Sunday, April 15, 2018

BMC 2018

Tuesday, April 7, 1829 was the day Oliver Cowdery began writing for Joseph Smith as the Prophet's scribe in Harmony, Pennsylvania. We celebrated this historic day by convening the BMC 2018 Book of Mormon Conference on Saturday, April 7, 2018 in the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah. It was the 15th annual Book of Mormon Conference sponsored by Book of Mormon Central (BMC) or Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF) which merged into BMC in 2016.
BMC 2018 Book of Mormon Conference Flyer
570 people attended the all-day event and heard 10 presentations by outstanding Book of Mormon scholars including:
  • BMC editor Nicole Shepard, Spanish digital media publisher Benji Monroy, and researcher/writer Jonathon Riley who reviewed the past year of BMC accomplishments
  • BMC researcher/writer Matt Roper and statistician Paul Fields who shared the light the science of stylometry sheds on the Book of Mormon as composite literature 
  • BYU Ancient Scripture faculty member Mark Wright who discussed Mesoamerican ecology and cosmology that show up in the Book of Mormon text
  • LDS product manager Rob Jex who gave a sneak preview of the upcoming LDS Book of Mormon videos
  • LDS author and educator John Bytheway who explored the Book of Mormon through the lens of gardens and gardeners
  • BMC researcher/writer Neal Rappleye, product manager Jasmin Gimenez, and archivist  Jared Riddick who presented a workshop on how to study the scriptures using BMC resources
  • BYU Law faculty member John W. Welch who discussed the significance of April 7th in the historical sequence of events leading up to the miraculous Book of Mormon translation
  • BYU Church History faculty member Gerrit Dirkmaat who explained little-known details about multiple printers Joseph Smith approached hoping they would print the Book of Mormon
  • BYU Ancient Scripture faculty member Jo Ann Seely who illustrated and described life in Jerusalem in Lehi's day
  • BYU Ancient Scripture faculty member Tyler Griffin who showed the impressive internal consistency one finds in the study of several hundred Book of Mormon geographic referents
BMC 2018 Crowd Listening to Matt Roper and Paul Fields
Photo Courtesy Deseret News
Attendees also got to experience the world of the Book of Mormon via:
  • a set of doubled, witnessed, and sealed ancient Roman metal plates
  • replica Roman crucifixion nails
  • replicas of the golden plates, urim and thummim, breastplate, Liahona, and sword of Laban
  • replicas of the wooden box Joseph used to store the plates, and Joseph and Hyrum's death masks
  • a wonderful art gallery
  • a Bedouin goat-hair tent
  • virtual reality displays of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and Herod's Temple
  • virtual reality displays of stylometric patterns employed by Book of Mormon authors
  • a replica of E.B. Grandin's printing press
  • a replica of the breastplate worn by the High Priest in ancient Israel
Brent Bird Examining Dave Baird's
Replica of the Golden Plates
Photo Courtesy Deseret News
Elder Clate W. and Sister Carol Mask received the 2018 Father Lehi and Mother Sariah Award for lifetime service to the Book of Mormon and the posterity of Lehi and Sariah. Recipients of this award include:
  • 2003 Dale T. Tingey
  • 2005 Juan O'Donnell
  • 2006 Bruce W. Warren
  • 2007 Elder Robert E. and Sister Helen Wells
  • 2008 Elder Ted E. and Sister Dorothy Brewerton
  • 2009 John L. and Helen Sorenson
  • 2010 Hugh W. (posthumous) and Phyllis Nibley
  • 2011 Joesph L. and Rhoda Allen
  • 2012 F. Richard and Laura Hauck
  • 2013 V. Garth and Cheryl Norman
  • 2014 Stephen L. (posthumous) and Ruth Carr
  • 2016 Richard K. and Helen Miner
  • 2017 John W. and Jeannie Welch
  • 2018 Elder Clate W. and Sister Carol Mask 
Elder Clate W. and Sister Carol Mask at BMC 2018
Photo Courtesy Deseret News
Media coverage included a great article by Trent Toone that appeared in the digital Deseret News on Monday, April 9 and in the print edition (Mormon Times) on Thursday, April 12.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gerrit Walter Gong

The Saturday Morning Session of the April 2018 General Conference just concluded. Along with millions of others, I had the distinct privilege of sustaining not just Russel Marion Nelson, Sr. as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator but also Gerrit Walter Gong and Ulisses Soares as new Apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve. I have been friends with Elder Gong since we entered BYU together in 1971 and know something of his sterling character. Cream rises. A finer man does not walk the earth. We as Latter-day Saints will be blessed to have such a capable, gentle servant helping direct the affairs of the Kingdom and bearing witness of our risen Lord in all the world.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, LDS Newsroom
Biologically Elder Gong is Chinese. Culturally he is a Californian who grew up in Palo Alto, hiked the Sierra Nevada, attended BYU, served a mission in Taiwan, and then read at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Professionally he is a diplomat. He was the number two man in the US Embassy in Beijing when the Tienanmen Square uprising broke out in 1989. He headed the Asia Desk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS. He ran BYU's Office of Planning and Assessment under President Cecil O. Samuelson. As a General Authority he was President of the Asia Area, then one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy.

Elder Gong's father, Walter A. Gong (1922 - 2000), earned a Ph.D. from Stanford and taught science at San Jose State. Gerrit de Jong Jr. (1892 - 1978) for whom the de Jong Concert Hall at BYU is named, was a family friend and mentor. The "Gerrit Walter" in Elder Gong's name honors both men. Elder Gong's younger brother, Brian, has made an East Coast-based career in education assessment. His younger sister, Marguerite Hancock, left a career at Stanford and helps direct the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

Just before Christmas, 1971, Gerrit and Brian joined my American Fork High School friend, Bruce McDaniel, and myself on a trip up American Fork Canyon to see the snow. We got my car stuck in the high country and it took us several hours of tough work to free the vehicle. It was almost midnight when we finally returned to Bruce's home in Alpine. Gerrit and Brian's parents, Walter and Jean, had been nervously waiting at the McDaniel home since 10:00 pm. Bro. Gong was not at all interested in our tale of heroic adventure. He grilled his sons on why they had broken their promise to be home by 8:30 pm. It was clear a promise to parents in the Gong home was a matter of some import.
 
In early 1972, Gerrit Gong, Paul Cox, about a dozen others, and myself had the pleasure of meeting Elder Gordon B. Hinckley (1910 - 2008) in an intimate setting on BYU campus. As the gathering ended, Gerrit, Paul, and I walked with Elder Hinckley, then an Apostle, to his car [a Rambler Ambassador purchased in honor of Mitt's father, George W. Romney (1907 - 1995)] in the parking lot. We remarked on the singularity of our experience being in the presence of one of the Lord's anointed.

A few weeks later Gerrit asked if he could come to work with me on a Saturday. I installed finish hardware in newly-constructed residential housing units in north Utah County. Although a highly-productive and disciplined scholar, he had never worked for wages at a typical job and was anxious for that experience. I helped him install shower and closet rods, medicine cabinets, doorstops, and door handles. At the end of a fun day together, I gave him a normal day's pay in cash. We went caving together and participated in some of the hi jinks (showing off for older coeds) that were routine at BYU in the early '70's.  

In mid 1972, Gerrit, Paul, and I had finished our freshman year at the Y and were contemplating missions. We took Bruce McDaniel and spent two weeks on Washington's Olympic Peninsula backpacking through the temperate rain forest and hiking the wilderness beach. One day amid glorious natural splendor we never got out of our sleeping bags. The four of us spent all day reading the Book of Mormon and discussing our philosophies of life. We took a box of missionary copies of the Book of Mormon on that trip and handed them out to people we met along the way including fellow campers, toll booth attendants, and a family in Port Angeles, WA who put us up for the night after we damaged our vehicle helping evacuate an injured Boy Scout. Elder Gong and Paul Cox spoke at my missionary farewell and the four of us all went on to terrific missions - Bruce in Missouri, Paul in Samoa (Paul's incredible experience was described in a lengthy article in Southwest Airline's September, 2016 in flight magazine), Gerrit in Taiwan, and myself in Peru.

After returning home, Elder Gong gave a number of fireside presentations about his mission and his new-found appreciation for ancient Chinese culture. His mission was not easy because he looked Chinese but was not a native speaker. His presentations centered around the concept of "filial piety" or honor for one's forebears. Ancestry was also the subject of his memorable first talk in General Conference as a newly-called General Authority in October, 2010.

I hosted Gerrit, his mother, and his sister at a performance of American Fork's Pageant of the Arts, a local adaptation of Laguna Beach's famed Pageant of the Masters that was a cultural icon in Utah County during the 1970's and '80's.

Gerrit Gong is an avid photographer and seasoned negotiator. Both skills came in handy as he helped me purchase the Pentax camera I took on my mission. In early 1976 he spent a weekend in Vernal, UT taking Shannon's and my pre-wedding photos. On the way home he was driving my yellow VW bug and we slid on an icy spot in Daniel's Canyon which nearly sent us hurtling headlong down the embankment into Daniel's Creek below. After that scare, we pulled off to the side of the road and offered a prayer thanking our Father in Heaven for protecting us. Elder Gong took our wedding photos on the Salt Lake Temple grounds and the candids at our reception that evening.
Shannon and Kirk by my VW Bug
1976 Photo by Elder Gerrit W. Gong
Elder Gong married Susan Lindsay, daughter of Richard P. (1926 - 2010) and Marian Lindsay, in 1980. We enjoyed their reception in the Lion House on Temple Square. Susan's father served in the Second Quorum of Seventy from 1989 - 1994. Susan's brother, Bruce, was a popular news anchor on KSL TV before his 2012 call to preside over the Australia Perth Mission. Gerrit and Susan have four accomplished children.

I visited Gongs and went to church with them while they were living in McLean, VA. We had lunch together at BYU while he was serving on Pres. Samuelson's staff. Shannon and I spent an evening with Elder and Sister Gong just after his call to the First Quorum of Seventy while they were still living in the Abraham O. Smoot (1815 - 1895) farm home on the Provo bench. In 2011 while I was serving as Bishop of the BYU 172nd Ward, Elder and Sister Gong visited us and spent the three hours getting to know the wonderful married couples in our ward. He asks probing questions and listens with genuine interest. He is probably the most cerebral of the General Authorities (Ph.D. from Oxford) but he does not wear his formidable intellectual prowess on his lapel and he respects everyone around him regardless of their station in life.    

Cream rises. A finer man does not walk the earth. We as LDS will be blessed through Elder Gong's apostolic ministry. And Pres. Nelson, no stranger to the Chinese people, could hardly have a better right hand man on all matters Asian.

For a similar 2015 take on Elder Gong, see the blog article "New Apostles."

- Kirk Magleby, volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, the premiere source for reliable Book of Mormon enrichment material in English and Spanish.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Best Evidences Video to Date

The Book of Mormon Central YouTube Channel called "BMC Studios" has some terrific videos highlighting powerful evidences of Book of Mormon authenticity. The video on internal complexity posted today may be the best yet. Kwaku El, a promising young LDS actor, goes through a long list of impressive literary and contextual features with such rapid-fire delivery one gets the feeling he or she is only seeing the tip of the iceberg, which is literally correct. This video introduces some of the great work LDS scholars have done since the early 1950's and the sum of the parts is simply exhilarating, portending very good things to come as many of these topics will receive fuller treatment from the talented Book of Mormon Central video team in the future.




The blog article entitled "Watch: Evidence of the Book of Mormon: Internal Complexity" lists 108 linked sources in 27 topical categories for those who wish to go behind the scenes and understand this material in some depth.

If you liked this video, here is another of my recent favorites: "The Knot at the End of My Faith Rope" posted in the original Book of Mormon Central YouTube Channel.

- Kirk Magleby, volunteer executive director of Book of Mormon Central, the premiere source for reliable Book of Mormon enrichment material in English and Spanish.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Experience the Book of Mormon at BMC 2018

On Saturday, April 7, 2018 perhaps the finest Book of Mormon Conference ever produced will be held at the Utah Valley Convention Center on Center Street in Provo, Utah. Approximately 500 attendees will use all five senses to engage the Nephite sacred text in profound new ways at an event entitled "Experience the Book of Mormon." As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Book of Mormon Central Conference 2018
The $35 registration fee ($25 for students and CES employees) includes lunch. Register here.
More information here.

At the conference, the winners of the BMC 2018 art contest will be announced and some of their pieces will be on display. The Father Lehi and Mother Sariah Award this year will be given to Emeritus General Authority Elder Clate W. and Sister Carol Mask. Both served in the Central American Mission. After a career in CES, they presided over the Spain Barcelona Mission, served in the Second Quorum of Seventy, and presided over the Guatemala City Temple 2009 - 2012 when it was among the busiest in the Church.
Elder and Sister Mask LDS Church News Photo
Elder and Sister Mask have been life-long students and teachers of the Book of Mormon as well as caring ministers to the posterity of Lehi and Sariah.

Every wonder what Lehi's tent in the Arabian wilderness was like? You will have the chance to go inside a genuine Bedouin goat hair tent from the Middle East that is probably very similar to the one Lehi would have used.

Curious about the new videos on the Book of Mormon the Church will be releasing soon? Rob Jex who is part of the Church production team will give us all a sneak preview.

What would happen if a world-class comic book artist drew a graphic novel edition of the Book of Mormon? Come find out.

Want to own an 1830 edition but don't have the $100k or more it would take to purchase one from a rare book dealer? You can take home a copy of the remarkable replica "Palmyra Edition" that for most of us is a very good approximation of the original.

Come be fed temporally and spiritually. Is there a better way to spend the Saturday after General Conference than immersed in the Book of Mormon?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Faith Rope Knot

In my opinion, every person in the Church would do well to watch this 1 minute 29 second video: How the Book of Mormon Can Save Testimonies.



In the video, Lynn McMurray, former Mission President in Tonga and former Bishop in a YSA ward, shares a powerful object lesson about one role the Book of Mormon plays in our faith lives.

- Kirk Magleby, volunteer executive director of Book of Mormon Central, the premiere source for reliable Book of Mormon enrichment material in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Grand Unifying Theory

Physicists, Biologists, and other scientists seek a "grand unifying theory" in their discipline to explain the big picture and fit disparate parts into a coherent whole. There may be a grand unifying theory linking the Book of Mormon with its ancient Mesoamerican setting.

G1 of the Palenque triad is likely the same deity as Central Mexico's Quetzalcoatl. George and David Stuart, Palenque Eternal City of the Maya (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2008) p. 212 and note 21.

G1 of the Palenque triad is likely the same demigod-deity as Hunahpu, the elder of the hero twins in the Popol Vuh. Floyd G. Lounsbury, "The Identities of the Mythological Figures in the Cross Goup Inscriptions of Palenque," Mesoweb, 1985; Linda Schildkraut, "The Hero Twins in Veracruz," FAMSI; Carolyn Tate, Yaxchilan: The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992).

G1 of the Palenque triad is likely a classic Maya instance of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. See the article "Palenque."

If these relationships are true, they form a grand unifying theory that explains many things in ancient Mesoamerica and in the Book of Mormon.

For example, it explains why both Popol Vuh and Book of Mormon iconographic elements appear on Izapa Stela 25. See the article "Art and Iconography 2."

Ditto both Popol Vuh and Book of Mormon iconographic elements on Izapa Stela 5. See the article "Art and Iconography 4."

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Refugee Pageant

What would you do if the Book of Mormon was not yet available in your native language? You would stage a pageant so the powerful messages in this divine book could communicate to your family and friends.

That is precisely the situation the Karen and Karenni Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake's Columbus Branch find themselves in. Refugees from Burma (Myanmar), they have come to Utah and joined the Church, but the Book of Mormon has not been translated into either Karen or Karenni so not all of their family members and friends have access to it.

Enter humanitarians Bob and Susan Roylance who have been working with the Columbus Branch for so many years some of their neighbors in Murray hardly know them. See the article "Refugee Eagle Scouts" for background on the Roylances. Their family non-profit is called "Welcome Hand" which provides a variety of services to the Utah refugee community.

Years ago, Susan authored a Book of Mormon pageant called "Mormon Speaks." It has been produced several times, but not in the last 20 years. She recently received the impression that she was to produce it again, casting Columbus Branch members in most of the roles. And that is how "Mormon Speaks" came to be scheduled for Thursday, June 7, 2018 through Saturday, June 9, 2018 in the Murray High School Auditorium, 5440 South State Street in Murray, Utah. General admission tickets are $5 and you can click on this link to purchase them on Eventbrite.
Book of Mormon Pageant June 7, 8, 9, 2018
Click on this link to download a single page PDF flyer for printing or sharing.

Bob and Susan's leadership will ensure good production values, but the real joy of this pageant will not be the impressive scenery, costumes, lighting, or props. It will be the spirit of wonderful Latter-day Saints, many of them recently-baptized, portraying the epic Book of Mormon story on stage for people they love.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Trample Under Feet

It has come to my attention that Kerry Hull, one of two outstanding Mesoamericanists on the BYU Religion faculty (Mark Wright is the other), presented on this topic in early 2017. Anyone interested would be well-advised to consult Hull for further information. He is a first-rate scholar with wonderful insights into both ancient Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon. 

I was looking at the figure on the obverse of the Leiden plaque aka Leiden plate who is standing beside a bound captive when it occurred to me that the Book of Mormon phrase "trample under feet" may be reflecting the Mesoamerican cultural tradition of lords humiliating victims by treading on them.
Leiden Plaque Incised Jadeite
This artifact was unearthed in 1834 in a post-classic burial mound near the mouth of the Motagua River in Guatemala. It is now in the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands. The glyph text on the reverse celebrates the accession of a king, probably in Tikal, on September 17, AD 320. This was just a few years before Mormon, age 15, took command of the Nephite armies Mormon 2:1-2.

The Book of Mormon uses a variant of the expression "trample under feet" 11 times. It must have been a relatively common term among the Nephites and their contemporaries. In contrast, the Old and New Testaments each use the phrase only once. Nephi was concerned enough about the meaning of the idiom that he defined it in 1 Nephi 19:7 as not heeding the counsels of the one being trampled underfoot. 1 Nephi chapter 19 is at the very beginning of Nephite history and literary tradition in the New World. Nephi may have sensed the need to define this expression because he saw the metaphor being used explicitly to depict dominance and subservience throughout the Mesoamerica of his day.

The relevant passages:
  • Psalms 91:13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. This psalm is generally understood to refer to the future Messiah.
  • Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
  • 1 Nephi 19:7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet.
  • 1 Nephi 19:7 Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet;
  • 1 Nephi 19:7 I say trample under their feet, but I would speak in other words - they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.
  • Alma 5:53 ... can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet;
  • Alma 60:33 Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet.
  • Helaman 4:22 ... they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people;
  • Helaman 6:31 ... they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God,
  • Helaman 6:39 ... they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor, and the meek, and the humble followers of God.
  • Helaman 12:2 ... they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One - 
  • 3 Nephi 14:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
  • Related is Mormon 5:6 ... they did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet.
  • Possibly related is 2 Nephi 26:20 ... that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.
The relatively high frequency of trampling verbiage in the Nephite text may be related to the abundance of trampling imagery in Mesoamerican art and iconography. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Kaminaljuyú Sculpture 173
Drawing by Lucia Henderson
Kaminaljuyú (KJ) Sculpture 173 (Lucia Henderson's nomenclature) depicts a bejeweled human holding a double headed serpent in one hand while standing on one of the creature's two heads.

Izapa Stela 25 from V. Garth Norman
Izapa Stela 25 shows Hunahpu, one of the hero twins, pushing down the earth monster's snout with his foot.

Coba Stela 20 Site Drawing
In this image from Coba, Quintana Roo, a victorious ruler stands on the backs of two war captives. Coba stelae 1 & 4 show similar scenes of elites trampling prisoners under their feet.

Xultun Stela 5
In this image from Xultun, Peten, a victor tramples a hapless war captive.
Naranjo Stela 30 Drawing by Ian Graham
Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions
Naranjo Stela 24 depicts a similar scene with an elite person treading on a captive.

We could duplicate these examples many times over. Tonina Monument 147 (bottom portion) for example is a striking image. Powerful individuals are often portrayed in Maya art treading or trampling on a hapless victim. This Mesoamerican cultural practice is a possible explanation for the frequent occurrence of the phrase "trample under feet" in the Book of Mormon. It may be the reason Nephi defined the term when he used it in 1 Nephi 19:7.

Naranjo Stela 14 shows a victor stepping on his victim's head with his foot, a literal grinding upon the face of the poor as 2 Nephi 26:20 describes.
Naranjo Stela 14
Now things get really interesting. 3 of the Book of Mormon passages listed above describe men trampling God under their feet. Maya iconography shows a young man trampling a god.
Codex-Style Vase Likely from the Area around El Peru Waka, Peten
In this scene, old god L lies prostrate on his back, humiliated. A hunchback removes the god's elaborate hat while a young lord steps on his chest. This image is from Francis Robicsek and Donald Hales, The Maya Book of the Dead (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Art Museum, 1981). Justin Kerr labels this vase K1560.

Article by Kirk Magleby, volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, worlds premiere source of reliable Book of Mormon contextual material in English and Spanish.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Horses

Wade E. Miller is a retired BYU Professor of Geology and Paleontology. He received his PhD in Paleontology from UC Berkeley. He has done fieldwork and presented at academic conferences in more than a dozen countries. He spent a number of years working with faunal remains from the famed La Brea tar pits under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museums. He has a long-standing close working relationship with the Museo del Desierto in Coahuila, Mexico. Miller's ResearchGate profile shows a productive scholar whose work gets cited by others in his field. His personal statement of faith in the Mormon Scholars Testify collection shows his firm belief in the Book of Mormon.

Miller has personally reconciled his deep knowledge of earth sciences with his understanding of the scriptures. He wrote a book in 2010 entitled Science and the Book of Mormon.  My overview of it is in the article entitled "BMAF 2014." Miller teamed up with Book of Mormon Central Research Associate Matt Roper for an article on animals in the Book of Mormon published in Interpreter in 2014. That article was updated and expanded into an even better piece entitled "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives" published in BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 56 No. 4 (2017). The BYU Studies article includes blockbuster information about horse (Equus) remains from the state of Coahuila in Mexico that date to ca. 520 BC.

In other words, a qualified paleontologist has documented the presence of horses in Mexico in Book of Mormon times. Passages such as Enos 1:21 now have additional credible external corroboration.
State of Coahuila in Mexico
See also the very good article by Daniel Johnson entitled "Hard Evidence of Ancient American Horses" in BYU Studies 54:3 (2015) and the January 29, 2018 Book of Mormon Central blog post entitled "New Evidence for Horses in America."
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Wade Miller lives just a few minutes from my house. We visited recently. Additional research is underway.

February 21, 2018 Wade brought Rosario Gomez to visit me. The two of them just returned from St. George where they presented research papers at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists. Gomez is Director of Paleontology for the State of Coahuila, Mexico. Coahuila has more fossils than any other state in the country and its license plates now carry the tagline "Tierra de los Dinosaurios."
National Geographic Article on Coahuila Dinosaurs
We discussed their upcoming trip to the state of Mexico where Miller and Gomez will do fieldwork at sites near Mexico City.

Friday, February 2, 2018

LiDAR

Early Thursday morning, February 1, 2018, National Geographic broke a story intended to drive viewership to a one-hour special entitled "Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings" that aired on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 on the National Geographic Channel. The teaser was "See how LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology and rewriting history." The National Geographic story that quickly went viral was entitled "Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya 'Megalopolis' Below Guatemalan Jungle." In subsequent days, the story was picked up by other major media:
The details in this story, including those shared in the television special, explicitly corroborate dozens of verses in the Book of Mormon that describe dense populations, sophisticated economies, road networks, large-scale agriculture, intensive land use, disaster-prone landscapes, and prevalent warfare. This is paradigm-shifting even for LDS scholars who have tended to dismiss Book of Mormon phrases such as "the whole face of the land" as hyperbole. If the Maya lowlands were part of the Book of Mormon world as we believe they were (See the Book of Mormon Central archive article "Book of Mormon Lands Map, January 2016") these grandiose descriptions are not far-fetched after all. Respected archaeologists are now comparing the Maya with the ancient Egyptians and Chinese.
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LiDAR is a technology where expensive equipment is flown in a slow grid pattern over a target area. Billions of pulsed laser beams penetrate the forest canopy and bounce off structures below to create a massive data cloud. Graphics processing with supercomputers then yields highly accurate 3-D maps of the scanned surface. This digital imaging technique is revolutionizing Mesoamerican archaeology where important ruins lie concealed beneath jungle or dense forest.
Guatemalan LiDAR Data after Rendering and Graphical Processing
Richard Hansen's and Fernando Paiz' Fundación Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (PACUNAM) just went public with the results of the largest LiDAR survey ever attempted for archaeological research. Called the Pacunam LiDAR Initiative, it mapped 10 tracts totaling 2,100 square kilometers near the Mirador Basin and other areas of northern Guatemala. The surveyed area is less than half the size of Utah County. And what did archaeologists find buried in the Peten?
  • 65,000 previously unknown structures. Mosiah 27:6 speaks of large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.
  • Vast networks of highways elevated so they functioned even in the rainy season. 3 Nephi 6:8 terminology is many highways cast up, and many roads made.
  • Ubiquitous fortresses, ramparts, and defensive walls. Alma 49:13 mentions forts of security, for every city in all the land round about. Alma 49:18 emphasizes the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about. Mormon in Alma 50:4,6 calls Captain Moroni's fortifications towers and strongholdsAlma 52:6 describes Teancum preparing defenses by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort. The article "75 BC" documents the impressive chronological correlation between widespread fortifications in the Maya lowlands and the Book of Mormon text.
  • Public works including dikes, dams, canals, ditches, and reservoirs. In some cases Maya engineers re-routed natural stream flows. Mormon, in describing the Nephite golden age in the land southward, mentions widespread engineering and construction works Alma 50:12 which included ditches Alma 49:22.
  • Agricultural terraces with irrigation systems. Alma 17:26-27 describes a designated Lamanite place of water.
  • Animal pens. Alma 1:29 says the Nephites had an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind.
  • Stone quarries. Alma 48:8 lists banks of earth and walls of stone as structural components.
It will take decades to study so many new structures, but settlement patterns and big picture insights are already apparent. The concordance between this new scientific data and the scriptural record is simply remarkable. It is almost like the archaeologists are paraphrasing the Book of Mormon.
  • Maya lowland population at apogee could have reached 15-20 million. Mormon 1:7 says the people in the land southward were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.
  • Maya civilization was much more dense, complex and advanced than previously thought. Jarom 1:8 says the people multiplied exceedingly, spread upon the face of the land, became exceedingly rich, employed fine workmanship, built buildings and machinery, worked metals, made tools of every kind, and crafted weapons of war. Helaman 3:14-15 adds that they built ships, temples, synagogues, and sanctuaries and authored many books and many records of every kind.
  • Maya cities were more interconnected with transportation infrastructure than anyone realized. 3 Nephi 6:8 describes many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place.
  • Food production was at an industrial scale. Helaman 6:12 mentions raising grain in abundance, many flocks and herds, and many fatlings.
  • Land use was intensive - nearing 100% in many areas. Mormon 1:7 says the whole face of the land had become covered with buildings. Note to would-be Book of Mormon geographers from John W. (Jack) Welch: the text does NOT say huts, tents, dugouts or mounds.
  • Many people lived on marginal, swampy lands. Helaman 11:20 uses the terminology waste places4 Nephi 1:9 speaks of cities sunk in water.
  • Endemic warfare over centuries was the norm. Mormon 8:8 Moroni ca. AD 400 said the Lamanites are at war one with another, and the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.
  • Warfare was particularly prevalent in the early classic AD 250-500. Moroni 1:2 Moroni ca. AD 400 - 421 wrote that their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves.
Notes from the television special that aired on Feb. 6:
  • We have always known the Maya were the most advanced civilization in the ancient Americas. Now we know they were one of the most advanced in all the ancient world. The Lord promised Jared and his brother that their seed in the New World would become "a great nation" and that there would be "none greater ... upon all the face of the earth" Ether 1:43.
  • The Maya developed perhaps the most sophisticated writing system in the entire ancient world with over 800 different glyphic characters. Book of Mormon authors mentioned writing challenges: "difficulty of engraving our words upon plates" Jacob 4:1, "awkwardness of our hands" Ether 12:23-24, "stumble because of the placing of our words" Ether 12:24.
  • Tikal was 3 or 4 times larger than we thought. Previous population estimates were 60,000 at apogee. That number should now be 250,000 or more. El Palmar (15 kilometers west of Tikal) was 40 times larger than we realized. The Maya created vast urban sprawl. In many places the Book of Mormon text mentions large populations: "numerous people" Mosiah 24:3, "so many people" 3 Nephi 5:8.
  • Estimates of population in the Maya area at apogee have been revised upward to about 20 million. This was 1/2 the population of Europe at the time, even though the Maya occupied only 1/30 as much land area. Mormon described the Lamanites as "numberless hosts" Alma 51:27.
  • We used to think of Maya cities as isolated. They were not. Networks of roads and highways connected them over vast distances. One is reminded of the roads and highways mentioned in 3 Nephi 8:13.
  • Agricultural production was on an astonishing scale with many wetlands drained and turned into irrigated fields. Helaman 12:2 explicitly mentions agriculturalists prospering "in the increase of their fields."
  • There was much more war among the Maya than we had ever supposed. Defensive structures and fortifications were everywhere. Tikal had a large fortress protecting it. The Nephites strengthened "so many cities ... all of which were strongly fortified, after the manner of the fortifications of Moroni" Alma 51:27.
  • There was an earthwork wall surrounding Tikal 5 meters high and 16 kilometers long. Archaeologists have begun calling it "the great wall of Tikal." The Book of Mormon describes "a strong wall of timbers and earth to an exceeding height" Alma 53:4 encircling Bountiful with similar earthworks surrounding Gid Alma 55:25-26.
The Maya flourished in their tropical home from ca. 1,000 BC to AD 900. In most parts of the world, archaeological remains of the magnitude revealed in the Pacunam LiDAR initiative would have been obscured long ago by modern farming, ranching, and urbanization. In the case of the northern Peten, dense jungle quickly reclaimed the sites abandoned in the classic Maya collapse and this overgrowth both hid and protected them. As a result of the recent laser survey, four entirely new sites with pyramids and plazas are now known to science. The most important findings of the research, though, are the unexpected length, breadth, and depth of human activity and architectural development around sites previously known.

Thomas Garrison is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at New York's Ithaca College. He has worked extensively at the site of El Zotz ("the bat," classic Mayan "Pa' Chan"). He went into the area recently looking for one of he roads shown in the LiDAR data. "I found it," he said, "but if I had not had the LiDAR and known ... that's what it was, I would have walked right over it, because of how dense the jungle is."
Some of the Archaeological Sites Near Areas Mapped
in Phase I of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative
This northern Guatemalan LiDAR project will continue in phases, eventually mapping more than 5,000 square kilometers (about the size of Utah County). At that point it will have mapped approximately 1.4% of the ancient Maya world which covers 350,000 square kilometers (about the size of Montana).

This note was shared by Larry Stay, former Guatemala City South Mission President and personal friend of Richard Hansen: “We have a big article coming out in Nat Geo magazine later this year. This material is not the Mirador Basin, but the area to the east of the Basin, towards Belize.  We start flying again at the end of this month to finish the rest of the Basin. Best to you always, Richard”

LiDAR in archaeology is like the Hubble Telescope in astronomy.
Guatemalan LiDAR Data after Additional Graphical Processing
For notes of a 2015 talk given by Richard Hansen that discussed part of this LiDAR project, see the article "Hansen and Coe." For additional LiDAR images from the vicinity of the Mirador Basin, see the articles "Roads and Highways" and "Flocks and Herds."

Hansen, almost certainly the leading field archaeologist in Mesoamerica today (he's nicknamed "King of the Jungle"), served his mission in Bolivia, graduated from BYU, and is a practicing Latter-day Saint living in Rupert, Idaho.

If you enjoyed this article, you will likely appreciate "Top 10 Archaeological Evidences for the Book of Mormon."

Article by Kirk Magleby, volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, world's premiere source of reliable Book of Mormon contextual material in English and Spanish. Article last updated on February 12, 2018.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Palenque

By any standard, Palenque is a magical place. I have visited several times and expect to return. Its natural setting on the well-watered littoral between the highlands of Chiapas and the coastal plain of Tabasco is striking. Its fabled ruins are as impressive as those from any ancient culture on the planet. Palenque is the high water mark of Maya civilization, and the Maya were the most advanced of all ancient Americans. K'inich Janab Pakal (AD 603 - 683) was a grand king and the discovery of his intact tomb beneath the Temple of the Inscriptions in 1952 is often considered the greatest archaeological discovery ever made in the Western Hemisphere. Modern Mayan decipherment began in earnest at the First Palenque Roundtable in December, 1973. George Stuart and his wife, Gene (1931 - 1993), celebrated National Geographic authors, attended that noted gathering. Soon afterward they took their young son, David, to Palenque where he began working with Linda Schele (1942-1998). David was 12 in 1978 when he presented a paper at the Third Palenque Roundtable. By age 18 he was the youngest-ever recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He earned his PhD from Vanderbilt, taught at Harvard, and now holds the Linda and David Schele Chair at UT Austin. David Stuart is generally regarded as world's leading Maya epigrapher.

George and David Stuart wrote Palenque Eternal City of the Maya published in 2008 by Thames & Hudson.
Excellent Book on the "Queen of Maya Cities"
I read it looking for potential Book of Mormon connections. This article highlights what I found.

Palenque p. 33 Earliest known occupation at the site was 500 BC. This fits Nephite or Mulekite time horizons.

Palenque pp. 35-63 detail the publication history of early reports and drawings of the site.
  • 1808 Domingo Juarros described the ruins in a Guatemalan publication printed in Spanish.
  • 1810 Alexander von Humboldt included a drawing of one panel from Palace House A in a European publication printed in French, but he mis-identified this artifact as Oaxacan. 
  • 1814 an English translation of Alexander von Humboldt was published in London.
  • 1822 Antonio del Rio's 1787 report to the Spanish crown was published in English translation in London with 17 drawings of Palenque monuments. The popular London Literary Gazette gave it a harsh negative review.
  • 1823 del Rio's report was printed in German translation.
  • 1827 8 illustrations from the 1822 publication were included in a new work printed in French that compared primitive North American mounds with much more advanced Palenque structures.
  • 1827 The Saturday Evening Post published a letter describing Maya hieroglyphic writing.
  • 1829 James H. McCulloh published ten pages of serious discussion about Maya writing including the first images of Maya hieroglyphs printed in the Americas.
  • 1830 Lord Kingsborough shared a great deal of Palenque material including dozens of drawings in his monumental Antiquities of Mexico published in London. A copy of this important work finally reached the US in 1839.
News of Palenque was just beginning to appear as Joseph Smith was growing up in New England and New York. After the young prophet's theophany in 1820, the pace of information flow quickened. See the article 1829 for more historiography about who knew what when.

Palenque pp. 107-108 describes a site called La Esperanza (aka Nueva Esperanza) on the west bank of the Usumacinta near the modern town of Emiliano Zapata (formerly Monte Cristo). It was one of the oldest and largest among the many preclassic sites in the region studied by Robert L. Rands. It has been only lightly sampled archaeologically. It was occupied ca. 300 BC. It is the premiere example of a strikingly different cultural pattern than the contemporaneous early Maya civilization Richard Hansen is working on in the Mirador Basin. El Mirador and nearby preclassic sites in the northern Peten were clearly precursors of the classic Maya with temples atop pyramids, public art, standardized iconography, and glyphic writing. La Esperanza and other preclassic sites like it in the western Maya area were populous but relatively plain architecturally and artistically. Stuart hypothesizes that classic Maya culture reached Palenque from the Peten rather than from the much closer La Esperanza.
Large Preclassic Sites that Could have Influenced Palenque
In Stuart's view (following Rands) Nueva Esperanza and similar sites were something of a cultural anomaly surrounded by proto-Maya on their way to becoming classic Maya. I visited La (Nueva) Esperanza in 2006 with Garth Norman acting on a suggestion from John Clark. Locally it also goes by the names Zapatillo and Calatraba. It features dozens of mounds, some quite large. A couple of mounds had been sideswiped with a backhoe for sampling. We did a little surface scavenging. Garth believed the shards we found were preclassic. Garth and I correlate Nueva Esperanza with the city of Zarahemla on the west bank of Sidon. In his 2005 Worlds of Joseph Smith presentation at the Library of Congress, Clark's title slide was an image of Nueva Esperanza.

The town of Emiliano Zapata (Monte Cristo) is mentioned on pp. 18-19, 82, 89, and 108. Palenque is strategically situated between the Michol river flowing west and the Chacamax flowing east. Emiliano Zapata is at the confluence of the Chacamax with the Usumacinta. The Usumacinta is navigable to Boca del Cerro upstream from Tenosique, but Emiliano Zapata is only 35 air kilometers from Palenque while Tenosique is 60 air kilometers distant and on the other side of the big river.
Access to Palenque from the Usumacinta
An ancient trail, early dirt road, and modern paved road all connect(ed) Emiliano Zapata (Nueva Esperanza) with Palenque. This is the most direct route from Palenque to the sea. Nueva Esperanza is the point along the Usumacinta where permanent downstream flood plain gives way to higher arable ground. Immediately NW of Nueva Esperanza lie the formidable Pantanos (Swamps) de Centla full of jaguars and crocodiles which Garth and I correlate with the wilderness of Hermounts Alma 2:37. In this model, Palenque is in the lesser land of Zarahemla and Boca del Cerro is the point on the route to the land of Nephi where lowland Zarahemla gives way to upland wilderness Omni 1:27-28.

Palenque p. 18 describes 588 meter El Mirador peak with the Cross Group at its base and a small ruin at its summit. Norman correlates this eminence with hill Manti Alma 1:15 and I follow his lead on this point, having found no better candidate.

Palenque p. 82 reports that as late as 1897 the official inspector of ancient monuments for the Mexican government did not know if the major site Yaxchilan was in Mexico west of the Usumacinta or in Guatemala east of the river (it is on the Mexico side). This is an indication of how difficult and inaccessible the upper Usumacinta area is. Even today, a trip to Yaxchilan is a travel adventure because there are no roads to the site.
Remote Yaxchilan on the Upper Usumacinta
The Book of Mormon describes a scenario where the Nephites in Nephi (Kaminaljuyú in our correlation) and the Mulekites in Zarahemla (Nueva Esperanza on our map) were completely unaware of each other's existence for nearly 400 years Omni 1:14. The Book of Mormon also describes multiple savvy groups getting lost in the wilderness between Nephi and Zarahemla Mosiah 8:8Mosiah 22:16. Both the disorientation and incommunicado narratives fit well in our proposed correlation where one goes through the upper Usumacinta basin to travel between Nephi and Zarahemla. See the articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Four" and "Water Fight on the River - Round Five."

Palenque p. 98 - 103 tells the fascinating story of Mayan decipherment. Many of the people mentioned have connections to the LDS Mesoamericanist community.
  • Books that once belonged to Tatiana Proskouriakoff (1909-1985) are in my personal library.
  • David H. Kelley (1924-2011) was John L. Sorenson's friend and collaborator.
  • Michael D. Coe was in Utah in 2015 as Richard Hansen's guest. See the article "Hansen and Coe."
  • Gordon Willey (1913-2002) was one of the three founders of the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) along with Thomas Stuart Ferguson (1915-1983) and Alfred V. Kidder (1885-1963).
  • Román Piña Chan (1920-2001) was one of the five people digging near Huimanguillo, Tabasco in 1953 as part of NWAF's first field season. The others were Pedro Armillas (1914-1984), William T. Sanders (1926-2008), Gareth W. Lowe (1922-2004), and John L. Sorenson. See the articles "Zarahemla ca. 1955" and "Gareth Lowe's Maps."
  • George W. Brainerd (1909-1956) would have been John L. Sorenson's PhD advisor at UCLA had he not died unexpectedly just as Sorenson was beginning his program.
  • Robert M. Carmack is the brother of John K. Carmack, emeritus General Authority, and the uncle of Book of Mormon textual scholar Stanford Carmack.
  • Linda Schele (1942-1998) was Allen J. Christenson's PhD advisor at UT Austin. Christenson, on the BYU Humanities faculty, is a Mayanist who specializes in K'iche'. 
Palenque p. 102 talks about the Grolier Codex which recently joined the Dresden, Paris, and Madrid Codices as an authenticated pre-Columbian Maya manuscript. The Grolier is different enough from the other three that most scholars initially dismissed it as a fraud. John L. Sorenson in a 1997 article entitled "The Sobering Lesson of the Grolier Codex" uses the Grolier's journey from pariah to pillar as a cautionary tale about those who would cavalierly disregard the Book of Mormon as an ancient American codex.

Palenque p. 105 reminds us that less than two percent of Palenque has been studied in depth and there is much yet to discover.

National Geographic just published a report on Richard Hansen's LIDAR project in the northern Peten. The survey shows 60,000 structures previously unknown to science (many, unfortunately, already looted). Ancient population in the area may have reached 15 million. There is much yet to discover. See the article "LiDAR."

Palenque p. 109-110 discusses a very early Palenque ruler (perhaps mythological) who was born on March 11, 993 BC, well into Jaredite times. Another ancient leader began to rule in 252 BC when the Nephites were still living in the city of Nephi.

Palenque p. 114 shows the earliest known depiction of a Palenque ruler and he is heavily bearded.
Onyx Bowl in The Dumbarton Oaks Collection
Stuart calls him the "Ch'a" ruler born in AD 422 and comments on his unusual hand gesture pointing downward. We have seen this gesture before on Kaminaljuyú Monument 65 and Izapa Stela 5. See the article "Partake of the Fruit" for illustrations. The inscription on the bowl calls him a "young" ruler even though his full beard implies age. This reminds us of Mormon's play-on-words description of Alma1 in Mosiah 17:2. See Matt Bowen's 2016 Interpreter article entitled "Alma - Young Man, Hidden Prophet."

Palenque pp. 117, 138-9, 145, and 149 reproduce David Stuart's very clean drawings of 7 ancestors carved into the walls of Pakal's sarcophagus. Each is depicted as an anthropomorphic fruit tree.
Pakal's Parents as Trees
This is interesting because of the curious Book of Mormon teaching in Alma 32 that humans can sprout trees. See the articles "Maya Place Names" and "Anthropomorphic Trees" for context. Another anthropomorphic plant is depicted on the Tablet of the Foliated Cross where heads appear as corncobs on a stylized maize plant.
Linda Schele's Drawing of the Tablet of the Foliated Cross
Palenque Figure 65
Palenque pp. 143-4 explain how the Maya used variants of the term "seat" to describe a ruler's accession to the throne. The Book of Mormon follows this same convention Alma 4:17.

Palenque pp. 145, 178-9 discuss the phrase "enter the path" used commonly at Palenque to mean a ruler died. On p. 178 Stuart gives a new translation of the rim text from Pakal's sarcophagus lid. It has a list of royal ancestors who "entered the path" on such and such a date. The Book of Mormon equivalent is "go the way of all the earth." Lehi would soon go the way of all the earth in 2 Nephi 1:14. Ditto King Benjamin in Mosiah 1:9. Mosiah2 had already gone the way of all the earth in Alma 1:1. Ditto Teancum in Alma 62:37. Chief Judge Parhoron (critical text orthography) had gone the way of all the earth in Helaman 1:2.

The phrase "go the way of all the earth" is also biblical. Joshua used it as recorded in Joshua 23:14, and King David harked back to Joshua's words in 1 Kings 2:2. Some of the Bible versions shown on biblehub.com use the word "path" or "road" rather than "way."

Palenque pp. 148, 238 discuss the chiastic pattern found in the dynastic king list from Palenque. There is a chiastic pattern found in the dynastic king list recorded in the book of Ether. See Book of Mormon Central KnoWhy #235 "Why Does the Book of Ether Start with Such a Long Genealogy?"

People come up with wildly different notions of the distance a Nephite may have traveled in a "day's journey." I take the Book of Mormon phrase to be a standard unit of distance measure, and some of the best textual scholars in the Church support this interpretation. See the article "Textual Progress." It is helpful to know from historical records how far pre-modern groups actually traveled in one day. Palenque p. 158 reports a narrative with details that allow us to calculate distance traveled per day. On August 7, AD 659, troops from Palenque captured the king of Santa Elena in his hometown. Six days later they paraded this same king as a bound captive before K'inich Janab Pakal in Palenque's palace. How far did this military detachment travel in six days with a high-value captive in tow?
95 Air Kilometers Santa Elena to Palenque
95 air kilometers divided by 6 days equals 15.8 kilometers per day. This compares remarkably well with other journeys we have documented. See the article "Land Southward Travel Times." Our rule-of-thumb standard unit of distance measure - 15 air kilometers per day - is corroborated yet again.

Palenque p. 174 is describing the famous resurrection scene on Pakal's sarcophagus lid. It mentions circlets that represent jade and preciousness scattered throughout the image. Many have pointed out that these circlets are fruits of the stylized tree depicted in cruciform shape above or growing out of the king who is being re-born. Stuart comments (Palenque p. 176) on the rows of jade beads adorning the flowers of the tree.
K'inich Janab Pakal Resurrecting
as the Rising Sun
Similar circlets representing fruits of the tree are a prominent motif on Izapa Stela 5. See the article "Partake of the Fruit." The Book of Mormon explicitly associates trees and fruit with resurrection Alma 32:41-42.

An incised circlet appears in front of the upper lip and under the nose of K'inich Ahkal Mo' Nahb in a fine portrait on Temple XIX's limestone panel.
Circular Breath Bead on Portrait of Palenque King
Palenque plate 34
This is what Mesoamericanists typically call a "breath bead" which represents life and re-birth. Many breath beads are illustrated in the article "Partake of the Fruit." Dead bodies were sometimes interred with small jade breath beads near the deceased's nostrils. The Book of Mormon explicitly associates breath with life Mosiah 2:21.

Palenque pp. 176, 198 share the name the Maya gave the stylized cruciform image of their sacred world tree. They called it "Shiny jeweled tree." Stuart also uses the term "jade jewel tree." Jade beads represent fruit of the tree. In addition to dominating the scene on Pakal's sarcophagus lid, this special tree is the central motif on the Tablet of the Cross, now in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
Linda Schele's Drawing of the Tablet of  the Cross
The Tablet of the Cross adorned the Temple of the Cross, one of three temples dedicated to the three patron deities knows as the "Palenque triad." These deities are generally referred to simply as GI (god 1), GII, anId GIII. The Palenque triad are not trinitarian although GI is very much a Christ-like figure. These are points Stuart makes about Palenque deities and their associated symbols:
  1. There were dozens of gods in the Maya pamtheon p. 191 Mormon 4:14
  2. Itzamnaaj was the supreme Maya god p 212 3 Nephi 27:13
  3. Itzamnaaj crowned GI p. 212 3 Nephi 11:7 
  4. The tree represented wealth and preciousness p. 176 1 Nephi 11:9, 1 Nephi 15:36
  5. The tree was shiny and resplendent p. 176 1 Nephi 11:8, Alma 32:42
  6. The tree represented re-birth to new life p. 176 Alma 32:41
  7. The tree incorporated serpent imagery p. 176 2 Nephi 25:20   
  8. The tree was a symbol of GI p. 198 1 Nephi 11:21-22, 25
  9. A supernatural bird perched atop the tree pp. 173, 197 2 Nephi 25:13, 3 Nephi 10:4-6
  10. GI was the first-born among the Palenque triad p. 189 Mosiah 3:8
  11. GI and the tree were both associated with the solar east pp. 175, 189, 198 3 Nephi 9:18
  12. GI was an aquatic deity p. 189 1 Nephi 11:25
  13. GI died and was resurrected p. 189 3 Nephi 9:22 
  14. GI descended from the sky pp. 189, 198 3 Nephi 11:8
  15. GI ascended to the sky p. 196 3 Nephi 18:39
  16. Stuart links GI with Central Mexico's Quetzalcoatl p. 212 and note 21
Palenque p. 192 Stuart downplays the Popol Vuh's role as an urtext for classic Maya religion. He stresses that the Popol Vuh story elements appearing iconographically throughout the Maya area are few and scattered. We reached this same conclusion regarding Popol Vuh imagery on Izapa Stela 25 "Art and Iconography 2" and Izapa Stela 5 "Art and Iconography 4." See also the Stuart's discussion in chapter 8 note 10.

Palenque p. 223 talks about the title sajal applied to military captains. Alma 2:13,16 attests military captains among the Nephites as Alma 43:6 does among the Lamanites.

Palenque p. 228 describes Matwiil, legendary origin place of the Maya, as watery and symbolized by cormorants which are coastal birds. 1 Nephi 17:5 and Ether 6:2-4 describe watery, coastal places of origin.  See the discussion of pp. 72-73 in the article "Maya Place Names."

Palenque chapter 8 note 15 (p. 256) has a tantalizing clue for those of us interested in locating Book of Mormon lands. The Maya knew where GI descended from heaven and they had a name for the place - "six sky." The Book of Mormon tells us that the resurrected Savior appeared to the Nephites at "the temple which was in the land Bountiful" 3 Nephi 11:1.

This article was written by Kirk Magleby, volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, world's premiere source of reliable Book of Mormon contextual material in English and Spanish.