Previous: Mormon Chapter 9  |      Book Home      |   Next: Ether Chapter 2

The Book of Ether

The record of the Jaredites, taken from the twenty-four plates found by the people of Limhi in the days of king Mosiah.

As Moroni recorded the book of Ether onto the plates of Mormon, he either used King Mosiah's translation of the twenty-four plates of Ether and produced an abridgment of that record, or he re-translated the Jaredite plates themselves, making both a translation and an abridgment. The text is not clear on this point. In making his record, Moroni did not give a full account of the Jaredites (see Ether 1:5), rather he selected only certain specific materials. Later on, he will comment that he included only a "hundredth part" of the prophet Ether's record on the plates of Mormon (Ether 15:33). The record covers about fifteen hundred years of Jaredite history from the time of the tower of Babel to the destruction of the Jaredite nation.

In including the Jaredite record onto the plates of Mormon, it is likely that Moroni was following his father Mormon's instructions. Mormon had previously written, while giving an account of the discovery and translation of the twenty-four gold plates of Ether, "And this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account" (Mosiah 28:19).

The Jaredite record is the saga of a people who may have existed for as long as two thousand years-from the time of the Tower of Babel in approximately 2200 BC (for further speculation about this date, see below) to the time the last surviving Jaredite king, Coriantumr, is found by the Mulekites, somewhere between 600 BC and 200 BC. Moroni chronicles at least thirty generations of people. The Bible gives an account of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11), but a precise date for the tower is not known.

In the opening scenes of the book of Ether, the reader is presented with a people being driven out of a land, but promised that their language, perhaps the Adamic language, would not be taken from them. God will also make promises to them, or covenants with them, that contain the essential elements of the covenant later made with Father Abraham. These elements include priesthood, posterity, and a land of inheritance. Modern revelation makes it clear that these covenants, often referred to as the Abrahamic covenant, were previously and subsequently made with Adam and the other patriarchs (see Moses 6:65-68; Moses 7:51; Moses 8:2, also see Old Testament Student Manual 70-72). This covenant is also the "new" and everlasting covenant that God established in this dispensation (see D&C 49:9; D&C 66:2; D&C 66:132:2-7). According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The covenant made with the fathers was that their seed after them should receive the same gospel, the same priesthood, the same promise of salvation, that blessed the lives of those with whom the covenant was first made" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 524).

Chapter Outline of Ether

A brief outline of the book of Ether, worth committing to memory, is as follows:

Ether 3 The brother of Jared sees the finger and the body of the Lord; his great vision of the earth the account of which is sealed up by Moroni.

Ether 8 Moroni warns of secret combinations.

Ether 12 The Prophet Moroni on Faith, Hope, and Charity

Ether 15 The Great and Final Battle of the Jaredites-Coriantumr kills Shiz.

Ether Chapter 1

1 And now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country.

verse 1 "This north country" is the land Desolation, north of the narrow neck of land. Moroni was familiar with this land and was probably writing from that area.

2 And I take mine account from the twenty and four plates which were found by the people of Limhi, which is called the Book of Ether.

verse 2 Again, as has been mentioned above, it is unclear whether Moroni made an independent translation of the twenty-four plates, or whether he simply abridged king Mosiah's translation of those plates.

3 And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews-

verse 3 "the first part of this record" In using the term "this record," Moroni is referring to either the twenty-four plates of Ether themselves or king Mosiah's translation of them. He avers that the Jewish scriptures contain other accounts of the creation of the world, of Adam, and of other event down to the time of the building of the great tower (Genesis 1-11). We will learn in the next verses that he has decided not to include this account in the book of Ether.

"the great tower" See the discussion on "the tower" in the commentary for Omni 1:22.

4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account.

verse 4 "they are had upon the plates" A careful reading of this verse, and particularly this phrase, suggests that Moroni may have the plates of Ether in his possession, and may have made his own translation.

He suggests that whosoever finds the twenty-four plates of Ether in the latter days would have power to translate them. Also, he indicates that the early record-from Adam to the tower of Babel-is, indeed, contained on this record. Oh, that someone could indeed find them!

5 But behold, I give not the full account, but a part of the account I give, from the tower down until they were destroyed.

verse 5 It would seem that Moroni did not feel it necessary to include from the plates of Ether the account of the creation of the world from the story of Adam through to the days of the tower of Babel. As mentioned, he knew that this account was available to his readers elsewhere.

verses 6-33 In these verses Moroni provides us with a genealogy of Ether, the last of the Jaredite prophets. It is likely that it is not a complete genealogy. Note that he sometimes writes "son of" and at other times he writes "a descendant of."

6 And on this wise do I give the account. He that wrote this record was Ether, and he was a descendant of Coriantor.

7 Coriantor was the son of Moron.

8 And Moron was the son of Ethem.

9 And Ethem was the son of Ahah.

10 And Ahah was the son of Seth.

11 And Seth was the son of Shiblon.

12 And Shiblon was the son of Com.

verses 11-12 "Shiblon" here is probably an error. His name is really "Shiblom" (see Ether 11:4; Ether 11:5; Ether 11:7; Ether 11:9).

13 And Com was the son of Coriantum.

14 And Coriantum was the son of Amnigaddah.

15 And Amnigaddah was the son of Aaron.

16 And Aaron was a descendant of Heth, who was the son of Hearthom.

17 And Hearthom was the son of Lib.

18 And Lib was the son of Kish.

19 And Kish was the son of Corom.

20 And Corom was the son of Levi.

21 And Levi was the son of Kim.

22 And Kim was the son of Morianton.

23 And Morianton was a descendant of Riplakish.

24 And Riplakish was the son of Shez.

25 And Shez was the son of Heth.

26 And Heth was the son of Com.

27 And Com was the son of Coriantum.

28 And Coriantum was the son of Emer.

29 And Emer was the son of Omer.

30 And Omer was the son of Shule.

31 And Shule was the son of Kib.

verses 30-31 The name Shule invites some interesting speculation as one compares it with the Mayan word "Xul" (pronounced exactly the same as "Shule"). The "X" is pronounced "SH." "Xul" is the name of one of the Mayan months. The "SH" sound is very commonly used in Jaredite names in the Book of Mormon such as Shiz, Shem, Shim, and Shiblom.

32 And Kib was the son of Orihah, who was the son of Jared;

verse 32 We thus learn that Ether is a direct descendant of Jared.

The prophet Ether has just recounted his genealogy from himself back to the brother of Jared. He has mentioned thirty individuals, in order, counting himself and Jared. It is quite remarkable that in the remainder of the book of Ether, he gives an account of each one of these thirty characters in exactly the reverse order. This is especially remarkable in view of the fact that Joseph "translated" the record of the Jaredites without referring to any book or list (see "The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon" in Appendix A in volume 2 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine). How did Joseph keep them all straight if he was not able to refer to a list? The answer is: He didn't need a list! He didn't need to worry about keeping them straight! He didn't have the names written down anywhere. He was just reading as the Lord revealed the book of Ether to him. It was the prophet Ether who did the writing, editing, and organizing.

33 Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered.

verse 33 The Jaredites probably came from Mesopotamia where tradition places the tower of Babel. It seems likely if their journey began there, they probably crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica.

The date of the tower incident is uncertain. Fundamentalist Christians and some Latter-day Saints have accepted a date of around 2200 BC, but there is no adequate basis in the Bible for such a date. Joseph L. Allen, after studying the writings of the sixteenth century Mesoamerican scholar Ixtlilxochitl (pronounced ixt-leel-so-che-tl), provided an alternate view of the date of the Jaredites' journey to the New World. He has concluded they landed in the Americas approximately 2698 BC. Thus, he surmises, "the tower of Babel can be dated at approximately 2700 BC" (Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 256). John L. Sorenson has suggested a date of about 3100 BC or a bit later ("The Years of the Jaredites," a FARMS reprint). Dr. Sorenson notes that architectural form of the ziggurat or temple-tower, whose remains still dot the plain of southern Iraq, first appears in the concluding centuries of the fourth millennium BC. He also writes: "The flood/tower combination of Genesis is undoubtedly derived from the same source as the flood/tower record of secular Mesopotamian history. The latter is most comfortably dated in the second half of the fourth millennium BC. On this basis a date for the beginning of the Jaredite story can be estimated. About 3100 BC is acceptable; possibly it could be a little later" (Ibid.).

The tower of Babel, described further in Genesis 11, is considered by many scholars to have been a Babylonian temple ("Babel," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 2:334). This apostate temple was an attempt by an ambitious and wicked people to imitate true temple worship (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites, 154-68). In Babylonian or Akkadian the meaning of Babel was "gate of God." The focus of these apostate temple builders was to "reach unto heaven . . . and make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4). But what kind of a name might an apostate covet, hoping to avoid being scattered abroad? Apparently they were trying to establish a name by which they might be saved, but not the name of Jesus Christ. By building a great monument, they were trying to establish for this name a reputation and fame among men, and thus render it valid. The king/prophet Benjamin would later declare "that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent" (Mosiah 3:17). Speaking of the Lord's placing his name in the true temples, Elder Dallin Oaks concluded:

All of these references to ancient and modern temples as houses for "the name" of the Lord obviously involve something far more significant than a mere inscription of his sacred name on the structure. The scriptures speak of the Lord's putting his name in a temple because he gives authority for his name to be used in the sacred ordinances of that house. That is the meaning of the prophet's reference [Joseph Smith's reference in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland temple] to the Lord's putting his name upon his people in that holy house ("Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ," Ensign [May 1985], 15:80-83).

The term "tower of Babel" is not actually used in the Book of Mormon record.

This rebellion at the tower of Babel was interrupted when the Lord scattered the people abroad because of their apostasy (Genesis 11:9). In the case of the group that were scattered with Jared and his brother, the Lord was scattering a righteous seed for the purpose of preserving that remnant.

Jared, in Hebrew, means "to go down." The brother of Jared, like Moses and other prophets, has been noted to be a type of the Savior.

34 And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.

verse 34 Moroni never gives us the name of Jared's brother, rather he consistently refers to him as "the brother of Jared." He is obviously the spiritual leader of Jared's people. Why is his name never mentioned? Daniel H. Ludlow has suggested three possible reasons: (1) the brother of Jared himself may, out of modesty, have purposely omitted his name from the record in similar manner as did John in recording his gospel; (2) the prophet Ether was a descendant of Jared and not the brother of Jared. Perhaps Ether simply wanted to emphasize the name of his progenitor. (3) Moroni may have found the name too difficult to translate adequately into the reformed Egyptian (see A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 310).

The name of the brother of Jared was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith. Elder George Reynolds recounted: "While residing in Kirtland 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 Moriancumer. When he had finished the blessing he laid the child on the bed, and turning to Elder Cahoon, he said, the name I have given 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 known in the Church in this dispensation" ("Jaredites," Juvenile Instructor, 27:282).

35 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded.

verse 35 Obviously Jared and his brother were granted an exception from the confusion of tongues.

36 Then Jared said unto his brother: Cry again unto the Lord, and it may be that he will turn away his anger from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language.

37 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded.

verses 34-37 "therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded" The text never makes it perfectly clear what is meant by the confounding of language. The word confound means something like "throw into confusion." This confounding could have resulted in the rather abrupt onset of the people's being unable to understand one another. We would presume that, as a result of the prayerful pleading of the brother of Jared, that Jared and his family, the brother of Jared and his family, and their friends and their families were all left speaking the same language and therefore able to communicate with one another. What language did they speak? This, of course, is unknown. Perhaps it was the language of Adam, the so-called "Adamic language."

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught: "They carried with them the speech of their fathers, the Adamic language, which was powerful even in its written form, so that the things Mahonri [Moriancumer] wrote 'were mighty even unto the overpowering of man to read them.' That was the kind of language Adam had, and this was the language with which Enoch was able to accomplish his mighty work" (The Way to Perfection, 60). There is likely more to the account of the retaining of the original or Adamic language than what initially meets the eye. The book of Moses describes the language of Adam as "pure and undefiled" (Moses 6:5-6). The book of Moses describes Enoch's faith as causing him to be feared among men because "so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him" (Moses 7:13).

38 And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.

39 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord according to that which had been spoken by the mouth of Jared.

40 And it came to pass that the Lord did hear the brother of Jared, and had compassion upon him, and said unto him:

41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.

42 And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.

verse 42 "the valley which is northward" This phrase refers to a valley in the Eastern hemisphere in which the group was to gather as they began their journey to the Western hemisphere (see Ether 2:1).

"a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth" This phrase refers to an area in the New World, the Western Hemisphere. Again, we learn that the Lord regards at least some parts of the Americas to be choice above all the lands of the earth.

43 And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.

verse 43 "I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me" Like the prophet Enos, the brother of Jared received an answer to his prayers because of his diligent persistence in prayer and likely his careful listening following his prayer. Obviously, this verse should serve as a reminder to all of us of the necessity of our being diligent and persistent in our prayers-even "wrestling" with the Lord (Alma 8:10, cf. Enos 1:4).

Previous: Mormon Chapter 9  |      Book Home      |   Next: Ether Chapter 2