Personal Questions about the Jaredites
The Book of Ether is a really interesting history of a people who were not confounded by the Lord at the building of the Tower of Babel. Instead of being cursed with the rest of the people, Jared asks his brother to plead before the Lord that he would not curse them. The Lord does not curse them and instead promises to take them to a promised land.
It is here that I pose the first of many questions that I hope I might be able to answer or someday find the answer to them. Maybe I can do some more reading and research on this to find out, but I can’t help but ask this: Why were Jared and his brother and their families not cursed? Were they not helping build the Tower of Babel? If they were not helping and were just afraid of being cursed, then everything makes sense. Perhaps they were not taking part in the building, but the vast majority of the people were and therefore if the vast majority of the people were not going to be able to understand each other, then there may have not been any point in staying in that land. I don’t know … this is all speculation.
The Greatest Nation on Earth
The Lord promises them that they will be taken to the Promised Land and that they will be the greatest nation of the earth.
In reading about the Olmecs and ancient civilizations in Mexico, I came across a book (“Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, 5th ed.” By Michael D. Coe and Rex Koontz) on amazon.com. One of the summaries mentioned this about the Olmec civilization, “Prof. Coe presents recent archeology showing that Mexico had developed the elements of a true civilization between 2300 B.C. - 1800 B.C. This Olmec Civilization predates the Jewish presence in Israel and occurred before there was a single town or city in all of Western Europe.
“(By the time Solomon built the First Temple in Isreal in 960 B.C., the Olmec capital at San Lorenzo was already over 400 years old.)”
If indeed if the Jaredites and the Olmecs were one and the same, then it would appear that the Lord’s promise was fulfilled.
"Some have suggested that the Jaredites may have been descendants of Shem. The reasoning is as follows. Moroni begins his abridgement of the Book of Ether by saying that he is omitting those parts of Ether's record that are had in the Bible; he says he will begin where the biblical record leaves off. He then begins with a genealogy, going from Ether back to Jared. This may imply that his point of departure from the biblical record is also a genealogy.
"In the Bible, Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Shem (Shem - Arphaxad - Salah - Eber). Shem's great-grandson Eber (or, Heber) is said to have two sons, Peleg and Joktan (or, Yoktan), noting that in their day, the earth was divided. The record briefly lists Joktan's children but then his line dead-ends. The record returns to Peleg and follows his line after telling the tower of Babel story.
"Some interpret "the earth was divided" to mean that the covenant line was divided into two groups, one of which went to America. They point out that one of Joktan's sons is named "Jerah," which is similar to Jared. They propose that Moroni's genealogy of Ether begins where Genesis 10 leaves off. Some have further hypothesized that the word Yucatán is derived from Joktan. (The above is from an uncited Wikipedia entry. I searched Gospelink.com and found similar claims in Reynolds and Sjodahl's work. See Commentary on the Book of Mormon vol. 6 George Reynolds and Janne M Sjodahl)
"Some Mormon scholars have argued for substantial parallels between the Jaredites and the Olmecs. For example, one scholar pointed to writings by an ancient Native American historian Ixtlilxochitl who wrote in his history about a group of people who came from the great tower to Mesoamerica. According to Ixtlilxochitl's writings, they lived in an area in the northern parts of the land along the Gulf Coast of Mexico." (Allen 1989, 55)
The above quote is also from Wikipedia. The citation is incomplete and so I assume it is citing Joseph L. Allen's Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon which was published in 1989.
Adding to this hypothesis is the following section from the Wikipedia entry for the Tower of Babel:
"Various traditions similar to that of the tower of Babel are found in Central America. One holds that Xelhua, one of the seven giants rescued from the deluge, built the Great Pyramid of Cholula in order to storm Heaven. The gods destroyed it with fire and confounded the language of the builders. The Dominican friar Diego Duran (1537-1588) reported hearing this account from a hundred-year-old priest at Cholula, shortly after the conquest of Mexico.
"Another story, attributed by the native historian Don Ferdinand d'Alva Ixtilxochitl (c. 1565-1648) to the ancient Toltecs, states that after men had multiplied following a great deluge, they erected a tall zacuali or tower, to preserve themselves in the event of a second deluge. However, their languages were confounded and they went to separate parts of the earth.
"Still another story, attributed to the Tohono O'odham Indians, holds that Montezuma escaped a great flood, then became wicked and attempted to build a house reaching to heaven, but the Great Spirit destroyed it with thunderbolts. (Bancroft, vol. 3, p.76; also in History of Arizona)"
In that first paragraph, it mentions Xelhua, one of the seven giants. In reading Ether 1:34 today, I noted that it said the brother of Jared was a "large and mighty man."