Heat On New Year’s Day? A Mesoamerican Parallel

Most critics of the Book of Mormon believe that Joseph (or the mysterious group of contemporaries who never revealed themselves) were inspired by their native surroundings in their production of the Book of Mormon. In fact, in recent years a map of BoM lands placed in a Great Lakes setting has gained considerable popularity with anti-mormon critics. A popular theory is that Joseph was inspired by tales of North American moundbuilders as imagined the characters and storylines in the BoM.

John Sorenson points out a small detail, among much more that could be said, that demonstrates that the author of the Book of Mormon was not assuming the environmental norms of the northeastern United States.

And is it reasonable for a man living in upper New York State who is supposedly drawing upon his own experience of the physical environment to produce a book that fails to mention “cold,” “snow,” or “ice” in the climate of the ” promised land,” or for him to write of oppressive heat at New Year’s (see Alma 51:33 and 52:1)?

This can be read here, in footnote #3 : http://farms.byu.edu/publications/books/?b…&chapid=196

Here are the relevant verses:

Alma 51
33 And it came to pass that when the night had come, Teancum and his servant stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah; and behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.
34 And it came to pass that Teancum stole privily into the tent of the king, and put a javelin to his heart; and he did cause the death of the king immediately that he did not awake his servants.

Alma 52
1 And now, it came to pass in the *twenty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, behold, when the Lamanites awoke on the first morning of the first month, behold, they found Amalickiah was dead in his own tent; and they also saw that Teancum was ready to give them battle on that day.

Was this a convenient slip of the pen? Did Joseph have in mind Mesoamerica all along? Did “the-ever-increasing-in-wisdom-and-knowledge-in-the-eyes-of-his-critics-esteemed-professor” Joseph fool us again?


Is this a bulls-eye? Is this evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? Is this evidence that the author of the Book of Mormon had in mind an geographical region in which the climate offered hot days around the new year?

My friend Andrew Miller pointed out to me that the Maya considered the first day of the year to be a sacred day, a day important to kings. Another friend at MADB pointed me to Michael Coe’s words on the subject:

“Within the Haab, there were 18 named “months” of 20 days each, with a much-dreaded interval of 5 unlucky days added at the end. The Maya New year started with 1 Pop, the next day being 2 Pop, etc. The final day of the month, however, carried not the coefficient 20, but a sign indicating the “seating” of the month to follow, in line with the Maya philosophy that the influence of any particular span of time is felt before it actually begins and persists somewhat beyond its apparent termination.”The Maya, 7th edition, pg 62.

The online poster who originally cited Coe went to say:

Lets say that the first day of the lamanite year was called “cheechee”. Amalikiah was killed on the 20th day of the previous month , which would have been the “seating of cheechee”. So if your king gets killed on the seating of cheechee, what does that tell you about the month of cheechee?

In other words, Teancum was waging some serious spiritual and philosophical warfare with his strategic, and very dangerous, midnight attack.

The original discussion at MADB can be read here.

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2 comments on “Heat On New Year’s Day? A Mesoamerican Parallel

  1. Ben says:

    It sounds like the writer is missing something, And lying about another. First you are assuming that people who came from Israel would ever think of celebrating the New Year on January 1 st. For millennium, much of the ancient world celebrated the new year on April 1st. This is a more reasonable possibility of when the new year was for B of M people, but that doesn’t mean that the new year for the B of M people wasn’t just some random day of our current calender year. You and I just don’t know for sure. Though the most plausible date would be April 1 st. Anther thing is that, according to the Great Lakes setting of the B of M, Alma 51 would have taken place in the Missouri area (Not New York) I served my mission in Missouri, I spent two years there, experiencing twice the seasons of the year, working hard outside much of the time. With normal prevailing temperatures adding humidity to it, I can tell you I was fatigued from the heat of the day on April 1st. in Missouri. Learn to see thing objectively by pulling away from your beliefs and theories so that you don’t fall in to the desired “spin” that you seem to come up with.

    The lie: Here it states that Anti Mormon people are saying that the B of M events took place in the Great Lakes area. This is foolishness, because Anti Mormon people don’t think that the B of M events took place anywhere, because it never happened. I believe this was just a disgusting attempt at trying to stick a little seed in to readers minds that the Great Lake Doctrine is Anti Mormon. Real it’s just Anti Fair. What arrogance, Fair believes that Anti Fair is the same thing as Anti Mormon. There is no such thing as an LDS scholars. Humble yourselves, lest you fall into temptation.

  2. James says:

    Hello Ben. Thanks for leaving your comment.

    I think you seriously misunderstand the point of this little essay I’ve written. I am addressing the anti-Mormon idea that the Book of Mormon is the product of Joseph’s mind as he was influenced by his environment. In other words, they don’t believe that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God, instead arguing that Joseph made up the Book of Mormon. These same anti-Mormon authors have produced a “Great Lakes” theory of Book of Mormon geography. Now, obviously, they don’t believe Book of Mormon events took place anywhere because they don’t believe it is a true historical record. But they do believe that Joseph, as the author, had in mind a Great Lakes geography as he wrote the Book of Mormon. You can see their map and my comments on it here: https://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/vernal-holleys-book-of-mormon-map/

    So the idea is that if the Book of Mormon is really the product of Joseph Smith’s mind, which was influenced heavily by his own culture and environment, we should expect that New Year’s Day would be in the winter. But this fact isn’t born out by the text.

    Regarding your own personal Great Lakes theory, I think it is fine that you believe BoM events took place there. I think you are incorrect, but it is OK that you believe that. I wasn’t addressing that position at all. Rather, I was addressing the anti-Mormon idea in which Joseph authored the Book of Mormon having a Great Lakes idea in mind.

    I also am curious why you drug FAIR into this discussion. I certainly didn’t mention them in my article. FAIR doesn’t have any official opinion on where BoM events took place. I’m also curious about your statement that “there is no such thing as LDS scholars.” Why do you say that? There are certainly many, many LDS scholars.

    I hope that clarifies things a bit. I appreciate your feedback.

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