Introduction How about a little quiz to begin with?
What happened in the days of Noah is clearly described in the following quote.
There comes a time when the general defilement of a society becomes so great that the rising generation is put under undue pressure and cannot be said to have a fair choice between the way of light and the way of darkness. When such a point is reached the cup of iniquity is full, and the established order that has passed the point of no return and neither can nor will change its ways must be removed physically and forcibly if necessary from the earth, whether by war, plague, famine, or upheavals of nature (Mormon 2:13-15) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.6, Part.5, Ch.11, p.140).
I. THE PEOPLE REJECT NOAH'S CALL TO REPENTANCE; NOAH BUILDS AN ARK. In the days preceding the flood, the Lord made a great effort to rescue his children. The miraculous ministry of the "preachers of righteousness," and the warning voice of God's servants were a continuing invitation to people to set aside their iniquity and join the city of Enoch. Notice the things the Lord did in his effort to reclaim his children from misery and woe.
- As the wickedness of men began to increase in the earth (see Moses 5:55 ; 6:15 , etc.), the Lord did what he always does: he called prophets and missionaries to declare repentance
"And the Lord said unto me: Go to this people, and say unto them—Repent, lest I come out and smite them with a curse, and they die." (Moses 7:10)
- Enoch defended his people with such power, and the Lord acted with such miraculous demonstrations of power that the wicked were terrified.
"There also came up a land out of the depth of the sea, and so great was the fear of the enemies of the people of God, that they fled and stood afar off and went upon the land which came up out of the depth of the sea." (Moses 7:14)
1 Nephi 19:11, D&C 43:25,26, and D&C 88:89-91 describe the preaching that can come when people refuse to listen to the voice of the Spirit.
- Those who repented following the translation of Zion (the City of Enoch) were also translated, freeing them from the effects of indiscriminate iniquity.
"And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion." (Moses 7:27)
- God wept when he beheld the wickedness of men on the earth.
"And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?" (Moses 7:28,29)
- The language of Moses 8:17 suggests that even in the midst of rampant wickedness, the Spirit continued to labor with men and women.
"And the Lord said unto Noah: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he shall know that all flesh shall die; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years; and if men do not repent, I will send in the floods upon them." (Moses 8:17)
- Noah was the final witness, and preached for 120 years. (see Moses 8:17) This seems to have been a time when nobody was repenting. If they were, they must have been caught up to the city of Zion, but the record is silent regarding this matter during the peaching of the Prophet Noah.
"And the Lord ordained Noah after his own order, and commanded him that he should go forth and declare his Gospel unto the children of men, even as it was given unto Enoch . . . And it came to pass that Noah continued his preaching unto the people, saying: Hearken, and give heed unto my words; Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you; nevertheless they hearkened not" (Moses 8:19, 23,24).
- It appears that the Lord tried a lesser catastrophe, perhaps in an effort to encourage repentance before utter destruction became necessary. You probably remember that in Helaman 11, in the midst of a great war of destruction, Nephi prayed for a famine, hoping that the people might be induced to repent.
"And so it was done, according to the words of Nephi. And there was a great famine upon the land, among all the people of Nephi. And thus in the seventy and fourth year the famine did continue, and the work of destruction did cease by the sword but became sore by famine . . . And it came to pass that the people saw that they were about to perish by famine, and they began to remember the Lord their God; and they began to remember the words of Nephi" (Hel 11:5,7).
In the days of Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, a similar thing happened.
"And there came forth a great famine into the land, and the Lord cursed the earth with a sore curse, and many of the inhabitants thereof died" (Moses 8:4).
This catastrophe did not seem effective in curtailing the rising tide of wickedness on the planet.
- Finally the time came when the Lord decided to start over with Noah and his three sons. "And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth" (Moses 8:30 ).
"Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die" (Genesis 6:14-17).
- He endowed Enoch with sufficient power to protect them from their enemies.
"And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him" (Moses 7:13).
- He came and dwelt with his people.
"And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness" (Moses 7:16).
- The glory of the Lord was upon his people.
"The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish" (Moses 7:17 ).
- He allowed them to become a Zion Society.
"And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them" (Moses 7:18).
- He took them away from the wicked world.
"And it came to pass that the Lord showed unto Enoch all the inhabitants of the earth; and he beheld, and lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Behold mine abode forever" (Moses 7:21 ).
- It appears that organized iniquity had gained such a hold on the earth that it was impossible for the righteous to live in peace except through the intervention of divine power.
"And in those days there were giants on the earth, and they sought Noah to take away his life; but the Lord was with Noah, and the power of the Lord was upon him." (Moses 8:18)
- The daughters of Noah's sons, "the sons of God," began to marry the "sons of men," that is, they married out of the covenant. Thus the possibility of a righteous seed being preserved in the earth became more and more unlikely.
"And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God. And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose. And the Lord said unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice" (Moses 8:13 -15).
- The adjectives used in this instance and in some that follow are important. Over and over again we are shown a world where everything has gone wrong. Words such as "all" or "whole" or "every" or "only" suggest a world of undiluted corruption. The third cause of the flood in my list is that every man was utterly evil.
"And God saw that the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually" (Moses 8:22).
- Again in this description we see a world spiraling into anarchy. Things are almost always bad somewhere, unless a Zion society has been established. But in the days of Noah, we are told that things were bad everywhere. We are not shown corruption in some places nor violence in some cities or nations.
"The earth was corrupt before God, and it was filled with violence. And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth" (Moses 8:28,30).
- The word "corrupt" has synonyms such as spoiled, contaminated, or rotten. My dictionary defines the word as meaning "morally unsound or debased."
"And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth." (Moses 8:29)
- God showed Enoch the state of the world after the translation of Zion but before the flood.
"And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced" (Moses 7:26).
This laughter, this rejoicing in the face of rampant wickedness and impending destruction, reminds me of a similar statement in the Book of Mormon. This comes from the time just following the destructions in America during the days of darkness.
"Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!" (3 Nephi 9:2).
- The ultimate purpose of the adversary is to "disrupt, disturb, and destroy the home and the family" (Boyd K. Packer, "The Father and the Family," Ensign, May 1994, 19). Note what the following passage suggests about Satan's success in this matter in the days of Noah:
"And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood." (Moses 7:33)
- Of course the Lord has created worlds without number, and peopled them with his own children. But this world became unusual because of the iniquity preceding the flood.
"I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren." (Moses 7:36)
Regarding this wickedness Brigham Young said,
"We are inhabitants of a world of sin and sorrow; pain and anguish, every ill that can be heaped upon intelligent beings in a probation we are heirs to. I suppose that God never organized an earth and peopled it that was ever reduced to a lower state of darkness, sin and ignorance than this. I suppose this is one of the lowest kingdoms that ever the Lord Almighty created, and on that account is capable of becoming exalted to be one of the highest kingdoms that has ever had an exaltation in all the eternities. In proportion as it has been reduced so it will be exalted, with that portion of its inhabitants who in their humiliation have cleaved to righteousness and acknowledged God in all things" (Journal of Discourses, X. 175).
- The final cause of the flood takes us to the other side of the veil. The simple truth is that there were billions of spirit children there, waiting and anxious for the blessings of flesh and mortality. But as they peered through the veil at the condition of the world they were to be sent to, they had some understandable concerns.
"Let us go back to the time when Satan rebelled against the Almighty and drew away one-third of the hosts of heaven. We find that there were pure spirits that stood that test and who had given to them the promise of bodies on this earth. Let us suppose that you and I were there as spirits, awaiting the privilege of taking bodies, and that we could see the wickedness and corruption that was going on upon the earth, and that we could see Prophets going about teaching the principles of righteousness and warning the people of judgments that should come, of the flood that should overwhelm them and of the prisons prepared in which the ungodly should be cast. And we say, "Father, you see the people on the earth that they are wicked and depraved, fallen and corrupt! Yes. Is it right and just that we who have done no wrong should have to enter into such corrupt bodies and partake of the influences with which they are surrounded?" "No," says the Father, "it is not just, and I will cut them off, I will cause the floods to come upon them to destroy them, and I will send those wicked and disobedient spirits into prison," which he did" (John Taylor, JD XXII, 301-302).
I can understand this. If I had been there (and I was) awaiting birth, I would have complained bitterly (if such a thing were possible in that place) about the prospect of being sent into a world without a single source of divine light, a world where everyone was only evil continually, a place filled with violence, a place where everything and everybody was corrupt, a place that was completely veiled with darkness.
This verse suggests two -- perhaps three -- purposes for this tower. One was to reach to heaven.
But not long after the deluge the wicked tried to build a tower that would reach so high that if ever another flood came they might escape the rising waters by ascending it. This is called the Tower of Babel. The Lord was angry with those who attempted to build this tower, for he had promised that he would never again destroy the earth with the waters of a flood. But they did not believe him; and in their unbelief they went to work to construct it. In his anger he confounded their language, that they could not understand each other. Then he scattered them abroad upon the face of the earth. Some few, better than the others, be brought to America. Here he made them a great nation; and they filled the land for many hundreds of years. By and by they grew exceedingly wicked and gathered together in vast armies to war one with another. And they fought so terribly that at last they were all destroyed -- all except one man. These people were called the Jaredites" (George Reynolds: The Story of the Book of Mormon, introduction).
Whether the purpose of the tower was to arrive in heaven by unauthorized means or to get high enough to escape another flood is not clear and not important. That the people acted contrary to the will of God is the important point.
This second purpose of Babel was for the people to make a name for themselves -- a unifying identity perhaps -- to hold them together and prevent a scattering of ideals and intentions. This the Lord would not tolerate.
The Lord reshaped the cultural structure of the world so that a single source of wickedness could not contaminate the entire planet ever again.
"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city" (Genesis 11:5 - 8).
Conclusion We are told that the arks of the Jaredites were in some ways like the Ark of Noah.
"And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters" (Ether 6:7, emphasis added).
How tight were they?
"And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish" (Ether 2:17).
The ark is a symbol. It was real enough, but for those of us who sense the rising and engulfing tides of wickedness and faithlessness in our own day, there is an additional lesson here. We must prepare for the safety of our families by building our own arks. They will be refuges for us when waves of sin threaten to capsize us and our families, but only if they are tight, and have no leaks of covenant or commitment. If we have built arks of scripture study and made them tight; if we have built arks of prayer and made them tight; if we have built arks of obedience and covenant-keeping and made them tight, then our homes and our lives will be like the ark of Noah and the barges of the Jaredites.
Why make them tight? Years ago I spoke at a youth conference in Oregon. During a break, the teenagers gathered in the cultural hall and played Red Rover. One side would link arms and then cry, "Red Rover! Red Rover! Send Danny (or someone else) right over!"
Then Danny would run at full speed to the spot he thought weakest in the linkage of arms and try to break through. But if they were holding tightly enough, he would be held back and kept out. We must hold on to the word of God, to our prayers and scripture study and our covenants and our obedience, that tightly, tightly enough to repel every effort of Lucifer to break through and interrupt our joy.
"And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters" (Ether 6:7).