Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Peruvian-Mesoamerican Legend: Leaving Tulan Bountiful – Part I

In 1950, Elder Milton R. Hunter wrote that Tula or Tulan was Maya for “bountiful or abundance.” The literal translation of Tula is, “place of reeds or land of abundance.” 
In support of Elder Hunter’s statement, the 1953 English translation of the Annals of the Cakchiquels by Recinos and Goetz said, “...that from the other side of the sea we came to the place called Tulan.”  The following year, Elder Hunter used the above quote by Recinos and Goetz in General Conference and announced to the Church as a whole that Tullan (variant spelling) could be interpreted as “Bountiful.” 
    The import of this statement in 1954 was generally not appreciated by the LDS population at large. It has taken some time to sink in. Today we are beginning to realize the implications and starting to appreciate what Elder Hunter was excited about over four decades ago.    
    As Edwin M. Woolley (Tulan: "Tulan Means Bountiful") states: "In the Summer of 1994 a friend and Book of Mormon scholar, Clate Mask, was doing some independent research in Guatemala when he made an exciting discovery as he happened upon a Maya document entitled, “Anales de Los Xahil de Los Indios Cakchiqueles,” which just happened to be the Spanish translation of the 1620 Maya-Cackchiquel manuscript. It is likely that this document or one like it, is the one Elder Hunter refers to in his writings." Woolley goes on to add, "The Cakchiquel author recorded the oral traditions of origins that had come down through the Xahil family from the lips of their fathers and their grandfathers: “We came from the west, from the Lugar de la Abundancia from the other side of the sea.” 
    It should be stated that the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is reinforced by this semantic construction. It should also be noted that in the Spanish  translation that rather than retain the original Cakchiquel Tulan, the translators rendered it “Lugar de la Abundancia” meaning Place of Abundance (Miguel Angel Asturias and J. M. Gonzalez de Mendoza (translators) “Anales De Los Xahil de Los Indios Cakchiqueles.” Guatemala City, Guatemala: The National Press. 1934: p. 10).
Lehi arrives at Khor Rori on the Salalah Plain, in Oman

Arriving at the seashore along the Arabian coast where Nephi would built his ship, Lehi said: “And we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit” (1 Nephi 17:6). Again, it should be noted that in the Spanish Edition (1992) this line is rendered as “...y llamamos al lugar abundancia...” that is, "we called the place Abundance.” And in the preeminent authority in bilingual Spanish-English dictionaries, the word Abundancia is defined as “abundance, opulence, fertility, plenty” (Velázquez Spanish and English Dictionary, Valáquez Press [D. Appleton and Company, New York], 1900, p5)
    Elder Hunter, therefore, and the Church translation are on solid ground in saying that Lehi’s party came from Bountiful (English), Abundancia (Spanish). Mesoamericansts add that Tulan would then be Mayan, which we will deal with later, along with another interesting point which is that another answer for leaving Arabia and landing in Mesoamerica would be that numerous immigrants left Bountiful in the Land of Promise on Hagoth’s ships and sailed “to a land which was northward” and settled there, outside or beyond the Land of Promise, and “were never heard of more” (Alma 63:5-6, 8).
    Now, with all this in mind, the Astons and FARMS favored Wadi Sayq as the “most probable site for Lehi’s Bountiful.”  It is a location on the Arabian Peninsula, south of the area of ancient Babylonia. On the other hand, most Book of Mormon theorists, as does this blog, favor the site of Khor Rori, first suggested by Lynn and Hope Hilton (In Search of Lehi's Trail, Deseret Book, 1976), which first appears in the Ensign Magazine, Sept-Oct 1976, and shows that this area fits all the requirements of the statements made in the scriptural record.
    In any event, at this Bountiful, the Lehites planted seeds, raised crops, built a ship and eventually set sail into the Irreantum Sea, or the Sea of Arabia and the Indian Ocean.   
    After some two years or so, leaving this beautiful area described as “abundance or bountiful,” must have been both difficult and exciting as they launched their ship out into the unknown. Regarding this, the ancient historians among the Maya-Quiche wrote that the people, “...wept in their chants because of their departure from Tulan; their hearts mourned when they left Tulan.” The question is, was this referring to leaving the Bountiful of Arabia for the Land of Promise, which may not have elicited any sadness at all, or was it referring to leavint the Bountiful of the Land of Promise and heading into an unknown land "which was northward"?
    Now it is important to understand that in the Maya legends, they say that the ancients also called the west sea landing site in the New World Tulan. The Maya Cakchiquel historians of Guatemala wrote that “From the west we came to Tulan, from across the sea; and it was at Tulan where we arrived.” 
As Woolley points out: In 1950, Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson pointed out that some ancient Maya writings said that their ancestors came from Tulan (Bountiful) near Babylonia and that they landed in the Americas at Tulan and that “The Lord supplied the giron-gagal (director) and led the colony across the sea ‘...because they were the sons of Abraham and of Jacob’” (Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, Kolob Book Co., Oakland, 1940, p66) 
    Elder Robert E. Wells also mentioned the giron-gagal at the 1991 Sperry Symposium held at BYU:  “If Lehi brought the Liahona to the Americas, can we find any trace of such an instrument in the legends of the Lamanites before Columbus?...Well, almost...On page 157 of the book In Search of Cumorah, we read:  ‘The concept of a sacred ball was not unique to the Tarascan Indians; and the Guatemalan Quiche and Cakchiquel histories mention a sacred ball or rock in connection with their legend of migration across the sea...before leaving, the main leader was given a present by the god Nacxit. It was called the giron-gagal, or sacred bundle. Taking it with him, by miraculous balam-quitze, he was able to lead his people across the sea’ (Adrian Recinos, 1991 Sperry Symposium, 1991, p15). Over the years in South America, numerous legends have covered a similar tale of an ancient spiritual compass, including the legend of The Wandering, covered here recently in this blog. 
    According to Clark V. Johnson, “God gave the Quiche lords a gift before they left their ancient homeland in the East and crossed the sea (Popol Vuh p205; The Popol Vuh comes from the Quiche Indians, a tribe of Mayan people who lived in the southern highlands of Guatemala, and written shortly after the Spanish conquest of Guatemala in 1524). This gift from God was a stone which was “the symbol of his being,” the Pizom-Gagal (Popol Vuh 205 fn 3). The author of Totonicapdn called it the Giron-Gagal (Totonicapdn 170). Delia Goetz explained that, “‘The great father Nacxit [God] gave them a gift called the Giron-Gagal.’ Giron, or quiron, is derived from quira, ‘unfasten,’ ‘unroll,’ ‘to preserve’ a thing” (Popol Vuh 205fh3).
Again, Woolley states: "In another Maya-Cakchiquel document, Annals of the Xahils, the Chay Abah, we learn that the “obsidian stone,” speaks and tells them to go across the sea where they will find their hills and plains, their riches and their government. The translator says that the real meaning of “obsidian stone” is “stone that speaks” or “oracle stone.” He calls the Chay Abah “obsidian stone” because the Quiche-Maya mistakenly called it that, and he decided to use “obsidian stone” to avoid confusion. This same account of Annals of the Xahils, the Chay Abah, it tells that their ancestor was referred to by the others as “our younger brother” (Miguel Angel Asturias and J. M. Gonzalez de Mendoza (translators) “Anales De Los Xahil de Los Indios Cakchiqueles,” The National Press, Guatemala City, 1937, p12). 
    “Then we arrived at the border of the sea. All the warriors of the tribes met together at the border of the sea. Then the hearts of many were consumed in anguish. We can’t cross, and isn’t it said that we have to cross the sea, said all the warriors of the seven tribes.
    ‘Who will tell us how to cross the sea? Oh, our younger brother, you are our hope,’ they all said. We told them, “Go, oh, our older brothers. Yes, how are we going to cross this?” We all said. Then they all said, “have pity on us, oh our younger brother because we are spread along the seashore and can’t see [the promised] hills and plains. As soon as we went to sleep, we were defeated, we the two firstborn sons, we the hill tops, we the heads, we the first warriors of the seven tribes, oh my younger brother...don’t kill us.”
    According to Maya scholars, it is a traditional belief that the Maya descended from seven tribes or lineages, as is found in the Book of Mormon, which also describes seven tribes or lineages descending from Lehi. Ross Christensen explained  that there were not just two groups descended from Lehi, but seven in an article in the New Era in 1975. “These lineages are listed in three different places in the Nephite record and they are always given in precisely the same order. They appear a fourth time in the Doctrine and Covenants.”
These seven lineages are: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites and Zoramites, known collectively as Nephites; and Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites, known collectively as Lamanites. These are found in Jacob 1:13 (about 543 B.C.), 4 Nephi 36-38 (231 A.D.), Mormon 1:8 (323 A.D.), and in D&C 3:16-18 (1828 A.D.)  
(See the next post, “A Peruvian -Mesoamerican Legend: Leaving Tulan Bountiful –  Part II,” for more of this legend in Mesoamerica and to see how this ties into the legends of South America)

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