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When Christ died, did darkness cover the land for three days or for three hours?
by Jeff Lindsay
Critics claim that the Book of Mormon account contradicts the Bible. The Bible teaches that there were three hours of darkness when Christ died (Luke 23:44), while the Book of Mormon says that mists of darkness persisted on the land for three days after an intense three-hour storm (3 Nephi 8:19, 23). As is often the case, a closer look at this alleged Book of Mormon problem results in strengthened appreciation for the authenticity and divine origin of the Book of Mormon.
The "mists of darkness" apparently refer to volcanic ash that was present at this time in Central America (Book of Mormon territority) but not in Jerusalem. Many of the literally earth-shaking events described in the Book of Mormon at the time of Christ's death are consistent with what is now known about volcanic activity - quaking ground, cities being buried and burned, changes in water level or tidal waves associated with seismic activity (some cities were sunk), and intense lightning and storms. Most particularly, volcanic activity can result in thick volcanic ash that meets the descriptions of the "mists of darkness" in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 8:19-23)): the ash can be felt, it can overpower people (3 Nephi 10:13), it can make it difficult to light fires (especially when the ash is moist or is associated with rain), it can block out sunlight completely, and it can persist for days (three days, for example). Volcanic activity is strongly implied in the text and is accurately described (and Joseph Smith could not have known such things himself). The only question, then, is whether there is any evidence for volcanic activity in the New World at the time of Christ's death. The amazing answer is yes: there was significant volcanic activity in the New World near the time of Christ's death - and the location is Central America, the limited area that serious LDS scholars have concluded must be the region described in the Book of Mormon. For sources and more evidence concerning the significance of volcanism in the Book of Mormon, see my page on Book of Mormon evidences.
(See The Book of Mormon home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)
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