Jan 8, 2009

Mesoamerican Pyramids--Satanic Temples

Following Christ’s resurrection in Jerusalem, we read of his glorious and singular appearance to the Nephites at their temple in the Land of Bountiful. 
AND now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them. (1)
 Continuing in Third Nephi we find a remarkable and detailed account of His visit and teachings among the Nephite people.  In fact it is the most detailed and descriptive of any account of the appearance of Christ or His Father as immortal beings in all holy writ.  It is an extremely important event and ushers in two hundred years of a Zion society.  The church prospered and they had all things in common. 
This event has been artistically depicted as occurring on or near the ruins of a Mesoamerican pyramid.  I would like to discuss the correctness of this depiction.
But first, let me backtrack for a moment and discuss the nature and purpose of the Mesoamerican pyramids.  These pyramids were originally initiated by the so-called “Olmec” people who in all probability were Jaredites, or other closely associated groups.  The pyramids were patterned after the original tower temple, the infamous Tower of Babel.  The Jaredites acquired this cultural tradition in Babel.  
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.  The pyramid-topping temple was only large enough for a small number of people, normally the priests, and was not intended for groups.  Their rituals included the practice of human sacrifice.  In Mesoamerica such sacrifices were perfected to the point of maximum barbarism.   The Spanish invaders, who were barbarous people themselves, were horrified when they witnessed these horrible rituals 

P. J. Gladnick writes: Even today, it is hard to comprehend the extent or rationale for this ritual sacrifice. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 people per year were sacrificed by the Aztec royalty. Captives were taken to the top of pyramids where, upon a ritual flat stone table, they had their chests cut open and their hearts ripped out. Then the bodies of the victims were tossed down the steps of the pyramids.  The scene to both the Spaniards of that time and to us today is truly gruesome. (2)
Another source explains: The most common form of sacrifice was performed outside, on the top of a great pyramid. The victim was spread-eagled on a round stone, with his back arched. His limbs were held, while a priest used an obsidian knife to cut under the rib cage and remove his heart. (3)
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.  An accurate account of the early practice is given in the Book of Abraham 1:5-20.  The Jaredites (or Olmecs) continued these practices during their periods of apostasy and passed them on to the Maya, Aztecs, etc.   The purpose of the Mesoamerican pyramid was to practice these rites.  
The Mesoamerican pyramid temples do not resemble temples of the Lord in our day or in any other dispensation of time.  In particular they do not resemble the Nephite temples described in the Book of Mormon.  Solomon’s Biblical temple was the model for Nephite temples and did not resemble the Mesoamerican pyramid in any way.  
Of the first authorized Nephite temple built by Nephi we read:
And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple.  But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. (4)
This first temple was patterned after Solomon’s temple, it was not as elaborate and ornate, but in design it was the same.  On the other hand, it was not constructed of packed earth, surfaced with stone or plaster, and it was not a pyramid. 
We can get some idea of the Nephite construction from the apostate King Noah’s projects, which included the temple at the city Nephi.
And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper;
And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.
And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.
And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people. 
Here we note that Noah’s buildings were made of wood and ornamented with precious wood and metal.  The temple, which may have even been the one built earlier by Nephi, was enhanced with fine woodwork with seats for the priests as they instructed the people, all within the temple walls.  Would it be appropriate to show Abinadi on trial for his life on the steps of a Mesoamerican pyramid? I think not.  
The function of the Nephite temples was public worship and instruction.  They may have included sacred ordinances, however we are not told of such things in the record.  Jacob tells us:
Wherefore I, Jacob…taught them [his people] in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord. (5)
He then goes on to give one of the great stirring sermons found in the Book of Mormon.  These temples were buildings designed to hold congregations of believers that they might worship as a group and be taught. 
Another good example of the Nephite temple is found in the book of Mosiah speaking of the occasion when King Benjamin gives his famous sermon and instructed his people.  
AND it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.
And there were a great number, even so many that they did not number them; for they had multiplied exceedingly and waxed great in the land…
And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.
And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;
For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple (italics mine), therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them. (6)
Several points are evident from this passage.  First, the temple was large enough to hold a normal size congregation but in this case, Benjamin's group was much larger and included most of the Nephite population.  Second, the temple was walled and built for congregational worship and instruction.  Third, Benjamin's temple was located in an open, possibly a rural, area where hundreds, even thousands, of tents could be set up.  Fourth, this temple was not an elevated tower or pyramid, otherwise there would have been no need to construct another tower to speak from.  Fifth, Benjamin’s tower was not a pyramid, but was probably constructed of wood and built within a short period of time, possibly within a day. 
In conclusion, the Nephite temples, and in particular the temple of Christ's appearance at Bountiful, were not Mesoamerican pyramids, but were buildings patterned after the temple of Solomon, built for congregational worship and instruction.  If this is true, then Christ did not appear to the Nephites on, or adjacent to, a pyramid temple.  
Why does all this matter?  Because the Holy Spirit’s responsibility is to witness to the truth of all things.  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.  
1.   3 Ne. 11:1-8.     
2.   http://www.essortment.com/all/aztecsacrifice_raif.htm  Accessed 12-1-08 (link broken).
4.   2 Ne. 5:16.
5.  Jacob 1:17.
6.   Mosiah 2:1-7.    
First illustration: Pyramid of Chitzin Itza from Wikipedia Commons.                       
Second illustration from Codex Magliabechiano.