Noah's lineage consists of a long line of notable patriarchs, 10 generations back to Adam.
His father was Lamech, his grandfather was Methuselah, and his great-grandfather was Enoch. The patriarchal line continues through Jared, Mahalaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth, and finally to Adam. (See Genesis 5 and D&C 107:42-52.)Noah lived at the same time as all of these patriarchs except Adam, Seth and Enoch. Adam died 126 years before Noah was born; Seth died just 14 years before Noah. And Noah's great-grandfather, Enoch, was translated about four years before Noah's birth. Noah's father, Lamech, lived until five years before the flood, and his grandfather, Methuselah, the oldest man ever to live upon the earth, died the very year the flood came, being 969 years old. (Gen. 5:27.) Noah lived 600 years before the flood and 350 years after the flood (Gen. 7:6; 9:29.)
Such longevity is a puzzlement in our day. As Ellis T. Rasmussen has recently observed:
"Many theories have been proposed to rationalize or explain the long life span of these early forefathers, but of course none can be proved. . . . Life spans were reduced by about half after the flood of Noah . . . and half again after the Tower of Babel. . . .
"What caused such long life at first and then the phased reductions has not been revealed. Although some hypotheses have been raised, neither research nor revelation has yet sustained any of them." (A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament, pp. 24,32.)
Whatever the explanation will eventually be (see D&C 101:32-34), Noah's life span is only incidental to his significant role in earth's history and the salvation of mankind, both temporally and spiritually. Let us consider just some of the things the scriptures and the prophets teach about this noble man.
Noah is Gabriel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Noah is Gabriel and stands next in authority to Adam in the priesthood:
"The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures. 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 his day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven.
"The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam's authority." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.157).
It was also revealed to Joseph Smith that Adam holds the keys of all dispensations and even the "keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One." (D&C 78:16; TPJS, p. 167.) That Holy One is the Savior, i.e., "Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next." (TPJS, p. 158.)
Standing next in authority to Adam, then, places Noah in a key role in the plan of salvation, in priesthood functions pertaining to this earth, and in the restoration of the gospel and priesthood keys to the earth in various dispensations, including our own. As Gabriel he appeared to Zacharias in the temple to announce the birth and role of John the Baptist (Luke 1:1-25), and he was the angel sent to instruct Mary concerning her role as the mother of the Savior of the world. (Luke 1:26-38.)
Although he is not specifically identified in the scriptural record, it is likely that Noah was the angel who "appeared . . . in a dream" to Joseph, reassuring him of Mary's goodness, and telling him whose child she carried in her womb. (Matt. 1:18-25.) In our own day, Gabriel is listed as one of those who brought to Joseph Smith "rights . . . keys . . . honors . . . majesty and glory . . . and the powers of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope." (D&C 128:21.)
Noah is known also as Elias. Noah is sometimes referred to by the name-title Elias. Luke says it was Gabriel who appeared to Zacharias; D&C 27:7 identifies that angel as Elias. Joseph Smith taught that Noah is Gabriel. So Noah is Gabriel, who is also at times referred to as Elias.
Elias means forerunner or preparer of the way. In that role Noah, or Gabriel, or Elias has been given "the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days." (D&C 27:6.) The restoration in the last days is to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
It should be noted here that there are different individuals referred to in the scriptures by the name-title Elias, more than one of whom have to do with the restoration of things in the last days (see D&C 77:9,14; 110:12; JST John 1:21-28). We know that Noah is one of them.
Noah preached the fullness of the gospel.
Thanks to latter-day revelation we know that the gospel has been the same from the beginning. Noah and the other early patriarchs taught the same gospel the Savior taught - the same gospel restored in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"Now taking it for granted that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say, we have sufficient grounds to go on and prove from the Bible that the gospel has always been the same; the ordinances to fulfill its requirements, the same, and the officers to officiate, the same; and the signs and fruits resulting from the promises, the same; therefore, as Noah was a preacher of righteousness he must have been baptized and ordained to the priesthood by the laying on of the hands, etc." (TPJS, p. 264).
Hence, it is not surprising to read in the Pearl of Great Price of Noah preaching the first principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, reminding his hearers that it was the same gospel had by their fathers:
"And it came to pass that Noah continued his preaching unto the people, saying: Hearken, and give heed unto my words;
"Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you; nevertheless they hearkened not." (Moses 8:23-24.)
Also, we know that Noah obtained much more than the first principles of the gospel. He was ordained very early to the patriarchal order of the priesthood, which "was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed to whom the promises were made.
This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage. . . . Noah was 10 years old when he was ordained under the hand of Methuselah." (D&C 107:39-52.) Some of the rights and powers associated with the priesthood Noah held include "obtaining the voice of Jehovah that He talked with him [NoahT in a familiar and friendly manner, that He continued to him the keys, the covenants, the powers and the glory, with which He blessed Adam at the beginning." (TPJS, p. 171.)
Noah had a great role in the temporal salvation of mankind. Wickedness was upon the earth from early times, when some of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve rejected the gospel, "loved Satan more than God," and "began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish." (Moses 5:12-13.) That devilishness reached its zenith between the time that the city of Enoch was taken up into heaven and the days of Noah just before the flood. Seeing in vision the generations from his own time forward to the time of Noah, Enoch "beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced." (Moses 7:26.)
"The wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually." (Moses 8:22.) The best efforts of Noah and his sons, and undoubtedly his father and grandfather, and perhaps others, could not bring the people to repentance. The only solution was to make a clean start.
"And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth." (Moses 8:30.) Noah and his sons, Japheth, Shem and Ham, and their wives were saved in the ark. The rest of mankind were drowned in the flood. (See Gen. 6:17.)
In preserving Noah, the Lord fulfilled a covenant made earlier with Enoch, Noah's great-grandfather, "that Noah should be of the fruit of his loins . . . and that from his loins should spring all the kingdoms of the earth." (Moses 8:1-3; JST Gen. 6:23.) Thus Noah stands next to Adam in another sense, in addition to priesthood authority. He is the father of mankind - since the flood.
Much more could be written about Noah. Important insights can be gained from a careful comparison of Genesis 5-7 and Moses 7-8, insights relating to what happened to those "many" who did accept the gospel in Noah's day (Moses 7:27); who bears much of the responsibility for the terrible wickedness then (Moses 7:37); why Methuselah was not taken to heaven with the city of Enoch (Moses 8:1-3); whether it was God or Noah who "repented" that man had been created (Genesis 6:6; Moses 8:25); who married whom out of the covenant, and what the result was (Genesis 6:1-4; Moses 8:13-15); and more.
Truly "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and he walked with God." (Moses 8:27.) We are greatly blessed to know of him. We should honor him for his critical role, past, present, and future, in helping to bring to pass the plan of salvation, the Great Plan of Happiness of our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.