Wednesday, April 8, 2020

COVID-19 Death Rates by State

The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University publishes COVID-19 cases and dates by state. This is their data as of April 7, 2019. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
COVID-19 Death Rates by State
If you are infected with the virus, how likely are you to die? Where you live makes a difference. Among all US states and territories, only American Samoa has had no cases of the virus and only Wyoming has had cases but no deaths. Both are statistical outliers. The population of American Samoa (2017 estimate) is only 55,641 and Wyoming (2020 estimate) has the smallest population of any US state with 567,025 inhabitants. Among all other US states and territories, Utah has the lowest death rate at .74% of COVID-19 cases. This is partly because Utah has the lowest median age (31) of any US state. Families in Utah have more children than families in other states. The median household size in Utah is 3.13, highest in the nation. Utah also has excellent health care infrstructure and a relatively low poverty rate. Most people know 68.01% of Utahns are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Frequently the national media publishes "beauty pageant" data ranking the US states for this, that, or the other criteria. Over the years, I have been intrigued to notice how often Utah ranks #1 for the good stuff and #50 for the bad. When the Internet was fairly new, I published a website called "ProUtah." It was a lot of work and after a couple of years, I gave it up, but in that time I compiled about 100 examples of Utah's relative superiority to the other 49 states. Some contrary examples surfaced, so I quickly put up a sister site named "ConUtah," but overall the trend was strongly favorable toward the Beehive State. My motive, of course, was to see if I could demonstrate empirically that the Latter-day Saint belief system and lifestyle led to desirable outcomes. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:20. This statistical approach to comparative religion, using Utah as a convenient proxy for membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, seemed to me to validate the promise in Mosiah 2:41 that adherence to God's commandments brings temporal and spiritual blessings.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

New Church Symbol - Book of Mormon Connection

We are all indebted to mesoamericanist and BYU faculty member Mark Alan Wright for this remarkable insight. He published it in his 2014 Axes Mundi article in Interpreter and shared it with those of us on his 2015 tour of Guatemala.
Mark Wright with Tikal Temple I in Background
Book of Mormon Central published it as part of KnoWhy #211 that came out in October, 2016.

When the Savior appeared to his apostles in the Old World after his resurrection, they were shown first the nail prints in his hands and second the wound in his side. We see this order in John 20:20, 25, 27. The version in Luke 24:39, 40 mentions only his hands and his feet. His followers in Judea, familiar with Roman execution by crucifixion, would have focused primarily on the prints of the nails in his hands and his feet.

When the Savior appeared to his disciples and others gathered at the Temple in land Bountiful about a year after his death and resurrection in Jerusalem, he showed them his wounded body, but this time the order of the sacrificial symbols was reversed. The Nephites were invited to first thrust their hands into his side and second feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet 3 Nephi 11:14, 15. In Mesoamerica, where human sacrifice was often by heart extraction, people would have focused primarily on the wound in his side.

The resurrected Savior bore physical sacrificial symbols meaningful to both his Old and New World followers. He explicitly told the Nephites these symbols would convince them he was "the God of the whole earth" 3 Nephi 11:14.

The magnificent new Church symbol, derived from Bertel Thorvaldsen's Christus statue in the Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen and McRay Magleby's 1995 logo design, shows both the wound in the Savior's side and the prints of the nails in his hands and feet.
New Church Symbol
Representing the Risen Lord
Atop a Cornerstone
A fitting symbol for "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth" D&C 1:30.

One Aspect of President Nelson's Hinge Point

While in Rome for the dedication of the Rome Temple in March, 2019, Pres. Russell M. Nelson said this particular temple is "a hinge point in the history of the Church." https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/president-nelson-calls-rome-temple-dedication-a-hinge-point-in-church-history?lang=eng
The prophet then added "Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace."

This prophetic observation was repeated by Church News in their 2019 year end recap. https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2019-12-27/president-nelson-rome-hinge-point-church-history-170654

Then, as the prophet gave his 2020 New Year's admonition, he asked all members to share the Gospel and prepare to celebrate the bi-centennial of the First Vision in April General Conference. He added "The time to act is now. This is a hinge point in the history of the Church and your part is vital." https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/president-nelson-extends-important-invitation-to-all-latter-day-saints-in-2020?lang=eng

In one important way, 2019 was a literal hinge point in the history of the Church. The rate of Church membership growth increased in 2019 after 6 years of steady decline. Here are the numbers. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Church Membership Growth 1975 - 2019
And here is the graph showing the literal hinge point in 2019.
Church Membership Growth Rate 1975 - 2019
Under the inspired leadership of Pres. Nelson, we as a Church experienced not only growth but an increase in our growth rate in 2019.

The prophet asked us all to act because our part is vital. With talented and dedicated associates, I volunteer as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central. From 2016 - 2019 we achieved 152k followers on Facebook, 4.7 million views on YouTube, 2.8 million listens on Soundcloud and iTunes, and 8.7 million pageviews on websites. These results are from our English and Spanish initiatives combined. With the alignment of Come Follow Me and our stellar Book of Mormon content, all of these numbers are up dramatically in 2020. We have become a principal go to place in the Church for answers to hard questions about the Book of Mormon and now the Pearl of Great Price as well. We are going to work hard doing our small part to help the upward trajectory of the hinge continue.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Herschel Pedersen (1929 - 2020)

My friend and mentor, Herschel Noel Pedersen, died April 1, 2020 at age 91. He was a giant of a man who kindled a spiritual flame inside me that has never dimmed. I was privileged to grow up in the American Fork 12th Ward where Herschel was a larger-than-life hometown hero. A better missionary I have never known. Herschel was fearless and disarmingly self-effacing. He talked the talk and walked the walk with a flair for public speaking that kept audiences spellbound. Miracles large and small hovered around him. His work ethic was legendary. In his prime, his recall was nearly photographic. He read all four standard works multiple times each year and could quote chapter and verse for hours. Herschel was a champion basketball player, a champion steelworker, a champion storyteller, a champion patriarch, a champion Latter-day Saint.
Herschel and Shirley Pedersen
Story #1. American Fork Canyon. When I was young the local seventies proselytized out of staters camping in American Fork Canyon. We looked for interesting license plates and visited with folks, giving them a loaf of homemade bread or a plate of cookies and a copy of the Book of Mormon. When I first heard about this outreach, I was appalled. How dare we Latter-day Saints impose our beliefs on unsuspecting tourists who just happen to be spending part of their vacation in our gorgeous canyon? Herschel persuaded me to be his junior companion. One evening with him visiting around campfires was all it took. We had incredible experiences getting to know amazing sons and daughters of God. Herschel had a knack for asking deep, probing questions such as "Do you know anyone who has actually seen an angel?" I went up the canyon with him many times. It felt a little odd giving copies of the Book of Mormon to campers who were holding a can of Coors in the other hand, but we always left smiling. Herschel endeared himself to his new friends swapping hunting, fishing, or sports stories before bearing his testimony. When I landed in the mission field at age 19, sharing the Gospel was perfectly natural. Peru was a cake walk. I had been a "canyon missionary" with a pro.

Story #2. John Sagers. John was a fellow graduate, American Fork High School, class of '71. He was a bright, handsome, talented young man and a good friend. We had played football together all through junior high and high school. John's family were Episcopalians so he got to drink real wine in their version of the Sacrament. John's dad was the superintendent of the training school, now the Utah State Developmental Center, and they lived in a stately home on the campus grounds. John was dating Ann Richards, a Latter-day Saint girl who got him thinking about the Church. The summer after our high school graduation, he worked alongside DR Gardner and the two of them talked religion. DR gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and John began to read. His parents wouldn't allow the book in their home, so he hid it inside a plastic bag under a lilac bush near the training school ampitheater. He would read for an hour or so every day after work before returning home. Late one evening, I visited him and all he wanted to talk about was the Book of Mormon. I suggested we visit Herschel. It was after 11 pm when we knocked on Herschel's door and he welcomed us in his pajamas. For about two hours light and spirit and joy filled the Pedersen dining room so powerfully that a couple of high school football buddies couldn't hold back the tears. John went home that night with a spiritual flame inside that never dimmed. He died a few days later on August 5, 1971, in a tragic automobile accident on I-15 in Salt Lake County.

Story #3. Patriarch. Blaine Durrant is Herschel's grandson. Blaine and Caroline were our next-door neighbors for several years. Blaine told me this story. A few years ago, before Herschel and Shirley moved from their home on 850 East, Herschel gathered his posterity together and gave every one of them a father's, grandfather's, or great-grandfather's blessing. His family was so large the process took two days, but he wanted to do what Adam D&C 107:53-56, Jacob (Israel) Genesis chapters 48 and 49, and Lehi 2 Nephi 4:12 had done. He had been a young missionary in Denmark, a bishop, a Regional Representative of the Twelve, a mission president in New Zealand, a senior missionary in Denmark, and a counselor in the Mount Timpanogos Temple Presidency. He was a Temple sealer. Visions and blessings and the scriptures had been his daily fare for decades, but this was special. These were the members of his and Shirley's eternal family. Some of the blessings were prophetic. Some were wake up calls. All were profoundly personal and insightful. Things were communicated spiritually to Herschel acting in his office as patriarch that he could not possibly have known beforehand. It was a sacred revelatory experience none of his family members will ever forget. Herschel kindled many spiritual flames that will never dim.

The year before we all left on our missions, DR Gardner, Paul Terry, Claire  Rinehart, John Lambert, Bruce McDaniel, and I met almost every Sunday night with Herschel around his dining room table for an informal mission prep. Sometimes Shirley would bring out cardboard boxes full of press clippings from his basketball days. Sometimes he would regale us with stories of his Korean War experience playing volleyball all over Japan on some high-ranking general's personal team. He told great stories about courting Shirley and the little dramas of raising a large family. Occasionally, his wife would chime in, "Husband (she always called him "husband"), that's not true!" Herschel was not above a little hyperbole now and again for dramatic effect. Stories from "the plant" (Geneva Steel) were legion and often heart-wrenching. Preaching the Gospel daily to a tough bunch of steelworkers was a dicey proposition. One evening, Herschel inquired about our dates. We were all freshmen at BYU. I volunteered that I wanted to ask out Sharmon Oaks whose father, Dallin, was the new President of BYU, but I was scared to call her. He said in his big booming voice, "That's a problem we can solve!" He picked up the phone, dialed the Oaks residence, asked for Sharmon, and announced, "We have a problem and you're part of it," then handed me the phone.    

American Fork will never be the same without Herschel Pedersen, but oh what glory now attends this great man.
Herschel as a Foreman at Geneva Steel
For a fascinating story about Herschel's constructive role in a curious Book of Mormon plot, see the blog article "Frauds and Hoaxes."
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This from DR Gardner: What a blessing to have known Herschel. My testimony received a huge kick start stitting around his table on the Sundays of 1971. He performed the marriage for both of my daughters.
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This from Claire Rinehart: I have been recording memories of my youth and I recently wrote thoughts about John Sagers, where I mentioned Herschel. I will need to record more thoughts about him since this message has brought a flood of good memories.
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This from Deseret News sportswriter Dick Harmon: https://www.deseret.com/2020/4/3/21206947/herschel-pederson-byu-lds-mormon-missionary-danish-basketball-death-american-fork
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Herschel's Eulogy: http://warenski.com/wpstaging/2020/04/03/herschel-n-pedersen/

Friday, March 27, 2020

Light from St Paul

The Maya Society of Minnesota regularly invites eminent Mesoamericanists to present lectures and labs on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul. The 2019 - 2020 speakers were intriguing and we have grandchildren in Minneapolis, so I joined the society and managed to make it to two meetings. This is a synopsis of what I found interesting in the presentations from a Book of Mormon perspective. My Book of Mormon insights are bolded.

September 20, 21, 2019 Andrew K. Scherer is a colleague of Stephen D. Houston at Brown Univeristy. Scherer was a student at Hamline who went on to get his PhD from Texas A&M. He taught at Wagner and Baylor before joining the Brown faculty. Bioarchaeology is his focus and he has received funding from NSF, NGS, and NEH. Much of his research has been in collaboration with Charles W. Golden from Brandeis. The two of them are leading authorities on the Usumacinta River area around Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán. Anything they publish has potential relevance because the Book of Mormon geography correlation I consider most likely to be correct (it passed a strict audit with a perfect score of 100%) locates the land of Melek in and around Yaxchilán. In Community of Christ/Restoration Branch circles, Book of Mormon scholars for over 100 years have correlated Yaxchilán with the city of Zarahemla. M. Wells Jakeman in the 1950's thought El Cayo may have been the city of Zarahemla.
Major Sites in the Area Scherer and Golden Have Studied
Scherer, Golden, Houston, and other collaborators published a major article entitled "Centering the Classic Maya Kingdom of Sak Tzi'i'" in Journal of Field Archaeology, Volume 45, 2020 - Issue 2, pp. 67-85. Sak Tzi'i' (white dog) was known from inscriptions, but archaeologists were not sure which site it was until Scherer et al. positively identified it as the site of Lacanja Tzeltal at the headwaters of the Lacanja River. Sak Tzi'i' was first settled ca. 750 BC.

Notes from Scherer: More than 2,000 ancient human remains have been recovered from Piedras Negras burials. Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán were peers and enemies. Sak Tzi'i' was a smaller site in the orbit of these two giants. Sak Tzi'i' had an Ajaw (lord) while the larger sites had a K'uhul Ajaw (holy lord). La Mar was another site that only had an Ajaw and it was subordinate to Piedras Negras. Piedras Negras Stela 26, Bonampak Lintel 2, and Toniná Monument 8 all mention taking captives from Sak Tzi'i'. Major sites in this area included Palenque, Toniná, Piedras Negras, and Yaxchilán.
About a dozen inscriptions from AD 608 through 864 mention Sak Tzi'i'. It was heavily looted in the 1960's and pieces from Sak Tzi'i' are now in major museum collections such as Denver, Brussels, New York, etc. The site dynasty endured for 300 years from AD 564 to 864.

An inscription from Sak Tzi'i' mentions och bi (road entering) which is a well-known ancient Mayan expression meaning "death." This reminds us of Lehi's words when his demise was imminent that he "must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth." 2 Nephi 1:14.

Stelae in this Upper Usumacinta region are mortuary monuments. This reminds us of the large stone Coriantumr carved to memorialize his life described in Omni 1:20-22.

An inscription from Sak Tzi'i' mentions a deluge event that happened in the remote past. The Maya believed the current world age which began on August 11, 3114 BC (4 ahau 8 kumk'u), was created after a universal flood. The Book of Mormon mentions the flood of Noah three times, in Alma 10:22, 3 Nephi 22:9, and Ether 6:7. See the blog articles entitled "Base Dates" and "Primordial Flood" for additional context.

Sak Tzi'i' was protected by steep riverbanks on one side and defensive walls on the other. The walls were 1 meter wide foundations for wooden palisades. This matches the Book of Mormon precisely. Alma 50:2-3 and 53:4 describe cities surrounded by earthen walls topped with wooden pickets.

UNAM and UADY were excavation partners. Sak Tzi'i' had a triadic group more or less following the pattern of the cross group at Palenque. The Usumacinta sites all had ballcourts in polity capitals. Sak Tzi'i' had a single altar ballcourt like Plan de Ayutla. One carving shows 2 bound captives. Flint and obsidian lance or spear points were deposited in a cache. In other words, this was a typical middle-sized classic Maya city state with 24 stelae, 11 altars, 1 panel, and 11 stone "squat monuments." Rulers are depicted holding serpent bars and some stelae are columnar. This map shows relative site locations.
Sites with Sak Tzi'i' Relationships
Sak Tzi'i' was a large center in the pre-classic. Early pots date from the middle to the late pre-classic. This makes it likely relevant to the Book of Mormon which took place largely in the pre-classic.

Many Sak Tzi'i' rulers had a Te' (tree) element in their names. K'ab' kan Te' is attested AD 628. K'ab' chan Te' is dated AD 636. Another K'ab' chan Te' has a date AD 722. Ye te' K'inich is dated AD 787 and another K'ab' chan Te' is attested AD 864. This is interesting because the idea that humans can become trees as described in Alma 32:28-43 is found throughout Mesoamerican art and iconography.
Pakal Ancestor K'an Joy Chitam as a Tree
Sarcophagus, Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque
Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson
For more information, see the blog article "Anthropomorphic Trees."

Takeshi Inomata has the most exciting site (Aguada Fénix) in Mesoamerica. See the article "Usumacinta Olmec" for more information. Aguada Fénix will almost certainly re-write the book on Olmec - Maya interaction in the 1,000 - 700 BC time frame. For example, at the same time (ca. 700 BC) that Izapa on the south had over a dozen smaller copies of itself in its orbit (see the blog article "Izapa"), Aguada Fénix on the north had over a dozen smaller copies of itself in its area of influence, all following the "Middle Formative Usumacinta" site layout plan.

The agriculture that supported Piedras Negras was on the Mexican side of the Usumacinta. They used drained fields like the chinampas in Central Mexico. Yaxchilán collapsed AD 810. We see defensive fortifications (earthen walls) at Piedras Negras, Yaxchilán, and La Mar. Moroni commented ca. AD 400 that war was endemic among the Lamanites Mormon 8:8.

Scherer presented at a 2018 Tulane conference on warfare. In the 1940's, Experts thought the Maya were a peaceful people. Sir J. Eric S. Thompson wrote that warfare came late to the Maya area from Central Mexico, and that the Maya were astronomers, theologians, and timekeepers. Sylvanus Morley thought the "old empire" sculpture lacked militarism. In 1949, Life Magazine published an article about the murals at Bonampak that clearly showed warriors fighting. It was largely dismissed because archaeologists had not found fortifications or defensive structures.

The picture began to change when Stephen D. Houston wrote his dissertation at Yale (PhD 1987) describing defensive walls at Dos Pilas. Arthur Demarest published an article in National Geographic showing walls at Dos Pilas and a moat around Punta de Chimino. Chaak Ak' al, occupied from 300 BC to AD 150, had large scale defensive fortifications built ca. 75 BC, precisely at the time the Book of Mormon describes Captain Moroni fortifying cities throughout the greater land of Zarahemla Alma 50:1. The leading Book of Mormon geography correlation (the one that successfully passed a strict audit) identifies Noah with Chaak Ak' al. Scherer's grad student, Omar Andrés Alcover Firpi, studied fortifications at Becan which date from AD 100 - 250. Ceibal also has fortifications that date to ca. 75 BC. The leading Book of Mormon geography correlation places Aaron at Ceibal. Richard Terry and Bob Roylance identify Ceibal with the city of Zarahemla.

La Pasadita was a site subordinate to Yaxchilán. La Pasadita Lintel 1 is in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin. It is among a fortified ring of sites north of Yaxchilán that took advantage of natural barriers such as swamps and hills. La Pasadita is surrounded by low, short, linear rubble mounds built with rough, irregular rocks. The Book of Mormon says the Nephites built stone walls as fortifications Alma 48:8. Yaxchilán border settlements were typically on hilltops. Most of the people in Yaxchilán lived in low lying areas on the Guatemalan side of the Usumacinta. This supports the leading Book of Mormon geography correlation which has Alma II preaching in Melek adjacent to wilderness west of Sidon Alma 8:3, then crossing over Sidon and traveling 3 days journey (about 45 air kilometers) north to Ammonihah Alma 8:6. The correlation we are following places Ammonihah at El Hormiguero II on the Guatemalan San Pedro 7 air kilometers from the Mexican border.

This map shows Becan in the north and Izapa in the south, about 500 air kilometers distant from each other.
Archaeological Sites with Becan in the NE and Izapa in the SW
And this map shows the sites mentioned so far in the upper and middle Usumacinta areas.
Sites from Aguada Fénix in the North to Punta de Chimino in the South
Richard Terry (BYU Plant & Wildlife Sciences, Emeritus) determined that the main market at Piedras Negras was in the southern portion of the site. Helaman 7:10 verifies that Nephite cities had chief markets.

Yaxchilán was surrounded by a defensive ring of fortified settlements that included Chicozapote and Nuevo Guerrero on the Mexican side of the river and Tecolote, La Pasadita, and Oso Negro on the Guatemalan side. They protected Yaxchilán from Piedras Negras, its perennial enemy to the north. The Usumacinta north of Añaite is treacherous with rapids and the steep Chicozapote Canyon. There is an area of marshland around Laguneta Lacandon that is a natural chokepoint and border between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán. About every 3 kilometers in this area a creek flows into the big river. There are travel routes both east and west of the Usumacinta. To go from Palenque to Piedras Negras to Yaxchilán you would travel east of the Usumacinta. This agrees precisely with the leading Book of Mormon correlation and the text. Palenque is thought to be in the lesser land of Zarahemla and the text says people traveling from Zarahemla to points south typically crossed over Sidon to Gideon and traveled southward from there Alma 6:7Alma 16:7, Alma 17:1.
Book of Mormon Lands According to the Leading (Audited) Correlation
This map zooms in on the heavily fortified border area between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán.
Piedras Negras, Yaxchilán, Natural Barriers and Fortified Border Sites
West of Piedras Negras are the Cola del Diablo Rapids where the Busiljá River enters the Usumacinta. The Chicozapote Rapids, aka Chicozapote Falls, aka Añaite Rapids, are between Yaxchilán and El Cayo. Arroyo Macabilero by Laguneta Lacandon is the border area. The Usumacinta in this area rises and falls by 10 meters from the dry season to the rainy season and back again. Streamflow varies from just under 500 cubic meters per second at low flow to as much as 5,500 cubic meters per second at peak flow in a wet year. The foliage is so thick and inclines so steep around Tecolote it can take up to 12 hours to travel 3 kilometers. On the other hand, you can walk the gentle slopes from Yaxchilán to La Pasadita in one day. The distance from Yaxchilán to La Pasadita is 15 air kilometers. 15 air kilometers is exactly the distance the leading (audited) Book of Mormon model deduces for the standard measure the text calls a "day's journey." See the blog article "Land Southward Travel Times."

There are low walls south of Arroyo Macabilero in the saddles between hills. 14 walls have been identified at Tecolote, 2 at La Pasadita, and 1 at El Tunel. 1 wall has been discovered at Yaxchilán and  that served as a foundation for wooden palisades or barricades. Bernal Diaz del Castillo in his The True History of the Conquest of New Spain translated by A.P. Maudslay and published by the Hakluyt Society of London in four volumes, 1908 - 1916, at approximately p. 300, talks about indigenous American's use of defensive barricades. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan which depicts Alvarado's conquest of Central America shows native defensive barricades. A restored copy of the Lienzo is in the Museo Popol Vuh in Guatemala City. Some of the Guatemalan barricades had gates. The Lienzo also shows spiked pit horse traps.
Lienzo de Quauhquechollan Painted ca. 1530 Showing Wooden Palisades
Universidad Francisco Marroquín Digital Restoration
In an article entitled "Tecolote, Guatemala: Archaeological Evidence for a Fortified Late Classic Maya Political Border" published in Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 34, 2009, pp. 285-305, Scherer and Golden show a drawing of what defensive wooden palisades looked like anciently in this part of Guatemala.
Andrew Scherer's Drawing of Defensive Wooden Palisades at Tecolote
Andrew Restall in an article entitled "Invasion: The Maya at War, 1520's to 1540's" published in Embattled Bodies, Embattled Places: War in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and the Andes, Andrew K. Scherer and John W. Verano, editors (Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2014) says Maya defensive structures, including wooden barricades, were often designed to funnel and route invading warriors into designated killing fields or alleys.

In the Tecolote area, settlements were on hilltops with defensive structures including palisade-topped walls between the hills. Watch towers have been discovered around Tecolote, La Pasadita, and El Tunel. The Book of Mormon describes watch towers as part of Captain Moroni's defensive fortification strategy Alma 50:4.
Watch Towers Overlooking Defensive Walls in the Tecolote/La Pasadita Area
Map by Andrew K. Scherer published in Scherer and Golden 2009
This is a diagram of what the hilltop watch towers looked like from the air compared with a typical hilltop residential settlement.
a Watch Tower and b Hilltop Residential Patio in the Tecolote/La Pasadita Area
Diagram by G. Valle published in Scherer and Golden 2009
El Kinel is located inside a bend in the Usumacinta. A circular moat was constructed on the other side of the site so it was surrounded by water. This moat is almost identical to the one at Punta de Chimino. Bernal Diaz del Castillo in his The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, Maudslay translation, p. 305, describes very deep fosse (ditches or moats) used by native Mesoamericans in defensive fortifications. Large ditches were part of Captain Moroni's defensive fortification strategy Alma 49:18,22; 53:3-4.
Remains of Ancient Circular Moat Visible in Aerial Photography
El Kinel, 10 Air Kilometers SE of Yaxchilán
Zancudero is a pre-classic site with a high defensive wall 5 air kilometers east of Yaxchilán. Macabilero has good evidence of pre-classic warfare. On the Guatemalan side of the river are cut stone blocks 15 to 20 feet tall. This kind of megatlithic defensive architecture is rare in Mesoamerica. Megalithic blocks of granite may have been Mormon's defensive architecture strategy at the city of Desolation Mormon 3:6, 4:4. See the blog articles "French Connection" and "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage."

At Macabilero, excavators found quantities of small round sling stones. They are about the size of tennis balls. Houston and Garrison found similar stocks of small round sling stones at La Cuernavilla Fortress west of Tikal. The Book of Mormon says both the Nephites and Lamanites commonly used stones as weapons Alma 49:2,4,19,22. Alma 50:5 says the Nephites cast stones from their defensive towers which probably means they used slings.

This is a screen capture from the video "Dr. Stephen Houston - Recovering a Lost World" of a presentation the noted Mayanist gave at BYU on Monday, October 28, 2019. It shows a Maya warrior on attack.
Maya Warrior Armed with a Stone in His Hand
And these are some of the tennis ball-sized stones found at La Cuernavilla from the same video.
Sling Stones Excavated at La Cuernavilla Fortress near El Zotz, Peten
There are 13 walls in saddles between hills around La Mar, Chiapas. The walls clearly show post holes where wooden palisades once stood. Wall fill includes dart points and bi-faces rather than the pot shards commonly found at other sites.
Post Molds in Defensive Wall from El Kinel, Peten
This photo was published in Golden and Scherer, "Border Problems: Revent Archaeological Research Along the Usumacinta River," The PARI Journal, Vol. VII, No. 2, Fall 2006. I thank my friend, Richard Terry, for bringing this to my attention.

10 defensive walls have been discovered at Piedras Negras, north of the site center. They date to the early classic. 2 defensive walls have been discovered by Yaxchilán in addition to the one in the city. Lacanja Tzeltal (Sak Tzi'i') was fotified. There were late pre-classic fortresses at Macabilero and Zancudero. Chinikiha also dates to the pre-classic, although no fortifications are presently known from the site. Some walls, such as those at La Mar, protected the city. Other walls, such as those at La Pasadita and Oso Negro, protected the greater polity (in this case, Yaxchilán).
Sites Referenced in the Greater Yaxchilán Area
These are sites referenced in the Greater Piedras Negras Area.
Sites in the Vicinity of Piedras Negras
Andrew Scherer closed out his presentation talking about sacrifices. The Maya sacrificed themselves, animals, children, and captives. Auto-sacrifice was generally done by piercing the tongue or genitals with a stingray spine, obsidian blade, or sharpened bone handle. Yax ch'ab was the royal imperative to feed the gods and placate the supernaturals. Royal blood was dripped on paper which was burned and the ascending smoke was thought to provide divine nourishment, forestall divine ire, and ensure human well-being. Well-known iconographic portrayals include Dos Pilas Panel 19, Yaxchilán Lintel 3, Yaxchilán Throne 1, and a monument from Palenque Temple XXI. The Hauberg Stela references god G1 and depicts a young royal's first bloodletting.
Hauberg Stela, Princeton Museum of Art
The Book of Mormon references the Mesoamerican cultural practice of royal bloodletting in Alma 34:11.

Animals sacrificed by the Maya included bobwhites. The Book of Mormon says the Nephites offerred animal sacrifices Mosiah 2:3.

Child sacrifices are depicted on El Cayo Altar 4 and Piedras Negras Stela 11. El Zotz Burial 9 contained the remains of six children in ceramic vases. They ranged in age from six months to 4 years. El Zotz Burials 6 and 15 also contained children sacrificed whose remains were in ceramic offering vessels.
Child Sacrifice in a Cache Vessel Atop a Tripod, Justin Kerr Photo K1645
The Book of Mormon describes Lamanites sacrificing children Mormon 4:14, 21.

Sacrificing captives was a widespread practice among the Maya.
Captive Prisoners Awaiting Decapitation, Justin Kerr Photo K680
The Book of Mormon describes Lamanites killing Nephite prisoners of war Alma 56:12 and sacificing war captives Mormon 4:14, 21.
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On October 19-20, 2019, I was privileged to hear Takeshi Inomata discuss his recent work at Aguada Fénix. He enntitled his presentation "Large Ceremonial Constructions at the Dawn of Maya Civilization." Inomata frequently teams up with Daniela Triadan. He directed the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project from 2005 - 2017 in Peten, Guatemala and currently directs the Middle Usumacinta Archaeological Project in Tabasco, Mexico. He thrives on paradigm shifts. He received his PhD from Vanderbilt. My notes from a lecture he gave at BYU on March 8, 2016 are in the blog article "Takeshi Inomata."

Maya origins were explosive, not gradual. From 330 BC to AD 250 sites in the Mirador Basin rose to great heights. During the early pre-classic, prior to 1,000 BC, those same sites were pre-ceramic. in 1,200 BC, artisans at San Lorenzo erected an enormous artificial plateau. By the middle pre-classic, 1,000 BC, La Venta was just beginning to develop. Aguada Fénix began at 1,000 BC. It had no direct Olmec influence. La Venta had an E Group. It has been said that La Venta was part of the Middle Formative Chiapas cultural tradition widely attested throughout the Grijalva Basin. That nomenclature is not necessarily accurate. There were E Groups throughout the Maya area. It has been said that greenstone and centerline caches were not present in the Maya area but were characteristic of the Middle Formative Chiapas sites such as La Venta, San Isidro, Chiapa de Corzo, and La Libertad. That is expressly not true. Inomata began working at Ceibal in 2005. They found a cache, then more greenstone caches along the E-W centerline axis of an E Group. They found an Olmec carving in the early Ceibal construction phase from 1,000 to 700 BC. 176 C-14 dates have been analyzed from Ceibal with Bayesian statistical techniques, making it the most accurately-dated Maya site.

Ceramics first appear at Ceibal at 950 BC. They first appear at La Venta 1,000 - 900 BC. La Venta was a large center by 800 BC. Ceibal was founded in the gap after the collapse of San Lorenzo and before La Venta became powerful. La Carmelita, west of the Usumacinta on the outskirts of Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco, dates to 900 BC. It shows both Middle Formative Chiapas (MFC) and Middle Formative Usumacinta (MFU) characteristics. MFC and MFU are planned site layout patterns.
MFC (White Pins) and MFU (Yellow Pins) Sites, San Lorenzo
Aguada Fénix (AF) is only 3 kilometers from the site of El Tiradero which follows the MFC pattern. AF and most of the other MFU sites were discovered with LiDAR. It has ramps, reservoirs, north south causeways, and a 15 meter high artificial platform. It has a 5 kilometer causeway to the north that is 200 meters wide. It has an E Group and a small pyramid. The site is as large as central Tikal or central Teotihuacan. Excavators found a floor with a checkerboard pattern made from different colored clays. It looks like the floral carpets you see in Antigua, Guatemala during Semana Santa.

1,200 BC AF was nothing but a midden. The plateau was built beginning 1,000 BC, which makes AF slightly older than Ceibal. Construction stopped at AF 800 BC. Some of the construction was with large stones. The causeways were built 900 - 800 BC. Some of them have multiple floors. Some comparative sizes:
  • Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan 1,600,000 cubic meters
  • Platform, Aguada Fénix 2,800,000 cubic meters
  • La Danta, El Mirador 2,800,000 cubic meters
  • Platform, San Lorenzo 4,000,000 cubic meters
Some comparative dates:
  • 1,400 - 1,100 BC San Lorenzo
  • 1,000 - 800 BC Aguada Fénix
  • 950 BC - AD 950 Ceibal
  • 800 - 400 BC La Venta 
Comparative characteristics:
  • San Lorenzo had artificial plateaus and no pyramids
  • Aguada Fénix had an artificial plateau and a small pyramid
  • Ceibal had multiple pyramids
  • La Venta had no plateau and pyramids
These sites show movement over time from horizontal monumentality to vertical monumentality. There was not much maize cultivated prior to 1,000 BC. Beginning 1,000 BC, maize was prevalent. The Book of Mormon says the Jaredites raised grain Ether 9:17, 10:12.

Maize agriculture provided the caloric base to support large populations. The Book of Mormon says the Jaredites had large populations Ether 15:2.

Ceramics were well-established in the Olmec heartland by 1,200 BC. They entered the Maya area at 1,000 BC. The clay is similar at San Lorenzo, Ceibal, and AF. No caches have been discovered yet at AF. One cache at Ceibal had greenstones with depictions of the Olmec maize god. The main north south axis at AF is 9 degrees east of true north. The MFC pattern dates from 800 - 400 BC. The Grijalva centers declined in 400 BC along with La Venta. The MFU pattern pre-dates MFC.

Inomata's lab on Saturday focused on LiDAR and then covered a miscellany of topics. Arlen and Diane Chase who dig Caracol were the first to use LiDAR. Inomata followed at Ceibal. LiDAR flights are done at the end of the dry season. Dense vegetation at ground level in northern Yucatan makes LiDAR less effective. You can change from near infrared to intermediate infrared to far infrared depending on the tree canopy cover. Besides Caracol and Ceibal, LiDAR has now been done at Teotihuacan, Aguada Fénix I and II, Izapa, Dzibanche, Peten (PACUNAM I and II), El Mirador, a Belizean consortium funded by the Alphawood Foundation, Mayapan, Chichen Itza, the Coba causeway, Tres Zapotes, Palenque, and Yaxchilán. LiDAR is effective in primary forest, less so in secondary forest.

The Petexbatun E groups end ca. 300 BC, just after the MFC sites in the Grijalva Basin. Around Ceibal, structures were built on high ground. The structural density at Ceibal is 450 structures per square kilometer. Ceibal was abandoned between AD 900 - 950.

Aguada Fénix is oriented 9 degrees E of true N. El Tiradero 3 kilometers away is oriented precisely N S. Aguada Fénix (AF) got its name from Rancho Fénix whose land surrounds it. Balancan, 45 air kilometers west of AF,  has Olmec iconography. Sediment analysis from cores drilled in Lake Pajonal 10 kilometers east of Villahermosa shows data patterns almost identical with those from La Venta. It is possible the Villahermosa area was part of greater La Venta from 800 - 400 BC. This is interesting because La Venta was likely part of the Jaredite land northward. If La Venta extended all the way to Villahermosa, we may have to re-think the current proposal for the land northward/land southward boundary.
La Venta, Villahermosa, and Current Proposed Jaredite Boundary
The Usumacinta at Boca del Cerro pre-dates the mountains which is why it cut right through the ridge. Inomata is impressed with Boca del Cerro. So am I. It is one of the most dramatic physical features I have seen anywhere on earth. It is the point where a lush coastal plain, big river, steep canyon, and high jungle mountain all come together. In the leading (audited) Book of Mormon correlation, Boca del Cerro is the boundary between the lesser land of Zarahemla on the north and the upland wilderness on the south that eventually leads travelers to the land of Nephi.
Boca del Cerro, Tabasco, a Geographical Inflection Point
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I did not make it to hear Ruud van Akkeren who is a Research Associate with the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala City, but his material is useful to students of the Book of Mormon, so I include a brief note here. A handful of people over the years have spent so much time with the Maya they have practically gone native which makes them invaluable resources for understanding Maya thought processes, speech patterns, and lifeways. Dennis Tedlock is one of these people and he has produced a splendid library of works including the very important Rabinal Achi (See the blog article "Rabinal Achi" for Book of Mormon connections). Allen Christenson is another and he has produced the quintessential Popol Vuh. My friend, Kerry Hull, is another and he has produced dictionaries of Ch'orti' Mayan as well as studies of Maya poetry. Ruud van Akkeren is one of these exceptional Mayanist/ethnographers and he is working on the Kaqchikel Memorial de Sololá.

Dr. Akkeren contends that the division academic specialists make between highland and lowland Maya is artificial and misleading. For him, the Popol Vuh and other Maya documents are highly relevant to our understanding of the classic Maya inscriptions from the lowlands. He emphasizes lineage connections over ethnic or language groups and believes Maya writings are best understood as lineage histories. In other words, blood is thicker than water. The Book of Mormon is a lineage history. Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh Alma 10:3 which tied him into Abraham through Joseph 1 Nephi 5:14. Ammon was a descendant of Zarahemla Mosiah 7:3 who was a descendant of Mulek Mosiah 25:2. Lamoni was a descendant of Ishmael Alma 17:21. Ammoron was a descendant of Zoram Alma 54:23. Before Amulek preached to his fellow citizens in his home town of Ammonihah, he recited an 8 step genealogy that tied him into Joseph who was sold into Egypt, a heroic figure who had lived approximately 1,500 years earlier Alma 10:2-3. We could go on and on. The book of Ether is organized genealogically around the descendants of Jared. After the founding epic, Jared's famous brother gets basically ignored because his descendants were not the Jaredite kings. At the end of his record, Mormon re-stated his lineage Mormon 8:13, a fact he had already mentioned twice before 3 Nephi 5:20, Mormon 1:5. The seven founding linages of the Book of Mormon appear near the beginning of the record Jacob 1:13 and twice near the end 4 Nephi 1:37-38, Mormon 1:8. Like Maya writings, the Book of Mormon is best understood as a lineage history.

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to people everywhere. Book of Mormon Central publishes the remarkable new scripture study app ScripturePlus.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Base Dates

The Book of Mormon has several hundred chronological references. Accurate timekeeping was very important to the Nephites as Mormon explicitly states in 3 Nephi 8:1-2.

Point #1. We should find Book of Mormon lands in a part of the ancient world where accurate timekeeping over centuries was important.

The Book of Mormon has a number of base dates aka zero dates which anchor elapsed time sequences measured in years from a beginning point. 1 Nephi 10:4 dates the coming of Jesus Christ six hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem. Mosiah 29:44 establishes the transition from Nephite kingship to judges as a new base date. 3 Nephi 3:1 uses the birth of Jesus Christ as a base date just as we do today with our BC (before Christ) and AD (anno Domini - year of our Lord) conventions. 3 Nephi 2:4-8 is a very interesting passage, a kind of nexus that brings all three historical dating systems together in context. Verses 4 and 5 continue the count based on the reign of the judges that began in Mosiah 29:44. It was important to Mormon to document the fact that Nephite central government endured 100 years because about 20 years later it would be gone 3 Nephi 7:23 Nephi 2:6 correlates this point in time (ca. AD 9) with the original base date of Lehi's departure from Jerusalem. 3 Nephi 2:7 then introduces the new system of long range time measurement based on the birth of Jesus Christ that was the Nephite standard throughout the remainder of their history.

These three systems of long range time measured from a base date are pervasive in the text:
1. Lehi left Jerusalem (mentioned 10 times), 1 Nephi 10:4; 19:8; 2 Nephi 5:28; 25:19; Jacob 1:1; Enos 1:25; Mosiah 6:4; 29:46; 3 Nephi 1:1; 2:6.

2. Reign of the judges (mentioned 97 times), Mosiah 29:44; Alma 1:1, 2, 33; 3:25, 27; 4:1, 5, 6, 9, 10, 20; 8:2, 3; 10:6; 14:23; 15:19; 16:1, 12, 21; 28:7, 9; 30: 2, 4, 5; 35:12, 13; 43:3; 44:24; 45:2, 20; 46:37; 48:2; 49:29; 50:1, 17, 23, 24, 25, 35; 51: 1, 12, 37; 52:1, 14, 15, 18, 23, 35; 56:1; 57:5; 59:1; 62:11, 12, 39, 52; 63:1, 3, 4, 10, 16; Helaman 1:1. 13, 14, 34; 2:1, 12; 3:1, 18, 22, 23, 32, 33, 37; 4:4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 17, 18; 6:1, 15, 32, 41; 7:1; 10:19; 11:1, 24, 29, 35; 16:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 24.

3. Coming of Jesus Christ (mentioned 5 times), 3 Nephi 3:1; 4 Nephi 4:21; Mormon 3:4; 8:6; Moroni 10:1.

In addition, the text contains hundreds of instances of simple year counts implicit within one of these three systems. Jarom 1:5 (two hundred years from Lehi's departure), Helaman 11:36 (eighty second, eighty third, and eighty fourth years of the reign of the judges), and 4 Nephi 1:14 (seventy first, seventy second, seventy ninth, and one hundredth year from the coming of Christ) are examples.

Point #2. We should find Book of Mormon lands in a part of the ancient world where long range time was counted from a base or zero date.

Many have commented on the high frequency of year counts in the Book of Mormon that are multiples of 20. Six hundred (1 Nephi 10:4; 19:8; 2 Nephi 25:19; 3 Nephi 1:1), four hundred twenty (Moroni 10:1), four hundred (Alma 45:10; Helaman 13:5, 9; Mormon 8:6), three hundred sixty (Mormon 3:4), three hundred twenty (Omni 1:5, 4 Nephi 1:48), two hundred (Jarom 1:5; 4 Nephi 1:22) and one hundred (3 Nephi 2:5; 4 Nephi 1:14) are examples.

There are also instances in the text highlighting year counts that are multiples of 5. 3 Nephi 5:7-8 shows that year counts (annals) were typical but twenty five years held special significance in the record-keeping process. Jacob 1:1, Helaman 14:2, and 4 Nephi 1:47 are other passages emphasizing five year units.

Point #3. We should find Book of Mormon lands in a part of the ancient world where 5 and 20 year units were significant in long range time measurement.

In addition to historical time, the Book of Mormon frequently refers to the creation or foundation of the world as an epic event from the distant past that was the spiritual and temporal beginning of life on earth:
1. The creation (mentioned 12 times), 1 Nephi 5:11; 2 Nephi 1:10; 2:12, 13; 6:3; 11:7; Mosiah 28:17; Alma 18:36;. 22:12, 13; Ether 1:3; Moroni 10:3.

2. The foundation of the world (mentioned 22 times), 1 Nephi 10:18; 2 Nephi 9:18; 27:10; Mosiah 4:6, 7; 15:19; 18:13; Alma 12:25, 30; 13:3, 5, 7; 18:39; 22:13; 42:26; Helaman 5:47; 3 Nephi 1:14; Ether 3:14; 4:15, 15, 19; Moroni 8:12.

3. Adam as the first man (mentioned 25 times), 1 Nephi 5:11; 2 Nephi 2:19, 22, 25; 9:21; Mosiah 3:11, 16, 19, 26; 4:7; 28:17; Alma 12:22, 23; 18:36; 22:12; 27:13; 40:18; 42:5; Helaman 14:16; Mormon 3:20; 9:12; Ether 1:3, 4; Moroni 8:8; 10:3.

Point #4. We should find Book of Mormon lands in a part of the ancient world where the creation was a significant event in the popular worldview.

Anthropologists refer to metaphysical events such as the creation as being in "mythological time." The Book of Mormon bridges "mythological time" and historical time. The Nephite text explicitly associates the creation with human actors and historical events. Alma I linked Helam's mortal life with the foundation of the world in Mosiah 18:13. When Ammon taught King Lamoni, he began at the creation of the world and then brought things forward to Lamoni's day Alma 18:36-38. We see a similar pattern in Alma 22:12-15 when Aaron taught Lamoni's father. Moroni exhorted us to remember things that have happened from the creation of Adam down to our own time Moroni 10:3.
Omni 1:20-22 is similar. Ca. 300 BC, Coriantumr engraved his history on a stela, linking himself to first parents who came from the tower of Babel far back in "mythological time."

Point #5. We should find Book of Mormon lands in a part of the ancient world where humans in historical time were linked back to heroic events in "mythological time."

The Book of Mormon in two places describes ancient records similar to the biblical book of Genesis. The Jaredites posessed knowledge of the creation of the world, Adam, and events down to the time of the tower of Babel (Ether 1:3). The plates of brass contained the five books of Moses (1 Nephi 5:11).

Point #6. We should find Book of Mormon lands in a part of the ancient world where vestiges of the Genesis creation account were preserved.

If the Book of Mormon took place in the Maya area, all six points (among many others) are amply attested.

Point #1. Accurate timekeeping over centuries was important.
"Like no other people in history, the ancient Maya were obsessed by the study of time. Their sages framed its cycles with tireless exactitude. Yet their preoccupation with time was not limited to calendrics; it was a central trait in their evolving culture." Miguel León-Portilla, Time and Reality in the Thought of the Maya, Second Edition, (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988) Volume 190 in The Civilization of the American Indian Series, back cover.
1988 Book on Maya Timekeeping
Point #2. Long range time was counted from a base or zero date.
The Maya long count began on August 11, 3114 BC (GMT Correlation). That was the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 8 Kumk'u, the creation date of the current world age. This base or zero date is found in many Maya texts including the tablet from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque. This is my 2015 photograph of the base date on Quirigua Stela C.
Quirigua Stela C East Side with Annotations
Point #3. 5 and 20 year units were significant in long range time measurement.
The famous Maya bar and dot notation was a vigesimal (base 20) numeral system. Just as our modern decimal (base 10) system counts from 0 - 9 in the first (ones) position, then starts over with 1 in the second (tens)position and 0 in the first (ones) position, the Maya counted from 0 - 19 in the first (ones) position, then started over with 1 in the second (twenties) position and 0 in the first (ones) position. One day they called a kin and twenty days they called a uinal. Eighteen uinals (360 kins/days) they called a tun which approximated a solar year (365.24219 days). Twenty tuns (7,200 kins/days) they called a katun and twenty katuns (144,000 kins/days or 400 tuns) we call a baktun (we don't know the original Maya name).  
Maya numerals 0 - 19 with a dot for 1 and a bar for 5
Point #4. The creation was a significant event in the popular worldview.
Creation texts such as the Popol Vuh were "the doctrine which they first imbibed with their mother's milk, and that all of them knew it almost by heart." Allen J. Christenson, Popol Vuh The Sacred Book of the Maya, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007) Translator's Preface, quoting Francisco Ximénez (1666-1729). We see creation myth imagery at Izapa (ca. 400 BC), El Mirador (ca. 200 BC), and San Bartolo (ca. 200 BC). Creation iconography is widespread throughout the classic period (AD 250 - 900). Justin Kerr, for example, documents hundreds of examples in his famed MayaVase photographic archive.
Popol Vuh 2007 University of Oklahoma Edition
Point #5. Humans in historical time were linked back to heroic events in "mythological time."
"The opening chapters of the Popol Vuh describe the creation of all things as if it were occuring in the immediate present ..." and "The story-teller invites the listener to imagine the setting of his tale, and nearly always tells the story as if it were happening right then, even if it happened in the distant or mythic past." Allen J. Christenson, Popol Vuh, Translator's Preface. Ancient hieroglyphic texts have a "device apparently used by the Maya to link historical events with the mythological origins of the world, namely by means of extremely Long Counts involving coefficients of '13' at and beyond the baktuns position." Jorge L. Orejel, "A Parallel Long-Reckoning Between the Chilam Balam of Chumayel and a Hieroglyphic Inscription from Yaxchilán," Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing No. 63, Boundary End Archaeology Research Center, October 29, 2019, shared on David Stuart's Maya Decipherment blog. This device can be seen on Step VII of the Hieroglyphic Stairs in Structure 33 at Yaxchilán where eight coefficients of "13" precede the baktuns position. Several inscriptions from Cobá also have long strings of "13" preceding the baktuns position. If taken literally, these long count dates would indicate a time trillions of years in the past. Epigraphers interpret them as a literary way of expressing the completion of many higher-order cycles since the beginning of time. In the Yaxchilán example, ruler Bird Jaguar staged a ball game on 9.15.13.6.9 (October 15, AD 744) and used the literary device to set his actions in "the realm of sacred behavior within a time frame that approached infinity." Linda Schele and Mary E. Miller, The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art, (Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum, 1986) p. 249. This image is from the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (CMHI), Peabody Museum, Harvard.
Right Side, Stair VII, Structure 33, Yaxchilán showing long count date
13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.9.15.13.6.9
Point #6. Vestiges of the Genesis creation account are preserved.
Genesis 2:2-3 famously says God created the world in seven days, the seventh being a day of rest. The Chilam Balam of Chumayel (Roys 1967 translation) says "seven was the count of the creation of the world." The Edmonson 1986 translation says "seven is the count of the dawn." According to Jorge Orejel "dawn can then be equated with the creation of the world." Orejel says the phrase under consideration could be rendered "the seventh time during its dawn is the count of its dawn" or "seven steps above 13 times 8,000 after its dawn is the count of its dawn." In the image above, the eight glyphs on the top left all have the number 13 depicted as two bars and three dots. The one on the lower right is in what epigraphers call the pictun (8,000 tuns/years) position and there are seven more coefficients of "13" in higher orders to the left of it. Orejel links this with the Chilam Balam of Chumayel expression that actions happened "for the seventh time" prior to the final dawn of the most recent creation. The Maya envisioned multiple destruction/creation cycles preceding the current world age.

Genesis 1:7 says God made the firmament (Heaven) which divided waters under the firmament from waters above the firmament. The Chilam Balam of Chumayel says water in the sky fell on the earth and destroyed it prior to the current creation. During the creative process, the sky was "lifted up" to its current position above the earth. Linda Schele in the 1987 Notebooks for Maya Hieroglyphic Writing Workshops at Texas interpreted wak chanal as "the beginning of time, 4 ahau 8 kumk'u, when the sky was lifted up."

Genesis 1:2 says darkness prevailed at first. The Popol Vuh (all citations are from Christenson 2007) says "All lies placid and silent in the darkness, in the night."

Genesis 1:2 describes primordial waters. The Popol Vuh says "Only the expanse of the water, only the tranquil sea lies alone."

Genesis 2:10-14 describes four rivers flowing in different directions to four lands. The Popol Vuh says "Thus were established the four corners, the four sides" and "four divisions."

Genesis 1:1 indicates the two fundamental entities created were heaven and earth. The Popol Vuh agrees, calling them "all the sky and earth" and "the womb of sky and the womb of earth."

Genesis 1:1-8 describes the primordial elements before dry land appeared. The Popol Vuh says "the face of the earth has not yet appeared."

Genesis 1:9 describes a gathering process as part of creation. The Popol Vuh describes a time when "There is not yet anything gathered together." Later the surface of the earth was "gathered and become level."

Genesis 1:3 famously says God spoke and the elements obeyed. The actual operative agent of creation was the divine word. The Popol Vuh says "These, then, are the first words, the first speech" and "Then came his word" followed by "Merely their word brought about the creation of it."

Genesis 1:1 highlights God who existed before the creation. The Popol Vuh features "the Framer and the Shaper, Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent" who existed before the creation.

Genesis 1:3 describes the creation of light. The Popol Vuh says "they conceived light and life" and "a dawn for everyone."

Genesis 1:16 describes the two great lights, the sun and the moon. The Popol Vuh tells an elaborate tale about Hunahpu and Xbalanque apotheosizing into the sun and the moon.
Hunahpu Transformed into Kinich Ahau, the Sun God
Three Cheek Spots are Diagnostic of this Deity
Tzakol Censer, Uaxactun Area
Genesis describes the creation of plants (1:11-12) followed by animals (1:24-25) and finally humans (1:27). The Popol Vuh describes the creation of "cypress groves and pine forests to cover the face of the earth" followed by "the deer and the birds" and other animals and finally humans from mud, wood, and then corn.

In the Genesis account, Eve is tempted by the fruit of a tree, brings death into the world, is able to have children, and gets banished from the Garden of Eden. In the Popol Vuh, Maiden Lady Blood aka Xquic is tempted by the fruit of a calabash tree, becomes pregnant, is sentenced to death, and gets banished from Xibalba.

Genesis 6:1 says humans began to multiply on the face of the earth. The Popol Vuh says the wooden people "began to multiply, bearing daughters and sons."

Genesis 6:5 says humans became wicked, thinking only of evil. The Popol Vuh says the wooden people "did not remember their Framer or their Shaper" and lacked purpose.

Genesis 6:6 says God regretted creating humans. The Popol Vuh has the Framer and the Shaper saying "we have made a mistake."

Genesis 7:21 says God cleansed the earth with a flood and all terrestrial animal life died. The Popol Vuh says "A flood was planned by Heart of Sky" and "they were killed in the flood." See the blog article "Primordial Flood."

Genesis 11:6-7 says humans became too powerful and needed to be restrained. The Popol Vuh says "It is a mistake that they have become like gods." In Genesis, tongues were confounded at the Tower of Babel. In the Maya story, people's eyesight and cognitive abilities were restricted.

This is merely a sampling of the narrative motifs that could be compared. There are enough similarities between the Genesis account of the creation and the Chilam Balam of Chumayel that many have assumed Colonial Christian influence on the Maya text. Jorge Orejel points out parallelism between the Yucatec record and an 8th century AD inscription from Yaxchilán that he believes "documents the survival of Classic Maya beliefs in Colonial texts."
Chumayel, Yucatan 430 Air Kilometers Distant from Yaxchilán, Chiapas
There are enough similarities between the Genesis account of the creation and the Popol Vuh that many have assumed Colonial Christian influence on the Maya creation story.
Hunahpu with his Blowgun, Early Classic Maya Double Vase
Note the Three Cheek Spots. K3150 in the Justin Kerr Database 
Over time, however, dozens of event depictions discovered in pre-conquest art and iconography have re-inforced the Popol Vuh's reputation as an authentic and very pervasive pre-columbian text.

Article by Kirk Magleby who volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which helps build enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to people everywhere.