Noah’s Flood

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March 12, 2009
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Q. What do Mormons believe about the Flood?

Let me introduce to you Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Noah looking formidable with billowing clouds in the background signaling the impending torrents of rain.

Figure 1 - Noah looking formidable with billowing clouds in the background signaling the impending torrents of rain.

We Mormons believe in Figure 1. While certainly the artist took some creative license in recreating this scene (who ever said Noah had a giant staff?), the basic idea that it conveys is real. There was a man named Noah who gathered up a bunch of animals, put them on an ark, and then weathered one crazy storm with the miraculous help of God.

We also believe in science. For years I was a TA for physics classes at my university where I would teach everything from F=ma to quantum mechanics. I am currently working on a project for NASA that requires using more science than any grown man should ever have to use. With this background I know that there are equations and models that we’ve derived from our objective view of the universe that work. That is, we have discovered laws and theories that, as far as we know, accurately predict how our universe functions.

Sometimes science seems to butt heads with religion. Noah and the Flood is one of times. Many geologists discount the Biblical narrative of Noah as being improbable and not scientifically sound. This is fine by me. I do not need science to prove my belief in the Bible. There are many things I believe in that science can’t prove. How can people be resurrected after they have died? How can heavenly messengers such as angels defy Newton and his apple? How do miracles occur? I have chosen to place my ultimate confidence in God, not in the models and equations of science, which, in just the last couple hundred years alone, have been shown to change time and again as new experiments are performed.

The argument that geologists give that the Flood never really occurred is based on a few underlying assumptions that are important to understand. First, the concept of uniformitarianism which assumes that the natural processes that we observe occurring in our world today are the same as those operating in the past. That is, the geologic processes scientists have tracked over the last few hundred years are sufficient to predict what has happened to the earth over the past millions of years.

Another bold assumption is that God doesn’t exist. This assumption conveniently gets rid of Moses parting the Red Sea and the earth ever being modified in any unnatural way. I refute this assumption, believing Christ’s words, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).

I love the Bible. I know it to be the word of God. Its teachings (especially those of Christ) lead us to God and to a happier, fuller life. Science can’t always promise that.

Further reading: “The Flood and the Tower of Babel”, “The Gospel and the Scientific View: How Earth Came to Be”

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16 Responses to “Noah’s Flood”

  1. DavidH

    “There was a man named Noah who gathered up a bunch of animals, put them on an ark, and then weathered one crazy storm with the miraculous help of God.”

    I think most LDS believe that. Some active Latter-day Saints believe that the flood occurred, but was not worldwide. However, it is probably true that most active LDS also believe that the flood was worldwide, and that Noah in fact was able to gather all the species of then existing oxygen breathing animals onto the ark.

    The Pew poll shows that Mormons are less likely to believe in evolution as the origin of human beings than any group except Jehovah Witnesses. http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report2religious-landscape-study-chapter-2.pdf
    I suspect, but do not know, that belief in a worldwide flood would probably be about the same.

  2. Kia M

    In my opinion the flood was either a localized event, or allegorical in nature. From Noah’s point of view and his understanding of the current world it may have seemed like a world wide event. But the scientific data from geology, biology, genetics,archeology,anthropology, biogeography and biodiversity overwhelmingly negate the traditional view; that the flood was a worldwide event that covered the earth and destroyed all living things. My testimony is not affected one bit by my belief that that flood story is not what the genesis account records.

    I suggest you read two papers from BYU professors on the subject.
    -Duane E. Jeffery, “Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions,” Sunstone (Issue #134) (October 2004): 27–45
    -Clayton M. White and Mark D. Thomas, “On Balancing Faith in Mormonism with Traditional Biblical Stories: The Noachian Flood,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 40:3 (Fall 2007): 85–110

  3. Bus Gillespie

    The flood is quite a story that people have tried to explain to fit their particular level of scientific knowledge. I’ve heard that it might have been when the Black Sea broke through the Sea of Marmara and caused giant waves and a rise in the Mediterranean. I’ve also read where geologist have found a layer of sediment 6 feet thick which dates back about 4,000 years as far away as Africa. Many cultures have stories about a flood in their early histories. Whether it was a worldwide flood or a localized event we may not know. As for me I’ll just go with the simple story related in the Bible.

  4. woogieman

    So did the flood cover the entire earth or not? What do mormon believe on this? You never say.

  5. Curtis "Curtis" Wiederhold

    Depends on which Mormon you ask.  As it’s not a matter of terrible importance, there isn’t much discussion on the subject.  It may have been a localized flooding event, it may have been a worldwide phenomena; either way it was a miracle powerfully displaying God’s supernatural command of the elements.  Thanks for your question!

  6. Bill G

    Funny that geologists say there has never been a time in earths history when water covered the whole earth.  The Flood is purely mythical/allegorical. So are many other things written of in the Bible.

  7. Adam D'Aragon

    How is that Mormons believe that black people are descendents of Cain if they also believe in the Flood, which narrowed all of humanity down to Noah and his family?

  8. Bus

    I’m not sure that Mormons believe that black people descended from Cain.  We believe that God put a mark on Cain as the scriptures say but the idea that the mark was a black skin was a fairly widely accepted Christian belief throughout the past few centuries, often being used as a justification for African slavery.  The idea that darker skinned people came through the flood is based on Genesis 9:18 because Noah’s third son Ham married a Canaanite.
       If you want to read a fun version of these events get a copy of the Book of Jasher, it gives much greater detail to all these stories but then you have to decide whether its right or not. 

  9. Bob

    I find it very interesting that you, a “scientist,” can so easily practice the scientific method in your daily life, and yet dismiss another unrelated branch of science (geology) so easily!
    I think you’d be singing a different tune if the Church obligated you to dispense with one of your sacred scientific cows; say orbital mechanics that you know full well is true and works well!
    Regarding your bold assumptions, I think you’ve got them backwords:
    The BOLD ASSUMPTION regarding geology would be to NOT hold to uniformitarianism. With this, geology “works” and everything fits well–just like the scientific laws you work with at NASA!

  10. thewordofme

    I’m curious what the Mormons will be saying/thinking about the fact that we now know that most non-African people carry a small percentage Neanderthal blood/genes. I believe this pretty much proves that mankind DID evolve from earlier hominids such as Homo-erectus, Homo-habilis, Homo-heidelbergensis, etc.

    So we did evolve from the great apes and are not a special creation 6000 +- years ago…and we do know that Humans (Homo-sapiens) were roaming the earth 200,000 years ago.

    I’m thinking this will probably effect the Adam and Eve myth too. What do you think??

    Primarily I’m wondering if Christians will somehow figure out an apologetic for this or will try to ignore it

  11. Jay Corteaux

    Oh, yes, there was a flood, and it was world wide. Otherwise, God could have just moved the animals. The point was that the entire earth was to be affected. Look at the evidence; layers of rock thousands of feet, if not miles, thick…enough water available tocover the earth two miles deep. Be careful of minimizing.

  12. Thaddeus

    thewordofme, you suggest that the discovery of precursors to humans is a game-changer for Christians belief. Are you hopeful that this will lead to people dropping their faith?

    I tend to believe the research describing human evolution. I also believe that Adam and Eve were real people (though possibly not the “first” in the species). I think there is some key information we are lacking to fully understand how the two descriptions relate.

  13. Richard

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html

    Genesis and Exodus have no geological, archeological, historical, biological or any other science-ical support.
    They are books of myth on which other books of scripture hang their hat including the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament. Consequently all are on a very sandy foundation. I think there was someone of note who talked about building on foundations of sand.

    The “Church” once believed the earth was the center of the universe. People died trying to expose the truth at the hands of other people who refused to see the truth. People are no different today. There is a term for it. Cognitive Dissonance. Those believing there was a universal flood despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary suffer from Cognitive Dissonance. They bury their head in the sands of belief and say “God said it so it must be so.” End of discussion. End of learning what the truth really is.

  14. uncle tom

    just read what all the prophets have said concerning the flood. From joseph smith to pres bensen. its clear our church has again changed its doctrine by saying that previous prophets were just expressing their opinion and that it was not doctrinal.

  15. rdunski

    You can all believe you can from monkeys but I came from a God! I am made in his image. How everything came about is not all in the Bible for it’s not complete throughout history we have lost lots of truths through time look at the Mayans almost all their history that was written was destroyed. We have what eight books of theirs? All of you who say this is the truth your wrong cause science can’t prove it well guess what? God is science God is everything. You all say the book of Mormon is false but No one can prove it is! In fact more evidence shows it is! The church is true, God is real and you will all find out one day. I feel bad for all you ignorant pride full closed minded people!

  16. Peter

    You can prove the earth is not flat but a flat earther will reject the proof. Likewise you can prove that there wasn’t a global flood of Noah but a fundamentalist will reject that proof.
    Even Fair doesn’t attempt to support a global flood. All they do is state that you can be a member is good standing and accept a local flood. So what, you can be a member in good standing and think the BoM is not literal history. That’s not saying much.
    Mormon’s who accept a local flood deny the reality of the BoM (Ether 13:2) and BoA where it states that the black race was preserved through the flood because Ham was married to a black wife. Mormon’s who accept a global flood are as out of touch with reality as people who believe the earth is flat.
    All it takes to prove human’s evolved is to look at the ERVs in our DNA. They prove common ancestry with the other apes and there are simply too many of them to have gotten there in 6,000 years time.