How Did the Jaredites Fit Everything Into Their Barges?

Recently FAIR was asked the following question:

 How did 22 friends along with their wives and children board 8 barges and collected and packed in them “flocks and herds, male and female of every kind” along with enough food and water to feed them all for an ocean journey that would last for 344 days at sea?

Volunteer FAIR apologist David Stewart responded with this excellent reply:

As is often the case, the terse account in ancient texts with few details leaves many questions unanswered.  The text says nothing about the Jaredites taking cows with them, and what the flocks and herds consisted of is pure speculation (we have some mention much later in Ether, but no discussion as to which of these animals were brought on barges and which were indigenous).  At three families per large barge, there was clearly a large amount of storage space.  The text provides no other specific details which would answer logistical questions.  A variety of potential solutions could be posited in view of the scriptural parameters, but there would seem to be little point in engaging in such speculation.  There are also some Latter-day Saints who view this story as literal and others who see it figuratively, just as many non-LDS Christians view some of the early content of Genesis.

The Jaredite story is clearly less fantastic than the Noah’s Ark story, or a great many other stories that have come down in ancient records, and the limitations of our knowledge must be kept in mind.  Your question is therefore one which has little specific to do with Latter-day Saints, but engages long-standing themes of the Judeo-Christian scripture about which controversies are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.  One might as well protest in front of various Christian churches with signs reading “Noah’s Ark is a Lie” as to attempt to make hay of this much less problematic account in LDS scripture.

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7 comments on “How Did the Jaredites Fit Everything Into Their Barges?

  1. Matt says:

    I’ve never heard of anyone criticize the Jaredites traveling, like he pointed out, there are other more difficult things to explain in the bible.

    From that point of view, any Christian who tries to say the Book of Mormon isn’t true for any logistic or scientific reason obviously hasn’t compared it to the bible

    • Richard Rothery says:

      You all sound like farmers trying to explain astronauts travelling to mars. Try reading Jaredite Voyage or Voyage of the Jaredites. Not impossible.. depends whether it is written properly, by somebody with nautical knowledge and experience of everything nautical. It is a different world out there. You need to learn how before getting your licence to criticise.

  2. Jeremy says:

    For me, I am a realist when I read the scriptures, or as Stewart descibes, someone who views these things figuratively. I’ve thought of the logistical nightmare of the Jaredites also. Didn’t they take bees with them, and the ships were designed to be literally thrown around, upside down and such? That sounds like an unwritten Mel Brooks movie to me.

    I wouldn’t rate Stewart’s reply as “excellent,” since he seems to be explaining away instead of answering. How do we know that there was “clearly” a large amount of storage space. If the Lord instructed me to put a vent in the top and bottom of my ship in anticipation of frequent barge rollovers, I think less storage space would be more desired – thus fewer potential projectiles to hit my kids and wife in the head with.

    And how is the Jaredite story “clearly” less fantastic than the Noah’s Ark story? Noah’s ark floated on top of the water as every ship in its day did, while the Jaredite barges were, at least in part, submarine-like. That’s pretty fantastic to me considering the time period.

    I do, however, empathize with Sewart’s reply since explaining this stuff is almost an impossibility, and at best taken from the Book of Speculation. I’m not sure of the remaining content of his reply that was not posted, but I assume he started his explanation with “I don’t know.”

    • Steve says:

      I think we draw a lot of assumptions when we imagine the Jaredite barges. They weren’t built like other ships, they were completely waterproof, it appears. I don’t think this means that they were meant to be submarines, although it talks about the possibility of them being submerged from time to time in their journey. I don’t think that they were going to be flipping upside down all the time either, I think because of their construction, a hole in the bottom would be a source for air and escape since the top wasn’t open and there would be no other way out if the barge capsized – it was most likely insurance in my opinion. There is no evidence they ever needed to use this feature in their journey.

      The ships didn’t have sails and their main propulsion was to be driven with the wind, and with their shape, it would probably take a great deal of wind to propel them along. If you believe that God touched stones to make them shine in the darkness, I don’t see what the problem is with having ships that were built for a specific purpose, the Lord had his reasons for things, I’m sure. The strange construction was most likely a test of obedience for the Jaredites, remember, there were many things in the construction of the ships that seemed odd to even them! The brother of Jared seemed confused as to the lack of light and windows, and the ability to steer etc, but they obeyed and the barges served their purpose.

      The point of their construction seemed to be to test their reliance on God. They had no way to steer or see where they were going or know how long it was going to take to get there. They were in darkness and the only reminder they had that God was with them was the light they carried along. It must have been a terrifying journey, but one that strengthened their resolve and faith in God.

  3. James says:

    Hi Matt. I’m glad to see you stopped by.

    Jeremy, glad you stopped by too. To my knowledge the record doesn’t indicate whether or not the Jaredites too bees with them on their voyage. I don’t see any reason to suppose they did, and it certainly would have been a very difficult thing to bring. This short piece by FAIR addresses bees in the BoM:

    I’m not sure what the difference is between “explaining away” and “answering” except for the rhetorical impact of each phrase. Stewart seems to address the issue just fine.

    I find the story of Noah’s Ark to be far more fantastic in that it involves two of every kind of animal to board the ship. That seems to be much more of a logistical nightmare than the Jaredite voyage.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the link, James. FAIR Wiki is so cool.

    Just so you know, I was just being facetious in my previous reply. If I came off a bit terse, that wasn’t my intent. There are just some things that we are not going to be able to explain to satisfaction.

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