Did the Mayan perform baptisms? | LDS Tours Cancun

Today, Alma’s LDS Tours wants to share about the history and meaning of the sacred ritual Calputzihil, where the Mayan performed a ceremony very similar to baptism.

Calputzihil ceremony

Image of Mayan people performing Calputzihil ceremony
Image of people performing Calputzihil ceremony

The expression Caput zihil or Calput zihil, literally means ‘two times born.’ William F. Hanks, the author of the book “Mayan in the Age of the Cross,” states: “It is the phrase used to denote the resurrection of Christ as well as the baptism. Rather than translate the term baptism per se, it describes the doctrinal meaning of baptism, the original threshold where a new man is born.”

Calputzihil was a ritual performed by the Mayan culture to baptize their young people. This ceremony began since the children were three years old. The boys wore a white stone tied with a string around their forehead, while the girls wore a small shell tied around their waist. These items represented purity. To remove either of these items before baptism was considered a great sin.
This ritual was so important to the Mayan that they had so much devotion to it, and no one was left uninvited to be baptized. The ritual was a solemn and reverent act. In order to proceed with it, the participant was required to confess the sins and transgressions before participating in it.


For the Mayan, the baptism meant the promise of voluntarily submitting to following customs, being good, and not letting demons damage themselves in temporal things. Through this ceremony and righteous behavior, they would expect to achieve glory.

Does it sound familiar to you? While the Calputzihil ceremony is different from the baptism that takes place in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we can find several similarities in the meanings of performing the ordinance, including:

  • The meaning of the word zihil is “to be born again,” and it can only be used with the composition of the verb, so “calputzihil” translates to “Born again.” We believe that baptism is a spiritual rebirth, in which our sins are washed, and we are cleansed again. We also associate baptism with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who overcame death and rose again on the third day.
  • The young people were not baptized until the age of twelve since, at that age, they would take accountability for their sins, repenting honestly, and change their behavior.
  • To perform the baptism, it was first necessary to confess sins and transgressions sincerely and not commit them again. Just as Latter-day Saints go through interviews with our leaders to be able to carry out the ordinance, repent of our sins, and not commit them more.
  • The Mayans voluntarily subjected themselves to lead a life of righteous behavior and not be fooled by demons. By partaking the ordinance, we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and promise to follow him and live his gospel, to have a life of righteousness to have the company of the Holy Ghost. We renew this promise every Sunday by partaking the sacraments.
  • With baptism, the Maya sought to achieve glory. We know that baptism is a saving ordinance; that is to attain Heavenly glory and eternal life.

Both for the Maya and each member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, baptism is an event full of spiritual meaning and value to be born again.

Jesus Christ taught his prophets and apostles of the Americas the importance of baptism, how it should be done, and what should be done.

21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.
23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.

3 Nephi 11: 21-23

Towards the end of the Book of Mormon, we see how the people were corrupting the sacred meaning of baptism as they were baptizing little children. Mormon, received the word of the Lord to teach them about the appropriate order of such ordinance. We read in Moroni 8:8-10

8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.

Moroni 8:8-10

Alma’s LDS Tours offers a great variety of tours where you can keep learning more about the history of this and more Mayan culture.
Here is a list of our most popular tours:


  • Book of Mormon
  • “Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán”, De Landa, Fray Diego, pág.52.
  • “Converting words: The Mayan in the age of the Cross”, Hanks, William, page 129.

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