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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amaranth grain, honey, and transubstantiation: Another evidence for BoM authenticity

While researching edible plants on the Web, I ran into a recipe for Amaranth Corn Chowder. The recipe had a paragraph that caught my eye and I thought I'd share it as another likely evidence of the Book of Mormon's authenticity. It appears that the concept of the Catholic teaching and ordinance of transubstantiation was discerned by Conquistadors at the time they were conquering the Aztec civilization because of a ritual involved with eating amaranth grain and honey. Here is the quote:
Amaranth is, in fact, another ancient [Central and] South American grain (It was also a featured crop halfway around the world in the Himalayas). It was a staple of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. Like quinoa, it all but disappeared in the region after a Spanish ban enforced by the Conquistadors. The Aztecs mixed amaranth with honey, shaped it like gods and ate it in ceremonial rituals. The similarity between this ritual and Catholic communion was too eerie for priests, thus the grain was banned for centuries.
There were other "eerie" things that caused Conquistadors to lash out at Aztec practices, resulting in the burning of piles of written records and religious texts sacred to the Aztecs. Without first-hand knowledge of what was in those books, we can only conjecture as to what, exactly, that might have been.

We do know, however, that there were instances in which the Conquistadors saw elements and traces of Catholic teachings in Aztec ways, such as a belief in a resurrection of God and that a Messiah would visit them and deliver the Aztec people, that the Conquistadors vehemently worked to destroy all such teachings among the Aztecs.

Why? Weren't the Conquistadors there to convert them anyways? Shouldn't they have been glad that Aztecs already had this basic teaching in their theology? Why didn't they just build upon it instead of burning it?

We know from the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan and other records
that survived that literary holocaust that the Mayans and Aztecs viewed
themselves as descendants of foreigners who came from a rich religious
tradition we now recognize as being startlingly similar to biblical
narratives.

The Conquistadors couldn't fathom that people they regarded as ignorant savages would ever have a knowledge of Middle Eastern stories such as Moses and the 12 tribes of Israel, or would have known about a Messiah who would sacrifice Himself for them, ask Him to remember Him through a ritual eating ceremony, and come from an eastern country to rule them again. Therefore they concluded that natives must have had those things introduced to them by the devil.

The oxymoronic absurdity of this conclusion is only tempered by the fact that they had come to the Americas, in part, to conquer it in a pseudo-religious sense for Spain, seeking to convert heathens to a knowledge of God. When they saw that the supposed "heathens" already had traces of Christian teachings in their legends and laws, they went out of their way to eradicate those notions so as to preserve the "success" and credibility of their royal mandate to "convert" them.

Amaranth and honey is another fascinating parallel between the Book of Mormon and ceremonial elements passed down to 14th century Aztecs that, while admittedly corrupted from their original form, undoubtedly had their root in a primitive Christian teaching.

Some Final Thoughts and Conclusions

I have spent the last few days looking over and assessing the validity of the claims of Matt Slick against the Book of Mormon. After reading and re-reading his materials, looking up his references and cross checking his citations, I have found Slick to be highly wanting in many areas. He not only mis-contextualizes and misuses the Book of Mormon text to suit his agenda but he makes bald faced assertions that just do not hold up to the evidence. He regularly employs double standards and other logical fallacies and conveniently ignores any evidence contrary to his arguments. In short, Slick is not a reliable source to turn to when it comes to analyzing the historicity of the Book of Mormon and whether or not it comes from God.

But so what? Why does this matter? Why did I even bother to address Slick's claims? 

I did so not to convince Slick or try to persuade him to abandon his belief that the Book of Mormon not only is not historical but also not of God, nor to impress any of the critics of the Book of Mormon in general. He and his like minded critics have shut the door to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is historical and of God, and thus it would be a waste of my time to try and convince him. No, I did this to help those who may have encountered Slick's material and need another perspective on these issues and a rejoinder to the critics. I did this so that those who are investigating the Book of Mormon can know for themselves that there are answers out there to the allegations of the critics. We Latter-day Saints are not hiding our heads in the sand and unwilling to critically examine the evidence and our faith. We are not blindly following the General Authorities of the Church or refusing to engage in criticisms of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. We are doing the research, looking at the claims, examining the evidence and weighing it against the claims of the critics. And I am personally happy to report that, for the most part, the criticisms of the Book of Mormon do not hold any weight after careful analysis. 

Now this does not mean that all of the questions have been answered or that the controversy has been settled. There still remain questions as to some of the points of Book of Mormon historicity. I myself still have questions about the Book of Mormon and some of the claims therein. However, I can fully affirm that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be; and ancient document with Near Eastern and Mesoamerican roots written by inspired Prophets of God. Even though I still have questions, that does not mean that I do not have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As John L. Lund has recently pointed out, we should not lose faith in what we do know because of things we do not know[1]. In other words, just because there remain questions about the Book of Mormon this should not disparage anyone or shake their faith.

Finally, we need to be careful not to place our trust on the arm of flesh in regards to spiritual matters such as the Book of Mormon. Our understanding of the ancient world is changing constantly. As new evidence is discovered old theories will either have to be refined or discarded. Critics need to be careful, therefore, when they make judgements against the Book of Mormon based on historical details that may not be yet confirmed by secular wisdom. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something has not been found that does not mean that it does not exist. To abandon the Book of Mormon on this standard is a sandy foundation if there ever was one. Matt Roper wisely summed it up thusly:

Let's imagine a scenario. Suppose I read the Book of Mormon some time ago, say, in the 1970s. I read about the Nephites having barley. I reject the Book of Mormon because there is no evidence for pre-Columbian barley. This was, after all, the scholarly consensus-there was no pre-Columbian domesticated barley in the New World period! But now it turns out that this view was wrong. There was in fact archaeological evidence for barley in pre-Columbian America. It just hadn't been discovered yet. Let's suppose I had even staked my life on the belief in opinion of scholars that there was no such grain before Columbus. Wouldn't I have made a terrible mistake? The example of pre-Columbian barley should be a warning to us that similar evidences for the Book of Mormon, which at present seem to be anachronisms, may yet be forthcoming as well. [2]

** End of Series **

[1]: John L. Lund in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon (The Communications Company. 2007) Pg. 215

[2]: Matt Roper in "Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon" (link here).