The Ancient Mayas & The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon (BOM) insists that a group of Israelites crossed the ocean about 600 B.C. and occupied the Americas for approximately 1000 years (about 600 B.C. to about 400 A.D.) They divided into two warring factions, the Lamanites and the Nephites. The Lamanites became the hunting, nomadic people now called the American Indian. The Nephites kept the Old World civilization and their worship of God according to the Law of Moses. For much of that time the Nephites had great civilizations. These great civilizations were nearly carbon copies of the great civilizations of the Old World. Ultimately the uncivilized Lamanites completely wiped out the white-skinned, bearded Nephites (around 400 A.D.) and the great civilizations in the New World were thereby lost.
Many Mormons say that it is hard to believe that a young and modestly educated man such as Joseph Smith could make up such a story. But the fact is that such unfounded speculation had been rampant for many years before Smith wrote the Book of Mormon (BOM). It was a common and popular theory of the time.
Father Duran in 1585 was one of the first to state explicitly that “these [New World] natives are of the ten tribes of Israel” .... Adair’s History of the American Indians, published in 1775, was based on this theory....
For example, the View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith was very popular (it was said that it “flooded the New England states and New York”) in the region in which Joseph Smith lived and it became available there 5 to 7 years before Joseph Smith published his Book of Mormon. This very popular book which attempted to explain the “noted relics of civilization” in the New World and the origin of the American Indian tells us:
It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel, after they settled in America, became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.
This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil government, which are manifestly very ancient, and from centuries before Columbus discovered America....
So the Book of Mormon was simply “confirming” a very popular theory of the time. (A theory which has since been thoroughly discredited.)
For over 1000 years (according to the BOM) these white-skinned, “round-eyed” people (the Nephites) of the New World worked with metals (including iron and steel). They had chariots, metal armor, and weapons (including steel swords and bows), a complex coinage system, plows, horses, donkeys, cattle, wheat, barley, a highly developed writing system based on that of the Old World, and they dressed in Old World (esp. Israelite) style robes. And since they continued temple worship and the Law of Moses (as the BOM insists), olive trees (and olive oil presses and oil lamps) must have been there in great abundance. And priestly clothing, at least, had to follow the Israelite pattern as prescribed in the Law. Also required by the Law were certain stringed musical instruments and the very same religious calendar of the Israelites.
Although not specifically mentioned in the BOM we would be perfectly safe in assuming that these people would have brought the concept of the potter’s wheel. This concept is as basic and as important as the wheel, writing, and a coinage system. These are all things the Israelites would have been very familiar with in the Old World, and it is inconceivable that they would not have been used extensively by those coming to the New World! Once learned these are all things that a civilization never loses as long as it remains a civilization!
However, we know for a certainty that the actual civilizations of the New World did not have these very basic items and concepts of the Old World civilizations. The greatest, and possibly the oldest (even a Brigham Young University archeologist believes the ancient Mayan city of El Mirador may be the oldest city in the New World), of the New World civilizations...that of the Mayas...has definitely been equated by the Mormon hierarchy with the great Lamanite/Nephite civilization of the BOM. (Compare the text found under the illustrations in the Preface to the 1977 ed. of the BOM.)
Notice what has been conclusively established about this greatest of pre-Columbus New World civilizations:
A. They always were (and still are today) a copper-skinned, Mongolian-appearing people (complete with Mongolian epicanthic fold [“slant”] of the eyes and “Mongolian spot” [an irregularly-shaped, bluish-purple mark near the base of the spine, just above the buttocks]. This “Mongolian spot” is prevalent throughout Far Eastern Asia and among American Indians.). They also have the typical Mongolian (but non-typical Israelite) characteristic of scant facial hair (although old men had sparse, straggly beards, which are often represented in Maya sculpture).
This Mongolian appearance includes dark eyes, straight black hair, wide cheekbones, and distinctively curved incisors characterized by anthropologists as shovel-shaped.
“Northern Asians and American Indians of both [ancient] and modern times share, to a considerable degree, certain traits of tooth formation. One is ‘shoveling’ of the incisors, a scooped-out appearance of the forward biting teeth.” - National Geographic, Sept., 1979, p. 343.
More recently we hear from an anthropologist who has made an intensive study of modern and ancient dental structures.
“For 25 years anthropologist Christy Turner has pored over dental roots and crowns at his Arizona State University lab, building up an intricate picture of the similarities and differences between Old and New World teeth. Since the shapes of teeth change so slowly and constantly over thousands of years, the dental record offers Turner a powerful tool for probing relationships between ancient peoples.
“In fact, by documenting how the tooth shapes change from one region or time period to another, Turner has arrived at stunning proof of the Asian heritage of all Native Americans: More than two dozen detailed similarities - specific features of roots or crowns - all link the dental record of northern Asia with that of the Americas.” - World Monitor: The Christian Science Monitor Monthly, p. 40, March 1990.
There is simply no way to honestly say that the great civilizations of the New World were built by white-skinned Middle East people from the Old World! Many thousands of paintings, carvings, pottery representations, and skeletal remains from all ages have shown that they were definitely dark-skinned Mongolian-appearing people, and approximately two million of them (Mayas) still exist today! They were not wiped out completely in 420 A.D. as claimed in the BOM.
B.During the nearly 1000 years of their greatest period of civilization (approximately from the time of Christ until nearly 1000 A.D.) when nearly all of their greatest cities were built, “The Maya had no knowledge of metals” (The Ancient Maya, Burland, 1967, p. 43).
“Only during the Post classic period after A.D. 900 did metals assume any importance to the Maya. For the most part these were restricted to copper and gold.” - National Geographic, Dec. 1975, p. 85.
“Mechanical aids available to Maya builders were extremely limited by modern standards, particularly since they had no wheeled vehicles to haul materials, no draft animals, and no metal tools.” - Maya, Gallenkamp, 1976, p. 81.
Already, then, we see they did not have “chariots,” “metal armor,” “horses,” “oxen,” or “donkeys.” In fact, they not only did not have domesticated horses, cattle, sheep, or donkeys as the BOM says, they didn’t even know such creatures even existed!
They loved to add animals to their drawings: jaguars, monkeys, dogs, deer, snakes, birds, turtles, frogs, fish, armadillos, etc. But they never drew, carved, molded, painted, etc. a representation of a cow, horse, sheep, or donkey!
Their only domesticated animals were certain fowl (especially the turkey), bees, and dogs (which were a very special food - impossible for an Israelite because of his food laws which condemned it but definitely a common Mongolian food even up until today).
Not only would the Law of Moses (which the Nephites followed in the BOM) strictly forbid the eating of dogs, but also shellfish. And, yet, for as long as there have been people in the large area of what is now the S. E. USA, the natives there have ravenously devoured huge quantities of shellfish. This includes the time period of the “Nephites” and after!
C. As for the steel swords and bows of the BOM: “classic-period [1000 year period of highest civilization] weapons were limited to short spears tipped with flint or obsidian points, wooden clubs, flint knives, and shields.” - Maya, p. 113, Gallenkamp. There were no bows at all during this period and never (not even after 1000 A.D. until the arrival of the Europeans) a knowledge of steel. D. As for the complex coinage system of the new world people in the BOM, nothing even remotely like it existed in the entire New World. “...the Maya used no money...” - The Ancient Maya, Burland, 1967.
“[The Mayas] closest approach to money was the cacao bean...” And, “Like the Aztecs, the Maya were enthusiastic drinkers of chocolate. They made it of cacao and ground maize...As it was grown in the humid lands of the periphery of the Maya country, it was expensive, so much so that the beans served for money.” - World of the Maya, 1964, V. W. Von Hagen, pp. 55, 56.
E. The Old World staples of wheat and barley that the BOM says were also the staples in the New World also did not exist here! The one great staple was maize. (Maize was native to the New World and unknown in the Old World. The “corn” mentioned in the KJV simply meant “grain” and was used to describe both wheat and barley.) This was supplemented with peppers, beans, squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, avocado, and cacao. But the pre-Columbus Americans had no wheat or barley!
We know for certain what crops were grown and what were not! Not only is there the witness of what actually existed in this hemisphere when the Europeans first came, but there is the vast witness of the actual agricultural product itself found buried with those who actually grew it through the ages, and the many thousands of representations that show the plants they grew and how they grew them (planting sticks, not the plows of the BOM, for example).
The olive tree was of extreme importance to the ancient Israelite. Olives themselves were used as food, of course, but
“their chief value is in their oil, which composes as much as 30% or more (by weight) of the fresh fruit. One good tree ... thus could provide the proportion of fats needed in the diet of a family of five or six persons. .... Nearly every village in Palestine had its olive grove .... The large number of ancient stone olive presses found throughout Palestine testifies to the extensive cultivation of the tree. The ‘gardens’ of that time were frequently in the form of an orchard and contained an olive press.” - p. 552, Insight, Vol. 2.
Yes, olives and olive oil were among the most important foods in Palestine. It was also the most important fuel, by far, for the only source of light in every household - the lamp. “Olive oil was the fluid generally burned in ancient lamps (Ex. 27:20), though oil from the terebinth tree was also used.” - p. 194, Insight, Vol. 2. Every Israelite household in Bible times had more than one of these distinctive olive oil lamps. So, as common as the discovery of ancient stone oil olive presses in Palestine today, it is even more common to find olive oil lamps thousands of years old.
Not only was it very important for food and light, but it was essential for Israelite religious customs and ceremonies. To follow the Law as given through Moses in the first five books of the Bible, olive oil had to be used continually in the Temple forever (see Ex. 27:20, 21 and Lev. 24:1-3)! Exodus 30:24-32 shows that the “holy anointing oil” had to be composed mostly of olive oil. “This shall be a holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.”
In fact, the anointing of God’s kings (1 Sam. 16:1; 2 Sam. 2:4; 1 Kings 1:39; 2 Kings 9:6) and priests (Exodus 40:15; Lev. 8:12, 30; Lev. 21:10, 12) with this special Holy anointing olive oil pointed specifically to Jesus who took his very title from this act (“Messiah” in Hebrew and “Christ” in Greek both mean “The Anointed One”).
It is simply unbelievable that Israelites who prepared as long and hard as the BOM says for their voyage to the New World would not have brought the olive tree with them to the New World. This is especially so if they really carefully followed the Law as detailed in the “five books of Moses” as the BOM says they did for 600 years, at least, in the New World! - (1 Nephi 4:15 and 5:11; Alma 25:15; 3 Nephi 1:24, 25)
“In modern times the olive has been spread widely over the world; and though the Mediterranean lands that were its ancient home still yield the chief supply of the oil, the tree is now cultivated successfully in many regions unknown to its early distributors. Soon after the discovery of the American continent it was conveyed thither by the Spanish settlers. In Chile it flourishes as luxuriantly as in its native land.... introduced into Mexico by the Jesuit missionaries of the 17th century, it was planted by similar agency in California, where it is now an important crop.” - p. 774, v. 16, 1929, Encyclopedia Britannica.
Not only is it a historical fact that the olive tree did not exist in the New World at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans, but there is no record of this extremely important item in the many drawings, writings, oral legends, burials, etc. of any of the New World native peoples (including, of course, the Mayas). The very common archaeological discovery of olive oil presses and olive oil lamps in Palestine is not paralleled in the New World. Archaeologists have found no olive presses, no olive oil lamps here!
Nor is there any record of kings or priests being anointed with oil. No drawings, writings, legends, traditions, etc. Yet see BOM Jacob 1:9.
Nor has frankincense been found in drawings, tombs, or growing in this hemisphere, but it is an essential ingredient in Temple worship - Ex. 30:34-36. It was part of a required daily offering forever! - Ex. 30:7, 8.
F.The writing system devised by the Mayas [and theirs was probably the most advanced of all the New World attempts at written communication] had absolutely no basic similarities with that of the Old World.
“In a general way it can be said that the order in Mayan writing is, with few exceptions, from left to right and from top to bottom.” - Encyclopedia Americana, 1957, v. 14, p. 175.
Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient (as well as modern) Hebrew, of course, read from right to left. Obviously characters and style will change some over the centuries, but a complete reversal of the most basic element of writing direction is extremely unlikely!
The BOM says these people used a form of Egyptian writing and also knew a form of Hebrew writing: Mormon 9:32, 33; 1 Nephi 1:2; Mosiah 1:4.
“Epigraphers quickly recognized the system of writing used by the Mayas was totally unrelated to Indo-European scripts, leaving them with no precedents to follow in deciphering it.” - Maya, Gallenkamp.
There is simply no connection whatsoever between the Egyptian hieroglyphics (or any other Old World writing the Israelites could have conceivably come in contact with) and the entirely different Mayan system of writing.
“It can be stated with complete certainty that the Mayan hieroglyphic system is not connected in any way with the Egyptian system of hieroglyphics.” - Maya Cities, Paul Rivet, New York, 1960, p. 67.
It is wholly beyond the realm of belief that a people who had the much simpler and incredibly more efficient alphabetical system (such as the Israelites had even long before the Babylonian conquest - when the BOM Nephites were supposed to have come to the New World) would revert to a very primitive, complicated, inefficient picture-writing system! This is like a civilization giving up the wheel - it just never happens!
G. The Mayas did not have metal armor nor silks to wear as the BOM people did. But they did wear an amazing amount of elaborate feathered apparel throughout all ages! Notice how this extremely important (and extremely distinctive) apparel is never even hinted at in the BOM! Also not mentioned is jade.
“To all middle American Indians [including Mayas, of course] jade was the most precious material known.” - Pyramids of the New World, Baldwin, 1971, p. 39.
H. The Mayas (if they really came from the Old World of the Middle East) would definitely have had the potter’s wheel!
“Even the potter’s wheel, introduced in the Old World over 4000 years ago [long, long before the Nephites supposedly came to the New World], was never invented in Mesoamerica” - p. 81, Maya, Gallenkamp, 1976.
“The use of the wheel in Mesoamerica constitutes an interesting paradox. Absolute proof exists that the principle of the wheel and axle was known in the region: ceramic figurines in the form of toy animals mounted on wheels have been excavated in several parts of Mexico. But there is no evidence that the wheel ever had practical applications in Mesoamerica or anywhere else in the New World prior to the arrival of Europeans.” - p. 81 footnote, Maya.
I. Musical instruments are improved upon over the ages, but a basic concept is not lost. We know for a fact that the Israelites loved stringed instruments long before the time the Nephites supposedly came to America (see Gen. 31:27; 1 Sam. 16:23; Ps. 33:2).
The Israelites even wrote their Psalms specifically to be accompanied by harp and psaltery music at temple services.
“For the ordinary services they used 12 male singers, 12 players on instruments - nine harps, two players of the psaltery and one of cymbals.” - p. 28, How Music Grew by Bauer and Peyser, 1939. Also see “Harp” in World Book, 1966, and Britannica Jr., 1956.
But “there were no string instruments in pre-hispanic America.” - World of the Maya, p. 94.
J. Israelite Dress. The Law of Moses demands certain distinctive clothing be worn:
“God commanded the Israelites to make fringed edges on the skirts of their garments, with a blue string above the fringe. This seems to have been peculiar to Israelite dress and provided a visual reminder that they were set aside as a people holy to Jehovah. It would keep before their eyes the fact that they should obey Jehovah’s commandments [Numbers 15:38-41].” - Aid book, p. 468.
ALLwho followed the Law of Moses (as is claimed for the Nephites) must have worn this style of clothing!
However, as the myriad drawings/paintings/murals (many in full color) of the ancient New World inhabitants actually show, they did not follow this commandment at any time. (See any good pictorial book of Mayan, and others, artifacts.)
K. The Serpent Motif. The Serpent was the holiest and most-used symbol in the Mayan (and other Mesoamerican cultures) religion. The Serpent motif is found everywhere. Even the kings’ and priests’ dress reflected the Holy Serpent symbolism. Their mightiest god was the Feathered Serpent.
Notice, however, what the serpent symbolism represents to Jesus and God’s people:
“At Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 God’s principal opposer, Satan, is referred to as ‘the original serpent,’ evidently because of his employing the literal serpent in Eden as his means of communication with the woman (Gen. 3:1-15). As the ‘original serpent’ he is also the progenitor in a spiritual sense of other opposers; hence Jesus’ classification of such ones as ‘serpents, offspring of vipers.’” - Matt. 23:33; cf. Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:12 - p. 1472, Aid book.
So not only would the faithful Israelites have considered it blasphemous to have idols and pictures, etc. revering anything (as the Mayans had in incredible profusion), but they would have been doubly damned for making that idolatrous representation in the popularly-known symbolic form used to represent Satan!
Another form of idolatry (one especially forbidden by God in his Law to the Israelites) very common in Mayan and other pre-Columbus cultures of the New World was that of astrology. The Israelites were not to allow any form of divination (Deut. 18:10-12). This included astrology and reverence or worship of any of God’s creation in the heavens. All the ancient countries around Israel were greatly influenced by astrology in the form that had been developed in Babylon. This particular form of astrology has the heavens divided into 12 sectors according to certain constellations familiar to the people of the Middle East. More distant cultures such as the Chinese borrowed the basic idea of astrology but developed their own unique division of the heavens. The distinctive division of the heavens found in the pre-Columbian record of the New World is not that of the Babylonian, Egyptian, and Middle East peoples (which some Israelites could have been familiar with - even though they would not dare practice it) but that of Central Asia, China and Japan! - Encyclopedia Americana, 1957, Vol. 29, p. 719.
“The Maya were dominated by fear and superstition, and used astronomy as a hand-maiden of astrology.... Every moment of their lives was involved in the position of the planets.” - p. 178, World of the Maya, Von Hagen, 1960, Mentor Books.
L. Mound Builders. The latest information concerning archeological discoveries of the native Moundbuilders of North America (including those that apparently inspired Joseph Smith’s BOM) shows basically the same things as discoveries concerning the Mayas. One exception is that they eventually used native copper to a limited extent. They merely cold-hammered the naturally-occurring metal found in their locale into shapes. They had no knowledge of smelting or alloying as the “Jaredites” and “Nephites” were supposed to have and so knew nothing of iron, steel, bronze, brass, etc.
Some communication by the Moundbuilders with the Central American Indians is shown by copies of ideas in pottery, designs, ceremonies, burials, etc. And it appears that, in turn, the very limited use of copper was borrowed by the Mayas after their Golden Age (about 1000 A.D. or later).
These North American Moundbuilders also liked to represent animal life in pottery, carvings, mound shapes, effigies, carved tobacco pipes, etc. But only animals native to North America were ever represented! No sheep, no cattle, no horses, no donkeys, etc. And ONLY foodstuffs native to North America were found, either actually buried in the burial mounds or represented in art forms. No wheat, no barley, no olives! No chariots, no Hebrew or “Reformed Egyptian” writing (nor any writing whatsoever in the Old World sense). There were no plows, no practical wheels of any sort (including that Old World essential: the pottery wheel). No stringed musical instruments. And their clothing most certainly never followed the Mosaic Law’s commandment for God’s people.
These people did, however, smoke tobacco for ritual and worship as well as for pleasure, and, as did the Mayans, they loved dog meat. - see Pyramids of the New World, Baldwin, 1971, pp. 175-205.
M. Israelite religious calendar vs. the New World religious calendar:
The Israelite calendar had 12 months whose names were descriptive of the season. For example: Abib (the first month - Ex. 12:1, 2; 13:4) means “ripening grain.” These months all had about 29 days, running from new moon to new moon. To make this conform to a solar year of 365 days a certain number of days had to be added every year.
This calendar was extremely important to their religious life since it was used to determine the time for their many religious ceremonies and festivals (Passover, for example, Ex. 13:3-5). This calendar, then, was essential to the ancient Israelite religion and Mosaic Law (and as the BOM claims, this Law was brought to the New World and used for hundreds of years during the great civilizations).
The New World calendar, however, was completely different.
“Each day was designated by one of 20 animals important to the local mythology, such as alligator, buzzard, eagle, jaguar, snake, deer, or ocelot [but never BOM animals such as lamb, sheep, oxen, horse, etc.].”
So their religious calendar had 13 “months” of 20 days each for a religious year of 260 days.!
So the ancient Hebrews would designate a particular day as “the first day of Abib (‘ripening grain’).” But the ancient Middle American civilizations did just the opposite: The “month” (obviously not synchronized with the moon as was the Israelite calendar) was always a number, and each one of the 20 days had its own animal name such as 7 (the “month” number) Jaguar (the day of the “month”).
“The 260-day calendar never occurred anywhere except in Mesoamerica, where it continues in use today among certain remote tribes of Guatemala. In the more than 3,000 years since it was set in motion, the ancient calendar has not lost so much as a day.”
(Both quotes about Mesoamerican calendar above are from Science Digest, December 1981, pp. 57ff.)
Although “no other people in history made of time so great a fetish” (the Maya recorded dates on their stone monuments more than any other civilization), they have put no special significance for important BOM dates. One would think that great emphasis would be placed on the date of their arrival, but there is not! (“The beginning” in the New World was about 600 B.C. according to BOM.) Instead, the emphasis of the Maya calendar is on a BEGINNING for the Mayas in 3111 B.C. - World of the Maya, Von Hagen, p. 177, Mentor Books. (Also see p. 24, Mysteries of the Ancient Americas, Reader’s Digest General Books, 1986.)
“A major breakthrough [in American archaeology] came...on the humid coast of Ecuador. There at a site called Valdivia, archaeologists found incised pottery dating to around 3200 B.C. ... its style uncannily resembled pottery made in the same period in Japan, a place from which favorable winds and tides could send a stray fishing raft [or refugees’ raft] to Ecuador” - Life Magazine, October 16, 1970 (also see p. 12, Mysteries of the Ancient Americas, Reader’s Digest General Books, 1986).
Mormon scholar Carl Hugh Jones agrees:
“there is ample evidence to support the statement that there was contact between Japan and Ecuador about 3000 B.C.” - Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A, Brigham Young University, Sept. 8, 1969, pp. 5-6.
In an article in Science Digest about the Mayan religious calendar, the author speculates that the Mayan calendar may have developed in Izapa on the Pacific coast of Central America. He also states:
“that the Izapans were a seafaring people and maintained relatively regular contacts with places as far distant as Ecuador over a long period of time has been shown by several lines of evidence. For example, as I wandered through the ancient grounds of Izapa, I noticed that its entire complex of mounds and pyramids faces toward the volcano Tacana. This observation puzzled me at first. Why would the Izapans worship the second highest peak, I wondered, when the highest mountain, Tajumulco, was plainly in view?
“But as I continued to explore, I came upon a curious clue. In the north wall of Izapa’s ceremonial ball court is a bas-relief of a bearded man crossing a wave-capped body of water in a boat. Since there are no navigable rivers or lakes nearby, I surmised the water was the Pacific Ocean, 20 miles to the south. Later, as I stood on the Pacific shore, the reason the Izapans revered Tacana became obvious. From this vantage point Tacana appeared higher than Tajumulco. Indeed, I calculated that the lesser volcano could be seen from as far as 110 miles out to sea. It must have served as a fail-safe beacon [a life-saving, guiding god] for early navigators skirting the Meso-American coast. And it implied that the earliest settlers may have arrived at Izapa by boat from somewhere on the shores of the Pacific - from western South America [Ecuador]...or perhaps even East Asia [Japan].”
Now, if we add up all the facts: Japanese culture in Ecuador around 3200 B.C.; Beginning of Maya calendar at Izapa in 3111 B.C.; Bearded (heavier beard than sparse facial hair of elder Mayans) man coming to Mayan Pacific shore (near Izapa) in a boat; Later Izapans maintaining regular contact with Ecuador; we can see a picture developing like this:
People inhabiting Japan around 3200 B.C. (the Ainus lived there at that time - a bearded, more Caucasian-appearing people, see p. 89, v. 21, Encyclopedia Americana, 1957, and pp. 201-202, Citadels of Mystery, L. Sprague De Camp, Ballantine Books), whether fishermen accidentally driven by storms or Ainu refugees fleeing from the Mongolian invaders who ultimately took over Japan, reach Ecuador and establish a colony. Being boat people they probably made contact with native Americans (Mongolian descent) for considerable distance along the Pacific coast. Whether some of those ex-Japanese Ecuadoran sailors were lost at sea and, after being saved by sighting the volcano Tacana, sailed to shore and established a colony, or were exploring and, guided by Tacana, put ashore at a place where the native Americans took them in (perhaps as gods) and were therefore instrumental in establishing in 3111 B.C. what was to become the Mayan civilization doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this scenario, as speculative as it is, is infinitely more probable, and infinitely more supported by real evidence than the early 19thcentury speculation of the BOM!
“It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World. The Smithsonian Institution has never officially recognized the Book of Mormon as a record of value on scientific matters, and the Book has never been used as a guide or source of information for discovering ruined cities.” - as quoted in The Changing World of Mormonism, (CWOM) p. 134.
Today, if you write to the Smithsonian about this question, you will receive a form letter that restates the above information. - p. 2, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon.
Michael Coe, one of the best known authorities on archaeology of the New World wrote in an article for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer, 1973:
“Mormon archaeologists over the years have almost unanimously accepted the Book of Mormon as an accurate, historical account of the New World peoples .... Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true, and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group.... The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.” - quoted in CWOM, p. 134.
When Mormon missionaries and writers make claims about archaeologists verifying the BOM, we should refer them to the following statements by their own anthropologists and archaeologists:
“Many times, Mormon missionaries have told their investigators that such late-period ruins as Monte Alban [see Preface in 1977 BOM], Yagu, and Mitla were built by the Nephites and that the archaeologists would confirm this. Both claims are untrue. .... One may think of these earlier peoples as Jaredites or Nephites, but, if so, it must be on the basis of faith, not archaeology, for so far there is no explicit evidence that Book of Mormon peoples occupied this area.” - Joseph E. Vincent in U.A.S. Newsletter, no. 66, May 7, 1960, p. 2, Brigham Young University.
Mormon anthropologist M. Wells Jakeman states:
“It must be confessed that some members of the ‘Mormon’ or LDS Church are prone, in their enthusiasm for the Book of Mormon, to make claims for it that cannot be supported. So far as is known to the writer, no non-Mormon archaeologist at the present time is using the Book of Mormon as a guide in archaeological research. Nor does he know of any non-Mormon archaeologist who holds that the American Indians are descendants of the Jews, or that Christianity was known in America in the first century of our era” - U.A.S. Newsletter, no. 57, March 25, 1959, p. 4.
Mormon archaeologist John L. Sorenson who was assistant professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Brigham Young University wrote:
“Various individuals unconnected with these institutionalized activities have also wrestled with the archaeological problem. Few of the writings they have produced are of genuine consequence in archaeological terms. Some are clearly on the oddball fringe; others have credible qualification. Two of the most prolific are Professor Hugh Nibley and Milton R. Hunter; however, they are not qualified to handle the archaeological materials their works often involve ....As long as Mormons generally are willing to be fooled (and pay for) the uninformed, uncritical drivel about archaeology and the scriptures which predominates, the few L.D.S. experts are reluctant even to be identified with the topic.” - Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring, 1966, pp. 145, 149.
There seem to be only two choices for the Mormon who is well-informed about archaeology in the New World. He can either follow the course of Mormon archaeologist Dee F. Green or that of Thomas Stuart Ferguson. Dee F. Green was at one time deeply involved in archaeological work at Brigham Young University. He has evidently come to the conclusion that the knowledge he has gained in New World archaeology is irreconcilable with the BOM “history.” The way he has chosen to deal with this dilemma is simply to ignore it.
“Having spent a considerable portion of the past ten years functioning as a scientist dealing with New World archaeology, I find that nothing in so-called Book of Mormon archaeology materially affects my religious commitment one way or the other, and I do not see that the archaeological myths so common in our [Mormon] proselytizing program enhance the process of true conversion. ....
“The first myth we need to examine is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists. Titles on books full of archaeological half-truths, dilettanti on the peripheries of American archaeology calling themselves Book of Mormon archaeologists regardless of their education, and a Department of Archaeology at BYU devoted to the production of Book of Mormon archaeologists do not insure that Book of Mormon archaeology really exists. If one is to study Book of Mormon archaeology, then one must have a corpus of data with which to deal. We do not. The Book of Mormon is really there so one can have Book of Mormon studies, and archaeology is really there so one can study archaeology, but the two are not wed. At least they are not wed in reality since no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography. Biblical archaeology can be studied because we do know where Jerusalem and Jericho were and are, but we do not know where Zarahemla and Bountiful (nor any other location for that matter) were or are. It would seem then that a concentration on geography should be the first order of business, but we have already seen that twenty years of such an approach has left us empty-handed.” - Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer, 1969, pp. 76-78.
So, in spite of overwhelming evidence that the BOM is not true, and, therefore, Joseph Smith is not a prophet of God, Dee F. Green doesn’t allow it to “affect my religious commitment one way or the other.” In other words, “Truth is truth, and faith is faith, and we shouldn’t let one affect the other!”
Thomas Stuart Ferguson, on the other hand, really believed that archaeology would prove the BOM to be absolutely true just as it has repeatedly verified the history of the Bible. Mr. Ferguson has devoted a great deal of his life trying to prove the Book of Mormon by archaeology and is recognized by the Mormons as a great defender of the faith.
However, on 2 Dec. 1970, Mr. Ferguson told the authors of CWOM
“that he had come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a prophet and that Mormonism was not true. He told us that he spent 25 years trying to prove Mormonism but had finally come to the conclusion that all his work in this regard had been in vain. He said that his training in law had taught him how to weigh evidence and that the case against Joseph Smith was absolutely devastating and could not be explained away....
“From 1948 to 1961 the Department of Archaeology at Brigham Young University sent five archaeological expeditions to Middle America, but no evidence for the Nephites was discovered. After these expeditions had failed, the Church leaders gave ‘large appropriations’ to support Mr. Ferguson’s New World Archaeological Foundation. This organization also failed to prove the Book of Mormon, and the man who organized it, hoping that it would prove Mormonism, ended up losing his faith in the church.” - pp. 140-141, CWOM.
The Mormon archaeologist Ross T. Christensen writes:
“There seems to be no fully adequate explanation for the lack of such traits in the New World, required by the Book of Mormon, as Old World plants, smelted iron, and Near Eastern forms of writing.” - Progress in Archaeology, Brigham Young University, 1963, p. 147.
Of course there really is a fully adequate explanation (and only one) which any honest-hearted rational individual could immediately tell you.
Remember, you must worship God in truth - John 4:23, 24.
* * * * * *
“The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record...for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all nations who reject it....The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such that IF TRUE, NO ONE CAN POSSIBLY BE SAVED AND REJECT IT; IF FALSE NO ONE CAN POSSIBLY BE SAVED AND RECEIVE IT.” - Mormon Prophet and Apostle, Orson Pratt in “Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon”, p. 1.
“There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth....No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” - Doctrines of Salvation, 1959, pp. 189, 190, by Joseph Fielding Smith, LDS Apostle, Prophet, and 10th President of the LDS Church.
1.Since I originally wrote this section in 1989, the following has come to my attention from a June 1998 Discover magazine article:
The original inhabitants who dominated Japan for thousands of years up to 1000 B.C. (at least) are now called the Jomon people by the archeologists who have studied their remains and artifacts.
“Jomon people had no intensive agriculture. Apart from dogs (and perhaps pigs) they had no domestic animals. They had no metal tools, no writing, no weaving....” - p. 91.
“... Jomon skulls differ from those of modern Japanese and are most similar to those of modern Ainu.” - p. 93.
“Genetic studies of the past three years have also at last resolved the controversy about the origins of the Ainu: they are the descendants of Japan’s ancient Jomon inhabitants....” - p. 93
“Partly because Ainu men [unlike Mongolian people including modern Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, etc. - RDB] have luxuriant beards and the most profuse body hair of any people, they are often classified as Caucasoids (so-called white people) who somehow migrated east through Eurasia to Japan.” - p. 89. -RDB.
2.The Mesoamerican contribution to the high civilization of the world was their creation of the calendrical systems and sophisticated writing as a direct result of this need to be in harmony with the celestial cycles.(9) There were two such methods of recording time: The 260-day calendar, and the 365-day calendar that evolved at the beginning of the late formative period when the Zapotecs flourished at Monte Alban, Oaxaca. Because the Mesoamericans counted toes and fingers, their numerical system is based on 20 instead of 10. But do these systems both numeric and astrological belong to the Mesoamerican cultures as a unique innovation in reality? The Babylonians were said to have ancestry in the Sumerians, who came from the east.
The Chinese astrologers of the Han Dynasty had a complex system of divination that uses the exact same basic parameters for not only calculation of eclipses but for descriptions of Gods and the organization of the heavens.:
"The possibility of some trans-Pacific influence on Mesoamerican cultures cannot, however, be so easily dismissed. Its most consistent proponent has been David Kelley of the University of Calgary, who has long pointed out that within the twenty named days of the 260-day calendar so fundamental to Mesoamericans (see below) is a sequence of animals that can be matched in similar sequence within the lunar zodiacs of many East and Southeast-Asian civilizations. To Kelley, this resemblance is far too close to be merely coincidental. Furthermore, Asian and Mesoamerican cosmological systems, which emphasize a quadripartite universe of four cardinal points associated with specific colors, plants, animals, and even gods, are amazingly similar. Both Asian and Mesoamerican religions see a rabbit on the face of the full moon (whereas we see a "Man in the Moon"), and they also associate this luminary with a woman weaving at a loom..... Even more extraordinary, as the historian of science the late Joseph Needham reminded us, Chinese astronomers of the Han Dynasty as well as the ancient Maya used exactly the same complex calculations to give warning about the likelihood of lunar and solar eclipses." - The Maya, Michael Coe, The Rise of The Maya Civilization, page 57.