John Lund book review by Steve Carr
Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, John L. Lund, published by The Communications Company, ©2007, $20.00.
Simply put, this is one of the best treatises concerning Book of Mormon cultural, geography, and historical considerations that has emerged in the last 10+ years. Dr. John Lund has traveled much and led many tours to the lands comprising Mesoamerica. He is also a much-in-demand speaker and Church Education System instructor. Those who have heard him lecture and teach know him to be a rapid-fire instructor; so, one of the nice things about his book is that a reader can pause, reread a passage, and think some more about it without having John’s discussion (soliloquy) run far beyond the reader’s immediate comprehension.
John subscribes to the idea of “The Spirit of Place” concept of geography. Although visitors to Palestine may not always walk where Jesus walked, they get the feeling of the “spirit of the place(s)” where Biblical events took place or likely took place. Similarly, one can obtain the “spirit of place” of Book of Mormon lands in hundreds of locations in Mesoamerica – places where, if certain events may not have actually occurred, they easily could have and very likely did. This book definitely lends itself to “The Spirit of Place” in Mesoamerica; in fact, this topic is the substance of the first chapter.
Dr. Lund discusses Josephs Smith’s comments that suggest he felt the Book of Mormon events took place in Mesoamerica. John then works into the concept of spatial relationships mentioned in the Book of Mormon and how we can interpret them into the actual landscape of southern Mexico and Guatemala. He also talks about the evidences of high civilizations in Mesoamerica and lost languages and other knowledge.
The three migrations detailed in the Book of Mormon and their relationship to what is known or suspected of the Olmec and Maya civilizations are topics of great interest. The demographics of these various groups are discussed fully, along with the culture of war, a topic that is foremost among the indigenous peoples as well as Book of Mormon inhabitants.
Dr. Lund discussed the concept and understanding of Quetzalcoatl, as well as a comparison of the Popol Vuh with the Book of Ether. New World calendar systems and climatic situations are considered. He also delves into a number of concerns regarding the strife between the evolutionist and the diffusionist; horses in the Americas; and various kinds of agricultural crops.
At the conclusion of the text there is a list of credits for the numerous illustrations, maps, and photographs. Dr. Lund has drawn heavily from various Mesoamerican museums and illustrations in various places. His use of endnotes is impressive and quite complete. Although an index is missing, each of the chapter headings in the Table of Contents prepares the reader for what is included therein. Some readers might be a little put off by the number of typographical errors and misspellings, but these do not at all detract from the importance and value of the volume.
He closes with why there is a need for another testament of the Savior, and provides his own personal insight into what the Bible and Book of Mormon have to say and why they are equally important to a person’s spiritual well-being. As mentioned in the first paragraph, those who have read this book consider it one of the most valuable of all the volumes on their bookshelves pertaining to the Book of Mormon – culturally, historically, and especially spiritually.
Reviewed by Stephen L. Carr
BMAF Vice-President, Research and Publications