Noah's Ark

The story of Noah's ark is one of the most famous Bible stories out there and yet, it is one of the least understood.  To illustrate our point, we ask: how many of each animal did Noah bring with him into the Ark?  Hint: two is technically incorrect.  We read in Genesis that Noah actually took with him two of each unclean animal into the Ark, and seven of each clean animal.  The scripture states,

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. (Gen 7:2)

Why seven of every clean animal?  So that Noah could perform sacrifices unto the Lord while he was on the ark.  The purpose of this article is to therefore bring some of these meaningfulyet often overlookedinsights associated with the story of the flood back to light. 

Where Does the Story of Noah Take Place?

As mentioned in A Scriptural Warning to America, before the flood Noah lived on or near the American Continent.  In fact, all the ancient Patriarchs who lived before the flood lived on this western hemisphere.  The Lord told Joseph Smith that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County Missouri.[1]  The Lord also revealed that Adam and Eve fled to Adam-ondi-Ahman (a valley located in Daviess County, Missouri), after they were cast out from the Garden of Eden.[2]  It was therefore somewhere near this area where the world's population had its origins.  Noah, being a direct descendant of Adam, would have likely lived in this area of the world.    

However, it is important to point out that before the flood, the continents were still joined together in one large land mass (often referred to as Pangaea).  President Joseph Fielding Smith said,

Pangaea before it was divided in the days of Paleg LDS
The Earth Before it was Divided in the Days of Paleg
We are committed to the fact that Adam dwelt on this American continent.  But when Adam dwelt here, it was not the American continent, nor was it the Western Hemisphere, for all the land was in one place, and all the water was in one place.  There was no Atlantic Ocean separating the hemispheres. "And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.  And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:9-10).  If all the water was in one place, then naturally all the land was in one place; therefore, the shape of the earth, as to the water and the land surface, was not as we find it today.[3]

The scriptures tell us that it wasn’t until the days of Paleg (a man who lived 100 years after the flood), that “the earth divided.”[4]  Suddenly, the continents of North and South America broke off from the rest of the landmass and fled west to their present location on our globe.  The Lord in his wisdom divided this former landmass into two hemispheres, and separated them by what is now the Atlantic Ocean.  President Joseph Fielding Smith continues,

Then we read in Genesis that there came a time when the earth was divided (Gen 10:25).  There are some people who believe that this simply means that the land surface was divided among the various tribes, but this is not the meaning; it was an actual dividing of the surface of the earth, and it was broken up as we find it now.[5]

According to LDS scholar and BYU professor Cleon Skousen,

About a hundred years after the flood, we have the great continental separation, which must have been fantastic.  The Babylonians talk about it, the Egyptians talk about it, the Greeks talk about it.  They thought of course a continent had sunk.  It didn't, it departed and went west...Scientists assume that this separation took place very gradually, one inch per year as it is now doing, and as scientists they would have to assume that to be the case.  But actually it happened very fast.  And now that we have explored the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, we find no Atlantis, but we find the great scar that was left when this tremendous division took place in the days of Peleg.[6]  

With this information, we are more able to conjure up in our minds a mental picture of the route that Noah took during the flood.  The waters that flooded the earth picked up Noah's ark and carried it clear over to the other side of the world where it eventually rested upon Mount Ararat in modern Turkey[7] (see figure-1).  Many believe the remains of this very ark can still be seen embedded into this mountain range even today (see figure-2).

Mount Ararat Noah's Ark LDS
Figure -1 - Turkey's Mount Ararat.
The traditional resting spot of Noah's Ark.

Mount Ararat LDS Noah's Ark
Figure-2 - Possible remains of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat

The Earth is Baptized

The Apostle Peter predicted some 2,000 years ago that in these last days there would be many “scoffers” who would laugh at the idea that there was a universal flood.[8]  Overtime, this prediction has proved to be true.  Nevertheless, the Lord has confirmed that not only was there a flood, but that it did indeed cover the entire earth.  The great Book of Mormon Prophet Ether taught us that the waters from the flood “receded from off the face of this land,”[9] which can only mean that the Americas were also completely flooded, not just the area surrounding Palestine as some have argued.  In the words of LDS author Rodney Turner,

why would Noah—who had been warning of the impending catastrophe for one hundred twenty years—build even a rowboat rather than remove his family to higher ground or to another land if he knew that a given area was going to be flooded? … Why preserve a few representative animals of one limited locality when the same species were likely to be found virtually everywhere else? 

Noah was not insane, he was a prophet of God... Would such a man have been so destitute of reason as to be incapable of distinguishing between a global deluge and a regional flooding? ...

And most importantly, if the Flood was not world-wide, God has violated his oath, his immutable word—given first to Enoch and reconfirmed to Noah—that this planet would "never more be covered by the floods" (see Moses 7:50-51; Gen. 9:15).  For if the Flood was not global, than it was limited, and if it was limited, then the Lord has foresworn himself [because] limited floodings have occurred throughout recorded history.  However, the Lord did not violate his oath.[10]

In fact, the Lord has taught us that the earth had to be completely submerged in water in order for it to undergo baptism by immersion.[11] Interestingly enough, this theme will again continue at the second coming as the earth is burned with fire.  As this occurs, the earth will very literally be baptized with fire as it receives the Holy Ghost.

Can Rain Really Flood the Entire Earth?

However, in light of these claims, many critics of the Bible have nevertheless argued that it would be impossible for the earth to be completely flooded with water in just 40 short days.  A heavy rainfall can see up to a few inches per hour.  At this rate, it would take over 10 years of nonstop, heavy rain to cover the highest point of our earththe top of Mount Everest, which sits over 5 miles above sea level.  How then do we reconcile this information with the Bible, which states that it rained only 40 days and 40 nights?  As it turns out, the answer to this question may be found in the creation account. 

A Firmament in the Heavens

Before dry land was created on day-3, the only thing found on our earth was water.  As it turns out, this water was not only found on the earth, but it filled the atmosphere above the earth as well.  Therefore, on day-2 of the creation, the Lord created a “firmament” in the heavens.[12]  This firmament pushed back the waters that were above the earth, and thereby separated them from the waters on the earth.  We read in Moses,

And again, I, God, said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and it was so, even as I spake; And I, God, called the firmament Heaven; and the evening and the morning were the second day. 
Firmament Divided waters from waters creation LDS
The Firmament God used to Divide the Waters
and I said: Let it divide the waters from the waters; and it was done; And I, God, made the firmament and divided the waters, yea, the great waters under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so even as I spake (Moses 2:6-8).

What is interesting is that this water which was pushed into the heavens on day-3 of the creation is no longer found in our atmosphere.  Because of this, many scholars believe that this water was actually dumped onto our earth at the time of the flood.  For example, LDS scholar David Hadlock said,

In the flood narrative…“the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11).  The primordial creation, which resulted in the separating of the waters above the firmament from those under the firmament, was being undone as the elements, the waters above and below, returned to their primordial unity.[13]

Furthermore, Turner stated,

These waters [above the firmament] were prepared in anticipation of the Flood which was programmed from the beginning. … The heavens became, as it were, a vast upper ocean, its waters crashing against the face of the planet in wave after unrelenting wave, day after day and night after night.[14]

This helps to explain how the entire earth could have been completely submerged in water in just 40 short days.

Some Additional Insights into Noah’s Ark

One additional insight that often gets overlooked in the story of the flood is that of the ark itself.  The remainder of this article will attempt to show how Noah’s ark was built to represent a temple.  Consider the following:  

The pattern of the temple is given by revelation, as was the ark. As LDS author Jeffrey Bradshaw noted,

"It is significant that apart from the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon, Noah’s Ark is the only man-made structure mentioned in the Bible whose design was directly revealed by God."[15]

Like the temple, only the worthy and righteous entered into the ark.

Just as Noah’s ark gathered together all of God’s creations, so too does the temple gather the Saints.

Noah’s ark was also the only place of refuge from the danger of the outside world.  Similarly, the temple is our place of refuge and safety.  As Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said,

Noah's Ark LDS
"The season of the world before us will be like no other in the history of mankind. Satan has unleashed every evil, every scheme, every blatant, vile perversion ever known to man in any generation. … There is no safety in the world: wealth cannot provide it, enforcement agencies cannot assure it, membership in this Church alone cannot bring it.  As the evil night darkens upon this generation, we must come to the temple for light and safety.  In our temples we find quiet, sacred havens where the storm cannot penetrate to us. There are hosts of unseen sentinels watching over and guarding our temples. Angels attend every door.  As it was in the days of Elisha, so it will be for us: “Those that be with us are more than they that be against us….  Come, come, oh come up to the temples of the Lord and abide in His presence.”[16] 

As mentioned previously, sacrifices were preformed in the ark, just as they were preformed in the temple of Solomon.

Just as the temple was built with three sections, Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial, so too was the ark built with three stories,[17] representing these three kingdoms of glory.  Hadlock noted,
I would suggest that [the] three stories [of the ark] represented the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial realms.[18] 

Jeffery Bradshaw agrees:

Like the Tabernacle, Noah’s Ark "was designed as a temple.”[19] The Ark’s three decks suggest both the three divisions of the Tabernacle and the threefold layout of the Garden of Eden.[20]

The Temple is the literal meeting place between heaven and earth.  Similarly, Noah’s Ark rested on water above the earth, locating it quite literally between heaven and earth.

Like the temple, the ark was a place where covenant making persons entered. According to Hadlock,

Prior to entering into the ark, Jehovah promised Noah “with thee will I establish my covenant.” (Gen. 6:18) … The ark [was] a place of covenant making and apparently the covenant that Noah entered into was that of the Fathers through Enoch (JST Gen. 8:23).

Noah's Ark LDS Like the Tabernacle, the ark was a mobile sanctuary. Bradshaw said,

In considering the role of Noah’s Ark in the flood story, note that it was specifically a mobile sanctuary, as [was] the Tabernacle... Each of these structures can be described as a traveling vehicle of rescue that was designed to parallel in function God’s portable pavilion...[21]

         As Hugh Nibley observed, this concept of a mobile temple is meant to represent something higher:

The most wonderful thing about Jerusalem the Holy City is its mobility: at one time it is taken up to heaven and at another it descends to earth or even makes a rendezvous with the earthly Jerusalem at some point in space halfway between. In this respect both the city and the temple are best thought of in terms of a tent, … at least until the time comes when the saints “will no longer have to use a movable tent.”[22]
When the waters of the flood receded, the ark rested on a mountain, which has always represented the House of the Lord.  With Isaiah, we could say that “the Lord’s house” as well as the ark of Noah, shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills” (Isaiah 2:2).

Finally, like the temple, those who entered into the ark were soon after elevated to a better world.  As David Hadlock said,

"The purpose of the ark was to move man from a fallen world to a higher world."[23] 

In no ways is this list comprehensive;[24] however, it does give us an idea of just how symbolic the ark of Noah really was.


[1]Journal of Discourses, 10:235; Journal of Wilford Woodruff, 5:15 Mar. 1857
[2] Smith & Stewart, The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p.339.  
[3] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:74-75
[4] Gen 10:25; D&C 133:23-24
[5] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:75
[6] Speech given by, Skousen, in Favorite Speech Series, Ancient Scriptures Tool For Conversion.
[7] Gen 8:4; Old Testament Student Manual, 1:56
[8] 2 Peter 3:3-7
[9] Ether 13:2
[10] Turner, This Eternal Earth, p. 166-67
[11] Journal of Discourses 1:331; Journal of Discourses 1:274. 
[12] Moses 2:6
[13] Hadlock, "Noah and the Flood," Meridian Magazine, Lesson 6, Genesis 6-11.
[14] Turner, This Eternal Earth, p. 163, 165.
[15] Bradshaw, "Temple Symbolismin the Form of Noah's Ark," Meridian Magazine, Tuesday, October 23 2012. Compare Exodus 25:8-40; 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 19; Genesis 6:14-16.  Furthermore, Joseph Smith stated, “The construction of the first vessel was given to Noah, by revelation.  The design of the ark was given by god, ‘a pattern of heavenly things’” (Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 251).
[16] Featherstone, “A Haven in a World of Turmoil,” given on June 1, 1897.  See also Featherstone, The Incomparable Christ, as quoted in “The Temple is a Fortress of theLord.”
[17] Gen. 6:16
[18] Hadlock, "Noah and the Flood," Meridian Magazine, Lesson 6, Genesis 6-11.
[19] C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory, p. 41.  See also Wyatt’s discussion of the arks of Noah and Moses, the ark of the covenant, and the story of Utnapishtim in Gilgamesh (N. Wyatt, Water, pp. 214-216).
[20] Bradshaw, "Temple Symbolismin the Form of Noah's Ark," Meridian Magazine, Tuesday, October 23 2012.
[21] Bradshaw, "Temple Symbolismand Noah's Ark," Meridian Magazine, November 16 2012.
[22] Nibley, Tenting, pp. 42-43
[23] Hadlock, "Noah and the Flood," Meridian Magazine, Lesson 6, Genesis 6-11.
[24] For example, Bradshaw stated: “Further strengthening the association between the Ark and the Tabernacle is the fact that the Hebrew term for Noah’s Ark, tevah, later became the standard word for the Ark of the Covenant in Mishnaic Hebrew. In addition, the Septuagint used the same Greek term, kibotos, for both Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant. The ratio of the width to the height of both these arks is 3:5” (Bradshaw, "Temple Symbolismin the Form of Noah's Ark," Meridian Magazine, October 23 2012).