This article will discuss four questions relating to the Lord’s statement of intention for the Babylonian builders: “Let us … confound their language”:
- Does the Jaredite Record Give Us Independent Confirmation for the Babel Story?
- Does Historical Linguistics Support the Splitting of an Original Language at Babel?
- Was God More Concerned about the Confounding of Language or the Confounding of Peoples?
- Could There Have Been a “Confounding” of Language at Babel?
The answer to this question is “no.”
The first chapter of the book of Ether describes the origins of the Jaredites at the time of “the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered.” This and related references have encouraged LDS scholars seeking independent evidence from the Book of Mormon for the biblical story. However, in his lucid commentary on the Book of Mormon, Brant Gardner cautions that things are not so simple as they seem.
He reminds us that Mosiah only summarized, but did not actually translate the “first part” of the record of the Jaredites that spoke of “the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower.” Thus, it is unlikely that the passing references to that early history we have in the Book of Mormon are based on the Jaredite record. Rather, it is more probable that they have been carried over by Moroni into the book of Ether from what he had learned previously in his study of the brass plates. Specifically, he argues that “the material being translated and Mosiah’s understanding of the [biblical story of the Tower of Babel] had enough resemblances that Mosiah shaped the Jaredites’ original story to match the brass plates’ story at a crucial point” — namely the description of how the language of the builders was confounded. Continuing, he explains: