View the full PDF (420+ pages)View PDF

How would Joseph Smith know even the basic facts about the exotic modes of social and economic organization that prevailed in Mesoamerican civilization?

The Book of Mormon contains political and economic features of ancient civilizations (including Mesoamerica) that were unknown in Joseph Smith’s time. 

John W. Sorenson explains:

Virtually every institution or event involving government and wealth among the Nephites and Lamanites can be matched with parallels from descriptions of the political economy of societies in Mesoamerica. For example, the following occur in Mesoamerican history: (1) a seemingly autocratic ruler like King Noah ended up being overthrown and slain by his own people, who tolerated his excesses only up to a certain point; (2) disagreements and dissensions sapped the unity of political communities so that rivals could seize power; (3) alliances among the ruling elites in rival societies were forged, often by marriage (as in King Lamoni’s offer of a bride to Ammon and Amalickiah’s taking the widowed Lamanite queen as his wife), as a means to bolster local power and prestige and promote wealth-generating trade relations; and (4) when rebels made trouble, the only sure way for rulers to respond was for the upstarts to be “hewn down” with the sword (see Alma 51:19; compare Moroni1’s dire threat in Alma 60:27–30). Practically every facet of political life (with its entwined economic, religious, and military connections)38 described in the Book of Mormon account has close parallels in ancient Mesoamerican life.

Nothing Joseph Smith could have known in his day about “the Indians” or the biblical Israelites would have prepared him to dictate such a consistent picture of Nephite and Lamanite government and society as he actually did. Only in recent decades have scholars learned enough to describe these ancient Mesoamerican power mechanisms that prove to have been so much like what the Book of Mormon portrays.

John W. Sorenson, “How Could Joseph Smith Write So Accurately about Ancient American Civilization?,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 9

How did Joseph Smith manage to accurately portray an ancient civilization like this? Where would he have got all his information from?


Add a Question
Thank you for your submission