“Sixteen Small Stones; and They Were White and Clear Even As Transparent Glass”

When the brother of Jared comes back to the Lord, he does so with a possible solution. He has, in some way, created sixteen small stones that are “white and clear, even as transparent glass.” We do not know what the brother of Jared created. We do know that there is a connotative distinction between the stones and glass. It is probably important to note that they are stones, and that they are only as transparent glass. In fact, it is highly likely that the term “transparent glass” is used here because of the presence of that phrase in Revelation 21:21. That reference is to the heavenly city of Jerusalem:

Revelation 21:21

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Note that in revelation we have streets of gold “as it were transparent glass.” Joseph certainly understood the eschatological transformation of the world, and he had already translated Mormon:

Mormon 9:2

2 Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God?

It would appear that the sixteen stones are highly symbolic in both their molten nature as well as their symbolic transparency like glass. Whatever they were, they were more than simply natural stones as is clear when the rest of the story is told.

Cultural: When the brother of Jared has a solution to take to the Lord, he does it by climbing a very high mountain, which they called Shelem. In so doing, he is foreshadowing Moses who will go up in the mountain to speak to the Lord. In the days before constructed temples, the ancients used mountains as a natural temple. Remember that Jared and his brother had come from a land where the Tower of Babel was being built so that its top could reach the heavens. Ancient man was hardly stupid. They knew that they could not build a building so high that it physically touched the realm of God, but they certainly believed that by being on an elevated location they were closer to God, both physically and spiritually. It is therefore no surprise that the brother of Jared so seek out a mountain of “exceeding height” as he attempted to bring a particular problem before the Lord. He was going up to his natural temple.

Linguistic: Nibley says of Shelem:

“Then there’s the story of the brother of Jared. This is a very important point in it. Remember, he said he talked with the Lord on an exceedingly high mountain. It was called Shelem because of its exceeding height. The original word of Shelem, Shalom, means “peace,” but it originally meant “safe” (safety, security) because it was a high place. The Shelem was a high place. It’s still the word for ladder: silma, selma, a sullam in Arabic. It’s a very high elevation.” (Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], [p.5].)

Variant: A correction in the Printer’s manuscript eliminated a phrase in this copy. It was deleted prior to the 1830 edition. (Book of Mormon Critical Text. FARMS 1987). The deleted phrase is in italics:

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) therefore the brother of Jared went forth unto the mount….

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon