Ether 13:1-12

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Ether > Chapters 12-15 > Chapter 13a / Verses 13:1-12
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Relationship to Chapters 12-15. The relationship of Chapter 13a to the rest of Chapters 12-15 is discussed at Chapters 12-15.

Story. Chapter 13a consists of four major sections:

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 13a include:


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  • The Jaredites and the Israelites. We are used to the Book of Mormon talking about Israel from time to time, so we might not notice something strange going on here. While it is normal to talk to the Nephites and Lamanites about Israel (indeed one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to make sure their descendants know that they are of Israel!), the Jaredites are not of Israel. The Jaredites left before there was a covenant established with Israel. They left before the original Jerusalem had been built. They did leave after Enoch's city had been taken up to heaven (although not called a New Jerusalem at that point I assume). And they did have their own covenant (the covenant that the Jaredites received can be found in Ether 1:42-43.) But the Jaredites are not Israel, and they don't the particular covenant that Israel has. It seems safe to assume that what Ether is teaching the Jaredites in verses 2-12 is something new to them.
Therefore, we can approach these verses in two ways:
  1. what do they teach us about Israel, the New Jerusalem, etc. (this is what the following commentary as done thus far) and also
  2. what was Ether doing by teaching the Jaredites about Israel, the New Jerusalem, etc.?
As a beginning to the latter question, in general it seems that Ether is inviting the Jaredites to stick around a little longer (don't get yourself destroyed!) so that they can meet these Israelites, learn about their covenant, and become adopted into it. More of how these verses would have sounded to the Jaredites can be added below in the verse-by-verse commentary.
How this relates to the title page of the Book of Mormon. One of the promises that Israel (and Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Adam, etc) get is that there will be some of their seed alive at the second coming. (See D&C 107 on that point.) Isaiah constantly reminds Israel that even though they forget God, God has promised not to forget them. There will always be a remnant left to carry on the work of the covenant, even if that remnant needs some reminding of who they are. The Jaredites, on the other hand, have no such promise. They are a chosen people who have prophets, etc., but as far as we know there is no record of them receiving the specific promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. This becomes quite clear when the Jaredites are actually completely destroyed. The Nephites/Lamanites are given a remnant to redeem their family and carry on the work of teaching the gospel; the Jaredites are not. It seems that perhaps Ether was trying to keep them around so that they could be adopted into that family, but as things played out they were not and did not receive those blessings.
This may be what Moroni meant when he wrote on the title page: "An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever"
  • Ether 13:1. Moroni returns explicitly to the question of "the destruction of the people," the Jaredites. As it turns out, this focus on destruction will be vital to this chapter.
  • Ether 13:2. This verse opens by pinning the destruction mentioned in verse 1 on the Jaredite reception of Ether: in that the people reject the words of Ether, they go on to destruction. This point will turn out to be absolutely vital in understanding the importance of the few handful of verses in this chapter, because it is precisely because the Jaredites refused to believe the words that Moroni will attribute to Ether here that they were destroyed. And curiously, they are words that outstrip--undeniably outstrip--Jaredite concerns. The message comes as an untimely one, but one that meant the difference between exaltation (literally, it appears) and absolute destruction.
As Moroni begins to summarize the message of Ether, he offers first a sort of blanket statement: "he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man." The point is curious, because it gives one a sense that Ether is a prophet in the same full sense that the Brother of Jared had been a prophet: both have had visions that encompass the whole of everything. The odd thing is that the Brother of Jared was commanded to seal all of these things up until Christ should come upon the earth, but Ether is commanded--or at least he feels he ought to--announce these things to everyone. In contrast, Moroni is forbidden to write more about Ether's prophecies in verse 13. Nevertheless, the contents of Ether's visions may have been somewhat more limited than the Brother of Jared's: Ether's concerns "all things, from the beginning of man," whereas the Brother of Jared's visions seem to have extended beyond the realm of "man." At any rate, there is an interesting tie between the first and last prophets of the Jaredite history--not unlike the curious tie between Nephi's language and Moroni's language.
As Moroni moves onto the actual content of Ether's teachings, the first subject to be taken up is the sanctification of the Promised Land. It is not quite clear, it must be admitted, whether "after the waters had receded from off the face of this land" refers to the waters of the creation as described in Gen 1 or to the waters of the flood. If one, however, takes this reference in the much broader scope of LDS scripture and the sayings of the early prophets, it seems clear that this is referring to the flood, since the antediluvian patriarchs lived in the Americas. If this is an appropriate reading, then the flood seems to have sanctified and cleansed the American continent to prepare it for a new people, and the Jaredites did not arrive too long after the flood.
The teachings are summarized so briefly that it is not entirely clear why this land should be "a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord," but much of what Ether goes on, reportedly, to say will open up some interpretive possibilities. The final phrase of the verse is quite clear, but perhaps should be emphasized: all who come upon this land in particular are to "serve him," which implies some sort of covenant relation. All of these details open onto the shocking revelation of verse 3.
  • Ether 13:3. The particularity of "the New Jerusalem" suggests that Ether's hearers (or least latter-day readers: it will be difficult throughout the following verses to decide how much of what is written is summary of Ether and how much of it is Moroni talking to his eventual audience--though here the assumption will be that the words are Ethers) are supposed to understand the reference perfectly. That is, whatever "the New Jerusalem" is, whoever heard this discourse was apparently already quite aware that there would be one. The shocking revelation is that it was to be on this continent. The phrase, "which should come down out of heaven," does seem to function here as a further explanation of the New Jerusalem, but rather as a further explicitation, that is, it is meant to make sure that hearers of the prophecy know exactly what Ether is talking about. If the phrase is read this way, then "the holy sanctuary of the Lord" is supposed to be a parallel reference just as obvious to the people as "the New Jerusalem." In order to begin to think about what this revelation is announcing, one must begin with these two phrases as parallels: "the New Jerusalem" and "the holy sanctuary of the Lord."
While "the New Jerusalem" is certainly a biblical phrase, "the holy sanctuary of the Lord" is not, though "sanctuary of the Lord" shows up in Ezek 48:10, a passage that might well be connected with the Revelation vision of the New Jerusalem. If there is some sort of absolute reference for Ether's words here, it must begin to be thought in the intersection between Ezekiel and Revelation. Perhaps more: while it is clear in this verse that "the New Jerusalem" is to "come down out of heaven," verse 6 describes "a New Jerusalem" that will "be built up upon this land." There are--and it must be pointed out from the very beginning--probably two different "New Jerusalems" at work in this passage, one from heaven and one on the earth. This much said, interpretation of this verse might be undertaken.
Twice in Revelation is the New Jerusalem mentioned: Rev 3:12 and Rev 21:2. Both of these references specifically mention that this New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven, specifically from God. Of the two references, the former is more difficult to interpret because the New Jerusalem is mentioned simply as a promise within another context, but the latter is part of a vision of the New Jerusalem as it descends. That seems to be the place to begin to interpret. The New Jerusalem descends just after the new creation is completed, a new heavens and a new earth. It descends adorned as a bride for the bridegroom (the Lamb in the passage). The city itself is described as a great cube, something like a gigantic holy of holies, and it is paradise itself within, the place of the tree of life. From all of these details, it seems clear that the New Jerusalem is a heavenly thing, not an earthly creation, and that it comes down to give the righteous a place to dwell.
Parallel to this is "the holy sanctuary of the Lord," which might, as mentioned above, be connected with Ezek 48:10. The sanctuary there is the holy of holies of the eschatological temple: that is, it is apparently the New Jerusalem itself. The only detail in this verse that would suggest otherwise is the "and" that seems to separate the two ideas. But it seems best to read "and the holy sanctuary of the Lord" as simply doubling the reference to the heavenly Jerusalem descending. Now, all of these details may connect this with the city of Enoch: in Moses 7:63, the Lord explains to Enoch that at the last day, "Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them [those in an earthly "New Jerusalem"] there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other." All of this suggests a meeting of two New Jerusalems, a heavenly one and an earthly one, as it is put in D&C 84:100: "The Lord hath gathered all things in one. The Lord hath brought down Zion from above. The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath."
  • Ether 13:4. With all of these details, it is possible to approach verse 4, where Ether begins to speak of "a New Jerusalem upon this land," apparently another New Jerusalem, but one built up by men. What is perhaps odd about this verse is that this business is somehow connected with "the days of Christ." At first blush, one would probably assume that "the days of Christ" would refer to the time when Jesus was on earth. A closer look, however, reveals that things may be somewhat more complicated here. Since everything surrounding the phrase is referring to the last day when the two New Jerusalems meet, it seems it might be better to understand the phrase to be referring to the days in which Christ reigns among the people. On this account, it might be important that the name "Christ" is used instead of "Jesus" (a name Mormon and Moroni seem at times to prefer): this is the time of the coming again of the Messiah, the time of the issuing in of peace, etc.

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  • Ether 13:3: What does it mean when Ether says that the New Jerusalem will "come down out of Heaven"?
  • Ether 13:6: What is the "type" of the New Jerusalem that is referred to? Is it the old city of Jerusalem? Is it the city of Enoch?
  • Ether 13:8: Here it states that the house of Joseph shall no more be confounded when built upon the New Jerusalem. What does this mean? Are they saying that they will receive the gospel and never have it taken from them again?
  • Ether 13:9: What does it mean when it says there shall be a new heaven and a new earth and that all things will have become new?
  • Ether 13:13: Moroni was going to write more, but was forbidden, just like Nephi when he reached the end of the sixth seal in his prophecy.1 Ne 14:24-27.


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