Monday, April 29, 2013

Jaredites, Olmecs, Human Sacrifice, and Stepped Pyramids

I don’t very often defend matters of Mesoamerica, but someone sent me an article written on another website in which the stepped-pyramids of Mexico and Guatemala were being likened to the Tower of Babel and were of Jaredite design. It seemed worthwhile to take a look at what was written, and also to correct the many mistakes and inaccurate innuendos included in the article.
Ancient Mesoamerican ruins; Left: A modified stepped pyramid; Right: Tulum on the Yucatan, no pyramid at all
Title of Article: “Mesoamerican Pyramids—Satanic Temples”
Response: Sounds like this was titled by the Dominican priests that accompanied the conquistadors in Central and South America, and in the name of God, claiming all was built by Devils, destroyed much of two magnificent cultures that were far superior to the Spanish themselves.
Article: “The nature and purpose of the Mesoamerican pyramids…were originally initiated by the so-called “Olmec” people who in all probability were Jaredites, or other closely associated groups…”
Response: The Olmec, whoever they were, settled south of the isthmus, or the Mesoamerican narrow neck of land, or in their Land Southward—yet the scriptural record is very clear the Jaredites never went south of the narrow neck except to hunt, so the Olmec could not have been Jaredites. Nor did the Jaredites have any “other closely associated groups."
Article: “The pyramids were patterned after the original tower temple, the infamous Tower of Babel. The Jaredites acquired this cultural tradition in Babel…”  
Response: The scriptural record does not show that the Jaredites ever built a temple—in fact, the word temple never appears in the record of Ether. Nor does stepped pyramid or pyramid or ziggurat appear in the record. In fact, according to Genesis, we have no idea what the Tower of Babel looked like—the record only says it was a “tower” (Genesis 11:4-9). It is historians who claim the tower was a stepped pyramid based on what has been found in Mesopotamia—but it is still only an assumption.
Article: “These temples (or ziggurats as they are known in the Middle East) were stepped pyramids, accessed by ramped stairways, with a very small temple placed on the top.  The pyramids themselves were constructed of packed earth cores and normally faced with brick, rock or plaster. The political or religious elite would use these structures as the focal point of their heathenistic rituals in order to gain power and influence over the population.  The common people were not allowed access to these sanctuaries.  Only the priests and the elite were so privileged…” 
Response: No one knows how these stepped pyramids in Mesoamerica were originally used, or for what purposes, or even if they were temples of any kind. The word pray is used only once, and that is during Moroni’s insertion of his religious comments in the 12th chapter. Consequently, we have no idea how, where, or when the Jaredites prayed, worshipped, or honored their God, other than going into a high mountain (Ether 3:1). Yet, after ignoring the Lord for four years, He approaches the Brother of Jared in a cloud (Ether 2:14) as he was in the Valley of Nimrod (Ether 2:4) and on the way to the seashore (Ether 2:5).
Article: “The pyramid-topping temple was only large enough for a small number of people, normally the priests, and was not intended for groups…” 
Response: We do not know for what purpose these small buildings on top were used, who entered into them, and what was done there.
Article: “Their rituals included the practice of human sacrifice.  In Mesoamerica such sacrifices were perfected to the point of maximum barbarism…”  
Response: Once the Nephites were gone, and once the barbarous Lamanites gained control over everything, we can see from scripture that they were involved in human sacrifice—however, by no means did the Lamanites construct these magnificent buildings.
Article: “The Spanish invaders, who were barbarous people themselves, were horrified when they witnessed these horrible rituals…”
Response: So were the Nephites horrified when the Lamanites sacrificed their women and children (Mormon 4:14-15).
Article: “These barbaric rites were of ancient origin dating back to the original Tower of Babel.  They were not a recent invention just prior to the conquest…” 
Response: We do not know that the people of the Tower of Babel did human sacrifice in or upon the Tower they built—there is not a single mention of sacrifice, either human or animal in the entire record of Ether.
Article: “An accurate account of the early practice is given in the Book of Abraham 1:5-20…” 
Response: The sacrifice mentioned by Abraham was by an Egyptian priest, long after the Tower of Babel had been destroyed and the people’s language confounded and their disbursement around the world. It is not associated in any way with towers or ziggurats “Now it was the custom of the priest of Pharoah, the king of Egypt, to offer up upon the altar which was built in the land of Chaldea, for the offering unto those strange gods, men, women and children” (Abraham 1:8). This altar stood by the hill called Potiphar’s Hill at the head of the plain of Olishem, in the land of Ur of Chaldea, where boys and virgins had been sacrificed “and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians” (Abraham 1:11). It might be considered, that the experience Abraham writes about took place some time after the Jaredites left Babylonia, and some distance away from Babylon.
Article: “The Jaredites (or Olmecs) continued these practices during their periods of apostasy and passed them on to the Maya, Aztecs, etc…”  
Response: It would be unlikely, even if the Olmecs were the Jaredites, that the Jaredites continued with what Abraham writes about—in fact, is unlikely that human sacrifice was even known among the Jaredites in Babylon. We know that the Jaredites were aware, or at least the records they brought with them stated, “them of old, that by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory” (Ether 8:9), which included murder (Ether 8:10), intrigue and secret combinations, or the oaths of Cain (Ether 8:11-15), but nowhere does it include human sacrifice in religious and ritual manner as is indicated by Abraham.
Article: “The purpose of the Mesoamerican pyramid was to practice these rites…” 
Response: We do not know why the pyramids of Mesoamerica were built, or by whom, let alone for practicing the rites of human sacrifice. That they were later used for this purpose by Lamanite descendants appears to have happened, but it is not known about the purpose of their original construction.
Actually, the stepped pyramids of Mesoamerica mostly resemble the ancient pyramids found in Egypt: Left: Chichen Itza in the Mexican Yucatan; Right: The step pyramid of Djoser near Memphis in Egypt
Article: “The Mesoamerican pyramid temples do not resemble temples of the Lord in our day or in any other dispensation of time…” 
Response: LDS Temples today do not resemble temples built in biblical times.
Article: “In particular they do not resemble the Nephite temples described in the Book of Mormon…” 
Response: We do not know what Nephi’s temple looked like, nor do we know what the temple at Bountiful looked like. These could have been stepped pyramids as well as anything else. Pyramids, after all, were known to Lehi and his family because of his involvement with Egypt, nor was his involvement unique among many Jews of his time.
Article: “Solomon’s Biblical temple was the model for Nephite temples (it was not as elaborate and ornate, but in design it was the same) and did not resemble the Mesoamerican pyramid in any way.”
Response: It would appear that Nephi was likening his temple in the fine workmanship, and its purpose, and in its magnificent—not necessarily in its design. After all, LDS temples today can be likened to Solomon’s in almost all ways except in design.
The article concluded with the statement: “If the information is erroneous, whether written, audio or visual, the Holy Ghost will not, or is limited in, witnessing to the truth of the information.  It is that simple.  If we expect the Spirit to witness to the truthfulness of this most important event, we need to be accurate in our depiction of it.” I couldn’t agree more regarding the need for accuracy—the problem is, the article itself is not accurate!


  1. In the Book of Mormon Nephi states that he built a temple in the land of Nephi after the manner of the temple of Solomon, but not with precious materials as the one Solomon used, but it was magnificent according to Nephi am sure made out of timber. Obviously it did not have stairs running to the temple according to jewish law, but ramps.

  2. In the Book of Mormon Nephi states that he built a temple in the land of Nephi after the manner of the temple of Solomon, but not with precious materials as the one Solomon used, but it was magnificent according to Nephi am sure made out of timber. Obviously it did not have stairs running to the temple according to jewish law, but ramps.