The 344 Day Voyage of the Jaredites

“AND the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” (Genesis 11:1, KJV)

In the King James Bible the Hebrew expression “ha-arets” (הָ\אָרֶץ) is often translated “the earth”. In many cases the expression simply means “the land”. The verse above (Genesis 11:1) refers to an inhabited land, not the whole planet! In other words, despite the way it comes across to modern readers, “the whole earth” doesn’t mean the globe in this case. Take a second to consider the verse and you’ll realize that it is the human occupants of a local land that is referred to in Genesis 11:1. It was the land’s inhabitants that were “of one language, and of one speech”.

Similarly, Helaman 3:8 in the Book of Mormon uses the expression “the whole earth” in reference to a limited northern land bounded in each of the cardinal direction by local bodies of water.

Bordered in Each  Direction by Seas

A “land northward” in the region of scriptural “Cumorah” (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20), bounded in each of the cardinal direction by inland seas (Helaman 3:8)

The actual Hebrew meaning behind “earth” in Genesis 11:1 (KJV) is a key to understanding a strange sounding verse in the chapter before:

“And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.” (Genesis 10:25, 1 Chronicles 1:19 KJV)

Just as “earth” in Genesis 11:1 (KJV) means the human inhabitants of the land, so “the earth divided” in Genesis 10:25 (KJV), should be understood to mean the dividing of the human inhabitants of the land. The “earth” in both these cases refers to the land’s inhabitants – plain and simple. (Joshua 23:14, Mosiah 1:9) There is no mention in the verse of earthquakes or upheavals caused by dramatic decelerations of parted land masses! The division in Peleg’s day was not about catastrophic plate-tectonics. [1] It was about the dividing of peoples “abroad upon the face of all the earth”. (Genesis 11:9)

The name “Peleg” means “Split” or “Divide”. The verb “palag” is translated “divide” in “divide their tongues…” (Psalm 55:9) It’s no coincidence that in both chapters 10 and 11 of Genesis, “Peleg” is mentioned after “Babel”.

It’s true that long ago, the continents once joined to form a single landmass; but the continents of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres were already separated by vast oceans when the inhabitants of a post-flood land divided in the days of Peleg! (Genesis 11:8-16) [1]

Where was Nimrod’s “Shinar”?

Before the division of the people of the land, “they journeyed from the east”, that is, from Urartu, “the mountains of Ararat”, where Noah’s ark came to rest. (Genesis 8:4) “…they found a plain in the land of Shinar and they dwelt there”. (Genesis 11:2)

A straightforward interpretation of Genesis leads to the conclusion that the original land of Shinar (where the great tower was built) was westward from the mountains of Ararat – not southward in Mesopotamia as posited by later traditions. In time people migrated into Mesopotamia and elsewhere from Shinar.

The exact meaning of the ancient name “Shinar” has been lost. Some want to construe it to mean “Two rivers” in reference to the famous rivers of Mesopotamia. There are of course numerous rivers and plains south of the Black Sea region; not just the flood plains of the Tigris and Euphrates. The assumption is that “shin” means “two”. But if “shin” means “two”, “Two cities” is arguably a better interpretation of “Shin-ar” because of how the “ar” is spelled in Hebrew. This begs a question: If “shin” really means “two” why doesn’t the name “Shinar” have a plural ending like “naharot” = “rivers”, or better yet: “arim” = “cities”?

Since “Shinar” (שִׁנְעָר) is spelled with an “ayin” (ע), as is the Hebrew word for “city” (עִיר), isn’t it likely that the name has more to do with a city than with rivers? Consider Genesis 11:4:

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)

The name “Babel” (transliterated “Bavel”) is akin to the Hebrew verb “balal” meaning “mingle”, “mix”, “confuse”, “confound”. Ancient Hebrew scripture directly equates “Bavel” with “balal”. Apparently “Babel” meant “confusion” in an ancient tongue, for the city was named “Babel; because the LORD did there confound [confuse] the language of all the earth [the land]”. (Genesis 11:9)

Babylon”, on the other hand, comes from “bab-ilu” meaning “gate of god”. “Babylon” has a different meaning than “Babel”. It’s possible that “Bab-ilu” (Babylon) and “Bavel” (Babel) got confounded! “Bavel” became synonymous with Babylon in Jewish writings; much as the Mesopotamian land called “Cush” later became confused with “Ethiopia”. (Compare Genesis II. 13 in the Septuagint, with Hebrew scripture) Shinar became synonymous with Babylonia – the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. (Daniel 1:2) The impressive Mesopotamian step-pyramids or ziggurats, reminiscent of the legendary tower likely fed the confusion.

An Apocryphal book of Jasher (sefer ha-Yasher, not the more ancient work mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18) redacts the straightforward geographic meaning of Genesis 11:2 in order to fit the later tradition placing Shinar in Mesopotamia - not west of Ararat.


(A) “And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east [Ararat], that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.” (Genesis 11:2)

(B) “And all the families assembled consisting of about six hundred thousand men, and they went to seek an extensive piece of ground to build the city and the tower, and they sought in the whole earth and they found none like one valley at the east of the land of Shinar, about two days’ walk, and they journeyed there and they dwelt there.” (Apocryphal Jasher IX: 23)

Though Joseph Smith did not speak ill of the apocryphal book of Jasher when he stated that it “has not been disproved as a bad author...” (Editorial signed “ED.” by Joseph Smith, “Persecution of the Prophets”, Times and Seasons, September 1, 1842, Vol. 3, pg. 902), and though no apocryphal book of Jasher was chosen to be in the Septuagint’s selection of the Apocrypha (e.g. in the Catholic Bible), LDS Doctrine and Covenants section 91 cautions those who read “the Apocrypha”:

“There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.”

This  is good admonition to keep in mind when reading apocryphal works in general.    

Placing Nimrod’s Shinar in Mesopotamia is quite possibly on a par with Mormon traditions which erroneously place Book of Mormon lands in Mesoamerica - among those wonderful ruins described in John Lloyd Stephens’ 1841 bestseller – never mind when the stone works were actually built! (Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, Vol. II, Ch. XXVI, “COMPARATIVE MODERN DATE OF RUINS”, pp. 442-443)

It had been concluded in American publications, even before the Book of Mormon was published (1830), that the ruins in Mexico and Central America were relatively recent works and not truly ancient. (Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America - Second Edition, 1825, pp. 146, 179, 184-193, 200) This was the published view of Josiah Priest, Stephens and others, whose works Joseph Smith read.

But unlike Joseph Smith, who said he had read volumes I and II of Stephens’ bestseller “with the greatest interest”, and had concluded that Stephens was “most correct” (The Personal Writing of Joseph Smith,, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee, S.L.C., Deseret Book, 2002, pg. 533), Mormons in general generalized, paying little heed to the details – hence the great Book of Mormon geography misadventure!

Unsigned articles (possibly by John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff; “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations”, BYU Maxwell Institute, 2004) appeared in the Times and Seasons newspaper during Joseph Smith’s public absence. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 127:1) These sensational pieces featured extracts from Stephens work, and added that the “wonderful ruins” of Central America “are among the mighty works of the Nephites” – never mind the anachronisms. Ironically, apostles John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff would later stand behind Orson Pratt’s exaggerated views on Book of Mormon geography (1879 edition of the Book of Mormon footnotes), in contradiction to the speculative things they had anonymously published years before on the whereabouts of the ruins of “ZARAHEMLA”. (Joseph Smith, Josiah Priest and the Times and Seasons)

On the subject of Shinar west of Ararat here are a few provocative pieces:

“TOWER OF BABEL FOUND?” by Michael S. Sanders

  “Tower Babel is ‘found’ near the Black Sea” by Jack Grimston

“Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?” by Anne Habermehl

The Meaning of “Jared”

The patriarchal name “Jared” (יָרֶד), more accurately pronounced “Yared” or “Yered” (Genesis 5:15, 18), comes from the verb “yarad” meaning come or go down, descend. [2] Instances of wordplay on the meaning of the ancient name appear in the abridged book of Ether – the record of the “Jaredites” or “Yeredim”. In translation, the Gentile suffix “ites” commonly substitutes for the Semitic “i” or “im”.

The name Ahyered (אֲחיֶרֶד) can be interpreted to mean “my brother descends”. The construct of the name is similar to that of biblical names containing the element “brother”. See for example 1 Samuel 14:3 where “AhiYah” = “brother of the LORD”, and “Ahituv” = “brother of goodness”. For the sake of a Gentile audience, the name Ahyered (not the prophet’s only name) translates simply “the brother of Jared”.

Tsafon = North

In telling the marvelous story of the journey of the Yeredim from Shinar to the “the lake country of America”, the place where the Prophet Joseph Smith said they arrived (See Joseph Smith’s editorial (signed “ED.”) on a chapter from Priest’s American Antiquities, Times and Seasons, June 15, 1842, Vol. 3, pp. 818-820), its appropriate to begin with a verse from the biblical account of the great tower:

“And the LORD came down (Heb. yered) to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.” (Genesis 11:5, KJV) [2]

To appreciate the wordplay in the book of Ether (sefer Eter) Keep in mind what “Jared” or “Yered” means.

From the great tower the Yeredim went “northward”, descending into the valley called Nimrod, “being called after the mighty hunter”. (Ether 1:42; 2:1-4) 

And it came to pass that when they had come down into the valley of Nimrod the Lord came down and talked with the brother of Jared; and he was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not.” (Ether 2:4)

At the start, the LORD directed the Yeredim northward (Ether 1:42) away from the city and the great tooth-like structure that jutted up against heaven from the plain. “Shinar” in fact could mean “Tooth of the city”. “Shen” or “Shin” is the ancient Semitic word for “tooth”. The land could have been named after the city and tower’s construction were underway. The scripture does say “…let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name …” in that order. (Genesis 11:4)

Prior to the dispersion from the great tower, the people of the land were united! They were “one” under an unrestrained government which kept them busy and together! (Genesis 11:6) But, unity for the sake of unity, isn’t of itself commendable in the eyes of the Elohim. (Genesis 11:7-8) Seeing in Shinar a misguided consolidation of power, the LORD actually sought to bring about division!

Scripture speaks against contention and says “if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 38:27) But how can the promoting of unity by way of falsehoods, be pleasing him to whom Ahyered said “thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie”? (Ether 3:12)

From the northern valley, the Yeredim were led by the LORD into the wilderness, “where never man had been” – possibly an uninhabited eastern coast of the Black Sea. There they built, light navigable barges in which, with their flocks and diverse cargo “they did cross many waters…” (Ether 1:41, 2:1-2, 6)

In ancient Semitic tradition, the north, “tsafon”, was associated with that which is “hidden” or “dark”, hence the Black Sea quarter. [3] After the flood, the north was regarded as a no man’s land – “that quarter where there never had man been”. (Ether 2:5) The scriptural use of the term “quarter” suggests one of the four cardinal directions; in this case, approximately the same general direction the Yeredim started out in - the dark northern quarter. [3] In footnote [3] see also Ethan Smith’s quotation and commentary on a reference from early Jewish literature (II Esdras xiii.40) regarding a post-flood uninhabited northern land. (The Tribes of Israel in America, a.k.a. A View of the Hebrews, 1825 Ed., pp. 74-75)

Mayim Rabim = Many Waters

“Mayim rabim” is translated “many waters” or “great waters” in Hebrew scripture. The description “many waters” or “great waters” is not the name of any particular body of water. Psalm 77:19-20 appears to use “mayim rabim” in describing “yam suf” the “reed sea” that the LORD led Israel through. Other scriptures seem to describe the Mediterranean with its surf, storms and maritime traffic as “mayim rabim”. (Psalm 29:3; 93:4; 107:23, Isaiah 23:3, Ezekiel 27:25-26). The great waters of Egypt are “mayim rabim” (Ezekiel 32:13) as are the rivers of Mesopotamia flowing into the Persian Gulf. (Jeremiah 51:12-13, Ezekiel 17:5; 19:9-10) Even local pools of Gibeon qualify as “mayim rabim”. (Jeremiah 41:12) In a vision of the American Promised Land, Nephi son of Lehi seems to describe the Atlantic Ocean as “the many waters”. (1 Nephi 13:10-12)

When the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi and his company arrived at the southern coast of Arabia in the 6th century BCE, they “beheld the sea”, the great Erythraean Sea or Indian Ocean. They called the Erythraean Sea “Irreantum, which being interpreted, is many waters.” (1 Nephi 17:5)

The name “Irreantum” is not Greek or Latin, and it doesn’t exactly mean “many waters”. “Irreantum” is only “interpreted” to mean “many waters” for the sake of a Gentile audience. Not surprisingly “Irreantum” is Hebraic? As with other names in the KJV and English Book of Mormon, “Irreantum” is translated (not transliterated) for English readers.

“Yore-ayin-t’hom” means watercourses of the fountain of the deep.  The Book of Mormon name combines the Egyptian loanword “yore” or “yorim” translated “rivers” or “streams” as in Isaiah 7:18; 33:21 (KJV) [4], with scriptural expressions for “fountain” (source of water) and “deep”. See for instance Proverbs 8:28 [5] and Genesis 7:11 [6].

As in Nephite scripture, Ezekiel 31:8 relates “t’hom”, “the deep” with “mayim rabim”, “many waters”. Nephi son of Lehi also refers to the great Ocean as “the waters of the great deep” - very close to the meaning of “Irreantum”. (2 Nephi 4:20; see also Isaiah 51:10)

It may have seemed prophetic to some in Lehi’s company, that the patriarchal blessing upon Joseph’s descendents – upon those who would be separated from their brethren, mentions both “ayin”, “fountain” (translated “well”, KJV) and “t’hom”, “the deep”. (Genesis 49:22-26)

The watercourses or currents of the Erythraean Sea change seasonally.  From the southern coast of Arabia there are “yorim” or currents in the great deep that will guide a vessel to Africa and southward to the continent’s tempestuous horn. Therefore the name “Irreantum” (יְאֹרֵיעַיִןתְהוֹם) identifies the Ocean not only as the “fountain of the deep” but as the “watercourses” or currents that would help carry Lehi’s company to their inheritance.

Was Lehi’s company led to a southern shore of Arabia so they could cross the vast Pacific Ocean? NO!

But according to Orson Pratt:

“They [Lehi's company] were commanded by the Almighty to build a vessel…On board this vessel they embarked… As near as we can judge from the description of the country contained in this record [allegedly the Book of Mormon] the first landing place was in Chili [Chile], not far from where the city of Valparaiso now stands [as far south of the equator as Jerusalem is north].” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, pg 325)

Reinstated church leaders Orson Pratt and Frederick G. Williams promoted the opinion that Lehi sailed eastward from Arabia to South America. (See Gospel Doctrine Committee Chairman Frederick J. Pack’s unfavorable review of the Williams’ document: “ROUTE TRAVELED BY LEHI AND HIS COMPANY”, The Instructor, Vol. 73, No. 4, April 1938, pg. 160, quoted in CHOICE ABOVE ALL OTHER LANDS, Ch. 3, Brethren Speculate)

The eastward voyage idea calcified into a prevailing Mormon view, even though the assertion is not only unscriptural its geographically obtuse. There’s a reason why America is said to reside in the “Western Hemisphere”! Turn a globe so you can see most of the Pacific Ocean. How much of Asia and America do you also see? Do you still think Lehi crossed the Pacific?

The Book of Mormon tells a different story: Lehi’s company disembarked from an out-of-the-way, southern coast of Arabia, not because God planned to bring them across the vast Indian and Pacific Oceans to South or Central America, but because Lehi had no choice but to flee into the Negev (the southern desert). Fleeing the Mediterranean coast meant abandoning the more direct route to America.

Sailing from a populated Mediterranean port was out of the question. Had Lehi’s life not be in jeopardy in inhabited areas, and had Nephi not killed a prominent man in Jerusalem, at least some of the affluent family could have purchased a ship and sailed willingly out the Pillars of Hercules - beyond Tarshish (Spain) into the Atlantic. (2 Nephi 12:16) The fact that Lehi’s fractious company set sail from an isolated southeastern Arabian coast in a ship they worked together to build, only goes to show that notwithstanding their arduous out-of –the-way journey, a way was prepared to keep them all together, and to bring the fugitive company to Torah compatible North America. (2 Nephi 5:10)

For most of the voyage, they must have sailed near coastline where they could procure food and freshwater. Keep mind that their number exceeded thirty souls - all aboard a single ship. They likely sailed near Grande Comore, ~200 hundred miles off the eastern coast of Africa. Not only does the name of the isle sound a lot like the Book of Mormon name “Cumorah”, but its capital port city is called by the Semitic name “Moroni”. 

After many days Lehi’s party encountered dreadful seas – probably those notorious seas near Africa’s southern horn. They were driven back for a time upon the water! With divine help, they succeeded in sailing around the southern horn, and then, divinely guided, they crossed the Atlantic near the equator - the shorter, more reasonable distance between the New World and the Old. Near the equator, they would have been assisted by currents and prevailing winds to the Americas.

After crossing over to the Western Hemisphere, they sailed northward near continental coasts and islands until the constellations and seasons (integral to the Law of Moses) were again familiar to them. (2 Nephi 5:10) Finally, they ended up not just on any shore of America; but divinely guided, they crossed “large waters into the promised land…” (1 Nephi summary) They thus arrived near the shore of an inland, freshwater west sea. (Alma 22:28, Helaman 11:17-20 note that people had congregated to the “sea west” during a drought) They had sailed so far northward that future generations in the land could relate to descriptions like “driven snow”. (1 Nephi 11:8; 19:1-3)

The Yeredim, centuries before Lehi, were not obliged to carry themselves and their burdens to out-of-the-way southern coasts. Neither did the Jaredites and their flocks have to trek across Asia in order to satisfy unscriptural Mormon traditions. Though moved with testimony, early Mormons, frankly, didn’t pay a lot of attention to Book of Mormon details. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-57)

The Yeredim weren’t obligated to cross the vast Pacific Ocean! They didn’t have to ride North Pacific currents, blown by prevailing winds into frigid arctic waters before descending along western coasts of the Americas! Scripture tells us the Yeredim were carried by the LORD to the land “choice above all other lands”. (Ether 1:38) They were shown a more logical and yes, more merciful route – a route which allowed them to physically progress mostly upon water.

The prevailing winds blowing westward over the Black Sea would have carried the Yeredim in their light barges from the northeastern no-man’s land, to the Bosporus Strait located on the southwestern coast of the Black Sea. The LORD “would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness…” (Ether 2:6)  Southward bending prevailing winds would have carried their navigable craft through the Bosporus Strait into the Sea of Marmara, and from there into the Aegean Sea by way of the Strait of Dardanelles.  These “many waters” of course, connect with the biblical “great sea” (Joshua 15:12) the Mediterranean, so named because it resides in the midst of the land.

 Black Sea Currents

Black Sea Currents

Prevailing Winds over the Black Sea

Prevailing Winds over the Black Sea - the Sea of Marmara - the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. (The HISTORICAL ATLAS of JUDAISM, pg. 13)

By oar if not always by sail, the forerunner barges of the Yeredim could have progressed westward towards the Pillars of Hercules. At some point, they left behind their preparatory craft on a western Mediterranean shore.

They were smitten because of their iniquities and were driven forth. They journeyed across wilderness to the tempestuous Atlantic coast. (Ether 3:3) There they beheld “that great sea which divideth the lands.” (Ether 2:13) The description likely refers not only to unseen continents beyond the horizon, but to the blatant fact that the Atlantic near its narrow merger with the Mediterranean, truly “divideth the lands” (Africa, Tarshish etc.) in the eyes of those who are there.

Four years the Yeredim dwelt in tents in the wilderness upon the Atlantic side of the Pillars of Hercules. (Ether 2:13) Scripture states that they had been “many years … in the wilderness”. But, scripture does not say that they had wandered many years in the wilderness or that they had traveled great distances on foot! The LORD had smitten and driven them. They had traveled by land from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast. In the verse which reads, “...these many years we have been in the wilderness” there is absolutely no justification for the notion of a trek across Asia or a protracted march (with their baggage and animals) to a southern sea in the direction opposite to which they had first set out. The Yeredim came to “the lake country” of North America by way of the North Atlantic.

Joseph Smith championed the conjecture of Josiah Priest and noted explorer Alexander Von Humboldt in the “idea of their [certain ancient peoples Joseph Smith affirms were Jaredites] coming immediately from the region of the tower of Babel … These traveled till they came … to be in the regions of the now United States … a country of much water … on account of the vast number of lakes found there …. called the lake country.”  (J. Priest, American Antiquities and Discoveries in the West, “Traits of the Mosaic History found among the Azteca Nations”, 1834 edition, pg. 202)

Joseph Smith agreed with the opinion put forth in Priest’s work that descendents of ancient peoples from the Great Lakes regions “called the lake country”, eventually migrated south to Mexico, propagating their Flood and Babel legends.

In a Times and Seasons editorial Joseph Smith states “These accounts, then, precisely agree, one of which was found in Ontario county N. Y…” Joseph affirms that the Jaredites in fact “arrived” in the “lake country of America … a land which is choice above all the land of the earth … This it [the Book of Mormon] further speaks is the land of America…” (See Joseph Smith’s editorial (signed “ED.”) on a chapter from Priest’s American Antiquities, Times and Seasons, June 15. 1842, Vol. 3, pp. 818-820)

It’s obvious, from a thoughtful reading of Ether 2:9-12, that the “land of promise” to which the Yeredim were carried, is land now occupied by the United States of America:

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them.  And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.

For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands [Choice to who? Read 2 Nephi 10: 11-14, 19 for the answer. Mexico, Central and South America do not qualify because of the emperors, dictators, and tyrants that have set foot upon these lands.]; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God.  And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles [even Goyim or Gentiles should be able to discern what land is being discussed], that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down [possible wordplay on the meaning of “Jared” or “Jaredite”] the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation [nation is singular, unlike the Americas] shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations [not even Canada qualifies as free from all other nations] under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land ...” (Ether 2:9 - 12)

The Oceangoing Barges

“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.” (Psalm 36:6, KJV)

Oceangoing Jaredite Barge

Baptiscaph - 8 ft model made by V. Coon

Divinely led towards North America, the Yeredim crossed wilderness and came to dwell in tents on the Atlantic side of the Pillars of Hercules. After four years the LORD said to his prophet chieftain Ahyered, “Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built.”  So Ahyered went to work with his brethren, “and built barges after the manner which they had built … And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water.” (Ether 2:16)

Note that it was the forerunner or preparatory vessels that were buoyant like fowl “upon the water”! The terms “small”, and “lightness” are of course relative. Compared to the “ark of Noah” (Ether 6:7) the barges of the Yeredim were very “small”. The word “lightness” in this case refers not to weight but to buoyancy. The hulls of the forerunner craft had a shallow draft. They did not sink appreciably in the water. In the eyes of those who built them, the vessels may have even resembled seabirds.

These light, open, humanly steered craft served in bringing the Yeredim across “many waters” - i.e. from the Black Sea to a wilderness shore of the western Mediterranean.

Did they simply abandon their light craft? Did they, like the Apostle Paul encounter “a tempestuous wind”, an ancient “Euroclydon” which grounded some of their semi-open barges? (Acts 27:14) We only know that the Yeredim came ashore again.

Main Mediterranean Currents

Main Currents of the Mediterranean

Main Mediterranean Winds

Main Winds of the Mediterranean

Upon crossing a wilderness, the people came to face, not another inland sea, but a “raging deep”. (Ether 3:3) The forerunner craft, like preparatory priesthood ordinances, had been designed to bring souls only so far! The LORD did not intend the preparatory craft to carry his people out into the stormy, ancient Atlantic.

At the LORD’s command the Yeredim began again to construct hulls like those in which they had been initiated. But before long the LORD gave his builders new - strange instructions, augmenting, even departing from previous designs.

The new hulls were “built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”.

Of course the bottom of each boat was watertight. What’s surprising about that? It had already been noted that the craft could float “upon the water”. What then is the book of Ether referring to when it labors to tell us that “they would hold water like unto a dish”?

Is the scripture suggesting something more in stressing that the new hull not only could but “would hold water like unto a dish”? The scripture follows with particulars: “the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”.

Well of course the bottom and sides of a boat are watertight; but what if the inner sides and bottom of these craft were designed to hold a plenum of freshwater – what if that is precisely what the scripture is telling us?

The barges could have been built with a hull within a hull - like a submarine. The inner hull, in this case, would have held freshwater - sufficient for a long ocean voyage. An inner hull containing freshwater may explain why the watertight carapace or covering of the barge is not mentioned immediately after the mention of the inner bottom and sides of the hull. Yes, “the top thereof was tight like unto a dish” too, but the watertight covering of each barge was not designed to hold freshwater. (Ether 2:17) The barge covering or carapace would be frequently inundated. The watertight deck could have been designed to dish and shed seawater aft of the craft – aiding the vessel’s forward movement.

We read that the ends of the barges were “peaked”. The description “peaked” may suggest not only tapered ends but ends that are raised or upturned – snorkel like. A peaked end would thus be the last part submerged by “mountain waves”. (Ether 6:6) If the “peaked” prow bent upward more than the tapered aft, the snorkeling bow, may have also acted like a weather vane, helping to direct the vessel parallel to the wind and providing some forward propulsion.

The LORD designed the barges to be oriented and propelled by natural forces. Low in the water, the barges did not have a large wind cross-section (at least not like a sailing ship). But the design and loading of the hulls, allowed the wind to orient them. Thus the hulls may have been designed to allow a combination of wind and wave-action to help move them along.

We read that the “length thereof was the length of a tree”. (Ether 2:17) The reason the length of each barge is described in such comparative terms is likely because the long beams of each barge frame were literally constructed from continuous sturdy timbers, bent bow like from stem to stern. No two barges had exactly the same length. The maximum length of each long timber depended on the length of the tree it was hewn from. Indeed, the “length of a tree” is relative, but then so is the biblical “amah” or “cubit”.

It would not at all be surprising if some of the ratios and proportions of the barges approximated the “golden ratio” (approximately 1.618). This “divine proportion” is the limit of the ratio of two consecutive Fibonacci numbers of the sequence 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 … as the numbers approach infinity. It is a ratio which has long been regarded as a sort of divine, mathematical signature present in the features of natural things and approximated in the dimensions of Noah’s ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Levitical altar etc. The oceangoing baptiscaphs of the Yeredim were designed by the same architect as “the ark of Noah”; having a width to height ratio that is a Fibonacci approximation of the “divine proportion”. (Ether 6:7, Genesis 6:15) It seems the LORD mathematically signs his handiwork. (See Golden ratio)

Golden Mean

The “golden ratio” or “divine proportion” occurs frequently in creation

As for the closing in of each barge, “the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.” Unlike the forerunner barges, the fully covered oceangoing vessels of the Yeredim could be completely sealed.

Is there not spiritual symbolism in all these physical details? (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 29:34)

When Ahyered had accomplished the strange, even disturbing design modifications which the LORD had commanded, he cried “O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me. And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.”

Ahyered’s plea was (1) for visible light – affording human sight to the practical end that they might control the vessels by human hand, as they had previously done - that is, before they faced such a “raging deep”! And (2) for that essential breath of life that would allow them to carry on as mortals! 

Having constructed the strange hermetic hulls, some must have been curious enough to get inside and shut the door. They wanted to find out how long they could endure in the tomb-like enclosure. This little experiment made poignant a variety of aggravations and human necessities, not just the need for air and sight. Of course there were many concerns, but the need for breath was exigent! Had the LORD, who is Eternal, overlooked the fact that they were mere mortals? Was their Promised Land to be the netherworld? Did their past offenses warrant that they suffocate together in darkness and filth before arriving at a watery Sheol?

Ahyered had presumed, that because they had steered the forerunner barges across large inland waters, the Lord would surely have them navigate “the great deep”. But this was not what the Lord intended! The humbled company had reached the point that they would have to completely give themselves into the hands of Adonai – “the Lord”. Without him as their preparer and captain they had no hope of crossing the “raging deep” alive to their covenant land. (Ether 2:25)

To answer the need for air, the LORD directed, “thou shalt make a hole in the top thereof, and also in the bottom thereof; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole thereof and receive air.  And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole thereof, that ye may not perish in the flood.” (Ether 2:20, 1830 edition) The repetitious “thereof” (removed from the current edition) clearly refers to the hull of each barge - as in verse 17 of the current edition.

Thus reaching up and unstopping a hole in the top of each hull would allow the occupants of the vessels to “receive air” (symbolic of receiving the Spirit or breath of life – רוּחַ). There was a risk to this however: Because the ventilation hole was above them, water could “come in upon” them, in which case they would have to quickly “stop the hole” that they “perish not in the flood.”  Indeed, the “windows of heaven” can be overwhelming - but what if they still needed air after stopping the hole?

An indirect means of supplying air to the interior of each vessel may have been provided. Perhaps the Yeredim improvised something like a skin bellows which connected to a system of stops (valves) that communicated with the outside. It is also possible that the raised forward end of each barge literally served as a kind of peaked snorkel. Perhaps the prow was equipped with enclosed sinuses connected to check-valves (flaps), so that vertical wave-action would pump air to the interior using the sea as a piston. Thus the vessels may have been designed so that the interior could be pressurized. Water invading the hull could then be driving out the hole in the bottom by pumping air to the inside.

This brings us to the true purpose or purposes of the bottom hole. Scripture is discrete and does not explicitly tell us what the hole in the bottom was used for. But if readers will thoughtfully place themselves in the sandals of the Yeredim, considering every needful thing, the purpose for the hole in the bottom, I think, will become apparent. Failure to do this has resulted in erroneous notions: For example: the notion that the hole in the bottom was used for air in the event that the barge capsized or was rolled upside down at sea. Good grief! Adonai knows how to design a craft that will remain upright and stable even in horrific seas! More on the hole in the hull bottom later.

The LORD instructed eight baptismal boats or barges to be built. (Ether 3:1) All total, the company of the Yeredim consisted of twenty four families. That’s 22 in addition to the family of Yared, plus the family of Ahyered. (Ether 6:16) The Fibonacci number 8 happens to relate to the scriptural subjects of baptism and the Flood. (See 1 Peter 3:20-21) It’s no coincidence that the number 24 is exactly divisible by 8. Each barge was therefore large enough to accommodate 3 families, with “their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them”. (Ether 6:4)

Their stores likely included plenty of dried fish for protein and honey for carbohydrate. (See Ether 2:2-3) Though there is no mention in scripture of the Jaredites bringing “bees” or vessels of live “fish” with them across the “raging deep”, the fish and wondrous buzzing thing helped prepare the Yeredim for enduring their own long entrapment. Whatever the animals were that the Yeredim had on board, they certainly didn’t pen elephants below in their “small” hulls (Mormon speculation to the contrary).

North American Mastodon

American Mastodon

It’s true that dinotheres (elephant-like creatures) were indigenous to prehistoric New York, and “elephants” are mentioned in Ether 9:19. But, had it been God’s design for the Yeredim to transport elephants, he would have instructed them to build one big ark instead of eight “small” barges! (Ether 2:23) How then are we to account for the ostensible presence of elephants in America after the great deluge?

108 Venture Across America

It’s a geological fact that western New York was long ago covered by water. (Ether 13:2) It’s interesting that the book of Moses mentions “the floods” – plural. (Moses 7:43) Keep in mind that the Hebrew expression translated “the whole earth” can simply mean the full extent of a local land. (Genesis 8:9) From the point of view of Noah upon the waters, scanning a local horizon, there was no mountain top in sight “under the whole heaven” – the ark clearing the baptized landscape with a draft of about fifteen cubits. (Genesis 7:19-20)

Exhuming a Mastodon

Exhuming an American  Mastodon

Numerous remains of prehistoric mega fauna and evidence of their use by humans have been discovered in western New York. So many mastodon remains have been found in western NY that it’s likely that former inhabitants also unearthed the remains of at least one mastodon while digging their extensive ditches. (Alma 53:3) Similar finds have been made in the same general locale in modern times - by ordinary people. (See “New Mastodon Discovery in Western New York”)

Given all that the annotated book of Ether says about “elephants” (which isn’t much), it’s entirely possible that certain Nephites supposed that the New York mega fauna were contemporary with the Jaredites, whose records they had found and translated. Unlike other animals listed in Ether 9:18-19, elephants are mentioned nowhere else in the Book of Mormon!

Moroni is emphatic that in the American Promised Land, the Jaredites “had horses, and asses”, “sheep” and “goats” as well other kinds of animals. But unlike “horses” and “asses” etc., Moroni doesn’t exactly say that the Jaredites had elephants. Moroni more tactfully writes “and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man…” Perhaps Moroni kept in mind that it had only been the opinion of other Nephites that the unearthed mega fauna had lived at the same time as the ancient Yeredi nation.

Its curious that the scripture says “the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” were especially “useful unto man”. (Ether 9:19) Examples of the usefulness of mastodons to local prehistoric people (predating the archaic Jaredites) can be seen at the Rochester Museum of Science, western NY. The Nephites of old, like  modern NY paleontologists, could have unearthed evidence of the usefulness of local prehistoric mega fauna. The Nephites may have even had in their scriptures the Hebrew name for one of the huge creatures whose bones they found - the creatures called “habim” in the Old World. The substance “shen-habim”, meaning “tooth of elephants”, is translated “ivory” in Gentile scripture. (1 Kings 10:22, 2 Chronicles 9:21, KJV)

As for the presence in ancient New York of “horses” and “asses”, isn’t it at least possible that limited numbers of these creatures were brought to the region long ago by immigrants who tended them? Without protection such domesticated animals would probably not have survived long in a land where packs of wolves and other wild beasts roamed free! (Alma 5:59) The Nephites happened to arrive in the land when some of the vulnerable species (from one or more previous migration and recently destroyed people) still survived on the loose. (1 Nephi 18:25) In time, without human protection, localized species of domesticated animals would have been decimated leaving little trace of their presence - a case in point for Dr. Hugh Nibley’s observation that, “People underestimate the capacity of things to disappear…” (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, Appendix – The Archaeological Problem, pg. 431)

Heavily loaded with freshwater, supplies, livestock, human passengers and quite possibly stabilizing drogue stones (acting as sea anchors. See Anchor Stone) the oceangoing barges sank low in the water. Their profiles and waterlines then became less comparable to seafowl and more like that of surfaced whales. The decks rose only slightly above water. For survival sake, the barges needed to be more like turtles or cetaceans than wave tossed waterfowl. (James 1:6) The LORD had said “ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths …” (Ether 2:24)

So ocean waves tended to pass over the fully loaded hulls! They “were many times buried in the depths of the sea…” (Ether 6:6) The ferocious, unrelenting commotion of the ancient Atlantic was such that had the vessels been lighter, and without drogue stones hanging deep in the water, the occupants would have been rolled and tossed to death! Because the barges sank deep, and were very stable, tossing was minimized and made endurable. Yes, the slightly buoyant craft were still “tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind”, but not to a perilous extreme. (Ether 6:5)

Ark with Drogue Stones

A sketch of the ark with stabilizing drogue stones (sea anchors)

Not navigated by human hand during the ocean voyage, the eight Yeredi barges, with their precious cargo, must have been tied together! Otherwise, they would become hopelessly separated at sea. They needed to be bound to one another in order to arrive together. The vessels also had to be equipped with some kind of external bumper or cushioning protection, running the length of each barge. On occasion the tethered barges would bump into each other. It may have been at these encounters that parents assured their little ones that “no monster of the sea could break them…” (Ether 6:10)

Long cushioning bundles attached to the sides of the barges may have terminated in something like sea-brooms. The flexing brooms would resist and dampen the up and down forces acting on each craft, converting part of the wave-action into forward motion. The ups and downs needed to be resisted, not only so the passengers could survive the “dash” of “mountain waves”, but so they could regularly hold down nourishment.

To minimize bumping, the barges on the outside of the tethered flotilla may have featured angled fins or vanes which gave the craft a tendency to slightly diverge from each other; while the wind and sea anchors kept the craft more or less oriented in the same direction. The string of tethered barges would therefore tend to separate rather than converge together. In other words, a little opposition would have taken up the slack in the tether lines, keeping the vessels bound but separate. (2 Nephi 2:11)

The LORD caused “a furious wind” to blow, one which “did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters”. (Ether 6:5, 8) Though “they were driven before the wind” (Ether 6:8) it is important to keep in mind that the oceangoing vessels of the Yeredim were not sailboats! It was not the lot of the Yeredim to navigate there way to the Promise Land as would Lehi’s fractious company centuries later. The Yeredim had no brass instrument to steer by, and no “windows”. (Ether 2:23) Even so, they were united in songs of ceaseless thanks and praise during their ocean ordeal. (Ether 6:9) Of necessity they had surrendered themselves to their guide and captain Adonai Elohim; out of whose mouth the winds had gone forth and who had sent the rains and the floods. (Ether 2:24) He alone could bring them safely ashore again, together and to the right place!

Stopping along the way for water and supplies was not an option for the Yeredim. On occasion they might have procured a little rainwater from the deck, but this would not have been a regular occurrence! The Yeredim had to stow in their compact hulls a year’s supply of everything they needed: water, food, tools and medicine for each family and the living things that depended on them.

With the hole in the top of the vessel stopped, the hole in the bottom could be safely opened to admit a limited “m’qor” or dug out “fountain” of seawater. (Psalm 36:9) The hole in the bottom was no doubt larger than the topside ventilation hole. Such openings in boat bottoms today are called moon pools .

Through the moon pool, human and animal waste could be discharged from the vessel. The barges of the Yeredim were therefore truly like cetaceans. The divine statement, “ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea” came true in more than one way: Besides a hole on the top for breathing and a hole on the bottom for discharging waste, imagine also the dampening bundles fastened to the barge sides, fanning out like brooms at the stern. These bumpering bundles would act as effectual tail fins offering vertical resistance and gentle propulsion. The flexing brooms didn’t have to be mechanically driven. Wave action caused angling and flexing and thrust.

Phyllis Olive has suggested that cork trees found in the western Mediterranean regions could have provided a kind of substitute blubber or buoyant, protective lining. Attached on the inside and outside of the hull surfaces, a cork lining might have helped to insulate and absorb shock. Cork was not needed to help make the vessels buoyant. The ocean-going hulls displaced so much water that the challenge was getting them to sink further.

The raging surface may not have been the sole source of oxygen onboard. Fish take in the oxygen dissolved in water. The undulating waters of the purifying moon pool, to a lesser extent, may have served to exchange toxic carbon dioxide for breathable air. A portion of the carbon dioxide from human and animal exhalation would dissolve in the waters of the moon pool. Some vivifying oxygen would rise out of solution from the convective seawater.

Scattered light from the sun or the moon above would flicker through the moon pool below. The Yeredim could tell when a day had passed. (Ether 6:9, 11) When more air was needed the moon pool would be closed - then the breathing hole in the top of the hull could be safely opened if the deck was not awash. As a second option, the peaked snorkel, with its wave pumped sinuses and check-valves (small built-in flaps) could be opened for fresh air.

As solid food and freshwater were consumed onboard, and waste discharged into the deep, the water-level of the “m’qor” or moon pool would tend to change. With the hole in the bottom open, the water-level inside the barge would also change in response to changes in hydrostatic pressure, as when the barge rose from an inundation, or sank beneath a wave.

As previously described, fresh air could have been pumped inside the craft in a controlled manner. With the hole in the bottom open, the moon pool water level would be affected by the air pressure in the hull. It may have been important to compensate for the volumes of waste that were jettisoned. The moon pool water-level may have been deliberately controlled and kept within its proper bounds. (Proverbs 8:27, Psalm 104:6-9)

Each day, refuse was discharged into the deep. Though water did in fact pool inside their vessels, “there was no water that could hurt them” (Ether 6:7); the water inside being tightly confined by design. Thus the moon pool fountain served primarily as a kind of ship’s head or large cleansing font or toiled; but it may have served secondarily as a means of buoyancy control. The hole in the bottom may even have facilitated a little fishing while the surface raged on. Of course one had to be careful what one caught!


“For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

After fitting the barges with the necessary features for air and hygiene, as Adonai had instructed, Ahyered once again pled for light: “Behold, O Lord, will thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” The reply came: “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”

Now the Yeredim, like the apprentices of Tuval-qayin (Genesis 4:22), had means of making fires hot enough to smelt metals. With such heat they could melt sand (silica) or common quartz - making “glass”.  Clear quartz crystals can of course be found in mountains neighboring the Gibraltar Strait. It seems that Ahyered had considered the possibility of fusing quartz into clear amorphous glass.  Perhaps he had even experimented with making “transparent glass” for the purpose of covering small portholes. (Ether 3:1) But thick glass plates, were they possible to make, would still have provided only meager light on dark days, plunged in the “raging deep”; not to mention the night.

The Hebrew word “arubot” translated “windows” in “windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11, KJV) suggests a gated structure - lattice-like, something that can be shut. Such “windows” were prone to be dashed open - becoming lethal flood gates.

Erie Canal Keel Boat

Keel boat on the Erie Canal – a type of covered boat (with windows) familiar to Joseph Smith

The words “tsohar” [7] and “halon” [8], both translated “window” in connection with the ark of Noah, do not clearly entail a glass cover. (Genesis 6:16; 8:6, KJV) A “tsorhar” (coming from a word meaning “shine”; as at noon) may simply be an opening admitting light. If the “halon” mentioned in Genesis 8:6, which we are told Noah made, is the same as the “tsohar” which he was commanded to make (Genesis 6:16), then the “tsohar” was just an opening made in the ark.

Nevertheless, the footnote to Genesis 6:16 in the current LDS edition of the King James Bible, directs the reader to the rabbinical tradition of radiant gems or stones on board the ark. (The Jerusalem Talmud, Pesahim 1:1, 5:2 cited by Hugh Nibley, THERE WERE JAREDITES, Ch. 3 note 37)

The apocryphal book of Jasher, on the other hand, seems to want to interpret the Genesis “tsohar” to mean the ark’s “door, open at its sides”. (Apocryphal Jasher V: 28) There is no clear answer as to what the “tsohar” of the ark was – perhaps simply an opening. Even so, it would have been a blessing for Noah’s family to have possessed “tsoharayim” – multiple light sources. Portable “tsoharayim” would have been splendidly helpful while caring for the animals below deck. One small opening in the ark hardly seems adequate. There was definitely a need for multiple light sources aboard the great vessel. What about candles or lamps? Fire, in an enclosed vessel, sealed with what was likely a flammable substance (pitch), on a rough sea! Out of the question.

How then was “light” to be provided in the barges of the Yeredim? The LORD seemed to give only prohibitions: “ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.” (Ether 2:23) The sobering situation was described in detail to Ahyered: They were to be utterly shut-in below deck during the whole ocean voyage, as “a whale in the midst of the sea” - “buried in the depths of the sea” beneath “mountain waves”; while outside and above, a ceaseless “furious wind” and “great and terrible tempests … caused by the fierceness of the wind” would drive them toward the Promised Land! Even so, and notwithstanding the meaning of “Yered”, Adonai assured Ahyered and the Yeredim, “I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea”. Then the Eternal rephrased the question: “Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Ahyered probably thought on how the need for light was answered for his forefather Noah. However the idea came to him, he started with what he knew and what he could reason out, and with inspiration and follow-through brought his best physical attempt at reaching a solution before Adonai:  With fire hot enough to melt metals, Ahyered “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass” – but when at last his labor was done and the stones were cool to the touch - they ceased to glow.

Dauntless, Ahyered carried the lifeless stones in his hands to the top of har-Shelem and cried, “…I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.  We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.” (Ether 3:4-5)

And when Ahyered had said these words, Adonai “stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger.”  And the veil was taken from off the eyes of Ahyered, and he saw the finger of Adonai; and it was as the finger of a man, and Ahyeredfell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.” (Ether 3:6)

Now the question Adonai had put to Ahyered wasn’t “what can I touch and make glow for you?” but rather “…what will ye that I should prepare for you [you plural] that ye may have light …?” (Ether 2:25) Adonai didn’t just touch the manmade glass objects presented to him, he prepared them - meaning he did something to them. The Lord could have placed elements in the heart of each stone that resulted in the emission of visible light. These were not magical stones! They were common fused quartz made by a man. Within them, removed from human contact, surround by the clear protective glass that Ahyered had cast, Adonai placed something like a powerful beta emitter, a source of mild but sufficient radiation surrounded by a thin layer of an element like phosphorous. These preparations would convert the energy of invisible electron emissions in the heart of the stone, into visible photons shining without. Incredibly, this type of self contained light source is possible with today’s technology. (See patent US4788437 and Self-powered lighting)

And the Lord commanded Ahyered “to go down out of the mount” (Ether 4:1) “For it came to pass after the Lord had prepared the stones which the brother of Jared had carried up into the mount, the brother of Jared came down out of the mount, and he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels. And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.” (Ether 6:2-3)

The Course of the LORD at Sea

“…his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round” (Alma 37:12)

North Atlantic Current Gyre

Currents of the North Atlantic Gyre

The Yeredi record (the book of Ether) tells us that “the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land…” (Ether 6:5) and that “the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.” (Ether 6:8)

But, scripture also informs us that “The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.” (Ecclesiastes 1:6, KJV)

The prevailing winds and currents of the North Atlantic Gyre move in a circuit continuously. We may see in this a natural analogue to “the course of the Lord” being “one eternal round“. (1 Nephi 10:19) One would think that the winds and currents which drove the eight tethered barges of the Yeredim naturally followed a circuitous path. When scripture tells us that “the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land…” this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Jaredite barges traveled an unnaturally direct course to the covenant land.

Nephi records that when his family “put forth into the sea” from southern Arabia, that they “were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land.” (1 Nephi 18:8) From Arabia there is no direct course by sea, to the Western Hemisphere! Some component of the wind always brought them nearer their destination as they looked to God for direction. Here in fact, is a likely meaning of the sacred directional instrument “Liahona ... interpreted, a compass”: לְיהוֹעֵיני = “L’Yahoeynai” = “To the LORD [Jehovah] my eyes”, or as the Book of Mormon simply phrases it: “look to God”. (Alma 37:38, 45-47) The Hebrew name is similar in spelling and meaning to one found in 1 Chronicles 3:23-24, where the name אֶלְיוֹעֵינַי is translated “Elionai” (KJV). 

If the Yeredim set forth into the North Atlantic near the Pillars of Hercules, how long would it have taken them to arrive at the Gulf of St. Lawrence? The St. Lawrence channel communicates with “the lake country of America” - where Joseph Smith said the Jaredites finally arrived? (See Joseph Smith’s editorial (signed “ED.”) on a chapter from Priest’s American Antiquities, Times and Seasons, June 15. 1842, Vol. 3, pp. 818-820)

Keep in mind that the oceangoing Jaredite baptiscaphs were best described as “barges”. By design they were slow moving, incredible stable vessels on and below the surface. Though it is accurate to say that the barges were “driven forth before the wind” they were in fact driven by wind driven currents, and quite possibly also by transverse wave-action.

It’s true that the divinely designed sailing ship that carried Lehi’s company (along their more out-of-the-way sea path) was capable of greater speed than the tethered barges of the Yeredim. The baptiscaphs, like the ark of Noah, sacrificed speed for stability; and to that end they likely dragged massive drogue stones behind them in the deep. The barges therefore must have exhibited considerable drag. They were, after all designed to be barges and not clipper ships. Drag and drogue stones would not only help keep them directed and stable, but would also keep them from blindly crashing into shallow, rocky coasts.

Drogue Stones

Drogue stones aft

It’s possible that the barges moved entirely under natural influences for ~7,260 miles along an arc of the North Atlantic Gyre.

Oceanic surface currents are stirred mainly by the prevailing winds. The speed of the Canary Current, along the western coast of Africa, is from .2 to .7 mph. The North Equatorial current slowly moves at a rate of about .2 to .35 mph. We may regard the northwest Antilles Current as a continuation of the North Equatorial Current. I estimate the weighted average speed of the Canary and North Equatorial Currents to be about .35 mph.

We may estimate the average speed of the northward sweeping Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current, along the Atlantic Coast of America, to have been between 1 to 6 knots, or about 3.453 miles per hour (~ 3.5 mph). That’s an order of magnitude faster than the Canary and Equatorial currents. Swept by wind and current it may have taken the barges about 24 days to traverse 1,980 miles from a point a ways off the coast of Florida to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

How long would it take today to drift near Florida from a launch site near the Pillars of Hercules?

If you were a message in a bottle, drifting at a rate of .35 mph it could take more than 628 days to reach the Florida Gulf Stream from the a Spanish or Moroccan coast.

But scripture indicates that the ancient prevailing winds were fierce! Saint Brendan’s intrepid crew would probably have perished in their skin covered boat had they tried to cross such a raging sea as lay before Ahyered. Keep in mind that the slow moving Yeredi barges were driven to some extent by “furious wind” acting on their snorkeling prows and decks – as well as by wave-action.

The barges could have progressed from their launch near the Pillars of Hercules to the waters of the Bahamas at an average speed of about 5.280 miles / 320 days = 16.5 miles per day (.7 mph) before they were swept northward by the Gulf Stream. A speed of .7 mph along a southward to westward arc of the North Atlantic Gyre (via the Canary and North Equatorial Currents) is reasonable, given the nature of the craft and their likely means of propulsion. The top speed of today’s Canary Current happens to be about .7 mph.

The total average speed of the barges along the arc of the North Atlantic Gyre (from coasts near the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of St. Lawrence) works out to be a believable 7260 miles / 344 days = 21.1 miles per day, or just under a mile an hour. In other words, the scriptural 344 day ocean crossing (Ether 6:11) reasonably fits a voyage in the ancient North Atlantic.

Currents of the North Atlantic Gyre

The Jaredite baptiscaphs moved with the prevailing winds and currents of the North Atlantic “towards the promised land”.

Hurled by the Gulf Stream northward, the Jaredites were carried to shores of the Promised Land in the general vicinity of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The “fierceness of the wind” had abated. A great deal of weight had been discharged (over the course of the voyage) from the bottom of each barge. Though their stores of food and freshwater were greatly diminished, they were now near promised shores.

Their drogue stones dragging on the seafloor prevented their crashing into rocks close to shore. Having arrived at coasts of North America, they could now cut the lines to their heaviest sea anchors, lightening their un-tethered craft considerably. They had crossed the “great deep” like a pod of whales. Now with their hulls unburdened off the shore of the Promised Land, they became buoyant and unfettered as “fowl upon the water.” (Ether 2:16, 24)

They could “steer” their vessels now. Crews could go topside to row, or to sail up the freshwater St. Lawrence to the “lake country of America”; where Joseph Smith said they finally arrived. (See Joseph Smith’s editorial (signed “ED.”) on a chapter from Priest’s American Antiquities, Times and Seasons, June 15. 1842, Vol. 3, pp. 818-820) This would not have been the first time they had navigated a strait.

U.S.S. Croaker

Refitted WWII Submarine U.S.S. Croaker moored in the mouth of a river flowing into the Book of Mormon “west sea” (Lake Erie). The submarine came up the St. Lawrence Channel from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Ontario (the Book of Mormon’s large “waters of Ripliancum”). The vessel thus traversed a route similar to that of the Jaredites, who settled along the southern coast of Lake Ontario – in the land Joseph Smith referred to as “the lake country of America”. After crossing Lake Ontario, the U.S.S. Croaker was towed through Canadian locks, and across Lake Erie to its present mooring at the mouth of the Book of Mormon “river Sidon” (Buffalo River).


RED SKY'S Migration Chart

Ancient peoples arrived at the “lake country of America” by way of the St. Lawrence Channel. 

(Wayne May, THIS LAND - They Came from the EAST, pg 220)

RED SKY'S Migration Chart Closeup

According to Algonquin tradition; their ancestors long ago crossed the “great water” (the Atlantic Ocean). They came from “the land of the rising sun”. Their boats entered the St. Lawrence Channel and landed on the shores of “Turtle Island” (North America) in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. In Red Sky’s Migration chart above, notice the channel on the east and the representation of the Atlantic Ocean. 

It is worth considering that the original homeland of the Yeredim (near the Black Sea) was in certain respects comparable to the American homeland they arrived at (near Lake Iroquois, called “Ripliancum” in Ether 15:8, now called Lake Ontario). Both lands situated on the southern shore of a large inland sea at about the same latitude and elevation. Both inland seas communicated with the Ocean via channel(s).

Similarly, the American Promised Land to which Lehi’s company was led (via a more southern route) is analogues to the land of Israel they departed. Both lands have a large inland sea on the west and smaller inland seas on the east.

In Conclusion: The ocean voyage of the Yeredim was not navigated by them! They did not sail to America as Lehi’s company did. Though slower going at sea, the Yeredim were carried a more direct way to America in contrast to the voyage of Lehi’s contentious company. The company of Yared and Ahyered “set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.” (Ether 6:4) Like Lehi’s party, the Jaredites made more than one landing on North American shores as they crossed “the large waters into the promised land”. (1 Nephi summary) “And when they [the Yeredim] had set their feet upon the shores [plural] of the promised land” the Yeredim “bowed themselves down upon the face the land… and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.” (Ether 6:12)



Footnote d added to LDS Doctrine and Covenants 133:24 suggests an antediluvian division of the continents in the days of Peleg. This is a quaint interpretation, not a scriptural fact. Comparing verses from Hebrew scripture, it becomes clear that “the earth divided” (KJV) in the days of Peleg simply means the division of the inhabitants of the land. THE NEW-BROWN-DRIVER-BRIGGS-GESENIUS HEBREW AND ENGLISH LEXICON entry 776 c. notes several examples of “earth = inhabitants of earth” and cites several scriptural examples: Genesis 6:11; 11:1, 1 Kings 2:2; 10:24, Psalm 33:8 etc.

In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Genesis 10 verse 25

Of course, Revelation 6:14 prophesies: “…and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” And LDS Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-24 prophesies: “He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land; And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.”

But, please note that these verses do not mention the biblical character Peleg! 

It may be helpful to understand that the Hebrew word for “isle” can mean “coast” as in continental coast. Islands can form independent of continents and were generally never part of “one land”.

As for the age of the Earth:

The “seven thousand years of [the earth’s] continuance, or its temporal existence” (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 77:6) is measured according to the temporal “reckoning” of “Adam”. (Abraham 5:13) Adam’s (mankind’s) reckoning ostensibly commenced at the time of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The geological age of the world in which we now live is much greater than seven thousand years.


In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Genesis 11 verse 5


In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Psalm 48 verse 2

Regarding a post-flood uninhabited northern land as noted in Jewish Apocrypha. (Ethan Smith, The Tribes of Israel in America, a.k.a. A View of the Hebrews, 1825 Ed., pp. 74-75):

3. We have an account of the ten tribes, after their captivity, which accords with the ideas just stated. We receive not the books of the Apocrypha as given by Inspiration; but much credit has been given to historical facts recorded in it; as in the wars of the Maccabees, and other places. In 2 Esdras xiii. 40, and on, we read; "Those are the ten tribes which were carried away prisoners out of their own land, in this time of Osea, the king, whom Salmanezer, the king of Assyria, led away captive; and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land." Here is the planting of them over the Euphrates, in Media. The writer adds; "But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a


                                            OF    JUDAH  AND  ISRAEL.                                             75

further country, where never man dwelt; that they might there keep their statutes which they never kept (i.e. uniformly a s they ought,) in their own land. -- There was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half." The writer proceeds to speak of the name of the region being called Asareth, or Ararat. He must allude here to the region to which they directed their course to go this year and a half's journey. This place where no man dwelt, must of course have been unknown by any name. But Ararat, or Armenia, lay north of the place where the ten tribes were planted when carried from Palestine. Their journey then, was to the north, or north-east. This writer says, "They entered into the Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river." He must mean, they repassed this river in its upper regions, or small streams, away toward Georgia; and hence must have taken their course between the Black and Caspian seas. This set them off north- east of the Ararat, which he mentions. Though this chapter in Esdras be a kind of prophecy, in which we place not confidence; yet the allusion to facts learned by the author, no doubt may be correct. And this seems just such an event as might be expected, had God indeed determined to separate them from the rest of the idolatrous world, and banish them by themselves, in a land where no man dwelt since the flood. But if these tribes took counsel to go to a land where no man dwelt, as they naturally would do, they certainly could not have taken counsel to go into Hindostan, or any of the old and long crowded nations of Asia. Such a place they would naturally have avoided. And to such a place the God of Israel would not have led them, to keep them in an outcast state, distinct from all other nations, as his lamb in a large wilderness.

4. Let several suppositions now be made. Suppose an extensive continent had lately been discovered, away north-east from Media, and at the distance of "a year and a half's journey;" a place probably destitute of inhabitants, since the flood, till the time of the "casting out" of Israel. Suppose a people to

3. We have an account of the ten tribes, after their captivity, which accords with the ideas just stated. We receive not the books of the Apocrypha as given by Inspiration; but much credit has been given to historical facts recorded in it; as in the wars of the Maccabees, and other places. In 2 Esdras xiii. 40, and on, we read; "Those are the ten tribes which were carried away prisoners out of their own land, in this time of Osea, the king, whom Salmanezer, the king of Assyria, led away captive; and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land." Here is the planting of them over the Euphrates, in Media. The writer adds; "But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a


                                            OF    JUDAH  AND  ISRAEL.                                             75

further country, where never man dwelt; that they might there keep their statutes which they never kept (i.e. uniformly a s they ought,) in their own land. -- There was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half." The writer proceeds to speak of the name of the region being called Asareth, or Ararat. He must allude here to the region to which they directed their course to go this year and a half's journey. This place where no man dwelt, must of course have been unknown by any name. But Ararat, or Armenia, lay north of the place where the ten tribes were planted when carried from Palestine. Their journey then, was to the north, or north-east. This writer says, "They entered into the Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river." He must mean, they repassed this river in its upper regions, or small streams, away toward Georgia; and hence must have taken their course between the Black and Caspian seas. This set them off north- east of the Ararat, which he mentions. Though this chapter in Esdras be a kind of prophecy, in which we place not confidence; yet the allusion to facts learned by the author, no doubt may be correct. And this seems just such an event as might be expected, had God indeed determined to separate them from the rest of the idolatrous world, and banish them by themselves, in a land where no man dwelt since the flood.


In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Isaiah 7 verse 18



In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Proverbs 8 verse 28


In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Genesis 7 verse 11


In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Genesis 6 verse 16


In the Authorized Version of the LDS SCRIPTURES with Official Study Aids (CD ROM RESOURCE EDITION 1.0) we find:

Genesis 8 verse 6


Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2014

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