As wickedness spread on the earth, the Lord called Noah to teach the gospel to his people. Noah warned the people that they must repent and be baptized or they would be destroyed by floods.
Not only did the people refuse to follow Noah's counsel, but they also became angry and wanted to kill him. (See Gen. 6:5; Moses 8:18-26.) When the people would not repent, the Lord told Noah, "Behold, I . . . do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh." (Gen. 6:17.)To protect Noah and his family from the flood, the Lord commanded him to build an ark, in which his family and a certain number of animals would find safety. (See Gen. 6:19, 22; 7:5.)
In his October 1954 general conference address, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, spoke of the kind of faith needed to heed the Lord's commandments:
"It was not blind faith when the patriarch Noah built an ark some 42 centuries ago or when the prophet Nephi built a boat about 25 centuries ago. Each was commanded by the Lord to construct a seaworthy vessel. An unprecedented total flood was to envelop the earth in the one case and the greatest ocean to be crossed by the other.
"No experience of either builder could give guidance in these new adventures - no previous flood or ocean crossing had ever come in the life of either - there was nothing on which to base construction except directions from the Lord. Here was no blind obedience. Each knew the goodness of God and that He had purpose in His strange commands. And so each with eyes wide open, with absolute freedom of choice, built by faith. Noah's family was saved from physical drowning and spiritual decadence, and Nephi's people were saved likewise."
The account of Noah and the cleansing of the earth serves not only as a record of the Lord's past dealings with those who engaged in wickedness, but also as a warning to those who are disobedient to His commandments in latter days. On this subject, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
"Our Savior promised that the days preceding His second coming will be typical of the days of the flood. A glance at the 6th chapter of Genesis will reveal the conditions of the world in the days of Noah and the flood and the reason for the cleansing by water. This comparison is not to be taken figuratively, but literally, as it is given. The world today is corrupt and filled with violence as it was at that earlier day, for now, as then, all flesh has corrupted its way upon the earth. The Lord promised that He would never again destroy the entire world with a flood of water, but He did promise to cleanse it the second time with sword and with fire." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:20.)