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Let There Be a Famine in the Land
TitleLet There Be a Famine in the Land
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsHawker, Jim
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
KeywordsAncient America; Climate; Dendrochronology; Drought; Mesoamerica; Precipitation

The drought recorded in Helaman 11 is probably the only dated, climate-related event in the entire Book of Mormon that could have left a “signature” detectable over 2,000 years after it occurred. Typical methods to detect this kind of event using dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) or sediment cores from lake beds either do not go back far enough in time or are not of high enough resolution to detect the event described in Helaman 11. However, over the last 15 to 20 years, various researchers have turned to analyzing stalagmites collected from caves to reproduce the precipitation history of a given area. These analysis methods are now producing results approaching the 1–year resolution of dendrochronology, with 2 sigma (95%) dating accuracies on the order of a decade. There is an ongoing debate with regard to where the events in the Book of Mormon took place. One of the proposed areas is Mesoamerica, specifically in southern Mexico and Guatemala. This paper will test the hypothesis that the drought described in the Book of Helaman took place in Mesoamerica using the results of precipitation histories derived from the analysis of three stalagmites compared to determine if there is evidence that a drought took place in the expected time frame and with the expected duration.


Scripture Reference

Helaman 11:1-17