Introduction: The Ministry of Noah
There is more to Noah than the story of the Flood. Unfortunately, we have only hints as to the greatness of his ministry and priesthood. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, "The Priesthood was first given to Adam... then to Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 157)
Through the Restoration, we have more information about Adam, Enoch, Moses, and Abraham. We also know more about Noah, but the additional information about his earthly ministry is still a bit sketchy (See Moses 8). As Gabriel, Noah was chosen to appear to Daniel (Dan. 8:16), Zacharias (Luke 1:11-19), and Mary (Luke 1:26-28). As Gabriel, he communed with Joseph Smith as part of the Restoration (D&C 128:21). He is the Elias who restored the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham (D&C 110:12; see also Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:140). Under ancient Jewish tradition, there were four great angels who surround the throne of God. These four are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel (Edersheim, Alfred, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, .Appendix 13, Note 2). Gabriel is also the name of the angel who appeared to Mohammed under the Islamic tradition. In the Koran, he is described as an angel, "terrible in power... endued with wisdom." (Koran 53:5-6; 66:4) And, "Whoso is the enemy of Gabriel[?]...Whoso is an enemy to God or his angels, or to Gabriel, or to Michael, shall have God as his enemy." (Koran 2:91-92)
The Prophet Joseph taught us that father Adam was the first man on the earth to whom God gave the keys of the everlasting priesthood. He held the keys of the presidency, and was the first man who did hold them. Noah stood next to him, he being the father of all living in his day, as Adam was in his day. These two men were the first who received the priesthood in the eternal worlds, before the worlds were formed. They were the first who received the everlasting priesthood or presidency on the earth. Father Adam stands at the head, so far as this world is concerned. Of course, Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest of the salvation of the human family. But Adam holds those keys in the world today; he will hold them to the endless ages of eternity. And Noah, and every man who has ever held or will hold the keys of presidency of the kingdom of God, from that day until the scene is wound up, will have to stand before Father Adam and give an account of the keys of that priesthood, as we all will have to give an account unto the Lord, of the principles that we have received when our work is done in the flesh. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 66.)
Gen 6:2 The sons of God saw the daughters of men... and they took them wives
Joseph Fielding Smith
There is a prevailing doctrine in the Christian world that these sons of God were heavenly beings who came down and married the daughters of men and thus came a superior race on the earth, the result bringing the displeasure of the Lord. This foolish notion is the result of lack of proper information, and because the correct information is not found in the Book of Genesis Christian peoples have been led astray.
The correct information regarding these unions is revealed in the inspired interpretation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Book of Moses. Without doubt when this scripture was first written, it was perfectly clear, but scribes and translators in the course of time, not having divine inspiration, changed the meaning to conform to their incorrect understanding. These verses in the Prophet's revision give us a correct meaning, and from them we learn why the Lord was angry with the people and decreed to shorten the span of life and to bring upon the world the flood of purification. The verses referring to this bit of history are as follows:
And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.
And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose.
And the Lord said unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice.
And it came to pass that Noah prophesied, and taught the things of God, even as it was in the beginning. (Moses 8:13-16.) (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 1: 136.)
Charles W. Penrose
It is stated that the iniquity of man was great, and God brought a flood on the earth. Now, to understand that correctly we have to know what kind of position those persons were in, and why they were called the "Sons of God." Those men were in the same position as the Latter-day Saints. They were heirs to the Priesthood. They were the sons of God. They had obeyed the holy covenants. They had received the word of the Lord. They were consecrated to the Almighty. But they went outside of their covenants and their engagement with the Lord, and took wives of the daughters of men that were not in the covenant, and thus transgressed the law of God. The law of God in relation to this has been the same in all ages, and has been given to this people-that the sons of Israel shall wed the daughters of Israel, and shall not go out to wed with the stranger. These men did that, and God was displeased, as He is to-day with Latter-day Saints, who are called out of the world to be His servants, to be holy unto the Lord, to be clean because they bear the vessels of the Lord, when they go outside and wed with the stranger. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 25: 228 - 229.)
Gen 6:3 My spirit shall not always strive with man
Nephi declared, "when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul." (2 Ne. 26:11) When we think of this statement, we sometimes forget the Lord's great mercy. He sends us his Spirit to strive with us. That is an interesting phrase. The Spirit is striving to get us to keep the commands of God, to keep our covenants, to serve the Lord. When we sin, the Spirit doesn't give up. It may leave for a short time, but returns to strive once more. But when the spirit of apostasy sets in and the last remnant of a repentant heart leaves, then the Spirit of striving leaves as well. That is a tragic occurrence.
George Q. Cannon
We live in a day when we cannot trifle with God. He has said that His Spirit shall not always strive with man; He will withdraw that Spirit from us if we do not follow out His commands, and we shall be left to ourselves. The most dreadful condition that I can imagine a human being to be in is this, for a man who has once tasted of the word of God, who has felt its power, who has had a foretaste of the powers of the world to come, and who has rejoiced in those blessings, to suffer the Spirit of God to depart from him through his own acts.
Whenever I have thought of it concerning myself, I have been filled with inexpressible horror. It has seemed as though a thousand deaths would be preferable, for to die is an easy thing; it is a light matter compared with apostasy, the loss of the Spirit of God, the forfeiting of the favor of heaven, the loss of those blessings, promises and powers which God has bestowed, the loss of interest in the work of God, to have the Spirit fade and withdraw itself from us until we live without it. Can you imagine any worse condition? (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, selected, arranged, and edited by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 485.)
Gen 6:3 yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years
God has power over life and death. He has power to shorten or lengthen our lives as well. The ancients lived very long lives, "that they might repent while in the flesh" (2 Ne. 2:21). On the surface, it would seem that this plan backfired. Rather than producing repentance, the extra time gave Satan more time to turn their hearts to wickedness.
Therefore, God would reset the length of man's life. No longer would men live over 900 years. The record shows that over the next several generations, men's lives became progressively shorter (Gen. 11:11-25). By Abraham's day, men lived about 120 years. In our day, even with the best genes and medicine, no one lives any longer.
Gen 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days
In modern parlance, the word giant has come to mean some huge, unnaturally large creature. The King James translators meant something different. They used the term to describe a race of people of greater stature and strength than their neighbors. This theme is repeated later in the Old Testament with a race called Anakim, who were of great stature. The spies sent up from the camp of Israel while in the wilderness saw this people "of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers (meaning we are too weak to defeat them in battle), and so we were in their sight." (Num. 13:32-33)
Gen 6:5 God saw that the wickedness of man was great
Neal A. Maxwell
The last days will be rampant with the cardinal sins, just "as in the days of Noah." Society in the days of Noah, scriptures advise, was "corrupt before God" and "filled with violence." (Gen. 6:11-12; Moses 8:28.) Corruption and violence-sound familiar? Both of these awful conditions crest because of surging individual selfishness. When thus engulfed, no wonder men's hearts in our day will fail them because of fear. (See Luke 21:26; D&C 45:26.) Even the faithful can expect a few fibrillations. ("Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 14)
Gen 6:5 every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
King Benjamin's sermon had such an effect on his people that they had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). Contrast that degree of righteousness with the wickedness of Noah's day! Their hearts were the exact and complete opposite. There disposition was completely evil-100%. That degree of wickedness is hard to understand. How is it possible to be so wicked that one is incapable of any loving or kind thought? How is it possible that every single thought is laced with evil intent?
Hartman Rector Jr.
I don't believe I have ever known anyone quite that bad, whose "every thought was evil continually." ("Turning the Hearts," Ensign, May 1981, 73, emphasis added)
Neal A. Maxwell
It is chilling, therefore, to learn that the days preceding the second coming of the Savior will produce conditions parallel in many ways to those in the time of Noah. ("Luke 17:26Luke 17:26.) It will take living prophets to keep us from sliding into parallel insensitivity. (Things As They Really Are [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 76.)
Gen 6:9 Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations
Russell M. Nelson
James gave a practical standard by which mortal perfection could be measured. He said, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." (James 3:2)
Scriptures have described Noah, Seth, and Job as perfect men. (Gen. 6:9, D&C 107:43, Job 1:1) No doubt the same term might apply to a large number of faithful disciples in various dispensations. Alma said that "there were many, exceedingly great many," (Alma 13:12) who were pure before the Lord.
This does not mean that these people never made mistakes or never had need of correction. The process of perfection includes challenges to overcome and steps to repentance that may be very painful. There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character, for we know that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth."
Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts. ("Perfection Pending," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 86)
Gen 6:12 God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt
"The extent to which this corruption had truly defiled the earth was described by Enoch and was also revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Enoch was shown that Satan held the earth in the chains of his power. In fact, the entire earth was veiled in darkness insomuch that Satan laughed and his angels rejoiced (see Moses 7:26). In contrast, in his eternal majesty the Lord wept (see Moses 7:28). Seeing this, Enoch could not understand how such a mighty being could be so moved. The Lord then explained that out of his love he had given mankind their knowledge and agency and had commanded them that 'they should love one another' and that they should choose 'their Father,' but in exercising their agency, mankind had chosen to be without affection toward their Eternal Father-'they are without affection, and they hate their own blood' (Moses 7:32-33).
"The extent of their corruption was such that the Lord said, 'The fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them' (Moses 7:34). Indeed, the Lord told Enoch that among all of the creations of God, 'There has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren' (Moses 7:36). The misery of the Flood that they were to experience would cause 'the whole heavens [to] weep over them ... , seeing these shall suffer' (Moses 7:37). Thus, while Satan and his angels rejoiced, the Lord wept with compassion for those who had misused their agency despite all he had done (see Moses 7:36-40)." (Joseph B. Romney, "Noah, The Great Preacher of Righteousness," Ensign, Feb. 1998, 27)
Gen 6:13 the earth is filled with violence... I will destroy them
Mark E. Petersen
There was great contrast between the labors of Enoch and Noah and the results they obtained. Enoch was given tremendous power to do miracles. He could even move mountains. A land arose out of the sea in his day. He rebuked giants, fought off enemies, and converted an entire city to such a point of perfection that it was taken into heaven. Not so with Noah; his mission was different. He would continue with the divine warnings, but he had been chosen especially to survive the flood and begin the human race anew. In his day no longer was it necessary for great miracles to be performed to persuade the people. Matters had gone beyond that point. No record is made of any miracles performed by Noah or his sons. They merely preached to maintain the Lord's warning and to give to any who would receive it the opportunity to repent. But primarily they were assigned to build the ark and make ready for the cleansing of the earth. Then they must repopulate the world after the flood receded. (Noah and the Flood [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 24.)
Gen 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood
"This is the only reference in the Bible to 'gopher wood.' Scholars have speculated that it was a species of cypress or cedar." (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 120.)
Gen 6:15 The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits
The dimensions of the ark can be estimated at 450 feet long, 45 feet high, and 75 feet wide. It had at least three stories and a lot of storage room. A vessel only one tenth as tall as it is long would appear much longer and flatter than most artistic representations.
"Figuring a cubit to be about eighteen inches, the ark's tonnage was over 40,000 tons, or as large as a good-sized modern passenger ship. To ancient man, such dimensions must have evoked a sense of great awe." (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 57)
Gen 6:17 to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life
"Animals are included in the impending destruction because, according to the biblical view, they existed for the sake of man." (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 53)
Gen 6:18 with thee will I establish my covenant
"The first mention of the word 'covenant' in the King James Version is one that the Lord makes with Noah (see Gen. 6:18). However, we learn from the Book of Mormon that the Bible no longer contains a complete history of God's dealings with mankind, and that 'many covenants of the Lord' have been lost from its pages (1 Ne. 13:26). Through revelation and restoration by the Prophet Joseph Smith, we now know that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was first revealed to Adam, and that he and his immediate family were the first covenant people, more than a thousand years before Noah.
"Covenant-making and covenant people have been in the Lord's plan since the very beginning, even before the world was formed." (Robert J. Matthews, "Our Covenants with the Lord," Ensign, Dec. 1980, 34-35)
Gen 6:18 thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives
The Lord wasn't saving Noah from the Flood. He was saving his whole family. Presumably, none of Noah's sons had yet born children. Four couples would survive the deluge as the scriptures record, "eight souls were saved by water" (1 Pet. 3:6). There is some symbolism in the fact that families either lived or died as families in Noah's day.
"We all need to build a personal ark, to fortify ourselves against this rising tide of evil, to protect ourselves and our families against the floodwaters of iniquity around us. And we shouldn't wait until it starts raining, but prepare in advance. This has been the message of all the prophets in this dispensation, including President Hunter, as well as the prophets of old.
"Unfortunately we don't always heed the clear warnings of our prophets. We coast complacently along until calamity strikes, and then we panic.
"When it starts raining, it is too late to begin building the ark. However, we do need to listen to the Lord's spokesmen. We need to calmly continue to move ahead and to prepare for what will surely come. We need not panic or fear, for if we are prepared, spiritually and temporally, we and our families will survive any flood. Our arks will float on a sea of faith if our works have been steadily and surely preparing for the future." (W. Don Ladd, "Make Thee an Ark," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 29)
Neal A. Maxwell
Society should focus anew on the headwaters-the family-where values can be taught, lived, experienced, and perpetuated. Otherwise, brothers and sisters, we will witness even more widespread flooding downstream, featuring even more corruption and violence (see Gen. 6:11-12; Matt. 24:37).
If the combination of rainmakers prevails, however, the rains will continue to descend, and the floods will continue to come. Dikes and sandbags downstream will be no match for the coming crests. More and more families, even nations, if built upon secular sand instead of gospel granite, will suffer. ("Take Especial Care of Your Family," Ensign, May 1994, 90)