Cover image: The Tower of Babel- Pieter Bruegel – 1563.
After the flood described in Genesis, the survivors decided to take their fates in their own hands. The Tower of Babel was an attempt to be less vulnerable.
And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)
Of course, the idea that we can build our own way to heaven is foolhardy. The impulse to put ourselves beyond God’s influence and control is presumptuous and unproductive.
There is another problem with the tower-building described in the Book of Jasher–which is a collection of ancient stories that details the building of the Tower of Babel: “They built themselves a great city and a very high and strong tower; and on account of its height the mortar and bricks did not reach the builders in their ascent to it, until those who went up had completed a full year” (IX:27).
We learn from the Book of Jasher that in the course of this ambitious project, those building the tower lost their perspective: “And behold these ascended and others descended the whole day; and if a brick should fall from their hands and get broken, they would all weep over it, and if a man fell and died, none of them would look at him” (IX:28).
In the course of advancing their agenda, the builders came to value a brick over a human soul. That is a tragic inversion.
In trying to make our way to heaven, we may also embrace a faulty perspective. It is not building our own superior capabilities that will get us to God; it is humility and faith in Christ. It is not a determination to assure our own fates that helps us ascend to heaven; it is serving God’s children.
Consider the vastly different focus that successfully got the city of Enoch taken up into heaven: “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).
One Heart and One Mind
What does it mean to be of one heart and one mind?
It is hard to imagine any random collection of saints being of one heart and one mind on such issues as gun control, caring for the poor, presidential candidates, and COVID restrictions. Satan has divided us on so many issues that God’s people have become enemies to each other. Satan laughs and heaven weeps. Each of us is quite sure we are right and fully ready to show others their folly. We take extreme views and condemn those who disagree with us. We withhold kindness and respect because we value the “bricks” of our worldview over human souls.
We will only be of one mind and one heart when we humble ourselves and value each other more than we value our opinions. If we are engaged in fighting with or condemning others along our ascent into heaven, instead of encouraging and lifting others on the climb, then we do not understand God’s mindset.
Dwelt in Righteousness
Righteousness is about valuing God above all else. It is about recognizing that the path to God involves relationship building rather than tower building.
“And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17, emphasis added).
Are we willing to relinquish control of our lives to Him? Do we call on Him in humble repentance every day? Do we trust Him with our lives? Do we minister to His children? Do we respond to Jesus’ request to love others, treating them with kindness and respect—even those we might not like or agree with? Those are God’s designated path.
No Poor Among Them
“And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:21, emphasis added).
It is my opinion that God does not care much about the means we use for caring for the poor. We might favor personal ministering, fast offerings, various charities, or governmental programs. Each has advantages and limitations. While He has not specified the means, He has declared that consistent and resolute care for the poor is absolutely essential for our salvation. Our care for the poor is the measure of our discipleship.
The Lesson for Us
If we were to apply the Tower of Babel story to our own time, we might say “Come, let us build us a dogma and a way of life so that we can be right, so we can triumph over all others.” That is not God’s desire. He did not give us the gospel, our intellects, or any of our blessings so that we might feel superior.
The whole reason the people began building the tower was to control their fate, “lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Ironically, because they lost favor with God, He changed their languages so they could no longer understand each other, and He scattered them. The tower they built with the original desire to reach heaven together resulted in their destruction as a community.
We can take a lesson from this story. If we care about being God’s people, we will choose peace and harmony over triumphalism, God over self-aggrandizement, humility over tower building, caring for God’s children over a focus on ourselves.
The Tower of Babel is not the way to heaven. Being humble and earnest disciples of Jesus Christ got Enoch and His followers taken up to heaven (Moses 7:21) and it can get us there as well.
If you are interested in books that apply the gospel perspective to family relationships, consider reading one of my books on parenting, marriage, or happiness. My newest book—covering key breakthroughs in all three areas of relationships—is Discoveries: Essential Truths for Relationships. To find the book that is right for you, go to https://www.amazon.com/H-Wallace-Goddard/e/B001H6ND5A/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her insightful editing of this article.
For more about the Book of Jasher, see: https://rsc.byu.edu/apocryphal-writings-latter-day-saints/book-jasher-latter-day-saints