Lightning Strikes

Lightning Strikes January 14, 2023


Volcanic eruption with lightning
Indonesia’s Mount Rinjani erupts in 1994, with attendant lightning
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


I’m halfway through a period of temporary bachelorhood: My wife is babysitting one of our granddaughters out in Virginia, assisted by my middle son.  I couldn’t go because of some obligations here at home.  But it now appears that I may actually survive.  And, someday, I’ll do the dishes and do the wash.  Certainly before she comes home!


A Wikimedia Commons public domain photo of the 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull, by Terje Sørgjerd.  Please note the lightning.


A while back, I posted a number of entries here about the destruction in the New World that accompanied the death of Christ in the Old World, according to the account given in the Book of Mormon.  Based on the work of others who are cited in these entries, I’m inclined to believe that 3 Nephi recounts not only a cataclysmic seismic event but a volcanic one:


“Geology and Third Nephi (1): The Time of Darkness (A)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (2): Santorini and the Land of the Pharaoh”

“Geology and Third Nephi (3): The Time of Darkness (B)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (4): An Explosive Volcanic Eruption?”

“Geology and Third Nephi (5): Evidence from Ice Cores?”

“Geology and Third Nephi (6): Storms and Tempests”

“Geology and Third Nephi (7): “Shaking and Quaking””

“Geology and Third Nephi (8): An Interim Update”

“Geology and Third Nephi (9): Cities Burned, Buried, and Drowned (Part One)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (10): Cities Burned, Buried, and Drowned (Part Two)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (11): Cities Burned, Buried, and Drowned (Part Three)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (12): “Whole Face of Land Changed” (Part One)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (13): “Whole Face of Land Changed” (Part Two)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (14): “Broken and Scattered Rocks” (Part One)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (15): “Broken and Scattered Rocks” (Part Two)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (16): “Thick Darkness” (Part One)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (17): “Thick Darkness” (Part Two)”

“Geology and Third Nephi (18): Finis”

““Sturm und Drang” in 3 Nephi”

“3 Nephi: Another Volcanological Perspective (1)”

“3 Nephi: Another Volcanological Perspective (2)”

“Has the volcano responsible for the destruction in 3 Nephi been located?”


A lightening bolt in a volcanic plume
Another image of lightning in a volcanic eruption. (Wikimedia CC public domain image)

My interest in the topic was rekindled this morning by an article that I read in the New York Times:  “Lightning in the ‘cataclysmic’ Tonga volcano eruption shattered ‘all records’”  Here are the directly relevant passages from the Book of Mormon.  The first narrates the actual events:

And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land. . . .

And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth. . . .

And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.  (3 Nephi 8:7, 17. 19)

The next two passages, which actually come earlier in the chronology of the Book of Mormon, constitute specific and detailed prophecies of those coming events:

And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.  (1 Nephi 12:4)

Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up.  (Helaman 14:21)

Please note the prominence of lightning in both the prophecies and the actual narrative.

I may be wrong, maybe it’s just me, but I doubt that the typical uninformed person — think here of the poorly educated early nineteenth-century frontier farm youth Joseph Smith, who spent his life in a seismically quiescent area utterly devoid of volcanos — would immediately associate volcanic eruptions, let alone simple earthquakes, with lightning.  And yet volcanic eruptions are associated with lightning, and if, as I and others think, 3 Nephi depicts an instance of catastrophic volcanism, the Book of Mormon is clearly correct in this regard.


An Indonesian volcano eruption, with lightning
A cropped United States Geological Survey photo of the 1982 eruption of Galunggung volcano (with lightning strikes).  This stratovolcano with a lava dome is located in western Java, which is currently part of Indonesia.  Its first recorded eruption, in 1822, produced a 22-km-long mudflow that killed 4,000 people. The second eruption, which occurred in 1894, caused extensive property loss. The slide depicts a spectacular view of lightning strikes during a third eruption, on 3 December 1982, which resulted in 68 deaths. A fourth eruption occurred in 1984. Galunggung, Indonesia is located at 07.25 S 108.05 E and is 2,168 meters in elevation


Finally, aware of the desperate need that some of my readers feel to fortify their unfaith with evidence of the evils of theism and religiosity, I’m happy to close this blog entry with something horrible from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©.  I readily grant that it could also have been filed under the subject heading of “Religious Nones,” but it seems entirely fitting to regard it as a Hitchens File item, so that’s how I’ve chosen to categorize it:  “Gen Zers Are Religious, And Their Mental Health Depends On It”

The late Viennese physician and writer Sigmund Freud claimed that religious belief is a mental illness and that both individuals and societies would be better off were it to disappear.  His claim has not fared well in the roughly nine decades since his death.  Science marches on.



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