When most of us think about Noah's ark, we imagine something like the picture below. In our minds eye, we envision the world's largest houseboat with a deck that a cruise ship would envy and a cosy cabin on top for Noah and his family. When we read the account more carefully however, we may find Noah's ark to be more like a massive Jaredite barge than an ancient cruise ship.
Before Noah's death, God scattered the people across the earth for building a tower to get to heaven in Babel. Among those scattered were Jared and his brother, along with their friends and family. In preparation for their evacuation to the American continent they didn't know existed, the family that would become the mighty Jaredite civilization built eight barges. God directed the people to make their barges like two dishes clasped together-- watertight with peaked ends and holes on the top and the bottom of the barges for air. As with Noah, God also instructed the Jaredites to take seeds and animals for their new land.
The Jaredites were commanded not to put windows in their barges. "For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces," the Lord says, "For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you" (Ether 2:23-24). Instead, the brother of Jared arranged for the Lord to make 16 glowing stones for the barges.
A footnote in the LDS Version of the Bible suggests Noah's vessel may not have been so different. The footnote for Genesis 6:16 explains that the Hebrew word tsohar translated as 'window' in the King James Version is believed by some rabbis to reference a precious stone that shone in the ark.
This explanation of Noah's 'window' also provides some insight into how the brother of Jared had that same idea for his eight barges. Noah was still alive, after all, and even if the brother of Jared didn't speak to him in person, the story of Noah's ark was recent and many details would have been more readily available. But the glowing stone reference alone doesn't mean Noah's ark was a larger version of Jared's windowless barges.
Consider what happened to Noah after the rains had ceased, however. Noah sent a dove "out of the ark" to find dry land. Had Noah been able to stand out on the deck of his houseboat, such a gesture may have been unnecessary. When the dove returned, Noah "put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him in the ark" (Genesis 8:9-10). The verbiage of sending forth a dove out of the ark and pulling it back in unto him in the ark contributes to the idea that Noah's ark may have been a deckless, windowless, closed-top barge.
Finally, when the dove discovered dry earth, Noah, "removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry." Noah emerged from the belly of a closed, cave-like ark to see the dry ground for himself for the first time since the rains began. His initial reaction is reflected in the expression, "behold," not inaccurately repeated, "Behold! The face of the ground was dry."
The exact shape and form of Noah's ark is wonderfully irrelevant to our individual salvation. Understanding its ties to the Book of Mormon, however, may be inspiring to a degree. The Jaredite barges found in Ether mirror the shape and planning of the ark on a smaller scale. Details of the ark not known to scholars of the day and still not commonly perceived by Christians are unlikely to have been noticed and recreated by a young, uneducated Joseph Smith.
Like so many other Book of Mormon evidences now confirmed, Noah's ark and the subsequent descriptions of the Jaredite barges testify the Book of Mormon is true. The Jaredite people really did leave Babel thousands of years ago to settle on the American continent. The historical account of this people in the Book of Mormon is valid, just as the recorded teachings of their prophets are inspired of God. And if the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was a true prophet whose teachings were also inspired of God. It is then only a few small steps to find the truthfulness of the church he founded and the revelation that continues today.