian America. After Smith marked up the printer's manuscript, Oliver Cowdery incorporated those changes into a marked up 1830 copy from which the 1837 edition was typeset.

John Gilbert followed the KJV as he punctuated the Isaiah chapters. Gilbert also changed one instance of "that" to "at" in one of the Isaiah chapters to conform to the KJV. Our current book of Mosiah begins in the middle of chapter 2. The 116 lost pages contained the Book of Lehi, the first chapter, and part of the second chapter of Mosiah. Larger books not authored by Mormon or Moroni have book summaries. Mosiah would have a book summary if we had the complete text. Hyrum Smith as a scribe was a lousy speller. Oliver Cowdery had to heavily edit his work. Joseph Smith saw some kind of textual marking indicating a chapter break. When he came to these marks he instructed Oliver to write the word "chapter" without a number. Cowdery wrote "chapter 3" near the beginning of our current book of Mosiah which is one of the ways we know the original chapter 1 and part of chapter 2 are missing.

John Gilbert cut the printer's manuscript up into strips with a pen knife, set type from those strips, and then re-assembled the manuscript with pins which eventually rusted and left stains on the paper. 6 sheets comprised a gathering. Abner Cole published parts of the Book of Mormon as installments in his local newspaper. His is therefore the earliest publication. Joseph Smith had to exercise his privilege as the copyright owner to shut down Cole's piracy. The printer's manuscript was not available for the 1840 Nauvoo (Cincinnati) edition because Oliver Cowdery by then had been excommunicated from the Church and taken the manuscript with him. Cowdery gave it to David Whitmer, another of the three witnesses, before he (Cowdery) died in 1850. Upon Whitmer's death in 1888, the manuscript passed to his grandson, George Schweich, who sold it to the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ) in 1903. It was used in the 1908 RLDS edition.

Royal showed a photograph of Ron Romig (RLDS), Skousen's wife, himself, Rick Turley and Stephen Nadauld (both LDS) and a Catholic man then working as a document conservator at the BYU library. They were in Independence. The Utah contingent had brought with them most of the extant original manuscript. They were comparing the various types of paper used in both the original and the printer's manuscript. Skousen considered this ecumenical group a metaphor for the universal appeal of the Book of Mormon, "scripture for the whole world." The printer's manuscript at this time was deteriorating. It was written in vegetable rather than iron-based ink. The LDS Church conserved the manuscript, washing and de-acidifying it and then encasing it in mylar before returning it to Independence.

The modern Book of Mormon timeline divides into four phases:
  1. Pre-translation 1823 - 1827
  2. Translation 1827 - 1829
  3. Publication 1829 - 1830
  4. Post-publication 1830 - present
In the pre-translation time period the ancient Prophet Moroni was an important influence in Joseph's life. Alvin Smith, on his deathbed in November, 1823, counseled his younger brother to "obtain the record."

Emma Smith acted as Joseph's scribe for a time in Harmony. Martin Harris took the 116 manuscript pages from Harmony to Palmyra just before Emma gave birth to their first child, a stillborn son.

In 1841 as he deposited the original manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, Joseph Smith remarked "I've had trouble enough with this."

In June, 1878, a tornado devastated Richmond, Missouri where David Whitmer was living. 10 people died. Whitmer's two story house had the roof torn off and most of the structure was destroyed except for the room containing the printer's manuscript. Whitmer himself was injured by flying debris. In recounting this experience to George Q. Cannon, Whitmer called the preservation of the manuscript a miracle and attributed it to the power of God.

The yarn that originally bound the printer's manuscript together came from David Whitmer's mother, Mary. In June, 1829, Mary Musselman Whitmer was taking care of her own large family while at the same time entertaining Joseph and Emma, Oliver, and others. A heavenly visitor  showed her the plates, an experience which gave her the resolve she needed to carry on with her heavy responsibilities. She was the only woman privileged to formally see the plates.

The Book of Mormon was a direct word-for-word revelation from God. Joseph was not at liberty to articulate ideas in his own language.

The Community of Christ, in addition to the printer's manuscript, has letters between Joseph and Emma and the JST manuscript. They have contributed significantly to the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

In Alma 45 Oliver got tired and began to write rubbish. Joseph took over and the original manuscript has 28 words in Joseph's hand. This is one of the reasons why Royal believes Joseph saw about 30 words at a time in the seer stone. There is one place in the original manuscript where Joseph dictated about 20 words, but the average was closer to 10 words that Joseph dictated and then Oliver read back to him for verification. Ben Hunter staged a replication of this dictation/verification process. He estimates Joseph and Oliver spent about 6 hours per day on average engaged in the translation process during their time of sustained productivity.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chiasmus Day

It was 48 years ago today, on August 16, 1967, that John W. Welch discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon while serving in the South German Mission under Pres. Orville C. Gunther. Chiasmus Day 2016 will be commemorated in a significant way. The 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking discovery will be an even more important event. If someone were to rank research findings in order of importance to the Book of Mormon studies discipline, Welch's 1969 BYU Studies article entitled "Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon" would almost certainly be #1.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Joseph's Seer Stone

The seer stone Joseph Smith used to translate most of the Book of Mormon has lain in a vault at Church headquarters for more than 100 years. Joseph gave it to Oliver Cowdery whose wife gave it to Phineas Young who gave it to his brother, Brigham. President Young announced publicly that he possessed one of Joseph's seer stones. It was a symbol of his legitimacy as the Prophet's successor. Following Brigham Young's death in 1877, the stone was included in the part of his estate controlled by his wife, Zina D.H. Young, who served as the third General President of the Relief Society from 1888 until her death in 1901. Sister Young donated the sacred relic to the Church. Wilford Woodruff in 1888 placed this stone on the altar of the Manti Temple as he pronounced its dedicatory prayer. The Church History Department has just published first-ever photos of the stone in the 11th volume of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Vol. 3 Part 1 of the Joseph Smith Papers Project
Edited by Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen
The stone:

One of Joseph Smith's Seer Stones
Eye witnesses to the Book of Mormon translation process described the stone as chocolate-colored and oval-shaped.
Joseph's Egg-shaped Seer Stone Viewed From the Side
This high grade foliated metamorphic rock is gneiss (pronounced 'nice'). Gneiss is characterized by pronounced striations called gneissic banding. Several varieties of gneiss are found in upstate New York where the prophet Joseph lived and worked. The regular shape and lustre of this remarkable specimen probably resulted from natural polishing in a streambed or underneath an advancing glacier. Joseph found this stone while digging a well.

Royal Skousen's methodical research on the original manuscript has shown that Joseph Smith saw approximately 20 - 30 words appear in English on the stone and dictated approximately 10 words at a time to his scribe. After the scribe (primarily Oliver Cowdery) wrote and read back each snippet of text, the display would refresh and different words would appear. Joseph spelled out the first occurrence of unusual proper names letter by letter. Joseph put his seer stone in a hat to exclude ambient light, making the words easier to read. For Jack Welch's insightful comments about Joseph's stone in his hat, see the blog article "English in the Book of Mormon."

Almaprophesied about this stone in his instructions to his son, Helaman1, ca. 73 BC Alma 37:23.

Friday, June 5, 2015

At Jerusalem

Dirt archaeology is expensive. Even a modest dig can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per field season with more required for lab work to analyze samples and artifacts. Institutions sponsor most projects. Occasionally a generous soul comes along who is willing to privately fund excavation out of an altruistic motivation to advance scientific knowledge. I have met three such noble individuals.
  • Tim Tucker sponsors research at various sites in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
  • Joe V. Andersen funds excavation in the department of Baja Verapaz, Guatemala.
  • Alan Rudd supports field work at the Beit Lehi site about 35 kilometers SW of Jerusalem.
All three men have an admirable sense of mission arising from a deep personal and spiritual connection to the lands they study. All bristle at cavalier scholarly criticism which they view as cheap shots enabled by the relatively facile act of putting pen to paper. In contrast, these hardy explorers are fully invested, having expended considerable time and private treasure probing the significance of their chosen sites.

Beit Lehi has gained some notoriety among students of the Nephite text as a candidate for the Judean home of Lehi, Sariah and their children. Many LDS scholars, led by Jeffrey R. Chadwick of the BYU religion faculty, debunk that idea as a myth. The crux of the issue lies in the interpretation of 1 Nephi 1:4 and 1 Nephi 1:7. The text says Lehi dwelt and owned a house "at Jerusalem." Does that mean the walled city proper or its environs round about? As we have found dozens of times before in dealing with geographic questions, the text on this point is clear and unequivocal. "At Jerusalem" in Nephite parlance meant in the land of Jerusalem and was not limited to the urban area in the capital city.

The phrase "at Jerusalem" occurs 19 times in the text:
1 Nephi 1:4 Lehi "dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days."
1 Nephi 1:7 After witnessing a pillar of fire upon a rock, Lehi "returned to his own house at Jerusalem."
1 Nephi 2:13 "The Jews who were at Jerusalem" sought to take away Lehi's life.
1 Nephi 5:4 Had Lehi not seen visions he would have "tarried at Jerusalem" and perished with his brethren. The Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in a series of military actions ca. 597 - 582 B.C.
The context for these passages is explained in Nephi's colophon: "The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem" and "Nephi taketh his brethren and returneth to the land of Jerusalem after the record of the Jews."
1 Nephi 19:13-14 In Nephi's gloss on Zenos, he explains that because they will crucify the Christ, the Jews "who are at Jerusalem" will be scourged by all people, wander in the flesh, perish, become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations. This is an accurate description of the Jewish diaspora and holocaust.
1 Nephi 19:20 explains that Nephi, like earlier prophets, saw in vision the destruction decreed "for those who are at Jerusalem." The Lord was merciful to Nephi, warning him to flee and avoid death. 1 Nephi 19:22, 2 Nephi 1:3 and Ether 13:7 all provide context. The land of Jerusalem was destroyed.
1 Nephi 22:3-4 Many in scattered Israel "are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem." The more part of the tribes will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations, and upon the isles of the sea.
2 Nephi 6:8 In Jacob's gloss on Isaiah, he explains that "those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive." After describing the Savior's mortal ministry and crucifixion, Jacob prophesies the Jewish diaspora, holocaust, and eventual return to "the lands of their inheritance." 2 Nephi 6:9-11.
2 Nephi 9:5 Jacob refers to prophecies that the Savior in his mortal ministry will "show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came."
2 Nephi 10:3-6 Jacob again speaks of the mortal ministry of the Savior among the Jews who are in the more wicked part of the world. He calls them "they at Jerusalem" and prophecies the Jewish diaspora at the hands of the Romans.
2 Nephi 25 is Nephi's plain explanation of Isaiah 2-14 which he has just quoted verbatim in 2 Nephi 12-24. Isaiah explicitly describes the parallel couplet "Judah and Jerusalem" 2 Nephi 12:1, 2 Nephi 13:1, 2 Nephi 13:8, 2 Nephi 15:3 as does Malachi 3 Nephi 24:4. Isaiah refers to "their land" 2 Nephi 12:7-8 and "whole Palestina." 2 Nephi 24:29-31. Isaiah also rhythmically couples Zion and Jerusalem 2 Nephi 14:3-4. 2 Nephi 20:12, 2 Nephi 20:322 Nephi 20:36-37. Nephi's plain descriptions of Isaiah's referents include:
Alma 7:10 could hardly be more explicit. Bethlehem was "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers."
Bethlehem 7 Kilometers South of the City of Jerusalem
Alma 11:4 Mormon says the Nephites used a different measure of stored value than "the Jews who were at Jerusalem."
Helaman 16:18 refers to the mortal ministry of the Savior "unto them who shall be at Jerusalem." Helaman 16:19 clarifies that the geographic referent is "the land of Jerusalem."
3 Nephi 10:5 The risen Lord compares "ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem" with the fallen Nephites and Lamanites.
3 Nephi 15:14 The risen Lord tells the Nephites that knowledge of them was withheld from "your brethren at Jerusalem." In the following verse the Lord again refers to "them" who are in "the land."
3 Nephi 16:4 The risen Lord says "my people at Jerusalem" are "they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry." Earlier in the passage He describes the geographic referent as "the land of Jerusalem." 3 Nephi 16:1.
3 Nephi 17:8 The risen Lord perceives that the Nephites wanted to see the same healing miracles He had "done unto your brethren at Jerusalem."
4 Nephi 1:31 "The Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus." Conspiracy against the Savior is attested as early as Matthew 12:14, Mark 3:6, and Luke 6:11.
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Close reading of all 19 occurrences of the phrase "at Jerusalem" in the text shows a consistent pattern. "At Jerusalem" among the Nephites meant in the land of Jerusalem and environs. It was not limited to the capital city itself. This does not mean Beit Lehi was the ancestral home of Lehi and his family, but it means Beit Lehi could have been Lehi's home, contra Chadwick.
Beit Lehi Relative to Bethlehem, Jerusalem 
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In a conversation with John W. Welch on Thursday, June 18, 2015, he indicated that the Semitic phrase translated into English as "at Jerusalem" connotes "near Jerusalem" and clearly does not imply a location within the city proper.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Light from L.A.

On April 10 - 11, 2015, luminaries from the worldwide fellowship of Mayanists gathered on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles CSULA for a significant conference in honor of Linda Schele (1942 - 1998). Entitled "In the Realm of the Vision Serpent: Decipherments and Discoveries in Mesoamerica, A Symposium in Homage to Linda Schele", the gathering featured presentations from such noted scholars as:
Scholars not on the program but referred to regularly included Nikolai Grube, Stephen D. Houston, David H. Kelley (1924 - 2011), Simon Martin and William Saturno. All were colleagues, students, or friends of Linda Schele. Peter Mathews is the only surviving member of the group of three [Floyd Lounsbury (1914 - 1998), Linda Schele (1942 - 1998), Peter Matthews] whose collaboration led to the magic moment at the first Palenque Roundtable in December, 1973, when modern Mayan decipherment really began. The three identified the names of 8 Palenque rulers in 3 hours and the world has never looked back. In 1984 Matthews was named a MacArthur Fellow and received one of the so-called "genius grants." David Stuart was also named a MacArthur Fellow in 1984 when he was only 18 years old, the youngest person ever to receive the award.

Freidel, Mathews, and Miller co-authored books with Schele:
The Blood of Kings, 1986, Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller
A Forest of Kings, 1990, Linda Schele and David Freidel
Maya Cosmos, 1993, David Freidel, Linda Schele, Joy Parker
Hidden Faces of the Maya, 1997, Linda Schele and Jorge Perez de Lara
The Code of Kings, 1998, Linda Schele and Peter Mathews

Everyone had their Linda Schele story to tell. Many presenters said it almost felt like they were back in Austin at Linda's famed Maya Meetings. Video clips of interviews with Schele directed by David Lebrun were interspersed between presentations. Schele signed off on Christenson's PhD dissertation on her deathbed. Stuart was at Palenque on April 18, 1998, the day she died of pancreatic cancer. He planted a ceiba tree in her honor on the plaza in front of the Temple of the Inscriptions. Her remains are interred on a hillside overlooking Lake Atitlan.

An overtone of spirituality pervaded the conference. Aguilar-Moreno was a Catholic priest in Mexico when he began to study with Schele. Her prophetic counsel to him shortly before her death led to his remarkable legacy as an art historian in Los Angeles, including the 2015 conference. There was a time in her life when Schele recognized she was addicted to alcohol. Her journey to sobriety was a spiritual one. When she knew she had only weeks to live, she said, "I am going to become an ancestor" and she seemed to genuinely relish the prospect. David Stuart gave a powerful presentation about the Maya pantheon and suggested that contemporary humans could benefit greatly by learning to think like the Maya thought with the physical and spiritual worlds inextricably intertwined. The vision serpent, for whom the conference was named, was a source of spiritual enlightenment among the Maya.
Vision Serpent from Yaxchilan Lintel 15
Now in the British Museum
After the presentations on Friday, attendees viewed an excellent museum exhibit entitled "Eternal Realms of Revelry: The MAW Collection of Pre-Columbian Art" curated by John M.D. Pohl. Pohl had the same problem museologists all over the world face when dealing with antiquities. Some of the best pieces were looted, offered for sale on the global art market, and acquired by private collectors, so their provenience will be forever tentative.
Teotihuacan-style Ceramic Vessel
I will not summarize the conference proceedings. There was simply too much material presented. I will, however, highlight some data points potentially relevant to the Book of Mormon.

1. Palenque is the most important site in the Maya world.
Palenque is the lodestone. David Freidel.
The Tablet of the Foliated Cross from Palenque depicts death and resurrection, themes of utmost importance to the Maya. Allen Christenson.
Piers B & E from the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, show the god K'awiil being cradled as an infant. The Dumbarton Oaks Tablet from Palenque shows Lord Pakal as a diminutive K'awiil. Jennifer Scheper Hughes, UC Riverside. Some Palenque rulers are shown with an infant K'awiil. David Stuart.
Pakal died as the maize god, K'awiil. He is then shown rising up the life tree. Mary Miller.
God L, the merchant, is represented at Palenque. Andrew Turner, UC Riverside.
Palenque was a society built around art. It was a society where art was central to the existence of the society. We use science to explain reality. Palenque was a society where art explained reality. Linda Schele.
"In 1973 at the mesa redonda (round table) Floyd Lounsbury, Peter Mathews and I deciphered the names of 8 Palenque kings in 3 hours. That was the moment when we began to read Mayan." Linda Schele.
"On my first visit to Palenque, I could sense this site was an especially powerful source of the sacred." Linda Schele. Palenque is noted for the high quality of its glyphic texts.
Some of the figurines found on Jaina Island actually came from Palenque. Mary Miller.
Complex poetical devices such as chiasmus are found in the Popol Vuh and in Mayan texts from Palenque. Jamie Lynn, Texas Tech.
The Palenque cross group (Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Foliated Cross, Temple of the Sun) are the most important structures in Mesoamerica. David Stuart.
Triadic gods (G1, G2, G3) are found at Palenque and Caracol. David Stuart.
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Book of Mormon connection 1 a. According to the geographic model developed since 2011 in this blog, Palenque was in the local land of Zarahemla, the Nephite culture core. V. Garth Norman was the first to publish this correlation in 2006.

1 b. Death and resurrection were themes of utmost importance to the Nephites. They appear dozens of times in the Book of Mormon Alma 11:42, Mosiah 15:21.

1 c. Jesus Christ's infancy is attested in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 11:20.

1 d. Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon asked men to become like him, to develop god-like attributes 3 Nephi 12:48.

1 e. The tree of life is amply attested in the Book of Mormon Alma 5:34.

1 f. Merchants were prominent in Nephite life 3 Nephi 6:11.

1 g. The records kept by Nephite scribes were an especially powerful source of the sacred 4 Nephi 1:48.

1 h. Complex poetical devices such as chiasmus are found in the Book of Mormon Alma 36.

1 i. For many years the temple at Zarahemla was the most important structure in the Nephite world Mosiah 1:18.

1 j. A triad of gods is mentioned prominently in the Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 11:27.

2. Maya writing is art.
What was said was controlled by tradition. Couplets, triplets and other forms of expression were the real Maya art forms. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 2 a. What was said in the Book of Mormon was controlled by tradition. The text is highly regular in its phraseology. See the blog article "English in the Book of Mormon," particularly the synopsis of Royal Skousen's presentation.

2 b. Couplets, triplets and other forms of expression are the Nephite art forms that have endured to our day. The Book of Mormon is so rich in parallelism that a new edition was published to highlight its literary structures. See Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns (Provo: FARMS, 1992, 2002).

3. History is treasure.
History is a precious gift.It provides identity, resilience, examples of how to cope. Without the past we don't know who we are. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 3 a. The Book of Mormon is a precious gift of great worth to the Lamanites 2 Nephi 28:2.

3 b. The Book of Mormon informs Lamanites of their identity Mormon 7:2.

3 c. The Book of Mormon has examples of resilience, of how to cope in difficult situations 3 Nephi 6:14.

4. Science is the method.
Gather data, wait for it to pattern, and when it patterns follow it wherever it wants to go. Let the data drive the model. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 4. This blog is a reasonably good example of letting the data drive the model. Its approach to the text is highly empirical and data-driven.

5. Humanity is the goal.
To understand humans, we need to understand the New World. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 5. The Book of Mormon champions the Western Hemisphere among the nations of the world 2 Nephi 29:12-13.

6. Directional cardinality. The Maya and the Olmec before them conceived of a quadrilateral heaven and a quadrilateral earth, each with four sides and four corners, all oriented to the cardinal directions.
Throughout the Maya world we see a four part cosmology, four cardinal directions, and four year bearers. There is a four fold organization of space and time. Julia Guernsey.
West was associated with the color black. Kawak years brought warfare & drought. South was associated with the color yellow and Kan years.East was associated with the color red and Muluk years. Gabrielle Vail.
Among the Ch'orti' the infernal world has four corners oriented to the four cardinal directions with the fifth cardinal direction being the navel, heart, or center. In each of the four directions is a sea. The white sea is represented by milk, the red sea by blood. A fifth sea lies at the center. Hull's diagram of the five seas was a classic quincunx with four points laid out like a cross and a fifth at the center.
Ch'orti' Conception of the World of Spirits
A square milpa (cornfield) represents cosmic space. The Ch'orti' dig a hole in the center of a milpa. The world has four or five pillars and four portals. East and west are the primary points of entry. In their travels, spirits follow the sun. Kerry M. Hull, BYU. For another example of four seas at the four cardinal directions with a fifth sea at the center, see the blog article "Quichean Directionality."
Symbols 19 - 22 of the Cascajal Block have recently been interpreted as motifs representing the four cardinal directions and the sun's path as it crosses the sky.
Cascajal Block with Symbols 19-22 Highlighted
Similar symbols appear in directional contexts in classic Maya art. La Venta is oriented 8 degrees west of north to align with the principal 30 meter high mound shaped like an artificial volcano . Celsiana Gera, UCLA.
Izapa is oriented 21 degrees east of north, but a secondary alignment is 8 degrees west of north to align with Tacana and Tajumulco, the two tallest volcanoes in Central America, which dominate the horizon. V. Garth Norman, BYU.
The Initial Series Group, south of the main Chichen Itza site, is oriented north, south, east and west. Karl Taube.
Teotihuacan is oriented 15 degrees east of north. An azimuth plotted from the Temple of the Sun to the Temple of the Moon is oriented 2 degrees east of north. The city is laid out on a true grid pattern with the east west axes perpendicular to the north south vectors. Matthew H. Robb, de Young Museum. Vincent H. Malmstrom demonstrated in his Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: The Calendar in Mesoamerican Civilization (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997) that Teotihuacan's alignment is based on the August 13th sunset point viewed from the Pyramid of the Sun. August 13th is the day the Maya calendar began. August 13th is one of two solar zenith passage days at Izapa (14.8 degrees north latitude) when the sun casts no shadow at high noon.
La Venta was a four directional symbol of the earth's surface. A four directional diagram of the world with a center was typical of Olmec art. The world tree, four directions, earth platform and sacred mountain are standard Mesoamerican motifs. Carolyn Tate.
Chichen Itza shows the Maya idea of solar-based four directions defining a quadripartite earth's surface. The center was the fifth direction. Cenote Holtun at Chichen Itza has a four-sided opening oriented to the four cardinal directions. This opening is oriented so the sun shines into the cenote on solar zenith passage days. The opening is thus a zenith sight tube. Francesca Vega, Texas Tech.
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Book of Mormon connection 6. There are six Book of Mormon geographers whose work I consider serious. They are, in order of publication:
  • John L. Sorenson 1985, 2013
  • F. Richard Hauck 1988
  • Joseph L. Allen & Blake J. Allen 1989, 2008
  • Aric Turner 2004
  • V. Garth Norman 2006
  • Kirk Magleby (this blog) 2011
Five of the six interpret the words "north, south, east, and west" in the Book of Mormon text to mean the four solar, lunar and Venus-based cardinal directions used by most cultures on earth. John L. Sorenson introduces his own system of directionality in an attempt to justify his placement of Nephite lands and cities in the Central Depression of Chiapas and along the western Gulf of Campeche. Every data point that came to my attention during the April 10, 11 Cal State L.A. symposium supports four Mesoamerican astral-based cardinal directions. Nothing presented in my earshot supports Sorenson's fringe interpretation. For more data supporting the mainstream interpretation of Book of Mormon directions see the blog articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten," "Test #5 North South East and West," and "Quichean Directionality."

7. Maya descendants. Linda Schele made it a priority to bring living Maya to the Maya Meetings in Austin. In their texts, the Maya are speaking to their posterity, not to us. Allen J. Christenson.
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Book of Mormon connection 7. In their texts, the Nephites are speaking to their posterity and to us Mormon 5:10.

8. Polity founding. El Peru, aka Waka, was founded ca. 100 B.C. It was conquered in the fourth century and again in the seventh century. David Friedel.
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Book of Mormon connection 8 a. In the Book of Mormon model elaborated in this blog, El Peru is just a few kilometers north of the Nephite land of Sidom.
El Peru aka Waka near the Proposed Land of Sidom
Since Almafounded a church in the land of Sidom ca. 81 B.C. Alma 15:13, the land at that time was probably newly-settled by the Nephites. A 100 B.C. date for the beginning of El Peru works well with our current concept of Nephite settlement in this area.

8 b. Nephite annals record a major war in this region beginning in the fourth century A.D. Mormon 1:10.

9. Dave Kelley. David H. Kelley and Linda Schele were good friends. Peter Matthews was Kelley's student at the University of Calgary, as was Marc Zender.
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Book of Mormon connection 9. John L. Sorenson cites David H. Kelley often. See Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book pp. 111, 180, and 222-223. Kelley was much more open to the likelihood of trans-oceanic migrations than most other Mesoamericanists, a trait that endeared him to Sorenson. Kelley proposed a relationship between the letters of the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet and the 20 Mayan day names. Stephen C. Compton took Kelley's thesis and developed it further. See the blog article "Book Notice - Exodus Lost by Stephen C. Compton." Compton cites Kelley as he lays out a strong case for Olmec origins in Hyksos Egypt.

10. Cerros. Material symbol systems were elaborated at Cerro Maya (aka Cerros near the mouth of the New River in Belize). David Friedel. Cerros reached apogee in the late preclassic. Ceremonial architecture began about 50 B.C. Structure 5C-2nd contains stucco mask reliefs depicting the hero twins from the Popol Vuh.
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Book of Mormon connection 10. In our Book of Mormon model, Cerros is the city of Mulek just south of the city of Bountiful on the Nephite east coast. Joseph L. Allen suggested this correlation in 1989.
Proposed City of Mulek on the Nephite East Sea
The Book of Mormon says Mulek was settled in the first century B.C.as part of the wave of Nephite expansion that pushed the boundaries of the greater land of Zarahemla east to the sea Alma 51:26. See the blog articles "Expansion of the Nephite Nation," "Sidon East then West," and "Captain Moroni in Space and Time." Mulek did not remain in Nephite hands for more than a few decades. It is last mentioned in the Book of Mormon ca. 30 B.C. Helaman 5:15.

11. Winged Deities. Izapa Stela 4 depicts Itzamna, the creator deity, transformed into a bird with wings. Kaminaljuyu Stela 11 shows rulers dressed as birds. Heather Hurst's drawings of the San Bartolo murals show a twisted serpent bird - Itzamna's avian alter-ego. Justin Kerr's K3413 image shows Itzamna with the wings of a bird. This is the avian Itzamna. Julia Guernsey. The Olmec portray a sky serpent. Jesse Nowak, Texas State.
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Book of Mormon connection 11. The Nephite text describes a deity with wings 2 Nephi 25:13 symbolized by a serpent 2 Nephi 25:20.

12. Solar Deities. Itzama, the creator god, and the maize gods were associated with the east and the sun. Gabrielle Vail.
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Book of Mormon connection 12. The Nephite creator god was associated with the east 1 Nephi 21:13 and the sun 1 Nephi 1:9.

13. Rain. The annual world renewal ceremony in the spring among the Maya is attested in the Dresden (D25-28), Madrid (M34-37) and Paris Codices. Gabrielle Vail. The purpose of the world renewal ceremony was to bring life-giving rains. Easter is now celebrated as the world renewal ceremony in the Guatemalan Highlands. Allen Christenson. May is when the rainy season generally begins in most of southern Mesoamerica.
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Book of Mormon connection 13. The Nephites recorded an instance when divine aid was required to bring life-giving rains at the appropriate season Helaman 11:17.

14. Raised tree. As part of the annual world renewal ceremony, the ancient Maya raised a world tree and made offerings to it. Gabrielle Vail. World trees are called Itzam trees. Itzam trees helped the dry reason transition to the rainy season Dresden Codex 25c. In contemporary Guatemala, the world tree has now become the cross raised at the end of holy week. Anciently a turkey was decapitated to nourish the world tree with its blood Dresden Codex 26c. Modern Maya water their raised cross with turkey blood. Allen Christenson.
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Book of Mormon connection 14. The four motifs of raising 1 Nephi 11:33, tree 1 Nephi 11:25, cross 1 Nephi 11:33, and blood 1 Nephi 12:10-11 are conjoined in the Nephite record as well 3 Nephi 27:14, 19.

15. Cradling. The San Bartolo murals dated ca. 100 B.C. show an infant maize deity being cradled. Cradling as a devotional posture or ritual embrace is depicted on Olmec monuments from La Venta, Las Limas, and Rio Pesquero. Jennifer Scheper Hughes. The Las Limas Monument depicts the infant maize deity at the center of a four-sided world with four cosmic corners. J. Grant Stauffer, Texas State.
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Book of Mormon connection 15. Nephi saw in vision the infant Christ being cradled 1 Nephi 11:20.

16. Spiritual media. The Ch'orti' Maya associate spirits with fire and water. This makes a lake in the caldera of a volcano a spiritually active place. Kerry Hull.
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Book of Mormon connection 16. The spirit is associated with fire Helaman 5:45, 3 Nephi 9:20 and with water 1 Nephi 13:12-13, Mosiah 18:12-14 in the Nephite text.

17. Spiritual healing. Among the Ch'orti' healing consists of sweeping away evil spirits. The wind god can sweep away evil spirits. Kerry Hull.
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Book of Mormon connection 17. The Nephites, too, associated healing with casting out evil spirits 1 Nephi 11:31, 3 Nephi 7:22.

18. Traders. The maize god is a hero. God L, a trader, is a toothless, cigar-smoking villain who has access to wealth. The maize god and god L are in eternal conflict. They represent two great forces of power - settled agriculturists and traders. Mary Miller.
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Book of Mormon connection 18. Nephite scribes lionized settled agriculturists 1 Nephi 18:24, Mosiah 6:7 and vilified traders Mosiah 24:7, 4 Nephi 1:46.

19. Ditto. Doubling dots on Mayan glyphs mean "ditto." Marc Zender.
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Book of Mormon connection 19. There are several places in the text where repetitive phrasing implies the use of a "ditto" character or linguistic function 3 Nephi 2:4, 3 Nephi 5:7.

20. Los Horcones and Fraccion Mujular have Teotihuacan influence in the early classic period. Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers.
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Book of Mormon connection 20. The geographic model developed in this blog since 2011 plots the fortified line described in Helaman 4:7 through the site of Los Horcones. Ric Hauck was the first to propose this correlation in 1988.
Cerro Bernal Sites in Context with Proposed Nephite Locations
We believe Mormon led the Nephites in this area during the early classic period. The Nephite demise was probably due to pressure from Lamanites in the land southward allied with Teotihuacan forces coming from the north and the west.

21. Cacaxtla and its predecessor site, Xochitecatl 1 kilometer to the west, are in southern Tlaxcala in Central Mexico. Cacaxtla is well-known for its colorful murals painted in Maya style. Maya art and iconography 500 kilometers from traditional Maya territory makes Cacaxtla an outlier and something of an enigma. Ceremonial architecture began at Xochitecatl ca. 800 B.C. Occupation at the site was continuous until ca. A.D. 150 when an eruption of the volcano Popocatepetl 38 kilometers to the southwest forced its abandonment. Settlement at Cacaxtla began ca. A.D. 400. Cacaxtla reached apogee ca. A.D. 650 - 900. God L, the aged toothless Maya merchant surrounded by luxury textiles, jade, and jewels, is represented prominently at the site as he is at Palenque and sites in Campeche. Stylistic analysis of the Cacaxtla murals evidence strong cultural affinities with the Tabascan coast. Cacaxtla was also closely connected with Cholula 21 kilometers to the south.Cacaxtla rose to prominence as a long-distance trading center importing luxury goods from the tropics into Central Mexico after the fall of Teotihuacan. The Maya influences at Cacaxtla came from Yaxchilan and the Chontal cities along the Gulf Coast such as Xicalango, Potonchan, and Ahualulco. Andrew Turner, UC Riverside.
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Book of Mormon connection 21 a. Lists of luxury goods in the text include textiles among other precious things 1 Nephi 13:7-8, Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17. The Maya depiction of God L features costly clothing.

21 b. Yaxchilan we correlate with the land of Melek. Xicalango, Potonchan and Ahualulco we correlate with the central part of land Bountiful.
Cacaxtla in Context with Proposed Book of Mormon Lands
We know that the war begun near the local land of Zarahemla ca. A.D. 322 Mormon 1:10 eventually drove the Nephites into the land northward with the Lamanites in pursuit. That some of those Lamanites could have migrated to Cacaxtla ca. A.D. 400 following the annihilation of the Nephite nation ca. A.D. 385 in the land of Cumorah is not unreasonable. The white line on the map above is the principal modern highway linking Mexico City, Distrito Federal, with Minatitlan, Veracruz. This route has been a trade and travel corridor since Olmec times.

22. The Cascajal Block was discovered near San Lorenzo in 1998. Some considered it an example of Olmec writing. That idea is now largely discredited. It is generally accepted that the Cascajal Block is a series of ideograms where each pictorial element represents a concept. The 62 graphemes include animal pelts, open and closed divining bags, maize ears, jade celts, etc. Aztec-Nahuatl and Mixtec are other systems considered primarily ideographic in nature (although some proper names do have phonetic components). There are three scripts known from Mesoamerica that likely qualify as phonetic writing systems. Mayan is well-known. The others are Zapotec and Isthmian (La Mojarra). F. Kent Reilly, III.
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Book of Mormon connection 22. The Nephites had a writing system Mormon 9:32-33 which the Lamanites adopted Mosiah 24:6. The Jaredites also had a writing system Mosiah 8:9 which ordinary Nephites could not read Mosiah 21:27-28, Mosiah 28:11-13. So, the Book of Mormon attests multiple writing systems. If our geographical correlations are correct, the Nephites and Lamanites prior to ca. 55 B.C. lived primarily in the land southward Alma 63:4 which is Maya territory. The Jaredites lived primarily in the land northward Ether 10:21 which is Olmec territory.

23. Birth privilege. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of identity, legitimacy, and right to property. Jesse Nowak.
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Book of Mormon connection 23 a. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of identity among the Nephites Alma 10:3, Mormon 8:13.

23 b. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of legitimacy to rule among the Lehites 2 Nephi 5:3, Mosiah 10:15Mosiah 25:13.

23 c. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of right to property among the Nephites Mosiah 10:16Mosiah 11:6, Mosiah 11:13, Mosiah 19:26.

24. Avian serpent wind deity. Ehecatl - Quetzalcoatl is a duck-billed post-classic wind god. The plumed serpent wind god is a fisherman. Ehecatl is a man bird. The plumed serpent is a vision serpent that brings visions during blood letting. Yaxchilan has a duck-billed wind god. Seibal has a duck-billed wind god that is the origin of the central Mexican Ehecatl. San Bartolo depicts a duck-billed wind god. The Olmec had a duck-billed wind god. Ehecatl migrated from the Maya region into central Mexico at a late date. The bird man was born out of a cracked egg. The Madrid Codex shows a man emerging from a cracked egg. Ehecatl lives in a floral paradise. Codex Borgia shows birds diving into floral bowls. Karl Taube.
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Book of Mormon connection 24 a. Jesus Christ among the Nephites had avian characteristics 2 Nephi 4:25, 2 Nephi 25:13, 3 Nephi 10:4-6. 3 Nephi 25:2.

24 b. He was represented by a serpent 2 Nephi 25:20, Helaman 8:14-15.

24 c. Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon was also a wind god 1 Nephi 18:21, 2 Nephi 21:15, Ether 2:24.

25. Deity at the ball game. The Gulf Coast is the origin and home of the ball game. The ball game was used in the transfer of power, of political accession to high office. You get a cape and a baton as you accede ot the throne. Ehecatl, the duck-billed wind god, presides over the ball game. Rex Koontz.
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Book of Mormon connection 25. The Nephites invoked deity when they transferred power to a new ruler Mosiah 1:10, God himself appointed their new king Mosiah 2:4.

26, Wheels. Tres Zapotes Mounds E & F contained wheeled animal toys in child burial urns. Wheeled figurines were found in Tres Zapotes Trench 23. They are now in the (Matthew W.) Stirling Collection in the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian. Wheeled vehicles are on display in the Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa (MAX) Veracruz. Cherra Wyllie, SUNY FIT.
Wheeled Toy from Classic Veracruz Culture
MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
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Book of Mormon connection 26. The Nephite text mentions wheels in an Old World prophetic context 2 Nephi 15:28 quoting Isaiah 5:28. The word "cart" implies wheels in 2 Nephi 15:18 quoting Isaiah 5:18. Mention of horses and chariots in the New World Alma 18:9-12,  3 Nephi 3:22 means the Nephites and Lamanites used wheels.

27. Beards. Bearded figurines were found in Tres Zapotes, Veracruz Trench 20. Cherra Wyllie. A bearded figure came from Aguateca, Peten. Mary Miller.
National Geographic Society Photo of Olmec Head
Excavated by Matthew Stirling at Tres Zapotes
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Book of Mormon connection 27. Beards were endemic in the Old World cultures from which the Jaredites, Lehites and Mulekites emigrated. The word "beard" occurs in the Nephite text in an Old World context 2 Nephi 17:20 quoting Isaiah 7:20. Indigenous New World populations generally have scant if any facial hair and do not suffer from male pattern baldness. The thousands of beards depicted in pre-columbian art are therefore alien to known New World physiology. This anomaly is best explained by ancient bearded foreigners whose biological profile did not survive in the much larger Mesoamerican gene pool due to population bottlenecks. The Book of Mormon describes two such population bottlenecks: one ca. 400 B.C. when the Jaredite nation was annihilated in a massive civil war Omni 1:21-22 and another ca. A.D. 385 when the Lamanites destroyed the Nephites Mormon 8:7.

28. Distances. Jaina is famous for its figurines, but Jaina is a style rather than necessarily a place of origin. Figurines excavated from burials on Jaina Island actually came from Nopiloa, Santiago Tuxtla, Comalcalco, Jonuta, Los Guarixes, and Xcambo. They made their way to Jaina via long distance trade networks. Mary Miller. This map shows known origin sites of figurines found in Jaina burials.
Origin Sites of Jaina Figurines
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Book of Mormon connection 28. The 778 air kilometers from Nopiloa to Xcambo is similar to the distances we envision for Nephite and Lamanite fields of action. The distance from our proposed city of Nephi, Kaminaljuyu, to our proposed hill Ramah - Cumorah, Cerro El Vigia, is 664 air kilometers. The distance from our proposed city Bountiful, Bugambilas, to our proposed hill Ramah - Cumorah is 744 air kilometers. The distance from our proposed city of Moroni, Tiger Mound, to our proposed hill Ramah - Cumorah is 750 air kilometers.
Proposed Book of Mormon Cities Relative to Hill Cumorah
29. Slaves. Many female figurines represent captives or slaves. They are bound, they hold un-spun cotton, and they are depicted wearing the same dress that gets recycled over and over. Diego Duran (1537 - 1588) and Bernardino de Sahagun (1499 - 1590) wrote descriptions of slave markets that match what we see in the figurines. Slavery was much more common in ancient Mesoamerica that we have formerly realized. Self-determination was relatively rare. Mary Miller.
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Book of Mormon connection 29. Bondage and captivity are common themes in the text. Slavery was much more common in the Book of Mormon world than many have formerly realized.Mosiah 7:22, Mosiah 9:12, Alma 48:11, Alma 53:17. Self-determination was precious Mosiah 29:38, Alma 46:13.

30. Sovereignty. The Maya had their history and mental sovereignty taken away for 500 years. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 30. The text describes the seed of Lehi being driven and scattered Mormon 5:20, smitten 1 Nephi 13:14, besieged and brought low in the dust even that they are not 2 Nephi 26:15, cast out and trodden under feet 3 Nephi 16:8, and counted as naught Mormon 5:9.

31. Living Maya. Allen Christenson deserves special mention for his sensitive and caring work among the living Maya. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 31. Allen Christenson first developed his great love for the Maya while serving an LDS mission in Guatemala. Christenson's work partially fulfills 1 Nephi 22:8.

32. Reciprocity. The supernatural and human world co-exist and co-depend. Linda Schele.
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Book of Mormon connection 32. King Benjamin agrees Mosiah 2:21-22. So does AlmaAlma 5:15-16, Alma 42:5.

33. Parentage. There is a pattern in the way royal genealogies are recorded in the glyphs. The living ruler references the preceding ruler, usually his father, and a second person, usually his mother. The pattern can be generalized as person 1, relationship, person 2, relationship, person 3. The male/female order can change. The dynastic line goes from male to male, usually from father to son. Chris Jones first noticed this pattern in 1970 at Tikal. It is found at Yaxchilan, Palenque, Tikal, Naranjo, Piedras Negras, Dos Pilas, Copan, El Tortuguero, and Bonampak. Palenque shows a ruler flanked by his parents. Peter Matthews.
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Book of Mormon connection 33. Nephite scribes often introduce a new person as the son of his father Omni 1:10, Mosiah 7:9, Alma 10:2.

34. Egyptian analogues. Palenque and Yaxchilan are similar to Egypt in the sense that they had long dynastic king lists carved on public monuments that can be correlated with external timelines. Peter Matthews.
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Book of Mormon connection 34. If our geographic correlation is correct, Palenque and Yaxchilan are upstream on the Sidon from the swampy wilderness of Hermounts. Hugh W. Nibley said the term Hermounts was clearly derived from the Egyptian name of the swampy wilderness Per-month, Greek Hermonthis, modern Armant on the upper Nile just upstream from Thebes.
Palenque & Yaxchilan Relative to Proposed Wilderness of Hermounts
See the blog article "Hermounts." See also the Book of Mormon Onomasticon entry for "Hermounts." In the Onomasticon, Robert F.Smith and Paul Y. Hoskisson cite Lawrence L. Poulsen's speculation that Hermounts may be related to the Nahuatl Tehuantepec. That association does not hold up under scrutiny. See the blog article "Isthmuses" for an image of the Oaxacan hill the Aztecs named tecuani tepec and a discussion of the name's origin.

35. Rulers. With the well-established king lists from Palenque and Yaxchilan, 28 years is a good number for the average length of one generation. 28 years works well for Egyptian royal dynasties as well. 15 Maya rulers have both their birth and death dates recorded in the long count. More than 400 other rulers are mentioned, many with father-son relationships specified, but without complete long count dates recorded. Using the derived metric of 28 years per generation, we can infer dynastic dates in the king lists from other sites. This calculation has the Kanul (Kan) dynasty at Calakmul beginning ca. 393 B.C. and extending for 1,300 years with 58 rulers in 46 generations (46 X 28 = 1,288). It has the dynasty at Naranjo beginning ca. 200 B.C. This technique helps establish tentative dates for Nakbe, El Mirador, Dzibanche, Waka - El Peru, and Tikal in addition to Calakmul and Naranjo. Peter Matthews.
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Book of Mormon connection 35 a. We know the names of about 425 Maya rulers. We have birth and death dates recorded for 15, or about 3.5% of the total. We know the names of 207 people mentioned in the Book of Mormon text. We have enough information to establish birth and death dates for 4 of them (Alma1 ca. 173 - 91 B.C., Moronica. 99 - 56 B.C., Mosiahca. 154 - 91 B.C., and Jesus Chirst ca. 0 B.C. - A.D. 33), or about 1.9% of the total.

35 b. The inferred dynastic founding dates for Calakmul (ca. 393 B.C.) and Naranjo (ca. 200 B.C.) fall within Nephite times (ca. 592 B.C. - A.D. 385). Nephite chronology is a complex subject. See Randall P. Spackman, "The Jewish/Nephite Lunar Calendar" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 7 No. 1, 1998. For purposes of simplicity, this blog uses the approximate dates published as footnotes in the LDS 1981, 2013 editions of the text.

35 c. When we look at inter generational longevity, the Book of Mormon is not even in the same ballpark as the 28 years per generation number that works so well at Maya sites. Our data comes from John W. Welch, "Longevity of Book of Mormon People and the 'Age of Man'" in The Journal of Collegium Aesculapium, Vol. 3 (1985) and John W. Welch & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon, (Provo: FARMS, 1999). Four genealogies are among those recorded in the text.
  • Lehi's Lineage. If we estimate Lehi's birth ca. 655 B.C. and Amaleki's death ca. 138 B.C. the text records 7 generations spanning 517 years for an average length of 74 years/generation.
  • Mosiah's Lineage. If we estimate Mosiah's birth ca. 230 B.C. and take his grandson Mosiah's known death ca. 91 B.C. the text records 3 generations spanning 139 years for an average length of 46 years/generation.
  • Alma's Lineage. If we take Alma's known birth ca. 173 B.C. and then estimate Ammaron's death ca. A.D. 320 the text records 9 generations spanning 493 years for an average of 55 years/generation.
  • Jaredite chronology is complicated by uncertainty around the Tower of Babel date. Believing scholars place it as early as 3,100 B.C. or as late as 2,200 B.C. Estimates for the date of the Jaredite civil war of annihilation on Hill Ramah - Cumorah range from 550 B.C. to about 200 B.C. This blog generally uses a 400 B.C. date for the Jaredite demise. Students of the text agree that the book of Ether records 30 generations from Jared through the prophet Ether, although some chronological lacunae may be implied by the word "descendant" which occurs 3 times in the king list Ether 1. A maximum longevity would estimate the Tower of Babel ca. 3,100 B.C. and the Jaredite collapse ca. 200 B.C. for an elapsed length of 2,900 years. Dividing 2,900 years by 30 generations equals an average length of 97 years/generation. A minimum longevity would estimate the Tower of Babel ca. 2,200 B.C. and the Jaredite collapse ca. 550 B.C. for an elapsed length of 1,650 years. Dividing 1,650 years by 30 generations equals an average length of 55 years/generation.
Welch offers several additional ideas that could help explain the extraordinarily long-lived generations recorded in the Book of Mormon.
  • Nephite years may have had only 360 days rather than the 365.25 days that approximate a solar year.
  • Some elderly fathers chose younger sons, even youngest sons, as their successors. This is explicit in Ether 7:3, Ether 7:7, Ether 7:26, Ether 9:14, and Ether 10:13-14. Favoring younger sons may have been a cultural proclivity among the  Lehites based on Lehi - Nephi and reminiscent of Jacob - Joseph. The practice would have reduced the likelihood of an older son usurping his father's throne prematurely. 
  • Some men mentioned in the text lived very long lives. Jacob and Enos both lived to be about 95 and Enos was probably born when his father, Jacob, was in his late 70's. Amos was probably about 20 when he took responsibility for the plates and he kept the records for 84 years 4 Nephi 1:10, which means he lived to be about 104. Amos was probably born ca. A.D. 90 when his father was at least 60. Amos, son of Amos, was probably born ca. A.D. 174 when his father was in his 80's. Amosand his brother, Ammaron, both lived to be about 129 years of age. The longest-lived person mentioned in the text, Coriantum, died at age 142 Ether 9:24 after outliving his first wife and then marrying a young maid.
  • Polygamy was more common among the Nephites Jacob 1:15, Mosiah 11:2 than it was among the Lamanites Jacob 3:5.
  • Some kings in the record did not begin having children until they were older. King Benjamin, for example, was in his late 30's when his first son was born. 
  • The words "son" and "brother" may have more expansive meanings than we currently assume. The word "grandson" never appears in the text and the word "nephew" only occurs as a concept 2 Nephi 24:22. See Genesis 29:10-15 for two examples where "brother" actually means "nephew." Biologically, Laban was Jacob's uncle and Rachel his first cousin. 
  • The terse language in 4 Nephi may be Mormon's attempt to shoe horn his history into the 400 year and 4 generation prophetic paradigm foretold by Alma2 Alma 45:10-12 and Samuel the Lamanite Helaman 13:9-10. Language such as 4 Nephi 1:18 and 4 Nephi 1:22 implies Mormon was not counting the next generation until the previous generation had practically all died off.  
On the other hand, looking at the Zeniff colony in the land of Nephi, Zeniff became king ca. 200 B.C. Mosiah 9 and his grandson Limhi re-united with the Nephites in Zarahemla ca. 120 B.C. Mosiah 22. Here we have 3 kings who reigned for about 80 years for an average of 27 years/generation which works well with Peter Matthews' rule of thumb. Furthermore, among the 3, Zeniff died of natural causes, Noah was violently killed, and Limhi abdicated the throne after his kingdom came under the control of a stronger polity. All 3 scenarios occurred in the often turbulent Maya world.

Applying this same formula to Mosiah1's lineage yields results somewhat closer to Matthews' norm. Analysis of Omni 1:23 indicates that Mosiah1 acceded to the throne ca. 210 B.C. Mosiah2 would have anointed his son, Aaron, king shortly after his plebiscite on the matter Mosiah 29:2, so ca. 92 B.C. becomes our end date. 118 elapsed years divided by 3 generations yields an average length of 39 years/generation. Had Mosiah2 transferred power to Aaron ca. 92 B.C., Mosiah2's reign would have lasted for 32 years Mosiah 29:46. Mosiah1 probably reigned for at least 51 years which means Benjamin was likely king for about 35 years.

The reign of the judges during the years of the Nephite republic are quite another matter. Almawas appointed first chief judge ca. 91 B.C. Mosiah 29:42. Lachoneuswas assassinated ca. A.D. 30 3 Nephi 7:1. 13 chief judges served over a 121 year span for an average tenure of 9 years. The judgeship often passed from father to son Alma 50:39, Helaman 3:37 but a normal inter generational succession pattern never developed because 6 of the 13 chief judges were either killed by invaders Helaman 1:21 or assassinated in office Helaman 1:9, Helaman 6:15.

36. Toponyms. Emblem glyph place names first appear in the texts ca. 150 B.C. Carolyn Tate.
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Book of Mormon connection 36. The first location in the greater land of Zarahemla appears in the Nephite record ca. 200 B.C. Omni 1:12.

37. Coatzacoalcos. Ann Ciphers has documented 32 archaeological sites along the Coatzacoalcos. One of those is El Manati oriented on the San Martin/Santa Martha volcanic peaks 90 kilometers distant. Jordann Davis, Texas Tech.
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Book of Mormon connection 37 a. In our geographic model, the Coatzacoalcos forms a major part of the boundary between the lands northward and southward.

37 b. San Martin/Santa Martha volcanoes are in the Tuxtlas which we correlate with the land of Cumorah. As you drive along Mexican federal highway 145D Santa Martha stands out prominently on the horizon. This prominence when viewed from a distance makes it a candidate for Hill Ramah - Cumorah.
Coatzacoalcos Sites & Tuxtlas Mountains
38. Man Tree. The Xiu Family Tree from western Yucatan shows a man with a tree growing from his body. This man, and the woman nearby, wear symbols of the four cardinal directions plus the center on their apparel. This drawing was done in colonial times based on earlier Mayan glyphic and pictographic sources. Francesca Vega, Texas Tech.
Man Tree from Xiu Family Papers, Mani,Yucatan
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Book of Mormon connection 38. Lehiused a tree to symbolize people 1 Nephi 10:14 as did Jacob quoting Zenos Jacob 5:3. Alma 33:23 describes an anthropomorphic tree growing inside one's body.

39. Heartlands. Mesoamerica consists of heartlands and hinterlands or periphery. The heartlands are Central Mexico, Olman (the Olmec Heartland), the Maya Lowlands, the Valley of Oaxaca, the Soconusco and the Maya Highlands. These areas were central to the development of classical Mesoamerican civilization. Other regions were periphery. The paradigm of the periphery states that people erected big stelae in the center or heartland and small stelae in the hinterlands. F. Kent Reilly, III.
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Book of Mormon connection 39. The geographic model developed in this blog locates Book of Mormon events primarily in the various heartlands. Blank spots on our Book of Mormon map include Yucatan, the Gulf of Campeche, the Central Depression of Chiapas, the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, Western Mexico and the Northern Gulf Coast, all of which Reilly considers hinterlands.
Heartlands in White, Black Pins are Hinterlands
Now we overlay our proposed Book of Mormon lands.
Proposed Book of Mormon Lands in Various Colors
If our Book of Mormon geographic correlation is accurate, areas that were peripheral to the development of classical Mesoamerican civilization were also peripheral to the polities described in the Nephite text. The degree of fit is quite remarkable.

40. Maya gods. David Stuart is perhaps world's greatest living Mayanist. His specialties include Copan, Palenque, Piedras Negras and San Bartolo with emphasis on Palenque. Maya religion is a true theology - ordered and systematic. The Maya said they had 8,000 gods. That is their metric. It is like saying "innumerable gods." For decades Maya scholarship has ignored religion. That is like trying to understand the Greeks without philosophy. We talk about gods A, B, C, D, E, G, K, L, M and O from the Dresden Codex. B is Chac, god of rain and storms. C is god in general. E is the maize god. K is K'awiil.
Maya gods can be classified into four categories:
  • K'uh is God with a capital G. He is holy, the sun, the brilliance of the heavens. K'uh is the word for sun. San Bartolo shows the origin of K'uh in a mural. Divine power is portrayed as wafting scrolls. There is an aura of wafting scrolls. 
  • K'awiil is East West North & South - all four cardinal directions. K'awiil winik or K'awiil person can be an effigy of K'awiil, but it can never capture the essence of K'awiil. K'awiil is never depicted in narrative circumstances. His is a generic or abstract idea of power. He is the force of lightning, a powerful spirit. K'awiil refers to other beings, both divine and human. At Yaxchilan a new king conjures the K'awiil of war.
  • Wahy are demonic beings, spooks. They are not natural. Animals and other transformers represent them. They are the animate forms of diseases. They are the ik blak underworld gods, the death gods. A mosquito can be Wahy. Chac can be Wahy. They represent institutionalized sorcery, the dark side of Maya kingship.
  • Win(i)kiil winiq (Winkil) are sacred beings, divine persona. They have human or semi-human form. They are special persons, abstracted persons.The name is related to the Chorti winkir which is an owner of power, a supernatural patron.
Triads of gods appear at Palenque and Naranjo - G1, G2, & G3. We see different sets of gods at different sites.They are triadic in form but different gods. The triad has a late preclassic origin. We have no name for Palenque G1 yet. He has both K'uh and Winkil attributes.

There are heavenly gods and earthly gods. This dualism is all through Copan. A vessel from Copan has the inscription "8,000 heavenly gods and 8,000 earthly gods."

Gods had personal connections to royals. Rulers had patron gods. Kings could become gods.

There is a vase of the 7 gods and a vase of the 11 gods, both from Naranjo. The list of gods was ordered at the beginning of the long count. The sun god is part of a set of 9 deities. David Stuart.
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Book of Mormon connection 40 a. The Nephite religion as described in their text is a true theology - ordered and systematic. Stephen H. Webb explores some of the richness of Book of Mormon theology in his 2013 Oxford University Press book Mormon Christianity. See the blog article "Mormon Christianity" for my notes on a lecture Webb gave at BYU in May, 2014. Jan J. Martin gave a stimulating presentation in March, 2015 about the Book of Mormon's contribution to the Tyndale/More debate that divided English Christianity in the 16th century. A summary of her remarks are in the blog article "English in the Book of Mormon."

40 b. Susan Easton Black wrote an important piece entitled "Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon" that was published in the July, 1978 Ensign. She found 100 different names among the 3,923 references to deity in the text. In the Nephite record, God has many different aspects and attributes.The Book of Mormon also quotes Isaiah and Malachi, calling God "Lord of Hosts" 2 Nephi 23:13, 3 Nephi 24:10. Other biblical translations render this phrase "Lord of Heaven's Armies" implying large numbers of celestial beings. The universal controversy between monotheism and nuanced polytheism is attested in the Book of Mormon Alma 11:35, Alma 14:5. Nephites described Lamanites worshipping multiple deities Alma 17:15, Mormon 4:14.

40 c. Stuart's four categories of supernaturals have clear analogues in the Book of Mormon.
40 d. God appears in the Book of Mormon in triadic form 3 Nephi 11:36, 3 Nephi 28:11.

40 e. Heaven/earth dualism is found throughout the Book of Mormon text. Mosiah 4:9, Alma 22:10, Helaman 10:7.

40 f. The Book of Mormon describes a close personal relationship between humans and deity 3 Nephi 11:14, Ether 3:6.

40 f. In Nephite scripture, humans can become like God 3 Nephi 12:48.

40 g. God in the Book of Mormon is closely associated with the sun 1 Nephi 1:9, Helaman 14:4, Helaman 14:20, 3 Nephi 12:45.

41. Cotton armor. Ancient Mesoamericans in battle used protective body armor made of tightly woven cotton. One name for it was ichcahupilli. This is a modern reconstruction from Oaxaca.
Ichcahupilli, MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
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Book of Mormon connection 41. Nephite body armor included thick clothing Alma 43:19.

42. Prisoners. Enslavery was a prime purpose of military raids in ancient Mesoamerica. Warriors escorted their bound captives on the sad trail to their new homes. This ceramic piece from the Shaft Tomb Culture of Western Mexico shows five soldiers with head dresses and weapons leading four captives in procession.
Warriors with Captives, MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
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Book of Mormon connection 42 a. Alma 57:15 is a written description of the scene portrayed above.

42 b. In Nephite military affairs, it required a great deal of manpower to control prisoners of war Alma 57:16.

42 c. An obvious key difference between captor and captive: captives were unarmed Alma 55:16, Alma 57:14, Alma 62:15.

43. Incensario. This Teotihuacan-style ceramic incense burner is from the Escuintla region in Guatemala.
Classic Period Incensario, MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
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Book of Mormon connection 43 a. The figure wears a large plate hanging from his nose. Nose ornamentation is attested in the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 13:21 quoting Isaiah 3:21.

43 b. The compass rose on the front of the vessel is a common Mesoamerican motif. Like their contemporaries, the Nephites also divided their world up into four quarters Mosiah 27:6, Alma 52:10 oriented to the cardinal Helaman 1:31 and ordinal 1 Nephi 16:13 directions.

44. Armor. This seated warrior is wearing a barrel-shaped breastplate and protective headgear. He has a weapon in his hand. This hollow ceramic piece is from the Shaft Tomb Culture of Western Mexico.
Late Preclassic Warrior Figurine
MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
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Book of Mormon connection 44. Mormon's Codex mentions breastplates Mosiah 8:10, Alma 43:21, head shields Alma 43:19, and head plates Alma 43:38, Helaman 1:14. It also mentions wounds to legs without protection Alma 49:24.

Conclusion. After spending two exhilarating days rubbing shoulders with some of the best people in the discipline, the Book of Mormon fared pretty well. No glaring contradictions arose and dozens of correspondences emerged that corroborate points in the text.