“He Who Is the Author of All Sin”

Brant Gardner

Redaction: Satan’s next step was to tempt Noah’s descendants to build the tower of Babel. Mormon then, rather astonishingly, claims that “it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land” (v. 28). These people are the Jaredites, and the book of Ether clearly attributes their arrival in the New World to God (Ether 1:39–43). How could Mormon attribute this action to Satan? It is because the secret combinations were prevalent among the Jaredites, resulting in the collapse of their civilization. For Mormon’s narrative purposes, then, the Jaredites bring knowledge of these secret combinations with them from the Old World, symbolically dragging Satan along with them. Mormon is being selective in his interpretation of the record of the Jaredites, referencing the secret combinations he associates with them rather than the story of the brother of Jared with which modern readers are more familiar. Mormon never tells (nor includes) that story. The inclusion of that part of the Jaredite record comes after Mormon closed his account. (See commentary accompanying Mormon 1:18–19.)

Mormon’s understanding of history identifies Satan as the original source of evil: inspiring the first murder, instigating the blasphemous tower of Babel, arriving in the New World with refugees from its building, and continuing to work his evil purposes ever since. Mormon will return to the Jaredite connection again and in more detail, but he does not pass up the opportunity to stress it at this point.

Even when the Gadiantons seem absent, the Satanic “plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness” are still handed down “from generation to generation.” Additional proof of their generational longevity is the fact that they survived from Cain, through the Jaredites, to Helaman’s Gadiantons, and to the Gadiantons of his own day.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5