The Mysterious Religion of the Jaredites

Updated 11/8

I’ve been reading Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon, which is a wonderful, wonderful analysis of that sacred text.  In its cornucopia of insight, though, one thing has jumped out and fascinated me more than anything else: Hardy shows that the Jaredites probably weren’t Christians.

This might seem odd on the surface: it’s the Book of Mormon, after all.  Everything about it is meant to testify of Jesus Christ.  And certainly, the little book of Ether, which tells of the Jaredites, does do that…but only because of the commentary given by its editor, Moroni.

Hardy notes that the only explicit teaching about Jesus Christ in the book of Ether come from Moroni, and that the only two figures in the Jaredite record he’s abridging who seem to have any clear knowledge of Jesus are at the very beginning and the very end of that story: the brother of Jared sees Jesus personally, but is told not to share his experience (Ether 3), and the final prophet of that civilization, Ether, prophecies briefly of the New Jerusalem and is rejected (Ether 13).

That’s it.  Nothing else is said directly of Jesus Christ or any gospel-related Christian doctrine in the Jaredite record, at least as we have it.  There is no mention at all of the Atonement.  The Jaredites don’t seem to have had any priesthood or any ordinances.  No covenants among that people are recorded.  Whenever the book of Ether mentions prophets working with people, it’s merely in the context of repentance, but it’s never tied into the grace of God’s sacrifice, so while they may have had some commandments to keep, their spiritual knowledge can’t be said to have extended beyond carnal morality.

This makes sense, actually.  Continue reading