The Global Flood and the Scriptures of Mormonism
The global flood is the famous story in Genesis where Noah builds an ark to be saved from the catastrophic global flood where “all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man.” (Genesis 7:21)
Noah’s story is even more important for the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as its historicity is necessary for the premise of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham, and is confirmed and expanded upon in the Book of Moses.
However, the idea of a global flood is a mythical story that was told in ancient times throughout the world, and Noah’s story in Genesis reflects the Babylonian myth The Epic of Gilgamesh in many important areas. Furthermore, advances in science, archaeology, and history provide a wealth of evidence that there was not a global flood that wiped out all living humans and animals or disrupted existing civilizations.
Problems with a Global Flood
There are hundreds of flood myths from around the world, which is a good indication that these kinds of myths were created by people in ancient civilization to make sense of devastating local floods that we still experience in modern times. A quick look at Wikipedia gives a rundown of many of the more famous flood myths across the world.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is perhaps the most famous flood myth that Noah’s story was inspired from, and the “Old Babylonian” version was written about 1800 BCE. As we discussed in our Adam and Eve section, most scholars believe that Genesis was compiled in the 6th or 5th century BCE – and the earliest it would have been written would’ve been 1,000 BCE.
The Epic of Gilgamesh has many parallels to the Bible, most notably the global flood myth. But it should be noted that there are also parallels to the Adam and Eve story. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there is the story of Enkidu and Shamhat. “In both, a man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.” (Epic of Gilgamesh Similarities to the Bible)
Regarding the global flood myth, the parallels are just as striking. According to Babylonian Professor Andrew George, who wrote a book translating the Epic of Gilgamesh, noted that the flood story in Genesis mirrors Gilgamesh so closely that “few doubt” that the account in Genesis is derived from Gilgamesh. (George, A. R. (2003). The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts, p 70)
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the “great gods” create a secret plan to flood the world, but one of the gods named Ea (Sumarian god Enki) tells Utnapishtim to demolish his house and build a boat to keep both people and animals alive. The boat is then constructed with six decks divided into seven and nine compartments, and the boat was loaded with all of the relatives and craftsmen of the boat along with "all the beasts and animals of the field.”
The boat then is then launched and the storm lasts six days and six nights, with the storm pounding intermittently on the seventh day. The boat then landed at “mount Nimush,” and Utnapishtim first releases a dove and then a raven to see if the waters had dried upon the earth. Then he sent the livestock in different directions to replenish the earth and offered animals in sacrifice to the gods. (Overview of Epic of Gilgamesh flood story
While there are of course differences in Noah’s story, the similarities are too crucial to deny. In Gilgamesh, a man is instructed by a god to build a ship to weather an impending flood to cleanse the Earth of all living beings, and this man seeks to save all of his relatives and animals. In both stories, the boat lands on the side of a mountain, meaning that the water from the flood was incredibly high, and the character sent a dove and then a raven until they knew the water had receded enough to return the animals to the lands, and sacrifices are made to God for being saved.
Some argue that both Gilgamesh and Noah’s account in Genesis derive from the same myth, but the point is that either way this story is derived from a myth and is not historical. There are many other similar flood stories throughout the world’s civilizations, but many of the stories in Genesis derive from Babylonian myths, which is what those who compiled Genesis would have been familiar with when it was compiled long after Gilgamesh.
From a scientific perspective, there is an abundance of evidence that makes clear there was not a global flood, and we will highlight a few areas here just to explain why the consensus among scientists is that there is no way a global flood occurred.
I want to mention upfront that the consensus among scholars and scientists is that a global flood did not happen, which even FAIR Mormon concedes when acknowledging that “the story of a global deluge then appears to be at complete odds with scientific data.” We will cover apologetics down below, but I just want to make clear that this is not a controversial belief and is, in fact, that overwhelming consensus.
There are a number of websites that cover the reasons why a global flood could not have happened, and we are going to quickly summarize the points below. If you want to read more, please click on the links that will be included below, as I believe going through the details makes it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the global flood story is not historical.
First, the logistics of the ark are simply impossible. A ship that is 450 feet long and made out of wood simply would not survive a flood without massive reinforcements, none of which were available in the time Noah would have lived. Second, gathering two of every animal (or seven of each pure species in the second flood account in Genesis) would be impossible given how scattered these animals are across both countries and continents. Imagine trying to fit two of each animal on a ship where they would not try to kill each other? These are the elements of a mythical story.
Even if you get two (or seven) of every animal on the ark, and assuming Noah found a way to fit them on this ship without them fighting and killing each other, there’s no way Noah could care for them. The amount of food needed to feed them would be problematic, but the kinds of food needed for each animal would be impossible to bring on a ship. And once you get beyond the food problems, the amount of water needed would be immense.
And if you get beyond the food and water, then you’d have to figure out how these animals could get proper exercise the ark, sanitation for when they have to use the bathroom, and then some animals need cold weather and some need warm weather.
The point of going through the animals in these steps is to show how problematic the story is just from its own details. This does not even get into the issues with the flood scientifically. For example, if the entire planet was flooded, where did all of the water go? A lot of the theories commonly used are detailed here, but the problem is that none of them work with the story or answers the issues we see with science and the flood.
From there, we have the problems that a global flood would cause changes that we could see and yet are simply not present. A few listed from the site above are:
How do you explain the relative ages of mountains? For example, why weren't the Sierra Nevadas eroded as much as the Appalachians during the Flood?
Why is there no evidence of a flood in ice core series? Ice cores from Greenland have been dated back more than 40,000 years by counting annual layers. [Johnsen et al, 1992; Alley et al, 1993] A worldwide flood would be expected to leave a layer of sediments, noticeable changes in salinity and oxygen isotope ratios, fractures from buoyancy and thermal stresses, a hiatus in trapped air bubbles, and probably other evidence. Why doesn't such evidence show up?
How are the polar ice caps even possible? Such a mass of water as the Flood would have provided sufficient buoyancy to float the polar caps off their beds and break them up. They wouldn't regrow quickly. In fact, the Greenland ice cap would not regrow under modern (last 10 ky) climatic conditions.
Why did the Flood not leave traces on the sea floors? A year long flood should be recognizable in sea bottom cores by (1) an uncharacteristic amount of terrestrial detritus, (2) different grain size distributions in the sediment, (3) a shift in oxygen isotope ratios (rain has a different isotopic composition from seawater), (4) a massive extinction, and (n) other characters. Why do none of these show up?
Why is there no evidence of a flood in tree ring dating? Tree ring records go back more than 10,000 years, with no evidence of a catastrophe during that time. [Becker & Kromer, 1993; Becker et al, 1991; Stuiver et al, 1986]
From there we could look at so many other issues with the geological record, where we would also expect changes that are simply not here. And beyond the fact that the evidence for a global flood is not there, we have a lot of evidence that a global flood was not a real event.
First, we have a number of civilizations that were around before the flood, and none of them were wiped out by the flood or appear to have been interrupted in any way. A few civilizations that lived in this time are:
Sumerians (4500 - 2000 BCE)
Egyptian Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BC with the Great Pyramid at Giza built 2560 BCE)
Minoans on Crete (2600 - 1100 BCE)
Norte Chico in Peru (3500 - 1800 BCE)
If there was a global flood, we would expect to see inscriptions of it in Egypt in the pyramids, but there is absolutely no reference to a global flood. This has implications for the Book of Abraham which we will cover later, but how did civilizations survive a global flood without any record of being destroyed or even interrupted?
Second, if a global flood did occur, how did the animals become spread out so quickly among the continents of the world? How did they happen to get back to the very places that fossil records show they were prior to the flood? Scientists have been able to date the evolution of humans and animals, and a global flood myth does not allow enough time to create the diversity of species that has occurred naturally throughout our history.
These are problems that have no good answers, which is why all secular scholars and even many, if not most, Bible scholars agree that the flood was not a global event. This does allow for the possibility of a local flood, but that still ignores the text of Genesis and, as we will outline now, the problems for the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Problems with the Global Flood and the Scriptures of Mormonism
The Book of Mormon requires a global flood if it is to be an ancient, historical text. In fact, the Book of Mormon declares that there was a global flood. In Ether 6, the flood is addressed from the Jaredite plates, which would have been created shortly after the flood around the time of the Tower of Babel:
Ether 6:7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
This does not give an account of the flood itself, but confirms the story of Noah and the ark as told in Genesis. However, a few chapters later it is made clear that the flood was both literal and global as it covered the Americas to establish a New Jerusalem, which Joseph Smith declared through revelation was in Missouri. From Ether:
13:2 For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof;
13:3 And that it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.
This is a problem because as we stated above, there is absolutely no evidence of a global flood, and a slew of evidence against a global flood. And because Ether makes clear that the Americas had been flooded to preserve the land for the Jaredites, it also knocks out the idea that it was simply a localized flood.
This also opens up another problem for Mormonism, which is the idea that Joseph Smith presents with the Adam and Eve story – that Missouri is where Adam and Eve lived after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
As we explained in our Adam and Eve summary, Joseph Smith proclaimed that Adam-ondi-Ahman was the land where Adam and Eve lived. This becomes a problem because, as we explained in the Adam and Eve section, Adam and Eve are not historical figures, but late additions to the Bible.
But it’s also a problem because Joseph Smith puts the Noah story in America with this revelation, which means that a global flood is necessary to bring Noah from Missouri to the ‘Old World.’ Without a global flood, Noah would not get from Missouri to the Old World, and without a global flood the Americas would not be preserved for the Jaredites and, following their destruction, the Lehites.
Alma also confirms that the flood was a global flood in chapter 10:22:
Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction; yet it would not be by flood, as were the people in the days of Noah, but it would be by famine, and by pestilence, and the sword.
The last problem for the Book of Mormon comes in 3 Nephi, where Jesus is repeating a verse about Noah originally in Isaiah (54:9).
22:9 For this, the waters of Noah unto me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
This quote is much less problematic than in Ether, but it shows that the flood was a literal, historical event in the eyes of the writer of the Book of Mormon, which as we know from science and history simply is not the case. And this has been taught throughout the history of the church:
Prophet John Taylor: “Some people talk very philosophically about tidal waves coming along. But the question is—How could you get a tidal wave out of the Pacific ocean, say, to cover the Sierra Nevadas? But the Bible does not tell us it was a tidal wave. It simply tells us that "all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upwards did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." That is, the earth was immersed. It was a period of baptism.” (Journal of Discourses 26:74-75)
Prophet Joseph F. Smith: “FLOOD WAS BAPTISM OF EARTH. Now a word as to the reason for the flood. It was the baptism of the earth, and that had to be by immersion. If the water did not cover the entire earth, then it was not baptized, for the baptism of the Lord is not pouring or sprinkling. (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.320)”
Jeffrey R. Holland: “Such a special place [America] needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God’s special purposes.” (“A Promised Land,” Ensign, Jun 1976, 23)
Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley: “There was the great Flood, when waters covered the earth and when, as Peter says, only 'eight souls were saved'” (175th Semi-Annual General Priesthood Meeting)
Bruce R. McConkie: "The Garden of Eden was in Missouri. Noah was taken to the Old World by the Flood. This teaching was given by Joseph Smith and is still accepted as true doctrine. Given this teaching, Mormons have to accept the flood as a global phenomenon." (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce McConkie, "Adam-Ondi-Ahman" p. 19-20)
Last, the church still teaches that the flood was a literal, global flood today that wiped out every living person and animal. In the “Gospel Topics” page on Noah, the church states: “When the people rejected his message, God commanded Noah to build an ark, gather animals, and prepare for a flood. Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives were the only people on the whole earth saved from the flood (see Genesis 6:13–22; 7:21–23; Moses 8:16–30).”
Beyond the Book of Mormon, the need for a global flood is indispensable for the Book of Abraham. Ignoring all of the other issues with the Book of Abraham, if we look at the first chapter we can see that the entire Book of Abraham rests on a literal, global flood:
1:19 As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God.
1:24 When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.
Again, to be clear, Abraham 1:24 states that Egypt was discovered while it was under water by the daughter-in-law of Noah, Ham, which makes clear that Egypt was found while the world was underwater by a global flood.
As mentioned above, you can ignore all of the problems with the Book of Abraham papyri, facsimiles, and translation methods (detailed extensively in our annotated Gospel Topics essay on the Book of Abraham) because the beginning of the book lets us know that it is not a historical record. There was absolutely no flooding of Egypt, which historians can illustrate more clearly as Egyptian history is much more detailed and there was no disturbance or elimination of the civilization after the pyramids were built, which happened hundreds of years before the global flood supposedly occurred.
And if the Book of Abraham is not historical, then all of the doctrine created from the writer of the Book of Abraham such as the confirmation of the ‘Curse of Ham’ and the idea of a pre-existence becomes non-historical along with it. Just as with the Adam and Eve story, if there is no historical global flood, the Book of Abraham immediately becomes, as LDS historian Richard Bushman calls it, pseudepigrapha. Because of the importance of this term and quote, I want to present Bushman’s full quote below:
“These scripture like texts, now numbering in the hundreds, were taken seriously during the first centuries of the Christian era when they jostled for inclusion in the Christian and Jewish canons. They were wanted to be scriptures. They didn’t quite make the grade, but still hung around in various forms. These are writings that had a biblical ring and echoed biblical themes, but for reasons both theological and political, did not make it into the canon. The Bible as we know it. They were called pseudepigrapha because they often pretended to be authored by a biblical figure and spoke in that prophets voice. Though the actual author, of the writing, was unknown. They had names like the Apocryphal Set. The Inquiry of Abraham. The Testament of Job. The Apocryphal of Ezekiel.
Joseph Smith’s books of Moses and Abraham and the writings of Enoch and the Book of Moses bear a resemblance to this large corpus of scriptures in that they came in the form of writings in another persons name. Joseph was producing pseudepigrapha at the very time when scholars were taking these writings seriously again.” (Richard Lyman Bushman, New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation)
It is also important to note that Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible brought the Book of Moses into the canon of Mormonism, and the Book of Moses is effectively Joseph Smith’s translation and revision of Genesis.
This is important because this the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is believed to be an inspired revision, which Joseph Smith received through study and prayer. As such, this was a great opportunity for Joseph Smith to reveal that these events in Genesis were not historical, but mythical events to help explain our origins. From the church’s introduction to the Book of Moses:
“The book of Moses is the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of selections from the writings of Moses. It contains “the words of God, which he spake unto Moses” (Moses 1:1) and commanded Moses to record (see Moses 1:40; 2:1). However, “because of wickedness” (Moses 1:23), many of the words and plain and precious truths he recorded were obscured or lost and are thus not preserved in the book of Genesis as it has come to us (see Moses 1:41; 1 Nephi 13:26–28).”
But just as we saw with Adam and Eve, Joseph Smith includes all of the literalism from these stories in the Book of Moses. With the flood story, Joseph Smith expands on Noah’s words by including references to Jesus Christ, which would be anachronistic to say the least. From the Book of Moses:
"And it came to pass that Noah continued his preaching unto the people, saying: Hearken, and give heed unto my words; Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you" (Moses 8:23-24)
The idea of being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ makes absolutely no sense in this time, but it might make sense to an author writing biblical material with a 19th century Christology. These above verses are complete additions to the Genesis account in the Bible, and their historicity relies on a literal Noah and global flood, because Joseph Smith leaves this verse from Genesis at the ending of the Book of Moses:
30 And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth.
Every scripture within Mormonism relies on a literal global flood, and without a global flood the premise of both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are based on a flooded land that had all life killed before the arrival of these characters. Furthermore, the additions to the Book of Moses become without question pseudepigrapha as Richard Bushman believes them to be, because without a global flood, Joseph Smith is simply adding his theology to Genesis in a Bible revision. Just as we saw with Adam and Eve, there is simply no way to have true scriptures in Mormonism without a global flood.
Apologetic Response to the Problems with a Global Flood
Because the flood is not quite as entwined in Mormon doctrine as Adam and Eve is, there is more flexibility within apologetics. The problem, however, is that what the apologetic responses are simply do not match what the church itself teaches or believes.
Beginning with the responses from FAIR Mormon, I want to highlight some of their responses to the issues a global flood brings for Mormonism. Their introductory response to this issue is as follows:
“The Church does not require a belief in a global flood, despite BYU professor Donald W. Parry's article in the Ensign. What the Church teaches is that Noah was a real prophet, and that he was commanded to save his family along with a number of animals in an ark from a flood which covered his world. “
This sounds great, but the problem is that if you don’t believe in a global flood, you don’t believe in a historical Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, or Book of Moses. It’s great to say that this is not a requirement of members, but it simply does not address the problems that the lack of a global flood inflicts on the scriptures of Mormonism.
FAIR then includes a list of “Many things about the Flood (that) can be accepted regardless of belief concerning its nature:”
There existed a prophet named Noah.
Noah was commanded by the Lord to construct an ark.
Noah warned the people of the impending deluge.
Noah, his family and the animals he collected were saved from the deluge.
The Lord made a covenant with Noah and his descendants.
There are a few problems here and I wanted to highlight a few. The first is that apologists often fall back on a “we can’t know everything” approach, where we disregard what we do know in order to protect what cannot be proven false. In this list, FAIR is listing five things that no one can possibly know for sure, yet they leave out the areas of Noah’s story that we can know – the idea of a global flood.
Without the global flood, none of the above bullet points have credibility as a literal story because the two are forever tied together. That is one of the tricks that apologetic responses use, and I wanted to point it out because it gets even messier when we look at other points within Mormonism.
Again, there needs to be a global flood because Joseph Smith revealed through revelation that Adam and Eve lived in Missouri, which means that Noah needed to build the ark in America and use that global flood to get to the Old World. Those bullet points do not address this problem, and it’s a huge one.
Last, the global flood also impacts the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon as they both declare a global flood that killed off all life before their arrivals. If it was a local flood and, for the sake of argument, FAIR’s bullet points were true, it would still only be helpful to the Bible while still being devastating to both the Book of Abraham and Mormon.
FAIR then continues to push the idea that members can believe in a flood however they wish:
“As demonstrated by D&C, a belief that this flood was global in nature is not a requirement for Latter-day Saints, we are encouraged to study and teach each other science. Traditionally, many earlier members and leaders endorsed the global flood views common in society and Christendom generally. The accumulation of additional scientific information have led some to rethink their views as to the nature of the flood. Some still believe in a global flood, some believe in multiple floods happening over time, some believe in a local flood — one localized to the immediate surroundings of Noah — is the best explanation of the evidence. Some believe there was no flood at all. People of different views can be members in good standing.“
Again, the problems with the flood are not about whether a member can be in good standing with church authorities, but about whether or not the scriptures of Mormonism hold up to their truth claims. This is an apologetic that seeks to assure those who realize that the flood couldn’t be global that they are welcome, but it does nothing to address the problems that it causes to the core truth claims of Mormonism.
As we scroll through their apologetics, FAIR concludes as they did with the Adam and Eve problems that “without a doubt, the flood is always treated as a global event as it is taught by Church leaders.” That is true, but then asks the following:
“The story of a global deluge then appears to be at complete odds with scientific data, which may encourage some not only to doubt the scriptures, but to even question the existence of God. Therefore, can one create better assumptions about the nature of the Flood of Noah and yet still accept what is taught in Church?”
This is the apologetic trick of telling members not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Effectively, the idea is that if you let the problem of a global flood cause doubt within the Book of Mormon and Abraham, then you must throw all beliefs out. This is a false choice, but this is where they are going as you can see immediately after:
“Although this criticism can be directed at the LDS church, it is really directed at anyone who believes in a literal reading of the Old and New Testament. LDS leaders have in the past taught the concept of a global flood based upon such a reading. We will continue to learn more "line upon line as we create more effective ways to understand this issue.”
Yes, it is true that this is a challenge for all believers in the Hebrew Bible, but the problem is that Mormonism builds off of this story just as they do with Adam and Eve. FAIR wants to tie them together, but the Book of Mormon, Abraham, and Moses all rely on the King James Bible, but the King James Bible does not rely on the Book of Mormon whatsoever. In other words, without the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, Abraham, and Moses fall apart, but without the Book of Mormon, nothing changes for the King James Bible whatsoever.
This is an important aspect to realize as we go through these topics of biblical scholarship, because many of the irreconcilable problems with Mormonism come from Joseph Smith expanding on these stories via the Book of Mormon, Abraham, Moses, and claimed revelations from God. While these issues do provide problems for other religions, those other religions are not making the truth claims that Mormonism has done via modern revelation.
FAIR does give one possible explanation to the problem that a local flood creates for the idea that Noah lived in Missouri before the flood, and I want to highlight that quickly:
“One "limited flood" explanation that has been proposed for this is that Noah built his ark and either went down the Mississippi River valley, or that he built the ark on the East Coast of the North American continent. Another line of thought is that the placement of the Garden on the North American continent was more of a symbolic act intended to "sacralize" the land—thus providing it with its own "sacred history" similar to that of the Old World. The truth is, however, that the Biblical description of the location of the Garden of Eden does not match up with existing Old World geography, any more than it does with New World geography.”
I’m not sure what to say here, because the idea that there was a local flood in Missouri that necessitated an ark but was also a big enough flood to get to the Old World is incompatible with what we know about the geological history of America. The reason we know there was no global flood is because scientists can see that there were no disruptions to life on America during this period, so the idea that it would be big enough to get from Missouri to the ocean is a stretch at best, and if Noah was on the East Coast for a localized flood, there would be no need to build an ark as they could just move inland. Put another way, if you were investigating the truth claims of any other religion or organization, and they had to change their claims this far in order to work with what we know about the world, would you believe a word they said?
The idea that the “placement of the Garden on the North American continent was more of a symbolic act intended to "sacralize" the land” is a direct contradiction to Joseph Smith’s revelations from God that Adam-ondi-Ahman was a sacred land where Adam and Eve lived. It’s rewriting the history of the church due to the problems presented to the church’s truth claims due to science, and is very similar to the issues we see in their Gospel Topics essay on DNA and the Book of Mormon.
Last, this final sentence from FAIR is a bit of a doozy:
“the Biblical description of the location of the Garden of Eden does not match up with existing Old World geography, any more than it does with New World geography.”
As we explained in detail in our Adam and Eve section, the story is not a literal, historical story. It’s an etiological myth to explain the origins of humans, and as such the idea that it doesn’t match up any better or worse with Missouri than the Old World just isn’t helpful to the underlying problems we are discussing. I'm just not sure what pointing out problems with the biblical account is going to accomplish for FAIR beyond muddying the waters, but it just feels unnecessary and irrelevant.
The story of Noah and a global flood is a variation of flood myths that were common in ancient times, and is extremely similar to the Epic of Gilgamesh, written long before Genesis at around 2700 BCE.
In addition, there is a vast amount of scientific evidence that is clear that there was no global flood, and that civilizations lived through this time uninterrupted. Furthermore, if the Adam and Eve story was not a historical event, Noah was likely not a literal person either, but a story written to help explain the world to those in ancient times.
While a global flood not being historical presents challenges to all religions that believe in the Hebrew Bible, it presents much greater difficulties to Mormonism due to the scriptures of Mormonism building upon this story as a literal history.
In the Book of Mormon, we are told that the land of the Americas was flooded so that a New Jerusalem could be established, which is an extension of Joseph Smith’s teachings that Adam and Eve lived in Missouri which would be the New Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the Book of Abraham begins with the daughter-in-law of Noah discovering Egypt while still underwater from the flood. This necessitates a global flood or else the entire premise of the Book of Abraham is not historical.
Last, Joseph Smith expands on Noah’s story in the Book of Moses, not only making the flood both literal and global, but incorporating a 19th century Christology into Noah’s words, as he asks those around him to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, thousands of years before Jesus would be born.
As mentioned in the Adam and Eve overview, the issues with biblical scholarship are just as damning to the truth claims of Mormonism if not more so than the typical issues we discuss on this site such as polygamy, gold plates, or Egyptian papyri. If there was no global flood, all of the issues with the Book of Abraham are irrelevant because the text could not have happened in the first place.
These are problems that only become compounded with each issue, and that is why they need to be viewed as a whole. Not only are the problems embedded in the scriptures of Mormonism, but Joseph Smith built on the stories using his prophetic calling. If the events did not happen as the evidence makes clear, then Joseph Smith’s prophetic claims fall with it. And these problems only continue as we look at biblical scholarship.
I know this is a difficult process and how crushing it is to learn a religion you were raised with or converted to is not true. But if the church is true, then you should be able to read through our materials without any fear. As Apostle James Talmage said, "The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding." I don't think I could say it better myself, and I hope members will take it to heart and read these pages with an open mind.
Next section: The Tower of Babel and the Book of Mormon