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Why would Joseph Smith include the use of cement in ancient America? If he was trying to win over a 19th century audience, wouldn’t he have maintained the status quo?

The Book of Mormon mentions the use of cement in Helaman 3 even though this was long thought to be anachronistic. 

However this is perfectly fitting, as John W. Welch notes:

No one in the nineteenth century could have known that cement, in fact, was extensively used in Mesoamerica beginning largely at this time, the middle of the first century B.C.

One of the most notable uses of cement is in the temple complex at Teotihuacan, north of present-day Mexico City. According to David S. Hyman, the structural use of cement appears suddenly in the archaeological record. And yet its earliest sample “is a fully developed product.” The cement floor slabs at this site “were remarkably high in structural quality.” Although exposed to the elements for nearly two thousand years, they still “exceed many present-day building code requirements.” This is consistent with the Book of Mormon record, which treats this invention as an important new development involving great skill and becoming something of a sensation.

After this important technological breakthrough, cement was used at many sites in the Valley of Mexico and in the Maya regions of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, which very well may have been close to the Nephite heartlands. Cement was used in the later construction of buildings at such sites as Cerro de Texcotzingo, Tula, Palenque, Tikal, Copan, Uxmal, and Chichen Itza. Further, the use of cement is “a Maya habit, absent from non-Maya examples of corbelled vaulting from the southeastern United States to southern South America.”

– John Welch “A Steady Stream of Significant Recognitions” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, ed. D.W. Parry, D.C. Peterson, and J.W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), pp. 372-374:

Why would Joseph Smith unnecessarily risk alienating his readers by mentioning cement?


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