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The Jaredites (//) are one of four groups (including the Nephites, Lamanite, and Mulekites) believed by Mormons to have settled in the ancient Americas according to the religious traditions of Latter-day Saint movement.
They are written of in the Book of Mormon, mainly in the Book of Ether. In it, the Jaredites are described as the descendants of Jared and his brother, who lived at the time of the Tower of Babel. According to the Book of Mormon, the people fled across the ocean via unique barges and established an ancient civilization in the Americas.
The existence of the Jaredites is denied by almost all historians and archaeologists; both the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society have stated that they have seen no evidence to support these claims in the Book of Mormon while other archeologists and historians argue parallels between the Olmecs, early Asians or descendants of Shem and the Jaredite people.
According to the Book of Mormon, the Jaredites are the descendants of Jared, his brother, their immediate family, and their friends. (Joseph Smith, Jr. later identified the brother of Jared as Mahonri Moriancumer.) At the time of the Tower of Babel, when the tongues of all nations were confounded, the Lord acceded to the desires of Jared such that his people's language was not confounded. They were also granted a land of promise.
The Lord guided these people through the wilderness, and were eventually directed to cross the sea in "barges". These vessels were sealed and watertight and able to be swamped by waves without sinking. Air was obtained from outside the vessels as needed. They also brought with them animals and food. The recorded length of this miraculous trip was 344 days.
Ether is the last in the royal line that began with one of the sons of Jared. From the time of the first king to the destruction of the Jaredites, there were only occasional periods of peace and prosperity. These times of peace were interrupted by intrigue over the throne, civil war, and the accession of wicked kings. The history of the Jaredites confirmed the fears of Jared and his brother that a monarchy would lead to evil.
The Book of Mormon claims that the Jaredites grew to become a civilization that exceeded two million people just prior to their destruction. They finally destroyed themselves about the time Lehi and the other refugees from Jerusalem arrived in America (see also Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites). A prophecy given by Ether was fulfilled: the last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, lived to see both the total destruction of his entire house, the scattering of the remaining Jaredites, and the arrival of another people to inherit the land.
Besides the Book of Ether, the Book of Mormon elsewhere relates that Coriantumr was found by the Mulekites. The Nephites later encountered the Mulekites and taught them the Nephite language. The Mulekites told them that Coriantumr had died some nine months after he had come to live with them. The Nephite prophet King Mosiah I was able to translate some records (a stone tablet and twenty-four metal plates), which the Mulekites had found. The story recorded on the metal plates is what Moroni later included in the Book of Mormon as the Book of Ether.
The ocean crossed is not specified in the Book of Mormon. In the Hugh Nibley books There were Jaredites and The World of the Jaredites, he argues for the Pacific Ocean. Milton R. Hunter has argued for an Atlantic Ocean crossing.
The location of the Jaredite civilization is also not specified in the Book of Mormon, except as called the "Land Northward" by the Nephites. The New World location of the Nephites is a subject of controversy among Mormons. Joseph Smith indicated that the Jaredites arrived in "the lake county of America" (the region of Lake Ontario).
Some scholars of Mormonism have argued for substantial parallels between the Jaredites and the Olmecs. For example, one scholar pointed to writings by an alleged ancient Native American historian Ixtlilxochitl who wrote about a group of people who came from the great tower to Mesoamerica. According to Ixtlilxochitl's writings, they lived in an area in the northern parts of the land along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Other LDS researchers point to native legends, suggesting that the earliest immigrants to Central America migrated by land and boat from "northern America". Olive compares Jaredite civilization to ancient cultures of the Great Lakes region.
Some Bible and Book of Mormon scholars have also suggested that the Jaredites may have been descendants of Shem. The reasoning is as follows. Moroni begins his abridgement of the Book of Ether by saying that he is omitting those parts of Ether's record that are found in the Bible; he says he will begin where the biblical record leaves off. Moroni then begins with a genealogy, going from Ether back to Jared. This may imply that his point of departure from the biblical record is also a genealogy.
In the Bible, Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Shem (Shem - Arphaxad - Salah - Eber). Shem's great-grandson Eber (or, Heber) is said to have two sons, Peleg and Joktan (or, Yoktan), noting that in their day, the earth was divided. The record briefly lists Joktan's children but then his line dead-ends. The record returns to Peleg and follows his line after telling the tower of Babel story.
Some have interpreted "the earth was divided" to mean the covenant line was divided into two groups, one of which went to America. They note that one of Joktan's sons is named "Jerah," which is similar to Jared. They propose that Moroni's genealogy of Ether begins where Genesis 10 leaves off. Some have further hypothesized that the word Yucatán is derived from Joktan. (See Smith and Sjodahl's commentary, or a summary.)
Hugh Nibley argues the Jaredites are essentially similar to peoples such as the Mongols in culture. This argument is also workable considering they crossed small bodies of water before going to the ocean and dwelt along the seashore for three years. It could be argued that members of their group broke off and became part of the ancestors of the population of the Mongols and others of that region.