Come Follow Me: Ether 12-15
Ether 12 - On Faith in Jesus Christ
In the days of the last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, we find Ether is the prophet. In just the first few verses, we see just how dedicated he is to his holy calling:
was a prophet of the Lord; wherefore Ether came forth in the days of Coriantumr, and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.
"For he did from the , even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be , saying unto them that all things are fulfilled." (Ether 12:2-3)
Moroni begins his discourse on faith by telling us about Ether. Here, we see some important points regarding faith in Christ. In reviewing them, we find:
First, he "could not be restrained because of the Spirit." Other prophets have experienced such a power, such as Nephi and Abinadi. However, what seemed to be an occasional power for others seems to have been a continual and daily event for Ether. It may be due to the greater danger Ether found himself in, still it shows that God's power can give great and constant power when the need arises.
Second, Ether "did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun," showing his diligence in doing the Lord's command. God could give Ether great power, because Ether didn't waiver in his faith nor in his efforts. Ether knew that great destruction would come upon the people, and there was only one thing that could save them temporally and spiritually. Declaring repentance and faith in Christ was the only solution to the pandemic of sin.
What does it mean that by "faith all things are fulfilled?" God has a plan. He works his plan through the agency of people. The plan, according to the Book of Mormon, is to bring people to the Promised Land (or into the Presence of God). In creating a new people with a new covenant, he often has to wipe the slate clean on a people that have totally rejected him and his covenant. Only through faith in Christ can the covenantal promises be fulfilled.
Think of the many prophets in the Book of Mormon that preached to Nephites and Lamanites regarding repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. When they obeyed, the people were blessed. When they rejected Christ, calamities set in: wars, plagues, famine. Only repentance and faith in Christ can save a people from annihilation and self destruction.
It is the concept of Creation again. God creates a new people and places them in a promised land with a covenant, just as he did with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Lehi. In Creation, God takes Chaos and reforms it into Order. Through faith, God is able to create worlds, life, and everything else necessary for Order to exist and thrive. To maintain order, which includes life and civilization, sentient beings must believe in Christ, his commandments, and keep the covenant they've made with him. In sinning, people cause an increase in Chaos and Evil, reducing the Order of God. In repenting, Order is restored and the covenant remains intact.
Hope in Christ
Along with faith in Christ comes Hope in Christ. Sometimes we struggle to distinguish between the two, as they seem so interrelated.
"whoso believeth in God might withfor a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which cometh of , maketh an to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in , being led to God." (Ether 12:4)
Faith in Christ is a source of power that allows God and his disciples to create, to save, to serve and to bring order out of chaos. Hope in Christ gives us a vision of future that anchors us in the troubling presence. This is very important for Moroni, as he sees himself in Ether. Both would preach faith and repentance to their peoples. Both would see the destruction of their peoples. Both would be in hiding for years from their enemies. Both were alone. It was Hope in Christ that gave them the strength to continue on even when it seemed all was gone. Even when Moroni said farewell to his dying father, Mormon, or Ether watched as Coriantumr slew Shiz among the Jaredite corpses strewn for miles around, they both had hope in Christ. They hoped for a glorious resurrection. They hoped to be reunited with loved ones, with God, and to dwell in peace after a lifetime of watching violence and evil occurring.
Faith in Christ
As I noted above, faith is a power, even the power of God. Moroni lists many of the miraculous events that occurred because of others' faith in Christ. He discusses the great conversion work among the Lamanites and how the brother of Jared moved a mountain. This list is just a beginning of the powers which God shares with people of faith.
Moroni speaks of the gift given to those of faith. We can be "partakers of the gift." What is the gift? In verse 10, we find that those with faith in Christ were called after the "holy order of God." It is a heavenly gift, the Priesthood after the Holy Order of the Son of God, also known as the Melchizedek Priesthood. Alma spoke about this priesthood, noting that in the premortal existence, righteous men of faith were foreordained to this priesthood (Alma 13). We find that this priesthood is the power of God, shared with mankind, so that we can learn to be like him in all things.
With this pattern of faith in Christ, leading to priesthood ordination and a covenantal relationship with Christ, miracles happen. Again, Moroni lists many that he's read about in the record of the Nephites that his father, Mormon, has abridged.
"And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God." (Ether 12:18)
Gentiles will Mock
Knowing the people of our day, Moroni knows that the writings in the Book of Mormon may not be powerful enough to convert the Gentiles.
"Lord, the Gentiles willat these things, because of our in writing; for Lord thou hast made us in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing;" (Ether 12:23)
Interestingly, the Lord intentionally allowed the Book of Mormon to reflect the weaknesses of Mormon, Moroni, and even Joseph Smith - who translated the plates through his own weakness. Moroni noted that the writings of the Brother of Jared were so powerful as to overwhelm the reader. That's not what God wants for the Gentiles. He can't save people, except through their own volition and repentance, based on faith in Christ. Yes, many Gentiles have mocked at the Book of Mormon. Many have mocked the Bible. Millions mock Jesus Christ.
They turn back to the chaos. They insist on a creation without the order of God. They refuse to repent and believe. They can save themselves. They have their own morality and self determination. They can create their own Utopian society.
Destruction always follows the wicked who will not repent.
As God explained to Moroni:
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their. I unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my is sufficient for all men that themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make things become strong unto them.
"Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that , hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all ." (Ether 12:27-28)
Again, it is faith in Christ and humility that bring us to repentance. It is repentance that brings the grace of Christ to us. Moroni will give a great discourse on faith, hope and charity in his own book. We'll discuss it in depth at that time.
We learn that Ether taught the people about the history from the Creation down to their time. Interestingly, the Jaredite and Nephite Land of Promise, or at least a portion of it thereof, had been under water at some point (during the Creation, during the great Flood, or other period), and was established by God as a Land of Promise to all who would come there with his covenant.
Ether saw that a portion of the House of Israel would replace the Jaredites as the covenant people, and that there would be a future New Jerusalem. This would be similar to the City of Enoch, which existed not long before Jared and his brother at the Tower. As mentioned in the previous lessons on the Book of Ether, Joseph Smith taught that when the City of Enoch was lifted into the air, escaping the great Flood, it was still visible in the sky in the days of the great Tower. Nimrod sought to build the tower, so he could ascend to the City of Enoch and cast God off his throne. It is this reason, according to Joseph Smith that God confounded the languages, ending the conspiracy and secret combination.
"Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away.
"And there shall be a heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.
"And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel." (Ether 13:8-10)
Here we find how Moroni ties together the Jaredites with the Nephites, through the promises made to Joseph of old, and how they are then tied to us in our day. All of God's work, ever since the beginning, is tied together, as time is seen in cycles. Creation to Destruction to Creation, as new groups enter into covenant with God in a new Creation cycle. When that people rejects God, they are destroyed, in order to prepare for a new Creation. In these last days, the wicked Gentiles, those who refuse to repent and honor their covenant with God, will also be destroyed. The Gentiles, along with a weary and filthy earth, will be burned and cleansed, leaving room for a new Creation: the Millennium.
The New Jerusalem would be a holy city, similar to Enoch's. It will be a refuge from the violence and storms of the last days (D&C 45), a place where all the righteous will flee to for safety. It will be joined with the ancient Jerusalem in Israel, along with the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of Enoch, when it returns.
The Destruction of the Jaredites
We see the carnage that begins in a few places spread throughout the land. Where contention was primarily found in the opposition group for most of Jaredite civilization, we now see it everywhere. There no longer are any good people in either political party. There is no compromise. There is no compassion. Even when Coriantumr offers to give up his throne peacefully, the enemy insists on his head.
As we continue through the election of 2020, can we see just how contentious many in both major parties have become. Each insisting they have the solutions to the nation's ills, they have forgotten more important things: like forgiveness, brotherly love, and compromise. In the October 2020 General Conference, we see several of our prophetic leaders warning us about contention.
"Righteousness and unity are profoundly significant. When people love God with all their hearts and righteously strive to become like Him, there is less strife and contention in society. There is more unity" ("Hearts Knit in Righteousness," Elder Quentin L. Cook)
"For generations, Jews had been taught to hate their enemies, and they were then suffering under the domination and cruelties of Roman occupation. Yet Jesus taught them, “Love your enemies” and “do good to them that … despitefully use you.”
"What revolutionary teachings for personal and political relationships! But that is still what our Savior commands. In the Book of Mormon we read, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another”
"....But how do we do this—especially how do we learn to love our adversaries and our enemies?The Savior’s teaching not to “contend with anger” is a good first step. The devil is the father of contention, and it is he who tempts men to contend with anger. He promotes enmity and hateful relationships among individuals and within groups....
"In a persuasive personal essay, the Reverend Theresa A. Dear of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has reminded us that “racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.” As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism." ("Love Your Enemies,"Pres Dallin H. Oaks)
"Reflecting on this (the destruction of the Nephites after 2 centuries of peace) and other examples of once flourishing societies that later foundered, I think it safe to say that when people turn from a sense of accountability to God and begin to trust instead in the “arm of flesh,” disaster lurks. Trusting in the arm of flesh is to ignore the divine Author of human rights and human dignity and to give highest priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world (while often mocking and persecuting those who follow a different standard). Meanwhile, those in sustainable societies are seeking, as King Benjamin said, to “grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created [them], or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” ("Sustainable Societies," Elder D. Todd Christofferson)
"I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children."The question for each of us, regardless of race, is the same. Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?" ("Let God Prevail," Pres M. Russell Nelson)
As an aggregate of such teachings, we can see that contention is of the devil. Those beliefs, feelings, and attitudes that divide us and keep us from viewing others as God's children and our spiritual siblings, will lead to our own demise, our own holocaust, our own final destruction. Only those who turn to Christ in faith and repentance, who humble themselves so that their weaknesses become strengths, who love their enemies, who let God prevail, will be a part of the New Jerusalem.
Without major changes in our own attitudes and faith, we risk being as the Jaredites and Nephites in their last years. We will change to where the "Spirit of the Lord ceases to strive" with us. At that point, we could still believe in Jesus, and still have our garments stained with the blood of our enemies. As it is, many Americans and others feel blood lust for those who are different than they are: political party, race, religion, etc.
Only in and through Jesus Christ can society sustain itself. Only through faith in Christ and repentance, can we develop and maintain the covenant relationship God has made with us and our ancestors. Only through Christ can we enter into a new Creation of God's Order, escaping the Chaos and Destruction that comes with the natural man and Satan's power. Only through Christ can we build the one true Utopia: the New Jerusalem.