Because of a Catholic bishop’s addition skills, many Christians inherited the absurd notion that Adam was mudded up around 4004 BC. Given that he lived a thousand years, and Noah another thousand, and that the Tower of Babel is mentioned in Genesis after the Deluge, Mormon writers have simply carted in the guesses that (1) The “great tower” mentioned in Ether is the Tower of Babel, as if there were no other towers in human history; (2) that the Tower of Babel was built around 2000 BC (and the flood occured 2700 BC); and (3) that the Jaredites came from the Middle East, where Babel was said to be. Below are the relevant passages from Ether.
33 Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered.
34 And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.
35 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded.
Note that no “babel” is mentioned (except misleadingly in chapter headings and footnotes), and that only the language of “the people” was confounded; not of all people, but these were apparently a people who were scattered. One can imagine that for a proud people (like “Americans” in the United States), a small and local cataclysim takes on global proportions, bounded only by their sense of importance and injury as braided with some vast geographical ignorance. Thus, a small flood, or earthquake, or peopling, becomes hemispherical or even global.
Second, unless other parties left the tower with an unconfounded language, no other history of this age can be regarded as reliable: the people have been confounded, and probably the same could be said of other towers and peoples as well. Ironically, only a non-confounded people could enlighten us here.
Third, Moroni assumes “the Jews” have the correct account of Creation on down to the Tower; I cannot answer this problem. Perhaps the account was found in his own plates, and only after this introductory composition of Ether was it “sealed up”; or, it was in the Book of Lehi or the Brass Plates? The correct account (see the second point above) was apparently taken by the Jaredites from the Great Tower, and thus the plea that their language be not confouded was solved in the same manner that it was with Lehi and the Brass Plates (which text preserved knowledge of “Egyptian” among the scribes, which language is not, I think, even remotely similar to what our scholars call “Egyptian”). In any case, we clearly don’t have the correct account of things, although Genesis seems to be a decent imitation, good enough to fool most of the people for fifteen centuries, and many Mormons today. That fooling works in much the same way that Correlated histories deceive Mormons today into believing a false tradition, but close imitation of true history.
No serious bible scholar, linguist or scientist entertains any of the above propositions concerning a literal Babel, and yet Mormon scholars (a standard model here) still seek to bridge the narrative from the Book That Passed Through The Great And Abominable Church with their own scriptures. And insist it is so; even Hugh Nibley among them, despite there being problems with the bestiary in Ether naming Elephants and other beasts not evident in the Americas 4000 years ago. Even anthropologists like John Sorensen only stretch the Jaredites back to 3100 BC, despite knowing the archaeological problems inherent in that dogma.
Dump The Bible
Let me propose a very tentative alternative: The Jaredites migrated no later than 11,000 years Before Present (BP), during the end of “the Wisconsin” Ice Age; possibly as early as 250,000 BP (!). The early date has problems, obviously. No archaeology accepted by the profession justifies it, although the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. The later date seems less troublesome, except that this land was preserved for the righteous, and not simply any roaming band or raft that happened this way (and evidence of humans even 20,000 BP is now accepted by most archaeologists). Also, they wouldn’t have needed ships to arrive here during certain spans, if they came during a glaciation; sea levels dropped enough to bridge continents together. Maybe 50,000 BP, just for a nice round date? Whenever they came, the people endured storms and floods, a clearly different geography with many lakes, and brought records of an even more ancient race of men “of reknown”, long since destroyed.
During Ice Age oscillations the “waters receded” and great seas that covered much of North America withdrew into glaciers; while other seas emerged as glacial lakes dammed by ice (e.g., Bonneville, Cahuilla, Lahontan, Missoula, Agassiz). Ice Age climate changes probably wiped out the Jaredites, or at least precipitated their fall. All perished, apparently; with the exception of Coriantumr and Ether. Here’s Moroni’s summary:
20 And in the second year the word of the Lord came to Ether, that he should go and prophesy unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—21 Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr.
Now, if you read the account from Amaleki concerning the finding of Coriantumr by the people of Zarahemla, you’ll note that the Jaredite (a descendent of the Brother of Jared) lived with them for “nine moons”. I have guessed in an Abridging Works essay that this phrase suggests he fathered a daughter here, thus extending the line of the Brother of Jared into the line of Zedekiah (said to descend from David), and then into the line of Mosiah (and Joseph). If so, then according to the curse of Ether, Coriantumr did see a people take over the land, but he was not yet buried by them. Why? Because he was to outlive all his household, and if he had a child, he was thus condemned to live until that line should fail, and only then receive “burial” at the hands of “another people”.
The remains of their civilization could’ve been swept in a glacial lake flood onto the plains where they were discovered by wandering Nephites, who surmised (perhaps wrongly) that the civilization existed in that very region. If deposted by flood, our leap from Jaredite to Nephite geography becomes somewhat more complex, but not altogether unsolveable.
The bestiary in Ether gives us Elephants, Curoloms, Cumoms (the more useful and domesticated ones), and horses and asses as well (apparently not as useful, nor entirely domesticated?). Among the beasts rendered extinct around 6000 to 10,000 BP are the horse (to the anti-Book of Mormon reader’s delight), mammoth, gomphothere, mastodon, camel, giant sloth, giant bear, paleo-llama, giant armedillo, and a host of other “megafauna“.
Rather than insist on the truth of the bible, in the face of physical proofs that the book is faulty at best, we ought to shift our Jaredite chronology significantly backward. There would be real gains made in knowledge: for example, if we could identify candidates for “curolom” (gomphothere?) and “cumom” (camel?) we could begin to map out the possible expanse of Jaredite civilization. Such a sketch could help with the Nephite-Lamanite geography, which I think is clearly not to be found in the Yucatan (for reasons I’ll not go into here). We can, if we push the following passage into duty, cut off as candidates great portions of the North American continent:
And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.
Does “into that quarter” refer to (1) the passage in the wilderness, (2) the “Empty Quarter” of Arabia; or (3) is it a statement regarding the Promised Land?
If the latter (3), then we must call on our Book of Moses, and figure in that the events of Eden, Adam, Enoch, down to Noah occured in North America, perhaps from the Rockies (much of that range said to be formed recently, that is, 60 million years ago) to the east coast of the U.S. A vast sea once covered much of the land, as well, although the dates take us very far back. If just a passing (1) where man had not been (which description seems irrelevant to me, and applicable to much of the world in that day), then it’s no help at all. If (2) is correct, then we’ve got some problems, and not only with ships being necessary to pass vast seas in Arabia. I realize a great deal of writing has attempted to solve that puzzle, but none of it altogether convincing, and all of it presuming the historicity of the Babel tale, the middle east, and so on.
Much of the above interpretation depends on the meaning of words like “quarter,” “household” and “people” and so on, which is why I give it tentative status, of course. But it is clear that elephants weren’t in America 4000 BP; that the tower is not named “babel”; that the Jaredites did not necessary come from the Middle East; that they didn’t necessarily live where some relics were found; that no mention is made of Coriantumr’s burial; and so on. Meaning, the Book of Mormon remains very much a sealed book.
An Ice Age or earlier migration? Why not? Give up Bishop Ussher’s 4004 BC chronology in order to keep the horses and elephants? Why not? I prefer science to dogma; and at least we can hide our absence of Jaredite artifacts under the cover of glaciation, or related catastrophes. Perhaps some Ice Age specialist-believer in the Book of Mormon can help me out here?
Yet, I think probably Coriantumr lived for a very long time. Maybe he’s still alive, even; yet to receive his long deserved burial? Attempts to give him the usual 70 years, and so to stretch the Jaredite society down to 560 BC are needless, and based mostly on belief in the Bible, some concern to appear biologically reasonable; while not realizing that three others (perhaps wrongly called “Nephites”) were granted lives durable enough to last many centuries.