Source:Echoes:Ch9:9:Material culture - cement

Material culture in the Book of Mormon: Cement

Material culture in the Book of Mormon: Cement

Cement is specifically discussed in Helaman 3:7–11. Nephite colonists from the land of Zarahemla who settled in the land northward in the first century BC are credited with becoming expert "in the working of cement," from which they constructed "houses in the which they did dwell" and built "many cities . . . of cement" (vv. 7, 9, 11). The Book of Mormon dates this significant technological advance to the year 46 BC. Here we have several testable facts: the Book of Mormon tells us that people in ancient America became very skillful in the use of cement at a precise historical time. No one in the nineteenth century could have known that cement, in fact, was extensively used in Mesoamerica beginning at about this time, the middle of the first century BC.40

A lime cement was in frequent use in southern Mesoamerica, especially in the lowland Maya area in the period after AD 200.41 However, central and Gulf Coast Mexico was the scene of the culmination of concrete engineering. Particularly at the vast ruins of Teotihuacn, near Mexico City, large constructions of this material can still be seen.42 (That area lies, of course, northward from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which most LDS scholars consider to be the dividing point between the Nephite lands southward and northward.) The earliest concrete known is from the Valley of Mexico and dates to perhaps two centuries BC. Chemically, early Mexican concrete was "much the same as present-day concrete."43 The fact that very little carbon is found in this cement "attests to the ability of these ancient peoples."44 These constructions date a little earlier than the reference in the book of Helaman; we may assume that the Nephites' expertness in cement work was taught to them by people who were already living in the "land northward" and had earlier experience in that technology.[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.