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Wednesday, April 01, 2009 

Ron Moore’s Nod To The Mormon Legends In BSG

It’s no secret to any long time readers of this blog that my favorite show over the last few years has been Ronald D. Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica which ran on the Sci-Fi channel from 2004-2009. The show was absolutely the best written series on TV and was not so much about science fiction as it was a look at the human condition.

I think an honest comparison could be made to the original Star Trek series in that the updated BSG series routinely wove real world events and social issues into it’s storylines. From the war on terror (or “overseas contingency plan” if you think calling a war is imperialistic) and terrorism to stem cell research and abortions, BSG treated social issues as if they were as complex as in real life.

Sure there was a bit of postmodernism in many of the stories, but all of the writers treated the fans as if they had half a brain and could think for themselves. The show was a fast moving train that didn’t always stop to explain all of the details instead leaving it up to the viewer to fill in the blanks. How many shows treat their audience with such respect? Very, very few are willing to take that kind of risk. Instead, most shows find themselves relying on simplistic narratives that treat the viewers as if they are only one step above Dora the explorer’s targeted age group, but not BSG.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed about the Battlestar Galactica series, whether it was the original series or Ronald D. Moore’s updated version was the strong ties to the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, i.e. the Mormons. I’ve written before about the ties between Battlestar Galactica and Mormon theology and for a quick refresher go here. Wait a minute; I’m getting a bit ahead of myself so hold on to that thought for a moment.

In a recent post over at the Syfy Channel message boards Moore gave us a glimpse at one of several alternate endings where the comatose cylon Anders would land the Galactica on Earth to be discovered years later. Moore explains:

There was a point in the development process where we discussed the idea of the Galactica not being destroyed, but having somehow landed on the surface more or less intact, but unable to ever get into orbit again (the particulars here were never worked out, so don't ask how she made it down without being torn apart). We talked about them basically abandoning the ship and moving out into the world. Cut to the present-day, in Central America where there are these enormous mysterious mounds that archeologists have not been able to understand (it may have been South America, I can't recall the exact location, but these mounds really do exist). Someone is doing a new kind of survey of the mounds with some kind of ground-penetrating radar or something and lo and behold, we see the outlines of the Galactica still buried under the surface.


Did you catch that? Do you see where this is going? These are the mounds that Joseph Smith, the supposed author of the Book of Mormon, claimed were created by the Nephites, a lost tribe of Israel, which had traveled to America centuries before Europeans had discovered it.

Smith claimed that the mounds were proof positive of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as it mentioned a story of mounds or mound builders. The Book of Mormon also makes the claim that the Nephites built magnificent cities, which were destroyed by warfare with the Lamanites around 385 AD. Mormon Elder Charles B. Thompson wrote in his 1841 report:

Now the Nephites were a civilized, industrious people... whereas the Lamanites became an idle, savage, and vicious people delighting in war and bloodshed... Therefore the Nephites had to prepare themselves for self defense which they did by fortifying their cities and casting up banks of earth round about their armies, and sometimes building walls of stone to encircle them about, which accounts for the numerous fortifications and works of defense found so profusely scattered over this land [North America]. And when the people of these nations became numerous they had extensive wars; in some battles thousands were slain who were piled up in heaps upon the face of the land and then earth thrown upon them, and this accounts for the numerous mounds and tumuli found in this country [North America].

Smith himself wrote to one of his first wives, Emma, upon finding a skeleton at one of these mounds:

The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendor and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed.

For years the Mormons defended the idea that the mounds were the ruins of great cities of that lost tribe of Israel. Sadly for the mound builder theorists, archeology has thrown a wet blanket on the imagination of Joseph Smith and a great many others like him. As the science of archeology has progressed greatly since the middle of the nineteenth century it wasn’t too terribly difficult to determine that it was the American Indians who built these mounds. We also know from the science of DNA analysis that first people to come to this continent came not from Israel but rather from Asia. Science is not the Mormon’s friend by any stretch of the imagination.

The history of the Mormon theories of the mound builders had to be known by Ronald D. Moore to propose putting a Battlestar beneath a mound in the ancient Americas. I believe that Moore is simply too smart for such a scenario to be just crazy random happenstance. Boy, I’m gonna miss Battlestar Galactica both for the masterful storytelling as well as the cool little nods the writers made to the most successful of the made in America religions.

To see some neat photographs of the mounds built by the North American Indians visit Don Burmeister’s site here.

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And I suppose Native Americans are really Cylons, then.

Not at all. In the Mormon mythos, it would be or is the Christians who are chasing the Mormons out of Ohio who are really the Cylons. Native Americans are the tribe of Lamanites who made god mad enough to darken their skin. (the racist angle goes deep with these folks)

i thought the mormons believe that the nephites/lamanites (mound builders) WERE native americans.

so when science finds that the mounds were built by Native Americans, doesn't that kinda support mormon's beliefs?

Anonymous, The Mormons believed that the mounds were the ruins of great cities built by the Native Americans. Nobody really knew what the mounds were for until the advent of modern archeology.

So, in a nutshell, while everyone agrees who built the mounds; what they were refutes the Mormon narrative.

Also, it's important to remember that the Mormons claim that the American Indians were a lost tribe of Israel; modern DNA testing points to Asia as the origin on this continent's first peoples

Israel is on the continent of Asia, so then the DNA evidence concurs with Mormon teaching, right? Isn't it the accepted belief that the mounds are what is left of ancient Native American temples? Mormon scripture describes many Nephite/Lamanite cities to have very large pyramid-shaped temples in them.

Anonymous,

The mounds that the early Mormons (and many others as well to be fair) thought were the ruins of ancient cities cited in the Book of Mormon were not temples but rather burial mounds. We know a lot more about them today as the science of archeology has come along way!

The DNA issue is still does not tract with the Mormon narrative as the science points to east Asia as the starting point for the first Americans and not the middle east as would have to be the case. The tribe of Israel was a pretty small gene pool and should have some ties to the DNA records we have on file today for that particular people. The shorter answer is that the evidence doesn’t match their story.

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