The Greatest Nation on the Earth
[Speaking to the Brother of Jared the Lord says] And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth (Ether 1:43).
In our search for the historical Jaredites there is one paramount clue. We should be looking for the greatest, or a combination of the greatest, nations in history. It should have been preeminent in all areas, culture, science, government, arts, etc. It would have dominated its neighbors and been a forerunner in the technology of its day. It should have been enduring over time.
As we survey the historical nations we see Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, and of course the great nations of our day. But would any of these qualify as the greatest? Some of them were long-lived, while others had relatively short supremecies. Some had great influence while others only dominance was that of military might.
If we consider only the factor of longevity, the obvious answer would by the civilization of China. China has a lengthy history extending from prehistory to the present. Could this be the “great nation” that the Lord is referring to? I will argue that it is indeed part of the answer.
China has been influential thoughout recorded history. It has made great contributions in the arts, sciences, technology, astronomy, medicine, etc. The world has never been quite the same since China discover gunpowder. And where would the fashionable be without their silk. According to some accounts, Chinese sailors were navigating the high seas long before Eurasians even thought of venturing out of the Mediteranean.
But, you might ask, how can the Chinese be related to the Jaredites? Wasn't the Jaredite an American civiliztion? According to Hugh Nibley, the Jaredites traveled eastward across the continent of Asia until they reached the shores of the Pacific. Here, according to the record in Ether, they wasted away four years. Finally, after being prodded by the Lord, they built their famous barges and crossed the sea to America. But, did they all go? Were any left behind?
An interesting Indian legend (see below) relates that the Jaredites actually took a very long time in their crossing of Asia―104 years in fact. As they traveled along, they would periodically stop and rest, clear land, and plant and harvest crops. Some of the company would have grown too old to travel. Some would have been incapacitated due to illness or injury. We are told that these were left behind in the form of small colonies. If this legend is true, these Jaredite stragglers may have grown to form the nucleus of ancient China.
The historian Lorenzo Boturini Bernaducci, who was an authority on, and collector of pre-columbian Indian manuscripts, wrote the following based on his translation of these manuscripts:
There were only seven of these Toltec Indians [probably referring to the male heads of family], that left the rest of the people in the land of Sennaar [Shinar], and the colonies that proceeded from them have become innumberable, as well in Asia as in America ...
After having left the land and countryside of Sennaar [Shinar] with their increasing posterity, and being guided by divine providence ... they went forth through the wildernesses of the earth ... the clans grew with the new addition of servants, and mulitplied in number, they journeyed for a long time in Asia passing from place to place, carrying with them seeds ... and in each place they cleared the forests, made gardens, and perhaps left behind the old and weary, that they might populate those lands, and they traveled so much ... that with the passing of time, they approached America, and at last entered the land and set foot on their continent.
(Lorenzo Boturini Bernaducci. Idea Nueva de la Historia General de la America Septentrional. p. 111 and 126.)
The other fragments of this great nation are of course those advanced civilizations of the Americas. But that is another story.