Friday, March 5, 2010

Noah and his Ark, or, “Swim, Lemur, Swim”

One of the stories that stands out from my tender years is the story of Noah and the Ark. I was taught this story a dozen times in my youth, and always had a lot of fascination about the technical details of such an enormous endeavor. I’ve had some of my more ‘liberal,’ or, ‘learned,’ (and probably Democrat) friends from Provo point out the horror of the idea of a Heavenly parent literally choosing to drown millions of His children to purge them from evil, and how we feel today when we learn of mothers (why are they almost always mothers?!) drowning their own children using the same excuse.

In the LDS church, we never mention the possibilities of Bible stories being a metaphor in our correlated teachings. While many Christians gave up a long time ago on the literalness of the story of Noah and the Ark, and just interpret it allegorically, not us Mormons. And, why would we? It’s fun to imagine all those tiny lemur arms paddling their way towards the Ark all the way from Madagascar. They must have figured out the back stroke early into their 4,000 mile swim. Their determination to reach the Ark is truly inspirational and miraculous.

While we’re not really given many of the details in the Bible that went into building the Ark, recent archeology (in Jackson County, Missouri, no less!) turned up some writings with previously-unknown details from Noah and the Ark, written in reformed Egyptian by Noah himself on papyri. The writings provide tremendously-valuable insight into some of the solutions to the technical issues that are nothing short of amazing. Here are just some highlights from this newly-found source:

To water the thousands of animals on the Ark required an unbelievable amount of fresh water (millions of gallons). Come to find out, the water issue was resolved by God floating down some large icebergs to Noah, who then just had to tie them to the Ark once adrift. The process used to chip off and melt the tens of thousands of pounds of ice into water daily, however, still remains part of the mystery. This, not by coincidence, also solved the mystery of how the Arctic animals stayed alive in the temperate climate of the Middle East – they just burrowed into the icebergs.

Feeding the thousands of animals and insects, many with special-needs diets on the Ark, has always been a head-scratcher. It’s enough to make a nursing home food preparation seem like heaven in comparison. As it turns out, Noah was instructed in how to build a few thousand acres of floating gardens and then attached these to the Ark to provide the thousands of pounds of grains and specialty foods required daily for the animals on the Ark. Koala bears had their eucalyptus leaves, silkworms had access to their necessary mulberry leaves, bees had blooming flowers, giraffes had everything they needed (except head-room). Brilliant!

Another requirement of Noah’s family that is not well publicized, or commented on, was the requirement that between the eight humans, all human-specific diseases had to be carried by at least one person in order to keep these diseases intact for the post-flood humans. Noah had to decide who would carry the human-specific diseases, including: measles, pneumococcal pneumonia, leprosy, typhus, typhoid fever, small pox, poliomyelitis, syphilis and gonorrhea. Talk about taking one for the team! Poor Ham, it appears, drew the short-stick and was stuck with syphilis, gonorrhea and small pox. I guess poor Ham’s wife, as well. No wonder those two were fed up with Noah and took off on their own after that ordeal.

On the topic of Ham, these writings from Noah provide some more personal notes that are not included in the Bible about the day-to-day management problems on the Ark. One piece of interesting news that we didn't hear about previously was the ten or eleven species that went extinct on the voyage due to Ham’s insatiable appetite for meat. According to Noah, hardly a week passed without Ham being caught in an illicit barbeque of some large, meaty animal that we’ll now never enjoy. And the big shocker for Book of Mormon students: Ham’s favorite meat just so happened to be roasted cureloms! Fortunately for the cureloms, Noah caught Ham while there were still a couple left, leaving a few examples of these marvelous creatures in the world that were then miraculously found by the Nephites. Sadly for us, they must have been very tasty indeed, and no traces are left to sample today.

Hopefully this newly discovered information was as helpful to you as it was for me in clearly up some lingering doubts about the literalness of this story. With luck, some similarly-helpful information about that Towel of Babel will be discovered...


  1. I'm sure Noah spending 24/7 with his whole family would have been more torture than all the divergent kinds of animals stuck in there.

  2. Satan must have had a lousy reconnaissance team back then. Today we give him credit for being so crafty and sharp and cunning. You'd think he'd want to try and save a few of his loyal followers by having them craft a boat of their own. Which in comparison seems like it would have been a much easier task, leaving out the two of every kind requirement. Maybe he just didn't have a good set of boat plans lying around? Nah, he was probably just taking vacation in Jackson County that century and couldn't be bothered.

    Perhaps he was still reeling and off his game from being kicked out of heaven for offering up a lousy business plan. Christ, he knew what Jesus was gonna say and surely didn't want to be accused of plagiarizing. I guess that's what happens when you go out on a limb and think outside the box. First you're kicked out of the house and then you're flooded in your house. But don't forget, as George Carlin so eloquently phrased it, "God loves you!"

    Thanks for the clarity and words of wisdom bishop! I always figured they used rain catchment, but icebergs make much more sense. Nobody wants to drink warm water...silly me.

  3. MOG - You bring up a really interesting point that I completely missed somehow. Where in the world was Satan during this great Ark adventure? Tied to the back of the Ark? Flying around on a broom? It's a real head-scratcher indeed...

    And correct, warm water - blech!

  4. After much prayer and fasting (and almost tithe paying), I've had a personal revelation that Satan was hanging out with Jesus at an unauthorized retreat on the back side of Kolob. Once brothers, always brothers!