1 And it came to pass that Shez, who was a descendant of Heth—for Heth had perished by the famine, and all his household save it were Shez—wherefore, Shez began to build up again a broken people.
The famine is severe indeed if a member of the royal household is effected by it. There may have been some type of revolt against the royalty for allowing such a disaster, as one of the ancient purposes of the kings was to appease the gods (remembering that Heth had turned on the true God). Nevertheless, Shez is a member of the royal house and therefore a continuation of the king-line.
2 And it came to pass that Shez did remember the destruction of his fathers, and he did build up a righteous kingdom; for he remembered what the Lord had done in bringing Jared and his brother across the deep; and he did walk in the ways of the Lord; and he begat sons and daughters.
True to Moroni’s model, if not the original intent of Ether, is the return to prosperity with the return to righteousness.
3 And his eldest son, whose name was Shez, did rebel against him; nevertheless, Shez was smitten by the hand of a robber, because of his exceeding riches, which brought peace again unto his father.
This is an interesting detail that certainly comes from Ether’s record. Even allowing Moroni a fairly free hand in modeling the events of history into a form that highlights the promise of the land, this incident is sufficiently different from the rest of the incidents of rebellion to tell us that all of the rebellion stories are part of the original record. Those that are similar have a relationship to this in that they are sons rebelling against fathers. That process was obviously rampant in the culture. However, this resolution by pure happenstance tells us that the stories were written as they happened, and are not simply the result of a cyclical historian.
When Shez the younger becomes rebellious, enough is known of the rebellion that it gets written down in official records. However, the end of Shez the younger is at the hand of a robber. In this case, the robber should be seen as a thief, not a Gadianton-style robber. Even though there are secret combinations, and even though Mormon’s use of robber was to be equivalent to the Gadiantons, and therefore secret combinations, the circumstances of the death of Shez the younger suggests much less organization.
4 And it came to pass that his father did build up many cities upon the face of the land, and the people began again to spread over all the face of the land. And Shez did live to an exceedingly old age; and he begat Riplakish. And he died, and Riplakish reigned in his stead.
Shez the Elder walks in the way of the Lord, and is therefore fulfilling the promise of the land. After the drought and the diminishing of the population (and perhaps the abandonment of some cities, such as San Lorenzo) there is a resurgence of the population and the building process under Shez the Elder.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places the reign of Shez the Elder between 830 and 800 B.C.
5 And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men's shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.
Riplakish returns to the evil-king model. After his more righteous father, Riplakish once again turns away from the ways of God and toward the culture of the surrounding world. The first indication is that he has many wives and concubines. Since it would appear that polygyny is at least implied for the founding fathers (Jared and the brother of Jared) the question becomes one of the contrast between approved polygamy and disapproved polygamy, the very issue with which Jacob the brother of Nephi will struggle in his discourse to his people recorded in Jacob 2. It is highly likely that the reasons that this is seen as not doing “that which was right in the sight of the Lord,” comes from the importation of the cultural modes of the pagan surrounding culture rather than the specifics of polygamy (see the commentary on Jacob 2 for more information on this issue).
Riplakish also lays heavy tax burdens on his people. The word “tax” is surely a modernism added in the translation, because there was no system of taxation as we understand it. However, the descriptions we have of what Riplakish did is consistent with conscripted labor, and debt-slavery. (Debt-slavery is know for the late Maya. See (David Webster. The Fall of the Ancient Maya. Thames & Hudson, 2002, p. 97).
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places the reign of Riplakish at 800-770 B.C., although verse 8 tells us that he reigned for forty two years rather than the estimated 30.
This time period is well inside the Intermediate Olmec Period (900-600 B.C.) This is the time period of the greatest florescence of the Olmec. The descriptions of the labor conscriptions and a wealth of Riplakish, as well as his building projects fit in with the known cultural florescence during this time period. Riplakish’s evil was in the adoption of the culture of the pagan world, and in the heavy price he imposed upon his people to achieve worldly wealth (and probably recognition).
6 And he did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne; and he did build many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he did cast into prison; and whoso was not able to pay taxes he did cast into prison; and he did cause that they should labor continually for their support; and whoso refused to labor he did cause to be put to death.
7 Wherefore he did obtain all his fine work, yea, even his fine gold he did cause to be refined in prison; and all manner of fine workmanship he did cause to be wrought in prison. And it came to pass that he did afflict the people with his whoredoms and abominations.
Riplakish uses forced labor to build his cities. The specific mention of gold is anachronistic according to known archaeology. The presence of the idea of working “fine gold” in the prisons certainly paints the right picture, but it may be a later addition to the story. It is even possible that it is an interpretation given by Joseph Smith for what a valuable forced labor might be doing. In Joseph Smith’s world, gold would be the standard used for a valuable produced work. However, in Olmec times, that valuable material would have been jade. It is a plausible hypothesis that the original text had the working of jade, something with which Joseph Smith would not be familiar. When he needed to translate the forced creation of something of clear value, the translation used gold as the modern “translation” of the concept of the value of jade in the ancient Olmec culture.
8 And when he had reigned for the space of forty and two years the people did rise up in rebellion against him; and there began to be war again in the land, insomuch that Riplakish was killed, and his descendants were driven out of the land.
The heavy economic burdens placed on the people became too much, and they rebelled against their king. As long as the people gained from the monumental architecture, they would be content to live in a world that was improving in wealth and power. However, Riplakish appears to have decided to become more important in the region before he had the same kinds of resources as did others. He overworked his people, and they eventually rebel against him.
9 And it came to pass after the space of many years, Morianton, (he being a descendant of Riplakish) gathered together an army of outcasts, and went forth and gave battle unto the people; and he gained power over many cities; and the war became exceedingly sore, and did last for the space of many years; and he did gain power over all the land, and did establish himself king over all the land.
The death of Riplakish and the expulsion of his descendants (verse 8) creates a situation where there is no king in the land. This condition continues for “the space of many years.” What we have is a rebellion that has removed the recognized ruling family, and replaced it with something less than a king. This condition continues for years. We may expect that during this time there is a lull in the monumental building. Certainly those who rebelled against the forced labor would not be quick to resume those labors.
When the king returns, it is Morianton. We hear that he is a descendant of Riplakish. There is a break in the lineage here, and we do not know the nature of the break. Knowing that Morianton is a “descendant of Riplakish” tells us that he at least lays claim to a continuation of the Jaredite king-line, and indeed Morianton becomes one of the king-lineage. It is significant that the return of the king is the result of war. Reading between the lines, there was a complete break with the previous lines, and Morianton returns with an army to conquer the land and reestablish himself.
Morianton’s name shows up in the Nephite record with both a namesake and a land of Morianton (Alma 50:25-29). It is unclear if the land of Morianton already had that name, or if it was named for the contemporary Morianton who was ruler in that land. The land of Morianton is on the northern border of the land of Zarahemla, and therefore in direct proximity to the Jaredite homelands. The name is certainly retained culturally, even if the land of Morianton was not named for this particular Jaredite king.
10 And after that he had established himself king he did ease the burden of the people, by which he did gain favor in the eyes of the people, and they did anoint him to be their king.
11 And he did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself because of his many whoredoms; wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Morianton is a popular king, but not a righteous one. Once again we have the “many whoredoms” as an indication of the reason for his separation from the Lord. The inheritance of Morianton was from the worldly Riplakish, and the years “on the outside” are quite likely spent among the pagan surrounding locations. It is no surprise that he returns a pagan.
12 And it came to pass that Morianton built up many cities, and the people became exceedingly rich under his reign, both in buildings, and in gold and silver, and in raising grain, and in flocks, and herds, and such things which had been restored unto them.
Morianton becomes an exception to the model of righteousness leading to prosperity and unrighteousness leading to poverty. This tells us that although Moroni is molding history, he is not forcing history into the mold. When there is an unrighteous king whose reign is prosperous, we are given that information. Of course the accompanying moral implications are missing, but the historical point is retained.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology would place the reign of Morianton from approximately 770-740 B.C.
13 And Morianton did live to an exceedingly great age, and then he begat Kim; and Kim did reign in the stead of his father; and he did reign eight years, and his father died. And it came to pass that Kim did not reign in righteousness, wherefore he was not favored of the Lord.
The pattern of the promise of the land reappears in the next generation. Kim does not follow god either, but in his reign events occur that allow Moroni to say “wherefore he was not favored of the Lord.”
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places Kim between 650 and 620 B.C. It is interesting to note that Kim is co-regent with his father for eight years, following the tradition noted earlier.
14 And his brother did rise up in rebellion against him, by which he did bring him into captivity; and he did remain in captivity all his days; and he begat sons and daughters in captivity, and in his old age he begat Levi; and he died.
15 And it came to pass that Levi did serve in captivity after the death of his father, for the space of forty and two years. And he did make war against the king of the land, by which he did obtain unto himself the kingdom.
The political intrigue that is the liet motif of the Jaredite kings continues with the rebellion of Kim’s brother. What continues to be interesting is the way that the king-list ignores an usurper who sits on the throne. Levi rebels “against the king of the land,” but the king-list shows Levi as the next king after Kim. This continues to tell us that the king-list has been manipulated, and is not intended to provide accurate history. This is the modified history of a particular family line – or at least claimants to that line.
16 And after he had obtained unto himself the kingdom he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; and the people did prosper in the land; and he did live to a good old age, and begat sons and daughters; and he also begat Corom, whom he anointed king in his stead.
After the unrighteous Kim (and presumably Kim’s brother) we have Levi returning to the Lord, and returning his city to prosperity.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places Levi at between 710 and 680 B.C.
17 And it came to pass that Corom did that which was good in the sight of the Lord all his days; and he begat many sons and daughters; and after he had seen many days he did pass away, even like unto the rest of the earth; and Kish reigned in his stead.
The righteousness/prosperity rule of the land is also reinforced for the reign of Corom.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places Corom at between 680 and 650 B.C.
18 And it came to pass that Kish passed away also, and Lib reigned in his stead.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places Kish at between 650 and 620 B.C.
19 And it came to pass that Lib also did that which was good in the sight of the Lord. And in the days of Lib the poisonous serpents were destroyed. Wherefore they did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest. And Lib also himself became a great hunter.
Moroni tells us that the serpents were destroyed in the reign of Lib. Realistically, the plague of the serpents would have receded after the return of the rains and the ending of the drought. If it did not really happen during this time, who would Moroni say that it does? Moroni is noting that during the reign of Lib there is a movement southward. That was the direction that he last mentioned as being “hedged up” by the serpents. Therefore, to allow this southward movement, Moroni understands that he must remove the barrier that was placed there. Moroni’s story works, even though the history may have been different. Moroni is consistent in piecing together his text. This tells us that it is not simply the result of haphazard story-telling, but a considered understanding of the Jaredite record. Moroni’s manipulation of the Jaredite record is considered, and he would have considered it faithful to the original.
The movement south is justified as a hunt, and is further justified by the southward movement of the animals during the drought. The drought, however, has been over for around two hundred years. There was clearly an indication in the Jaredite record of the southward movement, but Moroni interprets the reason according to his understanding of the story.
Historical: Around the time period that Moroni ascribes an interest in the lands to southward, there is a movement of Zoquean speakers into the Grijalva valley. This is significant for the understanding of the cultural connections of the Mulekites and the Jaredites. This is approximately the period when the Mulekites will appear in the Jaredite lands. They will enter that culture, and absorb culture and language. They will move up the Grijalva valley to found Zarahemla. While it is doubtful that the Mulekites landed and immediately moved up the Grijalva, this southern-looking perspective tells us that the Jaredtie peoples were looking in that direction. The Mulekite move to Zarahemla was simply a part of a larger cultural movement, beginning approximately at this time.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology places Lib at between 620 and 590 B.C.
20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.
21 And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants.
The land southward is guarded by a “great city.” The text tells us that the land southward was a game preserve. This may have been the way that the land was originally considered, but movement will occur into the southland around this time or later. Perhaps some movement has occurred prior to this time, and the city and declaration are to stop the “escape valve” of people moving toward the south. Regardless of the specifics of the timing, the southward movement of peoples connected to the ancestral Olmec into the “land southward” is know archaeologically and linguistically.
22 And they were exceedingly industrious, and they did buy and sell and traffic one with another, that they might get gain.
As with the Nephites, the means to comparative wealth is commerce with other locations.
Redaction: the phrase “that they might get gain” is virtually certain to be Moroni’s emendation to the Jaredite record. This is the phrase so frequently used by his father in reference to the influences that destroyed Nephite society that its parallel appearance here, and in a similarly pejorative context, indicates that this is a concept that Moroni has absorbed from his father, and interpreted into the Jaredite record.
23 And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work.
As noted above, the reference to iron is archaeologically attested. There rest of these metals are not so attested. Once again, however, they occur in the context of riches, and may be an interpretation that Joseph placed on what must have been valuable natural resources. Olmec data tell us that both jade and obsidian were very important in the trade networks. While there is no reason to suppose that one might mistake either jade or obsidian for a metal, it is yet possible that the conceptual translation link is value, not substance.
24 And they did have silks, and fine-twined linen; and they did work all manner of cloth, that they might clothe themselves from their nakedness.
This is a standard catalog of “riches.” We see the similar catalog in other instances in the Book of Mormon. In Alma we find this catalog in conjunction with the positive wealth of the people of the church:
29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth. (italics added)
Nevertheless, when riches become a goal rather than a result, this same catalog of riches becomes a negative caution for the Nephites:
6 And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel. (italics added)
Indeed, the pejorative aspect of this particular set is used for a future generation that Nephi sees in a vision:
1 Nephi 13:6-8
6 And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.
7 And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.
8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.
As has been noted in this commentary, the concept of riches displayed as clothing is particularly Mesoamerican. However, the repetition of this particular set of features suggests that it is a formulaic expression rather than a description. That is, the set of terms is used as a set, rather than something that describes the pieces. It is a phrase along the lines of “lock, stock and barrel,” a phrase that we understand as a whole to mean “everything,” not “each thing.” We expect that it refers to a wide number of things, not specifically items of gunsmithing.
25 And they did make all manner of tools to till the earth, both to plow and to sow, to reap and to hoe, and also to thrash.
26 And they did make all manner of tools with which they did work their beasts.
27 And they did make all manner of weapons of war. And they did work all manner of work of exceedingly curious workmanship.
This set of information tells us that the Jaredites were a people who were advanced in civilization, because they could manipulate their environment through tools. One the of the hallmarks of larger populations and civilizations is this very manipulation of the environment as opposed to the lifestyle of a hunter-gatherer. The phrase “they did work all manner of work of exceedingly curious workmanship” echoes later Aztec references to the Toltecs. For the Aztecs, the Toltecs were the quintessential civilization, providing the best of everything. In fact, in the Aztec language, “Toltecness” (toltecayotl) was the term for artistry. In the ancient world, the feats of the ancestors in the mists of history were frequently both honored and mythologized. There appears to be some of that process occurring here. In the history of Mesoamerica, such a veneration of the Olmec civilization would be imputed from the number of cultural items that were borrowed form them, including, it appears, the beginnings of the Maya hieroglyphs, as well as the underpinnings of Mesoamerican religion and politics.
28 And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands, for the Lord had spoken it.
Redaction: Just as the rest of the moralizing statements of Jaredite history may be laid at the feet of Moroni, this statement also is likely due to Moroni’s interepretation. It is the strong reinforcement of his theme that the promise that is tied to the land will be predictor of the prosperity of a nation. When they walk uprightly before God, they proseper and “never could be a people more blessed than were they.” When they obey God, the promise of the land blesses them. Of course, when they cease to walk uprightly before God, the curse of the land will take it all away, as has already happened during the great drought.
29 And it came to pass that Lib did live many years, and begat sons and daughters; and he also begat Hearthom.
30 And it came to pass that Hearthom reigned in the stead of his father. And when Hearthom had reigned twenty and four years, behold, the kingdom was taken away from him. And he served many years in captivity, yea, even all the remainder of his days.
In Moroni’s desire to show the connection between the promise of the land and the prosperity of the kings in the land, he does not seem to notice the great irony of how rapidly that righteousness disintegrates into rivalries for the throne. Once again a king is dethroned. Once again, this usurper lineage will be deposed, and the name does not even show in the Jaredite king-list.
Chronology: The average-reign chronology would place the reign of Hearthom between 590 and 560 B.C.
31 And he begat Heth, and Heth lived in captivity all his days. And Heth begat Aaron, and Aaron dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Amnigaddah, and Amnigaddah also dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Coriantum, and Coriantum dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Com.
The Jaredite king-line spends 6 generations in captivity before it is able to regain the kingdom. We have absolutely nothing about this alternate lineage. What we get in the Jaredite king-list is the genealogy of those who should have been kings, and we miss the entire history of those who were seen as interlopers to the thone.
Chronology: The following would be the average reign dating for the overlap in the lives of these Jaredite non-kings:
Heth: 560-530 B.C.
Aaron: 530-500 B.C.
Amnigaddah: 500-470 B.C.
Corantum: 470-440 B.C.
32 And it came to pass that Com drew away the half of the kingdom. And he reigned over the half of the kingdom forty and two years; and he went to battle against the king, Amgid, and they fought for the space of many years, during which time Com gained power over Amgid, and obtained power over the remainder of the kingdom.
We finally have a name of one of the kings who followed the usurper of Hearthom’s throne. Amgid is the king of the alternate line. During his reign, Com is able to separate himself and establish a separatge city-kingdom. This suggests that Amgid was reigning at a time of diminishing power, for he first loses control of an important captive line, and then will lose the battle to maintain his kingdom to this newly established kingdom. We do not hear what was happening in the main city, but it would appear that some form of decay had occurred by this time that eroded Amgid’s power.
33 And in the days of Com there began to be robbers in the land; and they adopted the old plans, and administered oaths after the manner of the ancients, and sought again to destroy the kingdom.
Now we have the introduction of robbers in the same context as we see them later in the Gadianton robbers. These “adopted the old plans,” and significantly, “sought again to destroy the kingdom.” This is the classic definition of the secret combinations, and the underlying definition of the Gadianton robbers, throughout all of their various guises.
34 Now Com did fight against them much; nevertheless, he did not prevail against them.
Even though Com attempts to resist the presence of these “robbers,” he is unsuccessful. This is Moroni’s warning to us that the Jaredites are at the beginning of the end. The end will take another two hundred years, but that is terribly parallel to the amount of time between the appearance of the final Gadiantons among the Nephites and the final destruction of the Nephites. It is quite possible that the parallel in the number of years is not coincidental.
Textual: There is no chapter break in the 1830 edition.
by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002