Citing Brant Gardner and Mark Wright, The Book of Mormon Central piece also compares the doctrine taught in the 1916 statement (that despite being distinct from the Father, Jesus is himself both the Father and the Son) to the idea of a “Maya deity complex”–the idea that one Mayan deity might have several different identities. The parallel is kind of mildly interesting, I guess, but I don’t think it supports the argument that Abinadi was teaching the doctrine set forth in the 1916 statement rather than some form of Trinitarianism or modalism. In fact, I think it actually works against it.
This is the third Part in a series examining Book of Mormon Central’s piece on Mosiah 15. In the first Part I pushed back against the apparent conflation of trinitarianism and modalism. In the last Part, I suggested that while Abinadi’s teaching that Jesus is the Father is consistent with the the 1916 First Presidency statement on the Father and the Son, I questioned whether that teaching was identical to the ways that Jesus is identified as the Father in the 1916 statement. In this part, I discuss the comparison between Abinadi’s teachings and the “Maya deity complex.”
It’s a really minor point, so this part will be pretty brief.
What’s the deal with the Mayan comparison?
I don’t find the comparison to a Maya deity complex all that illuminating. I suppose there
is a parallel, but isn’t there such a parallel in just about every religion? Doesn’t just about every god have multiple titles/roles/identities? For that matter, don’t most human monarchs have multiple titles/roles? Isn’t that just kind of something that goes along with being a God or even just a mortal sovereign? I’m no expert on mesoamerican stuff, so I could be missing something, but I don’t see how the Mayan tendency to multiply their Gods’ roles and titles is unique or particularly relevant to the Book of Mormon, or that it offers any insight into Abinadi’s meaning.
But it’s not just that the Mayan thing isn’t just that compelling of a parallel, it’s also problematic because to the extent that it is a parallel, it actually undermines the argument that the piece is making. Maybe I’m missing something, but the idea that “[e]ach of the elaborations that a modern reader might see as a different deity was actually considered to be merely an elaboration of the complex essence of one particular deity,” sounds a lot more like modalism or the Trinity than it does the LDS godhead doctrine of three distinct divine persons that are perfectly united as one God.
Of course, I also think don’t think that proves that Abinadi was teaching modalism or the Trinity, because I don’t find the parallel all that persuasive to begin with. As I’ve said, elaborating all the ways that the three members of the godhead are distinct and the ways they are united is not Abinadi’s point, and for that reason, his teachings are vague enough on that point that they are arguably consistent with more than one conception of the trinity.