Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship


Matt Roper


volcanism, Book of Mormon, destruction, history


The account of the great destruction at the death of Christ in Third Nephi relates that many cities at the time were destroyed by fire (3 Nephi 8:14; 9:3, 9–11). In an article published in 1998, geologist Bart Kowallis argued that the destructive events, including the burning of cities described there, are consistent with the effects of a significant volcanic event. The volcanic interpretation fits particularly well in a Mesoamerican setting where volcanic events are historically common. Additional support for this interpretation can be found in Mormon’s description of the aftermath of these events. In his abridgement of the subsequent history of the people of Lehi, Mormon states that it was many years before these burned cities were rebuilt and inhabited (4 Nephi 1:6–7).