“A Great and Terrible Destruction”

Alan C. Miner

Some people have supposed that the verses mentioning "a great and terrible destruction" (3 Nephi 8:11) mean that the entire configuration of the Book of Mormon lands was changed. This conclusion is not justified either by the text or by geological findings on the American continent. Mormon, after writing the events, gives no hint that the former geography had noticeably changed. The forces that had been mentioned were not abnormal in scale (lightning, earthquake, whirlwind, thunder, tempest). In the aftermath, Zarahemla was rebuilt (4 Nephi 1:8), and "they did build many cities again which were burned (4 Nephi 1:7). However, "there were many cities which had been sunk (by water) that could not be renewed" (4 Nephi 1:9). Although destruction seemed widespread, it only seemed irreparable around coastlines or shorelines; and rightly so, for cities cannot easily be rebuilt upon water. There is also no hint that any major land mass rose out of the sea. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

“There Was a Great and Terrible Destruction in the Land”

According to John Pratt, this record of great catastrophes in the Western Hemisphere at the time of the Crucifixion may also explain two Mesoamerican Indian traditions, but only if the destruction occurred in A.D. 33. First, it was believed that the resurrection of the god Quetzalcoatl occurred when the planet Venus also rose from the underworld as the bright morning star (compare Rev. 22:16), which it does about every 584 days. It has been suggested that Quetzalcoatl was the resurrected Savior (see Milton R. Hunter, Christ in Ancient America, 1959), . . . Second, such an appearance of Venus was also thought to be an omen of "death, pestilence, and destruction." (see A. Aveni, Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, 1980, pp. 186-87)

In A.D. 33, Venus first appeared as the morning star about two weeks before April 3, the proposed Resurrection date (see B. Tuckerman, Planetary, Lunar, and Solar Positions, A.D. 2 to A.D. 1649 at Five day and Ten-day intervals, 1964, pp. 31-36), which explains both traditions in the sense that (1) Venus would have been rising at the time of the Resurrection, and (2) the first rising would have occurred just prior to the great destructions. The nearest other years in which the morning star was rising at Easter were A.D. 25 and A.D. 41. [John P. Pratt, "The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836 -- Part 1: Dating the First Easter," The Ensign, June 1985, p. 67]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary