Evidence #7 | September 19, 2020

Jaredite History

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Scripture Central


Multiple lines of evidence suggest that whoever authored or abridged the book of Mosiah was familiar with the details of Jaredite history, even though that history hadn’t yet been translated.

Mosiah Translates the Jaredite Records

Image by James Fullmer.

In Mosiah 28:17, readers learn that Mosiah had “finished translating” the Jaredite record which was brought to Zarahemla by the people of Limhi. Mormon only mentions it in an editorial aside to let readers know that the record of the Jaredites was among the records that Mosiah conferred upon Alma (see Mosiah 28:10–11, 20). That being the case, Mormon provides only a brief overview of its contents:

Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam. (Mosiah 28:17)

We know that the information in this record was important to Mormon because he began to build up his readers’ anticipation for its translation all the way back in Mosiah 8:6–18 (through a recorded conversation between Limhi and Ammon). Mormon revisited the topic again in Mosiah 21:25–28, and then promised in Mosiah 28:19 that “this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account.”

Ether finished writing the history of the Jaredites while he was hiding. Image via ChurchofJesuChrist.org. 

Even though readers, at this point, don’t yet know much about the Jaredite record, Mormon, Mosiah, and even Mosiah’s people all apparently do. For instance, Mormon reported that when the content of the Jaredite history was revealed to Mosiah’s people, it caused them to “mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice” (Mosiah 28:18).

What important knowledge did the Jaredite record give these people and why did it cause them to mourn? Mormon never says. Fortunately, Moroni later made good on his father’s promise by abridging the book of Ether.1 With this version of the Jaredite history in hand, readers can go back to the time of Mosiah and look for ways that that the story of the Jaredites may have been meaningful to Mosiah and his people or to Mormon’s abridgment of their history.

Parallels between Mosiah and Shule

Shule on the Hill Ephraim, by James Fullmer.

One interesting relationship concerns a number of parallels between King Mosiah and a Jaredite King named Shule. The similarities in their lives involve at least the following points (see appendix for the specific textual parallels):

  1. Both kings had fathers who bestowed kingdoms upon them (Mosiah 1:15; cf. Ether 7:10).
  2. Both kings reigned in the stead of their fathers while their fathers were still alive (Mosiah 6:4; cf. Ether 7:10).
  3. Both kings were remembered for their righteousness and wise judgment (Mosiah 6:6; 29:40; cf. Ether 7:8, 11).
  4. Both kings were contrasted with a wicked king named Noah (Mosiah 29:18; Ether 7:14–18).  
  5. Both kings reigned during a time when righteous prophets (and other righteous people) began to be persecuted (Mosiah 26:38; cf. Ether 7:24).
  6. Both kings established a law throughout their land which prohibited religious persecution (Mosiah 27:2; cf. Ether 7:24–25).
  7. Both kings had peace and prosperity in their lands after they established the law which prohibited persecution (Mosiah 27:6–7; cf. Ether 7:26–27).

Are these parallels merely a coincidence? That is always possible and can’t be ruled out. However, other possibilities present themselves. It is plausible that Mosiah had translated and read the Jaredite record sometime before the persecution of his righteous people began (see Mosiah 26:38).2 In that case, he may have simply applied the scriptures to his own life by modeling the righteous actions of Shule, which could naturally have resulted in the same type of peace and prosperity for his people. It also may be that Mormon (when recording the story of Mosiah) or, more likely,  Moroni (when recording the story of Shule) had picked up on these similarities and chose to somewhat emphasize them in their abridgments.

The Succession Crisis

Immediately after mentioning Mosiah’s translation of the Jaredite record, Mormon reported on the succession crises among Mosiah’s people. Mosiah’s sons had all refused their father’s throne (Mosiah 29:3), surely leaving the people concerned about who was going to lead them after Mosiah’s death. This crisis seems to be the primary factor which prompted Mosiah to abolish the kingship and institute a system of judges. Mosiah explained,

Now I declare unto you that he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong has declined, and will not take upon him the kingdom. And now if there should be another appointed in his stead, behold I fear there would rise contentions among you. And who knoweth but what my son, to whom the kingdom doth belong, should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people. (Mosiah 29:6–7; emphasis added)

The Death of Lib, by James Fullmer.

John A. Tvedtnes has noted, “Such a situation had never occurred among the Nephites, but it had been common among the Jaredites for brother to rebel against brother or father and to draw away part of the people to wage ware (see Ether7:4–5, 15–17; 8:2–3; 9:11–12; 10:3, 8–10, 14, 32; 11:4, 15–18).”3 Moreover, Tvedtnes goes on to point out that the language of “drawing away” supporters to overthrow the kingdom is found exclusively in the Jaredite record (Ether 7:4, 9, 15; Ether 9:11; Ether 10:32).4 Four out of five of these passages which use this phrase involve conflicts with close family members, and two of them (Ether 7:9, 15) involve Shule, a Jaredite king whom readers already have reason to believe was familiar to Mosiah.

The Danger of Bondage

During his speech, Mosiah drew direct attention to King Noah, using him as an example of how much wickedness one king can cause among the people and how that can lead them to bondage (Mosiah 29:18–19). Yet Tvedtnes has pointed out that this “is also a common theme in the book of Ether” which begins with the brother of Jared warning people about the captivity that can result from kingships (Ether 6:22–23) and then goes on to record numerous instances where “kings were conquered by a son or brother and made to serve in captivity (see Ether 7:5, 7, 17; 8:3–4; 10:14–15, 30–31; 11:9, 18–19, 23; 13:23.”5

Friends in Iniquity

Mosiah uses another distinctive phrase when stating that wicked kings often have “friends in iniquity” who will support them (Mosiah 29:22). Although Mosiah may have been referencing King Noah’s priests and other supporters, the use of the term “friend(s)” in the context of wickedness is not found often in the Book of Mormon. In fact, its only other occurrence in Mormon’s abridgment of Nephite history is found in 3 Nephi 6:27, which involved a secret combination among judges and their kindred and friends.

Interestingly, readers learn in Helaman 6:28 that secret combinations were also had among the Jaredites and that this is what “dragged the people down to an entire destruction.” Thus readers might expect discussions of secret combinations in the Nephite record to naturally draw upon themes and wording found in the Jaredite record. That being the case, it is noteworthy that the only other instances of “friends” being linked to wicked rulers are found in the book of Ether (see Ether 8:11, 17; 9:1). In other words, it is possible that the use of “friends” in contexts of wickedness in Mosiah 29:22 and 3 Nephi 6:27 both hearken back to Jaredite history.

A Warning of Destruction

Coriantumr (Jaredite King), by James Fullmer.

The final and clearest evidence that Mosiah’s knowledge of Jaredite history had influenced his thinking can be seen in Mosiah 29:27: “And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land” (emphasis added).

Tvedntes reasoned that because “the Nephites had not experienced such ‘great destruction’ on ‘this land,’ Mosiah must have had the destruction of the Jaredites in mind.”6 Mosiah’s emphasis on the “land” being visited with destruction might even be an allusion to Ether 7:23. This verse records a prophecy that if “the people”—note that it is the people generally and not just the king—didn’t repent they would bring “a curse upon the land, and they should be destroyed.”7 This prophecy plays an important role in the book of Ether, as seen in its recorded fulfillments found in Ether 9:16, 20 and Ether 15:3.


Together, the above lines of evidence indicate that whoever authored or abridged the book of Mosiah was familiar with the details of Jaredite history. While this situation is understandable if the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be, it causes some difficulty for the theory that Joseph Smith simply made up the story, especially for the theory that he made it up as the translation unfolded. As explained by John A. Tvedtnes,

What is significant about these facts is that Joseph Smith did not dictate the story of the Jaredites until long after he dictated the book of Mosiah. Consequently, the historical details of Jaredite kingship could not have been known to Joseph at this early stage of the translation. This lends evidence to the authenticity of the account of Mosiah’s having translated the book of Ether and becoming acquainted with its contents.8

Book of Mormon Central, “What Do the Jaredites Have to Do With the Reign of the Judges? (Mosiah 28:17),” KnoWhy 106 (May 24, 2016).

John A. Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon Scholar (Springville, UT: Horizon, 2003), 191–192.

John A. Tvedtnes, “King Mosiah and the Judgeship,” Insights: A Window on the Ancient World 20, no. 11 (2000): 2; reprinted in Insights: A Window on the Ancient World 23, no. 1 (2003): 2.

Mosiah 1:15Mosiah 6:4–6Mosiah 26:38Mosiah 27:1–7Mosiah 28:10–20Mosiah 29:1–373 Nephi 6:27Ether 6:22–23Ether 7:4–5, 7–11, 14–18, 23–27Ether 8:2–4, 11, 17Ether 9:1, 11–12, 16, 20Ether 10:3, 8–10, 14–15, 30–32Ether 11:4, 9, 15–19, 23Ether 13:23Ether 15:3

Mosiah 1:15

Mosiah 6:4–6

Mosiah 26:38

Mosiah 27:1–7

Mosiah 28:10–20

Mosiah 29:1–37

3 Nephi 6:27

Ether 6:22–23

Ether 7:4–5, 7–11, 14–18, 23–27

Ether 8:2–4, 11, 17

Ether 9:1, 11–12, 16, 20

Ether 10:3, 8–10, 14–15, 30–32

Ether 11:4, 9, 15–19, 23

Ether 13:23

Ether 15:3

Parallels between Mosiah and Shule


The book of Mosiah

The book of Ether

Fathers Bestow Kingdoms and Sons Reign in their Stead

1:15 And it came to pass that after king Benjamin had made an end of these sayings to his son, that he gave him charge concerning all the affairs of the kingdom.


6:4 And Mosiah began to reign in his father’s stead.

7:10 And now because of the thing which Shule had done, his father bestowed upon him the kingdom; therefore he began to reign in the stead of his father.

Righteous Kings

6:6 And it came to pass that king Mosiah did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe his judgments and his statutes, and did keep his commandments in all things whatsoever he commanded him.


29:40 And they did wax strong in love towards Mosiah; yea, they did esteem him more than any other man … therefore they did esteem him, yea, exceedingly, beyond measure.

7:8 and he was also mighty in judgment.


7:11 And it came to pass that he did execute judgment in righteousness; and he did spread his kingdom upon all the face of the land, for the people had become exceedingly numerous.

Righteous Prophets Are Persecuted

26:38 And now all these things did Alma and his fellow laborers do who were over the church, walking in all diligence, teaching the word of God in all things, suffering all manner of afflictions, being persecuted by all those who did not belong to the church of God.

7:24 And it came to pass that the people did revile against the prophets, and did mock them.

Kings Enact Laws to Prohibit Persecutions

27:2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God.

7:24 And it came to pass that king Shule did execute judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.


7:25 And he did execute a law throughout all the land, which gave power unto the prophets that they should go whithersoever they would

Peace and Prosperity Follow the New Law

27:6 And there began to be much peace again in the land;


27:7 And the Lord did visit them and prosper them, and they became a large and wealthy people.

7:26 And because the people did repent of their iniquities and idolatries the Lord did spare them, and they began to prosper again in the land.


7:27 And there were no more wars in the days of Shule



  • 1 We can be fairly certain that by abridging the book of Ether, Moroni was intentionally fulfilling his father’s editorial promise made in Mosiah 28:17–19. This is because the title page of the Book of Mormon, which was given its final form by Moroni, contains a reverse quotation of these passages. See John W. Welch, “Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon,” John W. Welch Notes, online at bookofmormoncentral.org.
  • 2 Note that when discussing Mosiah’s translation, Mormon didn’t say Mosiah was recently finished or was just then in the act of translating. Instead, what is being discussed in the moment—the conferral of the records upon Alma the Younger—is repeatedly and vaguely described as taking place sometime “after” the translation of the Jaredite record (see Mosiah 28:11, 17, 20). It is thus possible, and perhaps even likely, that the conferral of records is taking place some years after Limhi and his people brought the 24 gold plates of Ether to Zarahemla, and that Mosiah had translated them some time in the interim.
  • 3 John A. Tvedtnes, “King Mosiah and the Judgeship,” Insights: A Window on the Ancient World 20, no. 11 (2000): 2; reprinted in Insights: A Window on the Ancient World 23, no. 1 (2003): 2. Because these publications are virtually the same, no distinction will be made between them throughout the rest of this article.
  • 4 Tvedtnes, “King Mosiah and the Judgeship,” 2.  
  • 5 Tvedtnes, “King Mosiah and the Judgeship,” 2. The name “Ether” has been silently added to the scripture references for the sake of consistent formatting.
  • 6 Tvedtnes, “King Mosiah and the Judgeship,” 2.
  • 7 For more information on the importance that prophecies played in shaping Book of Mormon narratives, see Book of Mormon Central, “How Does Prophecy Shape the Book of Mormon’s Content and Structure? (Words of Mormon 1:4),” KnoWhy 489 (January 15, 2019).
  • 8 Tvedtnes, “King Mosiah and the Judgeship,” 2.
Intertextuality (Internal)
Jaredite History
Book of Mormon

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