Evidence #31 | October 1, 2020

Codices in Stone Boxes

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Joseph Smith’s report that the plates of the Book of Mormon were sealed in a stone box has parallels with an ancient American codex that was deposited in a stone box.

When describing his discovery of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith explained, “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario County, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box” (emphasis added).1 

Joseph Smith Uncovering the Gold Plates. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

In 2005, Leonidas Javier discovered Early Classic Maya artifacts, including a stone box, in Hun Nal Ye Cave on his land in the Municipality of San Pedro Carchá, Department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.2

Many considered the stone box a funerary urn. Within a year of its discovery, the box was stolen and sold to an artifact collector. When the collector saw his acquisition listed on Interpol’s stolen property list, he returned it to the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. This extraordinary piece is now on display in the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City.3

Image via mayadecipherment.com.

With additional study and decipherment, it became clear to specialists that the Hun Nal Ye stone box was most likely designed to hold hieroglyphic books called codices.4 This purpose is made manifest by the box’s iconography, which depicts scribes and codices. Thus, the stone container and lid in which the Book of Mormon was said to have been desposited has a fitting precedent in ancient Mesoamerica.

Benjamin R. Jordan and Warren P. Aston, “The Geology of Moroni’s Stone Box: Examining the Setting and Resources of Palmyra,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30 (2018): 233–252.

John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness Unto Light (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 31–58.

H. Curtis Wright, “Ancient Burials of Metal Documents in Stone Boxes,” in By Study and Also By Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, Volume 2, ed. John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990), 273–334.

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