Ether 1:1-2 Origin and Importance of the Book of Ether
As recounted in the book of Mosiah, in about 122 b.c. King Limhi (son of King Noah) sent a group to find Zarahemla, in hopes of getting help to escape their bondage to the Lamanites in the land of Nephi. The group became lost and found instead the ruins of the Jaredites, including twenty-four plates of gold. (The term Jaredites occurs only in the heading to the book of Ether and in Moroni 9:23, but is commonly used today to refer to the people in the book of Ether.) These twenty-four plates were later translated by King Mosiah II, and centuries after his translation they were abridged by Moroni and added to the plates eventually received by Joseph Smith (see Mosiah 8:7-12; 21:25-28; 28:10-19).
Our current edition of the Book of Mormon does not provide dates for the book of Ether, but most published chronologies place the Flood of Noah at around 2300 b.c., with the Tower of Babel—the beginning point for the book of Ether—about 100 years later. (See Genesis 6-11.)
Ether was the last of the Jaredite prophets/record keepers. The importance of the book of Ether was highlighted by Mormon: “And this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account” (Mosiah 28:19).
Ether 1:33-43 Cry unto the Lord
There are several anxious prayers recorded in these verses, and the seven occurrences of the word cry (verses 34-39, 43) aptly describe desperate pleas to the Lord for mercy and guidance. Find the specific things the brother of Jared asked the Lord in prayer (verses 34-39), and the things the Lord did or promised He would do (verses 35, 37, 42-43). What helps can you draw from these verses regarding your own prayers?
We do not know exactly where the Jaredites began nor ended their journey to the “land which is choice above all the lands of the earth” (verse 42), but we do have the Lord’s promise that from these few families He would build “a great nation” (verse 43). Of course there are various definitions of “great,” but during the time of the Jaredites (about 2200 b.c. to about 600 b.c.) overlapping civilizations included the Jews, Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Assyrians, Greeks, and others. To the Lord, there were “none greater … upon all the face of the earth” (verse 43). Most importantly, the Lord made them His covenant people, along with a covenant land, posterity, and priesthood, all “because this long time ye have cried unto me” (verse 43).
Ether 2:5-12 “Being Directed Continually By the Hand of the Lord”
Throughout history the Lord has led many of His children to various locations in order to fulfill His purposes for them. In the case of the Jaredites, the Lord emphatically taught the following about the place to which He guided them:
- It was a land of promise, choice above all others (mentioned five times in verses 7-10, 12; see also 1:42).
- It was a place preserved for the righteous, who must serve God (mentioned five times in verses 7-10, 12; see also 13:2).
- If its inhabitants become wicked, they will be swept off and destroyed (mentioned four times in verses 8-11).
- The destruction of the inhabitants comes when they have become ripened in a fulness of iniquity, thus bringing upon themselves the fulness of God’s wrath (mentioned five times in verses 8-11; see also verse 15 and 9:20).
In what ways have you seen God leading and guiding you? Have you heard or felt Him warning you?
Ether 2:14-15 Prayer
The Lord chastened the brother of Jared for neglecting his prayers, which verse 15 calls an “evil.” It is evil not to pray (see also 2 Nephi 32:8).
Ether 2:16-25 “Go to Work and Build”
The Jaredites built eight barges to take them to the land of promise, “according to the instructions of the Lord” (verse 16), but God did not give them all the construction information, thus allowing the brother of Jared to determine the rest. Wisely, the brother of Jared sought revelation. In verse 19, the three problems he took to the Lord were:
Problem 1: “Whither shall we steer?”
Problem 2: “In [the vessels] we cannot breathe.”
Problem 3: “In them there is no light.”
Next, note the three different levels of help that the Lord set up, in order to solve the problems. The second and third solutions required increasingly greater input and effort on the part of the brother of Jared:
Solution to Problem 1: Regarding steering/navigation, the Lord said, “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth” (verse 24); in other words, the Jaredites did not need steering (nor power), but would rely on the Lord to guide their barges to His chosen destination.
Solution to Problem 2: Regarding air to breathe, the Lord told the brother of Jared what to do, and he obediently went to work and did it (verses 20-21).
Solution to Problem 3: Regarding light, the Lord required the brother of Jared to come up with a solution, but He also offered to help: “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” (verses 23, 25; this leads to the stunning events of chapter 3).
We can apply these three approaches to needs/problems/questions in our own lives:
Level 1: We simply have faith and rely on the Lord to take care of it (like needed sunshine and rain).
Level 2: The Lord gives us information and it is up to us to carry it out, still relying on Him to do His work (for example, we plant and nourish seeds, but it is His power that makes them grow into crops).
Level 3: The Lord waits for us to figure things out, while He stands ready to confirm our decision and to help (like our choices regarding marriage and how to support our families).
By the way, there is no “fourth level,” wherein we do everything ourselves without the Lord’s involvement. Without Him, we are nothing and we can do nothing.
Ether 3 “Because of Thy Faith”
The Lord honored the solution that was presented by the brother of Jared regarding lack of light in the vessels. Even though the Lord had told him He would help, note in verses 2-3 the extreme humility with which the brother of Jared petitioned the Lord, as well as his exceeding faith (verses 4-5). The pre-mortal Jesus touched the stones and the brother of Jared saw His finger and could not tell it was the Lord’s unembodied spirit. This and other scriptural experiences teach us that to mortals, spirits can look exactly like physical bodies (see also D&C 129:1-6).
Go through verses 8-20, 25-26 to find the additional sacred truths the brother of Jared saw, heard, and learned.
Ether 3:21-24, 27-28; 4:1-7; 5:1 “Show It To No Man”
How blessed we are to have some of these sacred experiences and revelations today. The coming forth of the writings of the brother of Jared has unfolded over a period of more than 4,000 years, and there is more to come. Here is the sequence:
- The brother of Jared was commanded to “treasure up the things which ye have seen and heard, and show it to no man” (3:21); his writings being “forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he [Christ] should be lifted up upon the cross” (4:1).
- As mentioned above, some 2,000 years after the brother of Jared, King Mosiah II translated his writings, with instructions to subsequent custodians of the Nephite records that these portions were not to “be made manifest” until “after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people” (4:2).
- It was Jesus Himself who later “commanded that they [these writings] should be made manifest” (4:2). Thus, they were coupled with the ongoing Nephite records and eventually became part of the plates translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
- After abridging the twenty-four plates of the Jaredites in about 400 a.d., Moroni sealed a portion of them (see 4:5-6), which he described in this manner: “There never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared” (4:4).
- Although the “sealed portion” was included in the plates given to Joseph Smith, he was commanded not to translate that portion (see 5:1; it is possible that the sealed portion given to Joseph included more writings than those of the brother of Jared).
- The Lord told Moroni that in a day yet in our future, faith and righteousness will bring forth “the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations” (4:7). We are called upon to become sanctified and ready to receive them (4:6-7).
The “two stones” mentioned in 3:23-24, 28 are the same Urim and Thummim which accompanied the plates given to Joseph Smith, which he then used during much of the translation of the Book of Mormon, as well as to receive other revelations (see D&C 17; section heading and verse 1).
Ether 4:8-19; 5:4-6 Bold, Powerful Moroni
Much as he did in Mormon 8-9, Moroni again boldly addresses himself to future readers, putting forth doctrine, testimony, warnings, invitations, and promises. He backed up his own testimony with the testimonies of additional witnesses, including the latter-day work itself, plus “the power of God and also his word,” and the witnesses of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; all of which “shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day” (5:4). Think about your own testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the Lord’s church and latter-day work. How did you gain your testimony? Do you feel that it is continually growing?
Moroni was a prophet of God who had personally witnessed the downfall and destruction of his own, once-great Nephite civilization. Additionally, he read and abridged the record of the downfall and destruction of the Jaredites, and he was given a sweeping vision of the conditions of our day (see Mormon 8:26-41). He’s trying to help us! He especially asserts his authority to write in behalf of God (see 4:10; 5:6; see also 2 Nephi 33:11; Moroni 10:27).