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Quetzalcoatl

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Earliest known representation of a feathered serpent in Mesoamerica
Quetzalcoatl is the "White bearded God" or the "Serpent God" from the legend of Quetzalcoatl of the ancient Aztecs. In Mormon circles, he is often identified with Jesus Christ.

When Hernán Cortés learned about the wealthy Aztecs during his exploration trip, he set out to find them. He arrived in Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519, where he was peacefully greeted by Emperor Montezuma. The peacefulness of his greeting was due to the traditions and customs of the people, but Cortés also later stated the people believed him to be Quetzalcoatl or someone sent by him. Not all historians agree Cortés was telling the truth about this. Whatever the reason for their polite treatment of him, he took advantage of it and took their leader captive, and destroyed their civilization.

Montezuma was concerned because of a number of similarities between the visit of Hernán Cortés and the legends and prophecies of Quetzalcoatl. The most important was that Cortés arrived at the exact year they expected him, a year they called one-reed. He was white skinned and bearded, as their stories had told, and was wealthy, religious, and powerful. Quetzalcoatl had departed in the direction from which Cortés arrived. For this reason, Montezuma needed to be careful about how the man was treated.

Quetzalcoatl was a leader of the ancient Aztecs. It is difficult to sort out what is real and what is fiction in his history, because there was a great blending of both. Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including a few leaders, have speculated that he might indeed have been the god the natives were anticipating when the Cortez arrived in their land. This is far less common today than it was in the past.

Complications arise in trying to decide which information is factual and comes to us unchanged by historians, leaders, and clergy. In addition, there were multiple leaders of the civilization with the same name, and stories from one leader were sometimes handed down to others.

Rulers often associated themselves with a previous powerful leader to enhance their own reputations, and added to the legends or took those legends on themselves. Religious clergy, in later years, blended Biblical tales into native stories, such as stories similar to the Tower of Babel or the parting of the Red Sea.

The name Quetzalcoatl means Feathered Serpant. He is also known as Kukulcan by the Mayans.

Jeff Lindsay’s thoughtful analysis of the evidence includes this connection: “The Mayan rituals encountered by the Spanish included concepts of being reborn, purified, and prepared for the next life, repenting of sins, confession to a priest, white cloth as symbol, and was called with a name that meant "the descent of the god." These remarkable parallels with teachings in the Book of Mormon may be due to the teachings on baptism that Christ gave to his people in the Americas when he ministered to them after His Resurrection (see 3 Nephi 11).” Overlooking the Obvious? Legends of Quetzalcoatl and Ties to the Book of Mormon


Similarities with Christ

  • Held by the Aztecs to be a symbol of death and resurrection.
  • Created the world in conjunction with his adversary, Tezcatlipoca, who lost his foot in the process.
    • (See: Genesis 3:15 and also note that Mormons hold Christ to have created the world.)
  • Was considered to be a good being.
  • His association with the serpent similar to symbolism used by Moses during the Exodus.
  • Sometimes worshiped using animal sacrifice.
  • Usually held to have opposed human sacrifice.

References

  • "Quetzalcoatl, the Maya Maize God, and Jesus Christ" by Diane E. Wirth
  • Quetzalcoatl -- Wikipedia
  • Gardner, Brant . "Brant Gardner's Page." frontpage.nmia.com. 3 Feb. 2009 [1].
  • "Hernán Cortés" Wikipedia. 3 Jan. 2009 [2].
  • Lindsay, Jeff. "Overlooking the Obvious? Legends of Quetzalcoatl and Ties to the Book of Mormon ." JeffLindsay.com. 20 July 2004. 3 Jan. 2009 [3].
  • Wood, Michael . "Conquistadors: Cortez." PBS: Conquistadors. 3 Jan. 2009 >.
  • Worth, Diane E. . "Quetzalcoatl, the Maya Maize God, and Jesus Christ." Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume - 11, Issue - 1. 3 Jan. 2009 [4].