“Broken Spears” and the Book of Mormon

One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read is “The Broken Spears”—a collection of indigenous and Spanish records documenting the conquest of Mexico shortly after the fact. While reading I unexpectedly noticed parallels with the Book of Mormon record. In fact, I found so many that I began to keep track of them. Some of the connections are somewhat superficial, and surely some are downright spurious, but others are fairly striking. And, since I had already compiled them, I’m now presenting my collection of Book of MormonBroken Spears parallels in the event that anybody finds them interesting.

Secrecy Enforced by Death

Broken Spears:

“They went to the jail, but when they opened the doors, they could not find [the prisoner] anywhere. They hurried back to tell Motecuhzoma, who was even more astonished and terrified than they were. He said: ‘It is a natural thing, for almost everyone is a magician. But hear what I tell you now, and if you reveal anything of what I am about to command, I will bury you under my halls, and your wives and children will be killed, and your property seized. Your houses will be destroyed to the bottom of their foundations, until the water seeps up, and your parents and all your kin will be put to death. Now bring me in secret two of the best artists among the silversmiths, and two lapidaries who are skillful at working emeralds.’

“They went and returned and said to him: ‘Our lord, here are the craftsmen you commanded us to bring you.’ Motecuhzoma said: ‘Tell them to enter.’ They entered, and he said to them: ‘Come here to me, my fathers. You are to know that I have called for you to have you make certain objects. But take care that you do not reveal this to anyone, for if you do, it will mean the ruin of your houses to their foundations, and the loss of your goods, and death to yourselves, your wives, your children and your kin, for all shall die….’” [18]

“Motecuhzoma now called his chiefs together…. He told them the news that had been brought to him and showed them the objects he had ordered made. He said: ‘We all admire these blue turquoises, and they must be guarded well. The whole treasure must be guarded well. If anything is lost, your houses will be destroyed and your children killed, even those who are still in the womb.’” [22]

Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that Akish gathered in unto the house of Jared all his kinsfolk, and said unto them: Will ye swear unto me that ye will be faithful unto me in the thing which I shall desire of you?

“And it came to pass that they all sware unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth, and by their heads, that whoso should vary from the assistance which Akish desired should lose his head; and whoso should divulge whatsoever thing Akish made known unto them, the same should lose his life.” [Ether 8:13-14]

Rooftop/Walltop Declarations

Standing on high places to make declarations; people shooting arrows at those making the declarations.

Broken Spears:

“[La Malinche] climbed up to the palace roof and cried: ‘Mexicanos, come forward!…’” [69]

“At sunset, Itzcuauhtzin climbed onto the roof of the palace and shouted this proclamation: ‘Mexicanos! Tlatelolcas!…’

When [he] had finished speaking, there was a great uproar among the people. They shouted insults at him in their fury…. They shouted war cries and fired arrows at the rooftop. The Spaniards quickly hid Motecuhzoma and Itzcuauhtzin behind their shields so that the arrows would not find them.” [77-78]

“On the third day, Motecuhzoma climbed onto the rooftop and tried to admonish his people, but they cursed him and shouted that he was a coward and a traitor to his country. They even threatened him with their weapons. It is said that an Indian killed him with a stone from his sling, but the palace servants declared that the Spaniards put him to death….” [90]

“The warriors drew back and tried to waylay the rear guard, but a few of the allies saw them and climbed to the rooftops. They cried: ‘Warriors of Tlaxcala, come here! Your enemies are here!’ The Tlaxcaltecas shot so many arrows at the men in ambush that they had to break and run.” [110]

“Cuauhtemoc immediately climbed onto a high tower and shouted to them to cease fighting, for everything had fallen to the enemy…. When they heard their king, they laid down their arms and the nobles came forward to comfort him.” [123-124]

Book of Mormon:

“But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto [Samuel], that he should … prophesy unto the people….

“And … he … got upon the wall [of the city], and … prophesied unto the people….

“But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall; but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” [Hel 13:3-4, 16:2]

Succession

Succession of leaders comes from the previous leader’s close male relatives, but was not predetermined by the dead leader.

Broken Spears:

From the introduction to Chapter 11: “ The Aztec kings were chosen by a council of four lords, representing the four quarters, or phratries, into which the twenty clans of the city were evenly grouped. The council attempted to choose the wisest and bravest man among the brothers, sons and nephews of the previous ruler.” [91]

Book of Mormon:

“Behold, it came to pass that the son of Nephihah was appointed to fill the judgment-seat, in the stead of his father; yea, he was appointed chief judge and governor over the people….” [Alma 50:39]

“And now behold, Pacumeni was appointed, according to the voice of the people, to be a chief judge and a governor over the people, to reign in the stead of his brother Pahoran; and it was according to his right.” [Hel 1:13]

Cf. Alma 4:15-17 in which Alma does not die but rather resigns the post of chief judge, and the new chief judge Nephihah is chosen from among “the elders of the church”.

Fiery Deaths

Broken Spears:

“At still other times, he put on the finery of the priests who cast the victims into the fire….” [101]

Note 12 on p. 102: “In the ceremony honoring the fire god, Huehueteotl, bound captives were hurled into a great bonfire.”

Book of Mormon:

“And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.

“And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

“…Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.

“And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.” [Alma 14:8-9,12-13]

Familial Flight

Men fleeing along with women and children.

Broken Spears:

“During this time the Aztecs took refuge in the Tlatelolco quarter. They deserted the Tonochtitlan quarters all in one day, weeping and lamenting like women. Husbands searched for their wives, and fathers carried their small children on their shoulders. Tears of grief and despair streamed down their cheeks.” [99-100]

Book of Mormon:

“And they are upon our brethren in that land; and they are fleeing before them with their flocks, and their wives, and their children, towards our city; and except we make haste they obtain possession of our city, and our fathers, and our wives, and our children be slain.” [Alma 2:25]

Commanders at the Front of Battle

Broken Spears:

“The Aztec warriors hid when the enemy reached solid ground. They crouched down … and waited for the signal, the shout that told them it was the moment to stand up and attack. Suddenly they heard it: ‘Mexicanos, now is the time!’

“The captain Hecatzin leaped up and raced toward the Spaniards, shouting: ‘Warriors of Tlatelolco, now is the time!…” …

“Then all the Aztecs sprang up and charged into battle.” [106]

Book of Mormon:

“Now when Alma had said these words he contended again with Amlici; and he was strengthened, insomuch that he slew Amlici with the sword.

“And he also contended with the king of the Lamanites; but the king of the Lamanites fled back from before Alma and sent his guards to contend with Alma.

“But Alma, with his guards, contended with the guards of the king of the Lamanites until he slew and drove them back.” [Alma 2:31-33]

“And it came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient strength that they could walk, they were about to flee for their lives; but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr or he would perish by the sword.
“Wherefore, he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did overtake them; and they fought again with the sword. And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood.“And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz.” [Ether 15:28-30]

Signs in the Heavens

Broken Spears:

Chapter 1 of the book is dedicated to listing the signs and wonders that the natives observed prior to the coming of the Spanish.

“Ten years before the Spaniards first came here, a bad omen appeared in the sky. It was like a flaming ear of corn, or a fiery signal, or the blaze of daybreak….

“When it first appeared, there was great outcry and confusion. The people clapped their hands against their mouths; they were amazed and frightened, and asked themselves what it could mean.” [4; from Spanish perspective on p. 7]

The fourth bad omen: Fire streamed through the sky while the sun was still shining…. When the people saw its long train streaming through the heavens, there was a great outcry and confusion, as if they were shaking a thousand little bells.” [5; from Spanish perspective on p. 9]

“Other signs appeared here in this province of Tlaxcala, a little before the arrival of the Spaniards.” [11]

“At nightfall… the omen appeared, blazing like a great bonfire in the sky…. No one cried out when this omen came into view: the people knew what it meant and they watched it in silence.” [116]

Book of Mormon:

“[T]here shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.

“Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night;

“And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld;

“And … there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.

“And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.

“[T]he sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land….

“[T]here shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble….

“And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great.

“[T]here [shall] be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours.

“And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men….”

[Helaman 14:3-7]

Varying Skin Colors

Different degrees of lightness or darkness of skin.

Broken Spears:

“The prince [Ixtlilxochitl] was astonished to see a man with such white skin and with a beard… while Cortes, in turn, was astonished by the prince and his brothers – especially by Tecocoltzin, who was as white as any of the Spaniards.” [57-58]

“The Spanish soldiers were stationed along the roads to search the fleeing inhabitants…. [T]he Spaniards searched all the women without exception: those with light skins, those with dark skins….” [118]

“’You are to deliver women with light skins, corn, chickens, eggs and tortillas….’” [139]

Book of Mormon:

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon [the Lamanites], yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” [2 Nephi 5:21]

“And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers….” [Alma 3:6]

“And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites….” [3 Nephi 2:15]

Large Armies

Troops strengths and casualties numbering hundreds of thousands.

Broken Spears:

“Of the 300,000 warriors who had defended the city, 60,000 were left.” [124]

“The siege of Tonochtitlan, according to the histories, paintings and chronicles, lasted exactly eighty days. Thirty thousand men from the kingdom of Tezcoco were killed during this time, of the more than 200,000 who fought on the side of the Spaniards. Of the Aztecs, more than 240,000 were killed.” [124]

Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that my men were hewn down, yea, even my ten thousand….

“And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni.

“And behold, the ten thousand of Gidgiddonah had fallen….

“And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.

“And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each….” [Mormon 6:10,12-15 – some 230,000 were killed on one side of the battle]

“[The king of the Lamanites] came against us with an army of forty and four thousand. And behold, I withstood him with forty and two thousand….” [Mormon 2:9]

“And it came to pass that we did contend with an army of thirty thousand against an army of fifty thousand.” [Mormon 2:25]

Subordinates Killing Their Leaders

Broken Spears:

“The fighting at Xoloco and Huitzillan lasted for two days. While the battle was under way, the warriors from Tonochtitlan began to mutiny. They said: ‘Where are our chiefs? They have fired scarcely a single arrow! Do they think they have fought like men?’ Then they seized four of their own leaders and put them to death…. This was the second time that the people of Tenochtitlan killed their own leaders.” [133]

Book of Mormon:

“And … they were angry with the king, and caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire.” [Mosiah 19:20]

“[T]he Lamanites began to hunt the seed of Amulon and his brethren [who had ruled over them] and began to slay them.” [Alma 25:8]

Dispute Resolved by Search

Broken Spears:

“Cuauhtemoc pointed at the heap [of gold] they had unloaded from the canoes.

“The Captain [Cortes] replied: ‘Only this little?’

“Tlacotzin said: ‘Perhaps someone has stolen the rest. Why not search for it? Why not bring it to light?’

“…Tlacotzin said: ‘Perhaps some woman has hidden the gold under her skirts. Why not search for it? Why not bring it to light?’” [121]

Book of Mormon:

“And Limhi said unto [the king of the Lamanites]: What cause have ye to come up to war against my people? [W]hy should ye break the oath which ye made unto my people?

“And now the king said: I have broken the oath because thy people did carry away the daughters of my people….

“And now Limhi … said: I will search among my people and whosoever has done this thing shall perish. Therefore he caused a search to be made among his people.” [Mosiah 20:14-16]

Image of Mountain Falling On Someone

Broken Spears:

“When our enemies saw him approach, they quaked as if they thought a mountain were about to fall on them.” [113]

Book of Mormon:

“…and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.” [Alma 12:14]

Hair as Identifying Mark

Broken Spears:

“Tzilacatzin’s military rank was that of Otomi, and he clipped his hair in the style of the Otomies.” [100]

Book of Mormon:

“[N]evertheless [the Amlicites] had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.

“Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn….” [Alma 3:4-5]

“[The Gadianton robbers] … had a lamb-skin about their loins, and they were dyed in blood, and their heads were shorn….” [3 Ne 4:7]

Hiding by Means of Disguise

Broken Spears:

“When the Spaniards found out how dangerous he was, they tried desperately to kill him. They attacked him with their swords and spears, fired at him with their crossbows and arquebuses, and tried every other means they could think of to kill or cripple him. Therefore he wore various disguises to prevent them from recognizing him.” [101]

Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them….” [Mosiah 12:1]

“Therefore, Kishkumen was not known among the people of Nephi, for he was in disguise at the time that he murdered Pahoran.” [Helaman 1:12]

“And it came to pass as [Kishkumen] went forth towards the judgment-seat to destroy Helaman[, the next chief judge], behold one of the servants of Helaman[ was] out by night, and … obtained, through disguise, a knowledge of those plans which had been laid by this band to destroy Helaman….” [Helaman 2:6]

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