Wednesday, December 9, 2020

What happened to the Writing and Records in South America?

At the time Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Central America, they destroyed all writings of the indigenous people, fearing they were works of the Devil. Only a handful remained and are in museums today. By the time the Spanish arrived in South America, there were no Nephite writings left in the Andean area—whatever writing had existed before that time had been destroyed by the conquering Lamanites 1100 years earlier.

Since no records of writing were found, it was concluded by archaeologists that the indigenous peoples of South America were illiterate. Yet others claim that much of what had been built in the Andean area could not have been accomplished by an illiterate people. Consider that the ancient Peruvians were excellent engineers, extraordinary architects and unparalleled stonemasons—all of which would have required written plans, mathematical computations, and a written language.

After all, they laid a vast network of roadways, nearly 20,000 miles across the difficult territory of the Andes, including over steep mountains with evenly-matched and sized steps up sloping hillsides and mountain ridges. These roads connected cities, farming communities, and religious sites across hundreds of miles of rough terrain. Roads were also cut through mountains, digging tunnels through hills while starting at both ends and meeting in the middle—requiring the most exact mathematical computations and written plans.

An ancient rope bridge in Peru


They built rope bridges that were masterpieces of engineering, and strong enough to ride a battle horse in full armor across them. In addition, they built canals and irrigation channels, some of which were many miles long; they also built others across miles of flat ground, requiring a knowledge of leveling and writing computations.

In fact, The Incas' agricultural techniques were exceedingly skilled, planning horizontal fields and terraced areas up mountain sides—all of which required an understanding of seasons, which required a knowledge of the sun and moon, the solstices and equinoxes, for advanced irrigation systems and soil conservation.

To suggest that these ancient Peruvians could neither read nor write is nonsense. Such extraordinary accomplishments could not have been achieved by an illiterate people!

So what happened to the Nephite writings? Mormon gives us some clue when he states that the Lamanites would destroy any writing they found (Mormon 2:17), and “should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:6).

Thus, two possible sources of Nephite writing might have survived their 385 AD annihilation, and that was 1) those who took their writing knowledge and skill northward (Alma 63:6-7) in Hagoth’s ships around 46 BC, which ended up in Central America, and 2) those who went on another ship toward a different and unknown destination (Alma 63:8), possibly taking the westward flowing current down to Easter Island of the Polynesian chain before moving on further westward into the other South Pacific Islands.

As for the Central America destination, we see their evidence with the same type of magnificent edifices throughout Southern Mexico, the Yucatan, and Guatemala. As for those that reached Easter Island, we see evidence of the stone statues found in Peru and Central America, as well as some similar stonework walls like those in Peru.

Also, on Easter Island, is found a written language that has defied the world’s most accomplished linguists and translators for nearly two hundred years. As Moroni stated: “the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34).

As for those who went further northward, we find organized building in the Anasazi and the Pueblo of the southwest  United States, and later the writings of the Hurons, the Iroquois, and the Indians of the Rio del Norte of Louisiana and possibly others that have never been deciphered and probably never will be.

A sample of the Rongorongo writing, so named in the Rapanui language, which means "to recite, to declaim, to chant out" The original name—or perhaps description—of the script is said to have been kohau motu mo rongorongo, "lines incised for chanting out," shortened to kohau rongorongo or "lines [for] chanting out"


Add to that list of those who went westward (Alma 63:8) where a language today called Rongorongo was found written on wooden bark that despite all efforts has escaped being understood and translated (Joseph Sabin, Dictionary of Books Relating to America, Vol XVII, published by Joseph Sabin, New York 1888; N. Israel, Amsterdam 1961).

According to Mariano Eduardo de Rivero y Ustariz, a prominent Peruvian scientist of his day, also wrote Antiquités Péruviennes, which was a Review of the Latin Races in Peru, as well as 13 other volumes between 1821 and 1857, stated: “The Ancient Peruvians possessed two kinds of writing: the one and surely the most ancient consisted of certain hieroglyphic characters; and the other of knots made with strings of various colors. The hieroglyphs, very different from the Mexican ones, were sculptured in stone or engraved on metal.”

The two-volume work by Rivera, the Director of the National Museum in Lima, was called at publication, “A work of great importance on the ethnology and antiquities of Peru. It treats on the history, government, religion, languages, science and arts of the Incas prior to the Spanish invasion and before, and contains the earliest authentic delineation of Ancient Peruvian architecture and other remains. The plates, which comprise upwards of eighty engravings, were executed with great care and were finely colored” (Mariano Eduardo de Rivero and Dr. Juan Diego de Tschudi, Antiguedades Peruanas, 1851, on page 101).

According to linguistics, the Aruku Kurenga displays a skill of the artist that is masterly; all the signs are incised with a freedom, a keen appreciation of proportion, and a vigor that only an expert artist could accomplish. There is a good sense of movement and a harmonious combination of conventionalized and naturalistic elements.

Whether Rongorongo was the ancient Peruvian writing that was brought to Easter Island by Nephite emigrants is not known. It is known through oral tradition, that the legendary founders of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) called Hotu Matu’a or Tu’u ko Iho, brought 67 tablets from their homeland to the island. We also know that the language on the tablets has defied all efforts at interpretation by some of the world’s leading experts. Consequently, it might be suggested that Moroni’s pronouncement “that none other people knoweth our language” (Mormon 9:34), might relate to the rongorongo script.

The conquerors burned thousands of written codices of the Maya


By comparison, historians point to the situation in Mesoamerica, specifically among the Aztecs, where the immense collection of Mexican writings was destroyed almost entirely by the fanaticism of the Spanish conquerors, and particularly of the Dominican friars who accompanied them. Nothing was saved but a few isolated fragments. According to Juan de Torquemada, a Franciscan friar and head of his Mexico Order, and both a missionary and historian in Spanish colonial Mexico, during the last days of the Mexican native monarchy, "five cities delivered up to the governor sixteen thousand bundles of papers, made of the maguay plant [Agave Americana], and that the whole of these were filled with painted hieroglyphics."

The burning of the thousands of Aztec writings ended for all time the knowledge of the indigenous people of Mexico. What we have today was written by 17th and 18th century authors, who felt the earlier writing was of idolatry and Devil worship.

The destruction of all these records led to the history of the indigenous people, and land the Spanish conquered, to be written only by the Catholic Church’s clerics who accompanied the conquistadors—much of which was slanted toward Cortes who was written as a new David that was allowed by God to destroy the Mexican empire because of its idolatry and human sacrifice. What we know today as the history and origins of the indigenous natives of Mesoamerica was in the hands of these friars, priests, and conquerors.

No wonder the Lord made it clear to the Nephites that if the Lamanites (or others) got hold of their sacred records, they would be destroyed. As Enos wrote: the Lamanites “swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers” (Enos 1:14) and again, Mormon was told that he: “Should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them)” (Mormon 6:6). The Lord knew of the Lamanites hatred toward the Nephites, and He well knew of the pious hatred of the conquering and invading Spanish toward anything they did not understand.

The Nephite records Mormon hid in the Hill Cumorah, were eventually taken and placed, by the power of the Lord, into a room where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw them when returning the plates back to Moroni. As Brigham Young stated of this event at a conference in 1877, “They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls” (June 17, 1877, p38).

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