(Rough Draft with no references.)
Book of Mormon Lesson 45
“Never Has Man Believed in Me As Thou Hast”
A. Today we will be starting the Book of Ether. I would just like to briefly review the source of the Book of Ether. We have it today in a very round about way.
1. Remember that way back in the Book of Omni we learn of a group of people who separated themselves from the Nephites to go south, to the land of Nephi (they had left this land to the Lamanites years before). These became the people of wicked King Noah and later his son King Limhi. They were living in the mists of the Lamanites and were eventually defeated by them and placed in bondage to them. King Limhi sent and expedition to try to find the land of Zarahemla. They were lost and instead found a land covered with bones. They assumed it was the land of Zarahemla destroyed (but it was actually the remains of the people of Ether). They found 24 gold plates there which contained the history of the people of Ether whose civilizations was destroyed before Lehi’s family came to the New World.
2. King Limhi’s people eventually made it back to Zarahemla and gave the plates to King Mosiah who had the gift of translation.
3. Read Mosiah 28:17-19. From these verses we learn that Mormon had always planned on including the Book of Ether in his record, but he died before he actually could. It is Moroni who actually introduces the Book of Ether in the first verses. I assume he did this at the instruction of his father, Mormon.
B. In the Book of Mormon (within the Book of Mormon) we have essentially finished the history of the Nephites and watched their destruction. (The Book of Moroni just has a few final notes.) In the Book of Ether we see many parallels with the rest of the Book of Mormon. Both give the account of people who separated themselves from wicked societies (the Jaredites from Babel and the Lehites from Jerusalem), both come to the promised land, both separate into different groups after the death of the original leaders, and both groups eventually become so wicked themselves that they are destroyed. Both histories were written for us today, and those of us who inhabit the “promised land” have been adequately warned that God will only protect and preserve the inhabitants of this land if they are righteous.
II. The Tower of Babel.
A. I constantly have to remind myself when I read the scriptures that God never intended them to be a detailed and accurate history book. The spiritual lessons learned from these stories are far more important to us then their historicity. The story of the Tower of Babel is dismissed by many as a mythological tale explaining why people speak different languages. We have other explanations for this now - we have an understanding of how languages develop and change over time. However, because it is also mentioned in the Book of Mormon, we have to assume that the Tower of Babel story must also represent some historical event, although neither the Bible or the Book of Mormon give us many details.
B. The Jewish historian Josephus speaks of the Tower of Babel: “Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such and affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power....Now the multitude were ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work; and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect.......When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners [in the Flood]; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion.
1. So the reason for building the tower of Babel was to challenge God, whether literally or figuratively.
2. We can see in this account the modern parallels of Humanism.
3. Also, we see a government trying to make the people beholden to them instead of God.
C. Tradition holds that the Tower of Babel was built at Etemenanki in modern day Iraq. There are ruins of ziggurats in Iraq today.
III. The Brother of Jared
A. I always thought it was interesting that the most important character in the Book of Ether is not even mentioned by name. We only know him by his brother’s name - “the Brother of Jared.” Why do you think the Book of Ether does not name him? We learn that Ether, the compiler of the history of the Jaredites, was a direct paternal descendent of Jared, not his brother. The lineage of the monarchy must have gone through Jared and not his brother.
B. About 4000 years later we learn the name of the Brother of Jared through Joseph Smith. Brother George Reynolds relates: “While residing in Kirkland Elder Reynolds Cahoon had a son born to him. One day when President Joseph Smith was passing his door he called the Prophet in and asked him to bless and name the baby. Joseph did so and gave the boy the name of Mahonri Moriancaumer. When he had finished the blessing he laid the child on the bed, and turning to Elder Cahoon he said, the name I have vine your son is the name of the brother of jared; the Lord has just shown it to me. Elder William F. Cahoon, who was standing near, heard the Prophet make this statement to his father; and this was the first time the name of the brother of Jared was know in the Church in this dispensation.:
IV. The Jaredites are spared from having their language confused.
A. Read Ether 1:33-37.
1. Why do you think that Jared asked his brother to pray to the Lord instead of doing it himself? He had faith in his brother’s faith. Perhaps he doubted his own faith.
a. I admit that when my family needs something of the Lord, I often ask my wife to pray for it because I have more faith in her faith than I do in my own.
B. Read Ether 1:38-43.
1. God promises to take the people of Jared to a promised land. Why? :”because this long time ye have cried unto me.” Does God promise them this because he’s tired of listening to the brother of Jared whine? More likely because his prayers are a manifestation of his faith.
C. They are lead to a land northward by the sea. Brother Daniel Rona, a Jewish Mormon who was born in Israel and takes tour groups to Israel speculates: “The Brother of Jared listened to the Lord as he was told to gather seeds of every kind, gather animals and gather his family. Gathering is a strong metaphor of returning to Heavenly Father’s presence. The gathering of this Jaredites family was to the “north” at Nimrod. I immediately thought of the north of Israel, close to the Syrian border, where an old Crusader fortress called Nimrod’s Castle still stands. Nimrod is known locally as a Syrian warlord and hunter.”
1. So if Brother Rona is correct, they were at the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
D. God promises the Jaredites a promised land. Read Ether 2:7-12..
1. This is a warning to us in the “promised land” today also.
2. What can we do as individuals to preserve this “promised land.”
3. Moroni, who is abridging this for us, has just witnessed the fulfilment of this promise.
E. Read Ether 2:14.
1. Why did the Lord chasten the brother of Jared? For being complacent in calling on the Lord.
2. Why do you think the brother of Jared had not called on the Lord the way he should have? Things may have been going well for them. They may have been comfortable and not excited about crossing the sea to the “promised land.” (Parallel with Lehi’s Children in the land of Bountiful.)
3. How can we avoid becoming complacent in our prayers?
F. The brother of Jared’s response to chastening. Read Ether 2:15.
1. When we are chastised by leaders our natural response is to become defensive. The brother of Jared immediately repents.
2. Neal A Maxwell said: “Whatever the case, if we cannot endure chastening we do not yet qualify as true disciples.”
3. I am reading Richard Bushman’s history of Joseph Smith - Rough Stone Rolling right now. Many of the early leaders in the church were lost because they did not take chastisement from the Prophet well. Those who humbly submitted to his constructive criticism were better off for it.
V. The Jaredites build barges and the brother of Jared sees the Lord.
A. The Lord commands the brother of Jared to build barges - “exceedingly tight, even that they would old water like a dish, and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish.” The ends were “peaked”. They made a hole at the top and bottom to stop and unstop to breath. But there was no light.
B. Read Ether 22-23. What is the Lord doing here. He does not just give the brother of Jared the answer. He makes him figure it out for himself.
1. Harold B. Lee said: It was as though the Lord were saying to [the brother of Jared], ‘Look, I gave you a mind to think with, and I gave you agency to use it. Now you do all you can to help yourself with this problem; and then, after you’ve done all you can, I’ll step in to help you.’”
2. Gordon B Hinckley often said: “I don’t know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work.
C. Read what the brother of Jared did. Ether 3:1-5.
D. Jared sees the Lord. Read Ether 3:6-13.
1. Why was the brother of Jared able to see the Lord.
2. This is a promise made to all of us. We can all see the Lord if we have enough faith
a. Read D&C 67:10-13
b. Read D&C 93:1
E. We then learn something about Jehovah here, that he is Jesus Christ that will come. Read Ether 3:14-16.
1. Joseph Fielding Smith said: “All revelation since the fall has come through Jesus Christ, who is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. In all of the scriptures, where God is mentioned and where he appeared, it was Jehovah who talked with Abraham, with Noah, Enoch, Moses and all the holy prophets. He is the God of Israel, the Holy One of Israel; the one who led the nation out of Egyptian bondage, and who gave and fulfilled the law of Moses. The Father [that is Elohim] has never death with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son.”
2. He also said: “The Father has honored Christ by placing his name upon him, so that he can minister in and through that name as though he were the Father; and thus, so far as power and authority are concerned, his words and acts become and are those of the Father.”
D. Read that the brother of Jared’s faith was so great that God could not withhold knowledge and understanding from him.
1. Read Ether 3:24-26.
2. Read Ether 4:4
3. Read Ether 4:7
4. What does it mean to you that God has promised you the same knowledge as the brother of Jared if you will have enough faith?
VI. Moroni testifies of the Book of Mormon
A. Moroni speaks of the coming forth of the book of Mormon and predicts that there will
be those who contend against it.
1. Read Ether 4:8-10.
B. We are told a good way to know if something is of God. Read Ether 4:11-12.
A. The Book of Ether teaches us the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel.
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ - we learn that it was because of the brother of Jared’s great faith that he was able to accomplish and see what he did.
2. Repentance - remember that he needed to repent when God chastised him - for 3 hours - before he could continue with his mission to take his people to the promised land.
3. Baptism- read Ether 4:18
B. We see that although the brother of Jared saw, learned and did great things - “Never were greater things mad manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.” - that it really did depend on the very basics - the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel.