Saturday, October 11, 2008

Human Sacrifice

For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. (Alma 34:10)

First, does this scripture seem to imply that the Zoramits were familiar with human sacrifice?

Second, Does this fit into a Mesoamerican, Ancient Near East, or 19th century rural USA world view best?


Steve Smoot said...

I believe it was Brant Gardner in his new book of Mormon commentary (and maybe also in the Journey of Faith DVD) who pointed out that this serves as an example of Mesoamerican culture in the Book of Mormon. You could shoot him an e-mail or if you have the series you can look there.

As for the Ancient Near East, I recall that human sacrifice was common amongst some of the cultures and religions of antiquity. If I recall correctly, the Egyptians, Babylonians and Canaanites all had some form of human sacrifice for specific Gods at some time in their history.

Andrew I. Miller said...


Thanks. I'm fairly certain that this verse has more significance when looked at through the eyes of the ancient world.

D360 said...

I read over at Mormanity regularly and check over here when my reader says a new topic is posted. Andrew I am always impressed with the level of thought and knowledge that goes into your posts. I also enjoyed reading the back and forth you had with a pastor who was from Texas I think....

At any rate, I know this is off topic but if you don't mind can you recommend any good books on church history. I was looking into Joseph Smith: rough stone rolling, or the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.

I like the nitty-gritty details and those that show even early dedicated members of the church were in fact mortal though most of the time I look back at all they did and I think there is a touch of superman in 'em!

any recommendations would be welcome.


Andrew I. Miller said...


Thanks for your kind remarks. The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt is a classic, of course. I enjoyed it a great deal. The second half wasn't as good as the first, IMO.

"Rough Stone Rolling" is a great place to start. It is arguably THE biography of Joseph Smith.

It's not from early Church history, but I also highly recommend "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism."

I give both 5 stars!

Honorary mention:

"Brigham Young: American Moses"
"Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet" (it touches on LDS history quite a bit, although that isn't it's focus)

I also really enjoy the journals and diaries of the early brethren. Let me know if you'd like to hear my recommendations for those.

Thanks for coming by!

D360 said...

I'd love to hear them. I recently finished The Price We Paid and now I am fascinated with early church history, the people, their thoughts and circumstances.

Thanks again

Andrew I. Miller said...


Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I highly recommend:

Personal Writings of Joseph Smith

An Apostle's Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon

The Journals of William E. McLellin

An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton

Anonymous said...

Temple and The Re-Creation of the World
As I understand it, in mesoamerican belief, the gods had sacrificed their blood to the creation of humans in the current age and then again to set the sun moving in the sky. In aztec temple sacrifices, the victems were called ixiptla" the god' image". This made it possible to reinact the primal scenes of divine sacrfice through which the world's sun and people were brought into being. Also the prists and priestesses dressed up as gods. This theatrical re-creation of the world and the emphasis but on the sacrifice of deity is interesting.

Appeasing the Gods

Heart sacrifice
Mesoamerican priests would rip out the hearts of sacrificial victims. After Christ makes His atoning sacrifice for mankind, he tells the Nephites: "And ye shall offer for a asacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit....."3 Ne. 9: 20.

It seems that some people were sacrificed by burning in the worship of Xiuhtecuhtil. As I understand it, the Maya did not throw thieves, adulterers and urderers in jail. The people kept in captivity were war captives who would later be sacrificed on a festival day or king's anniversary. These victims were treated with respect, until the day of the sacrifice.

In Alma 14, Alma and Amulek make converts in the city of Ammonihah. The converts and Alma and Amulek are rounded up, apparently sepratly as there is only mention of interaction between Alma and Amulek. The converts and there books are burned in a fire. Alma and Amulek, though cast into prison, are beaten and abused but not cast into the fire. Were Alma and Amulek forced to watch a sacrifice of their friends? They certainly were not treated as sacrifice victims.

Auto sacrifice.
We know the exmaple of Lady Xoc and her husband Jaguar Shield. The Zpotecs made the rite of ritual bloodletting an occasion for confession. After making cuts in their cheeks and arms, they would let the blood flow onto the husks of maize while they made solem statement of their evil doing.

Human scape goat
The Maya had a scape goat tradition, in which an individual took on the punishment for an entire community. The villagers would choose one person, often an elderly women, who would listen as each person recounted how they had shamed themselves or the group. The scape goat was then put to death by stoning.

The Sacrifice of a God
For the Aztecs, sacrificial victims were ixiptla "the god's image". The victims became the gods they honored and were treated with the greatest respect and honor. A great example of this is the Aztec sacrifices used to honor Tezcatlipoca. Each year, at the close of the month holy to Tecatlipoca, a young man of great intelligence and good looks was chosen to be the divine emodiement of the god and live as the god before his sacrifice. He lived in the god's temple and learned to play the flute and dance steps sacred to the god. At night he was sent out into the city accompanied by a goaurd of eight warriors. In every quarter he performed in people would nod reverntly and sometimes carry out sick children to be blessed by the passing god. The Emperor would enter the temple and dress the young man in the sacred clothing of the god. The god-victim was given four young wives who themselves were the embodiements of goddesses. 5 days before the sacrifice the tlatoani, or ruler, would leave the aztec capitol and everyone understood that Tezcatlipoca was ruling Tenochtitlan. On the final day, the youth was led with full ritual into the shrine of the temple and sacrificed.

Animal sacrifice
Mesoamericans sacrificed quails, dogs, jaguars, and turkeys.

Alma 34: 10,11,12 and 14
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last asacrifice; yea, not a bsacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an cinfinite and deternal esacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is ajust, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the alife of him who hath bmurdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.
14 And behold, this is the whole ameaning of the blaw, every whit cpointing to that great and last dsacrifice; and that great and last esacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, finfinite and eternal.

Sacrifice and Cannibalism
Aztec warriors would capture enemies, feed and care for them, have them decapitated during a sacrifice and then would feast on the flesh.

Mormon 4:14
14) And they did also march forward against the city Teancum, and did drive the inhabitants forth out of her, and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as asacrifices unto their idol gods.
Moroni 9:10
10) And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most acruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.

Hiding Up Treasures Unto A God?

According to Bishop Landa, the Maya held sacrifices to the rain god Chac during droughts, in which priests threw human victims into the well with offerings of precious gold and jade.

Hel. 13: 18-20, 35
18 And it shall come to pass, saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God, that whoso shall ahide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more, because of the great curse of the land, save he be a righteous man and shall hide it up unto the Lord.
19 For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their atreasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land.

Kinda gives new meaning to storing treasures in hean, doesnt it : )

Andrew I. Miller said...

p.a olavarria,

Great and interesting insights. Thanks for sharing that here.