THE GOLDEN ERA OF MESOAMERICA

Notes by Steven E. Jones


Following the visit of Christ to the Americas, as outlined in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Christ, one might anticipate that an age of peace and harmony would ensue. Consistently, we find that a "golden era" is indeed prevalent in the traditions of Middle America:


"The Aztecs and most other Central Mexican people believed that there had once been a more glorious era, when the Toltecs had reigned at Tollan, or Tula, as it is also called. ...All across Mesoamerica, from the Chichimecs to the Maya, noble
lineages claimed descent and legitimacy from Tollan and the Toltecs. Who were the Toltecs, and where exactly was Tollan?

 

"According to the Aztecs, these Toltecs were held to be the inventors of all artistry, from writing to goldworking to medicine, and the very word "toltec" meant artist or craftsman. They lived in unparalleled majesty, reigned over by Quetzalcoatl..." Miller and Taube p.170.



Compare this description with that of the Book of Mormon "golden era":

"...there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. ...And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land...[and they] did multiply exceedingly fast, and became an exceedingly fair and delightsome people...they were in one, the children of Christ [Quetzalcoatl, I think]..." 4 Nephi 2-17

During the time when the recently resurrected Christ walked the Americas, it is recorded that the people traveled to the site where he was: they did "labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself" - - at the temple. (3 Nephi 19:3)



There were certainly other people in the general area, but these people are described in the Book of Mormon as being clever craftsmen who made written records and used medicinal "plants and roots" especially for "fevers...to which men were subject by the nature of the climate." (Alma 46:40) The reference to fevers related to the climate suggests a tropical setting for these people, such as the Maya lowlands.


Some historians have thought that the Tollan period may refer to the people also called "Toltecs" who came to dominate a large area of Mexico into Central America around A.D. 900. However, recent scholarly research yields the following conclusion:

"...but the description of tropical birds and a paradisiacal abundance sounds less like a place in the Central Mexican highlands [a dry region north of today's Mexico City where the later Toltecs lived] and more like Tamoanchan, a mythical place usually thought to be down in the tropical lowlands, perhaps even in the Maya area." (Miller and Taube p. l70)



Furthermore, with regard to the timing of the reign of this first Quetzalcoatl, "Laurette Sejourne, a French archaeologist living and working in Mexico, believes that Quetzalcoatl was a king living about the time of Christ." [Irene 79]



Consider this also: "When Quetzalcoatl came to Tula [or Tollan], he supposedly commanded only a perfect devotion" and essentially an end to blood sacrifices; human sacrifice was specifically forbidden. (Miller and Taube, p.145)



In a parallel vein, the Book of Mormon states that the resurrected Christ commanded the people; "Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away...." 3 Nephi 9:19-20



I suggest that Tollan was a real region in a tropical area of Mesoamerica, visited in truth by the resurrected Christ who became known as Quetzalcoatl among the Maya, and who initiated a period of unparalleled peace and prosperity. This is consistent both with striking Mesoamerican legends which have come to light in recent years [see adjoining History of Ancient Tollan] as well as with the Book of Mormon published in 1830.



What happened to these people? The Book of Mormon states that in 111 A.D. a group "revolted from the church". (4 Nephi 20) The rebellion became general starting around 200 A.D., with groups "lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel...and they did smite upon the people of Jesus." (4 Nephi 24,34) A return to blood sacrifice probably occurred around this time; regarding human sacrifice, we read the lament in the Book of Mormon that around 375 A.D., "their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols." (Mormon 4:21) So the Book of Mormon record is consistent with archaeological studies that show that "human sacrifice played a vital role in Mesoamerica... although it is difficult to document before the Late Preclassic period [i.e., around 300 A.D.]." (Miller and Taube, p. 96)



HISTORY OF ANCIENT TOLLAN; quoted from the Florentine Codex*



"Here, the Tolteca are mentioned, the first who settled here in the land... First, those named the Tolteca, so-called; these first came to live here in the land, called land of the Mexica, land of the Chichimeca. And for several four-hundreds of years they dwelt in the vicinity of Tollantzinco. Since they really lived there, they left many of their traces which they had fashioned. In that area they made what was their temple; its name was 'house of beams.' Today it stands; it exists, considering that it is indestructible; for it is rock, of stone.



... The Tolteca were wise. Their works were all good, all perfect, all wonderful, all marvelous; their houses beautiful, tiled in mosaics, smoothed, stuccoed, very marvelous.



The house of Quetzalcoatl, which was his place of worship, stood in the water; a large river passed by it; the river which passed by Tula. ...



When the wonderful devices were entrusted to them, they prepared, they glued the feathers; they indeed formed works of art; they performed works of skill. In truth, they invented all the wonderful, precious, marvelous things which they made.



And in this way were the Tolteca learned: they knew well, they understood well, that which pertained to herbs, to the nature of their essence; which ones were good... They invented the art of medicine...



Because of great knowledge {of rocks}, if, verily, that which was a precious stone were inside a massive rock, they could find it.... indeed, many of them were scribes, lapidaries, carpenters, stone cutters, masons, feather workers, feather gluers, potters, spinners, weavers. They were very learned. ... They went to learn of, to seek out, the mines of silver, gold, copper, tin, mica, lead. ... Of that which is precious, however, some is forgotten, some lost. ...



And so wise were they {that} they understood the stars which were in the heavens; they gave them names... And they understood well the movements of the heavens; their orbits they learned from the stars.



And they understood that there were many divisions of the heavens; they said there were twelve divisions. There existed, there dwelt, the true god and his consort. The name of the god of the heavens was Ome tecutli, and the name of his consort, the woman of the heavens, was Ome cihuatl... It was said that there were we, the common people, created; thence came our souls. When babies were conceived, when they were dropped {from heaven}, their souls came from there; they entered into their {mother's} wombs. Ome tecutli sent them.



Here we should note that a Mayan expert states that Ometecutli or Ometeotl is "the Maya god above all, sometimes known as Hunab-ku (the Great Hand...). Quetzalcoatl was ... [the] son of Hunab-ku." [Irene, p. 119]



These Tolteca were righteous. They were not deceivers. Their words {were} clear words. They addressed one as "the lord, my elder brother" ...



Their clothing was - indeed their privilege was - the blue knotted cape..."



They were tall; they were larger {than the people today}. Because they were very tall, they ran much and so were named tlanquacemilhiume. {Translation: who can run all day without weariness.}



... They were singers; they composed, originated, knew from memory, invented the wonderful songs which they composed.



They were very devout. Only one was their god; they showed all attention to, they called upon, they prayed to one by the name of Quetzalcoatl. [compare 3 Nephi 19:22] ... That which the priest of Quetzalcoatl required of them, they did well. They did not err, for he said to them, he admonished them: "There is only one god; {he is} named Quetzalcoatl...." And they had very great faith in the priest of Quetzalcoatl and were very obedient, very devout, and very reverent; for all obeyed, all had faith in Quetzalcoatl... it is now said of him who quickly gains [virtues] that he is a son of Quetzalcoatl, that he is Quetzalcoatl's son. ...



This is all which is here said as to the nature of those mentioned, who first came to settle here in the land called Mexico."



*A Spanish friar named Bernardino de Sahagun came to Mexico in about 1529. He lived among the natives and carefully wrote down their customs and histories - - of which this is one. He wrote in the native Nahuatl language which he learned in the New World. (The Nahuatl are neighbors of the Maya and the Aztecs, although their customs and history are not as well known.) Sahagun died in 1591. This work became available in English only after 1950. (Allen p. 149; some of this legend is also cited by Allen.) The legend above begins thus, in Nahuatl:

"Vncan moteneoa, in tulteca, in achto tlacapixoco, in njcan tlalli ipan... auh quezqujtzonxivitl nenque: mjec innezca qujtlaliteoaque, in vmpa qujchiuhque in jntevpan catca, in jtoca oapalcalli..."



I can't even pronounce it, let alone interpret it! Yet I can see that this Mexican story (when interpreted) corresponds remarkably well with that found in Fourth Nephi, a book in the Book of Mormon. That is, if we consider that Quetzalcoatl (the Nahuatl name; Kukulcan in Mayan) is another name for Jesus Christ! Note that the modern translators provided the notes in {} brackets.



The careful reader will note that these Mesoamericans anciently believed in both a God and Mother-god (God's consort or wife) in heaven, and from their dwelling came spirits to enter the bodies of infants. These are hardly Catholic teachings, but they do correspond to LDS beliefs.

Hopefully, other parallels to 4th Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and to modern LDS beliefs, will be obvious in the Mayan legend above without my spelling these out in detail.