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Relationship to Chapters 12-15. The relationship of Chapter 12 to the rest of Chapters 12-15 is discussed at Chapters 12-15.
Story. Chapter 12 consists of a sermon about faith preceding blessing, and about humility, hope, and charity.
- ● Faith precedes blessing (12:1-21)
- ● Humility, hope, and charity (12:22-41)
- a. Moroni: apprehension at his weakness in writing compared to speaking (12:22-25)
- a. Moroni: closing testimony of his writing and of Christ (12:38-41)
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 12 include:
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- Ether 12:4. See "Hope is a Vision" on the discussion page.
- Ether 12:4: Hope cometh of faith. One might think that hope precedes faith in the sense that one hopes that God exists and then develops a belief in God and eventually genuine faith in God. However, this verse suggests the opposite (see also Alma 32:21). First one has faith in God and then, somehow, out of that faith comes hope. One way to think of this is in the temporal sense that, since God currently exists, it is possible to believe in God now, whereas one hopes for things that are to come. For example, one must first have faith that God has the power to grant salvation. Then, once this faith is established, the believer can look forward to—that is, hope for—the salvation which will eventually come. (See also Moro 7:40, 42; Moro 8:26; 2 Ne 31:19-20.)
- Hope and knowledge. In Alma 32:21, the prophet says that faith is "not to have a perfect knowledge of things," apparently opposing faith to knowledge. A closer reading, however, suggests that faith is precisely a question of knowledge, just not a question of a "perfect knowledge." Since faith, a "less-than-perfect knowledge," is according to this verse (Ether 12:4) what issues from faith, there is at least a suggestion that hope is that "more-perfect-knowledge," perhaps even "a perfect knowledge of things." If this is a justified reading, it should be noted that this verse demolishes the dichotomy often read into faith/knowledge: faith is a kind of knowledge, and hope is a surer kind of knowledge. Moreover, knowledge itself should therefore be rethought: it is apparently not a question of confirmed belief, but rather a question of relation to something (faith is one relation, one kind of knowledge, and hope is another).
- Moroni on faith, hope, and charity. The explicit demarcation between faith and hope that is asserted in this verse seems to corroborate (unlike some other verses) with 2 Ne 31:19-20. It seems, in fact, that Moroni is the first Nephite prophet after many years clearly to understand the implication of what Nephi there writes. This fits in well with the many other broad parallels between Nephi's teachings and those of Moroni. However, it must be admitted that Moroni is here citing the teachings of Ether, the Jaredite prophet. This raises an interesting question. Did Moroni understand Nephi through Ether, or did he understand Ether through Nephi? That Moroni takes up a tangential discussion throughout the present chapter, introduced by his explicit desire to "speak somewhat concerning these things" (verse 6), suggests that Moroni wants to clear up much of what has been said concerning the three-fold theme of faith, hope, and charity. Why, however, Moroni would later quote the lengthy discourse of his father on the subject (Moro 7), which seems at times to revert to a different (or even unclear) reading of faith and hope, must then be handled. Perhaps it is safest to acknowledge that Moroni is here citing Ether, and that Nephi remains—at least for the moment—at a distance from his thoughts.
- Ether 12:6. After discussing how Christ appeared to the Nephites (verse 6), Moroni claimed that Christ instituted "a way" that those who had not seen Christ in the flesh might also partake of "the heavenly gift." This may be an oblique reference to temple ordinances, where "the heavenly gift" would be an apt translation of what we call an endowment--a sacred ordinance where participants ceremonially interact with the Divine in ways that echo those depicted in 3 Nephi 11:14-15. The "heavenly gift" is mentioned without explanation in Heb 6:4; Moroni's explanation may help us better understand that passage, serving as another example of how the Book of Mormon restores previously lost sacred knowledge.
- Ether 12:6. That a sacred ordinance is involved with this heavenly gift is reiterated here by Moroni when he mentions being "called after the holy order of god"--which Alma taught involved an ordination "in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption" (Alma 13:2).
- Ether 12:27: Weakness not weaknesses. Verse 27 can be easily misunderstood to say God gives unto men weaknesses (plural) instead of weakness (singular). The difference suggests general and overall weakness, as opposed to multiple specific weaknesses. For example, our mortality and sinful nature is part of our inherent weakness. So when the Lord talks of his grace being sufficient, he may be saying that he will make humans, as weak things, become strong. This can be accomplished via the Atonement. Our state of weakness can become strong but only if we humble ourselves before the Lord and confess our sins before him. This helps explain why Moroni prays for grace in verse 36, so that we might have charity. In verse 34 Moroni states that we cannot inherit that place prepared for us in the heavens except we have charity, thus charity is something that will help us overcome (or compensate for) our general state of weakness. This prayer for the general virtue of charity stands in contrast to a prayer asking for specific strengths in light of specific weaknesses.
- Ether 12:38-41: Grace. In the New Testament, grace is a translation of the Greek charis, which can mean "that which affords joy or pleasure." While we typically think of grace as something that God has for us (as in good feelings towards us or pleasure in us), perhaps God having grace means something more along the lines of God affording us joy or pleasure. In other words, we have the grace of God when we take pleasure or joy in Him. If this is the case, seeking after Him and trying to serve him gives us pleasure and joy which abides in us.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Ether 12:2: What does it mean when it says that Ether "could not be restrained" from going and preaching the Gospel to the people? Was he physically compelled? In Alma 43:1 it mentions Alma the younger having a similar experience: "And Alma, also, himself, could not rest, and he also went forth." Did these men both just have such strong convictions of the Gospel that they couldn't bear to not be preaching it? Do the prophets today experience the same thing?
- Ether 12:4: What is the "better world" mentioned here?
- Ether 12:5: It is clear that "seeing" is a major question here for the Jaredites, as well as for Moroni in the next verse. What role does seeing play in these verses, and how does it open up the themes Moroni is considering as he recounts the Jaredite history?
- Ether 12:7-8: How do we reconcile the phrase "for [Christ] showed himself not unto the world" in verse 7 with the phrase in verse 8 "[Christ] has shown himself unto the world"?
- Ether 12:8: What is the heavenly gift?
- Ether 12:11: How was the law of Moses given by faith--and how is that related to the ordinations mentioned in verse 10?
- Ether 12:11: How is the "gift of [Christ]" a "more excellent way" than the law of Moses (see discussion of the heavenly gift in Ether 12:8)?
- Ether 12:11: What does the word "it" refer to at the end of the verse?
- Ether 12:27: Come unto the Lord. How are we to "come unto" the Lord?
- Ether 12:27: Show. How does the Lord show us our weakness when we come unto Him? What does it mean for weakness to be shown? Can we understand our weakness without coming unto the Lord?
- Ether 12:27: What does it mean that the Lord gives us "weakness"? Is this a reference to the general weakness of our fallen natures?
- Ether 12:27: Humility. What does it mean to be truly humble? How do we become humble? Is humility a choice? What might lead us to become humble? How might our weakness help us to be humble? What other choices might we have in dealing with our weakness? What happens if we don't allow our weakness to make us humble?
- Ether 12:27: Grace. What is grace?
- Ether 12:27: Sufficient. What does it mean to speak of grace as being "sufficient" for us?
- Ether 12:27: Humble. What is true humility?
- Ether 12:27: Themselves. What does it mean for us to humble ourselves? Can anyone really make us humble?
- Ether 12:27: Before me. What does it mean to be humble before the Lord? Is there any other type of humility? What constitutes being humble before the Lord? Is it more than just acknowledging sin or weakness?
- Ether 12:27: Faith. What does faith in the Lord have to do with being humble and being made strong? How do we exercise a faith in the Lord that can make us strong?
- Ether 12:27: Verse 12:27: I. The Lord says that He will make us strong if we are humble and exercise faith. How does the Lord do that? Is this a process or an all of a sudden change? How is this a manifestation of grace?
- Ether 12:27: Will. What does it mean that the Lord will make weak things strong? What kind of promise might this entail? How does this reflect the Lord's will? Does this promise imply that the Lord wants to do this, that this is his will?
- Ether 12:27: Weak things. Is there a difference between weakness and a weak thing? Why are weak things pluralized here? Does that reflect specific areas or manifestations of weakness in an individual, or the collective weakness of everyone, or is it just a reference to all of us as fallen or weak mortal beings?
- Ether 12:27: Become. What does it mean that the weak things will become strong? Does this happen in this life, or does this reflect a restitution or change brought about in the resurrection? Does this indicate a sudden change, or a process of change, or can we even tell that from this verse?
- Ether 12:27: Strong. What does it mean for us to speak of a weak thing becoming strong? What does it mean to be strong?
- Ether 12:36: Why would Moroni pray for the Gentiles?
- Ether 12:36: What is the relationship between grace and charity?
- Ether 12:36: How is grace given by God?
- Ether 12:37: Why wouldn't it matter to Moroni if the Gentiles have charity?
- Ether 12:37: Why would the Lord tell Moroni essentially to "not worry about others, you're gonna be OK"?
- Ether 12:37: What is the relationship between seeing your weakness and being "made strong"?
- Ether 12:37: What does it mean to "sit down" in the mansions of the Father?
- Ether 12:37: What are the "mansions" of the Father?
- Ether 12:38-41: Did Moroni anticipate that this would be where he ended his writing upon the plates? He seems like he's ultimately wrapping things up in these last few verses of this chapter.
- Ether 12:38: What does Moroni anticipate will happen "before the judgment-seat of Christ"?
- Ether 12:38: What does having unspotted garments have to do with the judgement?
- Ether 12:38: What does it mean to have garments spotted or unspotted with blood?
- Ether 12:39: Why would Jesus appear to Moroni "face to face"?
- Ether 12:39: What does it mean for Jesus to speak "in plain humility"?
- Ether 12:39: Can we have a similar face to face experience with Jesus, or is this a unique experience?
- Ether 12:40: Why does Moroni say that he has a "weakness in writing"?
- Ether 12:41: What does it mean to "seek this Jesus"? How is this done?
- Ether 12:41: What does seeking Jesus have to do with obtaining grace?
- Ether 12:41: What is grace?
- Ether 12:41: What is the grace of God? Is this something that God has for us, or something we have for God?
- Ether 12:41: How does grace "abide in you forever"
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- Ether 12:4: Hope and predestination. See this post by LXXLuthor at the FPR blog for a discussion of Paul's teaching on communal predestination and how it contrasts to the more common individual-foreordination interpretation of Paul by Mormons, and how these issues suggest a predestination reading of this verse that affords more assurance than a foreordination-type reading.
- Ether 12:27. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Beware of false inadequacy, exaggerated imperfection, and needless guilt. Elder Perkins counsels us to place our burdens on Jesus Christ. "When you feel overwhelmed by expectations and challenges, do not fight the battle alone."
- See also 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, quoted here from the NIV translation. "To keep me [Paul] from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
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