Saturday, May 2, 2015


Sometimes people still tell me the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica because of the proof such as Quetzalcoatl. This is a persistent error with a long history. I remember hearing it a lot as a kid. Twelve years ago, people such as Joseph Allen and Chris Heimerdinger were using Quetzalcoatl as evidence of the Mesoamerican setting. Two of Heimerdinger's Tennis Shoes books deal with the "Feathered Serpent."

Of course, there is not a smidgen of connection between the original Quetzalcoatl myth and the Book of Mormon. The "similarities" used to market package tours are based on the version of the myth perpetuated by the Spanish conquerors to justify their domination of the Mayans. 

Critics have had a field day with this. Rightfully so. Not even the people at FAIR believe that any more.

(Now, if we can get FAIR to take another look at a lot of the other myths upon which the Mesoamerican theory relies, we'll be getting somewhere.) 

John Sorenson also had an excellent comment on the topic:

Many Latter-day Saints have drawn parallels between Mesoamerican lore concerning the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and Jesus who appeared to the Nephites in 3 Nephi. Are these comparisons valid? How do your views differ from those of other Latter-day Saints?
The topic is complex, not least because there have been two or more “Quetzalcoatls” in “history.” Actually the Amerindians of south-central Mexico, from which most of the traditions have reached us, do not have a reality-based, consistent history. What we have instead is fragments of traditions (reported by Ixtlilxochitl, Sahagún, Veytia and others) that have some historical content, but there is not any discernible master narrative among them.
Latter-day Saint writers have sometimes tried to force a narrative sequence on them, but the results remain unconvincing in detail. One of the earliest attempts was by Hunter and Ferguson in their Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (1950), who equated the figure Hueman of Ixtlilxochitl’s writings with Mormon of the Book of Mormon, but in order to do so they arbitrarily dated Hueman to the fourth century, on no objective basis whatever.

Most professional Mesoamericanist scholars take the traditions as merely such, without supposing that an integrated history can be constructed from them. Thus they do not treat them as historically (that is, chronologically) significant in the way that archaeological findings potentially are. Nevertheless some of the traditions, in conjunction with Mesoamerican art history, do seem to cluster near the time of Christ. These I rely on in Mormon’s Codex as likely related to the Book of Mormon’s report of the appearance of Jesus Christ. Other details in the traditions may be associated only (or largely) with some of the later figures who were also called “Quetzalcoatl.” The uncertainties of historical timing of the statements about  these figures means, to me, that there will always be uncertainties in relation to the Book of Mormon account.

Nevertheless, look at this list of "similarities" used to promote "Book of Mormon" tours to Central America in the ldsmag link above:

Similarities of Christ and Quetzalcoatl include the following:

1. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl were recognized as creator of all things. (Mosiah 4:2; Saenz 1962:19, 40)
2. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl were born of virgins. (Alma 7: 10; Gamiz 95)
3. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl are described as being white or as wearing a white robe. (3 Nephi 11:8; Torquemada 47)
4. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl performed miracles. (3 Nephi 26:15; Sejourne 136-137)
5. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl taught the ordinance of baptism. (3 Nephi 11:23; Irwin 1963:170)
6. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl prophesied of future events. (Ixtlilxochitl: 40)
7. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl were universal as opposed to just being recognized as local gods. (3 Nephi 16: 1; Sejourne 1962)
8. A great destruction was associated with both Christ and Quetzalcoatl at exactly the same time period in history. (3 Nephi 8:5; Ixtlilxochitl: 40)
9. The cross was a symbol to both Christ and Quetzalcoatl. (3 Nephi 27:14; Irwin 1963:165)
10. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl sent out disciples to preach their word. (3 Nephi 12:1; Wirth 1978:55)
11. Both Christ and Quetzalcoatl promised they would come a second time. (2 Nephi 6:14; Sahagun 1:40)
12. A new star is associated with both Christ and Quetzalcoatl. (3 Nephi 1:21; Anales de Cuauhtitlan 7)

13. The children of both Christ and Quetzalcoatl will become lords and heirs of the earth. (4 Nephi 1: 17; Ixtlilxochitl: 40)

Here's a succinct explanation of the myth vs reality:

The myth
Most North Americans are at least vaguely familiar with the legend of how Conquistador, Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, captured Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, by pretending to be a bearded, white skinned god, who had returned to Mexico as prophesized. In some versions of the story, the Aztec astronomers had predicted that Quetzalcoatl would return in the month of One Reed. Cortés did arrive on the shores of Mexico in the month, One Reed. The story continues to state that the emperor of the Aztec Empire, Moctezuma II was paralyzed by the possibly that Cortés might be a returned god, and therefore waited too long to dispatch his massive army. Cortés then quickly conquered the Aztec empire by guile.

The reality
This story was probably fabricated by the Spanish after the conquest in order to make their brutal seizure of Mexico seem to be ordained by God. There was a story in Aztec literature about a Toltec king, who around 950 AD vowed to return after being expelled from his city. Nowhere is there substantial evidence that Moctezuma believed that de Soto was an invincible god. It was far more likely that Moctezuma assumed that 400+ Spanish soldiers were no threat to his massive army, but they had weapons and horses that might be useful to the Aztecs, if the Spanish became allies. As the saying goes . . . the winners always write the history books.
Also, there is no known pre-Spanish Conquest art in which the god Quetzalcoatl is portrayed as a European. It was quite common for Mexican rulers to wear goatee style beards. This was also the custom of the ancestors of the Creek Indians in the Southeastern United States. The Spanish did not understand the Aztec political structure. Moctezuma was not an absolute ruler, but a head of state. He ruled with the consent of a council of nobles. He could lose his job at any time, if the council felt that he was incompetent.
What actually happened was that Moctezuma treated the Spanish as diplomatic VIP’s. in order to avoid a repeat of large scale bloodshed as had occurred in the city of Cholula. Cortés learned that the leaders of Cholula planned to massacre the Spanish in their sleep. The Spanish launched a preemptive strike killing at least 3,000 persons in the city.
While de Soto was away with most of his men, fighting a Spanish army that planned to arrest him, his token garrison in Tenochtitlan murdered many nobles. The entire population rose in anger. They dethroned Moctezuma and elected a new emperor. Cortés arrived back in Tenochtitlan just as this crisis was flaring. The Aztecs came very close to massacring the Spaniards inside their city while they were trying to escape. Many Spaniards and Tlaxcalan allies died as they fought their way out of the city.
Most television documentaries give viewers the impression that Cortés immediately returned to Tenochtitlan with a larger army of allies and conquered the city. That was not what happened. In fact, while he was making his way back to Tenochtitlan, an Aztec army attacked his rear convoy containing the wounded, servants, Native concubines and Spanish wives. At least 400 of these were captured, fattened in wood cages, sacrificed at a temple in Zultepec, and eaten. Another 62 members of his rear guard who protected his escape were also sacrificed. The heads of the Spanish men and women were mounted on a rack in the Zultepec square.
Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan with approximately 200 soldiers and perhaps 20,000 Native allies. This army was still not large enough to storm the city, because it was accessed by causeways that restricted the number of soldiers, who could attack at any time. These causeways also restricted how many Aztecs could try to break blockade. While Cortés army blocked food from entering the city of approximately 100,000 people, smallpox swept through its defenders, killing well over half the population. After Tenochtitlan had become a biological killing field, the allies attacked the few remaining healthy troops and soon conquered the city.

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