Ether

From Feast upon the Word (http://feastupontheword.org). Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
Jump to: navigation, search

Home > The Book of Mormon > Ether

Subpages: Chapter 1a Chapters 1b-6 Chapters 7-11 Chapters 12-15

                                                                 Next page: Chapter 1a


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Book of Mormon. The relationship of Ether to the Book of Mormon as a whole is discussed at Book of Mormon: Unities.

Story. The book of Ether relates the history of the Jaredites, who lived in America prior to the Nephites. Moroni's abridgement of Ether's record contains a short prologue followed by three major sections:

  • Chapter 1a: Prologue. Genealogy from Ether back to Jared.
  • Chapters 1b-6: Jared and his brother. At the time of scattering from the Tower of Babel, the Jaredites are led to America as a land of promise. Moroni explains that the inhabitants of the land must either serve God or be swept off when ripened in iniquity. The brother of Jared asks the Lord to touch sixteen stones and cause them to give light as the Jaredites sail across the ocean. Because of his great faith, the brother of Jared is brought into the presence of the Lord and redeemed. The Jaredites cross the ocean in eight boats and establish themselves in the land of promise.
  • Chapters 7-11: The broad sweep of Jaredite history. The middle portion of Ether covers everything between the founding generation of Jared and his brother and the final destroyed generation of Coriantumr and Ether. Over the centuries, secret combinations cause the Jaredites to be destroyed three times. Moroni warns that any society that upholds secret combinations will likewise be destroyed.
  • Chapters 12-15: Coriantumr and Ether. Moroni describes the great faith of Ether and discusses faith, hope, and charity. He also recounts Ether's prophecy that the New Jerusalem will be located in America. King Coriantumr faces a series of four challengers at the head of secret combinations. He defeats the first three and then tries to negotiate with the fourth. But Coriantumr himself is in rebellion against God and does not repent. Secret combinations cause the Jaredites to be destroyed a fourth time, this time completely, in a great battle lasting eight days.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Ether include:

  • Secret Combinations. The susceptibility of centralized governmental power to attack from secret societies.
  • Ripeness for destruction. At what point a society becomes "ripe" in iniquity.
  • Faith. In both Ether and Moroni, faith is addressed in conjunction with hope and charity, and is addressed as a principle of power that can cause miracles to occur.

Historical setting[edit]

This heading should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The book of Ether recounts the history of the Jaredites, descendants of people who came to the American continent from the Old World at the time of the Tower of Babel (Eth 1:33; Gen 11:1-9) roughly two thousand years before the arrival of Lehi's colony, and were destroyed as a people sometime before the reign of King Mosiah (Eth 1:2; Mos 8:7-9).

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Inclusion of the Jaredite record in the Book of Mormon[edit]

Another possibility might be read in terms of Ether 13. The message of Ether to the Jaredites there seems to be that, as Gentiles, they were about to have the opportunity to be drawn into Israel (Lehi's family was apparently just coming to the land when Ether was prophesying). If they would repent, then Lehi would be in their midst, and they could brought into the Abrahamic covenant, and all of the promises of Israel might be given them, among which the least is certainly not the promise of having seed to last until the day of the coming of Christ. When the Jaredites do not repent, they are killed to the last man, and the last lives only to see the coming of the others (the Mulekites, at least). It may well be that the Jaredite story is included in the Book of Mormon precisely for the Lamanites, to show them the promises made unto their fathers: the Jaredites may well be a foil for Israel. In other words, the Lamanites might learn from the Jaredites how the promises are obtained, how they can become extended to the Gentiles, how the Gentiles will not receive them if they do not repent, how the Israelites are, though wicked, sustained until they do receive the promises, etc., etc., etc. It may be that all of the scholarly pickings apart of the title page are misguided by misunderstanding Moroni's reason for including the Jaredite record.

Editorial comment[edit]

Moroni several times directly addresses the reader and makes express doctrinal points, twice according to commandment. These are points that Moroni makes sure cannot be overlooked, and these points should therefore have a significant influence on the interpretation of the entire book of Ether.

  1. Ether 2:8-12 - Moroni tells the Gentiles that "we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land," that it is a choice land and that those who live upon it will be blessed while they serve God, and swept off when they are ripe in iniquity.
  2. Ether 4:6-19 - In obedience to a commandment from God, Moroni exhorts both Jew and Gentile to come unto Christ to obtain knowledge (immediately after relating how the Brother of Jared was redeemed and brought into the Lord's presence through faith and knowledge). He also states that the Brother of Jared's vision of world history will not be disclosed until the Gentiles repent, but that the account in Revelation of John's vision will begin to unfold when the Book of Mormon comes forth.
  3. Ether 5:1-6 - Moroni also tells the future translator (Joseph Smith) not to attempt to open the sealed portion of the plates containing the Brother of Jared's vision and that the Book of Mormon plates themselves will be shown to some who help in bringing the Book of Mormon forth.
  4. Ether 7:5 - Moroni notes in passing that a usurper taking the king captive fulfilled the Brother of Jared's warning (6:23) that monarchy leads into captivity.
  5. Ether 8:20-26 - Moroni states that the Lord commands those who read the Book of Mormon, when they see secret combinations, to put them down and not tolerate them.
  6. Ether 12:6-40 - Most of the discussion on faith, hope and charity in chapter 12 is Moroni's own exposition that he wants to be sure we understand. At the end he also expressly bears testimony to the Jews and Gentiles that he has seen Jesus face to face and commends the reader to seek him.

Secret combinations[edit]

The Jaredites suffer major destruction four times in the book of Ether (9:12, 9:26-35, 11:7-8, 15:13-14, 29-33). All four destructions follow the introduction of secret combinations, and the Jaredites never suffer destruction in their absence. In the Promised Land speech (2:8-12) we are given general principles regarding inheritance and destruction on the American continent. In the secret combinations speech (8:20-26) we are warned that if secret combinations take hold, society will be destroyed. Society will either hate or embrace secret combinations, and the result is a foregone conclusion based upon that decision. The secret combinations speech ends with a statement that secret combinations are to be done away so that the time may come that Satan has no more power over the hearts of men. This leads naturally into the New Jerusalem prophecy in 13:1-12.

Group temporal salvation and individual spiritual salvation[edit]

The narrative portions of Ether generally address what a society must do to save itself, rather than what an individual must do to save him/herself. The church, ordinances, and specific commandments are never mentioned, nor does the narrative ever concern itself with the spiritual salvation of any particular individual. When the Lord chastises the Brother of Jared, it is as a representative of the entire group, the threatened punishment does not apply only to him, and that threatened destruction is death rather than damnation. Likewise, the suspense at the end of the book is not whether Coriantumr will repent in time to save himself spiritually, but whether he will do so in time to save society temporally.

Individual salvation is addressed in the "faith" divisions of Ether, chapters 3-5, 12. Ether presumes that a person already knows what they must do to repent. Ether is a "third temple speech" book. That is, it does not function on the level of Jacob's speech in Jacob 2-3 (or 1-2 Nephi) where people are exhorted to behave as they know they should. Nor does Ether function on the level of King Benjamin's speech (or Mosiah-Alma generally) where people are led to feel the Holy Ghost and have a change of heart. Rather, the faith speeches in Ether 3 and 12 (and in Moroni 7, 10) function on the level of the Lord's teachings in 3 Nephi 11-27 and assume that people already know all that and can move beyond faith as a principle of action and obedience to learning about faith as a principle of power to work miracles and enter into the presence of the Lord.

Ether 3 and 13 relate visions to Jaredites, the contents of which are not to be freely distributed. Ether 2 and 12 contain Moroni's own comments and bear no such restrictions. The climax of the first half of the opening narrative is the first promised land speech (2:8-12), a statement of what it takes to save a nation temporally. The high point of the entire opening narrative is the experience where the brother of Jared is brought into the presence of the Lord and experiences individual spiritual salvation (3-5). Moroni apparently sees a close connection between these two ideas and suggests that societies are saved temporally when some critical mass of its members are qualifying for individual temporal salvation.

Throughout Ether, political conditions, especially as regards secret societies, are presented as reflections of underlying societal conditions. The solution to bad situations is always a very generic "repent." Only in Moroni's sidebar speech in 8:20-26, the doctrinal climax of Ether, and in the narrative climax under the reigns of Riplakish and Morianton, do we see any exercise of volition in a specific course of action to change the prevailing political conditions.

Political leaders[edit]

This emphasis on society as a whole rather than particular individuals may result from the fact that this record was kept by the society's political leaders rather than its religious leaders. Unlike religious institutions, political institutions are not concerned with the content of the marketplace of ideas; they are concerned only with seeing that the marketplace functions and is available. Similarly, God will not intervene to destroy, and has commanded us to support (AF 11), political institutions as long as that marketplace functions, thus allowing free agency (AF 12). Hence, Moroni's account of Jaredite history does not dwell at length on the content of Christ's Gospel as does Mormon's account of Nephite history. As long as society ensures the existence of free agency, society may save itself from destruction at God's hand, regardless of whether any particular individual, or any member of society at all, chooses to take advantage of it and save him/herself.

Throughout Ether, political conditions, especially as regards secret societies, are presented as reflections of underlying societal conditions. The solution to bad situations is always a generic "repent." Only in Moroni's sidebar speech in 8:20-26, the doctrinal climax of Ether, and in the narrative climax under the reigns of Riplakish and Morianton, do we see any exercise of volition in a specific course of action to change the prevailing political conditions.

The Brother of Jared warns about the evils of monarchy, power from the top down and a lure or prize to the ambitious, while Moroni warns of the evils of secret societies, power from the ground up.

Wickedness[edit]

Free agency requires that a person have both a correct understanding of what his/her choices are and the liberty to act on those choices. The Book of Ether never mentions false or competing ideologies. The Jaredites know the truth and either accept or reject it knowingly. Nor does Ether focus on divisions in society based on wealth, religious inclination, genealogy, etc. We know they exist from the mention of Morianton raising an army of outcasts, but that is not Moroni's point. As the picture is painted for us, the Jaredites never have to make hard choices when deciding whether to obey God as did the faithful Nephites on the eve of Christ's birth. When we are told that the Jaredites killed the prophets, the emphasis is on the hardness of their hearts rather than the difficult lot of a righteous prophet in a wicked society. Jaredite society thus exists in an environment of complete moral freedom with its knowledge of the gospel and the lack of any obstacles to its practice other than individual desire. Wickedness, then, is not the result of external conditions, such as the false traditions of the Lamanites. Rather, it is knowing and open rebellion motivated by worldly enticements. The issue in the book of Ether is not what it takes to obey God's Plan, but simply whether the Jaredites want to do so.

In the Nephite history secret societies are depicted as an external threat to the ability of the righteous to live as they should in a fractured society. In Ether, because society is depicted as monolithic, secret societies are an internal sickness, a result of what the people are like rather than an environmental condition. In Ether secret societies seem to disappear rather easily any time the people repent. It is true that Com II fought against them without success, but that just means the king was out of touch with his more wicked subjects. Jaredite society was never convulsed in an attempt to eradicate them as was the case with the Gadianton robbers, only as the result of having embraced them.

In summary, the two big questions throughout the Book of Ether are whether society as a whole will be saved temporally and whether individuals will be saved spiritually.

Relationship between opening and closing narratives[edit]

  • Chapters 1b-6: Jared and his brother. At the time of scattering from the Tower of Babel, the Jaredites are led to America as a land of promise. Moroni explains that the inhabitants of the land must either serve God or be swept off when ripened in iniquity. The brother of Jared asks the Lord to touch sixteen stones and cause them to give light as they sail across the ocean. Because of his great faith, he is brought into the presence of the Lord and redeemed. The Jaredites cross the ocean in eight boats and establish themselves in the land of promise. (5,304 words).

In the opening narrative of chapters 1b-2, 6 there are two main characters: Jared & his Brother. There are also two main characters in the closing narrative of chapters 13b-15: Coriantumr & Ether. In each case one is a political leader and the other is a religious leader who communicates with God. Only in these opening and closing narratives do we have an individual prophet with actual words. In both cases the prophet is closely related to the political leader: Jared & his Brother are brothers, and Ether the prophet is descended from the royal line.

In the opening narrative political decisions are made after seeking out and deferring to the counsel of the heavenly king and the religious leader, and as a result the people are saved from destruction and established in the promised land. In the closing narrative the political leader rejects the unsolicited (and therefore probably very important) counsel of the religious leader, and as a result the people are destroyed. These two narratives illustrate in the principles explained in the promised land speeches of 2:8-12 and 8:20-26. To gain God's assistance, society must seek out and follow God's counsel. And to ignore God's counsel when he offers it unsolicited is to qualify for destruction.

Moroni provides numerous parallels between the opening and closing narratives to highlight their relatedness and invite the reader to compare them to see how they teach the same things. These parallels include the following:

  • Plates found by people of Limhi, not write hundredth part (1:2,5; 3:17; also 15:33)
  • Lord swore in his wrath, Babel / Jaredites destroyed in fulfillment of prophecy (1:33; 2:8; also 14:24; 15:3,28,33)
  • Sweep off the earth, fullness of wrath (2:8-10; also 14:18,25,27)
  • A righteous king defers to / tries to kill the prophet (____; also ____)
  • Large & mighty men (1:34; also 13:15; 14:10; 15:26) - Shule, ch 11, 14:10
  • Two requests that people be saved, where go & how (1:34-37; also 15:4,18)
  • Gather supplies for the defining venture (1:41-2:7; also 15:12-15)
  • Four years by the large waters (2:13-14; also 15:14; 13:24)
  • Travel through many diverse lands (1:42; 2:6-7; also ____)
  • Lord contends with Brother of Jared for three hours (2:14)
Two armies contend for three hours (15:27)
  • The Spirit strives (2:15; also 15:19)
  • Eight boats carry people to safety (3:1) - Riplakish, 3:1, 15:7-32
Eight days of battle destroy people (15:7-32)
  • Brother of Jared / Shiz falls to the earth (3:6-7; also 15:32)
  • Brother of Jared is a great prophet/Ether, a descendant of Brother of Jared, is a great prophet
  • In the opening narrative we are shown who the Lord will help and what he will do for you. In the closing narrative we are shown who Satan will attempt to affect and what he will do to you.
  • Four sons/four challengers (__; also __)

The point is that both stories are in fact the same story, and that neither can be fully understood without the other. It is true that one may learn the facts of one story without learning the other. But one must see why God acts both to establish and to destroy before the purpose of the story is understood.

Complete outline and page map[edit]

This heading contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

● Prologue, origins, and genealogy (Chapter 1a) (1:1-32)

I. Jared & Brother: Jaredites established in the land (Chapters 1b-6)

A. Jaredite travels begin (Chapter 1b-2)
● Land journey (Chapter 1b-2a)
a. questions and answers about scattering and traveling to a land of promise (1:34-43)
b. gathering food supplies for the journey (2:1-3)
c. Lord leads Jaredites toward promised land (2:4-7)
● We can behold: America as a choice land (2:8-12)
● Building boats to cross the ocean (Chapter 2b)
c. Lord chastises for three hours because no progress for four years (2:13-15)
b. building boats for the water journey (2:16-17)
a. questions and answers about light and air while traveling in boats (2:18-25)
B. Faith to receive knowledge and enter into the presence of the Lord (Chapter 3-5)
● Brother of Jared redeemed from the fall through faith (3:1-20)
• he requests in prayer that the Lord touch sixteen stones with finger (3:1-5)
• he sees the finger of the Lord because of his great faith (3:6-12)
• he is redeemed and brought back into Christ's presence because of his knowledge (3:13-20)
● Knowledge and redemption available through Holy Ghost on conditions of faith, repentance, and baptism (3:21-5:6)
• vision received of all mankind because of faith, instruction to seal it up until Christ's ministry, two stones (3:21-28)
• vision disclosed to Nephites after Christ's ministry, then again sealed up because of unbelief, two stones (4:1-5)
Moroni commanded to say:
• vision will again be disclosed only when Gentiles exercise faith and repent (4:6-12)
• come unto Christ to receive hidden knowledge, John's revelation is now unfolding (4:13-19)
• the Lord will confirm the testimony of Three Witnesses who will see the Book of Mormon plates (5:1-6)
A. Jaredite travels conclude (Chapter 6)
● Crossing the ocean in boats (Chapter 6a)
• stones, food supplies, and people aboard boats for journey (6:1-4)
• wind, protected, Noah (6:5-8)
• praise God the whole way (6:9)
• light, protected, Noah (6:10-12a)
● Settling on the promised land (Chapter 6b)
a. multiply, walk humbly, and prosperous (6:12b-18)
b. stewardship accounting of leadership (6:19-21)
b. four sons refuse kingship, people choose King Orihah, which will lead to captivity (6:22-27)
a. prosperous, walk humbly, and multiply (6:27-7:3)

II. Centuries of kings, prophets, secret combinations, and destructions (Chapters 7-11)

● Shule: Is protected and in turn protects the prophets, destruction averted (Chapter 7)
• Shule (follows Orihah and Kib) restores kingdom to his father Kib (7:4-13)
• other half of kingdom restored to Shule (7:14-22)
• Shule protects prophets from the people (7:23-27)
● Omer: Secret combinations introduced, destruction #1 (Chapter 8-9a)
A. secret combinations introduced (8:1-19)
• Omer brougt into captivity and restored to throne, Jared repents (8:1-6)
• daughter of Jared suggests a secret combination (8:7-12)
• Akish's oath initiates the secret combination (8:13-19)
B. Moroni commanded to warn against: secret combinations (8:20-26)
A. secret combinations result in destruction (9:1-15a)
• Omer warned to flee (9:1-3)
• Akish kills his father in law Jared (9:4-6)
• Akish kills his son, another son flees (9:7-9)
• other sons rebel, secret combinations kill all but thirty, Omer rules over a remnant (9:10-15a)
● Twelve kings: Prosperity in a choice land, oppression, destruction #2 (Chapter 9b-10)
a. Emer: prosperity in a choice land (9:15b-22)
b. Coriantum and Com: minimal detail (9:23-25)
c. Heth: embraces secret combinations and persecutes prophets, destruction by famine and serpents until people repent (9:26-35)
d. Shez: descendant remembers the destruction of his fathers and builds up a righteous kingdom (10:1-4)
c. Riplakish: oppresses the people with taxation and servitude until they rise up against him (10:5-8)
d. Morianton: descendant eases the people's burden but is personally wicked (10:9-13a)
b. Kim, Levi, Corom, and Kish: minimal detail (10:13b-18)
a. Lib: serpents destroyed, prosperity in a choice land (10:19-29)
● Twelve kings and captives: Captivity, prophets withdraw, destruction #3 (Chapter 11)
a. Hearthom and four descendants in captivity (10:30-31)
• Com: protects prophets but cannot overcome secret combinations (10:32-11:3)
• Shiblom and Seth: prophets killed by usurper and ignored because of secret combinations, destruction by war and famine until people repent (11:4-9)
• Ahah and Ethem: prophets ignored and withdraw (10-14a)
a. Moron and Coriantor in captivity (11:14b-23)

I. Coriantumr & Ether: Jaredite final destruction from off the land (12-15)

● Faith precedes blessing; humility, hope, and charity (Chapter 12)
● Faith precedes blessing (12:1-21)
a. Ether cannot be restrained from preaching faith, repentance, and hope (12:1-5)
b. faith precedes witness and miracles (12:6-18)
a. Brother of Jared could not be kept from within the veil because of his faith (12:19-21)
● Humility, hope, and charity (12:22-41)
a. Moroni: apprehension at his weakness in writing compared to speaking (12:22-25)
b. Lord: Gentiles must be humble (12:26-28)
c. Moroni: the Lord works according people's faith, Brother of Jared (12:29-31)
c. Moroni: hope and charity (12:32-35)
b. Lord: Moroni has been humble (12:36-37)
a. Moroni: closing testimony of his writing and of Christ (12:38-41)
● America as home to the New Jerusalem (Chapter 13a) (13:1-12)
● Coriantumr & Ether: Jaredite final destruction #4 from off the land (Chapters 13b-15)
● Ether's warning to avoid destruction by repenting (Chapter 13b)
a. Ether rejected, views destruction from hiding (13:13-14)
b. wars between secret combinations and king (13:15-16)
c. no one repents (13:17)
b. wars between secret combinations and king (13:18-19)
a. Ether prophesies final destruction and in hiding, no one repents (13:20-22)
● Coriantumr tries to avoid destruction by fighting four usurpers (Chapter 14)
a. Corinatumr and Shared battle three days (13:23-30)
b. curse on the land (13:31-14:2)
c. Coriantumr and Gilead battle in Akish and Moron (14:3-8)
d. self-destruction within secret combinations (14:9-10)
c. Coriantumr and Lib II battle in Moron and Akish (14:11-16)
b. fear of Shiz sweeping the earth (14:17-25)
a. Coriantumr and Shiz battle three days (14:26-31)
● Coriantumr tries to avoid destruction by negotiating, destruction fulfilled over eight days (Chapter 15)
a. Coriantumr sees that prophecy is being fulfilled, tries to avoid destruction by negotiating (15:1-5)
b. battle at seashore, Coriantumr faints (15:6-11)
c. camping four years to gather strength (15:12-14)
d. days 1-2 of final battle (15:15-17)
e. Coriantumr again tries to avoid destruction by negotiating (15:18-19)
d. days 3-6 of final battle (15:20-26)
c. days 7-8 of final battle, Coriantumr's group flees (15:27-29a)
b. Shiz and Coriantumr both faint, Coriantumr kills Shiz (15:29b-32)
a. Ether's witness that prophesied destruction is fulfilled (15:33-34)

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Previous editions.

  • The original 1830 edition of Ether was divided into only six chapters (I-VI). For the 1879 edition Parley Pratt further divided those six into the fifteen chapters (1-15) still used today. • I: 1-4 • II: 5 • III: 6-8 • IV: 9-11 • V: 12 • VI: 13-15

Related passages that interpret or shed light on Ether.

  • Moroni provides four "great faith sermons" at the end of the Book of Mormon, two in Ether that clearly form a pair (Ether 3-5 and Ether 12), and two more in Moroni that just as clearly form another pair (Moroni 7 and Moroni 10). All four sermons talk about faith as more than just a principle of action leading to obedience. Rather, these four sermons assume that the listener is already trying to be righteous, and so address faith in connection with hope and charity as a door to exaltation and as a principle of power that allows one to exercise gifts of the spirit and work miracles. These four faith sermons can all be read as a group since they were all written or edited by a single author and all address a single general topic.

References cited on this page.

Other resources.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



                                                                 Next page: Chapter 1a