“The Time is Past”: A Note on Samuel’s Five-Year Prophecy

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Abstract:1 The story of believers being nearly put to death before the appearance of the sign at Christ’s birth is both inspiring and a little confusing. According to the Book of Mormon, the sign comes in the 92nd year, which was actually the sixth year after the prophecy had been made. There is little wonder why even some believers began to doubt. The setting of a final date by which the prophecy must be fulfilled, however, suggests that until that day, there must have been reason for even the nonbelievers to concede that fulfillment was still possible; yet after that deadline it was definitively too late. An understanding of Mesoamerican timekeeping practices and terminology provides one possible explanation.



One of the more interesting — and more perplexing — stories in the Book of Mormon is that of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy (and its fulfillment) that Christ would be born in five years (Helaman 14:2–7; 3 Nephi 1:5–21). Samuel’s prophecy is made at some point in the 86th year (Helaman 13:1–2) and declares, “Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name” (Helaman 14:2).

Yet as the 92nd year commenced, the sign had not yet appeared (3 Nephi 1:4–5). At this time, some began to say it was too late for Samuel’s prophecy to be fulfilled (3 Nephi 1:5), and it is easy to understand why — the 92nd year was the 6th year since the prophecy had been given (see [Page 22]fig. 1). Of course, Samuel’s prophecy need not be fulfilled literally five years to the day,2 but even some believers began to doubt (3 Nephi 1:7).


Fig. 1: Years Counted from When Samuel
Gave His Five-Year Prophecy
86th Year Samuel Gives 5-Year Prophecy
87th Year 1
88th Year 2
89th Year 3
90th Year 4
91st Year 5
92nd Year 6: Prophecy is Fulfilled


Despite believing that the time had passed, the skeptics “set apart” a specific day in the 92nd year as the deadline for the prophecy — literally, they planned to “put to death” all who believed in the prophecy, “except the sign should come to pass” (3 Nephi 1:9). Given this was a planned mass execution, it is safe to say this was not an arbitrary date. There was probably some reason for even the unbelievers to think the prophecy could potentially be fulfilled before that day and for believing that after that day it would be definitively too late for the sign to come.

So, for this whole story to make sense, there must be (1) good reason to think the prophecy should have been fulfilled by the end of the 91st year, yet also (2) good reason to think it could potentially be fulfilled if it came by a certain day in the 92nd year, and (3) good enough reason to think that after that day, the time for fulfillment was definitively passed — hence, those who persisted to believe deserved the death penalty.

It’s not hard to find a good reason for the first of these propositions — the 91st year was the fifth year since Samuel had prophesied. John L. Sorenson noted this chronological discrepancy, pointing out “the fulfillment of Samuel’s predictions should have commenced in the 91st year. The initial fulfillment is, instead, reported in the 92nd year.” Thus the peoples’ expectation that the time had passed, “would make [Page 23]sense in terms of a five-year prediction.”3 At some point during the 91st year, five full years had passed from the day Samuel prophesied. Thus, with that year’s completion, it had already been more than five years, and many naturally felt the time had passed.

But what made even the skeptics think there was potential for the fulfillment before a certain day? And what made them confident that after that day, it was definitively too late for the sign to come? One potential answer to these questions can be found in a Mesoamerican setting for Samuel’s prophecy.

Samuel’s Prophecy in a Mesoamerican Setting

Others have already talked about how Samuel’s time-specific prophecies are consistent with important time-periods in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar system.4 John L. Sorenson, John E. Clark, and [Page 24]Brant A. Gardner all noted that Samuel’s 400-year prophecy correlates with a major time unit in the Long Count, the baktun, which consisted of 400 tuns (360-day years, see below).5 Only Mark Alan Wright has pointed out that the five-year prophecy correlates with the ho’tun, another significant time unit.6

Sorenson did notice another Mesoamerican connection to the five year prophecy. When the Spanish arrived, some Mesoamerican groups had the custom of prophesying the outcome of the next katun five years in advance.7 Samuel was similarly predicting the outcome of the upcoming baktun (Helaman 13:5, 9) five years before it began (Helaman 14:2). While Sorenson cautiously acknowledged that the evidence for this custom was from 1,500 years later, and we cannot be certain the tradition existed in the first century BC, the comparison is nonetheless interesting.

On other hand, we can be confident that the Long Count was known at the right time and the right place. The earliest date recorded in the Long Count system is 36 BC and comes from Chiapas, Mexico, near the Grijalva River.8 Sorenson and others place the greater land of Zarahemla in Chiapas, with the Grijalva River as the Sidon (see fig. 2).9 So archaeological evidence attests to the use of the tun and the Long Count system in the same time and place as Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy.

[Page 25]

Fig. 2: Earliest Long Count date in the relation to Sorenson’s Zarahemla.
Map by Jasmin Gimenez

The Mesoamerican setting for Samuel’s prophecy also provides a solution to the confusing details about the timing of its fulfillment in an interesting way that preserves the accuracy of Samuel’s prophecy and potentially sheds light on other aspects of Nephite chronology.

The Haab and the Tun

Ancient Mesoamericans had two different time-periods that served as a type of “year.” One was a 365-day cycle, typically called the haab, and the other was a 360-day cycle, commonly known as the tun and part of the “Long Count” calendar.10 While the terms haab and tun [Page 26]are frequently used by scholars in a way that distinguishes the 365-day period (haab) from the 360-day period (tun), among the ancient Maya, the terms were interchangeable.

This is made clear by Michael D. Coe and Stephen Houston, who described the “Ha’b of 365 days,” but then, while discussing the 360 day tun, noted, “in a switch sure to confuse modern readers, the tun was really called ha’b!”11 Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo said the Long Count used a “haab of 360 days” and then explained, “Tun is the Yucatec word for haab, which is a Yucatec designation for a year of 365 days.”12 Pharo laid out an entire haab-based lowland Maya terminology for the Long Count system, “with Yucatec designations in parenthesis” as follows:

Pik (Bak’tun): 144,000 days
Winikhaab (K’atun): 7,200 days
Haab (Tun): 360 days
Winal/Winik: 20 days
K’in: 1 day13

The exceptions to this haab-based terminology were five-year intervals in which “the classic inscriptions of the southern lowlands employ the designation tun for periods of 5 (ho’tun), 10 (lajun tun), or 15 (ho’lajun tun) haab.”14

John S. Justeson and Terrence Kaufman likewise explained the interchangeable use of these terms, noting that the Long Count “used 360 days as a canonical year length; among the Mayans, the word ha7b’ (‘year’) was used for both this period and the older 365-day year,” and the “tu:n referred to anniversaries using either year length … and not, as is often stated, to the 360-day year per se.”15

[Page 27]To avoid confusion, the convention of using haab for the 365-day year and tun for the 360-day year will be maintained throughout the rest of this article, but it is important to remember that among the ancient Maya, the terms were interchangeable — and periods of either five haabs or tuns would always be called a ho’tun.

Samuel’s Ho’tun Prophecy: Five 365-day or 360-day Years?

If the Nephites and Lamanites lived in Mesoamerica, they most likely would have been familiar with both the haab and the tun, and like the Maya, they probably would have used the same word for both types of year. Thus, when Samuel made his five-year prophecy, he would have used the Nephite equivalent term for ho’tun, which could have referred to five haabs or five tuns — which makes for a difference of 25 days (see fig. 3).16

This, in turn, could have led to the scenario found in 3 Nephi 1. Some — perhaps everyone, initially — may have interpreted the prophecy to be fulfilled after five tuns. When five tuns passed at the conclusion of the 91st year, skeptics “began to rejoice” arguing, “Behold, the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain” (3 Nephi 1:6). Some who believed even feared that they may be right and were “very sorrowful” (3 Nephi 1:7).

Others, however, “did watch steadfastly” for the prophesied sign, “that they might know that their faith had not been vain” (3 Nephi 1:8). For these steadfast believers, the possibility that Samuel meant five haabs may have given them hope that it was not too late for the sign to come. The skeptics had to acknowledge this as a viable interpretation of the prophecy, so they marked the day five haabs would be completed as the final deadline. If the sign did not come by that day, “all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death” (3 Nephi 1:9).

[Page 28]

Fig. 3 Dual Timeline Showing the Passing of the Haabs and Tuns.
Chart by Jasmin Gimenez

Implications for Book of Mormon Chronology

This solution works best if the “years” the Nephites were counting off from the start of the reign of the judges were tuns — 360-day years.17 Otherwise, the passing of the 91st year would have also concluded the passing of the fifth haab since Samuel’s prophecy, and there would be no additional 25-day period to hold out hope for.

This would suggest the other Nephite year systems — counting from the time Lehi left Jerusalem and the counting from the time the sign was [Page 29]given — were also tuns, since these three calendars were in sync with each other (3 Nephi 2:5–7).18 Proposals by previous scholars that the discrepancy with the 600-year prophecy can be solved by using tuns19 and correlation with Nephite destruction and the baktun cycle20 further supports this possibility.

Ultimately, however, it must be admitted that this is just one possible explanation for the confusing situation set out in 3 Nephi 1. Whereas there is no way to prove this or any other explanation, the additional Mesoamerican connections found in Samuel’s prophecy lend support to this idea. At the very least, they suggest the solution to this and perhaps other chronological puzzles in the Book of Mormon can be found in the calendrical practices of ancient Mesoamerica.


1. The ideas in this paper occurred to me as I was researching and writing, “Why Did Samuel Make Such Chronologically Precise Prophecies?” KnoWhy, 184, September 9, 2016, https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/why-did-samuel-make-such-chronologically-precise-prophecies.
2. It is unknown on what day in the 86th year Samuel made his prophecy, so trying to hold the prophecy down to the day is difficult. But at some point in the 91st year, five years would have passed from the day Samuel prophesied — so waiting until the end of the 91st year probably seemed already to be a lenient interpretation from the skeptics’ point of view.
3. John L. Sorenson, “The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997), 409. Oddly, Sorenson never attributes the Nephites five year expectation to the timeline Samuel himself gives in Helaman 14:2, but instead speculates that it might be related to a Mesoamerican expectation that the next katun would be prophesied of five years in advanced. Hence, Sorenson’s full statement is, “In Yucatan at the time of the Spanish conquest, the ruler or his spokesman, the Chilam, had the duty to prophesy five years in advance what fate the next twenty-year katun would bring. Samuel the Lamanite prophesied ‘in’ the 86th year of the Judges (Helaman 13:1–2). If a related katun prophecy pattern prevailed then (and of course it might not), the fulfillment of Samuel’s predictions should have commenced in the 91st year. The initial fulfillment is, instead, reported in the 92nd year. But the people might have expected the fulfillment sometime in the previous year, for ‘there were some who began to say [in the 92nd year] that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite’ (3 Nephi 1:5). This response would make sense in terms of a five-year prediction” (p. 409). While this potential Mesoamerican connection is interesting, to be sure (see below), it is unnecessary in order to explain why the people thought the time had passed, as Samuel himself gave the five-year deadline. See also John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2013), 193, 441.
4. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985), 272–74; Sorenson, “The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record,” 407–10; John E. Clark, “Archaeological Trends and Book of Mormon Origins,” in The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 2005), 90; John E. Clark, “Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14, no. 2 (2005): 46–47; Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 5:176–77; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 192–95, 434–42; Mark Alan Wright, “Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon,” in Ancient Temple Worship: Proceedings of the Expound Symposium, 14 May 2011, ed. Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks, and John S. Thompson (Salt Lake City and Orem, UT: Eborn Books and Interpreter Foundation, 2014), 252–53.
5. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting, 274; Sorenson, “The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record,” 409; Clark, “Archaeological Trends and Book of Mormon Origins,” 90; Clark, “Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” 46–47; Gardner, Second Witness, 5:176–77; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 193, 440.
6. Wright, “Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon,” 253.
7. Sorenson, “The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record,” 409; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 193–94, 440–41.
8. See Kaylee Spencer-Ahrens and Linnea H. Wren, “Arithmetic, Astronomy, and the Calendar,” in Lynn V. Foster, Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 255.
9. Sorenson, Ancient American Setting, 36, 37 (map 5), 46–47, 148–152; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 128, 131, 581–594; Joseph L. Allen and Blake J. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, revised edition (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2011), 650–65, 745–75.
10. For background on Mesoamerican calendrics, see Mary Miller and Karl Taube, An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico (London: Thames and Hudson, 1993), 48–54; Spencer-Ahrens and Wren, “Arithmetic, Astronomy, and the Calendar,” 250–63; Janine Gasco, “Calendrics,” in Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 2001), 90–92; John S. Justeson and Terrence Kaufman, “Calendars and Calendrical Systems: Mesoamerican Calendar,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of Mexico and Central America, 3 vols., ed. Davíd Carrasco (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1:121–24.
11. Michael D. Coe and Stephen Houston, The Maya, 9th edition (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2015), 64, 67; also see p. 260: “a tun, or in Classic times, ha’b, of 360 days.”
12. Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo, The Ritual Practice of Time: Philosophy and Sociopolitics of Mesoamerican Calendars (Boston: Brill, 2014), 19 n.4.
13. Ibid., 19.
14. Ibid., 19, n.4.
15. Justeson and Kaufman, “Mesoamerican Calendars,” 122.
16. This presumes that the first tun and first haab began at exactly the same time. If counting began at the start of the next New Year (whether haab or tun), there is no telling exactly how much of a time difference there might be, since the start of the new haab and the next tun could in theory be several months apart.
17. Theoretically, if the next Long-Count period ending came more than 25 days after the start of the first haab after the prophecy, then counting five tuns from the start of the first tun to being after the prophecy would have finished after the completion of five haabs. I imagine trying to convince one’s executioners of this possibility, however, would be much more complicated than simply pointing out that they had counted only the next five tuns, and Samuel might have meant the slightly longer period of the next five haabs.
18. Cf. Mosiah 29:46; 3 Nephi 1:1.
19. Sorenson, Ancient American Setting, 270–76.
20. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting, 274; Sorenson, “The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record,” 409; Clark, “Archaeological Trends and Book of Mormon Origins,” 90; Clark, “Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” 46–47; Gardner, Second Witness, 5:176–77; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 193, 440.

23 thoughts on ““The Time is Past”: A Note on Samuel’s Five-Year Prophecy

  1. I was wondering about the ha’ab with what is described as a 365 day year. Could it be that the 365 days is simply a shorthand for a year actually measured as 365.24+ days (an actual complete solar year)? Was there perhaps some intercalation or some other adjustment? Why be that accurate with the solar year without being more precise?

  2. Charles,

    Spackman has a website where he has posted what you are looking for and much more than he has published, you might want to check it out at:
    Basically, the proposition that I have put forth building on Spackman and as evidenced in the Caractors Document is that one of the pre-exilic Hebrew calendar was an uncorrected lunar calendar (there is no Biblical indication of a corrective leap month). Spackman calls this the Common Lunar calendar. Spackman solves the the 600 year prophesy problem this way. I take it further and explain that the other 400 year prophecies that don’t ‘work’ actually do work exactly when you realize that the change in calendar after Christ was born was a solar year calendar, which Spackman calls the “Civil Year.” However, the lunar prophetic calendar continues to run and is used and that is what is used for the 400 year prophecies. Different from the BOM, the Caractors Document gives the date of Christ’s coming to the Nephites in the Common Lunar calendar count. There is also evidence in the numeric glyph at Christ’s coming that one reason that the count was changed to a solar year was because Christ was considered a god of light (the sun), aka the Sun of Righteousness (I haven’t published that yet). In an upcoming publication I will show that the Jubilee festival count followed the Common Lunar calendar as well and continued pretty much all the way through the Book of Mormon. Anyway, we should keep in touch, as there are very few people who are researching BOM chronologies. If you want to provide me your email address you can do it through comment on my website at http://www.bmslr.org.

    • Thank you for the Spackman pointer. Also, I have some information that may be of interest to you and is obviously supportive of your view. The Sun of Righteousness plays a role in the calendar – you get it and that is exciting to me. I was wondering how I could get you my email address and I appreciate your invitation. I’m sure the moderator will be relieved that we can take this discussion off line. 🙂

  3. 3 Nephi 2:9 immediately follows the calendar change and i indicates that at that time Nephi2 still had “charge of the records” and “could nowhere be found in all the land.” We know that prior to leaving Nephi2 had provided all the sacred records and items to Nephi3 (3 Nephi 1:2). Given the discussion of the records that went with Nephi2 in light of the calendar discussion and that fact that he had already disposed of the sacred records and items, this is the basis for the understanding that Nephi2 possessed the calendrical records. This is indirectly indicated by the fact that 3 Nephi 8:1-2 seems to be in defense of the subsequent day keepers accuracy, which appears to be in doubt.
    As far as the indication that Nephi3 was the day keeper referred to in 3 Nephi 8:1-2 the argument there is based on a couple of items mainly 1) if Nephi2 was the day keeper then one would expect that Nephi3 his son would be trained and assumed to take on that mantle and 2) in 3 Nephi 8:1-2 Mormon indicates that the day keeper “truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus” and was “cleaned every whit from his iniquity.” The primary individual meeting that criteria at that time was Nephi3 as he performed miracles (3 Nephi 7:19-20) and he had seen angels and the voice of the Lord (3 Nephi 7:15). There were some unidentified individuals who performed “some miracles” (3 Nephi 7:23) but these were converts just prior to the 3rd Nephi destruction, so no one from this group would be considered to be righteous day keepers that were in place in the prior 33 years since Christ’s birth. Nephi3 is the only one that meets the requirement of a continuously righteous day keeper from Christ’s birth to the point of Christ coming to the Nephites.

    • This seems to be a Laurel/Yanni thing. For me 3 Nephi 1:2 says Nephi3 has been given all the records, everything sacred – that would include the calendar information that must have been on the brass plates. Nephi3 knew when to expect the birth of the Lord. As a curiosity maybe Nephi2 determined the prophetic date of the birth of Christ before he left. This is different than being a day keeper whose responsibilities would include tracking the equinoxes and moon phases. I find it curious also that Nephi2 seems to have planned a ten-year mission. There’s no point to this comment, only an observation.

      I see 2:7 as the discussion has moved on to the ninth year and then in 2:8 there is a by-the-way, we changed our liturgical calendar. Whether Nephi2 or Nephi3 is ultimately in charge of the records Nephi3 has all the records and is at least temporarily in charge of them. In 2:9 the text returns to the chronological order and reports that Nephi2 has gone missing in the ninth year. As for 8:1-2, this is Nephi3 as an eye-witness reporter. He bears his testimony of the day keeper’s capacity. If Nephi3 counted the days personally why didn’t he say so? I think you’re being too limiting on the number of just men. You see Nephi3 in defense of the subsequent day keeper’s accuracy, which appears to be in doubt. I see Nephi3 expressing confidence in this remarkable man.

      • As far I know, I have never seen any evidence that the brass plates were being added to by tracking an ongoing calendar. Also in fact, I think there is some question as to whether Nephi3 did know precisely the day of Christ’s coming, that is why he had to go and pray to God to find out. Also, although conjecture, it is perhaps Nephi2’s absence that made the wicked able to assert that the proper day had passed without a credible defense from a respected day keeper.
        The Caractors Document is quite clear that the 9 year change was retroactive. Also I don’t think Nephi2 was taking a 10 year ‘vacation’, he probably left with some intent to return, after all, it just indicated that he was leaving the land of Zarahemla, not the Nephite polity, and everybody kept looking for him for nine years, so they were fully expecting him to return.
        Also as far as speaking in the first person, 3 Nephi is a recounting by Mormon (3 Nephi 26:8-12). Grant Hardy shows that Mormon’s construction of this portion of 3rd Nephi is done so as to characterize the events to mirror the recountings of Nephi1, Zenos, and Samuel (Understanding the Book of Mormon 188-190). Perhaps the reason that Mormon did not restate that Nephi3 was the day keeper was because this responsibility always passed from prophet to prophet, which is consistent with needing to track the specific prophetic calendar, which was likely different from the day to day calendar. Nowhere else is in the Book of Mormon is there any indication of a separate day keeper.
        I do think that there was an expression of confidence in a remarkable man, but it does seem to be discussed in a defensive tone. Anyway, I can see there are different interpretations here, but this is kind of my current point-of-view and the rationale for it. I’m not sure Neal Rappleye had any idea that the comment chain would get this far, but the exchange has been interesting, at least to me.

        • Sounds good. I’m pretty indifferent about the nine years unless someone wants to argue that this allowed an error to creep in to the birth of Christ calculations. We’ll have to agree to disagree about who the day keeper was – again not a big point. My claim remains that the 34th year and 4th day is a precise measurement of time based on an ancient Hebrew calendar and the day keeper got it right. I downloaded your Caractors Document book and may find time to read it. Presently I’m busy preparing a paper on the First Epistle of John and I’m in over my head scholastically (I’m a retired engineer – I read your bio). Perhaps we’ll run into each other at the FARMS symposium some time. Thanks for the discussion.

          • I’m not super passionate about the day keeper identity either tbh. I do agree with you about the dates being precise in line with a Hebrew calendar. I think that there may have been a prophecy we aren’t seeing or perhaps something significant about a Mesoamerican calendar date that caused Mormon to actually list such a precise date.

          • I just saw Randall Spackman’s dates for Christ’s birth and death in your book. I was amazed to see that Spackman was four days off from my birth calculations. He also has my year of death. I’m about 100% sure he wants Christ born on Passover. I say he was born on the day the lambs were set apart (4 days earlier). Isn’t it curious that he lived for 33 years and 4 days?He errs in the death date because the death date must be after the vernal equinox – he missed it by one lunar cycle. I tried to download Spackman’s paper from FARMS with no luck. Aargh! This place is like the Hotel California, I’ve checked out but I’m having trouble leaving.

  4. Jerry Grover – I think you are wrong regarding the daykeepers. Nephi2 and Nephi3 do not appear to be daykeepers. Nephi3 evidently has a daykeeper working for him in the man at 3 Nephi 8:1-3 and one supposes that his father would have had his own daykeeper. I don’t see any evidence in 3 Nephi 2:9 that the senior Nephi took the calendrical records with him.

  5. There is, in my opinion, at least one fatal flaw in this.
    Nephi3 calculated the day of Christ’s birth with only previous messianic prophecies and types available to him. Some of these prophecies we know were on the brass plates and they used a calendar that had no relation to the Mesoamerican calendars. Nephi’s daykeeper then calculated the day of the death of Christ precisely. That death aligned with the calendrical events in the Holy land. The tuns and haabs do not align. Based on this I claim that for religious purposes Nephi was using a calendar likely on the brass plates.
    Nephi is giving us a clue to the birth date of Christ by a Hebraic word play and Neal Rappleye caught part of it when he pointed out that the day to put to death the believers was ‘set apart’ by the unbelievers. This was intended as an ironic joke. That backfired on the unbelievers because Christ, the Lamb of God, was set apart (born) on that same day that lambs were set apart for the Passover in Jerusalem. That virtually demands that Samuel’s prophecy was based on a calendar available in Jerusalem.
    I hope someone here will engage with me on this argument.

    • I actually agree with you that the calendar here was the uncorrected Hebrew lunar calendar. The problem with trying to use Mesoamerican calendars for the year count is that it was continuously counted from the time the Lehites left Jerusalem. There was no indication that this calendar was modified until 9 years after Christ was born. There is no evidence that it was changed once they reached the New World.

      • I know that the people at Qumran were using a different calendar than John’s ‘Jews’ at the time of Christ. I suspect that the Jews called Jesus a Samaritan (John 8:48) because the Samaritans were using a different calendar than the Jews and Jesus may have been using their calendar. There is some evidence that John was using a different calendar than the Jews. So we may be dealing with two or three Hebrew calendar choices with John using one and the synoptics using another because they were targetting different audiences. John 8:48 is probably an example of Johannine irony (which John is known for).

  6. I don’t see why comparing and using different calendars is at all necessary.
    Samuel came in the 86th year. He is rejected and leaves. He is told that more teaching is required of him and commanded to return and teach more.
    This makes the scenario for the prophecy, seem to be in the latter half of the 86th year.
    Prefacing the prophecy Samuel states that 5 years more cometh and then cometh the Son of God. So Samuel is stating that 5 years are going to pass by, and then sometime after the passing of those 5 years, a sign will be given to signify that the Son of God has come to the earth.
    To me this plainly points to the fact that the sign can not come any sooner than after the completion of the 5th year and the sixth year from the date of the prophesy has begun.

  7. Another thought, if one subscribes to the 365 day haab as the Nephite calendar at that particular time (I actually don’t) than another explanation might be that the 52 year calendar cycle occurred in one of the years intervening between the prophecy and Christ’s birth, with a 13 day corrective subtraction to the haab calendar as some assert the Maya did. That would also provide a difference in time between the calendar year and the actual years that passed.

    • In a Mesoamerican setting, there is no reason to assume exclusive calendars. There could be different calendars used for different reasons. I suspect that was what Neal was alluding to. There were more ways than one to count years, and depending upon which was in use, there might be differences.

      As for the Nephite calendar, it seems logical that it began with the Jewish lunar year. However, there is no reason to believe that it persisted for a thousand years when all other peoples used different counts. Even among the Nephites, they reset their calendars to different start dates twice after the “from the time of departure” original resetting of the beginning. At the beginning of the reign of judges there was a new count, and again with the signs of Christ’s birth.

      There are quite a number of ways in which the ways years are used in the text strongly hint at a Mesoamerican influence (particularly in the use of base 20 significant numbers). Mormon often manipulated his text to fit desirable numbers–but those numbers were desirable from a Mesoamerican viewpoint, not a Jewish one.

      While there is certainly an ability to use Hebrew, the text say that while they could have written in Hebrew they did not. They might have counted in Hebrew lunar years, but that doesn’t mean that it had to be their main system after separating from others using that system for hundreds of years. The logical persistence of Old World culture is that it had to have diminished impact over time and influence from the larger populations. Arguments that require an explanation on the basis of Hebrew language or culture really require explanation rather than assumption.

      • You said – Arguments that require an explanation on the basis of Hebrew language or culture really require explanation rather than assumption.

        I agree that the calendar used prophetically was not the main system. That said, the Nephites claimed to practice the Law of Moses for more than 600 years after they left Jerusalem. They needed a liturgical calendar to do that. That the birth and death of Christ aligned with their expectations seems to be strong and likely unassailable evidence that the liturgical calendar was ancient Hebrew. We know that this calendar began in the Spring because Christ died four days after the adjusted New Year of this calendar. I believe that this calendar was different from the calendar used for their mundane world (which, if I recall correctly, you said began in the early winter – I’m good with that). I do not believe the reigns of the judges changed the New Year for the liturgical calendar. That only changed with the birth of Christ and only by a few days from the original liturgical calendar New Year.

      • At some future point I would like to publish an extensive evaluation of the Book of Mormon chronologies as it requires one to go into a lot of detail to lay out all the possibilities. According to what I believe is currently indicated, and somewhat supported by Spackman is the following religious and political calendars and their measurement:
        Primarily religious Lehi departure calendar — uncorrected lunar calendar (600 years from departure to Christ’s birth)
        Political reign of the kings calendar — uncorrected lunar calendar (55 years after departure to 509 years after departure). The reign of the kings calendar had a subperiod of Nephi kings that officially ended after arrival in Zarahemla, 399 years after departure. Then began the next subperiod, called the Seven Tribes subperiod, which ended with king Benjamin at 475 years after departure.
        Political reign of judges calendar — uncorrected lunar calendar which runs from 509 after departure to the ascension of Christ.
        Overall religious 1000 year prophetic calendar – uncorrected lunar calendar which includes the Lehi departure calendar, the 5 and 400 year prophecy calendar count by Samuel the Lamanite, the 400 year Alma prophecy count, and the Jubilee festival calendar.
        Coming of Christ political calendar – solar year calendar that runs from Christ’s birth to the end of the Book of Mormon.
        There is a Fourth Generation prophecy but does not appear to be a calendar count.
        Just like we find the Jubilee festival calendar embedded in the Book of Mormon text but not overtly identified there, I think with some further analysis, we may be able to find traces of cultural Mesoamerican calendar cycles (52 year, 19 year, katun, tuns, etc.). As Brant Gardner indicates the presence of Mesoamerican elements, even within the Nephite calendar which maintains the original lunar calendar count are found Mesoamerican elements such as the 5 year and two 400 year prophecies.
        In an upcoming publication I will be demonstrating the influence of Mesoamerican and Hebrew sacred numbers embedded in the Nephite number system and even some of the BOM year count patterns.

  8. In Jerry Grover’s translation of the caractor document, it describes that “Sixty and one half months (prior to the Coming of Christ) — Samuel the Lamanite came to the Nephites and
    the Lamanites”. Unfortunately, it’s not clear how long these months are as used by the Nephites.

    However, Mr. Grover adds the following commentary:

    The 5-year prophecy to Christ’s birth made by Samuel the Lamanite is reflected by a time period of 60 and ½
    months according to the Caractors document, indicating 12 months per year under the Common Lunar Calendar as
    Spackman surmised. This is not necessarily something new, since there are no months listed in the Book of
    Mormon above the eleventh, but it had not been verified calendrically that it was in fact a 12-month year using
    month counts. The extra half month noted in the Caractors document could also help explain (along with the
    passage of the 600-year period) the argument that occurred just prior to Christ’s birth that the day that was
    prophesied had already passed (3 Nephi 1:5-7):
    5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were
    spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
    6 And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are
    not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.
    7 And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed
    began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.
    In addition, the Caractors document provides clear evidence that the calendar that was followed during this time
    period was the Common Lunar Calendar with no attempted corrections to the solar year. A corrected (intercalated)
    calendar was used by the ancient Hebrews that involved an additional month being added to the year every two or
    three years to keep it in sync with the solar calendar. As mentioned, the 12-moon lunar calendar has about
    354.367 days, whereas the solar year has 365.242 days per year, meaning the calendar difference is 10.875 days
    between the two different year measurements. If there were corrections being made by adding an additional
    month to correct the calendar, the 5-year prophecy made by Samuel the Lamanite would require that an additional
    54.36 days be added, which under the most minimal scenario would have required at least one additional month to
    be added making a total of 61 months. Since there is no addition of a corrective month, we know that approach
    was not used.

    Things to ponder.

  9. I very much appreciate Neal Rappleye’s excellent essay, which is clearly in the tradition of the efforts to understand the contents of the Book of Mormon that drove the remarkable efforts of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (aka FARMS) before the hostile takeover by those determined to move in a different direction.

  10. Interesting and well thought out analysis. I think the text seems to indicate that the prophecy was made at the very end of the 86th year and could even be interpreted that it occurred overlapping into the 87th year. It says he initially “came into the land” sometime in the 86th year, he then preached “many days,” he was then cast out, and then he returned again and got up onto the wall and prophecied. There was no intervening events before it states “And thus ended” the 86th year (Helaman 16:9). Also, throughout the Book of Mormon, when noting a year change, it does not generally significantly interrupt the specific story, episode or event being recounted by Mormon. Since it is not expected that every story, event, and episode would fit nicely between each new year’s day, with many overlapping, the term “and thus ended,” does not seem to imply a hard cut-off of the episode recounted just before that statement, it just seems to indicate the story or episode being recounted started in the previous year. In fact, the perceived defugalty of the 92nd year may instead be further evidence of this textual feature.
    Another thought to consider is the fact that the Nephites seemed to perhaps be in a calendrical panic as their daykeeper Nephi disappeared in the 91st year, and while leaving the sacred records and things, took the calendrical records with him (3 Nephi 2:9) as they were still looking for Nephi. This did seem to be a problem as they were still looking for him and the records nine years later. It seems that his son Nephi, the new daykeeper, caused some doubt in the accuracy of the record (3 Nephi 8:1-2).
    Anyway, just some thoughts of some different possible interpretations of the text.

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