Showing posts with label popol vuh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label popol vuh. Show all posts

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge Parallels in the Popol Vuh and the Book of Mormon

One of my favorite topics to talk about with regards to the Book of Mormon is the Popol Vuh. The Popol Vuh is to the ancient Mayan people what the various gold plates that were compiled to make the Book of Mormon were to the ancient Nephites. Both are a history of the people. The word "Popol Vuh" literally translates to mean "the people's book" or "book of the council".

As I was digging through some old materials stored on my Google Drive, I stumbled upon a PDF of an article once published by AncientAmerica.org. As I can no longer find the article or the PDF on that site, I've decided to take the liberty of publishing it here on AmericanTestament.com.

The article briefly summarizes some tantalizingly similar parallels between a "tree of life" or "tree of knowledge" mentioned in the Popol Vuh and the same as mentioned in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

The Ancient America Foundation (AAF) is pleased to present AAF Notes: a series of research articles by scholars of Book of Mormon culture and history and reviewed by AAF editors. Visit our Web site: http://www.ancientamerica.org 

Parallels in the Popol Vuh and the Book of Mormon Relative to the "Tree of Life" and the "Forbidden Tree" 

By V. Garth Norman 

There are distinctive parallels in the Popal [sic] Vuh to the tree of Life and the forbidden tree that are reflective of these trees from the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the fall from the Genesis tree of life and the forbidden tree (2 Nephi 2:15-20; 42: 2, 7). There are subtle references to the same doctrine taught in story form in the Popol Vuh, Part 11, Chapter 3, that includes both tree symbols. Experts on the Popol Vuh are generally agreed, after much study, that the Popal Vuh is a genuine pre-Columbian sacred book of the Quiche Maya that was not composed around Biblical passages by the Indians, as some have supposed, to gain influence with the Spaniards. We can consider the Book of Mormon book of Nephi as the potential original resource record, because the Quiche chronicler knew there was an ancient book "no longer to be seen" from which his compilation of the Popol Vuh had originated (Recinos 1950: 79).

First, an ancient related source contemporary with the Book of Mormon has been observed on Izapa Stela 2, dating to about 200 B.C. In my Izapa Sculpture work (Norman 1976: 94) I compare the Calabash (gourd) tree on Stela 2 with the Popol Vuh "tree of life." I believe there is a direct connection between these two sources. Two figures that appear to be offspring (fruit) of the Stela 2 tree compare to the hero twins, the first ancestors of the Quiche, who were sired when their mother, Xquic, partook of the forbidden gourd tree. They compare to Eve's first two sons born after she partook of the forbidden tree.

Other elements of this tree, which others have compared to the Book of Mormon tree of life that imparted eternal life, are the beauty of the tree with its sweet white fruit, and renewed life through the maiden partaking of its fruit. Careful examination of the details reveals that this gourd tree is closer to the "forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil," and another tree represents the tree of life.

The maiden does not seem to have had knowledge that life would come from the tree (through her offspring) until after the fact. The fruit of the gourd tree is not described in the Popol Vuh text as being either beautiful or white. The maiden says, "Is it not wonderful to see how it is covered with fruit" which "must be very good?" Her wonderment was that the previously barren tree had become fruitful, not that it was beautiful. An assumption of beauty equating with white fruit can be made from the skull bone of Hun-Hunahpu placed in its branches being naturally white and the fruit matching the skull. In reality, the gourd is green, and only after losing its husk does the dried gourd pod take a beige color that resembles the skull. The skull of Hun Hunahpu hidden in the tree lamented that it had no flesh, because "the flesh is all which gives . . . a handsome appearance," and after death, "men are frightened by their bones." So any whiteness in this context implies a bone fear of death, not beauty, joy, and life. Tedlock's Popol Vuh translation (page 114, footnote on page 274) observes that the reference to desirable, delicious fruit has to be metaphorical because the gourd is not edible, but the mystery is unsolved. Does it survive from an original tree of life or forbidden fruit account in the Book of Mormon?

An implied Book of Mormon tree of life correspondence is really nearer to Eve's encounter with the Genesis "tree of knowledge of good and evil" than to the tree of life. Adam and Eve were forbidden to partake of the fruit in consequence of death, and when Eve partook, they were cast out to the earth where they became mortal, had children, and became subject to death. They also had two sons, Cain and Abel, who became locked in a life-death struggle that introduced the ultimate evil of murder as part of the fall that had to be overcome by the redemption of Christ. This compares to the ancestral twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque of the Popol Vuh, who were locked in a life-death struggle with their two elder brothers. Because of their abusiveness, the two elder brothers were changed through sorcery into animals that resembled monkeys and went off and lived in the forest (Part II, Chapter 5). This compares to the elder brothers Laman and Lemuel who became cursed because of their rebellion and began living primitive life styles in the forest (2 Nephi 5:21, 24). In this, we appear to have a Genesis account mixed with the original ancestors from Lehi's first four sons in the Book of Mormon.

The inhabitants of Xibalba were forbidden to approach the gourd tree, and the maiden in anticipation of partaking of its fruit said: "Must I die, shall I be lost, if I pick one of this fruit?" It was enticing, but a fear of death lingered from the skull that hung in this forbidden tree. I prefer this translation from Recinos rather than Tedlock's translation, who felt this passage makes more sense if it refers to the fruit dying and being wasted rather than the maiden.

The real tree of life in the Popol Vuh myth was not the Calabash but another tree. Upon her partaking of the Calabash, a judgment of death by sacrifice was pronounced upon the maiden, but she escaped death through the mediation of a "tree of light" that glowed when it provided red sap as a substitute for her blood and heart for a sacrifice in her behalf so that she could be exiled to the earth and live. The tree is identified as the Chuh Cakche, a large tree the Mexicans called Ezauahuitl, "tree of blood," also identified in Chiapas, and in Guatemala where it is called Pilix and Cancante that is also distinguished for its white leaves and stems. Is not this white "tree of light" a direct reflection from the Book of Mormon tree of life?

An important point of correspondence, according to Mormon theology, is the condition that the human race would not have been propagated without Adam and Eve being exiled to the earth after partaking of the forbidden tree's fruit. Also, consequence of death that came with mortality was overcome through the atoning blood sacrifice of Christ as mediator in their behalf. And we learn from the Book of Mormon that the tree of life that ensured eternal life was the symbolic embodiment of Christ as the Redeemer through his atoning sacrifice (I Nephi 11).

These interesting parallels are not proof of a Book of Mormon connection, but they are good evidence for a Popol Vuh origin for those who accept highland Guatemala as the land of Nephi where Nephi compiled his book contained in the Book of Mormon after arriving in the promised land in the sixth century B.C. (see 1 Nephi 19).


Norman,V. Garth. Izapa Sculpture; Part 2 Text. Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, No. 30. Provo. 1976.

Recinos, Adrian. Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Maya. English version by D. Goetz and S. G. Morley from Spanish translation by Adrian Recinos. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1950.

Tedlock, Dennis. Popol Vuh; A Definitive Edition of the Maya Book of the Dawn of Life, and the Glories of God and Kings. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1985.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Criticisms and Responses: Swords, Honey Bees, Elephants, Horses, and Silk

There are various primary criticisms that tend to be hurled at the Book of Mormon, but which have been addressed many times. One need only use Google to dredge them up, but similarly, Google can be used to find the counter-arguments. More people ought to do the latter when they see the former. This series of posts represents my responses to those criticisms. 

Criticism: Where are the swords? And, honey bees (Jaredite "deseret") weren't found in the Americas until Europeans brought them! Where are the elephants? Where were the horses?  Silk from silkworms...no such thing then in the Americas either!

Response: In the Popol Vuh, their god, Tohil, reminds the warriors of wasps and bumblebees they could put inside gourds and use to surprise their enemies by breaking the gourds full of bees and wasps on their enemies shields and swords, thus angering the bees (who would think that the enemy was the person whose sword just broke their gourd) and driving their enemies away.

Read more at Plants and Animals in the Book of Mormon: Possible Solutions to Apparent Problems

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Criticisms and Responses: Fortified Cities in Mesoamerica

There are various primary criticisms that tend to be hurled at the Book of Mormon, but which have been addressed many times. One need only use Google to dredge them up, but similarly, Google can be used to find the counter-arguments. More people ought to do the latter when they see the former. This series of postss represent my responses to those criticisms.

Criticism: Where are the fortified cities?

Response: I've seen several fortified cities, well, the ruins of them anyways. Just go on any Mexican (see: Becan) or Guatemalan ruins tour and you'll see plenty of fortifications, or what is left of them.

For example, I visited the ruins of Zacaleu, which dates back to between AD 250–600 and is just outside of Huehuetenango in Guatemala. The very first thing that impressed me about it was the defensive earthworks in the form of a gigantic moat dug around the entire complex. It was definitely not a natural formation for that area and it would have been a formidable obstacle to invaders. The entire site was also once fortified with walls. It was so impenetrable that it caused Spanish conquistador Gonzalo de Alvarado y Chávez to need to lay siege to it for months, having to wait for its occupants to starve to death.

Bishop Las Casas, when in Mesoamerica, reported in his Apologéitca Historia that he saw "towns enclosed by very deep moats...with marvelous buildings of stone masonry of which I saw many." In that one statement, he described both the earthworks AND the masonry (which inevitably involves some kind of cement).

The Popol Vuh describes the palisades, much like what we find in the Book of Mormon:
...having talked together, they built a wall at the edge of the town and enclosed it with boards and thorns. Then they made figures in the form of men, and put them in rows on the wall, armed them with shields and arrows and adorned them, putting metal crowns on their heads. These they put on the simple wooden figures, they adorned them with the metal which they had taken from the tribes on the road and with them they decorated the figures.

They made a moat around the town, and then they asked advice of Tohil [their god]: 'Shall they kill us? Shall they overcome us?' their hearts said to Tohil [prayer for revelatory guidance before a battle being a common theme of the Book of Mormon]. 
See The Popol Vuh, pg. 157.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Popol Vuh: The Creation of Man

This is part two (past due...see part one) of a series of posts about the Popol Vuh, which is an oral transmittal of an ancient Mayan codex given by Quiché noblemen in the 16th century. In this post, I am using a readily available translation online for copying and pasting, and to which I will add my own notes. It is similar enough to the translation I was making from the summarized version I obtained in Guatemala and saves me from having to translate from Spanish to English. I will still use the topical dividers (via the blog post title) of my Guatemalan version as a convenience in pointing out similarities between Biblical Old World and Indigenous New World accounts of creation.
For this reason another attempt had to be made to create and make men by the Creator, the Maker, and the Forefathers. "Let us try again! Already dawn draws near:3 Let us make him who shall nourish and sustain us! What shall we do to be invoked, in order to be remembered on earth? We have already tried with our first creations, our first creatures; but we could not make them praise and venerate us. 4 So, then, let us try to make obedient, respectful beings who will nourish and sustain us." Thus they spoke.
This "starting over" can be paralleled with dispensations of the Gospel. When men were wicked, they were destroyed and God started over. It is interesting that this concept is found in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Popol Vuh, along with other pre-Columbian American texts.
Then was the creation and the formation. Of earth, of mud, they made [man's] flesh. But they saw that it was not good. It melted away, it was soft, did not move, had no strength, it fell down, it was limp, it could not move its head, its face fell to one side, its sight was blurred, 5 it could not look behind. At first it spoke, but had no mind. Quickly it soaked in the water and could not stand.

And the Creator and the Maker said: 6 "Let us try again because our creatures will not be able to walk nor multiply. Let us consider this," they said.

Then they broke up and destroyed their work and their creation. And they said: "What shall we do to perfect it, in order that our worshipers, our invokers, will be successful?"
Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon is reminiscent of the maker noted above in that the Lord of the vineyard makes several trials at having a successful crop and harvest. The allegorical devices are very similar to each other.
Thus they spoke when they conferred again: "Let us say again to Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú: 'Cast your lot again. Try to create again.'" In this manner the Creator and the Maker spoke to Xpiyacoc and Xmucané. Then they spoke to those soothsayers, the Grandmother of the day, the Grandmother of the Dawn, 7 as they were called by the Creator and the Maker, and whose names were Xpiyacoc and Xmucané.

And said Huracán, Tepeu, and Gucumatz when they spoke to the soothsayer, to the Maker, who are the diviners: "You must work together and find the means so that man, whom we shall make, man, whom we are going to make, will nourish and sustain us, invoke and remember us.

"Enter, then, into council, grandmother, grandfather, our grandmother, our grandfather, Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, make light, make dawn. have us invoked, have us adored, have us remembered by created man, by made man, by mortal man. 8 Thus be it done.
This mention of a "council" hearkens back to the council in heaven mentioned by Abraham in the Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith translated from Egyptian papyri.

Before you read the next few paragraphs, read Doctrine & Covenants 121:32, Job 38: 7, Alma 13: 3, Abraham 3: 22, Abraham 4: 26, Abraham 5: 2.
"Let your nature be known, Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú, twice-mother, twice-father, 9 Nim-Ac, 10 Nima-Tziís, 11 the master of emeralds, the worker in jewels, the sculptor, the carver, the maker of beautiful plates, the maker of green gourds, the master of resin, the master Toltecat, 12 grandmother of the sun, grandmother of dawn, as you will be called by our works and our creatures.

"Cast the lot with your grains of corn and tzité. 13 Do it thus 14 and we shall know if we are to make, or carve his mouth and eyes out of wood." Thus the diviners were told.

They went down at once to make their divination, and cast their lots with the corn and the tzité. "Fate! Creature!" 15 said an old woman and an old man. And this old man was the one who cast the lots with Tzité, the one called Xpiyacoc. 16 And the old woman was the diviner, the maker, called Chiracán Xmucané. 17

Beginning the divination, they said: "Get together, grasp each other! Speak, that we may hear." They said, "Say if it is well that the wood be got together and that it be carved by the Creator and the Maker, and if this [man of wood] is he who must nourish and sustain us when there is light when it is day!

"Thou, corn; thou, tzité; thou, fate; thou, creature; get together, take each other," they said to the corn, to the tzité, to fate, to the creature. "Come to sacrifice here, Heart of Heaven; do not punish Tepeu and Gucumatz!" 18 Then they talked and spoke the truth: "Your figures of wood shall come out well; they shall speak and talk on earth."

"So may it be," they answered when they spoke.

And instantly the figures were made of wood. They looked like men, talked like men, and populated the surface of the earth.
Now we read about how the Mayan gods became displeased with the outcome of their work. Compare the passages below with Genesis 6 and Genesis 7, and with Moses 8: 18, 26.
They existed and multiplied; they had daughters, they had sons, these wooden figures; but they did not have souls, nor minds, they did not remember their Creator, their Maker; they walked on all fours, aimlessly.

They no longer remembered the Heart of Heaven and therefore they fell out of favor. It was merely a trial, an attempt at man. At first they spoke, but their face was without expression; their feet and hands had no strength; they had no blood, nor substance, 19 nor moisture, nor flesh; their cheeks were dry, their feet and hands were dry, and their flesh was yellow.

Therefore, they no longer thought of their Creator nor their Maker, nor of those who made them and cared for them. 20

These were the first men who existed in great numbers on the face of the earth.

Immediately the wooden figures were annihilated, destroyed, broken up, and killed.

A flood was brought about by the Heart of Heaven; a great flood was formed which fell on the heads of the wooden creatures.

Of tzité the flesh of man was made, but when woman was fashioned by the Creator and the Maker, her flesh was made of rushes. 1 These were the materials the Creator and the Maker wanted to use in making them.

But those that they had made, that they had created, did not think, did not speak with their Creator, their Maker. And for this reason they were killed, they were deluged. A heavy resin fell from the sky. The one called Xecotcovach came and gouged out their eyes; Camalotz came and cut off their heads; Cotzbalam came and devoured their flesh. Tucumbalam 2 came, too, and broke and mangled their bones and their nerves, and ground and crumbled their bones. 3

This was to punish them because they had not thought of their mother, nor their father, the Heart of Heaven, called Huracán. And for this reason the face of the earth was darkened and a black rain began to fall, by day and by night.

Then came the small animals and the large animals, and sticks and stones struck their faces. And all began to speak: their earthen jars, 4 their griddles, 5 their plates, their pots, their grinding stones, 6 all rose up and struck their faces.

"You have done us much harm; you ate us, and now we shall kill you," said their dogs and birds of the barnyard. 7

And the grinding stones said: "We were tormented by you; every day, every day, at night, at dawn, all the time our faces went holi, holi, huqui, huqui, because of you. 8 This was the tribute we paid you. But now that you are no longer men, you shall feel our strength. We shall grind and tear your flesh to pieces," said their grinding stones.

And then their dogs spoke and said: "Why did you give us nothing to eat? You scarcely looked at us, but you chased us and threw us out. You always had a stick 9 ready to strike us while you were eating.

"Thus it was that you treated us. You did not speak to us. Perhaps we shall not kill you now; but why did you not look ahead, why did you not think about yourselves? Now we shall destroy you, now you shall feel the teeth of our mouths; we shall devour you," said the dogs, and then, they destroyed their faces. 10

And at the same time, their griddles and pots spoke: "Pain and suffering you have caused us. Our mouths and our faces were blackened with soot; we were always put on the fire and you burned us as though we felt no pain. Now you shall feel it, we shall burn you," said their pots, and they all destroyed their [the wooden men's] faces. The stones of the hearth, 11 which were heaped together, hurled themselves straight from the fire against their heads causing them pain. 12

The desperate ones [the men of wood] ran as quickly as they could; they wanted to climb to the tops of the houses. And the houses fell down and threw them to the ground; they wanted to climb to the treetops, and the trees cast them far away; they wanted to enter the caverns, and the caverns repelled them. 13

So was the ruin of the men who had been created and formed, the men made to be destroyed and annihilated; the mouths and faces of all of them were mangled.

And it is said that their descendants are the monkeys which now live in the forests; 14 these are all that remain of them because their flesh was made only of wood by the Creator and the Maker.

And therefore the monkey looks like man, and is an example of a generation of men which were created and made but were only wooden figures.
Just as in the Genesis chapters of the Bible, we find that the gods mentioned by the Maya were similarly displeased with the disastrous outcome of their creations.

The tradition of a great flood is found in nearly every ancient culture. A Babylonian account, that of Gilgamesh, closely resembles the record in the Bible, but the biblical account differs from all others, including the Popol Vuh, in its religious value and the purpose of it. The scriptural account teaches that the flood was sent to cleanse the earth because of the wickedness of the people. Noah and his family were saved because they were righteous.

That a great deal of the Popol Vuh parallels quite closely with the scriptural version of the Great Flood is either a bizarre coincidence, or it shows that the people of the Americas who preceded the Spanish Conquest had in their possession, at some point, a knowledge of the Genesis account and made an effort to retell it. In retelling it, and through hundreds, even thousands of years of political and religious upheavals, they likely altered it in certain ways, yet had somehow managed to keep the general theme of that oral tradition intact.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Popol Vuh: The Creation of the World

This post begins a series of "Popol Vuh for Really Busy People Who Just Want to Get to the Point". :) It is based on various notes I took and that were written for me by a native son of Guatemala while I was on my mission. The book I have is a typical "Cliff's Notes" Spanish version of the larger Popol Vuh which was taught in public secondary schools, but it is conveniently divided into summarized themes that are remarkably conducive to discussions of the Book of Mormon, the Holy Bible, and the tie-ins the Popol Vuh has with each.

For an excellent, annotated, in-depth English translation of the entire Popol Vuh text, you can't get any better than Dennis Tedlock's "Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings". Tedlock spent time living among Quiché and Mam peoples of Western and Northwestern Guatemala and was able to assimilate into their culture enough to understand exactly what this book represented to them. For Mayans, the Popol Vuh, literally "The Book of the Council" is just as sacred and important as the Holy Bible as far as a means of transmitting their religion, their culture, and their history. For people studying the Book of Mormon, it is riddled with striking parallels, evidences, and footprints of doctrines of Judeo-Christianity that, some LDS students of the text believe, transferred to extant Mayan peoples, in classic diffusionist manner, with the arrival of the Jaredites, Nephites, and Mulekites.

Let's begin with the out-of-print Spanish to English summarized translation of "Popol Vuh: versión transparente" by Franco Sandoval. In reading this, do not try too hard to make exacting, one-for-one comparisons between verses and doctrinal particulars of the Bible vs. the Popol Vuh vs. the Book of Mormon. Rather, note that the overall motif is more strikingly similar to Judeo-Christian creationism than it is different.

The Beginning

Here we recount the ancient histories of the Quiché nation. We will show what happened to this people when it began. This will be the narration of things obvious and things hidden.

We will reveal the work of the Maker and the Modeler1, the work of Grandfather and of Grandmother, whose names were Ixpiyacoc and Ixmucané, also called great-grandfather and great-grandmother.

This we write under Christianity and with their manner of writing2; because the Popol Vuh, our book where life used to be seen, no longer exists, no longer can be seen. In it there was the story of how the heaven and the earth were formed, of how this was divided into four parts, of how a cord was extended to measure the heaven and the earth, to the four corners, in the manner established by the Maker and the Modeler, the mother and the father of life, of everything created: breath, thought, light of the children, happiness of the people, the earth the lakes, the sea.

The Creation of the World

All was calm, in suspense, all was silent. All was immobile, noiseless; the expanse of heaven was empty.

There were no men or animals; there were no birds, fish, crabs, forests, rocks, nor streams. Only the heaven and the sea existed.

There was nothing on foot, that made noise. There was only the peaceful, tranquil sea. There was silence and darkness, like a night that never ended.

The Maker and the Modeler, Tepeu3 and Gucumatz4, were on the water, dressed with blue-green feathers, in the midst of the dim light. They were great wise ones, they were the manifestation of the Heart of the Heavens and of the Earth.

Tepeu and Gucumatz consulted, meditated; unified their words and thoughts. They began the creation of the trees and the reeds. Out of the darkness of the night they also began the creation of man. They spoke of life and light and agreed that someone ought to produce their food, which gave them sustenance.

"Separate water from space, and let the earth come forth! Let there be light, that it might awaken in the sky and on the earth. There will be no glory or honor in that which we have created until there is the human creature, the creature endowed with reason."

This is what Tepeu and Gucumatz said. And their word made the earth come forth.

"Earth!", they said, and the earth surged forth like a cloud, like from a dust cloud. And the mountains came forth, as if they were crabs on the water.

There was great power, a magical power, that made the mountains and valleys burst forth.

Gucumatz was full of joy. "Our work, our creation will now be finished!", he said.

After the mountains and valleys, they formed the rivers, that they traveled in between the hills.

Later, they decided to create the guardians of the forests, the animals great and small: the deer, the bird, the lion, the tiger, the snake. They placed them to live in the wilderness and to each they gave its dwelling:

"You, deer, will live and sleep in the gullies and in the stream-beds; you will walk among the grass and the herbs; in the forest you will multiply; you will walk on four legs."

And that was what was said and done. There were also distributed homes for the birds great and small:

"Above the forests, in the heights of the reeds you will live and make your nests. Above the branches of the trees you will dart and preen."

Upon finishing the creation of the birds and the animals, it was said to them:

"Call out, that every on have his own noise, that everyone uses its own manner of speech." That was what they said to the birds, to the deer, to the lions, to the tigers, to the serpents.

Tepeu and Gucumatz commanded them to say their names and give them praise.

"Invoke the Heart of Heaven and the Earth, the Maker, the Modeler. Speak, invoke them," it was said to them.

But they couldn't talk and only cawed, clucked, screeched, each one of a different manner. When Tepeu and Gucumatz saw that it wasn't possible for them to talk, they said to themselves:

"It has not been possible that the animals say our name, that of their makers and modelers; this is not good. We will make other obedient beings and they will invoke us. Their meat shall be for food, for chewing. This will be their purpose."

The animals tried again but they could not make their screeches invoke the makers and modelers; only screaming and shouting was heard, confusion. Their lot remained definitive: to be food one for another.

Next: The Creation of Man

1. I have preferred to use Tedlock's "Maker and Modeler" to Sandoval's "Creator and Shaper". Maker and Modeler are closer to the original intent of the original Quiché. They also convey the parallelism found in the Bible where God is referred to in the plural (see KJV Gen. 1: 26, Gen. 3: 22)

2. One should not hastily conclude that the rest of the Popol Vuh oral tradition is corrupt because of their mention of Christianity and using the Latin alphabet to transmit it. There is more evidence in the Popol Vuh itself and in the history of its transmittal to rebut this conclusion than there is evidence to conclude they were somehow coerced or felt obligated to change the narrative to suit the theology of the Christian missionaries. To this very day, Quiché Day Keepers worship Christian figures separately from Mayan figures, each method of worship having its own particular theology and system of rituals, as a "failsafe" of sorts in the event that one system is incomplete and the other is more complete.

3. Tepeu means "king" or "sovereign," from the Náhuatl Tepeuh, tepeuani. The Maya form is ah tepehual. Ah is also an Egyptian prefix for "king" or "pharaoh", such as in Ahkenaten, Ahman Ra, etc.

4. Gucumatz, a serpent covered with green feathers, from the Quiché word guc (kuk in Maya), "green feathers," particularly those of the quetzal, and cumatz, serpent; it is the Quiché version of Kukulcán, the Maya name for Quetzalcoatl, the Toltec king, conqueror, culture hero, and god of Yucatán during the period of the Maya New Empire. The profound Mexican influence in the religion of the Quiché is reflected in this Creator-couple who continue to be invoked throughout the book until the divinity took the bodily form of Tohil, who in Part III is specifically identified with Quetzalcoatl.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why I (Rob) am a Book of Mormon Apologist

Steve posted his reasons for being a Book of Mormon apologist, and I now feel compelled to do so as well.

I had the privilege of serving an LDS mission in Guatemala. About 8 months into my mission, I purchased a children's copy of the Popol Vuh (if only to match my limited Spanish reading comprehension at the time). One of my district leaders, a fellow from Chiquimula, Guatemala, saw the book and asked me why I had purchased it instead of the full version. When I told him why, he asked me if I understood what it contained. I told him that it looked like any other Native American legend book to me and that I had read many like it in my rural Southwestern U.S. hometown.

He then proceded to school me in what the Popol Vuh means, or should mean, to Latter-day Saints who want to know more about Book of Mormon history. He said that contrary to what his Catholic and secular school teachers had taught when he read it in school, it wasn't just a book of random legends, writings, and mythologies. When read in the context of the Restoration of the Gospel, it was quite literally a fragment of the Gospel knowledge that remained of a post Nephite and declining Lamanite society. Its seemingly esoteric (rather, exoteric) ramblings actually corresponded to real and basic Gospel principles, but in a corrupted and apostate form.

With that in mind, I re-read the Popol Vuh book, with notes my district leader wrote in it to help with the translation into English and possible Gospel concepts, and was astonished at what I had missed. I have plans to make that the subject of another post (or two, or five) because it really is that interesting. But for now, let's just say that this was the catalyst that compelled me to study the Book of Mormon in more depth than ever before.

Toward the end of my mission, an Elder with whom I had come into the mission showed me a book called "The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan" that a local member had given him. I opened it, and with my considerably improved Spanish reading comprehension, was excited to find that it was another local Maya tribe's version of many of the same events and symbols found in the Popol Vuh. The "Title"'s author, during the Spanish conquest of the 1550s, made direct (but today often disputed) claims to a direct descendancy of his people from Israel.

The common linkages I began to see between these two books and Biblical and Book of Mormon concepts and doctrines began to galvanize my desire to fully study the additional physical evidences that must surely exist.

Since then, even though I make no claims to be any kind of professional or experienced anthropologist/archaeologist/ethnographist/etc., I have kept an eye out for anything and everything that might point to evidence of the Book of Mormon's claims. I marvel at the knowledge that has come to light and that experienced scholars such as Daniel Peterson and John Tvedtnes are able to build a solid foundation upon which these evidences can rest.

I want to categorically and undeniably state, at the same time, that I have a firm knowledge, completely independent and antecedent to the above experiences, that the Book of Mormon is true and exactly what it claims to be. Even if the Conquistadores had burned and destroyed every last vestige of Mesoamerican literature and monuments, the hard and simple truths of the book stand on their own, brilliantly testify of the Bible's authenticity, and teach and prophesy correctly of Christ. It is, as Joseph Smith taught, "the most correct of any book on earth". I testify that I have grown closer to God because of it.