Book of Mormon Nuggets

Supplementing Jeff Lindsay's Book of Mormon Evidences page.

Nugget #16:
Native American Legends of Founders Crossing the Ocean

While it is difficult to piece together the origins of ancient Americans based on surviving physical and genetic data, one element that can also be considered is the legends and traditions of Native American groups. Several accounts from Mesoamerican groups report that ancestors came to the Americas from across the seas (John Sorenson, "Some Mesoamerican Traditions of Immigration by Sea," El Mexico Antiguo, Vol. 8, 1955, pp. 425-437, as cited by John Sorenson, Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life, Provo, Utah: Research Press, 1998, p. 223). One such account, from the Codex Matritense, as obtained by Sahagun, is reproduced in Sorenson's Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life, p. 223:

This is the story
the old men used to tell:
In a certain time
which no one can now describe,
which no one can now remember,
those who came here to sow,
our grandfathers and grandmothers
landed here, arrived here,
following the way,
and came at last to govern
here in this land,
which was known by a single name,
as if it were a little world of its own.

They came in ships across the sea
in many companies,
and arrived there on the seashore,
on the northern coast,
and the place where they left their ships
is now called Panutla
which means, "Where one crosses the water."

They followed the coast,
they sought the mountains,
and some of them found
the mountains capped with snow,
and the smoking mountains,
and arrived at Quauhtemalla [Guatemala],
following the coast.
The journey was not made
at their own pleasure:
the priests led them,
and their god showed them the way.
They came at last
to the place called Tamoanchan,
which means, "We seek our house."
Several elements are consistent with Book of Mormon accounts for the Nephites and the Jaredites, including men and women crossing by ship, being directed by priests under the direction of God, and migrating away from the place of landing. Such legends could have origins unrelated to Book of Mormon events, but possible connections with the Book of Mormon should be explored.

One further example of such a legend that I recently encountered comes from the Creek Indians (Muscogee Confederacy) as recorded by Albert James Pickett, History of Alabama, Chapter 3, "The Modern Indians of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi," 1851, available online at (for other chapters, see the title page and contents):

In 1822, Big Warrior, who then ruled the Creek confederacy, confirmed this tradition [of the Creeks fighting to gain control over Georgia], even going further back than Milfort, taking the Muscogees from Asia, bringing them over the Pacific, landing them near the Isthmus of Darien, and conducting them from thence to this country. "My ancestors were a mighty people. After they reached the waters of the Alabama and took possession of all this country, they went further -- conquered the tribes along the Chattahoochie, and upon all the rivers from thence to the Savannah -- yes, and even whipped the Indians then living in the territory of South Carolina, and wrestled much of their country from them." The Big Warrior concluded this sentence with great exultation, when Mr. Compere, to whom he was speaking, interposed an unfortunate question: -- "If this is the way your ancestors acquired all the territory now lying in Georgia, how can you blame the American population in that State for endeavoring to take it from you?" Never after that could the worthy missionary extract a solitary item from the Chieftain, in relation to the history of his people. **

** Rev. Lee Compere's MS. notes in my possession. This gentleman was born in England on Nov. 3, 1790. He came to South Carolina in 1817. The Baptist Missionary Board and that of the General Convention, sent him as a missionary to the Creek nation in 1822. He and his wife who was an English lady, resided at Tookabatcha (the capital) six years.

A tribal leader of the Creeks reported in 1822 that their people had come from Asia across the Pacific Ocean and landed near Panama, and moved north. If "Asia" can refer to Asia Minor and the Middle East, that legend could be consistent with the migration of the Nephites, who did cross the Pacific and apparently landed somewhere in or near Mesoamerica, and then moved north. The Jaredites may have come from Central Asia, though it's often assumed that they crossed the Atlantic. The Book of Mormon has peoples regularly moving north. The Creek legend may be unrelated to actual Book of Mormon events, but does add one small hint about the possibility of ancient transoceanic voyages from the Old World to the New, consistent with Book of Mormon themes.

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Created: Aug. 6, 2003. Updated: April 12, 2004.
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