Saturday, March 4, 2017


Moroni first appeared to seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith the evening of September 21, 1823. The next day the young prophet had his first of five annual interviews with the angel at Hill Cumorah and got his initial glimpse of the plates. On September 22, 1827, Joseph and Emma took the plates from the hill. By July 1, 1829, Joseph Smith had finished translating the Book of Mormon, the U.S. copyright application had been filed, and Egbert B. Grandin had published the title page as a "curiosity" in the Wayne Sentinel weekly newspaper. About nine months later, copies of the Book of Mormon were available for purchase in Palmyra, NY. See the excellent Joseph Smith Chronology published by BYU Studies.

In the Lord's timing, accurate information about literate high civilization in ancient America began to come forth via scientific means at precisely the same moment when accurate scriptural records from ancient America were being revealed. What began as a trickle of sketchy information about the Maya in the early 1820's gradually grew to a small stream. A steady flow of publications appeared after the Book of Mormon went on sale to the public on March 26, 1830. And then, while the Prophet was building the City of Joseph in Nauvoo, the floodgates opened. American archaeology as a modern science began during his lifetime.

Information began flowing from the Americas to Europe with the voyages of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492. Spanish military men, civil servants, and clerics authored a few dozen treatises containing valuable ethnographic information about post-classic cultures such as the Aztec, Inca, and Toltec. Conquistadores left lively descriptions of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan and the Inca capital Cusco. Most of these documents, now collectively called the Spanish and Indian Chronicles, were little-known outside of the Iberian sphere of influence. In an attempt to protect their treasure fleets, the Spanish crown maintained a veil of secrecy over their American colonies that lasted from the 1500's through the early 1800's. These conditions characterized Spanish America during those three hundred years:
  • Indigenous cultures and antiquities were routinely ignored or suppressed. Spanish priorities were economic exploitation justified through Roman Catholic evangelism.
  • Speculation about native American origins generally tried to fit the New World into the Biblical narrative of the flood, Tower of Babel, etc.
  • Spanish accounts that did reach London, Philadelphia, or New York were often considered unreliable and little attention was paid to them.    
1688 Franciscan Diego Lopez de Cogulludo (1613 - 1665)'s work in Spanish entitled Historia de Yucathan was published in Madrid. John L. Stephens carried a copy of Cogolludo's book with him on his second journey around Yucatan (1841 - 1842).
Historia de Yucathan Title Page
1777 William Robertson (1721 - 1793) published his 3 volume History of America in Dublin. In Volume 2, Book IV he said "The inhabitants of the New World were in a state of society so extremely rude as to be unacquainted with those arts which are the first essays of human ingenuity in its advance toward improvement." He argued that the Spanish exaggerated what they found in the Americas, that the so-called temples were simple mounds of earth and their "houses were mere huts, built with turf, or mud, or the branches of trees, like those of the rudest Indians."
Principal William Robertson
1780 Francisco Javier Clavijero Echegaray (1731 - 1787) published La Historia Antigua de Mexico in Italian. An English translation by Charles Cullen was published in 1787. American editions were published in Richmond, Virginia in 1806 and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1817. This work dealt mainly with the Aztec empire and its Toltec predecessors. It was the first serious attempt to establish a native American cultural chronology.
Jesuit Francisco Clavijero
1814 Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) published the English translation of his 2 volume 1810 French Vues des Cordilleres et monuments des peuples indigenes de l'Amerique as Researches concerning the institutions and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of America: with descriptions and views of some of the most striking scenes in the Cordilleras with Longman, Hurst, Rees, et al. in London.  Humboldt reproduced an image of the Aztec calendar stone, unearthed in 1790, a figure from Palenque he incorrectly attributed to Oaxaca, and five pages from the Dresden Codex. He recognized artistic and historical merit in pre-columbian structures and artifacts, but ultimately concluded that the indigenous peoples in the Americas had been despotic and barbaric.
Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt
1821 Mexico and Guatemala (which then included Chiapas, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) achieved independence from Spain. Suddenly, the world's attention was focused on these former colonies which were shrouded in mystery because they had been off-limits to most foreigners for centuries.
Mexican Flag
Guatemalan Flag
1822 Jose Antonio del Rio (1745 - 1789)'s brief report to the Spanish crown about his 1787 excavations at Palenque, illustrated by Ricardo Almendariz' drawings, were published in English translation by Henry Berthoud in London. Del Rio described Palenque, Tonina, and Uxmal. The booklet was entitled Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City Discovered near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala, in Spanish America. The volume, first published 33 years after del Rio's death, was met with astonishment, curiosity, and skepticism in the English and American presses. The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. on Saturday, November 9, 1822, No. 303 called the book "about as fanciful an antiquarian hypothesis as we ever met with." The highly disparaging review continued "To talk of medallions, figures in stucco, relievos, devices, etc. etc. at the assigned period, is little short of the grossest absurdity." "The whole work is obscure, and in parts altogether unintelligible." A few years later, after additional corroborating reports had been published, the same London Literary Gazette on Saturday, January 19, 1828, No. 574, said under the heading of "American Antiquities" that the earthen mounds found throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys were made by people more advanced than the Indians at European contact. The North American earthworks, though, were "trifling compared with the civilisation of the ancient inhabitants of Palenque. The remains found in [then Guatemala, now Chiapas, Mexico] prove that its monuments must have rivaled those of the greatest cities of Europe; and that its people must have arrived at a high cultivation of the intellectual faculties ... The monuments of Palenque are certainly the most astonishing discovery that has been made in America."
Rendering of the Tablet of the Cross from Captain del Rio's Report
1823 Domingo Juarros (1752 - 1820) wrote a history of Guatemala that was published in Guatemala City in 1808, then three years after his death in English translation in London by J. Hearne. Entitled A Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala, Juarros described the ruins of Palenque and Tonina in opulent terms, comparing them with Egypt.
Juarros' History Title Page
1824 Politician John Van Ness Yates (1779 - 1839) and Attorney Joseph White Moulton (1789 - 1875) wrote History of the State of New York Including its Aboriginal and Colonial Annals, published in New York City by A.T. Goodrich. In it they discussed the relatively primitive earthworks built by ancient peoples in the Great Lakes area, the more sophisticated mounds along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers including the massive Cahokia complex, and the much more advanced ruins in Mexico and Guatemala including the recently reported Palenque.
Yates Moulton Title Page
1825 The 1822 London publication of del Rio's report so impressed the recently-formed Societe de Geographie in Paris that it sponsored a contest. A 2,400 franc prize was authorized for the first person to produce a comprehensive report on Palenque and other Maya ruins in Yucatan. Jean-Francois Champollion (1790 - 1832)'s breakthrough publications on Egyptian decipherment (aided by the Rosetta Stone) had just been published in 1822 and 1824, fueling an already-lively French interest in antiquities.  
Plaque on Society Headquarters Building in Paris
 April 7, 1829 Oliver Cowdery (1806 - 1850) began writing for Joseph Smith (1805 - 1844).
Attorney Oliver Cowdery
July 1, 1829 Translation of the Book of Mormon was completed.
Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
March 26, 1830 The Book of Mormon went on sale to the public in Palmyra, NY.
First Edition Copy of the Book of Mormon
1830 Edward King, Lord Kingsborough (1795 - 1837), published Volume 1 of his monumental Antiquities of Mexico with Augustine Aglio in London. This large format book that ultimately would run to 9 volumes contained "fac-similes of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics, preserved in the royal libraries of Paris, Berlin, and Dresden, in the Imperial Library in Vienna, in the Vatican Library, in the Borgian Museum at Rome, in the library of the Institute at Bologna, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Together with the Monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix with their respective scales of measurement and accompanying descriptions. The whole illustrated with many valuable inedited manuscripts." Guillaume Dupaix had visited Tonina and Palenque in 1808 at the request of the Spanish crown.
Antiquities of Mexico Title Page
Saturday, October 15, 1831 A letter from Juan Galindo (1802 - 1840) was published in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. No. 769 describing his 1831 visit to Palenque. Galindo said the ruins with phonetic writing "rescue ancient America from a charge of barbarism." Prior to his visit, he did not believe writing existed anywhere in the ancient New World. The Maya civilization, Galindo believed, "far surpassed that of the Mexicans and Peruvians." He further reported that these "surprising people were not physically dissimilar from the present Indians."
Diplomat Juan Galindo's Letter from Palenque
February, 1833 William W. Phelps (1792 - 1872) mentioned Juan Galindo's letter to The London Literary Gazette in Vol. 1, No. 9 of The Evening and the Morning Star published in Independence, Missouri. Phelps' article was entitled "Discovery of Ancient Ruins in Central America." Phelps remarked "We are glad to see the proof begin to come, of the original or ancient inhabitants of this continent. It is good testimony in favor of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon is good testimony that such things as cities and civilization, 'prior to the fourteenth century,' existed in America."
Printer William Wines Phelps
1834 Henri Baradere (1792 - 1839), Guillaume Dupaix (1746 - 1818), et al., Antiquites mexicaines, Paris, described the ruins of Mitla, Uxmal, Palenque, etc. in a three volume set reporting on expeditions undertaken from 1805 - 1807.
Rendering of the Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal in Baradere's Book
Saturday, July 18, 1835 A letter from Juan Galindo (1802 - 1840) was published in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. No. 965 describing his 1831 visit to Palenque and his 1834 visit to Copan. Others had visited one or the other, but Galindo was the first in modern times to visit both ruins.
Diplomat Juan Galindo's Letter from Copan
1836 Mariano Fernandez de Echeverria y Veytia (1718 - 1780)'s masterwork Historia Antigua de Mexico was published by Juan Ojeda in Mexico City. Veytia helped advance knowledge of ancient American calendrical systems and astronomical observations.
Antiquarian Mariano Veytia
1837 Mordecai M. Noah (1785 - 1851) Discourse on the Evidences of the American Indians Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel: Delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, Clinton Hall published by J. Van Norden in New York. Noah cited recent discoveries (Palenque, Uxmal) to argue that ancient American civilizations "rivaled the splendor of Egypt and Syria."
Journalist Mordecai Manuel Noah
1838 Frederic de Waldeck (1766 - 1875) Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dan la province d’Yucatan (Amérique Centrale), pendant les années 1834 et 1836, Paris, described visits to Uxmal and other Yucatan ruins.
Rendering of the Nunnery, Uxmal in Waldeck's Book
1839 Parley P. Pratt (1807 - 1857) in the second edition of his influential A Voice of Warning, chapter 4, mentions del Rio's 1787 expedition to Palenque and posits that ruin as evidence of the cities described in the Book of Mormon.
Apostle Parley Parker Pratt
1841 John L. Stephens (1805 - 1852) and Frederick Catherwood (1799 - 1854), published their 2 volume blockbuster Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan with Harper & Brothers in New York. This book more than any other forever dispelled the notion that the indigenous peoples of the Americas descended from rude barbarians. Stephens is considered the father of American archaeology.
Explorer John Lloyd Stephens
1841 John M. Bernhisel (1799 - 1881) sent a copy of Stephens and Catherwood's best-selling book to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. The prophet thanked him in a personal letter dated November 16, 1841. Joseph wrote that Incidents of Travel in Central American, Chiapas, and Yucatan "to me is the more interesting as it unfolds and developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumnes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all the histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct, luminous & comprihensive."
Physician John Milton Bernhisel
1843 William H. Prescott (1796 - 1859) published his acclaimed History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortes with Harper & Brothers in New York. Prescott is generally considered the first American scientific historian.
Historian William Hickling Prescott