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The Cultural Context of Nephite Apostasy

TitleThe Cultural Context of Nephite Apostasy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWright, Mark Alan, and Brant A. Gardner
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
KeywordsAncient America; Apostasy; Kingship; Mesoamerica; Nephite

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.”