“Smitten by the Hand of the Gentiles”

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

The story of the invasion of America by Europeans in the 16th century, is a tragic illustration of the truth of this prophecy. Witness the appearance in Mexico of Cortez with his 450 Spaniards and 1000 Tlascalan allies. From the very first of his contact with the natives, strife and slaughter ensued. Cortez, having occasion to leave Tenoctlican—the ancient name of the city of Mexico—left Pedro de Alvarado in charge. The Aztecs celebrated their May festival with the sacrifice of a handsome youth, as was their custom. This was, we may say, their pentecost. But the sacrifice was too horrible to Alvarado. Under the impression that the Aztecs were cowards, he fell upon the crowds of worshipers and massacred 600 of them, among whom were prominent chiefs. When Cortez returned, he found the people excited. Montezuma, practically a prisoner among the Spaniards, had been deposed, and his brother, Cuitlahuatzin, had been elected ruler in his stead. They now attacked the Spaniards. Spanish cannon swept the streets with terrible effects. Some idea of the losses of the Aztecs can be formed from the fact that the battle and the retreat cost Cortez 750 of his 1250 white soldiers and 4000 of his 6000 Tlascalan allies.

But Cortez came back. On April 28, 1521, he began a siege of the city, which Dr. John Fiske compares to the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, on a smaller scale, of course. On August 18, Cortez was master of the situation. But then the city was a ruin. A new era had been inaugurated, in which the natives lost their culture, their literature, and arts, and were, practically, buried in the “dust.”

The first contact of the natives of Peru with the Spaniards under Pizarro and Almargro—both of whom were finally murdered in a feud between themselves—was a duplicate of the so-called conquest of Cortez. We shall not here repeat the almost incredible stories of cruelties perpetrated on the Indians by some of the early invaders. Suffice it to say that this prophecy was literally fulfilled. The Indians were everywhere sorely “smitten by the hands of the Gentiles.”

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1