By Nichole Giles
Last summer I came across a rather large book on mythology. The sheer size of the thing interested me, not to mention the clever packaging. The legends and lore of cultures past are the things that fantasy is made of—and it was a bargain at $20—so I bought the enormous book.
I leafed through it some when I got home, and read the first thirty pages or so. Then I got sidetracked with children, home, and other projects and my new treasure began collecting dust. It wasn’t until I recently toured some thousand-year-old Mayan ruins that my interest was renewed, and I leafed through it again.
Our tour guide for the ruins was LDS, and gave us a more accurate insight into the culture of the Mayan people. He was able to explain to us why all Mayan temples have three rooms (think about it) and the difference between the feathered serpent and the serpent that “lost his feathers.”
Another interesting tidbit…some of the paintings inside the ruins depict teachings that we the Latter Day Saints are familiar with. Particularly, the “Life Tree.” Archeologists explain this painting as “a sacred tree…used to celebrate Mayan rites under its foliage. It represents wisdom.”
There is much symbolism in this painting. Our tour guide was kind enough to explain in better detail the meaning of each symbol—“as a proposed representation of Lehi’s dream as recorded in the Book of Mormon.” There are too many symbols to list, so I’ll just name a few. According to Helaman (the tour guide, not the prophet) the tree represents eternal life, and its twelve roots—the twelve tribes. The figures in the depiction represent Lehi, Nephi, Sam, Sariah, Laman, and Lemuel. There are more symbols, but blogs are intended to be short, so I’ll move on.
One of the figures etched into the face of the temples is forever upside down, representing a God, or more accurately, the Son of the most supreme God, who came down from the heavens shining like the sun.
Back to the serpents again. The feathered serpent—known in my mythology book as Gucumatz—is the representation of a deity who came down to the earth, and then flew back to heaven on feathered wings. While the other serpent—whose name isn’t even mentioned in my book—is a deity who has lost his feathers, and is forever cast out of heaven.
An elderly woman who was touring with us mentioned a visit to Egypt, and the pyramids there…where strangely, the temple floor plans were very similar, as were the paintings depicted within. Interesting coincidences? For most people, probably. But we know better. All we have to do is read the Book of Mormon, and it all makes perfect sense.
As wonderful as my giant mythology book is, it cannot tell me the answers to the questions posed by all the archeologists in Mexico. I have another book in my possession that has those answers. Those archeologists are pretty well stumped on some of these things.
Too bad no one ever gave them a Book of Mormon.