Current knowledge about this civilization is inaccurate and spotty speculation. The actual history of the
"Mayans" can be found in the Book of Mormon.
According to this record, Lehi led his family and other people from a home in ancient
Jerusalem to settle in modern
Guatemala. The family built a ship near
Khor Karfot and crossed the Pacific Ocean.
DIVISION INTO LAMANITES AND NEPHITES:
Not many years after the death of Lehi,
threatened Nephi and his people,
which resulted in a separation into two lands. The two groups often engaged in warfare, usually instigated by
Lamanites or apostate Nephites who allied with their former foes.
The original capital was located at Nephi
(Mayan name of Kaminaljuyu) between 588 and 559 BC.
Due to constant early attacks, Nephites moved to Zarahemla
(Mayan name of Yaxchilán), which the people of Mulek
founded after escaping the fall of Jerusalem in 597 BC. Better educated and skilled Nephites dominated the mingled societies,
probably because the Mulekites were composed of numerous Phoenician
and Hebrew sailors.
Frescos at Bonampak depicted the Nephites and darker-skinned Lamanites.
A former Lamanite group, the People of Ammon, reportedly built
extensive structures at Teotihuacan years after escaping from an area
called the Waters of Mormon (modern Lake Atitlan).
Ammon's people preferred to avoid fighting in the frequent battles, although a group of over 2,000 young men did volunteer to
fight under a Nephite commander named Helaman circa 64 BC.
VISIT OF RESURRECTED CHRIST:
The most significant positive event in this civilization's history was the personal visit of the
resurrected Jesus Christ to
the people at Bountiful. Numerous prophets foretold
this event, including Samuel the Lamanite circa 6 BC.
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions altered numerous areas immediately after the death of Christ. He
likewise radically altered society, ending contention and warfare over 200 years.
DESTRUCTION OF NEPHITES:
Circa 421 AD, Lamanites largely destroyed the Nephite people in battle at the
Hill Cumorah (see an
alternate site). Defectors and
Lamanites occupied the lands and eventually built cities and massive structures throughout the region.
Mormon abridged the records of his
people on gold plates and his son,
Moroni, buried them for safekeeping.
In 1820 AD, Moroni delivered them to
Joseph Smith Jr. for translation and
dissemination to the world.