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The Book of Mormon (mainly its Book of Ether) describes the Jaredites as the descendants of Jared and his brother, who lived at the time of the Tower of Babel. According to the Book of Mormon, they fled across the ocean on unique barges and established an ancient civilization in the Americas. The Book of Ether's mention of "elephants" and "narrow neck of land" has led some to conclude that the civilization likely spanned from the Midwest to the Eastern United States such as New York, where fossils of ancient mammoths have not been discovered in abundance, and many Native American accounts describe Niagara as the narrow strip of land that literally translates to "the neck". Others argue for a location still north of but nearer to the "necks of land" in Central America or Mexico.
However, the existence of any the four groups is not accepted by mainstream archaeology.
Book of Ether
According to the Book of Mormon, the Jaredites are the descendants of Jared, his brother, their immediate family, and their friends. (Joseph Smith later identified the brother of Jared as Mahonri Moriancumer.) At the time of the Tower of Babel, when the tongues of all nations were confounded, the Lord acceded to the desires of Jared, and his people's language was not confounded. The people were also granted a land of promise.
The Lord guided the people through the wilderness and were eventually directed to cross the sea in "barges." The vessels were sealed and watertight and able to be swamped by waves without sinking. Air was obtained from outside the vessels, as needed. They also brought with them animals and food. The recorded length of the miraculous trip was 344 days.
Ether is the last in the royal line that began with one of the sons of Jared. From the time of the first king to the destruction of the Jaredites, there were only occasional periods of peace and prosperity. The times of peace were interrupted by intrigue over the throne, civil war, and the accession of wicked kings. The history of the Jaredites confirmed the fears of Jared and his brother that a monarchy would lead to evil.
The Book of Mormon claims that the Jaredites grew to become a civilization that exceeded two million people just before its destruction. They finally destroyed themselves about the time Lehi and the other refugees from Jerusalem arrived in America. A prophecy of Ether was fulfilled: the last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, lived to see both the total destruction of his entire house, the scattering of the remaining Jaredites, and the arrival of another people to inherit the land.
Other references in Book of Mormon
Outside the Book of Ether, the Book of Mormon relates that Coriantumr was found by the Mulekites. The Nephites later encountered the Mulekites and taught them the Nephite language. The Mulekites told them that Coriantumr had died some nine months after he had come to live with them. The Nephite prophet King Mosiah I was able to translate some records (a stone tablet and 24 metal plates), which the Mulekites had found. The story that was recorded on the metal plates was later included by Moroni, as the Book of Ether, in the Book of Mormon.
The ocean crossed is not specified in the Book of Mormon. Hugh Nibley's There were Jaredites and The World of the Jaredites argue for the Pacific Ocean, but Milton R. Hunter argues for the Atlantic Ocean.
The location of the Jaredite civilization is also not specified in the Book of Mormon except that it was north of a narrow neck of land in what was called the "Land Northward" by the Nephites. The New World location of the Jaredites and Nephites is a subject of controversy among Mormons. Joseph Smith indicated that the Jaredites arrived in "the lake country of America" and that "the Nephites... lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found."
Some scholars of Mormonism have argued for substantial parallels between the Jaredites and the Olmecs. For example, one scholar pointed to writings by an ancient Native American historian, Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, who wrote about a group of people who came from the great tower to Mesoamerica. Ixtlilxochitl wrote that the people lived in an area in the northern parts of the land, along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Other LDS researchers, such as W. Vincent Coon, point to native legends and suggest that the earliest immigrants to Central America migrated by land and boat from "northern America." Phyllis Carol Olive compares Jaredite civilization to ancient cultures of the Great Lakes region.
Some Bible and Book of Mormon scholars have also suggested that the Jaredites may have been descendants of Shem. Since Moroni begins his abridgement of the Book of Ether by saying that he is omitting the parts of Ether's record that are found in the Bible, Moroni says that he will begin where the biblical record leaves off. Moroni then begins with a genealogy that goes from Ether back to Jared. That may imply that his point of departure from the biblical record is also a genealogy.
In the Bible, Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Shem (Shem - Arphaxad - Salah - Eber). Shem's great-grandson Eber (or Heber) is said to have two sons, Peleg and Joktan (or Yoktan), and it is noted that in their day, the earth was divided. The record briefly lists Joktan's children but then, his line ends. The record returns to Peleg and follows his line after telling the story of the Tower of Babel.
Some have interpreted "the earth was divided" to mean the covenant line was divided into two groups, one of which went to America. They note that one of Joktan's sons is named "Jerah," which is similar to Jared. They propose that Moroni's genealogy of Ether begins where Genesis 10 leaves off. Some have further hypothesized that the word Yucatán is derived from Joktan. (See Smith and Sjodahl's commentary or a summary.)
Hugh Nibley argues the Jaredites are essentially similar to peoples such as the Mongols in culture. His argument considers that they crossed small bodies of water before they went to the ocean and dwelt along the seashore for three years. It could be argued that members of their group broke off and became part of the ancestors of the population of the Mongols and others of that region.
- LDS.org: "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-03-29), IPA-ified from «jĕr´a-dīt»
- Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 146-147.
- Ether 2:17
- Ether 6:7
- Ether 2:24
- Ether 2:14
- Ether 2:20
- Ether 6:4
- Ether 6:11
- Omni 6:22-23
- Ether 15:2
- Ether 13:20-21
- Omni 1:20, 21
- Omni 1:20, 21
- Times and Seasons, June 15, 1842, Vol. 3, No. 16, pp. 818-820
- Times and Seasons, September 15, 1842, Vol. 3, No. 22, p. 915
- Coon, W. Vincent, Choice Above All Other Lands, Ch. 1, "Comparing the Book of Mormon with Veytia's History of Ancient Mesoamerica"
- Olive, Phyllis Carol, The Lost Empires and Vanished Races of Prehistoric America, Ch. 3, The Jaredites – From Babylon to the Promised Land (2000-1800 B.C.)
- Petersen, Mark E. (1984), The Jaredites, Deseret Book Co, ISBN 0-87747-998-4
- Nibley, Hugh (1988), Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, Deseret Book Co, ISBN 0-87579-132-8
- Brinley, Douglas E. (1995). "The Jaredites—A Case Study in Following the Brethren". In Nyman, Monte S.; Tate, Charles D., Jr. Fourth Nephi, From Zion to Destruction. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University. pp. 45–59. ISBN 0-88494-974-5. OCLC 32500560.
- Judd, Frank F. (1995). "Jaredite Zion Societies: Hope for a Better World". In Nyman, Monte S.; Tate, Charles D., Jr. Fourth Nephi, From Zion to Destruction. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University. pp. 147–52. ISBN 0-88494-974-5. OCLC 32500560.