“The Light of His Countenance Did Shine Upon Them”

Alan C. Miner

According to Warren and Ferguson, Juan de Cordova, a Spanish friar in Oaxaca, recorded an account just a few years after the coming of Cortes. As part of a discussion of one of the day signs in the ritual calendar of ancient Mesoamerica, he describes the eighteenth one, a flint blade which is sometimes called the solar beam. In Tony Shearer's Beneath the Moon and Under the Sun, he says that it is one of the strangest glyphs among the twenty. . . . The Tenochs [a term which refers to the Aztecs] thought it came from the sun. Earlier uses of it suggest that it came from the northern sky, perhaps from the northeastern sky, and could be seen in broad daylight; so the story goes:

"On the day we call Tecpatl [the Aztec name for the day sign flint knife] a great light came from the northeastern sky. It glowed for four days in the sky, then lowered itself to the rock; the rock can still be seen at Tenochtitlan de Valle in Oaxaca. From the light there came a great, very powerful being, who stood on the very top of the rock and glowed like the sun in the sky. There he stood for all to see, shining day and night. Then he spoke, his voice was like thunder, booming across the valley. Our old men and women, the astronomers and astrologists, could understand him and he could understand them. He (the solar beam) told us how to pray and fixed for us days of fast and days of feasting. He then balanced the 'Book of Days' (sacred calendar) and left vowing that he would always watch down upon us his beloved people." (71-72) [Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 2]

3 Nephi 19:27 [He] went a little way off and bowed himself to the earth ([Illustration]): Christ Praying for the Nephites. "Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth." Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 550]

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