Sunday, March 1, 2015

Teotihuacán and Temples

Dear Family and Friends,

On Saturday February 21st Gilbert and I went with about 12 other couple missionaries to Teotihuacán a large and famous archaeological sight about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City.  (pyramids of Moon and Sun in background)

 We had a great guide, a member of the Church one who knew the archaeology facts, plus made interesting similarities to our temples.  

Most people refer to the sight as pyramids, but he said that is the wrong term for the large structures in Latin-American ruins.  The correct term is temple.  They do not come to a point as do the pyramids in Egypt which were used as tombs.  These are flat on top and form the foundations for sacred buildings that have long since been destroyed.  Only the large mountain-like structures remain.  The were built with rock and filled with dirt. 

 The outside of the structures were stuccoed and painted--often red..  All we see now, except for in a few protected spots where you can still see the plaster, are the rock walls.  People would climb/ascend to the top to be closer to God, to worship and commune with Him there.   

The guide said that Teotihuacán means in Nahuatl, "Place where men become Gods."  I looked up the name on Google and found the following possible translations:  "Place of the Gods, Place where Gods were born, Place of those who have the road of the Gods." Our guide said people would come from great distances to learn how to become like God.  It was like a journey or walking along a path that led from mortality to Godhood.  He said people would dress in white. They walked along the road progressing in learning. Even today certain native groups come to the area dressed in white or dress in white in their local areas for religious reasons. The end point of the journey of path of progression was the top of the pyramid of the Sun. 

More information from Google.  Teotihuacán was the largest city in Pre-Columbian America perhaps with a population of 200,00.  It covered about 32 square miles. There were even high-rise or multi-storied dwellings.  Of course not all of it has been all uncovered and restored--only the large religious complex. I don't know how many acres it covers.  It is estimated that it was built in the 1st century AD and was the new religious center and was used for its original purpose until about 250 AD.  During that time the city was the center of Meso-America with an influential culture. It was a multi-ethnic culture probably made up of Nahua, Otomi and Totonac groups.  By about 500 AD it had been sacked by the Toltecs and the religious buildings destroyed.  They and other groups that conquered used the area for their ceremonies and cultural events that were different from the original purpose.  
This is a model of the religious complex.   

Our guide took us along the path that the original founders followed.  The first complex was a large congregating and instructing area.  There are 12 structures surrounding three sides of a large square with 3 larger structures on the east side and one main one in the center.  From the center, one can speak in a loud voice and be heard all over the huge square.  We were told that the walls of the square were covered by instructional murals.  

At the east of this complex is the temple of Quetzalcuatl, the feathered serpent which represented the God of heaven and earth. (Moses put a serpent on a pole-symbolic of Christ.)  
In many Central and South American countries there are different words that translate into feathered serpent, but all of them refer to a great God.  

It is interesting that as you progress along the path of learning, you cross over a river where they did ritual washing. There are several streams in the area and used to be many springs of water, but with deforestation, overuse, etc. most have gone dry.  Today it is an arid place, but apparently it was originally wooded.  

We passed through some ruins that were used for certain ceremonies.  At the end of the journey or road one ends up at the pyramids/temples of the Sun, the Moon and Stars.  Of course, the ultimate goal was to reach the highest level of the largest pyramid/temple of the Sun.  It is said to be the 3rd largest pyramid in the world. 

 Only a few of our group chose to climb it because it is a tough climb up all those stairs--especially at 7,500 feet about sea level. I have climbed it a couple of times before but wanted to do it again, and am grateful I can still do it at my age.  It was an exciting and even a spiritual experience for me to be there.  (At the top)

By the time the Spaniards came on the scene, most of the original truth had been changed or lost and some human sacrifices were being committed.  However, the native people valued human life more than most of the Spaniards did.  At one large temple sight, in Cholula, over 4,000 natives (men, women and children) were massacred by the conquering Spaniards, and a Catholic cathedral was built on top of the temple hill. Some people believe that the Spaniards told of all the native human sacrifices to cover their own bloodbaths. Regardless of the situation of the native people when the Spaniards arrived, there is much evidence to prove they were once a very advanced civilization with knowledge of the heavens, agriculture, architecture, astronomy, construction, medicines, pottery, textiles, etc. There is a beautiful museum there that shows some of these achievements.

This mural on the museum wall depicts some of the history.  Other parts of the mural resemble Egypian figures.
There is so much in the history that coincides with the Book of Mormon.  I believe that Christ did visit many peoples of the Americas after his resurrection and that for a few centuries the different groups were united in peace and prosperity as they lived principles that He taught them.  Won't it be great when some day we understand how all this fits together?  I look forward to that day.
It was also exciting to see a couple of the Colonies in Chihuahua--Eddie and Irene Jones from Dublán. Gilbert taught him in high school the year we lived in Colonia Juarez.

After our tour of Teotihuacán, we all went to eat at a nice restaurant where we enjoyed an abundant buffet.

Please don't think that all we do is eat and sight-see.  We worked very hard the past two weeks, putting in long hours and processing more papers than ever.  But our office work is much the same day after day.  It is the weekends that differ.  But we enjoy our assignments and feel we a making a small contribution in this great work.

Saludos a todos / Greetings to all,
Michelle / Sister Sandberg  


  1. Enjoyed your report on the history of Mexico. Who is the woman on the right in the last photo when you are eating? She looks so familiar.

  2. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I just loved the tutorial and BRAVO for making it to the top of those stairs!!!

  4. Also, we read this to our kids over dinner (okay, mostly showed them the pictures, they has short attention spans).

  5. Great pictures! So grateful for your example of good health and staying active, Mom. I didn't know all of this about Teotihuacan. Thanks for sharing. We love you