Cement in the Book of Mormon

In his abridgement of the Nephite chronicle, Mormon recorded that about 46 B.C. a group of Nephites migrated to the land northward. He stated, "The people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell" (Helaman 3:7).

Once labeled by critics as anachronistic, references to cement in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 3:7, 9, 11) can now be seen as further evidence of the authenticity of the text. This is because today the presence of expert cement technology in pre-Hispanic America is a well-established archaeological fact.

"American technology in the manufacture of cement, its mixing and placement two thousand years ago, paralleled that of the Greeks and Romans during the same time period," notes structural engineer David Hyman in a recent study devoted to the use of cement in pre-Columbian Mexico. The earliest known sample of such cement dates to the first century A.D. and is a "fully developed product."1

Known samples of Mesoamerican cement work show signs of remarkable skill and sophistication. "Technology and use in the manufacturing of calcareous cements in Middle America [were] equal to any in the world at the advent of the Christian Era."2 For example, the exelent workmanship of concrete floor slabs at Teotihuacán that date to about this time exceed many present-day building requirements.3 While the earliest known samples are from the first century A.D., scholars believe that "their degree of perfection could not have been instantaneously created, but rather would have required a considerable period of development" before then.4 Hyman asks, "Were these materials invented by an indigenous unnamed people far predating the occupation of Teotihuacán, or were they introduced by an exotic culture?"5

In its references to cement, the Book of Mormon long anticipated what has been well established only in recent years.

This Research Report was prepared by the FARMS Research Department and is based on the latest available scholarly research. It is subject to revision as more information on the subject becomes available. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of FARMS, Brigham Young University, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Report last updated August 2000

Further Information

Wells, Matthew G., and John W. Welch. "Concrete Evidence for the Book of Mormon." In Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, 212—14. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992.

Recommended Readings

Sorenson, John L. "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture, Part 2." Ensign, October 1984, 18—19.

———. "Houses and Furnishings" and "Public Architecture." In Sorenson, Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life, 60—63, 104—7. Provo, Utah: Research Press, 1998.

Historical Perspective

In 1929 LDS Church president Heber J. Grant recalled: "When I was a young unmarried man, another young man who had received a doctor's degree ridiculed me for believing in the Book of Mormon. He said that one lie in the Book of Mormon is that the people had built their homes out of cement and that they were very skillful in the use of cement. He said there had never been found, and never would be found, a house built of cement by the ancient inhabitants of this country, because the people in that early age knew nothing about cement. He said that should be enough to make one disbelieve the book. I said: 'That does not affect my faith one particle. I read the Book of Mormon prayerfully and supplicated God for a testimony in my heart and soul of the divinity of it, and I have accepted it and believe it with all my heart.' I also said to him, 'If my children do not find cement houses, I expect that my grandchildren will'" (in Conference Report, April 1929, 129).

Notes

1.   David S. Hyman, Pre-Columbian Cements: A Study of the Calcareous Cements in Prehispanic Mesoamerican Building Construction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1970), ii.

2.   Ibid., 6-15.

3.   See ibid., 6-7.

4.   Ibid., 6-15—6-16.

5.   Ibid., 6-16.