28 February 2014

Tower of Babel: The Scattering at Babel and Gathering of the Last Days

This lonely scene comes from Old Al ‘Ula, an abandoned town in Saudi Arabia. The stairs of the castle from which this photograph was taken go back 2600 years. The town once consisted of more than 800 two-story houses with lanes passing in front of them. The first story of the house was for guests and storage; the second story was for the living area. The attachment of each house to the others provided fortification against enemies. Gates that opened in the morning and closed at night protected the two narrow lanes (less than two meters wide) that penetrated the town’s interior.

Closer to home, Detroit, Michigan has seen a significant outmigration of its inhabitants. “A city of 1.8 million in 1950, it is now home to 700,000 people, as well as to tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, vacant lots and unlit streets .… About 40 percent of the city’s streetlights do not work … More than half of Detroit’s parks have closed since 2008.” The causes for the city’s decline are many and varied and the subject of heated debate. However some see the trend in Detroit as a portent of the future for other cities in America.

There are regions within the developed world that expect to witness a dramatic population decline in the coming decades as a result of low fertility rates. In one of the most striking examples, “the Japanese Health Ministry estimates the nation’s total population will fall by 25% from 127.8 million in 2005, to 95.2 million by 2050.” Complicating the situation, low mortality rates are expected to lead to a significantly greater proportion of older citizens: “Japan’s elderly population, aged 65 or older, comprised 20% of the nation’s population in June 2006, a percentage that is forecast to increase to 38% by 2055.”

Neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon attributes the scattering of the people to the confusion of tongues. In Genesis, no explicit cause and effect is described — we are told only that “from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” Likewise, as Nibley describes:
After the brother of Jared had been assured that he and his people and their language would not be confounded, the question of whether they would be driven out of the land still remained to be answered: That was another issue, and it is obvious that the language they spoke had as little to do with driving them out of the land as it did with determining their destination.
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