Ether Chapter 3
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
1 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
verse 1 High mountain peaks have always been the places where the Lord has communed with his prophets. Other examples have been Mount Sinai with Moses (Exodus 19-20); the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John (Matthew 17); mount Simeon with Enoch (Moses 7:2-4); and Nephi's "high mountain (1 Nephi 11:1; 1 Nephi 18:3). A dedicated temple is the usual house of the Lord-often called the mountain of the Lord's house. Mountain peaks have been used when no temple is available.
"did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones" Regarding this incident, Brother Hugh Nibley asked a question. He then teaches that there was, for the brother of Jared a precedent for using stones to light a sailing vessel that is not found in the Bible:
But who gave the brother of Jared the idea about stones in the first place? It was not the Lord, who left him entirely on his own; and yet the man went right to work as if he knew exactly what he was doing. Who put him on to it? The answer is indicated in the fact that he was following the pattern of Noah's ark, for in the oldest records of the human race the ark seems to have been illuminated by just such shining stones. We have said that if the story of the luminous stones was lifted from any ancient source, that source was not the Talmud (with which the Book of Mormon account has only a distant relationship) but a much older and fuller tradition, with which the Ether story displays much closer affinities. The only trouble here is that these older and fuller traditions were entirely unknown to the world in the time of Joseph Smith, having been brought to light only in the last generation (Approach to the Book of Mormon, 352; see also 336-30; see also Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 366-69).
For other similarities between the Jaredite barges and the ark of Noah, see the commentary for Ether 6:7.
2 O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.
verse 2 "encompassed about" It is interesting to note that the expression "encompassed about" is found only three times in all four standard works, and all three are in the Book of Mormon (see also 2 Nephi 4:18; Ether 6:7). "Encompassed" means encircled or surrounded, but in these three verses of scripture the expression "encompassed about" implies something further. It suggests being surrounded by something that is threatening or dangerous and nearly overwhelming.
"because of the fall our natures have become evil continually" The Book of Mormon does not teach the doctrine of human depravity, but it does teach that man has a "fallen" nature, that within each individual there exists a propensity for the "natural man." Hence, each person is inclined to disobedience and worldliness (see the discussion for Mosiah 3:19). Because of this fallen nature and every man's propensity to commit sin, man cannot return to God's presence without an atonement's being made. The word "nevertheless" in this verse is critical. To teach the fall without holding out the hope of redemption through Christ is to approximate the concept of human depravity.
It would be a mistake to think that man's "natural" inclination to sin originated with the fall and was caused by the fall. While it is true that the mortal body has added significantly to the natural pulls-the biological drives-that every man experiences, man has always found it more comfortable, more pleasurable, more convenient, and simply easier to disobey commandments than to obey them. Obedience has always required resisting and overcoming one's natural urges. During man's existence as intelligences or premortal spirits, and during his existence in the world of spirits, it has never, nor will it be ever, natural and easy to obey. Man must always "deny himself," "cross himself," or "resist his natural self" in order to obey. Were it not so, all would have progressed equally and fully during our premortal phase. We did not so progress. Some were more obedient than others and progressed further. Prior to our spirit birth, there was one who out progressed us all, and he became the Firstborn.
"thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee" The Lord is approachable through prayer.
"that from thee we may receive according to our desires" This phrase contains a joy and a caution. We may well indeed receive what we truly want. The eternal reward of each of us will be meted out according to what is truly in our heart-here referred to as "our desires"-according to our heart.
3 Behold, O Lord, thou hast smitten us because of our iniquity, and hast driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness; nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.
verse 3 "and for these many years we have been in the wilderness" The visit of the Lord to the brother of Jared occurs at least four years after the tower's destruction (see Ether 2:13), and before the group embarks on the ocean voyage to the Western Hemisphere.
4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
verse 4 "touch these stones" Brother Hugh Nibley has discussed fascinating rabbinic legends to the effect that Noah enjoyed light in the ark because he carried with him divinely given shining stones (see the commentary for verse 1). If such stories are true, then the brother of Jared was acting in harmony with the deeds of a prophet who preceded him by less than a century and a half (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, chapter 25).
The glowing stones that provided light for the eight Jaredite vessels has long been a source of ridicule. Comments such as the following are typical: "The story of Ether's stone candles overtaxes marvelousness . . . and these sixteen stone-candles gave light for eight vessels while crossing the ocean to America. Who is eager to believe this story? Shall we believe it simply because we cannot disprove it? They say there is a "man on the moon," and that "the moon is made of green cheese," and we cannot disprove it-shall we therefore believe it?" (William Sheldon, Mormonism Examined, 139-40).
More recently Weldon Langfield expressed his opinion of the shining stones: "The words 'patently ridiculous' seem too kind" (The Truth About Mormonism, 45).
Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico have recently developed radioluminescent lights that invite some interesting comparisons with the Jaredite stones. These lights are intended to "serve needs for lighting where no electricity is readily available." Their life expectancy is about twenty years; they are described as being "bright" and very "intense"; and they are physically harmless (Sandia National Laboratories, News Release, Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 27, 1990, 1) (FARMS Update in Insights [July 1992], 2).
5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.
verse 5 "which looks small unto the understanding of men" The natural man, who is unresponsive to the Spirit of God, cannot understand the workings of God in their proper perspective. The natural man is likely to look upon the magnificent manifestations of God's power and regard it as unimportant or unremarkable. The brother of Jared, hardly a natural man, understood clearly the remarkable miracle it would be if the Lord would only accede to his request.
verses 6-20 These verses record one of the great theophanies in all scripture. The brother of Jared was privileged to see the Lord Jehovah-to receive the Second Comforter.
6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
7 And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?
8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.
9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
verse 9 "never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" Surely the great and irresistible faith the brother of Jared possessed was the product of a lifetime of diligent obedience to the Lord's commands with the consequent receiving of many consequent gifts of the Spirit (see verse 26). We are not simply witnessing a spiritually immature individual gritting his teeth and deliberately forcing himself to submit his will to the Lord's will-to "experiment upon [his] words" (Alma 32:27-29). The brother of Jared was a man of great revealed faith (see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapters 9 and 10: Revealed Faith and Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith). He was a man of great spiritual accomplishment and growth earned through his nearly unparalleled obedience to the law or commands of the gospel. Personal power results from this cumulative spiritual accomplishment. We may refer to this personal power as "faith as power" (see "Faith as Power-the Third Type of Faith" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith). It was this personal power that made it impossible for the Lord to prevent him from seeing his finger, and eventually his entire body. There is scriptural evidence of the lifelong pattern of righteousness and diligent obedience manifest by the brother of Jared. When the people were scattered and their language was confounded in Ether 1, who did Jared ask to go to the Lord and plead for special blessings? It was the brother of Jared (Ether 1:34). Does this not attest to the type of person he was? We have learned that each time the brother of Jared prayed or "cried unto the Lord," the Lord "had compassion" on him (Ether 1:35; Ether 1:37; Ether 1:40). The Lord could hardly refuse him. Note also the Lord's words to him in Ether 1:43: "This long time ye have cried unto me."
When the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord, was he actually viewing part of the spirit body of Jehovah? It is certainly seems likely that the brother of Jared was, in fact, viewing the spirit body of Jehovah (see verses 16-17). Spirit is real substance, real matter, and to a person with eyes to see would be expected to have the appearance of flesh and blood.
"Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood" An alternate view was suggested by President Harold B. Lee who suggested that the experience of the brother of Jared was unique, and that its uniqueness lay in the fact that he saw the Lord Jesus as he would be, that is, he saw a vision of Christ as his body would be during his mortal ministry in some two thousand years: "He saw the finger of the Lord as he touched each of those sixteen stones, and they were luminous. And then he was amazed because he said he saw not only the finger of a spiritual being, but his faith was so great that he saw the kind of a body that he would have when he came down to the earth. It was of flesh and blood-flesh, blood, and bones. And the Master said, 'No man has had this kind of faith.'" (Address to University of Utah Institute faculty, October 12, 1973).
10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
verse 11 The Lord asks a question as a sort of divine pre-assessment of whether or not the brother of Jared is ready for the experience he's about to have. The Lord asks for and receives a covenant.
12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
verse 13 The brother of Jared is redeemed not only from the fall of Adam but from his own fall. He is sealed up to eternal life. He has experienced the Second Comforter. See "Is Having One's Calling and Election Made Sure the Same as Receiving the Second Comforter?" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 16, Calling and Election Make Sure.
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
verse 14 "I am the Father and the Son" By now the reader is likely thoroughly familiar with the reasons why Jesus Christ, the Lord Jehovah, may refer to himself as the Father:
1. Jesus is the Father by virtue of his role as creator of the earth.
2. In his role as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, he became known as the God or Father of heaven.
3. Also those on earth who are "born again" and changed from a fallen state to a state of righteousness, are received into a new family relationship; they become the sons and daughters of Christ (Mosiah 5:7). Thus, Christ becomes their Father.
4. Finally, Christ is the Father by the divine investiture of authority. Speaking of the divine investiture of authority, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, "The Father Elohim has placed his name upon the Son, has given him his own power and authority, and has authorized him to speak in the first person as though he were the original or primal Father" (Promised Messiah, 63).
"In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally" It is interesting to note that in all editions of the Book of Mormon from 1830, verse 14 read: "In me shall all mankind have "light" and that eternally." This does make for a marvelous metaphor since the topic of light started this whole episode, and having illuminated the stones, the Lord says that he is also the source of light to mankind. Since the 1981 edition the word "light" has been replaced with the word "life." The change of wording from "light" to "life" was brought about in the following manner. During the preparation of the 1981 edition, it was brought to the attention of the brethren that even though all printed editions of the Book of Mormon to this time had read "light," the printer's manuscript, from which the type was set for the first edition of the Book of Mormon, clearly said "life." The Scripture Publications Committee, consisting of three members of the Twelve, unanimously agreed that "life" was a stronger word than "light," and the correction was made.
"they shall become my sons and my daughters" They shall become heirs of the celestial kingdom and have "life"-eternal life or exaltation in the presence of God.
15 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
verse 15 "And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created" This expression is difficult to square with what we know about the Lord's dealings with the ancient prophets. We know that he appeared to and conversed with Adam and Eve while in the Garden of Eden (Moses 4:14-27). Adam and many others saw him in a great meeting not long before Adam's death (D&C 107:53-54). Enoch "saw the Lord" and spoke with him "even as a man talketh one with another, face to face" (Moses 7:4). Noah and his sons "walked with God" (Moses 8:27). So, how do we explain this verse? The following explanations have been proffered:
1. First, it could be that the Lord was referring to the uniqueness of this particular theophany in that the brother of Jared was allowed to see the Lord in his flesh and blood body, as he would appear 2,000 years hence. See the commentary for verse 9 above.
2. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: "I have always considered Ether 3:15 to mean that the Savior stood before the brother of Jared plainly, distinctly, and showed him his whole body and explained to him that he was a spirit. In his appearance to Adam and Enoch, he had not made himself manifest in such a familiar way. His appearance to earlier prophets had not been with that same fulness. . . . For the brother of Jared he removed the veil completely" (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:37).
3. Perhaps the Lord's expression "unto man whom I have created" refers to "unbelieving man." Never had the Lord shown himself to those who did not believe on his name, whereas to the faithful-presumably including individuals like Adam and Enoch-he had indeed shown himself as he did to Mahonri Moriancumer.
4. Brother Daniel H. Ludlow suggested that perhaps the Lord was implying that he had never been compelled to show himself by the strength of the man's faith-that the brother of Jared's faith was sufficiently strong that the Lord could not have withheld showing himself (see also verses 9, 20, 26).
5. Perhaps this appearance was unique in that it was the first time that Jehovah had identified himself as the Son rather than assuming the role of the Father by the divine investiture of authority. The Father had honored Christ by placing his name upon him, so that Christ could minister in and through that name as though he were the Father. Hence, so far as power and authority are concerned, Christ's words and acts are those of the Father. When the Lord appeared in ancient times, he did so as the Father, and when he gave revelation to prophets, he spoke of the mortal mission of Jesus Christ in the third person, with the words of and from the perspective of God the Father, as though Jesus Christ were someone else. This explains Jehovah's words concerning Jesus in difficult passages such as Moses 1 and Isaiah 53. To the brother of Jared he said, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ." Perhaps the unprecedented nature of this appearance is a reason why the Lord commanded that the account not be made available to the world until after his mortal ministry (see Ether 3:21).
6. Finally, might the Lord have been simply saying that in your dispensation, the dispensation of the Jaredites, this is the first time I have shown myself to man.
"man whom I have created" Jehovah is the creator of all things, except that he did not create the essence of man. Man's intelligence was not created nor can it be destroyed. It is coexistent with God. Man's spirit body was born to heavenly parents-the heavenly Father and heavenly Mother- in a divine procreative process. One verse of scripture does suggest that somehow Jesus had a role in that embodiment (D&C 93:10). Man's mortal body, of course is born to mortal parents. The Lord did create the mortal materials out of which this mortal body is made. In this verse he may simply be speaking by divine investiture of authority for the Father. The Father's role in our creation, of course, is that he is the Father of our spirits. He is likely also literally the Father of the first mortals-Adam and Eve.
"never has man believed in me as thou hast" What does it mean to "believe in" the Lord? Clearly it means to have faith in him. And what precisely does this mean? See the discussion for the phrase "never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" in verse 9 of this chapter.
16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.
verse 16 "This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit" The phrase "body of my spirit" here is ambiguous. It may refer to the body composed of spirit matter that embodies the Lord's (and every other spirit's) essence or intelligence (D&C 131:7-8). This was his body in his premortal existence. This is the body which was born of his heavenly parents. Or, it may refer to the mortal body of flesh and bone that will embody the Lord's spirit during the Lord's mortal ministry.
The doctrine that the premortal Christ could make such an appearance to man on earth would not square with the Godhead doctrine of most all secular Christian churches. It is notable that one of the very early Christian historians, Eusebius (born AD 260 and later became Bishop of Caesarea) wrote the following remarkable passage, speaking specifically of Christ: "He appeared to Abraham, instructed Isaac, spoke to Israel, and conversed freely with Moses and the prophets who came later, as I have already shown" (G. A. Williamson [translator], Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine [Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965], 47-48). While this concept of Christ is clear to us in the Church, others may find it puzzling. One translator of Eusebius, an Anglican, summarized current secular ignorance: "Eusebius's view that the Old Testament theophanies were appearances of Christ in human form though not yet born a man seems impossible to us. But have we yet solved the problem of reconciling the stories of encounters between men and the Deity with St. John's assertion that no man has ever seen God?" (Ibid., 48n.).
"man have I created after the body of my spirit" See the commentary for the previous verse.
17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.
18 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him.
19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, 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.
verse 19 "because of the knowledge of this man" Moroni refers to the faith of the brother of Jared, at a time previous to his seeing the Lord, as "knowledge. His faith is indeed spiritual knowledge, received incrementally in the form of gifts of the Spirit.
"he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting" After the brother of Jared had seen the Lord with his physical eyes, then he no longer had to rely exclusively on spiritual knowledge or revealed faith (Alma 32:33-34). His secular knowledge was then sure.
20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him.
verse 20 Once the brother of Jared had "perfect knowledge" of God, since he had beheld the Lord with his eyes, apparently this entitled him to further ministrations from "within the veil"-from heaven's side of the veil.
"he did minister unto him" Jesus ministered unto the brother of Jared, and what a session that must have been. The vision that then unfolded unto the brother of Jared remains sealed up to this day.
21 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt not suffer these things which ye have seen and heard to go forth unto the world, until the time cometh that I shall glorify my name in the flesh; wherefore, ye shall treasure up the things which ye have seen and heard, and show it to no man.
verse 21 The things the brother of Jared has seen and will yet see will be written down by him. They will not be revealed to the world until the Lord shall "glorify [his] name in the flesh"-until after his crucifixion and resurrection. The brother of Jared's account of his magnificent vision, indeed the entire Jared record written by the prophet Ether, will come into the hands of Mosiah, the son of Benjamin, who will translate it, but apparently Mosiah did not make the translation available to the Nephite people of his day. Mosiah's translation was made available after his death and resurrection. Whether or not the Nephite people following Christ's ministrations among them had access to the account of the great vision of the brother of Jared is not known. Moroni abridged or translated the Jaredite record including the record of the vision of the Brother of Jared. But then Moroni sealed it up so that it could not be translated by the Prophet Joseph.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said of this sealed portion of the plates of Mormon:
When, during the Millennium, the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon is translated, it will give an account of life in preexistence; of the creation of all things; of the fall and the atonement and the second coming; of temple ordinances in their fulness; of the ministry and mission of translated beings; of life in the spirit world, in both paradise and hell; of the kingdoms of glory to be inhabited by resurrected beings, and many such things (Doctrines of the Restoration, 277).
22 And behold, when ye shall come unto me, ye shall write them and shall seal them up, that no one can interpret them; for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read.
verse 22 "for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read" The Lord says to the brother of Jared, "When you have this great vision which I will show you ("when ye shall come unto me"), you will write an account of it ("ye shall write them") but your account will be in an obscure language that no one will be allowed to translate ("ye . . . shall seal them up, that no one can interpret them; for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read").
This phrase has resulted in some confusion. On its face, it suggests that the brother of Jared recorded his great vision in an undecipherable language. But did not the prophet Ether record the account of this great vision onto the plates of Ether in a language that would be translated by Mosiah and later by Moroni? We are led to believe that Moroni did record his translated account of the brother of Jared's vision onto the plates of Mormon in "reformed Egyptian." The inaccessibility of this account is not due to its being written in a strange language. Rather, its inaccessibility results only from the fact that the appropriate portion of the plates of Mormon was sealed and therefore not accessible to Joseph Smith.
23 And behold, these two stones will I give unto thee, and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write.
verse 23 These are the interpreters or the Urim and Thummim. For a discussion and description of these stones, see The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, Appendix A. See also the commentary for Mosiah 8:13.
24 For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded; wherefore I will cause in my own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.
verse 24 Presumably Mosiah and Moroni used these same interpreters for their translation of at least the brother of Jared's contribution to the Jaredite record and probably for their translation of the entire record on the plates of Ether.
25 And when the Lord had said these words, he showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth.
verse 25 This single verse provides us with the account of the spectacular panoramic vision of the brother of Jared. It is the same type of vision that has been shown or will be shown to other prophet leaders of dispensations such as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Nephi, Abraham, Moses, John the Revelator, and Joseph Smith (D&C 76).
26 For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things-it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things.
verse 26 "he had said unto him in times before" In showing the brother of Jared this vision, the Lord was fulfilling a promise he had made previously.
27 And the Lord said unto him: Write these things and seal them up; and I will show them in mine own due time unto the children of men.
verse 27 "seal them up" This sealing up of the brother of Jared's panoramic vision apparently would eventually be accomplished by Moroni who physically sealed the appropriate portions of the plates of Mormon.
"I will show them in mine own due time" It seems likely we will have access to the sealed portion of the plates of Mormon during the Millennium (2 Nephi 27:11; 2 Nephi 27:21).
28 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that he should seal up the two stones which he had received, and show them not, until the Lord should show them unto the children of men.
verse 28 These are probably the same interpreters that will be used by Moroni and Joseph Smith. Whether or not they are the same as those used by Mosiah in translating the Jaredite record is not clear from the text (see Mosiah 28:13; Mosiah 8:13).