“The Record Brought Across the Great Deep”

Monte S. Nyman

The records that the Jaredites had brought with them are not named. They do not seem to be part of the twenty-four plates from which Moroni is abridging the record (see Ether 1:3). The twenty-four plates found by Limhi and his people (see Mosiah 8:9) were translated by King Mosiah and contained the record of the Jaredites (see Mosiah 28:17). They also contained the things shown unto the brother of Jared on the mount and were translated by Moroni and sealed up (Ether 4:1–5). This account was the sealed portion of the plates given to Joseph Smith by Moroni and was not translated by him (see JS–History, 1:65; D&C 28:7). The sealed portion will not be translated until after the Second Coming (see D&C 35:18). But the Jaredites did bring records with them.

The records contained an account of the overthrowing of kingdoms by secret combinations (see Alma 37:21–22). The twenty-four plates contained the secret oaths and covenants, but Alma commanded Helaman not to include them in the plates of Nephi. The idea of the daughter of Jared dancing for her father’s head (Ether 8:9) was inspired by Satan as we shall see. Her plan worked, but it also led to the organization of secret combinations among them (vv. 13–15). Concerning the account of secret plans to obtain kingdoms, Dr. Nibley has written:

There is one tale of intrigue in the book of Ether that presents very ancient and widespread (though but recently discovered) parallels. That is the story of Jared’s daughter… .
Historically, the whole point of the story is that it is highly unoriginal. It is supposed to be. The damsel asks her father if he has read “the record” and refers him to a particular account therein describing how “they of old … did obtain kingdoms.”…
This is indeed a strange and terrible tradition of throne succession, yet there is no better attested tradition in the early world than the ritual of the dancing princess (represented by the Salme priestess of the Babylonians, hence the name Salome) who wins the heart of a stranger and induces him to marry her, behead the old king, and mount the throne. I once collected a huge dossier on this awful woman and even read a paper on her at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association… . The thing to note especially is that there actually seems to have been a succession rite of great antiquity that followed this pattern… . [T]he episode of the dancing princess is at all times essentially a ritual, and the name of Salome is perhaps no accident, for her story is anything but unique. Certainly the book of Ether is on the soundest possible ground in attributing the behavior of the daughter of Jared to the inspiration of ritual texts—secret directories on the art of the deposing an aging king. The Jaredite version, incidentally, is quite different from the Salome story of the Bible, but is identical with many earlier accounts that have come down to us in the oldest records of civilization.

Thus, this is not plagiarism of the account of John the Baptist in the Bible (see Mark 6:22–28), as some may suggest.

Secret combinations originated with Cain when he slew Abel (Ether 8:15, see also Moses 5 and Genesis 4), and Cain was inspired by Satan (see Helaman 6:26–28), “who is the author of all sin” (Helaman 6:30). The abominable and wicked combinations are another parallel with the Nephites. Secret combinations were started by Kishkumen and Gadianton among the Nephites (see Helaman 2:4–5), as they were by Abish and Jared among the Jaredites, which led to the destruction of both civilizations (see v. 21 below). Nephi, son of Lehi, bore a testimony similar to that of Moroni in the book of Ether (Ether 8:19).

22 And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.
23 For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.
24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. [2 Nephi 26:22–24]

The parallels continue in the following chapters, but Moroni stops abridging at this point to again give us his precepts, which are intended help us focus on righteousness.

Book of Mormon Commentary: I Mormon Make a Record