How do you answer: Did Jared and his Brother discover America?

November 26, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 12:33 pm   Category: Life

So a friend at work found out I am LDS today. (Which is easy to do, since I have a book of mormon on my desk and tell everyone I am a member of the Church.)

Anyway, his reaction was really surprising to me. He said “So you believe Jared discovered America.” This really threw me off, as I had never really thought of it that way. I muttered something off about how people probably crossed the bering straight thousands of years ago, but that I did, as a believer, hold true the story in the scriptures.

so he said “so they came accross the ocean in submarines?”

I responded “um, not exactly” and briefly mentioned a us news and world report that came out five or so years ago about pre-columbus transoceanic voyages and the evidence for them. We then quickly switched topics to work.

It felt really awkward.

So why did terms like “discovered america” and “submarines” throw me off? (This is a friend we are talking about, not some anti-mormon attacker, just to make sure we are clear.) How do you deal with odd questions like these?


  1. I’d be happy enough to answer his question if he was really interested, but I’d probably start by asking him where he heard about Jared and his submarines? Come on, Matt, discover the concern, this is 101 type stuff :)

    Comment by Jacob J — November 26, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  2. Well many Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden was on the American continent right? That sorta solves that problem for them…

    Comment by Geoff J — November 26, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  3. I don’t think Jared & Co ‘discovered’ America; it’s pretty clear archeologically that there were many groups here that preceded them (starting with the Clovis people), and there’s nothing in the Book of Mormon that requires North and South America to be empty at the time Jared et al. arrive (cf. the Nibley quotes from 55 years ago on my blog; read both entries). John Sorenson also addressed the issue some 15 years ago (see this article, towards the end).

    And, as Geoff said, if the Garden of Eden was on this (the American) continent, then it’s pretty clear. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — November 26, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  4. I think I am thinking along the lines of Jacob. I don’t think these are real questions. They are very suspicious questions to ask right off the bat.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 26, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  5. Jacob J: It was more “Watercooler” type conversation. He read it on wikipedia or something after he saw some tv show about columbus day controversy and got curious.

    The thing is, it is 101 type stuff, that’s why I was surprised that I was just completely shut down by the way he phrased it.

    Geoff J: If I were Dwight Schrute, that’s how I’d respond, to be sure.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 26, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  6. I’m originally from the Scranton area. That was my stake growing up.

    The Office is hilarious. I have a Dwight Schrute bobble-head doll next to my computer. I think it may be the only show I much somewhat more than sporadically.

    Sorry for the thread-jack.

    Comment by Mike — November 26, 2007 @ 7:29 pm

  7. The Elusive Creature would respond with simple honesty. Such as:

    “You know, I had never thought of it that way. We don’t really know for sure if Jared and his party were the first people to land here from other parts of the world; therefore, we wouldn’t really be able to make such a claim.”


    “Well, I guess the vessels in which they traveled could be compared to submarines because of the way they are described in the text; although, they were probably very rustic structures.”

    Saying the truth usually works best in these cases. If you don’t know an answer to an unusual question, it is fine to say, “I really don’t know.”

    sometimes us investigators feel understood when members don’t have all the answers to our questions… it’s a form of empathy.

    Comment by Elusive — November 26, 2007 @ 9:25 pm

  8. Here’s how I respond: “We don’t know if the Jaredites were the first ones here since we don’t know from the text when they arrived. If they arrived prior to about 20,000-14,000 B.C. it is possible that they were the first since the archaeological evidence suggests that’s when the first people came from Asia. It is likely that the Jaredites also came from Asia. The Jaredites didn’t really have submarines since their craft weren’t made to travel under water for extended periods. They could be submerged without sinking, but to compare the Jaredite barges with submarines is anachronistic.”

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 7:14 am

  9. BTW bfwbster, cool blog that you link to!

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 7:31 am

  10. Pretty much what everybody else answered. But, also, always be ready to answer the question they should have asked. And, it is helpful if your answer leads them to wanting to know more.

    For example, “That’s an interesting question. We’re not sure who got here first. But, in 1830 the BoM kinda went out on a limb about trans-oceanic crossings to the Americas. Whereas today, the idea is pretty much accepted because of all the available evidence. Do you think that’s what Mormons believe about Jared? If so, how did you come to that idea?”

    Comment by mondo cool — November 27, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  11. I would have asked him what he meant by “submarines.”

    Comment by Seth R. — November 27, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  12. Blake,

    “…but to compare the Jaredite barges with submarines is anachronistic.”

    You really would say this to an investigator???


    Comment by Elusive — November 27, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

  13. Elusive,

    Blake has well educated friends…

    Comment by Geoff J — November 27, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  14. I’m sure the best answer would be something like: “I don’t know that we teach that. There was a little scripture verse coined about that. Now that’s more of a scripture verse than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.”

    Comment by Nick Literski — November 29, 2007 @ 8:23 am

  15. Nick, that’s cheap and tacky. I know we don’t teach being cheap and tacky.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 29, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  16. Nick,

    Do you ever wonder why people in the bloggernacle think you’re a jerk sometimes? Let me suggest that it is because you like to take potshots at people like President Hinckley like you did in #14. (Either that or it’s because you really are a jerk…)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  17. On the other hand, 9 out of 10 times, that is the CORRECT answer to most of the silly questions asked about Mormons. That others don’t like the answer is THEIR problem and not a Mormons. Unlike a lot of other religions, Mormonism is not tied down to absolutes and creeds. I think Nick is a jerk, but frankly that quote is probably similar to what I would have said, and what should be said more often.

    Comment by Jettboy — November 29, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  18. See, this is where I really do need to learn by example how to live righteously. I should get it through my thick skull that if someone says something you disagree with, the proper response is to call them names. In fact, even if you agree in part with what someone says, you should jump into the fray and call that person names, just because it’s cool and fun.

    I apologize for the offense caused by my needless snarky comment, folks. At the same time, I hope some of you aren’t holding yourselves out as examples of the behavior you believe I should conform to.

    Comment by Nick Literski — November 29, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  19. Nick,

    Your comment was boorish. You should not be surprised when Latter-Day Saints find it offensive when you take potshots at President Hinckley. Boorish behavior by our guests is generally unwelcome here if you were wondering.

    I don’t know why Jettboy doesn’t like you but he specifically say “I think Nick is a jerk” so that is something the two of you can work out elsewhere I guess.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  20. I don’t know why Jettboy doesn’t like me either, Geoff, since we’ve never met. Of course, he was only repeating the name-calling you already initiated.

    I get that you were offended, Geoff, hence my apology. The comment was not really intended as a “potshot at Hinckley,” but rather just a needless smart-alecky remark, which I shouldn’t have made. At least I didn’t call Hinckley names, or argue that it was right to call him names if he said something that irritated me, eh?

    Comment by Nick Literski — November 29, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  21. Well technically I didn’t call you a name either Nick. I suggested the possibility that you really are a jerk and I noted that a lot of people in the bloggernacle seem to think you are a jerk, but I never actually called you are a jerk. I am open to the possibility that you are a jerk of course if that makes you feel better…

    (and I am also open to the possibility that I am a jerk for the snarkiness of this comment… )

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  22. I would say:

    1. There were lots of people here before Columbus, and we have no idea who if anyone deserves the credit.

    2. Of course not. Apparently the boats used were covered to survive severe storms, rogue waves, whatever without getting swamped. That’s it.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 29, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  23. The very best use you can make of the braggy Christmas letters is this:

    Ask your friends to bring copies (with names removed) of the most appalling braggy Christmas letter they have received to your holiday party and then:

    Each person draws a letter out of the “pile” and takes a turn at a dramatic reading.

    Comment by Diane — December 2, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  24. Analysis from Hugh Nibly about how the Jaredite barges were similar to Noah’s ark, and both were submarine in nature:

    Maxwell Institute

    As for the issue about who discovered America, I think it was Elder Oaks who said that the Book of Mormon was only a partial history of the Americas, and nowhere does it claim to cover all peoples invovled. He seems to suggest that other groups may have come before and during the peoples mentioned directly in the Book of Mormon.

    Good resources:

    Before DNA

    Comment by JM — April 21, 2008 @ 10:42 am