The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Monday, December 12, 2016

Towers and Pyramids

In seeking consensus about Book of Mormon geography, I've pointed out that the text never mentions pyramids, jungles, Mayans, tapirs, etc. No one reading the text would think of Central America on the basis of the words alone.

To "see" Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon, you have to be trained to see it. You have to have Mesomania. You have to have Arnold Friberg paintings inserted into the missionary and foreign-language editions, along with the painting of Christ visiting the Nephites among ruined Mayan temples with Chichen Itza in the background.

Let's look at pyramids for a moment.

Mesomania teaches that the Book of Mormon does refer to pyramids. Joseph just used the wrong word when he translated the plates. He dictated "tower" instead of "pyramid."

Or maybe Oliver Cowdery wrote down the wrong word and Joseph didn't notice?

IOW, when you read with Mesomania lenses, substitute the word "pyramid" every time you see "tower" and you'll find your Mesoamerican setting with no problems. Now you're reading the correct translation.

Here's one of my favorite examples:

You've got the classic Mesomania logo in the upper left corner, along with an article about all the pyramids in the Book of Mormon. As a reminder, BMAF is a club for people who want to prove the Mesoamerican setting, which is why it's a division of Book of Mormon Central. If you're looking for an organization dedicated to finding the truth about the Book of Mormon, including alternatives to Mesoamerica, BMAF and Book of Mormon Central aren't for you.

If you have time, you should go read this article. It's awesome.

Basically, the argument is that the "great tower" referenced three times in the Book of Mormon must be the "city and tower" described in Genesis 11:3-4. In that passage, people made bricks because they had no stone. They used "slime" for mortar.

Now, notice the sleight-of-hand typical of most Mesoamerican articles:

Towers in Mesoamerica
Structures made of brick, stone, and slime (mortar) were built at such locations as Cholula and Xochitictl in the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, Mexico. These structures are made of brick (adobes), stones, and mortar. It appears that anciently, the term “tower” referred to a large towering structure made of brick and/or stone.
I believe that the Book of Mormon term “tower” refers to similarly large structures made of brick and/or of stone—structures we currently refer to as pyramids.

In the Bible, the people made bricks because they didn't have stone. Hundreds if not thousands of years later in Mesoamerica, people built temples out of stone. There are a few instances of using kiln-fired bricks, such as the ones the author mentions and the Comalcalco site, but this dates to Late Classic (post-Book of Mormon times).

Now, ask yourself, can you think of a human civilization that doesn't use stone or bricks for construction? This is yet another of the illusory correspondences between what Mesoamerican activists see in the text (in this case, pyramids) and fairly ubiquitous elements of human societies everywhere.

But maybe you're thinking the Hopewell and Adena, who relied mainly on earthworks and timbers. If so, then you're heading in the right direction.

Because the Book of Mormon never once mentions the people using stones or bricks for buildings!

This should be too obvious to have to repeat, but not only does the Book of Mormon never mention pyramids, it doesn't even mention stone buildings!

The BMAF article nevertheless continues to claim that every mention of the word "tower" in the text actually should have been translated as "pyramid."

This is really fun. This Mesomania-inspired thinking has brought us images such as this:

Here we have Nephi building his own pyramid right in his garden, near the highway! It's a spectacular idea. Can't you envision Nephi hauling these massive stones to his garden, carving the steps, etc.? He must have been more buff than the Arnold Friberg version.

Here's another version of Nephi that's so ridiculous I wouldn't include it except to show how far some people take the Mesoamerican theory.

And, we have King Benjamin making his people build him a pyramid in about a day. The Nephites were the fastest stoneworkers in antiquity, no doubt.

I'm not kidding about this. There are several Mesoamerican advocates who actually claim the towers mentioned in connection with Nephi and King Benjamin were pyramids. They think this constitutes proof that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.

To summarize:

If you have Mesomania, this constitutes proof of the Mesoamerican setting:

The Book of Mormon mentions towers.

Seriously, that's it. This is how they think. First, they say these "towers" must have been like the tower of Babel, even though the Book of Mormon references to that tower use the phrase "great tower." Second, they say the Book of Mormon people built with stone and brick, even though the text never says anything of the sort. Third, they say Nephi had a stone pyramid in his garden, that King Benjamin's people built him a one-use stone pyramid in about a day, that people built stone pyramids along their wooden walls as lookouts, etc.

Maybe my favorite is the claim that the Nephites were building pyramid towers near the temple pyramids. Notice in the BMAF logo that there is a temple on top of the pyramid. Every Mesomania organization uses a similar motive, including the Ancient America Foundation for which Book of Mormon Central is the front. But in Mosiah 11:12, King Noah "built a tower near the temple; yeah, a very high tower." So, if you've got Mesomania, the temple is already on top of a pyramid, but that one wasn't high enough, so Noah built an even bigger pyramid "near" the temple pyramid.

Not only did Mormon forget to mention that the temple was on top of a pyramid, but he forgot to explain how you're going to build an even bigger pyramid near the first one. And, of course, Mormon forgot to mention that the Nephites built any buildings with stone (or brick), let alone all these "tower of Babel" pyramids.

Maybe now you understand why it's so easy for the Mesoamerican scholars to "see" Mesomaerica whenever they read the text of the Book of Mormon. You just substitute a few words and voila, you've got Mayans instead of Nephites on every page.

Alternatively, we can look at the types of towers that make sense. Except these can't possibly be accurate because they fit the North American setting, and we know from LDS scholars that the North American setting is impossible (although some say it has a 2% chance of being correct). And we know North America is impossible because Cumorah cannot be in New York. And we know Cumorah cannot be in New York because it's too far from Mesoamerica.

That might look like circular reasoning to you, but to an LDS PhD or JD scholar, it's sound reasoning based on facts.

Here's an artist's depiction of a common sense tower:

Back in the day, when Mesomania hadn't gone completely wild and people were still sorting through different possibilities, there were actually some good articles on this question. Scholars made connections with actual Hebrews instead of claiming Nephi and King Benjamin used the construction techniques they learned from the tower of Babel.

For example, some noticed that Ezra "stood upon a pulpit of wood" when he read the law to the people. Nehemiah 8:4. This was the platform used during the Feast of Tabernacles, which has also been compared with King Benjamin's feast. In 2 Kings, the king stood on pillar-like platforms as described here.

You might wonder about the term "pulpit" in the KJV.

According to Strong's Concordance, here, the Hebrew word used in Nehemiah 8:4, migdal of miigdalah, is normally translated as "tower." It's the same term used in Geneses 11:4-5, but here in Nehemiah it is definitely made of wood.

On one hand, you have Mesoamerican proponents insisting that the term "tower" in the Book of Mormon actually means "stone pyramid" because the writers referred to the tower of Babel as a "great tower." You have Nephi building a stone pyramid in his garden and King Benjamin having his people build him temporary a stone pyramid so he can teach them the law.

On the other hand, you have North American proponents relating the term to the Biblical use of wooden towers to preach to the people, as found in Nehemiah 8.

What do you think?


  1. Makes perfect sense to me. Once you accept the Prophets and Apostles on the location of Cumorah being in New York. Mesoamerica as the location of Cumorah, or anywhere in the world besides New York, makes no sense at all.

  2. With this Logic, Moses Abraham, Joseph, and Christ himself were not in Egypt because there is no mention of pyramids in the Bible

    1. Good to hear from you, Scott. I didn't know you had posted. Thanks for your interest. However, I missed the part in the Bible where Moses, Abraham, Joseph and Christ himself ran up a pyramid. Do you have a reference for that? Or even a reference that they lived anywhere near the pyramids? Why would the Bible even mention pyramids in the first place?

  3. One "tower" that was not mentioned in the Book of Mormon was the tower that King Noah "ran and got upon the tower" It seems more likely that he ran and got upon a pyramid than ran up a ladder to the top of a rickety wood tower. I have been on top of many pyramids in Belize and Mexico. You can see forever. King Noah saw the coming enemy from the tower. This too, would more than likely be a pyramid vs a tower constructed out of wood. Why would Noah go up a wood tower to get away from Gideon? This would be a dead end. It was a pyramid.

    1. I think most people have been on the pyramids in Mesoamerica by now. I've been on lots of them as well. If you're running from an enemy, a Mayan pyramid is about the last place you'd go. It's inherently dangerous, easy to stumble, and worst of all, it's the ultimate dead end.

      Since you've been to Mesoamerican pyramids, you surely know all you can see from the top is jungle in every direction. You can't see enemies coming, especially not from a long distance. To see enemies from a distance as Noah did, they had to be crossing plains or at least open areas. My proposed site for the City of Nephi addresses all of these issues.

      BTW, I missed the part in the Book of Mormon where it says they had a rickety wood tower. Is that in the Sorenson translation?

      :) All in fun. Seriously. Thanks for the comment.