Historian, Educator, & General Authority
Brigham Young High School
Class of 1924
Brigham Young High School graduate, Milton Reed Hunter, was a noted Utah historian, educator, and religious leader. He served as a member of First Council of the Seventy for three decades, from 1945 until his death in 1975.
Milton Hunter was born on October 25, 1902, in Holden, Utah. His parents were John Edward Hunter and Margaret Teeples Hunter. He was a grandson of early Mormon pioneers who came to Utah from Scotland.
Hunter attended Brigham Young High School in Provo, Utah, where he graduated in 1924 with a Normal Diploma. He then attended Brigham Young University, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1929, followed by a masters degree in 1931.
He married Ferne Gardner in Logan, Utah in 1931, and the couple later had six children, and at the time of his death, ten grandchildren.
For several years Hunter worked as a public school administrator in Nevada and Utah. His first job in education was as principal of a junior high school in St. Thomas, Nevada. He later served as principal of several junior high schools in Leamington and Lake View, Utah. The Hunter family returned to Provo, Utah, where he taught LDS Seminary courses.
In 1935 while teaching in Provo, Hunter completed a Ph.D. in history, earned at the University of California - Berkeley. Although his professors in Berkeley encouraged him to take a position in his field of history at a major university, he chose to continue as a teacher of religion. He moved his young family to Logan, Utah, where he taught at the Institute of Religion. Hunter spent the next 17 years as a Seminary teacher.
Hunter said he had decided, while taking seminary at Brigham Young High School, that "if I ever had the opportunity I should like to be a seminary teacher and devote my time and my entire life to teaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." When the opportunity came, he said he gladly accepted, and in happiness undertook the work.
While teaching in Logan, Hunter was called to serve on the First Council of the Seventy; he was sustained April 6, 1945, and set apart May 23, 1945 by Pres. George F. Richards.
Assignments as a General Authority for the LDS Church took Elder Hunter to many parts of the world. During this time, he visited Mexico, Central America, and South America, where he eagerly took the opportunity to study archaeological sites, searching for confirmation of contexts within the Book of Mormon.
Hunter is widely known among LDS Church members as the co-author of the book Ancient America and the Book of Mormon with Thomas Stuart Ferguson. First published in 1950, this book focuses on the writings of an Aztec historian, Ixtlilxochitl, who in written accounts of Mesoamerican history related to newly-arrived Europeans, appears to corroborate a number of claims made in the Book of Mormon.
Hunter was a co-founder of the New World Archaeological Foundation, and he also served as national president of Delta Phi Kappa, the LDS returned-missionary fraternity.
During his career as a teacher and Church leader, Hunter wrote 23 books, principally on religious and history oriented topics.
His book Brigham Young, the Colonizer, published in 1940, was based on his Ph.D. dissertation. In this book, Hunter examined the life and colonization efforts of Brigham Young, second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Brigham Young was the first Governor of Utah, and is considered the founder and chief builder of the Intermountain West region of the United States. In fact, Brigham Young is widely recognized as one of the foremost colonizers and empire builders of all time.
The first half of Hunter's book stresses the personnel of Mormon colonization, methods of land settlements, and industries founded. The second half gives an account of the actual settling of the various valleys in the Far West.
Hunter wrote comparatively little about such valleys as the Salt Lake and the Weber, because he felt there were already numerous publications detailing the primary Mormon colonization areas. He focused, instead on the land settlement of the Utah Valley and some of the valleys inhabited by the Saints shortly thereafter, which illustrated classic examples of Mormon-directed colonization.
He wrote rather fully about valleys settled between 1847 and 1857, while areas settled between 1857 and 1877 are briefly summarized. As the book progresses, Hunter mentions the sincere and impelling faith in God that provided the motivating force of Mormon colonization.
His book, Utah in Her Western Setting, was enthusiastically received, and was soon adopted as a text in Utah's public schools.
However, a later revised edition, published as The Utah Story, was not as well received. Hunter steadily produced history and church-related articles, reviews, and papers.
Hunter's works were well researched and clearly written, but to the dismay of critics, they were written specifically for a Western regional audience, and from a strongly LDS point of view.
Contemporary Utah historians, including Dale Morgan and Brigham D. Madsen, were sometimes critical of Hunter's editing of material, his use of selected sources, and his avoidance of material that might be detrimental to the reputation of the LDS Church.
Historiographer Gary Topping, writing in 2003, felt that Hunter's narrowly focused cultural vision was clearly apparent in his work. Hunter's writings were fully imbued with the patriotism, the chin-up optimism, and a faith in progress held by Mormons and many other Americans during the World War II era, he noted. Topping felt that Hunter's books promoted unrestrained industrial development and exploitation of natural resources, and ignored cultural diversity in the region.
While his lifetime of achievements in education, history, and other pursuits were distinguished, Elder Hunter himself always considered his mission in the Church of greater importance.
"I have always loved the gospel of Jesus Christ more than anything else in life," he said. "I have continuously labored in the Church from my boyhood up, willingly and happily. The gospel and the opportunities to serve in the Church have been the greatest blessing and joy in my life."
Milton R. Hunter died on June 25, 1975, at Salt Lake City, of congestive heart failure and other complications. He was 72. Funeral services were held on June 30th in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Speakers were President Spencer W. Kimball, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve, and Elder S. Dilworth Young of the First Council of the Seventy.
Adapted from "Elder Milton R. Hunter Dies" in The Ensign, August 1975, and several other sources.
Partial List of Books by Milton Reed Hunter:
Brigham Young the Colonizer
Utah in Her Western Setting
Ancient America and the Book of Mormon
by Thomas Stuart Ferguson & Milton R. Hunter
A Guide to the Study of the Book of Mormon
by William E. Berrett & Milton R. Hunter
Christ in Ancient America:
Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, Volume I
Christ In Ancient America:
Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, Volume II
Great Civilizations and the Book of Mormon:
Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, Volume III
The Utah Story
Pearl of Great Price Commentary
Utah Indian Stories
The Gospel Through the Ages
Will a Man Rob God?
Gems of Thought
Evidences of the Veracity
Of the Book of Mormon
A 1954 Speech Delivered
By Elder Milton R. Hunter
First Council of the Seventy
Since the day that the Angel Moroni gave the gold plates to the Prophet Joseph Smith from which he translated and published the Book of Mormon, vast amounts of marvelous evidences have accumulated. These evidences sustain the divine authenticity and truthfulness of that holy ancient record.
Some of these men, no doubt, were merely misled; but the majority of them did what they did with evil intent. The result has been that all of their works have come to naught. The evil results of their efforts have vanished as the dew on earth's verdure vanishes in the presence of the rising sun.
Thus, the Book of Mormon stands today in higher repute than ever before in the history of the Church. None of its claims have been proven to be false. On the other hand, a vast accumulation of evidences -- some of which speak as it were from the dust and others from the ancient past -- continue to bear witness to the divinity of this sacred book and to its truthfulness.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, the Book of Mormon is the word of God, a divine and sacred book, preserved by the Lord and his holy angels to come forth in the latter days as a new witness to Jesus Christ and the gospel which He proclaimed.
I shall point out some of the astounding Book of Mormon evidences, listing them under three major headings: first, archaeological evidences; second, testimonies of sixteenth century Indian historians; and third, writings of Catholic padres of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which writers secured their information firsthand from the Indians.
American archaeology had its birth shortly before the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. John Lloyd Stephens had visited Guatemala, Honduras, and Yucatan, had come back to the United States, and had written a glowing report of the beautiful temples, pyramids, and other archaeological remains which dotted the jungles of Central America and Mexico. (John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (1841): Incidents of travel in Yucatan (1843).)
From the time of the publishing of Stephens' books forward, the governments of Mexico, Central America, and portions of South America, as well as archaeological organizations from the United States and her neighbors to the south, have spent vast amounts of money, and have exerted an untold amount of effort at numerous of these archaeological sites.
Also, considerable work has been done in reconstructing the ancient buildings. In reconstructing these marvelous pyramids, temples, and other archaeological ruins, the archaeologists and their helpers have placed the stones as far as possible back as they were when the ancient Americans first erected the buildings.
The result is that today the country from north of Mexico City southward to Chile is literally dotted with numerous archaeological sites, many of which have been excavated by archaeologists.
Before proceeding further, I desire to point out, definitely, that the majority of the archaeological ruins that have been excavated postdate Book of Mormon times, and some of them were originally erected several hundred years following the close of Nephite history.
Then you may ask, "What evidence do these ancient ruins give to sustain the Book of Mormon?"
I shall answer as follows: The Book of Mormon claims that great civilizations lived in ancient America. In fact, that sacred record points out that three separate peoples came to America in ancient times and established their civilizations. These peoples were known as Jaredites, Nephites, and Mulekites.
The best archaeologists at the present time claim that many of the archaeological remains that have been excavated were built over earlier temples, pyramids, and other buildings, connoting earlier civilizations; and in many respects these earlier peoples were more highly developed, or more civilized, than were the people who erected the buildings of the archaeological remains that are now extant; for example, Miguel Covarrubias, speaking the views of the Mexican archaeologists, places the La Venta site within the period of 200 B. C. to 300 A. D.
To quote from this writer:
Everywhere there are archaeological treasures that lie hidden in the Jungles and under the rich soil of southern Vera Cruz, burial mounds and pyramids, masterfully carved colossal monuments of basalt, splendid statuettes of precious jade, and sensitively modeled figurines of clay all of an unprecedented, high artistic quality. Latter-day Saints know that the three oldest "native American" high cultures were the Jaredite, Nephite, and Mulekite cultures, the latter two fitting well within the La Venta period.
The tantalizing presence of a great and remote past in what is now uninhabited, impenetrable jungle is all the more puzzling because archaeologists now agree that many of these artistic masterpieces date back to the beginnings of the Christian era.
Appearing suddenly out of nowhere in a state of full development, they constitute a culture that seems to have been the root, the mother culture, from which the latter and better-known (Maya, Totonac, Zapotec, etc.) cultures sprang.
This oldest of native American high cultures is also the newest, since it was "discovered" only a few years ago and still awaits exhaustive scientific study. (Miguel Covarrubias, Mexico South-The Isthmus of Tehuantepec (1946), pp. 79-80.)
The La Venta archaeological site, located near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, was excavated by Dr. Matthew W. Stirling in 1939-1940. He is credited with dating this culture from 450 B.C. to 600 A. D. (A. Hyatt Verrill, Americas' Ancient Civilizations (1953). p. 100.)
He made an archaeological find there of great importance, a carving of a statue of a man which reminds one of the usual portrayal of "Uncle Sam." (Matthew W. Stirling, National Geographic Magazine (Sept., 1940), p. 327; Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 133-135, 173.)
This figure had a full flowing beard and an aquiline nose, constituting a good representation of a Hebrew priest. Covarrubias described the figure as one representing a person having " . . . surprising pronounced Semitic features." (Covarrubias, op cit., p. 90.)
Stirling points out that the figure is depicted as wearing ". . . shoes with odd, pointed, upturned toes." (Stirling, op cit., p. 327.) Neither the shoes nor the face and flowing beard of "Uncle Sam" could have been a representation of a red-skinned Indian; (Sylvanus G. Morley, The Ancient Maya, p. 21, states: "The Maya are not a hairy people. The men either have no beards and moustaches at all, or only very meager, sparse ones, while other parts of their body have less hair than is the case of American whites." The same facts hold true with the majority of Indians.) but, as stated, it strongly resembles a Jewish priest of pre-Christian times.
Dr. Stirling also found in southwestern Mexico at Izapa a stone covered with carvings which have been interpreted by Dr. M. Wells Jakeman of Brigham Young University as a representation of Lehi's dream of the "Tree of Life," recorded in 1 Nephi 8:1-38.
To quote Dr. Jakeman:
. . . the resemblance of this sculpture to the Book of Mormon account cannot be accidental. . . . It practically establishes an historical connection . . . between the ancient Central American priests responsible for the sculpture and the Lehi people of the Book of Mormon! Of special interest to Latter-day Saints is the temple of Quetzalcoatl, located at Teotihuacán, north of Mexico City. This temple is decorated with serpents' heads, surrounded with quetzal feathers. Quetzal is the name of a beautiful bird with resplendent long, green feathers, found mainly in Guatemala and Honduras. (Hunter and Ferguson, op. cit., pp. 199, 195-222.) Coatl is the ancient Mexican word for serpent. (Ibid., 199; Verrill. 101-111.)
Indeed, the accurate and detailed knowledge of Lehi's vision. . . displayed by these priests in this sculpture, can be explained only by their identification as an actual group of the Lehi people. (M. Wells Jakeman, "An Unusual Tree of Life Sculpture from Ancient Central America" Bulletin of University Archaeological Society (March, 1953), pp. 26-49.)
The Book of Mormon gives a beautiful account of Christ's appearance to the Nephites following his crucifixion and resurrection. (3 Nephi, chapters 11 to 28, pp. 420-453.) To them he gave the true gospel plan of salvation, and the people lived in almost perfect righteousness for over two hundred years. Certainly Christ's visit constituted one of the greatest events, if not the greatest, that transpired in ancient America.
Following the apostasy of the Nephites and the Lamanites from the true religion of the Master, and the extermination of the Nephite civilization (about 400 A. D.), the Lamanites or Indians retained in their traditions a memory of the appearance of the resurrected Savior to their forefathers. This white-bearded God, according to one tradition, came to the people through the air, and as he descended to earth the sunrays sparkled on his beautiful white body and clothing.
The quetzal bird as it flew through the air reminded the people of the glorious beauty and radiant splendor of the white-bearded God who had appeared to their ancestors; and so they added a pagan touch to that memorable event by selecting the most beautiful and highly prized bird of the New World, the quetzal, as a symbol of the white God, or Jesus Christ.
Also, coatl, or serpent, was an ancient symbol of Israel's Anointed One. Thus, the Indians commemorated their white- bearded God with the symbol of "Quetzal-bird serpent" or Quetzalcoatl. (Geore C. Vaillant, Aztecs of Mexico, p. 52; Bancroft, Native Races, vol. 2, p. 511 ff.; Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14- 15; Maurice H. Farbridge, Studies in Biblical and Semitic Symbolism, p. 25; Hunter and Ferguson, op. cit., pp. 195-222; Verrill, op. cit., p. 67.)
Traditions existed among practically every American Indian tribe, especially the more civilized peoples of Peru, Central America, Guatemala, Yucatan, and Mexico, to the effect that their ancestors were visited by a white-bearded God, who gave them their culture, their civilization, and their religion, and who promised that someday he would return to their descendants.
These traditions account for the easy conquest of Mexico and Peru; but, more important, they all bear witness to Christ's appearance to the ancient Americans, as accounted in the Book of Mormon.
Also, of special interest to members of the Church of Jesus Christ are the beautiful and famous archaeological ruins in Yucatan, especially those at Chichén, Itz, Uxmal, and Kabah. The massive pyramids, temples, and other important structures were erected during the tenth century A.D., constituting the workmanship of the New Mayan Empire.
Those Mayas of Yucatan, as had the Toltecs of Teotihuacán, worshiped the white-bearded God, whom they called Kukulcan. They carved motifs to Kukulcan on their buildings similar to those at Teotihuacán and at other Mexican sites, i.e., the plumed serpent. (Ibid., p. 101 ff.) In fact, the plumed serpent is extensively used in decorating all of their buildings.
Also, the Mayas decorated their buildings with another motif or symbol-that of a bearded white man wearing quetzal feathers. The latter carvings represented priests of Kukulcan (Quetzalcoatl), or probably Kukulcan himself. They are definitely not of Indian type but are of Hebraic type.
To quote Theodore Arthur Willard:
An interesting sidelight . . . is the distinctly Semitic cast of countenance of some of the ancient sculptures and murals found at Chichén Itz and in other old Maya cities. The dignity of face and serene poise of those carved or painted likenesses is strikingly Hebraic. (Theodore Arthur Willard, The City of the Sacred Well, p. 36.)The marvelous archaeological finds at Palenque in the Usumacinta Valley -- especially the cross and the Egyptian-type burials, the famous ruins of the Old Mayan Empire in Honduras and Guatemala -- especially those at Copan, Uaxactún, and Quirigu, all bear testimony to the Book of Mormon's claims that high civilizations lived in ancient America.
The late Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley maintained that the Maya history had its beginning as early as 300 B. C. (Morley, op. cit., p. 14) and that pre-Maya history extends back to about 3000 B. C. (Ibid., pp. 38, 44.) The former date would reach in the earlier part of Nephite history, and the latter would extend to the beginnings of Jaredite history.
When one considers all of the wonderful archaeological remains in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Central America, and those of South America, one comes to the conclusion that those of the northern hemisphere do not surpass the marvelous archaeological ruins found in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia. Numerous buildings have been excavated and some of them reconstructed. Thousands of graves have been opened and from them have been taken the most beautiful and artistic workings in gold, silver, copper, and precious stones of various kinds. (Verrill. op. cit., 183-195.)
Also, from those graves have been taken the most finely woven, beautiful laces, the most gorgeous wool and cotton cloths, and "fine-twined linen." In fact, various archaeologists maintain that the world has known no races of people who surpassed the predecessors of the Inca civilization in these various handicrafts.
Some of them maintain that the earliest South American civilization dates as far back as 3000 B.C.; (Ibid., pp. 174-175, 183, 20.).
For example, A. Hyatt Verrill states:
Despite the high attainment in art, engineering, astronomy and government which were reached by the Aztecs, the Incas, the Mayas and others, in a way these unknown, forgotten races of South America were more remarkable, and were unquestionably far more ancient. From the Chibcha district in Colombia to northern Chile, numerous races rose to a civilized state, vanished and were forgotten centuries before the first Montezuma or the first Inca saw the light of day. (Ibid., p. 148.)As a general rule, when we find a race excelling in some one art or occupation we find the people deficient in some other art or industry, but the Chimus appear to have been masters of all trades. Their textiles, especially their laces, were marvelous examples of weaving, and their mosaic and mother-of-pearl work was exquisite.
Many specimens of these are truly wonderful examples of this highly developed art. There are vases, cups, ceremonial utensils, ear plugs, breastplates, wooden utensils, objects made of clay and of bone that are highly and most artistically embellished with mosaic inlay of mother-of-pearl, the red Spondylus shell, colored stone and precious metals.
Many of their robes and ponchos of magnificent textiles are completely covered with ornaments of gold, silver, mother-of-pearl and sections of bright colored sea shells arranged in charming patterns so as to give the effect of a mosaic cloth.
They were also highly skilled wood carvers and there is scarcely a wooden object that is not handsomely carved. They had developed a unique method of weaving feathers into cloth thus producing feather robes, tunics, head coverings, etc., that are gorgeous in color and design.
Even in their ordinary metal work the Chimus exhibited the greatest skill and a most artistic taste. Metals were cast, embossed, etched, engraved, pressed, hammered, spun or built up into innumerable forms by welding and soldering. In fact, every means of working metals known to modern artisans was employed by the Chimus. (Ibid., pp. 154-157)
It is to be recalled that the Book of Mormon history is confined to the period between the building of the Tower of Babel and 421 A. D., the period during which the ancient Americans made their greatest achievements in the various handicrafts as described by Mr. Verrill.
Also, we should recall that the Book of Mormon made such claims as follows:
[The Jaredites had] . . . all manner of fruit, and of rain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things. (Ether 9:17) Again we read:
[The Nephites and Mulekites also had an abundance] . . . of all things whatsoever they stood in need -- and abundance of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth. (Alma 1:29; see 4:6.)
And behold, there was all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind; and there were also curious workmen, who did work all kinds of ore and did refine it; and thus they did become rich. Certainly all of these archaeological remains fit well with the Book of Mormon claims regarding the Jaredites Nephite, and Mulekite civilizations; thus archaeology speaks as it were from the dust, verifying the Book of Mormon to be true -- to be the word of God.
Behold their women did toil and spin, and did make all manner of cloth, of fine-twined linen and cloth of every kind, to clothe their nakedness.(Helaman 6:11, 13; see Mosiah 10:5.)
The second evidences verifying the Book of Mormon which I shall discuss are the writings of the sixteenth century Indian historians.
When the Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic padres were conquering Mexico and Yucatan, they found that the Indians had many books -- large libraries. Many of the Indians knew how to read and write and were more civilized than were their conquerors from Europe.
In order to destroy as far as possible the natives' civilization and do away with what the Catholic fathers termed "the Indians' wicked paganism," the Catholic padres burned all of the books that they could find, completely destroying the libraries. This terrible act of vandalism resulted in a terrific loss to our understanding of the history of the Indians and their ancestors.
It was fortunate, however, that three or four excellent manuscripts written by Indian historians during the first century of their contact with the Spaniards escaped the ruthless destruction. These writings have been translated into English during the past several years.
One of these important writings was produced in 1554, in the Quiché-Maya Indian language of Guatemala, and ". . . signed by the kings and dignitaries of the Quiché court." (Title of the Lords of Totonicap n, p. 164.) It is known as the Title of the Lords of Totonicap N.
At the request of the Quiché Indians, Dionisio Jose Chonay, a Catholic priest, translated the document from the Quiché language into Spanish in 1834.
It was first translated into English by Delia Goetz and published in 1953. However, Dr. M. Wells Jakeman published in English extracts from the Spanish version in 1945, this being the first time that any of this work had appeared in English. The Totonicap N. claims that the ancestors of the Quiché-Mayas
. . . came from the other part of the ocean, from where the sun rises, a place called Pa Tul N, Pa Civ N [meaning Bountiful] . . . and they came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel, of the same language and the same customs . . . they were sons of Abraham and Jacob. (Ibid., pp. 169-170.)And then the authors of Totonicap N. close their account as follows:
Now on the twenty-eighth of September of 1554 we sign this attestation in which we have written that which by tradition our ancestors told us, who came from the other part of the sea, from Civan-Tulan, bordering on Babylonia. (Ibid., p. 184; Hunter and Ferguson, op. cit., pp. 8, 56- 64, 70, 80-84, 250.)These statements are all in perfect agreement with the claims made in the Book of Mormon. (1 Nephi 17:40) We should recall that Nephi and his brethren built their ship at a place which they named Bountiful which was located on the southeastern shores of Arabia or "bordering on Babylonia"; and from that place they set sail for America. (Ibid., 17:5-7)
The Totonicap N. also claims that God gave to their original prophet-leader a peculiar instrument, called Giron-Gagal, through the power of which the people were guided to their now home. (Totonicap n, op cit., p. 170) One is reminded of the Liahona which was given by the Lord to Father Lehi. (1 Nephi 16:10; Alma 37:38-41.)
Another Quiché-Maya book, the Popol Vuh, much more detailed than Totonicap N, was written between 1554 and 1558 A.D. In its present printed form, it is a book containing over two hundred pages. It might be termed the Lamanite account of their history and religion, as the Book of Mormon is the Nephite account.
Regarding this book, Brasseur de Bourbourg wrote:
The Popol Vuh appears to have been written, in part, from memory, following ancient originals, and in part, copied from the sacred books of the Quiches . . . This manuscript . . . is written in a Quiché of great elegance, and the author must have been one of the princes of the royal family, who composed it a few years after the arrival of the Spaniards, when all of their ancient books were disappearing. (Brassuer de Bourbourg, cited in Popol Vuh, p. 21.)The Popol Vuh was first translated into English by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus G. Morley and published in 1950.
In this book, the Quiché-Maya Indians of Guatemala give an account of the creation of the world, (Popol Vuh, pp. 81-90.) of the origin of man, (Ibid., pp. 86-89.) of the flood, (Ibid., p. 90.) of the confusion of tongues, (Ibid., p. 36.) and of the coming of their ancestors across the sea from the East. (Ibid., pp. 18, 79-80.)
It also mentions the fact that the colonizers were guided to their new home by a peculiar instrument, called Pizom-Gagal (Ibid., p. 205.) [the Liahona]. Thus the Popol Vuh in many items sustains the teachings of the more beautiful and complete account found in the Book of Mormon.
A third book written by the Indians of Guatemala, The Annals of the Cakchiquels, also bears witness to the teachings of the Book of Mormon. The writers, the Cakchiquel Indians, were a branch of the Quiché-Mayas.
I shall quote from this writing:
I shall write the stories of our first fathers and grandfathers . . . that from the other side of the sea we came to the place called Tulan [Bountiful] . . . The greatest book of the Indian writings of the sixteenth century is the Works of Ixtlilxochitl, written about 1600 A. D. by an Aztec prince named Ixtlilxochitl who lived near the City of Mexico. (Hunter and Ferguson, op cit., pp. 1-450.)
Thus, then we were four families who arrived at Tulan, we the Cakchiquel people, oh, our sons! so they told us. (The Annals of the Cakchiquels (tr. from Cakchiquel-Maya into Eng. by Adrian Recinos and Delia Goetz, 1953), pp. 43-44.)
This Indian writer claimed that ancient America was settled by three distinctive groups of people. The first settlers, termed the Ancient Ones, the Giants, or the First Tultecs, he claimed came from the Tower of Babel at the time of the confounding of tongues. They came to this land across the sea from the East. Many details of their history are given by Ixtlilxochitl which correspond closely to the Jaredite history in the Book of Ether.
The second group of settlers Ixtlilxochitl called the Tultecs. His account of these people, although much briefer, corresponds very closely to the account given in the Book of Mormon of the Nephites, event after event agreeing in the principal points. He even tells of the last great wars between the two people with dates almost identical with those recorded in the Book of Mormon.
The third people, whom Ixtlilxochitl called Olmecs and who are identified as the Mulekites, exterminated the last of the first colonizers. This event reminds one of Coriantumr, the last Jaredite, who lived for nine months with the Mulekites before his death.
Ixtlilxochitl even tells of the merging together of the Tultecs and Olmecs (Nephites and Mulekites) and of the dominance of the Tultecs' culture, which is in complete agreement with the Book of Mormon account.
Throughout the entire Works of Ixtlilxochitl, point after point, both in history and doctrine, are reasonably comparable to the historical events and teachings of the Book of Mormon.
Merely for the purpose of illustration, I shall give one quotation from Ixtlilxochitl. He tells of the terrific destruction that took place at the time of Christ's crucifixion, as follows:
It was 166 years since they had adjusted their years and times with the equinox, and 270 since the Ancient Ones had been destroyed, when the sun and the moon eclipsed, and the earth trembled, and the rocks broke, and many other things and signs took place . . . This happened in the year of ce Calli, which, adjusting this count with ours, comes to be at the same time when Christ our Lord suffered, and they say it happened during the first days of the year. (Works of Ixtlilxochitl, in Hunter and Ferguson, Ibid., p. 190.)We recall that in 3 Nephi it is written:
And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. (3 Nephi 8:5 ff.)And then the Book of Mormon account continues with a description of the terrific destruction that took place while Christ hanged on the cross and the intense darkness which prevailed for three days while the Master's in the tomb.
Observe that the Book of Mormon gives the time of this event as the first month of the year and the fourth day of the month and during the period of Christ's crucifixion while Ixtlilxochitl states ". . . at the same time when Christ our Lord suffered, . . . during the first days of the year."
There is no way under heaven whereby this Indian could have known such facts except through direct revelation from the Lord or from records which were in his possession. He claimed the latter.
Some authors are prone to discredit the writings of Ixtlilxochitl and the other Indian historians on the grounds that they could have been influenced by the Spanish Catholic priests.
It is a fact of great significance, however, that these Indian writers recorded numerous historical facts, as well as items pertaining to the social and religious teachings and customs of their ancestors, of which the Catholic padres could have had no knowledge save only through possessing the Book of Mormon or comparable records.
Such writings the Catholic priests did not have; but the Indians did possess records and traditions of their ancestors, which resulted in their writings comparing so favorably with the Book of Mormon.
The third item I suggested that I would discuss, is the writings of the sixteenth century Catholic missionaries who got their information directly from the Indians.
One of the most important of these writers was Bernardino de Sahagun. He lived in Mexico from 1529 to 1590 A.D. and produced his scholarly work in Aztec in the latter part of the sixteenth century. (Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia de Las Cosas de Nueva Espana, cited in Hunter and Ferguson, op. cit., pp. 30- 31.)
It is one of the most reliable and comprehensive reports concerning the ancients of Middle America. It was first published in Spanish in 1829, and since then portions of it have been published in English.
Concerning the origin of these peoples, the report the old men [of central Mexico] give is that they came by sea . . . in some wooden boats. . . . But it is conjectured by a report found among all these natives that they came from seven caves, and that these seven caves are the seven ships or galleys in which the first settlers of this land came, . . . Recall the Jaredite history which tells that the forefathers crossed the ocean in eight barges in search of.... . the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands of the earth." (See Ether 1:42, 2:7, 15; 6:5, 12.)
The people first . . . came coasting along the coast disembarking in the port of Panuco, which they called Panco, which means "place where those arrived who crossed the water." This people came in search of the terrestrial paradise, and they had as a family name Tamoanchan, which means "we are looking for our home." (Ibid.)
Sahagun's writings give numerous proofs which sustain the teachings and history of the Book of Mormon, but time will not permit giving more of them here.
Bishop Bartholomé de Las Casas, a prominent Catholic missionary, writing in 1552-1553, said of the Indians of Guatemala that
. . . they had among them information of the flood and of the end of the world,. . . and so they believe that another Butic is about to come which is another flood and judgment, not of water, but of fire which they, say will be the end of the world. . . (Bartolomé de Las Casas, Apologetica Historia de las Indias, Cap. CCXXXV.)Las Casas found an abundance of teachings among the Indians which resembled Christian doctrine, and so he concluded that the devil had arrived in America ahead of the Christians and implanted in the minds and hearts of the natives many teachings closely akin to Christianity. (Hunter and Ferguson, op. cit., p. 222)
Since the Book of Mormon peoples had a thorough knowledge of the gospel, some of the divine truths would naturally be handed down from age to age, probably in altered forms.
Diego de Landa, a prominent Spanish missionary in Yucatan, writing in about 1556, says that, according to the Mayas, ". . . the world was destroyed by a deluge." (Diego de Landa, Relación de las cosas de Yucatan (Eng. tr. by Alfred M. Tozzer, 1941), p. 93.)
He also stated:
Some of the older people of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this land was occupied by a race of people who came from the East and whom God had delivered. . . . If this were true, it necessarily follows that all the inhabitants of the Indies are descendants of the Jews. (Ibid., p. 16.)Juan de Torquemada, a Spanish missionary in Mexico whose book was first published in Spain in 1613 A. D., declared that ". . . the ancients . . . put lie. [wrote or inscribed] many things in two columns, one of metal, and another of brick or stone." Juan de Torquemada, Monarquia Indiana, Tomo I, p. 255.)
It should be recalled that the Nephites inscribed their history on metal plates.
Harold Gladwin quotes Torquemada's description of the clothing worn by the Olmecs and then comments that the description of the garb reminds one ". . . of the robes of Biblical times in Palestine." (Harold S. Gladwin, Men out of Asia (1947, p. 305.)
I have given some strong evidence from archaeology, from Indian historians of the sixteenth century, and from Catholic padres of the sixteenth century, which all corroborates claims made by the Book of Mormon.
However, the greatest testimony we have of the Book of Mormon is the book itself, especially Moroni's testimony and admonition, which reads as follows:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4)Thousands of Latter-day Saints have put that exhortation to the test and know as they know that they are alive that the Book of Mormon is true. When I was a child and first heard the stories of the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost touched my heart and bore a sweet witness to it of the divine authenticity of that ancient record.
I knew then as I knew that I was alive that the Book of Mormon is true, is divine, is a sacred record of the inhabitants of ancient America.
As I grew older, I read the book many times, and each time the same sweet testimony came into my heart, sometimes coming so forcefully that I was filled with emotion to the extent that tears ran down my cheeks.
As I read the Book of Mormon now, the Holy Ghost still bears testimony to me that it is the word of God.
I know that the Book of Mormon is one of the greatest books in the world. It contains the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews and to the Gentiles. It is a new witness to Christ and the great work which He performed.
I challenge any honest man or woman in the world to put Moroni's exhortation to the test; and I promise that if it is done with real intent, having a true desire to receive a testimony, and having faith in Christ, God will reveal through the Holy Ghost a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to each one.
May God bless the honest in heart throughout the entire world that they will study the Book of Mormon and receive a testimony; and may He bless the members of the Church that we will study this sacred book and live in accordance with its teachings, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
October 1954, LDS General Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah