15 November 2020

More thoughts on the origin and significance of Quetzalcoatl

Latter-Day Saints have long been interested in establishing a connection between ancient American legends of Quetzalcoatl (and similar deities from a variety of cultures) and Jesus Christ's visit as told in the Book of Mormon. It should be noted that this idea is not new; Spanish chroniclers wrote down these beliefs and noted their similarity. So, this idea is not something that was created in support of the veracity of the Book of Mormon account, but perhaps latched onto because it was appealing. 

Obviously, the scientific world does not think much of this view, pointing out the need to be skeptical of the Spanish, who may have had other interests in mind. The native populations they met may have also altered their stated beliefs for reasons of their own as they related them to their conquerors. This may explain the examples of seemingly Biblical stories and practices found among the Maya, Aztecs, and other later cultures, or it may not. Even some LDS scholars and commentators, such as Brandt Gardner, not only discourage making these connections, but even affirm there is no support for a Christlike Quetzalcoatl (or Gukumatz, or Kukulcan, or Viracocha) older than Spanish records, asserting that this similarity was basically a Spanish invention.

Leaving aside why the idea of a deity similar to Christ would appeal to the Catholic conquerors (after all, they weren't Mormons), we can look at the widely-held indigenous belief in a feathered serpent deity, which is found among many ancient cultures and combines unexpected animal aspects. An admittedly non-scientific article on Ancient Origins deals this this topic. It discusses the idea that these (bearded?) gods of the Americas may have been the resurrected Jesus, even mentioning LDS beliefs and the account of his visit in the Book of Mormon. This assertion is no longer as widely ridiculed as it has been in the past. But it delves into what is perhaps a more important question of why the serpent, a creature from the ground, was combined with a bird, a creature from the sky, to form a singular god.

The symbol of the eagle and the snake is also important to Aztec origin legends and is found on the flag of Mexico. As stated in the article, this legend was misinterpreted by the Spanish as the eagle representing good and the serpent evil, which fits in nicely with European heraldry and Christian theology. But a more accurate representation of these attributes may be much more complex. The suggestion in this article is that the earthly and heavenly creatures may represent different states of consciousness together in one being. Another idea we suggest is that the idea of a feathered serpent god is to suggest a deity combining heavenly and earthly attributes, or we might say, divine and mortal. Looking at it in this way, it's not too hard to think of Jesus Christ the Son of God, who embodied both the divine and the mortal in his person, as necessary in carrying out his atoning sacrifice. 

In conclusion, perhaps Quetzalcoatl doesn't need to be a bearded white man after all. Perhaps the symbolism of the earthly and the divine combined in one individual is enough. Just something to think about.

12 March 2020

More support for Ancient American horses

Out of all the criticisms of the Book of Mormon, its mention of horses keeps coming up. Such has been the case for 190 years. Daniel has written papers and given presentations on strong support for the presence of horses in the Americas far before previously held beliefs. There may not be a definite answer yet, but more support from non-LDS sources keeps appearing. Of particular interest is research into Native American traditions and histories

Yvette Running Horse, an indigenous scholar, has a good bit of current research supporting native traditions that they have always had the horse. Many of her findings are very similar to the paper that Daniel had published in BYU Studies.  She doesn't seem to have any interest in supporting the Book of Mormon narrative, so we recommend her work for consideration. As more time goes by, our stance on the reality of horses in Ancient America far before the Spanish conquest becomes more commonplace.

Click here to read about Yvette Running Horse's dissertation.

08 July 2019

A steel sword from 7th century BC Israel

Steel in the Book of Mormon is a common target for critics. The first mention is the sword of Laban, with its blade of 'precious' steel. The common thinking for quite a while is that this is an anachronism, several centuries out of date. We have found ancient examples of Middle Eastern steel: an 11th century BC dagger from Cyprus and a 12th or 13th century BC pick from Mt. Adir in northern Galilee (click here to read about them). However, an actual steel sword dating to Lehi's time has been found.





Now residing in the Israel Museum, a sword from the Vered Jericho fortress was found in the 1980s. It's over three feet long and is described as being made of mild steel. Some listings may describe it as iron, but because steel is so close to iron (up to 99%), academic descriptions often don't distinguish between the two materials. But articles delving into the details will mention the difference. According to Popular Mechanics and the Biblical Archaeology Review, it is indeed iron hardened into a mild steel (click here to read the article). According to the museum's 1992 journal, "Metallurgical analysis of a sample taken from the blade proves that it was made of mild steel, and that the iron was deliberately hardened into steel, attesting to the technical knowledge of the blacksmith."

Shad Brooks, an Australian swords and ancient weaponry expert, explains the significance of this find on his YouTube channel, Shadiversity. He defends its description as steel and explains just how close iron and steel are, especially in ancient metallurgy. Using the Vered Jericho sword as a base, he has even reconstructed a probable design of the sword of Laban, based on Nephi's description.

The sword of Laban can now safely be removed from any list of Book of Mormon controversies. No longer do we need to try and explain it away, as it fits fully into the historical record of the time, without any hit of anachronism.

Click here to watch Shad's recreation of the sword of Laban.
Click here to watch Shad's defense of the Vered Jericho sword as steel.

11 June 2019

Pope confirms phrase from the JST

In an unexpected bit of news, Pope Francis recently approved a change to a phrase in the Lord's Prayer, found in Matthew 6:14. In this familiar scripture, Jesus teachers the pattern for praying to our Heavenly Father. The King James Bible contains the phrase, "And lead us not into temptation." Reasoning that God does not tempt mankind, but rather the devil, the pope has changed the phrase to “do not let us fall into temptation.”

This is interesting because the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, long criticized by many Christians, contains practically the same phrase, for likely the same reason. His rendering of this line reads "And suffer us not to be led into temptation." The beyond close similarity of the two phrases is interesting, since Joseph made this inspired change over 150 years ago. We wonder how and why the current pope came to this same conclusion, but we do agree with his decision.

Read here about Pope Francis' change to this and the Gloria.

25 December 2018

An interesting story to share

Merry Christmas, everyone! At this wonderful season, we thought we would share an odd story about something that happened to Daniel earlier this year. As you know, the point of this blog is to share our studies and also to contact others who are interested in this information.

Some months ago, Daniel was contacted by someone in Panama; we'll call him José. He said he had found a post on our blog about a new discovery of gold items buried in a stone box in Mexico City. According to this individual, there was a museum in Panama called the Fort David Museum. It was somehow associated with an ancient nearby site called Barriles. After a bit of research, we found some information on this site and it appears to be legitimate. But it is on property owned by people that are looking to get publicity for it by making some outrageous claims.

José wanted Daniel to come to Panama to see the artifacts and get his opinion on them. He was even willing to pay his way to fly and stay there. What made this interesting was that he claimed that ancient steel swords and gold plates had been found in a tomb in Panama. While things like this are always intriguing, caution is paramount. LDS hopefuls have been misled in the past by bad archaeology. The story being presented to Daniel was that this site contained the tomb of a chief or powerful leader named El Quibián Malchía. This Malchía supposedly left the Old World around 600 b.c. and sailed with Phoenicians to Panama. The purpose of this journey was to save the Ark of the Covenant from Babylonian capture. Once in the New World, he set himself up as a king. His tomb containing these artifacts was accidentally discovered a few years ago. This image is from one of the museum's videos and purports to be the actual Ark of the Covenant from his tomb. If only Indiana Jones had known!

Many details about this story are unlikely, not the least of which is the poor quality of this 'artifact.' But when José finally sent photos of their gold plates, we knew there was a real problem. The first surprising detail to notice here is that the hieroglyphics engraved on them are exact copies of the 'Charactors' facsimile, even down to their sequence. José even tried to convince Daniel that these were the actual plates guarded by Moroni and used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon. When Daniel sent him an image of the 'Charactors' and asked him to explain how it was exactly the same, José demanded to know where he had obtained this image, as they had been careful at the museum not to let let out any information on their plates. Daniel then had to explain to him that this image had been around since the early 1800s and was widely available. In fact, all the information needed to make this low quality replica of the plates could be found in posts on our blog.

From there, the communication just got even stranger, with José making some bizarre accusations and personal admissions. We don't know if he was complicit in this fraud or if he was fooled by it. We don't see much purpose in this whole affair, except maybe to scam LDS tourists into visiting this site and spending money there, and using Daniel to spread the word. While a free trip to Panama did sound tempting, Daniel did eventually decide against it and cut off all contact with José, after trying to convince him to give up on this hopeless fraud. Not wanting to be part of an obvious hoax, Daniel was also somewhat concerned for his own safety. Who was involved in this scheme and what did they really hope to achieve? Why did they want him to come, of all people? That is still a mystery to us. But if anyone is going through that area of Panama, it might be worthwhile to stop by the Fort David Museum and see what they have. We haven't seen anything there except very modern, crudely made fakes without any hint of authenticity or antiquity. They are about the quality that you would find as trinkets being sold to foreign tourists.

Click here to watch a video on some of the Fort David Museum's claims.

20 December 2018

Evidences from the Book of Mormon

This one is a bit off our usual set of topics, but it is an interesting way of looking at the Book of Mormon. Obviously, those who believe in it do so as a principle of faith. Much of what we discuss is admittedly theoretical. But those who reject our traditional explanation for its origins must offer some other story. After all, it is a real book with a coherent storyline and doctrinal teachings. From our point of view, no one has ever submitted a serious alternate theory. This may be that the critics don't take the Book of Mormon seriously enough to study it and find out what it really contains. While there remains much that is still up for debate, there are a lot of internal complexities that should warrant some consideration. Here is an interesting video that goes over quite a few of these internal details that are usually ignored by critics. That's not too much of a surprise, since many members probably aren't aware of many of them.

Click here to watch this video on internal evidences.