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Cosmic Urban Symbolism in the Book of Mormon

TitleCosmic Urban Symbolism in the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1983
AuthorsOlsen, Steven L.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsCosmic; Symbolism

Ancient world civilizations believed that the perceived order of territorial environment, in its “natural” and built-up features, revealed the structure of a sacred universe. The epitome of this symbolic order was a capital city or ceremonial center. “In those religions which held that human order was brought into being at the creation of the world there was a pervasive tendency to dramatize the cosmogony by constructing on earth a reduced version of the cosmos, usually in the form of a state capital.” Characteristic of complex societies throughout the ancient world, this phenomenon is referred to as cosmic urban symbolism. The principles of cosmic urban symbolism account for many ideas and events in the Book of Mormon which are otherwise unexplained within a nineteenth-century American context.