Source:Echoes:Ch9:4:Pattern of cultural history

The Pattern of Cultural History in the New World

The Pattern of Cultural History in the New World

The picture presented in the Book of Mormon of changes in peoples and cultures over time matches in major respects what we now know about the course of history in Mesoamerica. But this picture, which scientists and scholars have slowly built up from archaeology and related fields of expert study, was totally unknown in 1830. Not even the best-informed scholars in the world at that time, let alone Joseph Smith, had any notion of a pattern behind ancient American history that would come to light over a century later.

An 1833 book by Josiah Priest, who was as much an expert on American prehistory as anyone at the time (which isn't saying much), expressed the opinion that not only "Asiatic nations" but also "Polynesians, Malays, Australasians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Israelites, Tartars, Scandinavians, Danes, Norwegians, Welch, and Scotch" groups had reached the Americas.12 Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell, the savant to whom Martin Harris took his sample of Nephite writing before he carried it to Professor Charles Anthon in New York City, had published the opinion that at least Malay, Tartar, and Scandinavian voyagers had reached America.13 But neither Mitchell nor Priest had any notion of history as it related to the random finds of ancient objects in America, the only "archaeological" evidence then known. After all, no systematic method existed at that time for dating this continent's "antiquities." Archaeologists would not be able to produce even an orderly guess about the structure of Amerindian history until nearly another century had passed.[1]


  1. 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, references silently removed—consult original for citations.