Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church/Chapter 6

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 6: Science and the First Americans"

A FAIR Analysis of: Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, a work by author: Simon G. Southerton
Claim Evaluation
Losing a Lost Tribe
Chart losing a lost tribe chapter 6.jpg

Response to claims made in Losing a Lost Tribe, "Chapter 6: Science and the First Americans"

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to claim: 83 - LDS Scholars frequently associate the Olmec and Maya with the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations

The author(s) of Losing a Lost Tribe make(s) the following claim:

LDS Scholars frequently associate the Olmec and Maya with the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations.

Author's sources:
  1. No source given.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: Is it possible that the Nephites and Lamanites are associated with the pre-Classic Maya, and the Jaredites are associated with the Olmec?

There is circumstantial evidence related to geography and timeframe to support this association, which has been reflected in Church materials over the years

Latter-day Saints sometimes associate the Nephites and/or Lamanites with the Maya, and the Jaredite civilization with the Olmec. There is circumstantial evidence to support this:

  • The general consensus among LDS scholars that Book of Mormon events are likely to have occurred in Mesoamerica. This is the location of the ancient Maya and Olmec civilizations.
  • The fact that the Maya and Olmec civilizations are in the proper relative locations and approximate time periods required by the Book of Mormon (A detail, by the way, which Joseph Smith could not possibly have known).
  • The cover of the 2008 Gospel Doctrine manual (Book of Mormon study guide) shows the painting Christ with Three Nephite Disciples, by Gary L. Kapp. This painting portrays Jesus and the three disciples standing in front of a Mesoamerican pyramid.
  • Artwork that has appeared in Church publications and buildings for many years has depicted Book of Mormon events occurring in a Mesoamerican setting. One well-known painting of Christ appearing to the Nephites shows a Mesoamerican pyramid in the background, and to the far left, one of the "elephant-like" snouts associated with masks of the Mayan rain-god Chac.
  • A famous set of 12 paintings by artist Arnold Friberg was included in most copies of the Book of Mormon for many years. These paintings depict Book of Mormon events as occurring in Mesoamerican settings.[1]
  • The Church produced film "The Testaments" depicts Book of Mormon events as occurring in a Central American setting, with Christ appearing in front of a classic Mayan pyramid.
  • "Book of Mormon tours" which take interested members to "see the lands of the Book of Mormon" in Mesoamerica.
  • The Maya and the Olmec have a written language—a requirement for Book of Mormon peoples, who kept records. Mesoamerica is the site of the only literate pre-Columbian population.

It is easy, therefore, to see why Latter-day Saints typically associate the Nephites or Lamanites with the Maya.


  1. [citation needed] Swanson?