18. What Are the Towers Referred to in the Book of Mormon?
18. What Are the Towers Referred to in the Book of Mormon?
Copyright © 2015 by Jerry L. Ainsworth
King Benjamin gave his farewell address from the top of a tower. In some drawings of this event, these structures are depicted as being made of wood, similar to a modern forest ranger lookout post. I believe that these towers are not structures of wood but are made of stone and/or brick. Indeed, these towers are pyramids.
The Great Tower
The Book of Mormon contains three references to the “great tower”:
Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam. (Mosiah 28:17)
And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews. (Ether 1:3)
Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered. (Ether 1:33)
The book of Genesis in the Old Testament describes the construction materials used in this great tower:
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:3–4)
Towers in Mesoamerica
Structures made of brick, stone, and slime (mortar) were built at such locations as Cholula and Xochitictl in the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, Mexico. These structures are made of brick (adobes), stones, and mortar. It appears that anciently, the term “tower” referred to a large towering structure made of brick and/or stone.
I believe that the Book of Mormon term “tower” refers to similarly large structures made of brick and/or of stone—structures we currently refer to as pyramids.
The Book of Mormon indicates that these towers were present throughout the land in all the cities. Alma writes the following about Captain Moroni:
And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites. (Alma 46:36; emphasis added)
If I am correct about the Peten area of Guatemala and the southern part of Mexico being the land of Zarahemla, then this scripture is in concert with those lands. There are indeed pyramids in almost every part of that land. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stone and brick pyramids throughout this area of Mesoamerica.
It appears the towers, or at least some of them, were very tall. They were so tall that a person could view all of the land from the top of the towers. Indeed, this appears to be one of their primary functions:
And it came to pass that he built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. (Mosiah 11:12; emphasis added)
And now Limhi had discovered them from the tower, even all their preparations for war did he discover; therefore he gathered his people together, and laid wait for them in the fields and in the forests. (Mosiah 20:8; emphasis added)
King Benjamin also appears to have used a pyramid to address his people:
And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;
For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them.
And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words. (Mosiah 2:6–8; emphasis added)
According to Alma, even the Lamanites built towers from which they periodically addressed their citizens:
And now it came to pass that, as soon as Amalickiah had obtained the kingdom he began to inspire the hearts of the Lamanites against the people of Nephi; yea, he did appoint men to speak unto the Lamanites from their towers, against the Nephites. (Alma 48:1; emphasis added)
Constructed Near Temples
Mosiah 19:5 confirms that towers were built near temples: “And it came to pass that he fought with the king; and when the king saw that he was about to overpower him, he fled and ran and got upon the tower which was near the temple.”
Built on Hilltops
In Mosiah, we are told about one additional feature of these towers. They were frequently built on the top of a hill—which makes sense for watchtowers:
And it came to pass that he caused many buildings to be built in the land Shilom; and he caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom, which had been a resort for the children of Nephi at the time they fled out of the land; and thus he did do with the riches which he obtained by the taxation of his people. (Mosiah 11:13; emphasis added)
Used for Prayer
One additional function of these towers appears to have been for prayer. In Helaman 7, we read the following:
And behold, now it came to pass that it was upon a tower, which was in the garden of Nephi, which was by the highway which led to the chief market, which was in the city of Zarahemla; therefore, Nephi had bowed himself upon the tower which was in his garden, which tower was also near unto the garden gate by which led the highway.
And it came to pass that there were certain men passing by and saw Nephi as he was pouring out his soul unto God upon the tower; and they ran and told the people what they had seen, and the people came together in multitudes that they might know the cause of so great mourning for the wickedness of the people.
And now, when Nephi arose he beheld the multitudes of people who had gathered together.
And it came to pass that he opened his mouth and said unto them: Behold, why have ye gathered yourselves together? That I may tell you of your iniquities?
Yea, because I have got upon my tower that I might pour out my soul unto my God, because of the exceeding sorrow of my heart, which is because of your iniquities! (Helaman 7:10–14; emphasis added)
Advantageous in Warfare
In all of these references to towers, there is one that is somewhat unusual—the towers that were constructed adjacent to the large picket fence that surrounded the city of Bountiful:
And he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets, and he caused places of security to be built upon those towers, that the stones and the arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them. (Alma 50:4)
Pyramids in Mesoamerica
The uses of towers made by Book of Mormon peoples are consistent with the pyramids of Mesoamerica. They were built throughout the land, were built on hills, were tall and large structures of stone/brick, and were used for civil, religious, and personal purposes. It was not at all unusual for them to be constructed near other structures, such as temples.
And lastly, these pyramids appear to have been built by the thousands. I believe the towers referred to in the Book of Mormon are pyramids and, even more specifically, are often those of the Maya of Mesoamerica.
If I am correct about these towers being tall stone/brick structures, as was the tower of Babel, then this would be a characteristic of the lands of the Book of Mormon.
Because there are relatively few examples of large stone/brick pyramids in Panama, South America, or North America, I exclude those geographic areas as potential candidates for the lands of the Book of Mormon.
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