Sunday, November 15, 2020

Come Follow Me: Ether 6-11

 Come Follow Me: Ether 6-11

The Creation Anew

"And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness" (Ether 6:2)

With the beginning of this chapter, we see a new creation occurring. It is reminiscent of the Creation in Genesis chapter one. Everything that occurred in the Book of Ether thus far is similar to the preparations of God to create the world and the skies above. Now we have a repeat. Similarly, we find the same event occur with Noah and the ark, where ancient traditions suggest he may have had shining stone in the ark to give light.

In the barges, we find all things necessary for a new Creation: light, food (plants), animals, and everything needful for the journey. As the darkness and waters in the original Creation and in Noah's flood were chaotic, the shining stones brought order out of dark chaos, and the barges represented safety on dry ground from the chaos of the great waters.

Exactly four centuries ago this month (November 11, 1620), 102 Pilgrims and others landed on Plymouth Rock. For them, the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny and cramped ship, was akin to a new Creation. As the physical and cultural descendants of Jared, Lehi, Mulek, and others are scattered upon the New World today, so 35 million descendants of the Mayflower dwell today in the Americas. With each new creation, the dangers of physical and spiritual chaos had to be overcome, in order to obtain a new Godly Order. 

We are reliving the Jaredite and Nephite stories. We are reliving the cycle of Creation and Destruction.

The shining stones also symbolize Jesus Christ, the Light and Life of the World. It is through Christ that Jared, Nephi and the Pilgrims successfully traversed land and sea, through dangers and darkness,

 "And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water."(6:10)

Ancient tradition notes that in the Creation, God had to destroy the sea monster, Rahab the sea dragon (Isaiah 51:9). This monster symbolized the Chaos of darkness and water. 

Interestingly, even as the barges sank deep into the water, we see,

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

 Even in the deepest and darkest times, they gave praise. It is a key to making it through our tough times, whether dealing with sickness (Covid), poverty, war, or other dangers, we can "always remember" Jesus Christ and give thanks. 

"And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them." (6:12)

Seems reminiscent of the Pilgrim landing in what they also viewed as a "promised land."  Again, the cycle repeats and we do well to consider the stories of the Nephites and the Jaredites as our story.

That the people desired a king suggests a few things. First, after these many years in the New World, where would the people get the concept of wanting a king? For me, it is possible that by this time they had integrated with peoples already in the New World (as had happened with the Nephites), and saw that other groups had kings. For the Brother of Jared, the desire for a king was problematic. He had seen what King Nimrod had done at the Tower of Babel, creating a mighty people that fought against God (see my previous lesson). The Brother of Jared would have them led by a prophet and have God as their king. So concerning was this problem that all of Moriancumer's sons refused to be king. Only one of Jared's four sons would agree to be king, perhaps knowing that if any other took the throne there may not be a righteous person leading the people. 

And so Orihah becomes the first Jaredite king.  He rules in righteousness among the people, but only 2 generations later, we begin to see intrigue, secret combinations, and the intense search for getting gain.

Corihor rebelled against his father Kib, son of Orihah.  This is just the first of many overthrows in their system, which will eventually lead to their destruction.

    Jaredite/Nephite names

One thing to note here are some of the names which expand across the Jaredite destruction to the Nephites.  In the previous discussion on the Book of Omni, when King Mosiah I discovered the Mulekites and Zarahemla, I noted that this was the beginning of the use of Jaredite naming conventions among the Nephites.  There I suggested that the Mulekites dwelt among the Jaredites for several centuries until the Jaredite destruction, probably around 250 BC.  Now, we’ll look at another possible theory that may also tie in here.

We note that among those who rebel and seek to overthrow the Jaredite kings are people who are also recognized as chief among the Nephite bad guys:

Corihor who moves to the land of Nehor to prepare for his overthrow. Compare him with Korihor, who was steeped in the teachings of the apostate Nehor.

Noah fights his righteous uncle, King Shule, and obtains the land of first inheritance. Later, Noah captures Shule and reigns over all the kingdom. He is later killed by the sons of Shule.  In Nephite times, King Noah obtains the land of Nephi, the first inheritance in the Promised Land.  Noah is later slain by the righteous and the kingdom is restored to the righteous.

Morianton (Ether 10) would also begin a war to overthrow the king, who was of a different lineage.  In the Book of Mormon, the man Morianton and his city, fought against the city of Lehi over border disputes.  Eventually, Captain Moroni would have to step in and settle the affair.

It seems that Mormon and Moroni may have used Jaredite names to describe wicked people of Nephite time, or used the names of wicked Nephites to name wicked Jaredites.

Can you regulate morality?
A friend of mine once noted that “you cannot regulate morality” to explain some of his political positions.  As I pondered that position, I read the story of Shule in Ether 7.  Here was a righteous king, who sought to help his people be righteous.  The people had grown immensely. It is likely the Jaredites had absorbed many native groups already in the Americas when they arrived. 

And also in the reign of Shule there came prophets among the people, who were sent from the Lord, prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land, and they should be destroyed if they did not repent.  And it came to pass that the people did revile against the prophets, and did mock them. And it came to pass that king Shule did execute judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.  And he did execute a law throughout all the land, which gave power unto the prophets that they should go whithersoever they would; and by this cause the people were brought unto repentance” (Ether 7:23-25).

Only because the king regulated and judged those who fought against the prophets, it compelled the people to be humble and repent.  This is the same concept that we read of in Alma 32.  People are blessed when they are compelled to be humble, but more blessed when they repent without being compelled.  Those who are compelled to be humble tend to remain so, only as long as they are regulated.  So, my friend did have a point on this regard.   On the other hand, to lift all regulation that dictates morality also means it opens the door for ever increasing sin and wickedness.  The people can be blessed by a strict set of moral rules, or they can be compelled through the threat of destruction by God.  When a society becomes wicked, then it does not give little children the chance to grow up in peace and goodness.  They learn early on about sin, as many children are swept up in the moral decay of the nation.

In a perfect world, the people humble themselves and happily serve God and fellow man.  However, we do not live in that Utopia.  We live in a world rife with violence and sex.  With freedom must come responsibility, but wicked people only wish to have freedom to live in their sins.  Eventually that house of cards collapses, as it did with the Nephites and Jaredites.  As a historian, I am interested in seeing why societies collapse.  Lifestyles of the powerful that strip the land of its true strength, and the poor willing to follow their wicked leaders down any path that promises them free stuff, leads a nation to stagnation, debt, crime, and instability, so that like the Soviet Union in the 1990s, it eventually crashes down.  What is left is a bunch of fragments of its former self, none of which can ever hope to become as great as they once were. Why not? Because they still have not learned to live upon the principles of righteousness and secret combinations continue.

Akish and the secret combination

Jared sought the kingdom of his father.  He temporarily obtained it, but lost it.  His daughter reminded him of the secret combination that was found in the records their ancestors brought with them.  We sometimes think that secret combinations disappear completely and are then miraculously brought back from out of the air.  More often, they are written down and later discovered by those seeking gain and power.

Jared asks Akish to set up a secret combination, in order to slay his father and give Jared the throne.  Akish succeeds, but then seeks the throne for himself with his new-found power.  In studying this combination, we read:

And it came to pass that they all sware unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth, and by their heads, that whoso should vary from the assistance which Akish desired should lose his head; and whoso should divulge whatsoever thing Akish made known unto them, the same should lose his life.  And it came to pass that thus they did agree with Akish. And Akish did administer unto them the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning. And they were kept up by the power of the devil to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness, to help such as sought power to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.  And it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired. And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;  For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man…..And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites…. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed….” (Ether 8:14-22).

This is one of the great patterns we find in the Book of Mormon.  There is a repentance/sin cycle, a Creation/Destruction cycle, wherein people are blessed by God, they become prideful, they are punished and humbled, they repent and the cycle starts over.  There are only two ways out of the cycle.  One way is to become a Zion people, who are united in all things.  The other way is for the people to no more exist as a people, because God has destroyed them.
Note that these secret combinations are had among many people.  They searched for them, often in the records that were already available.  The Lamanites and wicked Nephites could easily have obtained through records left by Gadianton (another Jaredite suffix:: anton).

Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning” (Ether 8:24-25).

Secret Combinations now spread quickly through the Internet.  There are gangs with signs and secrets, who seek to get gain.  Drug cartels seek power through secret combinations.  Radical jihadists seek gain using violent means through such secrets, believing God is on their side.  While righteous King Shule sought overall freedom for his people by regulating morality and compelling the people to listen to the prophets and repent, wicked people seek to overthrow true freedom (speech, religion, etc), and replace it with licentiousness.  We can see that secret combinations caused the Great Recession of our day, allowing a few to become extremely wealthy and more powerful, while stealing the wealth and freedoms of hard working Americans.  Sadly, many Americans now freely give up their freedoms in exchange for stuff the government promises to give them in return.  A mess of pottage in exchange for a heavenly birth right.

The Jaredite “Millennium” followed by the slow path to destruction

Prior to the Nephite Millennium, there was a giant destruction of the wicked.  It seems the Lord separated the people out, when the nation collapsed into tribes.  Some areas were more wicked than others, and therefore received a greater destruction.

For the Jaredites, Omer was a righteous king.  The Lord warned Omer, who fled with his good people to an uninhabited area.  Akish overthrew his father-in-law.

“For so great had been the spreading of this wicked and secret society that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people” (Ether 9:6).

Because of such wickedness, there was war for many years, until the vast majority of the people were slain.  The only survivors were those who repented and fled to Omer for safety.  Omer left the kingdom to his son Emer. Emer saw Christ, the “Son of Righteousness”, suggesting the beginning of their “Millennial” period.  Under his righteous and long reign, the people prospered.  From Emer to his son Coriantum to Com, there was righteousness and prosperity.

Sadly, pride, greed and envy end the long reigns of peace and joy we read of in the Book of Mormon.  It often is described as a period when the people experience over-crowding and have populated the whole area.  It suggests that a period of famine or hunger may have occurred, as the people may begin struggling over diminished resources. 

In Ether 10, we find that a sign of a failing nation is the “building of many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he (the king) would cast into prison” (vs 6).  Some of the kings fought against the reappearance of secret combinations (Ether 10:33-34), 
Prophets are Sent
"And it came to pass that Coriantor dwelt in captivity all his days. 
"And in the days of Coriantor there also came many prophets, and prophesied of great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would execute judgment against them to their utter destruction;
"And they did reject all the words of the prophets, because of their secret society and wicked abominations.
 "And it came to pass that Coriantor begat Ether, and he died, having dwelt in captivity all his days." (Ether 11:19-23)

 The final group of prophets are sent to the people, who reject them. Destruction is now at hand. In predicting the destruction, the prophets also foresee the next Creation: the arrival of the Nephites and Mulekites. As we began this lesson with a discussion on the Creation cycle, so now we will see the ending. And its witness is Ether.

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