Friday, December 7, 2012

Ether Chapter 3

The brother of Jared sees the finger of the Lord as he touches the sixteen stones—Christ shows his spirit body to the brother of Jared—Those who have a perfect knowledge cannot be kept from within the veil—Interpreters are provided to bring the Jaredite record to light.

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:
Why did the Lord want them to build eight ships? It would probably have been easier to build just one large ship, such as Noah's ark.  After all, these ships were modeled after Noah's ship, but were smaller.  I am sure that the Lord could have transported all the Jaredites in one large vessel.  However, for some reason he wanted them to go across the sea in eight separate ships.  Perhaps it was because of the large number of Jaredites, or perhaps he wanted to separate the families.  He may have wanted to scatter the landing sites (we don't know if they all landed in the same area).  Whatever the reason, the answer to this question is not available at present.  
View from Mt. Laoshan
Mount Shelem.  This is a typical Jaredite word ending in m.  It was an exceptionally tall mountain, probably on the east coast of China.  A possible candidate for this mountain is one named Loashan in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China.  This is a tall mountain, adjacent to the seacoast, near the place where I feel the Jaredites resided for four years after they reached the seashore.  According to tradition, this mountain was the birthplace of Taoism, and is considered one of China's holy mountains.  
Molten out of the rock - Molten means to melt at a high temperature.  There are only a few rocks that could be melted to obtain a white, clear product.  One of these might be quartz which melts at about 1650 degrees centigrade and would result in glass.  This temperature is much hotter than a normal fire, but could be achieved using a bellows.  
Why did Moriancumer go to the top of the mountain to make his request?  Many times the Lord has commanded his prophets to go to the high places to receive revelation.  It was a tradition that had been passed down through the ages.  This was similar to the vision of Moses found in the Pearl of Great Price.  Later Moriancumer will see a vision similar to the following vision of Moses: 
"THE words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain... And it came to pass, as the voice [of the Lord] was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.  And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.  And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof (Moses 1:1, 27-29)." 
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.
This prayer of Moriancumer shows his true humility, and provides us with an ensample of how we might approach the Lord.  
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.
He refers to the "iniquity" of his people.  This could refer to their possible involvement in building the tower and participation in the Sumerian culture, or maybe to their recent reluctance to pray for guidance when they were weary of traveling and didn't want to do it any longer.  The Lord drove them out of Sumeria.  We are not told by what means.  Nibley suggests that it was by weather and famine.  These many years -- They had apparently been traveling for many years.  Aztec traditions tell us that they had traveled for 104 years before they arrived in the Americas.  Although this seems like a very long time, it is possible as those people lived up to 250 years old.  The idea of traveling in darkness for long periods of time is indeed intimidating.  
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.
In order to solve the problem of light, Moriancumer comes up with the idea of luminescent stones.  He may have known of this possibility from the history of Noah, who according to legend, lit his ark with a luminescent stone.  That stone shone brighter during the day, and less at night, thus allowing Noah to discern the days, and number them. 
John Tvedtnes, in a paper entitled Glowing Stones in Ancient and Medieval Lore, tells us: 
"Hugh Nibley has called attention to accounts from Jewish tradition of similar arrangements that were made for the ark of Noah, to which the Jaredite vessels are compared in Ether 6:7. Several early Jewish sources indicate that God told Noah to suspend precious stones or pearls inside the ark to lighten it; in some traditions, it is a jewel-encrusted heavenly book. The gem would glow during the night and grow 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 sôhar 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 (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume - 6, Issue - 2, Pages: 99–123, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1997," 
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.
Here we see the strength of Moriancumer's faith.  He has developed a plan, and puts forth great effort to accomplish it, but it is of course beyond his ability to cause the stones to shine, so after he has done all in his power, he calls upon the Lord, expecting him to step in and provide the miracle.  
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.
The Lord touches the stone one by one.  Why not all at once?  Perhaps to lengthen out the demonstration.  Normally His finger would have been invisible, but Moriancumer was allowed to see through the veil, either because of his faith, or the Lord allowed it to happen, or both.  Moriancumer is surprised to see that the Lord's finger looks just like a man's.  He did not seem to have a clear understanding of the Godhead.  The Lord's finger appeared to be solid flesh.  Christ explains that it was the body of His spirit.  Moriancumer's reaction is similar to that of Isaiah when he saw the Lord (Isa. 6:5).
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.
It is apparent that the majesty of the Lord inspires fear and awe in those that behold him.
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?
Because of his faith, Moriancumer was rewarded with additional blessings and knowledge. In the future the Lord's spirit would be clothed in flesh.  The statement is made that no other man has had such great faith.  This would seem to eliminate a lot of great prophets.  Prophets such as Enoch who had such great faith that he and his city were translated.  Possibly it is referring to men after the flood.  Sawest thou more -- suggests that the Lord may not have known just how much Moriancumer actually saw.  
10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
He had not seen more, but now would like the blessing of seeing everything.  The Lord has actually promised this blessing to all if they will but perfect themselves.  "VERILY, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am (D&C 93:1)."
11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? 
This is a question similar to that asked of Nephi when he was given his first great vision (1 Ne. 11:4), and Moriancumer gives a similar reply. 
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.
Is this similar to receiving the More Sure Word of Prophecy, or the Second Comforter?  Bruce R. McConkie, in Mormon Doctrine, has written: "Those members of the Church who devote themselves wholly to righteousness, living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, make their calling and election sure. That is, they receive the more sure word of prophecy, which means that the Lord seals their exaltation upon them while they are yet in this life. Peter summarized the course of righteousness which the saints must pursue to make their calling and election sure and then (referring to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration with James and John) said that those three had received this more sure word of prophecy. (2 Pet. 1.)
"Joseph Smith taught: 'After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter.' To receive the other Comforter is to have Christ appear to him and to see the visions of eternity (Mormon Doctrine pp. 109-110)"
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.
Refer to the council in the pre-existence.  
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 image15? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
Here again this verse would seem to exclude a lot of great prophets.  This would have occurred about 400-500 years after the flood.  What about Enoch, Noah, Shem, etc.  Perhaps something is missing from the translation.  It may be similar to John 1:18 which states: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."  According to Joseph Smith, this verse should read:  "And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved (J. Smith translation)."
All men were created in the image of Christ who created the world and all it contains (see Gen. 1:27).
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.
In D&C 77:2 we read: "that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person..."  Spirit bodies have size, form and dimension just as physical bodies do.  
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.
From verse 1 through 16 Moroni has been giving us the verbatim account of Moriancumer's experience on the mount.  Now Moroni shifts back to the abridged version.  He will not give us the complete history of these events, but intimates that he has access to that history.  
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.
What does ministered mean?  "Moroni informs us that the Lord ministered to the brother of Jared as he ministered to the Nephites (see Ether 3:18). The verb to minister means "to serve or to supply with" and seems to connote more than just conversing or preaching. Moroni does not spell out the exact manner in which the Lord ministered to the brother of Jared, but he does provide us with some clues. Moroni draws a parallel with the ministering of the Lord among the Nephites. We know from the book of 3 Nephi that Jesus taught the people, healed them, and administered ordinances to them such as the sacrament and ordination. Thus we may infer that the Lord also administered ordinances to the brother of Jared, some of which were sacred and not to be revealed." (Valentin Arts, A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates,  
Many great works -- these would have been the wonders performed for them as they traveled to their present site upon the seashore.  There were probably many more of these than we have a record of.  
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.
What knowledge did Moriancumer possess that allowed him to penetrate the veil?  How did he obtain this knowledge?  It certainly is not something that we can just manufacture in our minds, but relies on past experience, having acted in faith.  Having such knowledge allows one to see beyond the veil, something that is not normally possible for mortals.  
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.
Faith is what is required before seeing or receiving revelation, which results in knowing.  Having this sure knowledge takes one beyond faith.  "Ministered unto him" probably refers to ordinances and covenants that Morinacumer received at this time.
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.
Moriancumer is commanded to remember the things that have been revealed to him, as well as the things he has seen in this vision.  But he is not to write them or share them with anyone else.  This may be a key to receiving revelation.  I believe it was J. Ruben Clark who counseled that we should not talk to others about our inspiration and revelation.  By talking about such sacred experiences, we limit our ability to receive future communication.
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.
Moriancumer is to remember the revelation and write it down on his death bed.  He is to write it in the language that has been confounded.  I assume that this would have been the original language (the Adamic language), spoken before the languages were confounded.  Apparently no one was still using this original tongue.  After writing this account, Moriancumer is to seal it.  What does this mean?  Is he to physically bind the pages, or spiritually bind them with a blessing or cursing, or both?  We normally visualize the binding as being physical with some type of binding to keep the pages shut.  The Book of Mormon plates were sealed with a metal strap separating them from the unsealed portion.  Such seals are only good as long as the finder honors the wishes of the author.  However the Book of Mormon plates seem to have a spiritual protection accompanying them as well as the physical seal.  In any event, the seal would have functioned effectively if the translator needed the assistance of the Spirit in translating the unknown language.
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.
These were two different stones from the ones Moriancumer had taken up into the mountain.  These two stones constitute what is known as the Urim and Thummim, or interpreters.  This is an instrument similar to the ones that have been given to other prophets to be used in the translation of unknown languages, and the receiving of divine revelation.  The Topical Guide provides the following information regarding the Urim and Thummim:  "Instruments prepared by God to assist man in obtaining revelation and in translating languages.  In the Hebrew language the words mean "lights and perfections."  The Urim and Thummim consist of two stones set in silver bows and sometimes used with a breastplate (D&C 17:1; JS-H 1:35, 42, 52)."  Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, described the Urim and Thummim that Joseph received along with the golden plates.  She writes:  "On the morning of September 22nd, after Joseph had returned from the hill, he placed the article (the Nephite interpreters) of which he spoke into my hands, and, upon examination, I found that it consisted of two smooth three cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows, which were connected with each other in much the same way as old fashioned spectacles." (History of Joseph Smith by his Mother Lucy Mack Smith).  The accompanying drawing is from  the web site Peculiar People Illustrations ( and is a good illustration of the instruments.  (However, it is not completely correct.  The left lens should have the point of the triangle at the top of the lens.)  You will note that when the two lenses are superimposed, that they form a Star of David, the historical symbol of Jewish identity (Incidentally, the Urim and Thummim was probably the source for this symbol) . 
It is likely that this Urim and Thummim that Moriancumer received from the Lord was the same one that King Mosiah later had and used to translate the plates of Ether (see Mos. 8:13; 28:11-16).  Ether may have had them and sealed them up with his plates which were later found by the people of King Limhi.  However this is only speculation as the Book of Mormon does not reveal what happened to Moriancumer's Urim, and does not explain how King Mosiah received the ones that he used.  We should also note that according to Mos. 8:13, it would appear that Mosiah had these instruments, and it was known that he had them, prior to Limhi's party discovering Ether's plates.  In the D&C 17:1 we are told that the Urim and Thummim that was passed on to Joseph Smith, to be used in translating the Book of Mormon, was the same one that Moriancumer had received from the Lord.  It was also the same one shown to the three witnesses to the golden plates.  
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.
See commentary on verse 22.  At the time of the confusion of tongues, there should have only been one language to confound.  It may have still been written the same, but now was understood differently.  
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.
Note that this is the second (and distinct) vision that Moriancumer was given.  This is an important point as the subsequent instructions differ for each vision.   
This experience is similar to the vision Moses was given as noted earlier (Refer to Moses Ch. 1).  It is likely that the history of Moriancumer, in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, contains all this information.  
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.
Moriancumer had received this promise earlier.  He had faith in the Lord's promise, and it was fulfilled.  In a similar manner, we can confide in Christ's word and expect it to be fulfill in His due time.  
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.
There were two distinct visions or revelations given to Moriancumer.  The first was not to be revealed until after Christ had completed the atonement, and he was only to remember it and not write it until the end of his life.  This second one, wherein he is shown the world, its history, and its inhabitants, is to be written and sealed up.  It will be revealed in the due time of the Lord.  This was possibly the record (or a version of it) that Mosiah translated and released to his people in about 92 BC (Mos. 28:11-18).    
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.
Moriancumer is to "seal up" the Urim and Thummim he received, probably along with with his writings.  We are not told how he is to do this.  He apparently carries them concealed across the sea to the Americas.  The Lord will show them when he is ready.  Perhaps He later gave them to Mosiah by miraculous means. 

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