November 2, 2014

First Americans were submariners

IT’S SURPRISING that so little recognition is given to the seafaring achievements of the ancestors of present-day Mormons. We know a lot about the voyages of the ancient Phoenicians, Polynesians, Vikings, Chinese, and so on, but very few of us know anything about the equally praiseworthy adventures of the people whose offspring eventually founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints right here in America.
For example, did you know that the first people in America came by submarine? Eight submarines, to be exact.

This is something that these modest people keep under their hats. It is verified only in the Book of Mormon, which devout Mormons hold to be the word of God. And although the word submarine is never explicitly mentioned in the official account of the extraordinary journey of the early immigrants from the Middle East to America, it wouldn’t be far from the truth to describe the boats they used as submarines.

You can read it for yourself in the Book of Mormon, where it’s presented as the story of the Brother of Jared, who, with his family, was present at the Tower of Babel. He received word that they were to journey, with animals of all kinds, to a new promised land.

Consequently, they built what the good book calls “barges,” eight of them.  Every part of each barge was “tight like a dish” and ends were “peaked.” And the size? Well, to quote the book: “ . . .  and the length thereof was the length of a tree . . .”

The Brother of Jared was quite concerned that these peculiar-shaped vessels were both airtight and lacking windows: In Ether, Chapter 2, verse 19, he cries: “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.”

The Lord was not fazed. “Behold,” He said, “thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air.” As for light, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched 16 small stones that the Brother of Jared had found. “And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in the darkness, to give light unto men, women and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.”

And it came to pass that this little fleet of vessels set sail from the Middle East. There is no indication of how they were propelled, but they obviously couldn’t have been sailed, since everyone was sealed inside.

This could not have been a comfortable voyage for any of them. “And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind,” says the Book of Mormon.

“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 thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them . . . “

After 344 days in their hermetically sealed tubes “they did land upon the shore of the promised land  . . . and did shed tears of joy.”  I bet they did.

There’s no indication of where that promised land might have been, but Mormon teaching indicates that it was South America.

This is an extraordinary feat of navigation and exploration , of course, and one that took place long before the birth of Christ. It deserves wider recognition.

All this reminds me of John Steinbeck's remark in his book Sweet Thursday: "There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn't necessarily a lie even if it didn't necessarily happen."

Today’s Thought
Believe those who are seeking the truth: doubt those who find it.
—André Gide

I rode upon my motorbike;
Ruth rode at back of me.
I hit a bump at ninety-five
And rode on Ruthlessly.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Tillerman said...

Inspiring story. It should be more widely known. Praise be to Mitt.

Anonymous said...

Man, you are dumb! A real Loser!

Austin said...

I'm a long-time reader of your blog, and also a Mormon. I'm happy that we finally caught your attention! You have a great way of engaging readers in an funny and ironic, yet inoffensive, way. Thanks for all of your work.

John Vigor said...

It has been pointed out elsewhere that I am an idiot for thinking that the Jaredites were the ancestors of the Mormons. It's not the first time I've been called an idiot in public, but I must admit that this time it was more deserved.
I misused the word "ancestors." What I meant was "predecessors," or at any rate, people who lived before Joseph Smith came along and got things organized.
Sorry, but we idiots are not very good with words.

John V.