A Permanent Heritage

Chapter 6

Nephites with Jaredite Names

In the first place, a number of undeniably Jaredite names turn up from time to time among the Nephites. Such a striking coincidence calls for investigation, for it can hardly have been an accident. From the Book of Mormon we learn that the Jaredites and Nephites spoke entirely different languages, and even a cursory search will show that Jaredite proper names have a peculiar ring of their own. Their most characteristic feature is the ending in -m. This is called mimation and is actually found among the most ancient languages of the Near East, where it was followed by the later nunation, or ending in -n, the most characteristic feature of classical Arabic and also of Nephite proper names, as we noted above.1 The correct use and sequence of mimation and nunation in the Book of Mormon speaks strongly for the authenticity of the record, for the principle is a relatively recent discovery in philology. It may be illustrated by the only Jaredite common nouns known to us, curelom and cumom, and the only adjective, shelem, applied to a mountain “because of its exceeding height” (Ether 3:1). It is interesting that the original meaning of the best known of Semitic roots, SALAM, may be “a high place” (Arabic sullam, ladder, stairway, elevation) with the idea of safety, and hence peace, as a secondary derivation.

But it is the proper names that concern us here. When out of the short list of Jaredite names preserved to us, a respectable percentage turn up as Nephite names as well, it is high time to ask, is this one case where the author of the Book of Mormon has slipped up, or is there something significant about those Nephites who bear Jaredite names? The answer is a surprise: Virtually all of these men have Mulekite backgrounds and lead subversive movements against the Nephite state and religion! The significance of this will appear at once if we consider that the only case of definite overlapping between the Jaredite and Nephite peoples is provided in the episode of Coriantumr and the Mulekites.

Coriantumr, the last Jaredite chief, spent the last nine months of his life among the Mulekites. These people had left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi did and therefore three years after Lehi’s people had already settled in the New World. We are told that “Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:21, emphasis added). Since Coriantumr had been very badly wounded and with not a soul to help him, he could not have got very far; the fact that he lingered only nine months after his rescue implies as much, though it does not necessarily prove it. But the evidence strongly suggests that the Mulekites “discovered” Coriantumr shortly after the last Jaredite battle, and hence that they had been on the continent for quite a while, though some years fewer than the Nephites. The overlap between the Mulekite and Jaredite cultures was at least nine months long, and may have extended over many years. At any rate we have proof that the Jaredites made a permanent cultural impression on the Nephites through Mulek, for centuries after the destruction of the Jaredite nation we find a Nephite bearing the name of Coriantumr, and learn that this man was a descendant of Zarahemla, the illustrious leader of the Mulekites. This shows the Jaredite influence reaching the Nephites through Mulekite channels, which is exactly what one would expect. The name had been preserved either in the royal family (Coriantumr the Jaredite would have been the guest of the chief) or in the records—most likely the former, since people do not as a rule go to written histories for their names, while nothing is more persistent than personal names, most of those we use today being at least a thousand years old.

The first land settled by the Jaredites was Moron, a name still borne by one of the last Jaredite kings. Now the Nephite land “in the borders, by the seashore on the edge of the wilderness was called by them Moroni,” and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Near East will instantly recognize Moroni as meaning “belonging to Moron,” or “of Moron,” the old –i ending being the most familiar and unchanging suffix from the oldest Egyptian and Babylonian to modern Arabic, and always having the same signification of relationship. Both the time—the very end of Jaredite history—and the place—the outer borderland—agree in bringing the two names Moron and Moroni together in a cultural overlap. A parallel case is that of Morianton, the name of an early Jaredite king and also of a land on the coast settled by a Nephite of the same name about 72 B.C. In this case the man might well have taken his name from the land he colonized, as ancient conquerors used to (e.g., Africanus, Germanicus, etc.), being named for the old Jaredite coastland which he resettled. The survival of Jaredite place names is further indicated by the Hill Shim. The ten-year-old Mormon was told that he would be able to find that hill when he grew up, though it lay in another part of the country, because it would be called Shim (Mormon 1:3), which shows that it actually went by its Jaredite name among the Nephites. For it is probable that Moroni is giving the hill its Jaredite name in Ether 9:3, since it is his practice to use Jaredite names in describing itineraries, and the very next name on the list after Shim is undoubtedly Jaredite. Another Jaredite place name, Nehor, given to the wilderness into which the first Jaredite rebel withdrew, as well as to a city built in that region, was borne by a notorious Nephite apostate.

Noah2 was a Jaredite king, and another Noah was a Nephite king. The name may be authentic Jaredite, for aside from the original Biblical character “Noah” “does not recur elsewhere in Hebrew either alone or as a component part of a name,” according to C. L. Woolley, but is “Harrian,” coming from the country north of Babylonia,3 i.e., the original Jaredite home. Noah’s priest Alma betrays a mixture of culture if not of blood; his stamping ground was the Mulekite country, and two of his grandsons bore the Jaredite names of Shiblon and Corianton (Alma 31:7). Though Corihor was the grandson of the first Jaredite king, the name was borne by a Jaredite of the last generation, when it may have been taken over by the Nephites as Korihor.

Considering how few Jaredite names we have, it seems clear, then, that we have here a definite overlapping of the two cultures. What clinches the matter is the fact that our Nephites with Jaredite names all have Mulekite background and connections. That the Mulekite-Jaredite background represented a definite cultural tradition among the Nephites and was consciously cultivated is, I believe, very clearly shown in the behavior of men with Jaredite names. Five out of the six whose names are definitely Jaredite betray strong anti-Nephite leanings, and the sixth one, Shiblon, was only saved from the ranks of such rebels because an angel converted his anti-Nephite father. Of the others, Morianton sought to lead a great body of people back into the wilderness; Coriantumr was a notorious apostate and subversive; Korihor rebelled against the church and state and tried to inaugurate a mass uprising; Nehor actually succeeded in setting up a rival system of religion and government in opposition to the Nephite rulers, and was only stopped when he was executed for murdering a righteous judge; King Noah, perhaps of mixed Mulekite descent, horrified the Nephites by introducing the ways of the old Jaredite kings—oppressive taxation, whoredoms, and abominations, “elegant and spacious buildings,” the pursuit of his opponents into the wilderness, priestly colleges and ritual hierodules, and all the rest. We have here two opposing ways of life, with strong indication that all the popular support is by no means on the side of the Nephites. That the name of the prize rebel of them all, Gadianton, is not found in the short Jaredite list is not to be wondered at, but we only need to compare it with such titles as Morianton and Corianton to realize that it is good Jaredite.

There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that shows direct contact between the Nephites and the Jaredites. There is always a go-between—the Mulekites, who, as the story of the elder Coriantumr shows, were the nearest neighbors to the Jaredites and separated, as we learn from Mosiah’s accunt, by a considerable distance from the Nephites. Everything points to the absorption of a good deal of Jaredite culture by the people of Zarahemla shortly after their arrival: The tradition of a very Jaredite pattern of behavior and dissent against Nephite rule by men of Mulekite background bearing Jaredite names makes the case pretty clear. The dropping of the name Jaredites by their mixed descendants has many historical parallels. Thus the Hurrians lost their name so quickly and completely when they mixed with the Hittites that until recent years it was doubted that there ever were such people; yet we now know that it was the Hurrians, ranging over the vast back country to the north, that supplied the Hittites with their ruling class and their tradition of empire. Such a role may the scattered and nomad Jaredites of the last days have played in contact with the more civilized but less aggressive people of Zarahemla, completely losing their Jaredite identity but still given away, as are the Hurrians, by the strange names of their leaders. Incidentally, the fact that Nephite weights and measures bear Jaredite names indicates long cultural overlap.

The Hiders

Decisive, I believe, in determining the ultimate fate of the Jaredites is the fact they were past masters at dodging and hiding. Their history begins with Nimrah and Omer hiding in the wilderness and ends with Shiz and Coriantumr and Ether himself doing the same. Are we to believe of such people that when “part of them fled to the army of Shiz, and a part of them fled to the army of Coriantumr” (Ether 14:20), none of them attempted to flee to the wilderness? Or that no one tried to get away when “the cry went throughout the land” that Shiz was approaching, sweeping the earth before him? (Ether 15:18). Or that no one succeeded in escaping when “the people began to be frightened, and began to flee before the armies of Coriantumr”? (Ether 15:27). When we read that the wild hosts “swept off the inhabitants before them, all they that would not join them” (Ether 14:27, emphasis added), the picture is that of people doing their best to get out of the way, the classic picture of those who “flee to the mountains” or break for the woods on the approach of the Assyrian king, the Mongol hordes, or the modern Chinese general.4 In Asia the escapees often formed themselves for survival into formidable warlike tribes (the modern Goloks are such), and carried on a tradition and style of warfare remarkably like that of the North American Indians.5 Centuries of wars of annihilation have given the people of central Asia “a great heritage of the hiding instinct, and only by using and cultivating this have they avoided extermination.”6 As we have seen, this valuable instinct was zealously cultivated among the Jaredites, and nowhere is there any indication that none made their escape, either during the final war or at an earlier time.

When Shiz and Coriantumr attempted a universal levee en masse it was not the work of four weeks to bring their armies together, but of four years, which argues an outstanding lack of patriotic passion among the people in general. Such levees took just as long in Asia (e.g., those of Jenghiz Khan and the king of Khwarazm), and for the obvious reason that the people were very widely scattered, out of touch with the central governments, reluctant to cooperate in an enterprise in which they had nothing to gain but wounds. The same situation is clearly suggested in Ether 15:14: “They were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive.” Note the purpose clause: We are not told that they achieved their goal, but only that they tried; in the next verse the statement “when they were all gathered together” is simply a general remark (it is a favorite expression with Homer) that could be made of any group no matter how large or how small.

On top of this, the established Jaredite practice of simply refusing to join any army and living as robbers or “band of outcasts” would have made it very hard to keep the people in line even after the big armies had sucked them in. Ether finds it worthy of note that great numbers actually stuck it out to the end and can only attribute their behavior in not deserting and going back to the woods to the power of Satan (Ether 15:19). And what of the robbers? Were they wiped out? Did they reform? As the nation became more and more involved in a hopeless war, bandits could operate with increasing immunity, their numbers swelled by opportunities and deserters, and as in Asia their depredations would continue unchecked for generations. Nothing is less surprising, then, than to find the direst villain of Nephite history, one whose craft was “to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery” (Helaman 2:4), whose secret bands lurked in the wilderness and operated as a murderous underground, going under the Jaredite name of Gadianton.

The combing of the land for recruits did not include the entire continent, for it completely overlooked the Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites living on it, and who is to say that given thousands of years to wander in, plus a great tradition of hunting and nomadism, no Jaredites could have gone to the outermost limits of the continent? Ether is writing the history of one nation only, and Moroni presenting less than one percent of that history (Ether 15:33)—a few renegades are no concern of theirs. Those who drop out of the main picture simply cease to exist for Ether’s or any other history. But we would welcome a word from the Book of Mormon that might show us that there actually were such lost and wandering groups on the hemisphere.

As if for the specific purpose of giving us that assurance, a few terse verses in Omni point to the people of Zarahemla, whose history is given so briefly as to be entirely without significance otherwise. Though these people play an important role once they enter the sphere of Nephite history, their whole past is summed up in but three verses (Omni 15—17). That shows us how closely the editors of the Book of Mormon stick to the business at hand, shunning any kind of digression and stubbornly refusing to tell about any people but the announced subjects of their history. The people of Zarahemla are only mentioned because they have to be—since they in time become bona fide Nephites. But the brief and grudging nod to their past is a priceless clue for us. It is a reminder that just because Lehi’s people had come from Jerusalem by special direction we are not to conclude that other men cannot have had the same experience. And by the same token the fact that the Jaredites were led to the land of promise at the time of the dispersion gives us no right to conclude that no one else was ever so led, either earlier or later than they. It is nowhere said or implied that even the Jaredites were the first to come here, any more than it is said or implied that they were the first or only people to be led from the tower. Long after the Book of Mormon appeared Joseph Smith quoted with approval from the pulpit reports of certain Toltec legends which would make it appear that those people had come originally from the Near East in the time of Moses;7 whether such a migration ever took place or not, it is significant that the Prophet was not reluctant to recognize the possibility of other migrations than those mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

The argument of silence bears some weight in considering the possibility of “other sheep.” When the Jaredites journey into a land “where there never had man been,” our history finds the fact worthy of note, even though the party was only passing through. Now there is a great deal said in the Book of Mormon about the past and future of the promised land, but never is it described as an empty land. The descendants of Lehi were never the only people on the continent, and the Jaredites never claimed to be.

While on the subject, I cannot resist the temptation to quote for you a remarkable passage from Origen’s First Principles, in which that zealous scholar quotes from Clement, who as you know comes close to being the earliest Christian writer after the Apostles:

     Clement, the disciple of the Apostles, recalls those whom the Greeks designate as antichthonians (dwellers on the other side of the earth), and other parts of the earth’s sphere (or circuit) which cannot be reached by anyone from our regions, and from which none of the inhabitants dwelling there is able to get to us; he calls these areas “worlds” when he says: “The Ocean is not to be crossed by men, but those worlds which lie on the other side of it are governed by the same ordinances (lit. dispositions) of a guiding and directing God as these.”8

Here is a clear statement that the earliest Christians taught that there were people living on the other side of the world who enjoyed the guidance of God in complete isolation from the rest of the world. The teaching was very soon lost along with other “precious things” and is never approved again after Origen (Augustine definitely opposes it), but it well illustrates how the saints in every age have made due allowance for the dealings of God with all humanity and refused to regard their own limited experience as the only measure of divine providence among men.

In 1898 a farmer grubbing up stumps near the town of Alexandria, Minnesota, turned up a stone slab containing what appeared to be an ancient Runic inscription. Like the Book of Mormon the thing was promptly denounced as a fraud, and the universal consensus of the experts heaped scorn upon the clumsy forgery for forty years. But now it transpires that the Kensington Stone, as it is called, is no fake but very probably the genuine article (so much for the authority of scholarship!). The inscription tells us of bands of Norsemen wandering about in the Middle West at least 130 years before Columbus. Whether true or not, does the Book of Mormon have any objection? Of course not. The Kensington Stone also tells us that these Norsemen suffered a grim and bloody end—quite in keeping, in fact, with the Book of Mormon pattern.9 We offer this as a test case: for once we have admitted that all pre-Columbian remains do not have to belong to Book of Mormon people, the field is clear to the anthropologist, and the problem of the Book of Mormon archaeologist, when such appears, will be to find in America things that might have some bearing on the Book of Mormon, not to prove that anything and everything that turns up is certain evidence for that book. This obvious fact I pointed out in an article in the Improvement Era of April, 1947.10

There is not a word in the Book of Mormon to prevent the coming to this hemisphere of any number of people from any part of the world at any time, provided only that they come with the direction of the Lord; and even this requirement must not be too strictly interpreted, for the people of Zarahemla “had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator” (Omni 17), i.e., they were anything but a religious colony. No one would deny that anciently “this land” was kept “from the knowledge of other nations” (2 Nephi 1:8), but that does not mean that it was kept empty of inhabitants, but only that migration was in one direction—from the Old World to the New; for even as Lehi was uttering the words just quoted, the Jaredites were swarming in the east, and the old man refers to others yet to come, “all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.” Must we look for all those in the Book of Mormon?

“Men Out of Asia”11

Dear Professor F.:

But why all this insistence on the possible survival of a few Jaredite escapees prowling in the woods? Because it would take no great number of such renegades to perpetuate “upon the face of this north country” the ways of the Jaredite nomads and hunters. We have said that when the Asiatics hide in the mountains and the woods their way of life becomes just like that of the Indians. Indeed Professor Grousset can think of no way of life so perfectly like that of the scattered and disorganized tribes of Asia after the destruction of the great nations than that of the North American Indians at the time of their discovery by the whites.12 And what is more natural than that conditions in the north country, littered with bones and haunted by savage hunters, should present after the passing of the Jaredite nation just the sort of wreckage and savagery that make the Asiatic scene after the passing of empire? In time descendants of Jaredite hunters and robbers would combine with Lamanite riffraff, as their ancestors did with the Mulekites, and the old Jaredite stock would survive, like the Nephite, as a “mixture” only (1 Nephi 13:30). But the ways of the Jaredite hunters, perfectly adapted as they were to conditions of life in this north country, would not only hold their own but remain predominant. This complicates the picture considerably, but for that matter, the anthropologists themselves now begin to detect just such complications in their own picture, as Gladwin has shown us with much spirit and wit.13

We need not discuss the well-known affinities between the North Americans and the hunters of Asia—shamans, mounds, peace pipes, scalping, wigwams, and all that. Contacts between the natives on the Asiatic and American shores of the far North Pacific still take place, but that is strictly a local phenomenon. 14 It is the really ancient Asiatic background of the Indians that interests me. In a recent study on the rise of the ancient state in central Asia, I drew evidence equally from the American ethnologists and the Old World sources, and it all fitted neatly into a single picture. But whatever connection there might have been between the Asiatic and the Indians—save for those maddeningly obvious ties with the Near East to which Gladwin draws attention—must have been a very early one indeed, for the Asiatic languages are among the most conservative and widespread on earth, and if the two worlds had been in contact anywhere near as recently as certain authorities believe, the Asiatic nature of the Indian languages should be instantly recognizable. To date no one has been able to recognize those languages as those of the Asiatic steppes.

Now all this is as the book of Ether would have it. That accounts tells us that at the very dawn of history, many thousands of years ago, a party of nomad hunters and stock raisers from west central Asia crossed the water—very probably the North Pacific—to the New World, where they preserved the ways of their ancestors, including certain savage and degenerate practices, and carried on a free and open type of steppe warfare with true Asiatic cruelty and ferocity; it tell us that these people moved about much in the wilderness, for all they built imposing cities, and that they produced a steady trickle of “outcasts” through the centuries. A careful study of the motions of the Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites, and Lamanites should correct the absurd oversimplification by which the Book of Mormon as a history is always judged. It will show as plain as day that the Book of Mormon itself suggests the Asiatic origin of some elements at least of the Indian race and culture long before the anthropologists got around to it. The scientists no longer hold that one migration and one route can explain everything about the Indians. The Book of Mormon never did propound a doctrine so naive. Though it comes to us a digest and an abridgment, stripped and streamlined, it is still as intricate and complex a history as you can find; and in its involved and tragic pages nothing is more challenging than the sinister presence of those fierce and bloody-minded “men out of Asia” known in their day as Jaredites.

The Big Picture

The time has come to draw a few conclusions. If you will recall, I set out to prove “that certain strange and unfamiliar things described in Ether could have taken place as described because they actually did take place—characteristically and repeatedly—in those culture areas in which according to the Book of Mormon the Jaredites acquired their culture and civilization.” Among such strange and unfamiliar things we mentioned the valley of Nimrod, the confounding of the languages, the great wind, deseret, and the flooded plains of the Old World, while in the New our list includes such items as the great assembly of the nation, the drawing off of followers by bribes, oaths by heaven and earth, secret societies, kings in prison, fine work done in prisons, the dancing princess, strange breeds of animals, plagues of serpents, great national hunts and special hunting preserves, the nation in arms, peculiar strategy and tactics, the formation of armies by forced recruiting, systematic terrorism, the rule of robber bands, wars of extermination regarded as personal duels between rival rulers, with the ritual survival of the king. The list of bull’s-eyes is a long one, and if it is not as long as Lehi’s, it is because Ether takes fewer shots (1 Nephi, which covers but eight years, can devote much more attention to detail) and at an, if possible, even more difficult target. His percentage of hits is not less staggering.

Individually I find the parallels between the Jaredites and the early Asiatics very impressive, but taken together their value increases as the cube of their number. In the book of Ether they are woven into a perfect organic whole, a consistent picture of a type of society whose very existence has come to be known only in recent years, and which is quite different from that Indian culture into which it later developed. How beautifully integrated this short history is! There is a great calamity, a confusing and confounding of peoples and tongues, a general scattering in many directions from a point somewhere to the north of Mesopotamia.15 Then a migration into unknown lands covered with swamps and lakes, the dank remnants of the last ice age, and then tremendous winds that overtake the party just as they set sail. Some years after their landing in the New World they hold a general assembly and choose a king; his son in time rebels and inaugurates centuries of bitter warfare, ending eventually in a war of extermination with odd survivors lurking in the woods and deserts. Numbers, distances, and times all fit together perfectly, but the sort of thing that can be most fully checked and is virtually impossible to fake is, as I have often insisted, the sort of thing that was done and the way it was done. It is the big picture that is really impressive.

But our main purpose in writing these letters, if you will think back to the first one, was to refute the Einheitstheorie of a single beginning for the origin of the Indians, since you protested that the Book of Mormon was oversimplifying the story. I think by now it should be apparent that the Book of Mormon account is not as simple as it seems. Ether alone introduces a formidable list of possibilities, few of which have ever been seriously considered. Foremost among these is the probability, amounting almost to certainty, that numerous Jaredites survived in out-of-the-way places of the North to perpetuate a strong Asiatic element in the culture and blood of the American Indian.

To write a history of what could have happened at the very beginning of recorded history would have been as far beyond the scope of any scholar living in 1830 as the construction of an atom bomb would have been. The portrait of the first great states of antiquity is only just taking shape in our own day, and the idea of the original Asiatic nucleus of all civilization was undreamed of a few years ago. Our own ideas will have to be revised continually on many points, but the main outlines of the picture are firm and clear—and it is the same picture that meets us in the book of Ether. One of the most surprising discoveries of recent years has been the revelation that wherever the experts search, in Babylon, Thebes, Ras Shamra, Central Asia, or the Far East, they are met at every period of history by an almost unbelievable mix-up of physical and linguistic types. And as the biological picture becomes more complex, the cultural one seems to become more simple, the whole civilized world at any moment of its history seeming to share in a general sort of way in a single common world civilization. This is also the picture we get in Ether, where the nations and tribes are already thoroughly “confounded” in Jared’s day, while certain institutions and practices are described as being common to “the ancients” as a whole and as flourishing among all nations.

Consistent with this picture is the fact that a number of Jaredite names are also Bible names. You ask in your last letter how that can be if the Jaredite language was the lost Adamic tongue? In the first place let us make it clear that the language of Jared was not the Adamic language at all: Jared asked that his language be not confounded, so that his people might continue to understand each other, not because it was a unique or perfect language or the sacred language of Adam, a thing which would certainly have been mentioned if it were so. Indeed after the Jaredites had made their getaway and their language was safe, the Lord told the brother of Jared: “the language which ye shall write I have confounded” (Ether 3:24). When Moroni tells of the remarkable power of the writings of the brother of Jared, he attributes the mighty words not to the genius of the language but to a special gift from God to the writer (Ether 12:24). As to the antiquity of writing, incidentally, we have not discussed the matter because it is still, so to speak, completely up in the air. At Uruk, where “the parent forms” of writing appear, they do not do so by any gradual process of evolution, but “suddenly and without warning there appear fifteen hundred signs and pictographs scratched on clay. They seem to have been written and used without any signs of hesitancy,” 16 showing that writing was already well-established somewhere in the world, and that somewhere would seem to be in the region to the north of Mesopotamia. 17

As to Jaredite names in the Bible, the general confusion of tongues would not only allow it but also require it; for remember that the vast majority of people who spoke the Jaredite language originally were confounded and their language contaminated, so that while the words remained their meanings did not (Ether 1:34). We would expect, then, to find Jaredite words scattered about all over the Old World. The only way we can trace such words, of course, is in proper names. Few people in our society know what their names mean (though both family names and given names almost all once had meanings), because our names are almost without exception survivals from long-dead languages, having very involved and picturesque histories. Such has always been the case with proper names. It is not surprising that three of the oldest cities in the world, one of them traditionally described as the first city in the world after the flood, all bear the good Jaredite name of Kish, though these cities are widely separated. It is not surprising that the father of the first king of Israel should also be named Kish. It is not surprising that a city rivaling Kish in age and importance in Mesopotamia should be named Lagash, while one of the oldest cities in Palestine was Lakish, both recalling the Jaredite Riplakish, which could mean in Babylonian “Lord of Lakish.” A more remarkable coincidence is that the Jaredite king Ahah was the son of Seth (Ether 1:10; 11:10), since Menes, the fabled founder of the First Egyptian Dynasty, bore the name of Aha (meaning warrior), and was supposed to have succeeded Seth as the ruler of the land.18 A good idea of how mixed up things are may be gained from considering the name of Corihor. We noted above that the name of the high priest who in 1085 B.C. usurped the throne of Thebes (incidentally, the oldest city in Egypt and the oldest city in Europe both bear the name of Thebes—how come?) seemed to be identical with that of the Nephite upstart Korihor. But we have seen that Korihor is just as obviously identical with the Jaredite Corihor. What is the tie-up? Not in Egypt, surprisingly enough, for Hur-hor, Heriher, or whatever it was, does not seem to have been an Egyptian name at all, though found in Egypt, but is possibly a late adoption from the Hurrian, through Canaanite; that is, it comes from the original stamping-grounds of the Jaredites!19 The Nephites could thus have gotten it either from the Jaredites through Mulek or have imported it directly from their corner of the Egyptian Empire, where its Egyptian form was illustrious among the followers of Ammon.

There is not a name or an event in Jaredite history that does not call for long and serious study. They merit such study because they are names and events of authentic type. As with the Lehi story, if this is fiction, it is fiction by one thoroughly familiar with a field of history that nobody in the world knew anything about in 1830. No one is going to produce a skillful forgery of Roman history, for example, unless he actually knows a good deal of genuine Roman history. So if Ether is a forgery, where did its author get the solid knowledge necessary to do a job that could stand up to five minutes of investigation? I have merely skimmed the surface in these hasty letters, but if my skates are clumsy, the ice is never thin. Every page is loaded with matter for serious discussion—discussion that would fizzle out promptly in the face of any palpable absurdity.

But nothing could be more unfair than to treat the book of Ether simply as a history. After our long preoccupation with the sordid and secular side of Jaredite history it is high time to remind ourselves that this text, from which we have been arbitrarily selecting for comment only those verses which might have been found in any ancient chronicle, is one of the greatest treasures that ever came to a generation of men. The sad story of the Jaredites is but a framework for the inspired commentary of Moroni, a mighty tract for our times but more than that for the times ahead.

My dear F.:20

Moroni assures us that it is the Lord who is running things, and that men miss the whole point and meaning of their life by failing to recognize the fact: “the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains” (Ether 2:24), he tells the brother of Jared—but to men it does not seem that way, for the Lord is constantly showing forth “great power, which looks small to the understanding of men” (Ether 3:5, emphasis added). Men simply do not have faith and so deny themselves the blessings and the power that might be theirs—boundless “knowledge, of all things” that is “hid up because of unbelief” (Ether 4:13). Given faith, God will not withhold from us a knowledge of all things. And ironically enough men know that they should have faith even apart from the thought of any reward, “for it persuadeth [men] to do good” (2 Nephi 33:4). You begin with hoping—”man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance” (Ether 12:32), for “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). “If there be no faith among the children of men, God can do no miracles among them” (Ether 12:12), for he “worketh unto the children of men according to their faith” (Ether 12:29).

Nothing is harder than to convince a man of a thing he has not experienced: “Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not” (Ether 12:5). Those without faith live in a world of their own which to them seems logical and final; they take the very unscientific stand that beyond the realm of their own very limited experience nothing whatever exists! God’s works to them look small, and they will never be cured of their myopia until they are willing to face facts and pass a test that only the honest in heart can consider without a chill of aversion. The test is this: “If men will come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; . . . then will I make weak things become strong to them” (Ether 12:27). What man of the world or posturing Ph.D. is ever going to ask for weakness? The men of the world seek for the things of the world, the realities they know—and the greatest of these are “power and gain.” Through the ages, the book of Ether assures us, men have sought these things as their highest goal and have invariably made the tragic discovery that the key to control over one’s fellow men, i.e., to power and gain, lies in three things: secrecy, organization, and freedom from moral scruples, especially from squeamishness in the matter of shedding blood. Of these three things Moroni says: “The Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth He will that men should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man” (Ether 8:19). These things, the prophet explains, have destroyed one civilization after another, and shall continue to destroy “whatever nation shall uphold such secret combinations” (Ether 8:22).

We seem to be reading Thucydides, who comments on Greek history just as Moroni does on Jaredite: Men who live for this world only invariably become dangerous paranoiacs who destroy themselves and all connected with them. But the Greeks never showed us the other side of the picture. It is here that the book of Ether far surpasses all other commentaries on human history. The greatest of Greeks taught us, wrote Goethe, that “life on this earth is a hell.” Farther than that they could not go. But the book of Ether teaches us that life on this earth can be heaven, that there actually have been many “before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad” (Ether 12:19, emphasis added). Here we are not dealing with the usual platitudes and truisms to the effect that if men would only behave themselves and help each other, they would have no troubles—men have always known that, only too well.

Ether shows us human society divided into two groups, not the good and the bad as such, but those who have faith and those who do not. They live in totally different worlds, the one group in a real heaven, the other in a real hell. In no uncertain terms we are shown just what kind of world the faithless make for themselves to live in. This is Moroni’s tract for our times. A generation ago the doings of the grim and bloody maniacs of the Asiatic steppes were as far removed from the thought and experience of western man as the other side of the moon. Today the eery nightmare has become our own history, and we are met in the news with photographs of American commanders striking the appalling attitudes and sporting the huge ear-flaps and quilted jackets of ancient khans of the steppes. Who would have dreamed of such a thing?

On the other side of the picture we have the Lord himself speaking “in all humility” (what a commentary on humility!) to any man who is ready to receive him. The Jaredites were not Israelites or even the seed of Abraham: they were simply human beings, apparently a nondescript body of no particular racial affinity. Time and place cease to exist in this story, for many men of whom we have no record spoke face to face with the Lord long before he came to fulfil his earthly mission. This remarkable indifference to any quality but faith is carried in Ether even into the next world, where we learn that the Lord has prepared “among the mansions of [his] Father” a house for man (Ether 12:32), where the faithful of this earth shall be at home among the faithful of other worlds. Thus the bonds of time and place are completely dissolved in Moroni’s theology, and the same promises and warnings that hung over the world of the Jaredites are handed on to our own world.

In closing let me point out that it is in the Book of Mormon, specifically in Ether, that we read about things beyond the veil, of other worlds than this—many mansions, among which the faithful of this world inherit but one—and of men who talk with Jesus Christ face to face in visions. All this I find published in 1830, when Joseph Smith was but twenty-four years old, and the Church was not yet organized. Yet some of my intellectual friends are even now knocking themselves out to show that all such ideas were the product of Joseph Smith’s later thinking, and that the idea of anything like his first vision was first worked out by a committee in Nauvoo in 1843. There is nothing like the story of the Jaredites to show us that the gospel is as timeless as it is true.

If the historical part of the book of Ether were to be put forth to the world as the translation of some text found, let us say, in the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas, the experts on early Asia might think it a work of fiction but would find nothing cultural in it, barring the strange proper names, to make them doubt that it reflected a genuine ancient culture. If you want to be very cautious, you might say there is very little in it that would annoy the expert. But bearing in mind that Asiatic studies are still in embryo, and considering the condition under which this work was published, and the fabulously remote probability of the writer’s getting anything right at all, I think no further credentials are necessary to establish the authenticity of the book, which repeatedly claims to be reporting the ways of very early Asiatics. The book of Ether, like First Nephi, rings the bell much too often to represent the marksmanship of a man shooting at random in the dark.


1.   Examples of mimation may be found in William F. Albright, The Vocalization of Egyptian Syllabic Orthography (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1934), 7—8, 14—15.

2.   At this point the magazine text reads: “Noah was a Jaredite king, and another Noah was a Nephite king, but the latter was not a pure-blooded Nephite, for his father Zeniff was the last leader of the Mulekite colony.” The latter part of this comment was deleted in the 1952 book edition. Information about Zeniff is very sketchy.

3.   Leonard Woolley, Abraham (London: Faber & Faber, 1936), 175.

4.   “They flee to the mountains” is the Assyrian formula, e.g., David D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1926—27), 1:79. “Upon leaving Balach,” says Marco Polo, in T. Wright, The Travels of Marco Polo (London: Bohn, 1954), 79 (bk. 1, ch. 23), “you traverse a country that is destitute of every sign of habitation, the people having all fled to strong places in the mountains, in order to secure themselves against the predatory attack of lawless marauders, by whom these districts are overrun.” In the flat regions of the north “everyone tried to escape into the woods,” at the approach of the hordes, B. Ya. Vladimirtsov, The Life of Chingis-Khan (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1930), 20.

5.   René Grousset, L’asie orientale des origines au XVe siècle (Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1941), 305.

6.   Mildred Cable, The Gobi Desert (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 278.

7.   Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1938), 267.

8.   Origen, Peri Archon (On First Principles) II, 3, 6 in PG 11:196.

9.   For a complete account of the Kensington Stone, see S. M. Hagen, “The Kensington Runic Inscription,” Speculum 25 (1950): 321—56.

10.   Hugh W. Nibley, “The Book of Mormon as a Mirror of the East,” IE 51 (1947): 202—4, 249—51.

11.   Part 10 of “The World of the Jaredites,” IE 55 (June 1952): 398—99, 462—64 , began at this point.

12.   René Grousset, L’asie orientale des origines au XVe siècle, 305.

13.   Harold S. Gladwin, Men Out of Asia (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947).

14.   M. A. Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia (Oxford: Clarendon, 1914), 69, 79, 114—16, 203—27.

15.   If readers will examine the culture map of Asia published in Life magazine for 31 December 1951, pages 8—9, they will notice that the editors have placed the “beginning of civilization” in the mountains to the north and east of Mesopotamia, with the main focal point in the great valleys immediately north of the Plain of Sinear. This is in strict accordance with our own conclusions based on the Book of Ether.

16.   W. Andrae, “The Story of Uruk,” Antiquity 10 (1936): 141—42. On the equally sudden emergence of Egyptian writing, Siegfried Schott, Mythe und Mythenbildung im alten Ägypten (Leipzig: Hinrich, 1945; reprinted Hildesheim: Olm, 1964), 3.

17.   I have treated this theme in “The Arrow, the Hunter, and the State” WPQ 2 (1949): 328—44.

18.   Philip K. Hitti, History of Syria (New York: Macmillan, 1951), 149.

19.   Ibid., for the archaic Hur-, Hor- element in Egyptian names, see Schott, Mythe und Mythenbildung im alten Ägypten, e.g., p. 5.

20.   The Conclusion of “The World of the Jaredites,” IE 55 (July 1952): 510, 550, began at this point.