The Book of Mormon's version of history continues to be challenged--and championed--by skeptics and faithful
To the LDS faithful, Lamanites were real people with a real history.
Every Mormon prophet since the church's founding in 1830 has taught that Indians descended from Lamanites. The perceived link explains the church's initial outreach to Indians in the northeast and later in Utah. It is why the church created an Indian Placement Program, urging members in the 1950s to care for those they saw as part of their religious family. Mormon missionaries working in Central and South America have always told potential converts the Book of Mormon is their ancestors' story.
Non-Mormon archaeologists take the whole thing "as a complete fantasy, that this is a big waste of time," said Michael Coe, an emeritus professor of Mesoamerican studies at Yale, in last spring's PBS documentary "The Mormons."