Perhaps the most spectacular city in the Maya world is that of Tikal, located in the Peten Jungle of Guatemala. Dozens of pyramids and housing complexes spread over a vast area. The Temple of the Jaguars rises steeply to a small temple topped with a high roof comb. From the summit of Temple IV you can see for miles in every direction. Piercing the jungle canopy, the peaks of decaying pyramids, like spent volcanoes, rise out of a panoramic sea of thick, green foliage. On every visit, I climb as many of these Mayan mountains I can, saving the oldest, the Lost World Pyramid, for last. It is not crowned with a temple, and is not as high as its brothers, but it dates to Book of Mormon times and its simplicity is compelling. From its summit the broad expanse of sky dominates the green world below. Had I heard Samuel the Lamanite’s five-year prophecy from the walls of Zarahemla, I would have come to a place such as this on that night two thousand years ago, when this same sky was lit by a sun other than the one I see settling into the cebia trees in the west. On that night it was lit by the light of the son of God.
Sitting here in the warm sunlight, it is difficult to imagine the dark fears and faith-stretching test of the believing Nephites who waited for a prophet’s words to be verified. “There shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night . . .and it shall be the night before he is born. And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld” (Helaman 14:4-5).
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