Ether 3


 



MDC Contents

 

 

 Ether 3:1

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:

 

When the brother of Jared comes back to the Lord, he does so with a possible solution. He has, in some way, created sixteen small stones that are “white and clear, even as transparent glass.” We do not know what the brother of Jared created. We do know that there is a connotative distinction between the stones and glass. It is probably important to note that they are stones, and that they are only as transparent glass. In fact, it is highly likely that the term “transparent glass” is used here because of the presence of that phrase in Revelation 21:21. That reference is to the heavenly city of Jerusalem:

 

Revelation 21:21

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

 

Note that in revelation we have streets of gold “as it were transparent glass.” Joseph certainly understood the eschatological transformation of the world, and he had already translated Mormon:

 

Mormon 9:2

2 Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God?

 

It would appear that the sixteen stones are highly symbolic in both their molten nature as well as their symbolic transparency like glass. Whatever they were, they were more than simply natural stones as is clear when the rest of the story is told.

 

Cultural: When the brother of Jared has a solution to take to the Lord, he does it by climbing a very high mountain, which they called Shelem. In so doing, he is foreshadowing Moses who will go up in the mountain to speak to the Lord. In the days before constructed temples, the ancients used mountains as a natural temple. Remember that Jared and his brother had come from a land where the Tower of Babel was being built so that its top could reach the heavens. Ancient man was hardly stupid. They knew that they could not build a building so high that it physically touched the realm of God, but they certainly believed that by being on an elevated location they were closer to God, both physically and spiritually. It is therefore no surprise that the brother of Jared so seek out a mountain of “exceeding height” as he attempted to bring a particular problem before the Lord. He was going up to his natural temple.

 

Linguistic: Nibley says of Shelem:

 

“Then there's the story of the brother of Jared. This is a very important point in it. Remember, he said he talked with the Lord on an exceedingly high mountain. It was called Shelem because of its exceeding height. The original word of Shelem, Shalom, means "peace," but it originally meant "safe" (safety, security) because it was a high place. The Shelem was a high place. It's still the word for ladder: silma, selma, a sullam in Arabic. It's a very high elevation.” (Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], [p.5].)

 

Variant: A correction in the Printer’s manuscript eliminated a phrase in this copy. It was deleted prior to the 1830 edition. (Book of Mormon Critical Text. FARMS 1987). The deleted phrase is in italics:

 

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) therefore the brother of Jared went forth unto the mount….

 

Ether 3:2

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.

Ether 3:3

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.

 

The presentation of his case by the brother of Jared begins with a rather typical Old Testament style recognition of the separation between God and man. The brother of Jared approaches God as a subject would a King, with great humility and deference. In the Old Testament, God is not conceptualized as Father, even though he is. The term Father is a more understandable relationship, and it is one that developed over time in Israel. The earliest comprehension of God was not in such a familiar and family-ar relationship.

 

The words of the brother of Jacob concerning the sixteen stones is interesting. He has created them, but has no specific language for them. He simply asks God to “behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.”

 

“The brother of Jared hardly knew what to call them. Rocks undoubtedly did not sound very inspiring. Here, standing next to the Lord's magnificent handiwork, the impeccably designed and marvelously unique seagoing barges, the brother of Jared offered for his contribution rocks. As he eyed the sleek ships the Lord had provided, it was a moment of genuine humility.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 16 - 17.)

 

Ether 3:4

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.

Ether 3:5

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.

 

The brother of Jared says to the Lord, “O Lord, thou canst do this.” Of course the Lord can do anything. The issue here isn’t what the Lord could or could not do, but rather what the brother of Jared understood that the Lord could do. The Lord could have created nuclear powered lights, but the brother of Jared didn’t think of that. The Lord could have created a torch that glowed, but didn’t burn – but the brother of Jared didn’t think of that. What did occur to the brother of Jared was stones that glowed. Why?

 

John A. Tvedtnes has recorded some of legendary material associated with lights in Noah’s ark:

 

“The book of Mormon describes how the brother of fared prepared sixteen crystalline stones that the Lord touched, making them glow so that they could provide light to each of the vessels that would carry them across the ocean (Ether 2:22-3:4; 6:2-3). This story, too, is reminiscent of stories about the ark of Noah. Several early Jewish sources indicate that God told Noah to suspend precious stones or pearls inside of the ark to lighten it; in some traditions, it is a jewel-encrusted heavenly book. The gems would glow during the night and dim during the day so Noah, shut up in the ark, could tell the time of day and how many days had passed. This was the explanation given by the rabbis for the sohar that the Lord told Noah to construct in the ark. The word is rendered "window" in the King James version of Genesis 6:16 but "light" in some other translations. 

A similar tradition is found among the Arabs, who may have borrowed it from the Jews. Al-Kisa'i reported that when Noah made the ark, he put the name of one of the prophets (including those yet to be born) on each of the pegs, "and they shone like the stars, except for the one with the name of Muhammad, which shone as brightly as the sun and the moon together. 

Rabbi Eliezer tells a similar story about the "great fish" that "the Lord had prepared" to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17). He notes that Rabbi Meir spoke of a pearl being suspended inside the fish to give light to Jonah like the noonday sun, and by which he was able to see all that was in the sea (Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer 10). (John A. Tvedtnes. The Most Correct Book. Cornerstone, 1999. pp. 287-8).

 

When we remember that there are several places where the story of the Jaredite barges is made to appear similar to the story of the ark, the possibility increases that not only was the ark story known to Jared and his brother, but that perhaps the supernatural means of lighting the ark was also known, and served as a hint to the brother of Jared as to the nature of the light that they might have in their “arks.” The pearls that form the basis of the light in the rabbinic tales are certainly used because of their preciousness but also because of their appearance. While the molten stones would not have been precious, they would serve for the visual imagery of something that had special properties, properties that were to be brought to life by the touch of the Lord’s finger.

 

Of course the stones-as-light was a miracle, but it may not have been a miracle that completely violates known science:

 

Many critics completely dismissed the Book of Mormon because they could not believe that such a light source was physically feasible.

 

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 20 years, and they are described as being "bright" and very "intense."

 

The radioluminescent lights are made from a highly porous silica matrix – aerogel - in which a phosphor such as zinc sulfide is dispersed. The radioactive source of the lights is tritium gas, which when incorporated into the aerogel, actually becomes chemically bonded to the aerogel matrix. The radioactivity of tritium results in beta decay. The beta particles (electrons) "permeate through the open spaces of the aerogel and strike the phosphor particles, exciting them and causing them to emit light." The majority of the light emitted escapes to the outside, whereas the beta radiation is contained inside the matrix. Therefore there is no appreciable external radiation.

 

Radioluminescent light is consistent with and supplies an intriguing parallel matching the requirements of the Jaredite stones: they are small, long-lasting, and physically harmless. It is possible that the Jaredite stones were created in a similar fashion, according to existing physical laws. Although making the molten rocks would most likely have boiled off any tritium present, it is conceivable that the Lord could have altered some other molecule in the stone to create the radioactive isotope that would produce the glowing effect. It is also possible that he could have simply infused the stones with tritium gas as the Sandia researchers have done. Interestingly, years ago Elder Spencer W. Kimball proposed that perhaps the Jaredite stones were illuminated "with radium or some other sub­stance not yet rediscovered by our scientists."

 

Of course we can only speculate about the process that led to the Jaredite lights, and even the Sandia researchers are quick to caution that scientific knowledge about radio­luminescent lights is still in the early stages of development. Future discoveries and further developments may more closely illuminate the manner in which the molten Jaredite stones were caused to fluoresce, but for now this latest development certainly helps us appreciate that the Book of Mormon refers to realities we are only now rediscovering.” “New Light on the Shining Stones of the Jaredites.” Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon. Ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne. FARMS, 1999, pp. 254-5).

 

Ether 3:6

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.

 

When the Lord touches the stones, “the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared,” and the brother of Jared sees the finger touching the stones. Of course we suppose that it was only natural that the Lord’s finger would do the “touching” of the stones, but this is really only an assumption. There was no reason for the Lord to touch them in the first place, as he might have done whatever he wished to without having touched them. As with the creation of the stones themselves, it is perhaps just as important to understand why the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord rather than any other part of God.

 

The “finger of the Lord” is a term used to connote the active aspect of God. When God makes things happen in the world, the scriptures use the idea of the “finger” as the active agent for God. Thus we have in the Old Testament:

 

Exodus 8:19

19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

 

There is no indication in the scriptures that the Lord did any “touching” in this case, nevertheless, the Lord acted and caused the effect. Similarly:

 

Exodus 31:18

18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

 

Here we can easily see the finger of the Lord doing the writing, and well it may have. The point, however, is that it must have been the finger because it was an action of God. This same conception carries over into the New Testament. The people wondered how Jesus performed miracles of healing:

 

Luke 11:14-20

14 ¶ And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.

15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.

16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.

17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.

18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

 

When Jesus cites the “finger of God,” he is not making a physical reference, but a metaphorical one. It is not the physical finger, but rather the power of God.

 

When the brother of Jared asks the Lord to change the stones, he would have understood that it would be the “finger of God” that made the change in the stones, and therefore he was mentally prepared for the action to be accomplished by the “finger of God.” The faith of the brother of Jared allowed him to see God in the unseeable realm, and to begin this vision by “seeing” in vision the very active agent that he would have expected to see. However, whatever the brother of Jared expected concerning the finger of God, it was not to see it as though it were the finger of man. The brother of Jared has approached God form the perspective of one who is completely distant, as discussed following verse 2 and 3. His expectation was that God was something completely different and above man. When he sees the finger of God, and sees it “as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood” the contrast to his expectation overcomes him, and he falls to the ground. Even though he was culturally prepared to have the “finger of God” be the active agent of God, he was not, at that time, prepared to see God as anything (or anyone) who was so similar to man.

 

Ether 3:7

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?

 

Narrative: The fact that the Lord would know the reason that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth is not an issue in the telling of this story. The tale needs the drama of the Lord asking the question. This is not to say that the story of the brother of Jared is nothing more than a story. It is, rather, an understanding that it was a story that was told for effect. The reason that this story is retold by Moroni is the same reason that it is one of the more popular stories from the Book of Mormon. There is a surprise in the story, and the asking of this questions heightens the tension of the essential part of the story. It is told this way for effect, not for absolute doctrinal accuracy.

 

Ether 3:8

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.

Ether 3:9

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?

 

Narrative: As the story is told, the tension is brought along by both the admission of the brother of Jared that he has seen that which he supposes that he should not have seen. Remember that he approaches the Lord as one who comes before a God who is wholly different, and is surprised to find that God with a humanizing and therefore more accessible form. The brother of Jared knows full well that visions of the human form of God are not what the prophets have recorded. He knows that this is something about God that has been previously hidden, and now the brother of Jared has seen the hidden aspect of God. No wonder he has fallen to the earth.

 

To elevate the tension of this supposed forbidden vision of the humanized form of God, God asks the brother of Jared “Sawest thou more than this?” Here is place where the listener to this story would be in fear. The brother of Jared has seen what he supposes he should not, but it has only been the finger of God. Having seen the finger, he might suppose the rest, but that is not the point. The issue is not that he has seen, and the question is how much he has seen that he should not. For the listener to this story, the tension would be that the greater the imposition of what he should not do, the greater the penalty. This should be the dangerous part of the story, where the man who has done what should not be done receives the penalty for viewing the person of God.

 

Nevertheless, the strong hint is here that this is not a penalty, for it is based on the great faith of the brother of Jared. What should have been a disaster – the revelation of something God wanted hidden – becomes a measure of praise. The narrative now shifts away from the idea of seeing what should not have been seen to the power of faith that allows one to see that which is hidden to those without that degree of faith.

 

Ether 3:10

10  And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.

 

What a request! The brother of Jared has seen something that was so contrary to his expectation (that he shouldn’t see – not that God had a body) that he fell to the ground. Nevertheless, once recovered from that initial reaction he asks to see more. What has changed? How has the brother of Jared gone from apparent fear of the Lord to a rather personal request?

 

In a very real sense, the change has been one in which the brother of Jared understand that there may be a personal request of God. He has realized that as a person, God may have an intimate relationship with man on earth. The brother of Jared has also heard the Lord react with praise for his faith rather than react as would a pagan god, where the expectation would be that such an impertinent man should die. In this instant, the entire nature of the relationship between God and man has been redefined for the brother of Jared, and through his experience, for his friends and relatives, and others who follow.

 

Ether 3:11

11  And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?

Ether 3:12

12  And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

Ether 3:13

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.

 

In verse 9 the Lord told the brother of Jared that he was able to see because of his great faith. At this juncture, the nature of the vision is about to be expanded, and the Lord makes it clear that the basis for this expanded vision will be that same faith. This is the reason for the interrogation. When the Lord asks “believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he is asking the brother of Jared for a declaration of faith. That faith is declared in the brother of Jared’s firm reply: “Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.”

 

With the receipt of the correct answer, symbolically indicating the demonstration of faith, the Lord shows himself to the brother of Jared, as requested.

 

Ether 3:14

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.

 

The presence of the name Jesus Christ is very likely to have been added by Moroni, who would have know the relationship of the person of Jesus Christ to the being who appeared to the brother of Jared. To the brother of Jared we would expect either the Jehovah title, or the Messiah title. There is no way to know which of the two would have been used. The context of the declaration is certainly the atoning mission of the Savior, so it is plausible that the Messiah title was given, although this statement corresponds with the conception from early in the Book of Mormon that Jehovah is God, and that Jehovah is the atoning Messiah.

 

The declaration that this God is both Father and Son appears to be in this Messianic context. It is in this context that the later King Benjamin declared the Atoning Messiah to be a Father:

 

Mosiah 5:7

 7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

 

Ether 3:15

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.

 

There are two parts to this verse. The second is the instructive one. The Lord declares that “ye are created after mine own image.” The context makes if very clear that this has reference to the Genesis story:

 

Genesis 1:27

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

 

At this point, we should remember that the original book of Ether contained much of Genesis. We have seen that parts of the story of the Jaredite barges was intentionally paralleled to the Noah story, and here we have another direct tie to sacred, ancient history. Since the word in Hebrew that is translated as image is the same word that is also translated as replica we may understand that the Biblical conception was precisely that which the brother of Jared sees, and is taught. Man is quite literally the image or replica of the Father.

 

The earlier part of the verse has perhaps generated the most discussion, for it says rather clearly that “never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created.” Perhaps one of the more complete discussions of the “problem” comes from Kent P. Jackson:

 

“Ether 3:15a contains a statement from the Lord that sets the brother of Jared apart from everyone who had lived on earth up to his time: "Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast." The uniqueness of Mahonri Moriancumer's faith justified the uniqueness of the Lord's revelation to him. Never, the Lord told him, had anyone experienced such a manifestation--a statement made even more remarkable when we consider that such great individuals as Adam, Eve, Enoch, and Noah had preceded the brother of Jared, and each of these, according to the scriptures, had conversed with God.

 

In this brief essay I will present some ideas concerning the Lord's statement in Ether 3:15a. After sketching the common explanations proposed for the verse, I will suggest an alternative point of view that is, in my opinion, true to the text and consistent with what we know of the doctrine of God.

 

In response to the brother of Jared's efforts to provide light for the Jaredite barges, the Lord first revealed to him His finger (Ether 3:6) and then finally His entire person (Ether 3:13-16). In the process He taught him much concerning the nature of Deity and revealed His own identity as well: "Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood" (Ether 3:9) "Behold this body, which ye now behold, is 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" (Ether 3:16). Moroni, the narrator of the account, provided a valuable summary and makes clear the identity of the deity who spoke: "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" (Ether 3:17).

 

Mahonri was speaking with the premortal Jesus Christ, who would be born on earth over two thousand years later, receive a physical body, and while in the flesh, atone for the sins of the world. We cannot tell from the account what Mahonri knew about the nature of God or the mission of Christ prior to his vision, but it appears in verse 8 that he was startled to see what he thought was a body of "flesh and blood." The Lord's comments in verse 16 seem to make it clear that it was a body of spirit that the prophet saw.

 

The unprecedented faith of the brother of Jared is mentioned both by Jesus and by Moroni as the factor that led to the unprecedented revelation. The Lord said, "Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (Ether 3:9). Moroni added further emphasis: "Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil. . . . The Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things" (Ether 3:20, 26). The key statement from the Lord is found in Ether 3:15a: "Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast."

 

Whatever the first clause of verse 15 means, it is clear that there was something extraordinary about this appearance of the Lord to the brother of Jared. Yet we know from the scriptures that others had in fact seen God. Adam and Eve conversed with the Lord in "the presence of the Lord God" 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) and Noah and his sons "walked with God" (Moses 8:27). Our problem, then, is to determine the meaning of the Lord's statement to the brother of Jared in light of what we know of these other pre-Jaredite theophanies.

 

The most common approach to understanding Ether 3:15a proposes that the Lord's statement has reference to the degree to which he revealed himself to the brother of Jared. President Joseph Fielding Smith stated this position as follows:

 

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 appearances to earlier prophets had not been with that same fulness.

 

The scriptural accounts of talking face to face and of walking with God should not be interpreted in the sense that the Savior stood before those prophets and revealed his whole person. That he may have done so at later periods in the cases of Abraham and Moses is possible, but he had not done so in that fulness in the antediluvian days. For the Brother of Jared he removed the veil completely. He had never showed himself to man before in the manner and way he did to that prophet.

 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie interpreted the verse by restating it as follows: “Never have I showed myself in the manner and form now involved; never has there been such a complete revelation of the nature and kind of being I am; never before has the veil been lifted completely so that a mortal man has been able to see my spirit body in the full and complete sense of the word.” This approach is expressed in similar terms by other Latter-day Saint commentators.

 

As another possible interpretation, Sidney B. Sperry suggested that the word "man" in Ether 3:15a may mean "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.

 

 Daniel H. Ludlow pointed out one aspect of the brother of Jared's experience that perhaps was unprecedented and may have something to do with the statement in Ether 3:15a. Emphasizing verses 19, 20 ("he could not be kept from within the veil"), and 26 ("the Lord could not withhold anything from him"), Ludlow wrote that the Lord "never had to show himself unto man before." This explanation probably tells us more about why the Lord gave him this unique experience than what was unique about it.

 

These proposals are not, of course, mutually exclusive, and a correct understanding of the verse may entail elements of more than one of them. A starting point for interpretation is the idea that the Lord showed himself to the brother of Jared to a greater degree than to any earlier prophet. Yet that interpretation requires the addition of several modifiers to the Lord's seemingly unequivocal and absolute statement, "Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created." I would like to propose an explanation that builds on this interpretation yet allows us to take the Lord's statement literally as it stands.

 

In order to avoid ambiguity in the following discussion, I will follow traditional Latter-day Saint usage and employ the name "Elohim" exclusively for God, the Father of our spirits, and "Jehovah" exclusively for the Lord Jesus Christ. This approach is necessary for clarity because the scriptures refer to Christ as both "God" and "the Father."

 

In Ether 3 the brother of Jared was speaking with Jehovah, who, according to King Benjamin, is "the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity. . . . the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning" (Mosiah 3:5, 8; see also Alma 11:39). Under the direction of Elohim, Jehovah is God of the universe, presiding over all things. Having been endowed by Elohim with infinite power, glory, and authority, Jehovah is the Father, as the Book of Mormon designates him frequently. He is God who speaks to the prophets, who establishes and reveals laws for the blessing of the world, and who directs the affairs of the human family.

 

We know also that Jehovah is the same being who later was born into the world as Jesus Christ. He became a being of dual nature: he is both Father and Son as he is also both God and Man (see D&C 93:3-4). Prior to his birth, he was the Lord Jehovah (Father, God); while he walked the earth, he was also the mortal Jesus Christ (Son, Man).

 

The standard Latter-day Saint view of Jehovah's role as God was expressed by President Joseph Fielding Smith:

 

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 has appeared, it was Jehovah who talked with Abraham, with Noah, Enoch, Moses and all the prophets. He is the God of Israel, the Holy One of Israel; the one who led that nation out of Egyptian bondage, and who gave and fulfilled the Law of Moses. (1 Ne. 19:10; 3 Ne. 11:10, 14; 15:2) The Father [Elohim] has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son.

 

He noted further: "The Father [Elohim] 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." 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 Isa. 53 .

 

Each of the above-mentioned explanations of Ether 3:15a presupposes a theology similar to that of Joseph Fielding Smith: "All revelation since the fall has come through Jesus Christ. . . . The Father [Elohim] has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son." Assuming that such is the case, this appearance to the brother of Jared is the first recorded manifestation of Jehovah in which he appeared and identified himself as the Son. Elsewhere the scriptures record him appearing or speaking as God the Father (for example, Moses 6:50-52, 58-59; 7:4, 32-33, 39; see also 1:1-6). But to the brother of Jared he said, "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. And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast" (Ether 3:14-15).

 

The uniqueness of this situation lies in the fact that Jehovah appeared to Mahonri Moriancumer in his role as Jesus Christ--rather than as the Father. Never before, as far as we can tell from the scriptures, had Jesus Christ shown himself unto man. (And, interestingly, nowhere else in the scriptures do we have a clear example of Jehovah appearing as Jesus until his coming in the flesh.)As Moroni reported, "Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus" (Ether 3:20). To the brother of Jared, Christ revealed his complete nature: God who would become Man--Jehovah, the Father, who would become Jesus, the Son.

 

Perhaps the unprecedented nature of this appearance is a reason why the Lord commanded that the account not be made known in the world until after his mortal ministry (Ether 3:21).” (Kent P. Jackson. “"Never Have I Showed Myself unto Man": A Suggestion for Understanding Ether 3:15a” BYU Studies, vol. 30 (1990), Number 3 - Summer 1990, p. 71.)

 

Perhaps any of the above would serve as an explanation for the statement included here. However, the one explanation that fits the specifics of the story is that of Joseph Fielding Smith, who indicated that previous prophets has spoken with God, but within a cloud, or a burning bush. The essence of the revelation to the brother of Jared involves the unexpected view of the finger. The only explanation that highlights that essential fact is the one that suggests that previous encounters with God were not in the personal sense of this experience of the brother of Jared.

 

Ether 3:16

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.

 

The brother of Jared had declared that: “I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.” The Lord did not clarify at that time, but does here. What the brother of Jared sees is the “body of my spirit.” The spirit body has the same form and appearance (at least to mortal eyes) as physical flesh and blood, even though it is not flesh and blood. That clothing of the spirit body in physical reality comes later, when the Lord comes “in the flesh.”

 

Ether 3:17

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.

 

Narrative; Moroni has been telling this tale, and so he feels free to interrupt it. This suggests strongly that the specific language we have here is from Moroni rather than a strict reading of Moroni’s source (which is still likely to have been Mosiah). Moroni links this vision of the pre-moral Messiah to the appearance of the resurrected Messiah to the Nephites.

 

Ether 3:18

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.

 

The connection between the appearance of the pre-mortal Messiah to the brother of Jared is directly connected in Moroni’s mind with the appearance of the resurrected Messiah to the Nephites. This is the same person, the same Messiah. He is in a similar form, and he does similar things. Although Moroni does not tell us specifics, he does tell us what he considers most important, and that is that what this Messiah does is the same. It is important for Moroni to let us know that this Messiah is the same throughout the ages, and that when he ministers to men in these rare appearances, he does the same things. Since this is the Messiah that is yet to come in our future, Moroni is telling us some of what we may expect. We may expect the human form, and we may expect the dind of ministrations that he performed as recorded in the 3 Nephi.

 

Ether 3:19

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.

Ether 3:20

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.

 

Narrative: These two verses are interesting because they are technically repetitions of information from earlier in the chapter. However, the difference is that in the earlier part of the chapter they were the description of the event, and here they are Moroni’s reaction to the significance of that event. The difference is in the way that Moroni sees his relationship to the text. Earlier, Moroni was retelling the story from Ether. Here is retelling the story as Moroni. Moroni is not simply relating the story from the record of Ether, but he is reacting to it as well. The lesson Moroni learns is the power of faith, a lesson that would be quite pertinent to him in his own condition.

 

Ether 3:21

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.

 

Narrative: Moroni abruptly leaves his textual aside and returns to the source text. The important aspect of the source text is that this message of the personal nature of the Father/Son is not to be made public knowledge. It is to be sealed up until after the mortal ministry of the Messiah. Even though it is certain that the brother of Jared kept this word, it is also certain that some record was kept among the Jaredite righteous so that it arrived at Ether’s time so that it could be written down. It was not general knowledge, but it was private understanding. This also explains how Alma knows about this record, but that the entire text of the Book of Mormon is unaware of its contents until Moroni’s abridging of the record of Ether. It was not intended to be made available, and so the prophets did not disclose it, even though they had it.

 

Ether 3:22

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.

 

[when ye shall come unto me]: before you die.

[ye shall write them and shall seal them up, that no one can interpret them]: The sealing is one of sealed understanding, not a physical sealing. The things that were written were effectively sealed until Mosiah interpreted them.

[ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read]: This is the same statement that Moroni has about his own writings (see Mormon 9:34). These are sealed records that cannot be read by typical human means.

 

Ether 3:23

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.

Ether 3:24

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.

 

Because the writing is sealed there must be a way to break the seal. That means is through the two stones that are given to the brother of Jared. In a sense, this conversation gives both a lock and a key for the record of the brother of Jared. Those two stones are the very ones that King Mosiah used to translate the plates of Ether (see Mosiah 28:13-20), fulfilling this particular prophecy, and providing a foreshadowing of the translation of the whole of the Book of Mormon.

 

Ether 3:25

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.

Ether 3:26

26  For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto to  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.

 

The brother of Jared receives of the Lord the vision of the entire plan of creation and redemption. This is referenced in one way or another for many of the prophets, and is probably one of the aspects of the prophetic calling.

 

Ether 3:27

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.

Ether 3:28

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.

 

This vision of all things is also to be written, and is also to be sealed. The final command is to “seal up” the two stones. The two stones make their way to Mosiah, and through the Nephite line to Moroni, and from Moroni to Joseph Smith. Through them the seal on the Book of Mormon was broken and the unreadable text was read. In our current text, however, we still do not have the rest of the revelation to the brother of Jared. That may be part of what is still sealed upon the plates, and was unavailable for Joseph to translate.

 

Textual: There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002