There are 15 thoughts on “Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon”.

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  3. Great article. It would be interesting to examine more how the realm of the dead played into the Mesoamerican axis muni as that is particularly important in LDS understanding. One of the things I find striking from Sorenson’s Mormon’s Codex is just how little we know of their theology or daily life. Why did they sacrifice humans? What kind of priesthood structure did they have? What kind of political structure? There is only so much that can be inferred from a few murals and artifacts are also of limited value to determine these things. Even concepts of God/gods is difficult to determine. Were these all distinct gods or different manifestations of an overarching power? Did they view their gods as different than their neighbors gods? Did any of them have a view of God as bigger than their own community? It’s very different than examining a culture like Egypt where we have lots of texts and histories within and without the culture.

  4. Having spent several hours on top of Danta and other such Maya sacred buildings it is not hard to see them as Axis Mundi. The speculative idea that the murals of San Bartolo could be a form of a temple text is fascinating to me. Excellent article, thanks

  5. I don’t think anybody can dispute that it is still “possible” that the Nephites were in the Americas. It is probably impossible to eliminate the possibilities even though the probabilities are less and less possible.

    • David, I’m not sure what evidence you have the “probabilities are less and less possible.” I have found precisely the opposite, and I am not alone. If you are suggesting that Mark Wright’s paper was designed to prove that the Nephites existed in Mesoamerica, you have misread the intent. Proof is typically unavailable whenever we are looking at documents and archaeology. However, there are ways in which documents can be tied to what has been discovered, and speaking for the Mesoamerican region, those connections are become increasingly precise. Of course you are entitle to your opinion, but it doesn’t seem to engage any of the evidence I have seen presented.

      • Brant:

        DNA, the ever-shrinking geography of where the Book of Mormon supposedly occurred and how it doesn’t concur with the D&C, and what Joseph Smith said about the geography – this is the evidence that the probabilities are less and less possible.

        Is there a logical solution to this? It seems that the solution to this and the internal problems to the Book of Mormon is that it is not historical. The book still can have great spiritual value even if we admit that it isn’t historical.

        • David, I completely agree that the Book of Mormon can, and does, have great spiritual value even when read ahistorically. Most members of the church read it that way. Regardless of what the scholars argue about in terms of history, most Saints are happily unaware and read the text for the message it provides for their current life rather than information about the past.

          However, that doesn’t mean that there is no past and no history. You provide a couple of examples. First is DNA. That was really a pretty popular argument against historicity when it was first proposed, and it still has impact even though it wasn’t much of an argument even when it was proposed. Long before DNA research, LDS scholars were aware of two important facts. The first is that the majority of traceable Native American lineages were connected to Asia (though the Bering Strait was the original hypothesis, since expanded to probable coast-hopping in small boats). The second is that the Book of Mormon itself can’t support the traditional hemispheric reading that was part of the pre-scientific approach to the text. That people who read the text and imagined that it explained all Native Americans is part of our history, but it was never part of the Book of Mormon.

          Finally, you invoke Joseph. I’m really not sure why. Joseph appeared to have multiple ideas about Book of Mormon geography and there is no evidence that he or any of the people close to him assumed that those ideas were the final word. Joseph thought that the mound builder cultures supported the idea of cities in the Book of Mormon until he heard of cities in Central America. Then he thought those did. He wasn’t particularly scientific (or dealing with anything that we would recognize as history) at the time. He identified Central American cities as specific Book of Mormon cities, but the dates were wrong (and the locations, as far as current research can tell).

          Nevertheless, all of that LDS scholarship on the Book of Mormon is providing very close connections between the text’s geography (not what good-hearted, believing Saints have thought) and specific cultures and times. If you have been willing to accept what you appear to have heard about DNA and the shrinking Book of Mormon, I suggest that you look to the LDS scholars who are producing good work on those topics (including geneticists who have a lot to say about why DNA is not an issue for the Book of Mormon).

        • David Meltzer, an archaeologist with expertise on Native American origins of Southern Methodist University says that those “who study Native American history are glad to have the genetic data but also have reservations, given that several of the geneticists’ conclusions have changed over time. This is a really important step forward but not the last word,” he said noting that many migrations may not yet have shown up in the genetic samples.

        • Michael H. Crawford, an anthropologist [author of The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics] at the University of Kansas, said “the paucity of samples from North America and from coastal regions made it hard to claim a complete picture of early migrations has been attained” (Nicholas Wade, New York Times, “Earliest Americans Arrived in Waves, DNA Study Finds,” (accessed August 13, 2012))

          Third, sampling of American Indian DNA is sparse. Many tribes have not been sampled. As more sampling occurs other DNA haplogroups are discovered among the American Indians. Who knows what is yet to surface? For example, some initial sampling of the Cherokee has shown other haplogroups not associated with Asia. One sampling found that 25% of the Cherokee have haplogroup T DNA. This is interesting because Egyptians also have about 25% T DNA. Remember that Joseph who was sold into Egypt married an Egyptian woman named Asenath. Could the T haplogroup be a marker for the tribe of Joseph from which Lehi came?

        • Lehi and his group were Hebrews from one of the tribes of Israel but not the tribe from which Jews primarily come. After the Israelites were taken captive and dispersed, and the 10 tribes became lost, the tribe of Judah mainly remained and became the primary basis for the Jewish people. Lehi was from Manasseh and his wife was from Ephraim – both from the tribe of Joseph. What is tribe of Joseph DNA? Nobody knows. You can sample all the American Indian DNA you want but if you don’t have Lehi’s DNA to compare with you can’t make any comparisons or reach any conclusions.

        • Most archeology/anthropology and DNA work attempts to identify the primary source for the peopling of the Americas. While Asia appears to be the leading source of ancient immigrants to the Americas, and Latter-day Saints don’t disagree with that, there is plenty of room for additional groups coming to the continent, and several studies have found evidence for non-Asian DNA that cannot be explained by modern European admixture. Some of this evidence is found in pre-Colombian burial sites with DNA connections to Europe and the Middle East. Most work in this field does not attempt to identify other minor migrations to the New world and experts in the field have recognized that there were, likely, other such migrations yet unaccounted for.

        • The people who published the claim that DNA proved the Book of Mormon false are not population geneticists and they borrowed data gathered by experts in the field and repurposed that data in a way that created misconstrued interpretations. That is, they did not follow methodology standards which are required by legitimate experts in the field. Trained geneticists say it is impossible to prove or disprove the Book of Mormon using the current state of DNA studies. They go into a number of additional reasons for this that you need to be aware of which cause DNA markers from populations to disappear over time such as founder effect and bottlenecks. Much more could be said about this which would require too much space here. I’ll just mention one other example:

          Population geneticists recognize that DNA does disappear. For an example of disappearing DNA note the recent DNA study of more than 131,000 modern Icelanders, which discovered that many DNA markers disappeared in just over a century. The study was conducted in Iceland because it is a closed society. People don’t usually move to Iceland and so the people who live there are descendants of the original settlers. The study found that the majority of Icelandic ancestors — from just 150 years ago — did not contribute mtDNA or Ycs to their actual descendants. Conversely, a small minority of Icelandic ancestors from the same 150 years ago contributed the bulk of DNA markers to their now-living descendants. According to DNA tests, more than 86 percent of Icelandic males descended from just 26 percent of potential male ancestors in their family tree who were born between 1848 and 1892 and also lived in Iceland. Among the female population, nearly 92 percent descended from only 22 percent of potential female ancestors in their family tree who were born between the same years. (Agnar Helgason and others, “A Populationwide Coalescent Analysis of Icelandic Matrilineal and Patrilineal Genealogies: Evidence for a Faster Evolutionary Rate of mtDNA Lineages than Y Chromosomes,” American Journal of Human Genetics 72 (2003), 1370–88)

          This means that the DNA from the majority of known ancestors disappeared in just 150 years. Most of the Icelandic people living today who have genealogical records of their ancestors 150 years ago could not match up their DNA to most of those ancestors.

          This makes sense when the following is understood:

          Our parents each have one complete set of DNA. But we only inherit half of the DNA from each parent. In the step from your parents to you, half of the DNA is lost. It is not passed on to you. Your body can only hold one set of DNA and, therefore, is incapable of preserving two full sets. You only preserve one quarter of the DNA that your four grandparents had. . If we go back 10 generations, you have 1,024 ancestors who are possible contributors to your genetic makeup. But do they all contribute to your DNA. No. Of these 1,024 potential ancestors, 512 are females. Only one of them has contributed your mtDNA. That means that the DNA of 511 of your female ancestors over the last 10 generations is not passed down to you.

    • It turns out that the longer we go, the more evidence is discovered which confirms parts of the Book of Mormon and other LDS doctrines and practices. There are literally scores and scores, probably several hundred, Book of Mormon details that are now confirmed or supported by evidence that was not available in Joseph Smith’s time.

      There is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon. Dr. John Clark of the New World Archaeological Foundation has compiled a list of sixty items mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The list includes items such as “steel swords,” “barley,” “cement,” “thrones,” and literacy.

      In 1842, only eight (or 13.3%) of those sixty items were confirmed by archaeological evidence. Thus, in the mid-nineteenth century, archaeology did not generally support the claims made by the Book of Mormon. By 2005 forty-five of those sixty items (75%) have been confirmed. Therefore, as things stand at the moment, current New World archaeological evidence tends to verify the claims made by the Book of Mormon. (John Clark, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon”, presentation at the 2005 FAIR Apologetics Conference (August 2005). Co-presenters, Wade Ardern and Matthew Roper. S. Kent Brown, “New Light: ‘The Place That Was Called Nahom”: New Light from Ancient Yemen,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8, no. 1 (1999): 66-68.)

      After 60 years of research Mesoamerican archeologist, John Sorenson has published his “Mormon Codex” showing 420 details that match up between the Book of Mormon and features of geography, language, and culture in Guatemala and Southern Mexico. Since these details were not known by science or scholars in 1830 when the Book of Mormon was published, how did that book get so many things right? Because it is true. It’s the only way it could get that many details right which were unknown in Joseph Smith’s day.

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