Why Do Mormons Care about Mesoamerica?

The continuing LDS scholarly interest in Mesoamerica is a direct result of the usefulness of the geographical, historical, and cultural trends in that area for explaining and supporting the Book of Mormon. Beyond the gross correlations of writing and higher civilizations, the overall cultural trends can be seen being mirrored in the Book of Mormon text at the same time periods as those changes are occurring in Mesoamerica. The rise of Mesoamerican kingship occurs during a time when the Book of Mormon describes a pressure to create their first leader as a king, even though that person was opposed to the idea. Patterns and seasonality of warfare in the Book of Mormon match those seen in Mesoamerica (including some specific tactics). The text describes the meeting of two peoples with different languages in a particular river valley around 200 B.C.E.  Mesoamerican linguistics traces one language moving into that area around 200 B.C.E. with indications of connections to peoples of a different language/culture to the south (where the Book of Mormon indicates one of the populations came from).

There are still issues to be worked out, some of which concern our understanding of the way the translation reflects the underlying text from the golden plates. Such issues will clarify issues that might be contraindications for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, such as the difference between the named crops and animals and those of the area.


Brant Gardner is the Product Manager for a privately held software company. His academic background includes work toward a Ph.D. in Mesoamerican Ethnohistory at the State University of New York, Albany. His published works on Mesoamerica include an analysis of classical Nahuatl kinship terminology, an ethnohistoric investigation into the identification of the use of Coxoh to designate a people and language in Southern Mexico, and an examination of the Aztec Legend of the Suns.

2/15/2010 5:00:00 AM
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