FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief, and practice.
Jesus Christ/Relationship to Quetzalcoatl
The potential relationship between Quetzalcoatl and Jesus Christ
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that Quetzalcoatl was actually Jesus Christ?
- Question: Have Mormon apologists ignored aspects of Quetzalcoatl which are inconsistent with Jesus Christ?
- Question: What are the problems of trying to associate Quetzalcoatl with Jesus Christ?
- Diane E. Wirth, "Quetzalcoatl, the Maya Maize God, and Jesus Christ"
Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that Quetzalcoatl was actually Jesus Christ?
Whether Quetzalcoatl can tell us anything about the Book of Mormon remains unproven
It is claimed that LDS scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl was Jesus Christ. However, since Quetzalcoatl's association with a "feathered serpent" constitutes "snake worship," some Christians claim that this association is therefore inconsistent with worship of Jesus Christ.
Some LDS authors have seen Christian parallels to Quetzalcoatl. At least some of these parallels were probably imposed, however, by the secondary sources who also sought a Christian connection to native myth. Quetzalcoatl plays a minor—if any—role in modern LDS apologetics. Critics should not, however, act as if the association of a "snake" with Christ is completely foreign or strange—certainly the brass serpent placed on a pole and raised up by Moses has some symbolic links to Jesus.
Whether Quetzalcoatl can tell us anything about the Book of Mormon, however, remains unproven. FairMormon does not at present recommend relying on this as "evidence" for the truth of the Book of Mormon account.
The legend of Quetzalcoatl is of interest as a corroborative element in supporting the Book of Mormon, but it is not an element of anybody's belief
Although critics would like to make the LDS association of Quetzalcoatl with Jesus Christ some sort of key element in an effort to "salvage their cherished faith," the reality is that Quetzalcoatl is rarely if ever discussed. The legend of Quetzalcoatl is of interest as a corroborative element in supporting the Book of Mormon, but it is by no means a critical element of anybody's belief. The association is intriguing to the LDS, as even the critics agree that certain elements of the legend are consistent with the Book of Mormon teaching that Jesus Christ appeared in the New World. Wallace E. Hunt Jr. lists the following elements, all drawn from non-LDS sources:
- Quetzalcoatl was the creator of life.
- Quetzalcoatl taught virtue.
- Quetzalcoatl was the greatest Lord of all.
- Quetzalcoatl had a "long beard and the features of a white man."
- The Mesoamericans believed Quetzalcoatl would return.
Question: Have Mormon apologists ignored aspects of Quetzalcoatl which are inconsistent with Jesus Christ?
Those who have seen Quetzalcoatl as evidence for Christ's visit to the Americas generally saw the Quetzalcoatl legend as an apostate remnant of the truth
Critic Richard Abanes claims that the similarities in the comparison of Quetzalcoatl with Jesus Christ are "minor," while continuing on to note that "what LDS apologists tend to not mention are a few additional aspects of Quetzalcoatl, none of which seem very consistent with Jesus Christ." The following aspects of the Quetzalcoatl legend are those that some claim that are "deemphasized" by LDS apologists:
- Snake worship
- Human sacrifice made to Quetzalcoatl
- Quetzalcoatl's twin brother Xolotl
Have "LDS apologists" (meaning, in this case, any LDS scholar) ignored or deemphasized aspects of the Quetzalcoatl legend?
Those (e.g., Milton R. Hunter) who have seen Quetzalcoatl as evidence for Christ's visit to the Americas generally saw the Quetzalcoatl legend as an apostate remnant of the truth. Thus, they saw some parallels which they felt applied to Jesus, while recognizing that fifteen hundred years of apostasy and corruption led to other elements being "grafted on" or altered.
While a legitimate perspective, this approach has the disadvantage of seeing parallels and ignoring contradictory aspects.
Question: What are the problems of trying to associate Quetzalcoatl with Jesus Christ?
Chief among these is the fact that most writers have not used the original sources of the Quetzalcoatl myths, but have relied on secondary sources—these sources often came via the Spanish, who likewise had an interest in seeing Christian parallels with native Amerindian myths.
When the original sources are studied, it becomes clear that the Christian parallels to Quetzalcoatl are not as significant as some authors have previously thought.
Legends about Quetzalcoatl from Mexico and Central America bring forward tantalizing resemblances to aspects of the life and New World ministry of Jesus Christ. In the past, some leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occasionally drew attention to certain of those similarities.1 Among those mentioned in post-Spanish conquest manuscripts were that Quetzalcoatl was the Creator, that he was born of a virgin, that he was a god of the air and earth (in his manifestation as the Feathered Serpent), that he was white and bearded, that he came from heaven and was associated with the planet Venus, that he raised the dead, and that he promised to return. The full picture, however, is extremely complex.
In light of ancient sources and modern studies that have appeared in recent decades, some proposed links between Jesus Christ and Quetzalcoatl remain quite plausible while others are now questionable. This article examines and sets into a helpful context possible links that may derive from, or be related to, the Nephites' knowledge of and teaching about the Savior.
For extensive discussion, see:
- Brant Gardner, "The Christianization of Quetzalcoatl: A History of the Metamorphosis," Sunstone 10 no. (Issue #11) (1986), 6–10. off-site PDF link
- Brant Gardner, “Quetzalcoatl’s Fathers: A Critical Examination of Source Materials,” http://www.ku.edu/~hoopes/aztlan/tripart.htm (1997)
- Blair Dee Hodges, "Method and Skepticism (and Quetzalcoatl....)," lifeongoldplates.com (29 September 2008) off-site
- Brant Gardner, "A New Chronicler in the Old Style," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 13–22. off-site wiki
- Brant Gardner, "Where Much Is Promised, Less Is Given, A review of Decoding Ancient America: A Guide to the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon by Diane E. Wirth," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 15–32. off-site wiki
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here