John L. Sorenson, emeritus professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University, is noted for his studies of Mesoamerica and how it relates to Book of Mormon scholarship. He is the author of a forthcoming book on the subject. A recent article in the Deseret News outlined some of his findings.

Scholar details ‘striking’ parallels between Book of Mormon and ancient civilization, R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer, Monday, Aug. 6 2012 4:55 p.m. MDT

Book of Mormon warfare correlates to Mesoamerican cultureSorenson notes the Book of Mormon has everything a person would expect to find from a book written in the time and place of the Book of Mormon, a record of ancient scripture that Mormons (a nickname sometimes applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) hold as a companion to the Bible. “”It is not rational to suppose that mere coincidence can account for similarities of this magnitude,” he declared. “The parallels are too striking and too sweeping to allow that casual explanation.”

The Book of Mormon does not specify where the events in the book occurred. Mormons have as doctrine only that they happened on what is today the American continent. However, scholars have devoted many hours to trying to place events into specific locations. Sorenson, like many others, believes they occurred in Mesoamerica.

“Similarly, Sorenson has correlated Mesoamerican archaeology with Book of Mormon content.

His method was to determine what area best corresponds with the apparent “mental map” Mormon had in mind when abridging the Nephite record known today as the Book of Mormon. In previous works, he settled on this: “The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico is the narrow neck of land of the Nephites, the highlands of southern Guatemala contained the land of Nephi, the basin of the Grijalva river and adjacent areas in extreme southern Mexico is the land of Zarahemla, and areas immediately north and west of the isthmus are the land northward. This, then, defines the area where it makes sense to look for correspondences between the Book of Mormon and the archaeological/cultural record.”

Sorenson outlines 450 examples in which Mesoamerican culture and Book of Mormon culture correlate, and notes they are only a sampling of the correlations. Included are:

  • The construction of sacred towers in both cultures. The Book of Helaman, in the Book of Mormon, refers to a tower used for private prayer and discourse, a usage also found in Mesoamerica.
  • The installation of a younger king before the death of the current king, leading to emeritus status for the retiring king
  • 380 cultural patterns for religion and ideology found in both the ancient Near East in second and first millennia B.C. and in Mesoamerica. Sorenson suggests the complexity and numbers of correlations are possible only if people from the Near East came to Mesoamerica, an essential aspect of the Book of Mormon.
  • The significance of warfare, which today’s scholars see in ways that more closely align with the writings of Mormon, an ancient Book of Mormon prophet, than they did in the days when the Book of Mormon was translated.