3 Nephi 8

 

The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


 

3 Nephi 8--10 (The Signs of the Atonement):

 

     Gary Walker writes that elder Bruce R. McConkie, in speaking about the details of the events recorded in 3 Nephi 8-10, wrote: "No single historical event in the whole Book of Mormon account is recorded in so great detail or in such extended length as the fulfillment of the signs signifying that Jesus had been lifted up upon the cross and had voluntarily laid down his life for the world." (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p. 542) [Gary Lee Walker, "The Downfall of the Nephite Nation: Lessons for Our Time," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 143]

 

3 Nephi 8:1 WE Know OUR Record to Be True:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:1 we find a statement that on first glance might not be understood to its fullest. Mormon, is speaking, but from a covenant perspective. There are certain words that should tip the reader off that this is so. One of those words is "know." It means much more than intellectual knowledge. It means knowledge gained by obedience to covenants with the Lord, and affirmed by the Spirit of the Lord. Mormon states:

           And now it came to pass that according to our record, and WE know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record--for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity--

 

     Mormon is referring here to the first record keeper, "Nephi, the son of Nephi, who was the son of Helaman" (see the Title to 3 Nephi), as a "just" man made perfect in Christ. To be a "just man made perfect in Christ" is not only a covenant process, but a process with which Mormon is apparently familiar because he joins his own witness to that of Nephi in saying, "WE know our record to be true." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 3:7]

 

3 Nephi 8:2 IF There Was No Mistake Made By This Man:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:2 Mormon makes the following statement:

           "And now it came to pass, IF there was no mistake made by this man [Nephi] in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away."

 

     Some students of the Book of Mormon have jumped on this verse as evidence that the Nephite record keepers were unsure about their calendar, and thus unsure about the time of fulfillment of the prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite regarding the signs of the death of Christ and the completion of Christ's covenant with all mankind--the resurrection of Christ, which would redeem all mankind (see Helaman 14:20-27, 17). I want to point out that 3 Nephi 8:2 seems to be stated from a covenant perspective. In other words, by the use of the phrase, "IF there was no mistake made by this man," Mormon is actually highlighting and affirming the fact that Samuel's prophecy and the Lord's covenant with all of mankind is about to be fulfilled rather than telling the reader that he is unsure of the ability of Nephi to chronicle time correctly. The reader should note that in the previous verse (8:1), Mormon joined his testimony to that of Nephi in stating, "according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record" (3 Nephi 8:1) The reader will also note that once Mormon has testified of the truthfulness of Nephi's record, he proceeds to tell Nephi's story of the signs confirming Christ's death and resurrection with the exception of one thing. Nephi apparently omitted recording the fulfillment of Samuel's prophecy as found in Helaman 14:25: "And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many." The reader will note that the Savior will personally correct this omission (see 3 Nephi 23:7-13). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 8:1]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 The Fourth Day of the First Month:

 

     Until the coming of Christ, the Nephites observed the Law of Moses (2 Nephi 25:24; Alma 25:15), which generally used lunar months (new moon to new moon). The Savior was crucified on the fourteenth day of the first lunar month of the Jewish calendar (John 19:14; Leviticus 233:5), but on the fourth day of the first Nephite month (3 Nephi 8:5). This may imply that Nephite months at that time were not lunar and that their civil calendar may have differed from their religious calendar. [Daniel Ludlow ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 170]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the Thirty and Fourth Year, in the First Month, on the Fourth Day of the Month:

 

       The Book of Mormon tells us that Jesus lived very nearly thirty-three Nephite years (3 Nephi 2:8-9; Helaman 14:20; 3 Nephi 8:3-5). According to John Pratt, that Jesus was thirty when he began his ministry is independently verified by the combined witnesses of John and the Book of Mormon. John describes a three year ministry ending at his death at Passover. Thus, the feast day birthday on which he apparently began his ministry was his thirtieth birthday. If so, we can conclude that the Savior fulfilled the symbolism of the law of Moses to the very day.

     The Lord told Moses, "I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn." (Numbers 3:12; see also 8:18) Because the Levites were thus a symbol of Christ as the Firstborn, perhaps we can also expect to learn part of the pattern of the Savior's life from the laws given to the Levites. The law of Moses stated that Levites "thirty years old and upward" should enter into the service of the Lord. (Numbers 4:3,23,30) Consequently, if the law was symbolic of Him, we might expect that Jesus would also begin his ministry at age thirty.

     John makes mention of only one miracle that the Savior performed between his baptism and the Passover the following spring. John states that changing water into wine at the marriage in Cana was the "beginning of [the Savior's] miracles." Yet even this miracle was not public. Only the Lord's disciples and the servants knew of it. (see John 2:1-11) Apparently it was not until the Passover, which followed "not many days" later, that Jesus began to perform miracles openly, marking the beginning of his public ministry. Further, John indicates the exact day these public miracles began: "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did." (John 2:23) Thus, appropriately, it appears that Christ began his public ministry on the celebration day of the Passover feast, 15 Nisan. If so, . . . it would not only have been on his birthday, . . . but it would have been near his thirtieth because he was "beginning to be about thirty" at his baptism shortly before (Luke 3:23). [John P. Pratt, "Passover -- Was It Symbolic of His Coming?", The Ensign, January 1994, p. 42]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the Thirty and Fourth Year, in the First Month, on the Fourth Day of the Month:

 

     According to John Pratt,143 "although the Bible is vague about the date of the Savior's birth, it is so precise about his death that the day Friday, 1 April A.D. 33, is indicated." . . . In his book, The Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Harold Hoehner concludes persuasively that "the A.D. 33 date for the death of Christ best explains the evidence of both sacred and secular history."144 Pratt notes that the fact that the law of Moses specifically required the lamb to be sacrificed on 14 Nisan argues against a 15 Nisan crucifixion (or any other Hebrew calendar date).145 Of the possible proposed crucifixion years from A.D. 28 to A.D. 34, the only year in which 14 Nisan fell on the required day of Friday was A.D. 33. (See illustration) [See also John Pratt's commentary (3 Nephi 6:20) on the type and shadow of the Law of Moses in relation to the Passover.]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month (Illustration): Christ's 14 of Nisan Death Date Possibilities. [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason and Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]

 

     The Book of Mormon account is so precise as to suggest the exact number of years and days that the Savior lived. It describes the appearance of a sign that heralded the Savior's birth on the following day (3 Nephi 1:19) and states that time was later reckoned from that sign (3 Nephi 2:8). It also describes a great destruction at the Savior's death on the fourth day of the thirty-fourth year (3 Nephi 8:5). Thus, if Jesus was born on the first day of the first year, he lived thirty-three Nephite years and three days.

     Orson Pratt first suggested that the Savior's birth date could be calculated by starting on the better-established crucifixion date and counting back the number of years and days from the Book of Mormon.146 He proposed that the Nephite year probably had exactly 365 days as did the Mesoamerican calendar and the ancient Egyptian calendar. [See the commentary (3 Nephi 8:5) on the Mesoamerican calendar system.]

     If we identify the fourth day of the thirty-fourth Nephite year as 1 April A.D. 33 (see illustration "Christ's 14 of Nisan Death Date Possibilities" above), and if one counts back three days more than 33 Nephite years, one arrives at 6 April, 1 B.C. for Christ's birth date.147

 

     Although various birthdates have been proposed for Christ, ranging anywhere from 9 B.C. to A.D. 1, it might be wise to review some of the evidence that might support an April 6, 1 B.C. birthdate.

 

1. John the Baptist--Fifteenth Year of the Reign of Tiberius Caesar:

     "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priest, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." (Luke 3:1-2)

 

     According to John Lefgren,148 the Gospel of Luke tells us that John was baptizing in the waters of Jordan "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (Luke 3:1), and that during John's ministry "Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age." (Luke 3:23). These two references make it possible to approximate the year of Christ's birth. Historians recognize Tiberius as an important figure in the history of Rome and are able to define within a tolerance of at least two years the timing of the fifteenth year of his reign. . . . Most historians identify August 17, A.D. 14 (Julian calendar), as the beginning of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the second emperor of Rome.149 Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius. This suggest that sometime between A.D. 27 and A.D. 29 John came "into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Luke 3:3)

     Bruce Warren150 gives the following quote in support the of year A.D. 29 as the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar:

     "Everyone has once read, for it comes up many times in literature, of that pilot in the reign of Tiberius, who, as he was sailing along in the Aegean on a quiet evening, heard a loud voice announcing that Great Pan was dead. . . . [T]he myth has been understood as telling of the death of Christ in the 19th year of Tiberius." 151

 

     The nineteenth year of Tiberius would be A.D. 33. Thus if the year of Christ's death was A.D. 33, then the year of his birth would have been in 1 B.C.

     To this evidence, John Pratt152 adds the following: "Tertullian states, 'Augustus survived, after Christ is born, fifteen years.' 153 Thus the death of Augustus in August A.D. 14 was in the fifteenth year after April, 1 B.C."

 

2. Caesar Augustus--Emperor of Rome (Tax):

     "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." (Luke 2:1)

 

     According to John Lefgren,154 Caesar Augustus ruled as emperor of Rome from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. These years place his reign well within any probable date for Christ's birth.

     John Pratt155 notes that until recently, no empire-wide enrollment (Luke 2:1) was known that would have been required of Joseph and Mary.156 The commonly cited taxation of 8 B.C. applied only to Roman citizens. However, Ernest Martin has now identified it as a combined census and oath of allegiance to Augustus in 3-2 B.C., perhaps related to the bestowal of the title "Pater Patriae" (father of thy country) by the senate on Feb. 5, 2 B.C.157 Josephus records that over 6,000 Pharisees refused to pledge their good will to Caesar (about a year or so before Herod died),158 probably referring to that oath because the census would have recorded how many refused. Orosius (a fifth century historian) clearly links an oath to the registration at the birth of Christ: "[Augustus] ordered that a census be taken of each province everywhere and that all men be enrolled. So at that time, Christ was born and was entered on the Roman census list as soon as he was born. This is the earliest and most famous public acknowledgment which marked Caesar as the first of all men and the Romans as lords of the world . . . that first and greatest census was taken, since in this one name of Caesar all the peoples of the great nations took oath, and at the same time, through the participation in the census, were made part of one society."159 He identified the time of the census using two Roman systems that both agree to indicate 2 B.C.160 If this census represents the "decree of Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed," then this would support a 1 B.C. birthdate for Christ.

     

3. Cyrenius--Governor of Syria:

     "And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria." (Luke 2:2)

 

     According to John Lefgren,161 there seems to be agreement among the experts that P. Sulpicus Quirinius was governor of Syria in A.D. 6-7.162 However, there is no hard historical evidence to support the notion that he was legate or governor of Syria any time before A.D. 6. . . . Nevertheless, there continues to be uncertainty among historians as to the identity of the governor of Syria in 4-1 B.C. This uncertainty is removed for the periods of 9-6 B.C and 6-4 B.C., when C. Sentius Saturninus and P. Quinctilius Varus were, respectively, governors of Syria.163 Thus, although not confirmed, a birthdate for Christ between 4-1 B.C. might still be a possibility.

 

4. Shepherds in the Field:

     "There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Luke 2:8)

 

     According to John Lefgren,164 the lambing season occurs in the spring. In the Middle East sheep drop their lambs within a period of about two weeks from late March to early April. During this season the flocks require the constant attention of their keepers. During lambing, for the safety of their flocks and preservation of the newborn, shepherds keep careful watch over their sheep. At no other time in the year are shepherds more closely tied to their flocks. . . . Judean shepherds can be found in the fields keeping watch over their sheep any time from mid-March to early November, but the one time of the year during which their round-the-clock attention is required is the lambing season. Thus, an April 6th birthdate for Christ has support.

 

5. A New Star Appears:

     "Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2)

 

     ". . . and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matthew 2:9)

           

     According to John Lefgren,165 for centuries astronomers have attempted to identify the star that heralded the birth of Christ.166 . . . Herod's surprise at being told of the star by the magi suggests that the Star of Bethlehem may not have been particularly large or spectacular. At this time it seems best to conclude that astronomy neither confirms nor refutes the appearance of a new star on the night of Christ's birth.

 

6. The Reign of Herod the Great of Judea:

     "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king . . . (Matthew 2:1)

 

     " . . . for they are dead which sought the young child's life" (Matthew 2:20).

 

     According to John Lefgren,167 Matthew clearly states that Herod the Great was alive at the time of Christ's birth. The king was an old man who was tormented by a life of evil works and by "an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body."168 By the time of Christ's birth Herod the Great had murdered, among others, his wife, three of this sons, his wife's brother, and his wife's grandfather. With that kind of record, is it any wonder that Herod sought to destroy the baby Jesus, or that the Holy Family fled to Egypt to await the death of the evil king?

     The traditional approach in narrowing the limits of time for the birth of Christ is to first determine the likely time of the death of Herod the Great. Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the first century, gives by far the most information on the reign of Herod the Great, but much of his chronology (especially the length of the kings reign) is disputed by scholars. Josephus mentions among other things that Herod the Great died after an eclipse of the moon and before a Passover.169 In their search for the year of the death of Herod the Great and the pivotal point of Christ's birth, most scholars have identified the eclipse of the moon on the night of March 12-13, 4 B.C. (Julian calendar), as the eclipse referred to by Josephus. This, of course, implies that Christ was born no later than March [in] 4 B.C.170 However, according to Pratt and Lefgren, and contrary to what some have assumed, the lunar eclipse of 4 B.C. is not conclusive evidence because of the following:

 

     A. Many Events between the Eclipse and Passover:

     According to John Pratt171 so many events are recorded by Josephus172 as occurring after the eclipse and before the following Passover, that it appears impossible (or extremely unlikely) that they all occurred in only 30 days, as required by the 4 B.C. scenario.173

 

     B. Varus Was Governor of Syria at Herod's Death:

     According to John Pratt,174 Josephus says that Varus was governor of Syria at Herod's death and Varus is indeed indicated as such in 4 B.C. by coins.175 However, Ernest Martin points out that coins also show Varus was governor in 6 and 5 B.C., whereas Josephus recorded that Saturninus was governor for the two years preceding Herod's death.176 In view of this conflict one must ask, What part of Josephus's record is faulty?

     Martin's solution is that an inscription found near Varus' villa, which describes a man who was twice governor of Syria, probably refers to Varus. If so, his second term could well have been about 1 B.C., when there is no record of anyone else as governor.177

 

     C. Josephus's Unique Mention of the Eclipse of Herod:

     According to John Pratt,178 Herod's eclipse was the only eclipse mentioned by Josephus in his lengthy histories. One must ask, Why? One answer is that the eclipse of Herod was widely observed then associated with the executions. If so, then the eclipse probably occurred in the early evening. Using this criterion, the eclipse of March 13, 4 B.C. is extremely unlikely because it began the umbral phase more than six hours after sunset and hence would have only been seen by at most a few people. The eclipse of Sept. 15, 5 B.C. began three hours after sunset, but that is also late. On the other hand, the eclipse of December 19, 1 B.C. fits this criterion very well. The full moon was nearly half eclipsed when it could first be seen rising in the east above the distant mountains about twenty minutes after sunset (See Fig. 1). . . . The characteristic reddening of the eclipsed portion would have become noticeable. A partial eclipse is more easily seen at moonrise than a total eclipse because totality delays first visibility (the entire moon is in the "invisible" portion) and the shape of the missing portion would have made it obvious that it was an eclipse, especially to the Judeans who used the moon to indicate the day of the month and who expected a full moon. Thus, of the candidates to be Herod's eclipse, the December 29, 1 B.C. eclipse was the most likely to have been widely observed, and thus Herod probably died in early A.D. 1.

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month (Illustration): Figure 1. The proposed eclipse. the lunar eclipse of Dec. 29, 1 B.C. as it would have been seen from Jericho rising in the east at an altitude of 3 degrees about 20 minutes after sunset. [John P. Pratt, "Yet Another Eclipse for Herod," The Planetarian, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 1990, pp. 8-13]

 

     D. Herod's Successors:

     Herod's successors dated their reigns from 4-3 B.C. One might wonder how to reconcile this fact with a proposed 1 A.D. death for Herod. According to John Pratt,179 the best answer seems to be that of Ernest Martin. Herod had four sons: Antipater, Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. Although Herod was the only king until the day he died, he let Antipater rule with him and handle many of the public affairs.180 Antipater did not continue in that regency but went to Rome, and he died before Herod, but had he survived, he may well have counted his regnal years from the beginning of his regency under Herod. After Herod's death the kingdom was divided up among his three sons. Not to be outdone by any of the other kingships, all three successors might have reasoned that they were really continuing the reign of their brother Antipater.

     The earliest coins known for any of the successors' reigns is for "year 5," which is consistent with the antedating theory that A.D. 1, their first de facto year, was their fourth or fifth year de jure.181

 

     E. Josephus: A 37 Year Reign for Herod?:

     According to John Pratt,182 Josephus only gives two Roman years during Herod's entire reign: 40 B.C., when he was named king by Rome, and 37 B.C., when he took Jerusalem and had the reigning king killed.183 . . . At Herod's death, Josephus says that Herod reigned 34 years from the death of the former king, but then adds that he had reigned 37 years counting from the 40 B.C. date.184 This information seems very logical and correlated except for the following scenario:

           The reference to a reign of 37 years from the 40 B.C. date was the first time in thirty chapters in which Josephus reckoned the events of Herod's reign by any other year except 37 B.C. Suppose Josephus's source said Herod reigned 37 years. This might imply, if reckoned with a beginning date of 37 B.C., that Herod's death was in A.D. 1. If other records implied that Herod's successors reckoned their reigns from 4-3 B.C., Josephus might have seen an apparent conflict because the successors would have apparently begun their reigns at Herod's death. Faced with this dilemma, he might well have decided that the best solution was that Herod's 37 years must have been counted from 40 B.C. This explains both why he would have incorrectly assigned 34 years to Herod's reign as well as whey he added the new reckoning from 40 B.C. in order to use the "37 years" from the original source.185

 

     Furthermore, Josephus might not have known that Herod's sons antedated their reigns. That is entirely possible because Josephus knew very little about their reigns. He devoted only one verse in his Antiquities to ten years of Archelaus and only two more to the first thirty years of Antipas and Philip,186 whereas Herod's reign required thirty chapters. Thus, a conclusion could be made that Herod died in A.D. 1.

 

     F. Another Eclipse for Herod:

     W. E. Filmer has identified two other lunar eclipses visible from Jerusalem that could satisfy Josephus's account.187 One eclipse occurred on January 9, 1 B.C. (Julian calendar), and the other on December 29, 1 B.C. (Julian calendar). The second eclipse was visible when the moon rose over the eastern horizon of Jerusalem in the evening--a time when many people in Judea would have been awake to note the unusual phenomenon of a moon rising in eclipse. As early as the sixteenth century, Joseph Scaliger, the mastermind behind the Gregorian calendar reform and the Julian period used by astronomers, decisively maintained that the death of Herod the Great was connected with a 1 B.C. eclipse.188

 

7. Additional Secular Sources:

     Additional secular sources relate a number of circumstances that are associated with Christ's birth that reflect on an April 6, 1 B.C. birthdate:

 

     A. Anno Domini:

           According to John Pratt,189 the sixth century scholar Dionysius Exiguus determined the Christian era (A.D.) based on his calculation of the year Christ was born (1 B.C.). If Christ was really born about 6 B.C., how can such a large error be explained, especially considering that Dionysius Exiguus had access not only to the writings of Josephus, but also to records not available to others? No satisfactory answer has been proposed to this long standing puzzle. Now is appears that he had the right year for Christ's birth after all--1 B.C.

 

     B. December 25:

           According to John Pratt,190 when the date of December 25 was chosen for celebrating Christmas, in the fourth century, it coincided with the pagan winter solstice celebration. That is sometimes assumed to be the only reason for the choice, but according to St. Augustine, Christmas was "computed from the twenty-fifth of March--the day on which the Lord is believed to have been conceived, because he also suffered on that same date--to the twenty-fifth of December, the day on which He was born."191 . . . Yet St. Augustine also said that Christ was crucified "on the same day in which His mother began to have milk."192 Thus we find that, according to tradition, Christ apparently died on March 25, but he also could have been conceived or born at about that date. The Bible verifies that Christ died at Passover (John 19:14). It also implies that Christ lived an even number of years (Christ began his ministry near passover--John 2:23, was "nearly" 30 years old at the time--Luke 3:23; Numbers 4:3,23,30, and apparently preached three full years). If the Church fathers had used the passover Crucifixion date of April 3, A.D. 33, and had counted back in lunisolar years to the birth (instead of the conception) in 1 B.C., they would have arrived at April 8, 1 B.C (Julian) [or April 6, 1 B.C. (Gregorian)].

 

     C. Christmas Celebration:

           According to John Pratt,193 instead of having a celebration on December 25 like the Roman Catholic Church, the eastern church put the birth of Christ on January 6, which they said was based on a tradition that Christ was born not on the winter solstice, but twelve days afterward.194 Note that if these "twelve days of Christmas" had been counted from the spring equinox (March 25, 1 B.C.) instead, the result would have been April 6.

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the Thirty and Fourth Year, in the First Month, on the Fourth Day of the Month, There Arose a Great Storm:

 

     By combining four calendars: the Jewish, Gregorian, Nephite, and Mixtec, Bruce Warren was able to arrive at a date for the birth of Christ on Thursday, April 6, 1 B.C. (also the date specified in D&C 20:1). Using those same calendars, Warren also calculates that Christ would have died on Friday, April 1, 33 A.D. Let's look at the evidence.

     From the Book of Mormon we learn that the day of the Savior's birth became the New Year's Day on the Nephite calendar. 3 Nephi 2:8 states that "the Nephites began to reckon their time from this period when the sign was given, or from the coming of Christ."

     Converting Thursday, April 6, 1 B.C. to the Mesoamerican calendar produces 7.17.17.17.13. 1 Ben 6 Mak. 1 Ben is the birthday of Quetzalcoatl (the White God of Mesoamerica whom numerous LDS scholars have equated with the Savior) and 6 Mak is the New Year's Day of a Mixtec calendar. (Incidentally, the likelihood that these facts are all merely coincidental becomes a virtual impossibility when it is known that 1 Ben 6 Mak occurs concurrently with April 6 only once every 1,507 years on the Mesoamerican calendar.)

     The 16th century Mexican historian, Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl writes that there was a great storm "in the year Ce Calli, which, adjusted to our calendar, happened at the same time that Christ, our Lord, was crucified. And they say that this destruction occurred in the first few days of the year" (Allen Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 140). Now, keeping in mind that Christ died on Friday, April 1, A.D. 33, we turn to 3 Nephi 8:5: "And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land." As you will recall, this storm marked the death of the Savior.

     Now look at Table 1 (see below). Listed are the New Year's Day dates on the Mixtec calendar for 35 years. Note that, as previously stated, the New year's Day always falls on 6 Mak. Note too that the New Year's Day date for the 34th Nephite year is Tuesday, March 29th, A.D. 33.

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm: Table 1--Mixtec New Year's Day Dates. [Bruce W. Warren, "1 Ben 6 Mak: Part Two," in Jace Willard ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue III. Orem: Book of Mormon Tours, 1999, p. 4]

 

     Look now at the top half of Table 2 (see below). Notice on the left that the days of the 34th Nephite year are listed as (a) = first day, (b) = 2nd day, etc. You will see that Friday, April 1, A.D. 33, the proposed date of the Savior's death, falls precisely on the fourth day (d) of the first month of the thirty-fourth year, exactly as the Book of Mormon records.

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm: Table 2--The 34th Year: Great Destruction and Appearance in Bountiful, [Bruce W. Warren, "1 Ben 6 Mak: Part Two," in Jace Willard ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue III. Orem: Book of Mormon Tours, 1999, p. 5]

 

     This correlation is stunning. It successfully demonstrates the consistency of four independent calendars while forming yet another testimony of how minutely exact the Book of Mormon record is. [Bruce W. Warren, "1 Ben 6 Mak: Part Two," in Jace Willard ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue III. Orem: Book of Mormon Tours, 1999, p. 4]

  

3 Nephi 8:5 In the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm: Table 1--Mixtec New Year's Day Dates. [Bruce W. Warren, "1 Ben 6 Mak: Part Two," in Jace Willard ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue III. Orem: Book of Mormon Tours, 1999, p. 4]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm: Table 2--The 34th Year: Great Destruction and Appearance in Bountiful, [Bruce W. Warren, "1 Ben 6 Mak: Part Two," in Jace Willard ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue III. Orem: Book of Mormon Tours, 1999, p. 5]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the Thirty and Fourth Year, in the First Month, on the Fourth Day of the Month:

 

     According to Hunter and Ferguson, the Mesoamerican historian Ixtlilxochitl correlated the ancient Mexican calendar with New Testament history, having learned the latter from the Catholic missionaries and soldiers in Mexico. The correlations and parallels between his account and The Book of Mormon on the events which occurred on the fourth day of the month in A.D. 34, when Christ our Lord suffered," are very striking, to say the least. Ixtlilxochitl double checks his date, stating it was 166 years since the calendar was corrected and adjusted at the great council meeting. That meeting was held in 132 B.C., as has been shown. Thus 166 years after 132 B.C. is the year A.D. 34. His other check, "270 years since the Ancient Ones had been destroyed," also conforms. Ixtlilxochitl's Chronology indicates that the descendants of the settlers from the Great Tower met their fourth and final calamity in 236 B.C., and 270 years thereafter falls at A.D. 34. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, p. 298]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the Thirty and Fourth Year, in the First Month, on the Fourth Day of the Month, There Arose a Great Storm:

 

     According to Warren and Ferguson, Ixtlilxochitl, Mexico's sixteenth-century historian, working from records which preceded the coming of the Spaniards, describes and dates to the time of the crucifixion events as they occurred in southern Mexico. The darkness and the quaking and the rending of rocks at the very time of the crucifixion are described:

     "It was 166 years since they had adjusted their years and times with the equinox, and 270 since the ancient ones had been destroyed, when the sun and the moon eclipsed, and the earth trembled, and the rocks broke, and many other things and signs took place, although there was no calamity whatever toward men. This happened in the year of ce Calli, which, adjusting this count with ours, comes to be at the same time when Christ our Lord suffered, and they say it happened during the first days of the year. These and many other things the Tultecs comprehended, from the creation of the world up to our times. As I have said, in order to avoid prolixity all things they knew are not set our according as they appear in their histories and pictures, especially the original, I mean all the things which can be found in pictures and history, for everything is abridgment (contraction) in comparison with the histories that the first archbishop of Mexico ordered burned." (Hunter and Ferguson 190)

[Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 35]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 In the Thirty and Fourth Year . . . (Great Destruction . . . Darkness):

 

     According to Ammon O'Brien, in the course of Brasseur de Bourbourg's researches into the ancient history of Mexico, he found the echoes of some catastrophic event in former times to be quite persistent, abundant and profound. His observations on this topic are based in part on what he found in the contents of Codex Chimalpopoca. Part of that codex was dubbed Legend of the Suns by Professor Francisco Paso y Troncoso who in 1903 rendered a Spanish translation of the Nahuatl text. . . .

     The Legends of the Suns designates 676 years as the duration of the first age or epoch, whose catastrophic end was marked by the destruction of the sun--or the time of the great darkness. This framework is potentially quite significant. In previous chapters we have noted that the historical chronology of the Nephite and Lamanite nations commenced from the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. Furthermore, we have noted that according to the Mormon account, the manifestation of the "new star" and night of no darkness occurred exactly 600 years from the commencement of Nephite chronology (see 3 Nephi 1:1), which was quite significant in view of an identical time-frame given in Codex Fuenleal.

     Along this course of reasoning we may also determine that a total of 633 years comprises the period of Nephite-Lamanite history from its beginning to the time of the great destruction when the sun was overruled by a shroud of intense darkness. Hence it is peculiar that Codex Chimalpopoca should assign a figure which is so close to the number of years indicated in the Book of Mormon for this epoch of ancient American history.

     The Nephite record by its very nature must be taken as the punctually correct version of these events, thus we may confidently surmise that somewhere along the line, the Mexican calculations of this chronology have picked up an excess of 43 years, giving the native total 676 years, when it should be 633.

     We find however that this discrepancy of 43 years has a plausible explanation. It is a well known fact that the Mexican calendar system operated on a 52 year cycle. . . . The Codex Fuenleal stipulates:

           There were four groups of years, thirteen each, 52 years in all--this they called an age. When those years were completed it was with great solemnity that they commenced their feasts, and started the count of the four groups of years again, to enter another age.195

 

     With this in view, we may now observe that 676 years is a precise multiple of 52. In other words, we have here the sum of thirteen ages in the Mexican system. Turning to the Mormon account which designates this great destruction and period of darkness to have taken place in the 634th year from the beginning of Nephite--Lamanite chronology, we see that this does indeed fall within the thirteenth cycle of 52 years (13th cycle spans the years 625 to 676).

     Considering the fact that this catastrophe is perceived as having consummated the end of an age, then according to the ancient calendar order, this would be the close of the 13th age, which if calculated arbitrarily would render a total of 676 years. Hence it would appear that the Mexicans were not aware, or at least neglected to take into account, that the 13th age suffered a premature termination. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, pp. 346-349]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 On the Fourth Day:

 

     According to Vicki Alder, the number four appears to have special meaning with regards to outwardness and manifestation. Thus, for all the manifestations of Christ's crucifixion to occur in the Americas on the "fourth day of the month" (3 Nephi 8:5) is in accordance with scriptural symbolism. However, there is another number represented here that could also be of interest; that is the number six.

     The number six seems to have to do with work and accomplishment. The prophet Abinadi said: "for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that in them is" (Mosiah 13:19; see Genesis 1, 2:1-2; D&C 77:12). God gave the commandment to men: "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work" (Exodus 20:9, see Mosiah 13:17). A Hebrew slave was to work six years before being set free on the seventh. (See Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12, 18; Jeremiah 34:14) So what does the number six have to do with the "fourth day of the first month"?

     In D&C 20:1 we find that the birth date of the Savior was the sixth day of April. Certainly the Savior performed the greatest work that was ever accomplished on the earth. The Nephites started their year from the month of the birth of the Savior. (3 Nephi 2:8) In the first month (being the same month He had been born or April), on the fourth day of the month, Jesus was crucified. (3 Nephi 8:5) This means that He would have been resurrected on the sixth day of the month of April.

     The work on the building of the Salt Lake Temple commenced on April 6, 1853, and was completed on April 6, 1893. That temple has become a symbol of the restored Church to the world. The sixth day of April must be very special to God for His Son, Jesus, to have been born and resurrected on that day, and because it was also chosen as the date that the Church of Jesus Christ was to be restored. [Vicki Alder, Mysteries in the Scriptures: Enlightenment through Ancient Beliefs, pp. 132-134]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 On the Fourth Day of the Month:

 

     In the Book of Mormon, the day upon which the destruction occurred was day number "four" of the new year:

           And it came to pass . . . in the first month on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. . . . all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours . . . (3 Nephi 8:5, 19)

 

     According to Ammon O'Brien, looking at the Nahuatl text from the Anales de Cuauhtitlan as printed in Anales del Museo Nacional de Mexico (shown on page 345 of Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America) as well as the English translation extracted from the texts of Sr. Galicia Chimalpopoca, Mendoza-Sanchez, Brasseur de Bourbourg, and Paso y Troncoso, the term "Nahui" consistently appears as the name of the day on which the catastrophe took place. Nahui-Atl, Nahui-Ocelotl, Nahui-Quiyahuitl, Nahui-Ecatl, Nahui-Ollin, and also Nahui-Xochitl--a selection of titles--all signify different aspects of the same dreadful day. Thus it is very interesting that NAHUI--which as previously noted--signifies the number "four" in the Nahuatl language.

     Among the several descriptive forms of the day Nahui which appear in Mexican historical sources, one of particular interest is Nahui-Ollin "Four-Movement." The term "movement" in this context refers to seismic movements, hence the Nahuatl term Nahui Ollin has usually been translated as "Four-Earthquake." The point of significance to be noted here is that according to certain Mexican traditions, we are told that Quetzalcoatl departed this world on the day Nahui-Ollin. On this subject, Kingsborough comments thus:

           The sign of Nahui-Ollin which signifies "Four-Earthquake" was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl and according to Mexican mythology alluded to the day of destruction and the end of the world. The sign was frequently carved on rocks and stones. The sign Nahui-Ollin occupies the center of the large Mexican calendar stone. It is significant that the Mexicans should have believed that Quetzalcoatl departed on the day four-earthquake, and that the end of the world would occur on the same sign.

[Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 350]

 

3 Nephi 8:5 On the fourth day of the month: (1) Mexican Calendar Stone. Facsimile drawn by Carl Nebel c. 1836 (2) The Sign Nahui-Ollin which incorporates four branches, each signifying the catastrophic end of a former epoch. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 350]

 

3 Nephi 8:6 There Was a Terrible Thunder:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:6 it says that "there was a terrible thunder." According to Alvin Benson, the first arrival of energy from an earthquake is the compressional wave that produces "noise," which could sound like "thunder." This energy is then followed by the arrival of shear and surface waves, which typically produce most of the shaking and damage along with more deafening noises. The "tumultuous noises" could be generated by the breaking of rock strata, the opening of cracks in the earth, the collapse of buildings, etc., followed by the noise of volcanic eruptions and associated lightning and thunder (Fodor 11-15). [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-3-0, This is My Gospel, pp. 66-67]

 

3 Nephi 8:6,8-10 A great and terrible tempest . . .fire . . . sea . . . earth (Illustration): Chart: "Destructions at the Death of Christ." [John W. & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart #49]

 

3 Nephi 8:6-7 A Great and Terrible Tempest . . . Terrible Thunder . . . Sharp Lightnings:

 

     Hugh Nibley notes that according to eyewitness accounts, the great earthquake that completely destroyed the old capital of Guatemala on September 11, 1541 (this is right down in book of Mormon country, you'll notice) was preceded by "the fury of wind, the incessant, appalling lightning and dreadful thunder indescribable" in their violence. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 320]

 

3 Nephi 8:6-23 A Great and Terrible Tempest; and There Was a Terrible Thunder . . .:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, in recent years, LDS scholars have been struck by some aspects of internal consistency in the Book of Mormon. Lengthy phrases and lists found in early parts of the book are repeated verbatim or nearly verbatim in later sections. For Joseph Smith to have remembered these long after he first dictated them to his scribe is an unreasonable expectation. It would have been much easier for Mormon to have quoted from earlier, written texts in his possession. Consequently, such passages can be seen as evidence that Joseph, too, worked from an extant text.

     A FARMS Update ("Textual Consistency," October 1987, reprinted in John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon) noted several further instances of textual consistency in the Book of Mormon. One example concerns the precise details of destructions which would take place at the crucifixion of the Savior which had been given by the ancient prophet Zenos in 1 Nephi 19:11-12:

           For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.

     And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim; The God of nature suffers.

 

     Each of the cataclysmic events he listed was included in the account of these destructions given in 3 Nephi 8:6-23. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Mormon As an Abridger of Ancient Records," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 17-18]

 

3 Nephi 8:9 The City of Moroni Did Sink into the Depths of the Sea:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:9 it says that "the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea." According to Alvin Benson, generally, earthquakes occur in well-defined belts or zones in the earth located at the junctions of lithospheric plates, which are large pieces of the earth's brittle crust. According to the theory of plate tectonics, as these plates move slowly over the surface of the earth, they either (a) collide with each other, (b) pull away from one another, or (c) slide over and beneath each other creating subduction zones. These zones are characterized by (a) large-scale fault movement; (b) periodic, severe earthquakes; (c) volcanic activity; and (d) typically, a deep ocean trench (Montgomery 46-59).

     One of the more active subduction zones of the world is located along the western coasts of Central and South America. The mountainous areas there extend oceanward to a long, linear ocean trench. This trench exceeds 20,000 feet in depth and is bordered along the shore by mountains over 22,000 feet high. This large elevation difference of over 40,000 feet is a likely site for large-scale fault development, allowing blocks of earth to slip oceanward (Montgomery 55-59; Baer 130). Such movement could occur during a large earthquake, which could explain the loss of the city of Moroni into the depths of the sea (3 Nephi 8:9). [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-3-0, This is My Gospel, p. 67]

 

3 Nephi 8:9 The City of Moroni Did Sink into the Depths of the Sea:

 

     According to Ben Olsen, who has some geological experience in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, notes that Joseph Allen's proposed placement of the city of Moroni on the east coast of Belize or Guatemala seems entirely plausible from a geological standpoint. The Maya mountains in Belize consist of highly folded and faulted limestones and igneous rocks. If movement along the left-lateral fault zone initiated an earthquake during the Savior's death, as it does rather frequently, it is easy to imagine the fractured eastern part of the Maya mountain area slipping into the Caribbean Sea, carrying buildings and people to a watery grave (see illustration for 3 Nephi 8:10). [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, p. 52, Unpublished]

 

3 Nephi 8:9 The city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea (Illustration): Earth Plate Movements Affecting the Americas. (From the book, Exploring our Living Planet, National Geographic Society, p. 58, 1983) [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, Map 6]

 

3 Nephi 8:10 The Earth Was Carried Up upon the City:

 

     According to Alvin Benson, volcanic ash and lava can be carried up to bury cities (Berger 57-61), and Nephi records that the earth was carried up on the city Moronihah (3 Nephi 8:10) and not down, as one would expect in a landslide. [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, p. 64]

 

3 Nephi 8:10 A Great Mountain:

 

     While the word "volcano" never appears in the Book of Mormon, it is worthy of note that in the midst of all sorts of descriptive terms relative to volcanic and seismic activity in 3 Nephi 8, we do find reference to the fact that "in the place of the city [of Moronihah] there became a great mountain. Ben Olsen, who has done some surface geological work in Mexico and interpretation of stratigraphy and subsurface seismic data in parts of southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, is amazed at the number of possible geological agreements between the Book of Mormon text and these lands. . .

     The dominant obvious geological structural elements in the area are the active volcanoes and an active left-lateral, or strike slip fault system crossing central Guatemala in an east-west direction (see illustration). The two major faults, the Polochic and Motagua, and the volcanism are associated with the continuing collision of two oceanic plates in the area, the Cocos and the Caribbean plates. Subduction of the northeast-moving Cocos oceanic plate beneath Central America and Mexico and the intersection and collision of the subsea East Pacific Rise with the west coast of the North American continent (see illustration), combine to make the Mexico-central America area a perpetual unstable earthquake and volcanic zone which has been active for millions of years . . . . Movement along the major fault system in Guatemala, subduction of the oceanic plates under the west coast of Mexico, eruption of one or more volcanoes in the area and perhaps a major hurricane with its attendant tornadoes could account for the damage noted in 3rd Nephi. . . .

     Just as volcanoes can quickly disappear by explosive forces, they can also form very quickly by upwelling of hot magma. [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, pp. 51-52, 56 Unpublished]

 

3 Nephi 8:10 A great mountain (Volcanic and Seismic Activity) [Illustration]: Southeast Mexico - Guatemala Surface Geologic Map. Compiled from 1960 Mexican and 1970 Guatemalan geologic maps. [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, Map 5, Unpublished]

 

3 Nephi 8:10 A great mountain (Volcanic and Seismic Activity) [Illustration]: Earth Plate Movements Affecting the Americas. (From the book, Exploring our Living Planet, National Geographic Society, p. 58, 1983.) [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, Map 6, Unpublished]

 

3 Nephi 8:11 A Great and Terrible Destruction:

 

     Some people have supposed that the verses mentioning "a great and terrible destruction" (3 Nephi 8:11) mean that the entire configuration of the Book of Mormon lands was changed. This conclusion is not justified either by the text or by geological findings on the American continent. Mormon, after writing the events, gives no hint that the former geography had noticeably changed. The forces that had been mentioned were not abnormal in scale (lightning, earthquake, whirlwind, thunder, tempest). In the aftermath, Zarahemla was rebuilt (4 Nephi 1:8), and "they did build many cities again which were burned (4 Nephi 1:7). However, "there were many cities which had been sunk (by water) that could not be renewed" (4 Nephi 1:9). Although destruction seemed widespread, it only seemed irreparable around coastlines or shorelines; and rightly so, for cities cannot easily be rebuilt upon water. There is also no hint that any major land mass rose out of the sea. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

3 Nephi 8:11 There Was a Great and Terrible Destruction in the Land:

 

     According to John Pratt, this record of great catastrophes in the Western Hemisphere at the time of the Crucifixion may also explain two Mesoamerican Indian traditions, but only if the destruction occurred in A.D. 33. First, it was believed that the resurrection of the god Quetzalcoatl occurred when the planet Venus also rose from the underworld as the bright morning star (compare Rev. 22:16), which it does about every 584 days. It has been suggested that Quetzalcoatl was the resurrected Savior (see Milton R. Hunter, Christ in Ancient America, 1959), . . . Second, such an appearance of Venus was also thought to be an omen of "death, pestilence, and destruction." (see A. Aveni, Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, 1980, pp. 186-87)

     In A.D. 33, Venus first appeared as the morning star about two weeks before April 3, the proposed Resurrection date (see B. Tuckerman, Planetary, Lunar, and Solar Positions, A.D. 2 to A.D. 1649 at Five day and Ten-day intervals, 1964, pp. 31-36), which explains both traditions in the sense that (1) Venus would have been rising at the time of the Resurrection, and (2) the first rising would have occurred just prior to the great destructions. The nearest other years in which the morning star was rising at Easter were A.D. 25 and A.D. 41. [John P. Pratt, "The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836 -- Part 1: Dating the First Easter," The Ensign, June 1985, p. 67]

 

3 Nephi 8:12 There Was a More Great and Terrible Destruction in the Land Northward:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:12 we find that "there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward." Joseph Allen notes that the archaeological ruins of Cuicuilco, located near the University of Mexico in Mexico City, were covered by a lava flow dating to about A.D. 34. The largest pyramid in the world, located at Cholula in the State of Puebla, Mexico, was also destroyed at the time of the great destruction at the death of Christ. The ancient Mexicans attributed the destruction of the Cholula pyramids to Quetzalcoatl. Regarding the destruction of the ruins of Cholula, Ixtlilxochitl said:

           A great destruction and devastation took place, which is referred to as the third period of the world. At that time, the great building and tower of Cholula, which was so famous and marvelous, was destroyed. It was like a second tower of Babel that these people had built, with virtually the same idea in mind. It was destroyed by the wind. (Ixtlilxochitl: 42)

     The pyramid was subsequently rebuilt and dedicated to Quetzalcoatl. In referring to the destruction, Ixtlilxochitl provides us with two or three destruction dates. In some places, he reports that the destruction took place (1) a few days after Quetzalcoatl left; (2) a few years after the birth of Christ, and (3) the first few days of the year in which Christ was crucified. The latter, as mentioned earlier, correlates with both the Mixtec calendar and the Book of Mormon.

     The ruins of Cuicuilco and Cholula are located in the area of Mexico corresponding to the Land Northward. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 230]

 

3 Nephi 8:12 There was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward (Illustration): Volcanic activity has affected many areas of Central America, including this ash-fall deposit in the Tuxtla Mountains in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Many of the flows in the region date to around A.D. 34. Back-country explorations of sites in Mesoamerica reveal human bones and pottery at the eroded base of 30- and 40-foot-thick lava flows. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 164]

 

3 Nephi 8:12 There Was a More Great and Terrible Destruction in the Land Northward:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:11-12 we find, in the description of the destruction which occurred in the America's at the time of the Savior's death, that while there "was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward," "there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward." Ben Olsen, who has some geological experience in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, notes that if, as Joseph Allen suggests, the Mexico City area is that part of the land northward where the most severe damage occurred, this would make good geological sense, since the city was built on old lake sediments, which would likely respond violently to earthquake shock waves, caused by violent volcanic activity or release of pressure along a fault system. [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, p. 53, Unpublished]

 

3 Nephi 8:12 There was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward (Illustration): Evening light touches a massive 17,295-foot volcano, Iztaccihuatl, just southeast of Mexico City. The 17,845-foot Popocateptl rises just to the south, with 18,851-foot Citlaltepetl being the highest volcano in the region to the east at Orizaba. Scores of volcanoes rim these lands, making the region unstable with frequent earthquakes and eruptions. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 165]

 

3 Nephi 8:17 Lightnings:

 

     According to Alvin Benson, both Zenos and Nephi prophesied that the events described in 3 Nephi 8-10 would be accompanied by fire (1 Nephi 12:4; 19:11; 2 Nephi 26:6); and indeed 3 Nephi 9:11 states that the Lord "did send down fire." It is quite probable that this may refer to lightning accompanying volcanic activity triggered by the quaking earth (3 Nephi 8:17). Photos of erupting volcanoes, such as Mount Vesuvius in 1944 (Fodor 15) and Sakura-jima in 1987 (Kemp 40-41), show hundreds of lightning bolts in the ash clouds above those volcanoes. The friction between fine volcanic ash particles in the atmosphere is very effective in generating severe lightning without any attending rain, leaving the ground and wood very dry. It is interesting that after hours of thunderstorm activity of unprecedented fury and violent earthquakes, the Nephites' wood was still referred to as being "exceedingly dry" (3 Nephi 8:21). [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, pp. 63-64]

 

3 Nephi 8:17-19 They [the Quakings] Did Last for about the Space of Three Hours:

 

     According to John Pratt, another witness to the happenings attending the crucifixion of Jesus comes from Phlegon, a Greek secular historian from Caria (in Asia Minor), writing soon after A.D. 137, who "reported that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad there was 'the greatest eclipse of the sun' and that 'it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that the stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea." The year mentioned began on 1 July A.D. 32 and ended 30 June A.D. 33, a period which includes the time identified as that of the Savior's crucifixion. The fact that Phlegon records both darkening of the sun at noon and earthquakes, just as Matthew describes (see Matthew 27:45,51) in that same year, makes it apparent that he is describing the same events that were also witnessed in distant cities in modern-day Turkey. This also confirms traditions that "the terror of the earthquake continued from the sixth hour of the preparation until the ninth hour" (from noon till 3:00 P.M. on Friday; compare 3 Nephi 8:17-19), and that "when he was crucified darkness came over all the world," the sun was altogether hidden," "the stars were seen," and "in all the world they lighted their lamps from the sixth hour until evening." [John P. Pratt, "Passover--Was It Symbolic of His Coming?", The Ensign, January 1994, p. 44]

     Note* "About the ninth hour," or 3:00 P.M. in Jerusalem, would be about 7:00 A.M. in Central America (compare 3 Nephi 10:9) due to the difference in longitude. [John P. Pratt, "The Restoration of the Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836 -- Part 1: Dating the First Easter," The Ensign, June 1985, p. 67]

 

3 Nephi 8:20 There Was a Thick Darkness . . . Vapor of Darkness:

 

     According to Alvin Benson, if volcanic eruptions lasted for several hours, as indicated in 3 Nephi 8, an enormous amount of ash would have been discharged into the atmosphere. The ash from a volcano can rise to great heights (many thousands of feet) and then spread out in the stratosphere to cover a large region with an impenetrable cloud of dust (Goldner and Vogel 37-43; Warren and Ferguson 42). Volcanic ash, smoke, and gases, along with dust and debris rising into the air from a large earthquake, could have produced the "vapor of darkness" spoken of in 3 Nephi 8:20 and 10:13. [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, p. 64]

 

3 Nephi 8:21 With Their Fine and Exceedingly Dry Wood:

 

     According to Alvin Benson, it is interesting that after hours of thunderstorm activity of unprecedented fury and violent earthquakes, the Nephites' wood was still referred to as being "exceedingly dry" (3 Nephi 8:21). [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 8:17] [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, p. 64]

 

3 Nephi 8:22 There Was Not Any Light Seen . . . Neither the Sun, Nor the Moon, Nor the Stars:

 

     In 3 Nephi 8:22 it says that "there was not any light seen . . . neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars . . ." According to Warren and Ferguson, Ixtlilxochitl stated that "the sun and the moon eclipsed, and the earth trembled, and the rocks broke, and many other things and signs took place . . . This happened . . . at the same time when Christ our Lord suffered, and they say it happened during the first days of the year." (Hunter and Ferguson 190) [Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 58]

 

3 Nephi 8:22 There was not any light seen . . . for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land (Illustration): This dramatic photograph shows the first stage of the 1974 eruption of the Volcan de Fuego, in Guatemala. Simultaneous eruptions from several volcanoes could have produced the "thick darkness" (3 Nephi 8:20) mentioned by the Nephite reporters. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 204]

 

3 Nephi 8:23 Because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them (Illustration): Ash from volcanoes could have smothered crops, animals, and humans over wide areas. The type of desolation resulting is illustrated by this scene near the volcano El Chichon in highland Chiapas in 1982.196 [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 204]

 

3 Nephi 8:23-9:12 (Note*** Hebrew Idioms):

 

     Glenn Scott notes that Hebrew Idioms are so common in the Book of Mormon that Angela Crowell has identified 110 of them just between 3 Nephi 8:23 and 3 Nephi 9:12 (15 verses). She asks:

           How could a young man, who did not have a knowledge of Hebrew . . . produce such a work? How did so many literal translations of Hebrew words and grammatical constructions get into the record? Many Hebraic usages have not been translated literally into English in the King James Version of the Bible, mere copying of the words and style . . . would not produce the vast number of Hebraisms used correctly . . . My study leads me to conclude . . . the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be--an authentic record, written by men thoroughly versed in Hebrew . . . translated by the gift and power of God (Crowell 1992, "Hebraisms," Recent Book of Mormon Developments, 2:10).

[Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 225]

 

3 Nephi 8:25 Buried up in that great city Moronihah (Illustration): The preColumbian city of Cuicuilco, Mexico [Figure 1] was buried under a lava flow [Figure 2]; The volcanic mountain of Paricutin, in western Mexico began as a farmer was plowing his field one day in 1943, quickly attaining a height of 8,200 feet! [Michael and June Hobby, Proofs of the Book of Mormon, pp.8-9]

 

Geographical Theory Map: 3 Nephi 8:5-23 The Great Destruction (34 A.S.)