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The Mormons built Teotihuacan?

16 July 2007

Having grown up 2 blocks from the hoity-toity High Church Episcopalian Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus in Geneva, New York, summers always meant the invasion of the Mormons. The … literally … cast of thousands for the Mormon Pageant stayed in the dorms, which brought in a chunk of dough.

Unless you ran a tavern (and in those days, Geneva, pop. 17,000 .. being half blue-collar and half college town had at least about 50 of ’em) Mormons are sort of the ideal tourists. They spend money and you never see em. We’d all be at Cosies’, or Pinky’s, or the Twin Oaks, or the Kashong Inn, or the Knights of Columbus,

or …

I’ve seen the Pageant a few times, but I was very little at the time, so other than there were a bunch of colorful “Indian” rituals (followed by the appearance of Jesus), I don’t remember much. But hey… you don’t get too many spectaculars coming though small upstate New York towns, and the drive to Palmayra for a free show sure beat the drive to Syracuse or Rochester for some third-string “Holiday on Roller Skates” or whaterver was offered to us upstate yahoos.

So, while Burro Hall gets snarky what the hey… it’s more yankee dollars:

PHOENIX (AP)- In a corner of ancient ruins, not far from the towering Pyramid of the Sun, a small group of Mormons sat among the milling tourists in Teotihuacan, Mexico, and gazed across what they believe to be their holy land.

“This is just what it says in the Book of Mormon about the Jaredites,” Bill Welsh of Provo, Utah, said excitedly as an archaeologist described how internal strife sped the downfall of Teotihuacan.

For the world’s 13 million Mormons, the ruins of Mexico and Central America are hallowed ground, a place where Old Testament tribes settled after traveling across the ocean and where Jesus came to preach after his Resurrection. Although archaeologists say there is scant evidence to back up such beliefs, a growing number of travelers are paying thousands of dollars to search for connections on Mormon-themed tours and cruises.

Mormons believe that three groups of people – the Jaredites, the Mulekites and the family of a Hebrew merchant named Lehi – sailed from the Middle East and settled in the Americas hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.

The descendants of Lehi split into two camps, the Nephites and the Lamanites, and were visited by Jesus after his Resurrection around A.D. 34, Mormons believe. The Nephites kept records of their history on gold plates.

The Nephites were destroyed by rival tribes around A.D. 385, the church says. One of the last surviving Nephites wandered through the Americas and eventually buried the plates in New York.


Hugo de Groot, may have been a great 17th century thinker and humanist, but he had his eccentric opinions. The best of them was that there are rules to warfare (he was responsible for the first interantional laws, which centuries later George W. Bush and company were so eager to break). The oddest, based on his conversations with a Dutch rabbi who had somehow been in Peru, was that because the Incas were circumcised, it followed that the Native peoples of the Americas were the lost tribe of Israel.

The Aztec legends of having wandered in the desert for several years (though Huitzilopochtli wasn’t quite the same as a “pillar of smoke by day, and of fire by night”) led a few Spanish priests down the primrose path as well. Joseph Smith wasn’t the first to develop the idea.

And, besides, what’s a few thousand Mormon religious pilgrims? I lived within a couple of blocks of the Basilica of Guadalupe, which gets more visitors than any other religious site in the Americas, and more than even Saint Peter’s in Rome. 14 million or so a year, and it may be chump change, but it’s not a bad business to be in.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” I’m sure, but I wish I could afford to keep giving you the Mex Files. I’m $1500 in debt, and have been running this site on hit-or-miss free-lance writing which isn’t paying the bills.

I’m not counting on a miracle, but I have faith that people are willing to keep the Mex Files alive.

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