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Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:45 am
by I have a question
In a recent Interpreter posting (which is a simple copy and paste of something written in 2011) a chap called Mark Allen Wright attempts to draw parallels between the Maya and the Book of Mormon. Here's the abstract:
Mark Alan Wright describes a common type of ritual specialist among the Maya called a “daykeeper.” He discusses similarities and differences with descriptions of ritual specialists in the Book of Mormon, including those who used the Urim and Thummim, performed rituals of healing, experienced near-death episodes at the inauguration of their calling, kept track of calendars, mastered astronomy, and invoked God to bring rain. He finds several intriguing similarities, but also differences — the most important one being that the Nephites understood that the power to do all these things came from the God of Israel rather than the local pantheon.
https://journal.interpreterfoundation.o ... of-Mormon/

It feels like another exercise in "how could Joseph have known?". In similar vein to the Dales number crunching farce it fails just as badly. Here's one example...
Calendar Specialists

Another role of ritual specialists beyond that of healer is that of calendar priest. Modern daykeepers are concerned with keeping track of the solar calendar and knowing when to sow and when to reap, but more importantly, they keep track of the count of days relating to the 260-day sacred calendar and determining whether a particular day is auspicious or not. Knowing the omens of each day enables them to guide people as to when to perform particular rituals, when to bless their child, or knowing whether one’s day of birth was a good day or a bad day.21
It appears that there were calendar specialists in the Book of Mormon as well. In 3 Nephi 8:1-2 we read, “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—And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away” (emphasis added). The implication is that there was one particular individual who was responsible for the “reckoning of [their] time,” and this man was also a healer and a record keeper. This complex of roles mirrors that of Maya “daykeepers.”
But perhaps there's another explanation that Mark fails to acknowledge. The Native Americans living in the vicinity of the Smiths and with whom Joseph was familiar, and in whom he was very interested (he thought them Lamanites), also had "day keepers".
Winter counts (Lakota: waníyetu wówapi or waníyetu iyáwapi) are pictorial calendars or histories in which tribal records and events were recorded by Native Americans in North America. The Blackfeet, Mandan, Kiowa, Lakota, and other Plains tribes used winter counts extensively.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_count
Most winter counts have a single pictograph symbolizing each year, based on the most memorable event of that year. For Lakota people, years ran from first snowfall to first snowfall.[2] Kiowa winter counts usually feature two marks per year – one for winter and one marking the summer Sun Dance.[3] The glyphs representing significant events would be used as a reference that could be consulted regarding the order of the years. More extensive oral histories were passed down using the winter counts as guide posts.

Traditionally each band would choose a single keeper of the winter count. Until the 20th century, these keepers were always men. They would consult with tribal elders to reach a consensus for choosing a name for the year. The keeper chose his successor in recording the count, who was often a family member.[2]

Until the late 19th century, winter counts were recorded on buffalo hides. When buffalo became scarce, keepers resorted to using muslin, linen, or paper.[2] The annual pictographs began on either the left or right side of the drawing surface and could be run in lines, spirals, or serpentine patterns.
Given his interest in the indigenous populations existing in his area during the period leading up to the production of The Book of Mormon, I find it highly likely he was familiar with the "winter counts" and would have inserted such a tradition into a fictional book about Native American ancestors.

Articles like Wright's aren't scholarship, they're simple cherry picking exercises with heavy dollops confirmation bias.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:30 am
by Physics Guy
The coincidence of Mayans and Nephites combining the same "complex" of three "roles" in the office of timekeeper/historian/healer gets shaky if you think more carefully.

Keeping the calendar is not a separate role from historian at all, if the way of keeping the calendar is just to keep count of passed time.

Most of Jesus's miracles in the New Testament are healings, but working miracles in the name of Jesus is not exactly the same as being a healer. I don't know what Mayan healers did but if it was stuff like giving you drinks brewed from just the right plants then that's not much like Jesus's miraculous healings with a word or a touch. Or if the Nephite guys were giving out herbal medicine then that doesn't sound like something only just people could do.

Furthermore the Book of Mormon account does not say that these calendar specialists were also healers because that was part of their multi-role office. Instead it cites miracles—without mentioning that they were healings—just as proof that this particular record-keeper must have been honest. There is no implication in the Book of Mormon text that this record keeper held any official role as a healer.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:35 am
by honorentheos
The reason this chapter talks about someone (Nephi) keeping a record that has to be reckoned and may be innaccurate is the events are potentially traceable to events in the old world. It is describing what happened on the day Jesus died and it is supposed to be 33 years after his birth based in miracles observed in the new world. Smith is clearly hedging against this being contradicted by a discovery regarding the life of Jesus that would have zero consequence for Christianity since the Bible doesn't even agree on how many years Jesus ministered before his death, but would be fatal for a book claiming to date Jesus' age at 33 based on miracles and divine translation. Mormon is telling the reader if there are mistakes then they are the mistakes of men.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 6:15 am
by Physics Guy
Heh. Yeah, that's kind of a tell. I doubt that too many real ancient records go out of their way to admit that their dates might be wrong.

I'd be surprised if Smith were really worried about a discovery about Jesus's life. I suspect he just knew that Jesus's age was a confusing issue in the Bible and was hedging against different interpretations.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:44 am
by honorentheos
Probably so.

The premise in the article is silly. The Book of Mormon keeps a calendar that is fixed to two events: Lehi's migration from Jerusalem and the miraculous sign of Christ's birth. There's nothing Mayan about the Nephites calendar. There's nothing Mayan about the way they tracked or calculated time. They're practically using the Gregorian calendar, for crying out loud.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:03 am
by Physics Guy
Well, it was probably the default installation on the liahona. They'd have had to click through a lot of control panels to set up Mayan.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:31 am
by honorentheos
Nice! That also explains why the LGT gets its orthogonal directions wrong, too. Like a compass needing to be adjusted between magnetic and true north, if the Liahona was set for the area around the Red Sea and they lost the manual explaining how to change the settings during the boat ride over, well, that happens.

You should write an interpreter article. I've already peer reviewed it so you're set. They need it in their inbox by noon, Friday.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:44 am
by Physics Guy
I dunno, man. That might not be realistic for an amateur like me. These days you've got to be an expert in Bayesian inference to get into Interpreter.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:53 am
by Dr LOD
Recycling from 2011, Professor Wright has had some challenging health problems over the last year that he is just now beginning to recover from.
Most of his Religious writing is similar to this, bring out some gee whiz parallelisms. The apologists eat this up as proof, and says "see the church is true." But under more focus scrutiny just comes out as coincidences. His actual academic publishing is much better.

I could write a similar paper, making almost every point of two of the tribes that I am close to.


Some portions of his conclusion that are pertinent to the discussion, and better puts in how he feels into perspective. Basically saying that these are parallels that may have a connection.
Despite the many similarities between Nephite and traditional Maya ritual specialists mentioned above, it must be noted that many profound differences exist as well, as would be expected. The believing Nephites were annihilated before the end of the fourth century ad, and it stands to reason that their specific beliefs and practices perished with them. To be very clear, I am not suggesting that Maya ritual specialists were influenced by the Nephites; rather, Nephite religious practices may very well have been colored by the native cultures that surrounded them. Some may bristle at that suggestion, but as Latter-day Saints many of our common ritual practices are admittedly quite similar to those of other faiths and unquestionably influenced by them. For example, what we believe to be proper ritual attire — a white shirt and tie for men and a modest dress for women — did not originate with a revelation to Joseph Smith, nor did the sitting on pews in a chapel, the singing of opening and closing hymns, the offering of invocations and benedictions, the giving of sermons, or the administration of the emblems of Christ’s body and blood.Latter-day Saint worship services are likely far more similar to those of other modern churches than they would be to those of the ancient Nephites, and Nephite worship services would undoubtedly have been far more similar to those of their ancient Mesoamerica neighbors than to those of the modern Church. Jacob, among others, noted that it is not the specific ritual practice that matters, but the belief that underlies the practice. The Nephites performed the same rituals as the Jews in their observance of the Law of Moses, but Jacob asserted that the Jews looked beyond the mark and lost their understanding that the law pointed toward Christ (Jacob 4:14). The Nephites would have been at home among their Mesoamerican neighbors by offering sacrifices to take away spiritual afflictions, by fasting and praying over the sick, looking to a ritual specialist to make it rain, by using multiple complex calendars, and by receiving the light of revelation through clear stones. But the Nephites understood that the power to do all these things came from the God of Israel rather than the local pantheon.

https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org ... ook-Mormon

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:12 pm
by honorentheos
Physics Guy wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:44 am
I dunno, man. That might not be realistic for an amateur like me. These days you've got to be an expert in Bayesian inference to get into Interpreter.
That's a serious blow to the Interpreter. I guess they'll have to recycle another paper to keep the streak alive.

That said, with your physics credentials I think the Interpreter would be eager to receive a paper from you on the metaphysics of religious artifacts and their parallels in the language, practices and geospatial identity of Middle Eastern and Mesoamerican cultures prior to European colonization of the Americas.

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:57 pm
by Philo Sofee
honorentheos wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:12 pm
Physics Guy wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:44 am
I dunno, man. That might not be realistic for an amateur like me. These days you've got to be an expert in Bayesian inference to get into Interpreter.
That's a serious blow to the Interpreter. I guess they'll have to recycle another paper to keep the streak alive.

That said, with your physics credentials I think the Interpreter would be eager to receive a paper from you on the metaphysics of religious artifacts and their parallels in the language, practices and geospatial identity of Middle Eastern and Mesoamerican cultures prior to European colonization of the Americas.
Are ya kiddin me? They don't want facts and interpretation that doesn't support their spiritual "reality." :biggrin:

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:28 am
by Hagoth
what I want to know is when will the Interpreter publish something about the remarkable parallels between Joseph's seer stone and Sauron's Palantir? It's a point that is integral to the limited geography Middle Earth theory that places the Lord of the Rings events entirely in the American Heartland. Don't even get me started on the parallels between cottonwoods and Ents. Did you know the decedents of the Iriqouis down to this very day use a word for certain pests that sounds like "crow," but when spoken backwards by a native Hebrew speaker sounds remarkably like Ork?"

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:30 am
by Kishkumen
honorentheos wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:44 am
They're practically using the Gregorian calendar, for crying out loud.
:lol:

So true!

I mean, it would be one thing if there were a passage similar to the Nephite weights and measures (formerly coins) that points to some semblance of an independent system, but this is about as anachronistic as it gets. Oh, wait, loose translation. There were other figures in the original text, but Joseph translated them according to his own reckoning of time.

Did I pass the apologetics exam?

Re: Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:13 am
by Physics Guy
Surely it was a tightly controlled loose translation in which God caused figures to appear on the seer stone showing dates that Smith—pardon me, Joseph—would understand. Smith—dang it, Joseph—merely recorded them passively.

So maybe it was the seer stone, and not the liahona, on which Gregorian came installed by default. Even God has trouble changing basic settings.