Incan Legends and the Book of Mormon
The following are legends of the Incan empire in South America. To be noted is the story of Viracocha, the great White God of the Incans, who tends to have some similarities with the Aztec God, Quetzalcoatl, as well as the close relationship with other white god legends that permeate the Americas and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The quotes come from the book, "Mitos, Leyendas y Cuentos de los Quechuas " by Jesus Lara, Los Amigos del Libro, Cochabamba Bolivia, 1973), most of which are quotes from Quechua Indians or Spanish priests that lived around 1600. The translation into English is mine, and if anyone wishes to provide me a better translation, I'll be glad to use it.
Who was Viracocha?
"The original people of this land say, that in the beginning or before the world was created, was one named Viracocha. He created the dark world without sun, moon, nor stars; and because of this creation they called him Viracocha Pachayachachi, which means 'creator of all things.' After the creation of the world was formed a race of deformed giants."
Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, History of the Incans , 1572 (Lara, pg 38).
--Note the interesting idea of deformed giants. Not only are giants mentioned in the days of Noah in the book of Genesis, but giants become an important part of the writings in the LDS Book of Moses, and in many pseudepigraphical writings of the Jews (Books of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, etc). In either case, we have a belief that seems to traverse the ocean. Also, the idea of Creator of all things sets well with the LDS idea that Christ created all things.
The Pre-Incan peoples
"The Indians of this age were called Auqapacharuna....They lived and multiplied for 2000 years. They dispersed, abandoning the good regions that had been occupied by their ancestors, because contradictions and arguments arose among them, as well as the fear of war. From their populated lands below, they went upon the high hills and for their defense they began to construct fortifications which they called pukara. They constructed walls and towers, and within these, homes and fortifications and hiding places and wells to obtain water for drinking.
"There came a time (era) of strifes and wars, with terrible (cruel) battles and much death....They fought with varied weapons. They conquered with these arms and had much death and bloodshed, until the conquerors captured the conquered and took away their women and sons, their fields and acqueducts and pastures.
"They adored God and Creator as did the ancients and from a very long time ago they had among them charity and law. They were good men and women. There was much food and the people and herds multiplied."
Pedro Cieza de Leon. "Del Senorio de los Incas" 1551, (Lara pg 126).
--So it was with the Nephites and Jaredites. The Jaredites, in fact, lived for about 2000 years! Many good regions were abandoned by both groups due to the wicked groups that came to be. Wars and contentions were great, and one of the great Nephite captains, Moroni, was well known for building walls and towers for defense. Finally, one group overpowers the other, carrying off women and children and obtaining all their gain. At one point in the Nephite society, they indeed had great charity, as all lived Christ-like lives.
"Before the Incans reigned in these kingdoms or were even known, these Indians taught another very important thing, because they affirmed that there was a long time without seeing the sun, and they suffered greatly due to lacking it. They cried greatly and pledged oaths to those they had as gods, begging them for the missing light; and being in these difficulties, arising from the Isle of Titicaca...came the brilliant sun, for which all rejoiced. And after this happened, they say that near Mid-day came a white man of large stature, whose aspect or persona showed great authority and veneration, and that this man, so they saw, had great power, that the hills were made plains and the plains made giant hills, making fountains out of rock; and recognizing such power, they called him 'Creator of all things', 'the Beginning (First of All)', 'Father of the Sun', and he did greater things, giving life to man and animals and by his hand came all good things.....he went toward the North, doing these marvelous works...and never came back. In many places he commanded the people how to live, speaking lovingly and with much kindness, admonishing them to be good and not to hurt or injure each other, but love each other and in all things have charity....In many places they built temples (to him)...and made sacrifices....
"They tell of another man similar to this one...that came and took the sick and healed them and with words alone gave sight to the blind....and on this matter they say more, that leaving there he went to the sea coast where holding his mantle, walked on the waves and they never saw him again; and as it was they named him Viracocha, which means 'Foam of the Sea.'"
Pedro Cieza de Leon. "Del Senorio de los Incas" 1551, (Lara pg 126).
--Just as we can read in 3 Nephi 8-12 (see entire book of 3 Nephi, in the Book of Mormon), there was a time of great earthquakes, where hills were made plains and plains became hills. After this 3 hours of earthquakes, which coincided with the crucifixion of Christ in Jerusalem, there were 3 days of total darkness. Lights couldn't be seen in the mist of smog that hung over the people. The people cried for succor, pleading for the sun and mourning their sins which brought this upon them.
Finally, the smog lifted, the sun arose, and as the people gathered together near the Bountiful temple, they saw Christ descend to them. Over the next several days, Christ continued to visit the people, healing the sick, and teaching them to love one another. Finally he left them, but the great visit was so strong that it continues in the memories of the Incans and the similar stories from the Aztecs and others.
"There came a bearded man, medium build, with long hair and a large shirt....He walked through all the provinces doing many visible miracles, by simply touching the sick they were healed....They called him Tonapa....They say he travelled preaching until he reached the Andes of Caravaya and there made a very large cross and dragged it on his shoulders until he placed it on Carapucu hill, where he preached in a loud voice and cried."
Joan de Santacruz Pachakuti Yamki Sallkamaywa Relacion de Antiguedadeds Desde Reyno del Piru, 1613, (Lara, pg 133).
--Tonapa just happened to preach to the people about leaving their other gods and returning to the true worship of Viracocha. The cross is very significant, tying the Viracocha experience with Christ that much closer. It also is significant, given the importance of the cross amongst the Mayans of Mexico in many of their temples. It is also important to note that this man was bearded, a very rare phenomenon amongst the Native Americans of Central or South America. The "long shirt" could easily be explained as a Jewish tunic, much as Christ would have worn in his mortal life. Such clothing may have been different from what the Nephites would have worn, given the 6 centuries they were separated from the Old World.
Regardless of how we look at it, Joseph Smith may have known some of this stuff and implemented such legends into the Book of Mormon. But is it very likely that he not only found these legends, but also stories and beliefs from the early Christian Fathers (such as the original belief in Godhead vs the current Christian belief in Trinitarianism), and some ideas totally unknown in his day, such as are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi? Obviously, with each piece of evidence, the critics feeble attempts get weaker and weaker.