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About Mark Alan Wright

Mark Alan Wright earned his BA in Anthropology at UCLA and his MA and PhD in Anthropology (with a subfield of specialization in Mesoamerican Archaeology) from UC Riverside. He regularly conducts research in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Dr. Wright is Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies at the Maxwell Institute.

Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography

Abstract: The best available evidence for the Book of Mormon continues to support a limited Mesoamerican model. However, Alma 63 indicates that there was a massive northward migration in the mid-first century bc. I argue that these north-bound immigrants spread out over the centuries and established settlements that were geographically distant from the core Nephite area, far beyond the scope of the text of the Book of Mormon. I introduce the Hinterland Hypothesis and argue that it can harmonize the Mesoamerican evidence for the Book of Mormon with Joseph Smith’s statements concerning Nephite and Lamanite material culture in North America. Archaeological and anthropological evidence is used to demonstrate that migrations and cultural influence did in fact spread northward from Mesoamerica into North America in pre-Columbian times. Continue reading

Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Places are made sacred through manifestations of the divine or ritual activity. The occurrence of a theophany or hierophany or the performance of particular rituals can conceptually transform a place into an axis mundi, or the center of the world. A variety of such axes mundi are known from the archaeological record of Mesoamerica and the text of the Book of Mormon. I compare and contrast several distinctive types of such ritual complexes from Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon and argue that they served functionally and ideologically similar purposes. Continue reading

The Cultural Context of Nephite Apostasy

Abstract: Nephite apostates turned away from true worship in consistent and predictable ways throughout the Book of Mormon. Their beliefs and practices may have been the result of influence from the larger socioreligious context in which the Nephites lived. A Mesoamerican setting provides a plausible cultural background that explains why Nephite apostasy took the particular form it did and may help us gain a deeper understanding of some specific references that Nephite prophets used when combating that apostasy. We propose that apostate Nephite religion resulted from the syncretization of certain beliefs and practices from normative Nephite religion with those attested in ancient Mesoamerica. We suggest that orthodox Nephite expectations of the “heavenly king” were supplanted by the more present and tangible “divine king.” Continue reading