Ether 3:1-5:6

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Ether > Chapters 1b-6 > Chapter 3-5
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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Chapters 1b-6. The relationship of Chapters 3-5 to the rest of Chapters 1b-6 is discussed at Chapters 1b-6.

Story. Chapters 3-5, the story of the Brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord, consists of several major sections:

● 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)

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 3-5 include:

Discussion[edit]

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Ether 3:1-20[edit]

  • Some hypothesize that the Brother of Jared got the idea of the stones from Noah. In Genesis 6:16 the lord tells Noah to make a window. In Hebrew the word is tsohar which means a dual or double light. Signifying "one for each end," just as the brother of Jared needed for the barges.
  • The Brother of Jared, did not doubt that the Lord could provide them with light, even though the Lord had not given them means of light. In his great faith, the Brother of Jared, invented a solution that could bring light to the ships. He asked this of the Lord, and because of this faith he saw God.
  • Ether 3:9. Relating the Brother of Jared's experience to Alma 32, we could say that he is experiencing the fruits of faith described in Alma 32:37. And when he sees the Lord, his faith could be described as becoming dormant (in the sense of Alma 32:34) regarding the existence of God.
  • Ether 3:13: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall. The wording here suggests that in some sense something that the brother of Jared knows is the cause (not a result) of the Lord manifesting himself to the brother of Jared (cf. "because of the knowledge of this man" in v. 19). The knowledge being referred to here seems to be given in verse 12 where the brother of Jared declares that he knows the Lords speaks (only) truth. This knowledge seems to be what causes the brother of Jared to be redeemed from the fall. Logically, this seems to be an incomplete explanation, there is an assumption that appears to be missing or at least implicit, an assumption that the Lord has told or is telling the brother of Jared that he will be redeemed. This gap in the logic of the account is particularly striking in the context of another curiosity starting in verse 11, namely that the Lord promises to speak, but then shows himself before speaking. That this manifestation of the Lord occurs before the speaking that was promised in a way that effectively interrupts the logic of the Lord's promise to speak seems to double the Lord's speaking itself: the declaration of the brother of Jared's redeemed state is declared before a full explanation of that state is offered. This pattern may also be followed by Moroni himself: he interrupts the narrative in verse 17 before he has finished giving it.
  • Ether 3:19-20. In these verses, Moroni is giving a brief summary of why the brother of Jared was brought into the presence of the Lord, or perhaps better said, not why, so much as how it was possible that such a thing occurred. When compared with Christ's own explanation to the brother of Jared in verses 9, and 13 - 15, this opens up interesting possibilities relating to knowledge, faith, and the relationship between the two. Moroni definitively claims that it is because of the brother of Jared's knowledge that he "could not be kept from beholding within the veil". What Moroni says later is that because the brother of Jared witnessed the finger of the Lord, he fell with fear, for he "knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting". It would seem then that the brother of Jared possessed both knowledge and faith at the same time, but his faith was not the deciding factor in having the right to view Jesus in person. Rather, his knowledge was the key.
The verse ends with the phrase "nothing doubting." It is a curious phrase to say the least, because in our modern LDS understanding of faith, we understand that to have faith is to not doubt in the first place. For Mormon to say "nothing doubting" as a way of describing the giving way of faith to a "perfect knowledge" goes a bit against the grain of the conventional LDS interpretation of faith in the first place. Are we to understand here that the brother of Jared had doubts before viewing Jesus? What were the quality of these doubts? Surely he did not doubt the existence of God, he talked with God all the time, conversed with him in a cloud, and heard his voice on a regular basis. So what, then, about visual confirmation of truth gives rise to a "perfect knowledge" of something, as opposed to knowledge with faith?
Perhaps there is another way of reading the phrase "nothing doubting". It is a bit ambiguous, and although it is perhaps stretching the limits of English grammar, it is not entirely impossible to read the phrase as reading something to the effect of "and nothing doubted anymore," as opposed to "and the brother of Jared didn't doubt anymore." That may not be a fruitful way of understanding the phrase, but let's see where it might take us. The notion of doubt being brought up in the middle of all this is an interesting move on Moroni's part, because throughout the narrative the brother of Jared never shows the slightest inkling of doubt. He opposes even such a possibility in all his language to Christ, for in all Christ's queries, he boldly asserts that he knows something. In fact, the brother of Jared claims "to know" something 3 times in the chapter, twice in his prayer to God before viewing His finger, and once afterwards (v. 2, 5, and 12). The only thing the brother of Jared said he did not know is that the Lord had a finger of flesh and bone like man's (v. 8), but this lack of knowledge does not point to any kind of doubt on the brother of Jared's part, but simply a complete lack of ever even considering the matter in the first place. And yet, he mentions a finger in verse 4, which is a bit problematic, because it then leaves one to wonder what kind of finger the brother of Jared had in mind, if not a fleshy, bony, man-like finger. But at any rate, this lack of knowledge of the Lord's finger only appeared after the veil had been rent in the first place, and seems to bear little on whether or not such a knowledge would have qualified the brother of Jared for the vision. Obviously it didn't disqualify him, because it happened.
What is interesting is that at the precise moment that the brother of Jared first concedes a lack of knowledge on his part, that is when Moroni says he obtained his "perfect knowledge of God, and could not be kept within the veil. Wherefore, he saw Jesus...". It seems that this opening phrase in verse 20 draws the readers' attention back to the opening phrase in verse 19. When compared, they are strikingly similar. v. 19: "He could not be kept from beholding within the veil." v. 20: "he could not be kept within the veil." In the first instance it is a question of sight, in the second instance it shifts to a question of location. In the first instance, there is an element of faith, and, apparently, doubt. In the second instance, those have been swept away by the raw, glorious advent of the viewing of the Son.
These preliminary steps call for a close re-examination, and perhaps a re-reading of verses 2- 18. It is as if one reads verses 2-18 with an element of doubt and faith the first time, but then after seeing Moroni's interpretation of the events can go back and obtain for themselves a more "perfect knowledge" of what is going on. It is almost as if the reader has the opportunity to fear and tremble along with the brother of Jared the advent of the Lord's finger, but then, as the brother of Jared did, with this newfound, more perfect knowledge, one can come to view Christ in His entirety as he did.

Ether 3:21-5:6[edit]

  • Ether 3:23. It appears that the Brother of Jared walked up the mountain with sixteen stones, but came back down with eighteen.
  • Ether 4:1-19. This chapter is a map for obtaining knowledge from heaven. Several keys are provided, along with specific prophesies, warnings and promises. In verse 6, Moroni is informed that the plates will go forth unto the Gentiles at some future day (when the gentiles have repented). The importance of the plates appears to stem not only from their intrinsic value, but we are later told in verse 17 that they are a sign that the work of the Father in the last days will have commenced, which work involves at its core the dispensing of almost unlimited revelation (see verses 13, 14, 16).
Verse 9 reminds us that the heavens are opened and shut at the word of the Lord. In other words, revelation comes and goes at the command of the Lord. When revelation is given, individually we can accept or reject it (verses 10 & 11). If we believe the revelation, the Lord promises manifestations of the spirit that will grant knowledge that what is said is true. A key for identifying manifestations from God is given in verse 12: "whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me." An additional key is given for obtaining knowledge. Verse 15 instructs us to "rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. . ." If we do so, we are promised to receive "great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world" (verse 14). Among these great things is knowledge of the Father's covenant with the house of Israel (verse 15). We are also to have unfolded to us the revelations of John, which will be manifest "in very deed."
The revelations of the restoration are obvious evidence of the fulfillment of these promises, as are arguably the staggering advances in science and technology that have largely come during the same time period.
Note: The general belief is that chapter 4 refers specifically to the sealed portion of the gold plates and not to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
  • Ether 4:1. In Verse 1 the brother of Jared is commanded to write the things that he saw down; however, it is forbidden for these things to be revealed until after Christ resurrects and shows himself to his people. There seems to be some connection between the facts that 1) the words the brother of Jared writes down explain how he saw the body of Christ and 2) that it is forbidden for this information to be revealed until after Christ shows his body to his people. But, the verses don't make clear exactly what the connection is between these two points. Why couldn't the brother of Jared's experience be openly known before Christ shows himself to his people? Since no other explanation is given, it seems that answer is what is said in verse 9--that the Lord gives revelation to his people and withholds revelation when he wants.
  • Ether 4:6. If verse 1 confirms that what the brother of Jared saw could not be had among Israel "until after Christ should show himself unto his people," and if verse 2 suggests that once Christ had come among the Nephites these things were commonly had, then the commandment of verse 3 to "hide [the plates] up again in the earth" must be understood as a consequence of the disappearance of the Nephites ("there is none save it be the Lamanites" Moroni explains in verse 3). However, Moroni states explicitly in verse 5 that he does more than "hide them up again in the earth," and it is only in the present verse that some ground is offered for this further action. If Moroni was further commanded to seal up a portion of the plates, and then to seal up the possibility of interpreting that portion, then, as this verse explains, it was because this portion of the plates was not for the eyes of the Gentiles. That the exclusion at work here is a question of nations and covenants deserves further attention.
A phrase from verse 2 emphasizes that this exclusion is a question of nations and covenants: the experience of the brother of Jared was to be released commonly "after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people." There is a subtle hint here that the experience was only to be shared with the covenant people of the Christ, and then only after He Himself had been in their midst (confirming them His people as King enthroned?). This verse offers a couple of stipulations that must be fulfilled before the Gentiles can have any access to what is recorded in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, but the next verse proceeds to offer further stipulations, and the situation becomes rather complex rather quickly. In the end, there seems to be some connection between this situation and what Christ tells the Nephites in 3 Ne 15:23: Jesus explains that "the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice," that, in fact, He "should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost." Without the very real visitation of the Son, one is not to have access to the sealed portion of the record. But this presents a very real difficulty for the Gentiles, who will "not at any time" have that experience: they can only receive these things by entering into the presence of the Lord by the same commanding faith as the brother of Jared. This realization grounds all the discussion that follows in this chapter.
  • Ether 4:7: Gentiles, Jaredites, and the Brother of Jared. This verse, in the end, sets up a sort of equivalence between the "Gentiles" of verse 6 and the brother of Jared. This pairing is of some significance for the projected history of the Book of Mormon, since the Gentiles will have, according to the pairing, to do what the brother of Jared did to learn of the incredible revelations recorded in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon (that is, they will also have to part the veil uninvited). As it turns out, the pairing is not exactly innovative, just good reading on Moroni's part. Perhaps one of the difficulties of reading the Book of Mormon is the task of trying to sort out where the Jaredites fit into the covenant history of Israel (the awkward phrasing and paragraphing of the title page of the Book of Mormon forces this question). Since the Jaredites left the Near East at the very time Abraham was wandering around in working out his covenant with God, they were not a part of the foundational covenant of Israel. Fascinating as their story is, they are not part of the covenantal history, as far as one can tell. But this pairing of the brother of Jared with the Gentiles makes quite clear that the Jaredites do have a place in the history of the covenant: they are Gentiles. The Hebrew term translated as "Gentile," gwy, first appears in the Hebrew Bible in the genealogical register that founds the story of the tower of Babel. The "Gentiles" are the many nations, specifically, that scatter as the project of the tower comes to an end, and the Jaredites are one of those nations. In the end, the Jaredites--the brother of Jared and his people--are Gentiles.
Hence, the pairing here is rather significant simply because it draws out a point all too easily missed in the course of the Book of Ether and in the stories told here and there of the Nephite encounters with Jaredites and Jaredite traditions (Nibley's two books on the Jaredites shed quite a lot of light on these Nephite encounters). But the most important thing to be learned in the pairing is perhaps the standing of the Gentiles before God: if "they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw," which is clarified as "the unfolding unto them of all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ." If the Gentiles are elsewhere in the Book of Mormon kept at some distance from the Lord (to be taught and included only by the Holy Ghost), then there is opened here the very real possibility of the Gentiles' full acceptance in the actual presence of God. And it comes down to having the same faith as the brother of Jared.
  • Ether 4:7: The Lord Jesus Christ. Up to this point in the chapter, the term Lord seems to refer to the Brother of Jared's vision and the commands that Moroni receives. In this verse, however, the later phrase "saith Jesus Christ" parallels the earlier phrase "saith the Lord." This is made more explicit in verse 8 where the phrase "Jesus Christ" is further clarified "for I am he who speaketh." The further description of Jesus Christ as "the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth" is picked up again in verses 9-12 where the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are elaborated upon. The Godhead seems to be an important theme here for Moroni in describing the manifestation of Christ and the sealed aspect of the vision of the Brother of Jared. There may be a significant similarity here with Nephi's writing when he is discussing the the Godhead in relationship to baptism at the end of 2 Ne 31, but then is constrained from speaking more in 2 Ne 32:7.
  • Ether 4:7: Individual vs. community manifestation. In contrast to the Jews and the Nephites, Christ did not appear to the Jaredites as a people. The tete a tete nature of the Brother of Jared's vision may be part of what Moroni is referring to here in his admonition to "exercise faith ... even as the Brother of Jared did." That is, rather than waiting for a communal manifestation, Moroni may be advocating the Gentiles as individuals to exercise faith in Christ like the Brother of Jared did.
  • Ether 4:13-14. After the equivalence between the Gentiles and the brother of Jared, as worked out in verses 6-7, the structure of these two verses is somewhat surprising: the Israelites and the Gentiles seem to be equated in their relation to the "veil of unbelief" of verse 15. If the Gentiles and the brother of Jared are equivalent in that they can only come into the presence of God through the visitation of the Holy Ghost or through an incredibly superabundant faith that rends the veil, then it is not exactly clear why the Israelites are paired with the Gentiles here. What is most confusing, in the end, is that both the Gentiles and Israel are given the same three word command: "Come unto me." When spoken to the Gentiles, in verse 13, the command seems quite clearly to have reference to the approach as performed by the brother of Jared: the Gentiles are to come before the Lord in an absolutely humble faith, and just so they will be able to rend the veil and pass into the presence of the Lord to see everything. But when the same phrase is spoken to Israel, it is not clear how one should read it. The unquestionable identity with the invitation to the Gentiles suggests that it be read as a similar invitation: Israel is to come in the same humble faith and rend the veil as did the brother of Jared. At the same time, however, that Israel is here in question suggests otherwise, that the invitation is somehow misguided, misplaced, or worded oddly. Clearly, something more is at work here.
Perhaps a first possibility for unraveling this difficulty can be found by thinking the connection implied between the Gentiles and Israel: this is not the only place in the Book of Mormon where the Israelites and the Gentiles are understood to perform their work together before the Lord. In fact, once this pairing is described this way, a thousand passages in the Book of Mormon suddenly come to mind, all suggesting that the Gentiles and Israel are eventually to be combined, the Gentiles joined to Israel in a joint return to the presence of the Lord (the gathering, etc.). But a difficulty nonetheless remains, or rather, this interweaving of Gentiles and Israel does not quite seem to release the tension of the present passage. Throughout the Book of Mormon, the Gentiles are presented as being joined to Israel, the latter being bound, after all, by covenant to the Lord. In the present passage, however, it appears that the Gentiles are the ones with the faith and ability to approach ("come unto me" can only be the approach of the Gentiles/brother of Jared), and it appears as if Israel were attached to the Gentiles in their odd approach, rather than vice versa. There is, in other words, still an important tension between this passage and other Book of Mormon discussions of the Gentiles and Israel: elsewhere Israel seems privileged (through the covenant), but here the Gentiles seem privileged (through the brother of Jared faith/approach).
At the very least, this tension calls for a more careful reading of all Gentile/Israelite relations as worked out in the Book of Mormon.
  • Ether 4:16-19. Isaiah foresaw that a portion of the gold plates would be sealed (Isa 29:11-12). The sealed portion contains a recorded history of the world from the beginning to the end thereof (2 Ne 27:7). It contains the "very things that the Brother of Jared saw" and according to Moroni never were greater things made manifest (Ether 4:4-5). Also in verse 16 Moroni describes that we will find the same general things that were given to us by the book of Revelation in the bible.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • Ether 3:2: In addition to calling upon the Lord, what else must we do to "receive according to our desires"?
  • Ether 3:4: What does the brother of Jared have in mind when he says "touch these stone, O Lord, with thy finger"? Later just that happens, and it freaks him out. Why would it freak him out if exactly what he asks for is what happens?
  • Ether 3:5: Entering the Lord's presence. In this section, the Brother of Jared goes to a sacred mountain, prays to the Lord, and enters the Lord's presence after the Lord parts the veil with his hand. What does this teach us about how to enter the presence of the Lord? Where can modern LDS worshippers obtain a similar experience?
  • Ether 3:6-8: Why is the Brother of Jared's afraid after seeing the Lord's finger?
  • Ether 3:6-8: The Brother of Jared seems shocked to learn that the Lord had a body like ours. As a prophet, why didn't he know that before?
  • Ether 3:6-8: What sort of finger did the brother of Jared expect the Lord to have when he asked the Lord to use his finger in verse 4, and how exactly would such an expectation differ from his actual experience of witnessing a "finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood"?
  • Ether 3:14: The Lord has shown himself unto the brother of Jared and he says that this is the first time he has shown himself because in the past "never has man believed in me as thou hast." What does this mean? Hadn't previous prophets seen the Lord?
  • Ether 3:18: Body of my Spirit. What does it mean to say that the Pre-Mortal Christ has a body? What is the "body of my Spirit" that the Lord shows the Brother of Jared?
  • Ether 3:18: How is the Lord's visit to the Brother of Jared similar to his visit to the Nephites? What is it about His manner of visiting that allows them to know that He is God?
  • Ether 3:19: Because of the knowledge. Verse 9 seems to indicate that Christ manifests himself unto the Brother of Jared because of his faith, whereas here in verse 19 the reason given is knowledge. How are we to understand the relationship between faith and knowledge in these verses? How does this view compare to Alma's use of the terms in Alma 32?
  • Ether 3:20: Having this perfect knowledge. Is this verse saying that the Brother of Jared have perfect knowledge before Christ showed himself? What does "perfect knowledge" mean here?
  • Ether 3:20: Knowledge vs. perfect knowledge. What is the difference between the "knowledge" mentioned in verse 19 and the "perfect knowledge" mentioned in verse 20? (One difference seems to be that "knowledge" in v. 19 is being used in a causal sense whereas "perfect knowledge" in v. 20 seems to be the result of the more preliminary type of knowledge in v. 19....)
  • Ether 3:26-28: When will we receive the full record of the Brother of Jared, including the account of his vision of all things from the beginning to the end?
  • Ether 4:7: This verse seems to offer a challenge to modern readers, promising that we can obtain the same vision that the Brother of Jared saw, if we will exercise the same faith that he did. How can we exercise faith like the Brother of Jared?
  • Ether 4:11-15: How is Christ the light, life, and truth of this world?
  • Ether 4:16: What does the phrase "when ye see these things" mean? To what does "these things" refer?
  • Ether 5:1: What does Moroni mean when he says he is writing according to his memory? What is he remembering? Is he transcribing the record of Ether, or just retelling the story from memory?
  • Ether 5:2: Why was it a privilege for Joseph Smith to let others see the plates?
  • Ether 5:3: Was the power of God in the showing or the seeing?
  • Ether 5:4: How powerful was the testimony of the three witnesses?

Resources[edit]

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  • Ether 3:15: Jackson article. In BYU Studies v. 30(3), Kent Jackson has an article entitled "Never Have I Showed Myself unto Man": A Suggestion for Understanding Ether 1:15a". Jackson first summarizes earlier attempts to explain the presumably problematic "never" in this verse: Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie emphasizing the degree of revelation; Sperry's emphasis on "man" meaning "unbelieving man"; Ludlow's emphasis on "had" meaning the Brother of Jared's faith compelled Christ to show himself;. Then Jackson proposes that what is unique about this appearance is that Jehovah is revealing himself in his role as Jesus Christ, the Son rather than in his role as Father like in other revelations to previous prophets/patriarchs. Also see his article "Christ and the Jaredites" In Studies in Scripture, p. 253-54.

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.



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