Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ether Chapter 12

The prophet Ether exhorts the people to believe in God—Moroni recounts the wonders and marvels done by faith—Faith enabled the brother of Jared to see Christ—The Lord gives men weaknesses that they may be humble—The brother of Jared moved Mount Zerin by faith—Faith, hope, and charity are essential to salvation—Moroni saw Jesus face to face.

1  AND it came to pass that the days of Ether were in the days of Coriantumr; and Coriantumr was king over all the land.
We are not told much about this Coriantumr.  Was he of the line of Jared, or some other line?  Was he the man who overcame Moron several generations back or some other ambitious rival?  We don't really know.  It is unlikely that he would have been the same one that defeated Moron, although it is possible that the original conqueror could have lived that long.  However, from later events, it seems that Coriantumr is not old, but in the prime of life, or at least young enough to wage war and hold his own in individual combat.
2  And Ether 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 restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.
We don't know whether Ether was authorized by someone in authority, or called directly by God.  These prophets who keep appearing among the Jaredite people would have had to possess the authority in order to carry out their respective assignments.  Was Ether still a slave?  If so royal slaves among the Jaredites must have had a great deal of liberty to be able to move around among the people, and even appear before the king.  The Spirit burned within him to such an extent that he could not control it and was motivated to prophesy continually.
3  For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled—
Ether's continual preaching must have appeared out of place to the materialistic Jaredites.  They probably regarded him as crazy or demented, which is often the lot of prophets, but Ether was only being completely obedient to God's will.  He spoke of the need for faith which gives Moroni an opening to insert his classic discourse on the subject.
4  Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
Through his preaching, Ether revealed great and marvelous doctrines and prophesies but the wicked Jaredites, completely lacking any faith, insisted on proof.  They would not even attempt to believe.  One must have a desire to believe in order to begin this process, and they had no desire to believe these things.  Like many in our day, they may have believed that there was no hope of an afterlife, so didn't even have the basic forndation on which to build faith.   It is possible that these Jaredites had reverted back to the idolatry of the Sumerians and as a result had no faith or belief in the true God.
5  And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.
Moroni now begins his commentary on faith.  Compare with Hebrews chapter 11.  He shifts from his historical account, to addressing his latter-day readers.  
6  And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
Faith is the hope in things which are outside our physical experience.  In Hebrews 11:1 Paul wrote  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  In his translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith change "substance" to "assurance" (Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen) which gives us a much clearer meaning.  In the Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith explains: "From this we learn that faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and that it is also the principle of action in all intelligent beings" (Lecture 1, p. 31).
These "hoped for things" cannot be perceived by our physical senses, but we can learn of them through the Spirit of Christ (which is given to every human being), or through the promptings and witness of the Holy Ghost.  These witnesses are available to all who sincerely ask with a desire to know.  We should not doubt or dispute about the object of our hope, but should proceed and act upon it, then after our faith has been exercised, we can receive a witness.  
Moroni now gives us a list of scriptural examples of faith.  Faith is based on hope regarding unseen spiritual things.  Faith is not active until it is acted upon, or "tried."
Elder Boyd Packer further instructs: "Faith, to be faith, must center around something that is not known. Faith, to be faith, must go beyond that for which there is confirming evidence. Faith, to be faith, must go into the unknown. Faith, to be faith, must walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness. If everything has to be known, if everything has to be explained, if everything has to be certified, then there is no need for faith. Indeed, there is no room for it. (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "What is Faith," Faith, Deseret Book Company, 1983, p. 42)
7  For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.
Christ showed himself to the surviving Nephites at Bountiful following his resurrection (see 3 Ne. 11) because they hoped for the fulfillment of Christ's promised appearance, and acted on that hope.  He did not show himself to the general population of the world who did not have hope in the promise, or faith in His atonement.  He did not show himself to those at Bountiful "until after they had faith in him."  On this occasion a group of Nephite survivors (2500 to be exact) were gathered at the temple in Bountiful, conversing about the recent events.  Specifically, they were talking about Christ, about his atonement and the sign of his death that they had recently witnessed.  What were they doing there?  It is unlikely that they were there by chance.  Perhaps they had been called to a conference.  They were not in the temple, but "about" it.  Perhaps they were repairing the temple if it had been damaged by the destructive events they had recently witnessed.  It is likely that they were acting on something which required their faith.  These believers had gathered to Bountiful, but many others had not come.  They would come later when they learned that Christ had actually appeared. 
8  But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen.
First we are told in verse 7 that he did not show himself to the world because of unbelief, but now Moroni tells us that because some had faith, he has shown himself to the world.  This seems contradictory but is probably referring to his atoning mission in general.  Because of the faith of some, all can know about his atonement through their witness.  The way is prepared and all that learn of his mission through these witnesses can have the hope of salvation and eternal life even though they themselves have not seen.
9  Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith.
All can have hope in the redemption of Christ if they will believe on the message and act in faith.  We must at least begin with a desire to believe as Alma instructs us in his sermon to the Zoramites (Alma 32).  
Mormon spoke concerning hope and its relationship to faith.  "And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope.  How is it that you can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?  And what is it that ye shall hope for?  Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.  Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope 
(Moro. 7:40-42)."

10  Behold it was by faith that they of old were called after the holy order of God.
The "holy order of God" refers of course to the Melquizedek Priesthood.  Those who received this priesthood, and an accompanying prophetic calling, throughout the history of the world, have done so because of their faith.
11  Wherefore, by faith was the law of Moses given.  But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled.
The law of Moses was revealed because of faith, probably the faith of Moses himself.  But, whereas the Law of Moses is limited in its power to save, the atonement of Chris has provided a "more excellent way" whereby men can be redeemed and receive eternal life.  The atonement was wrought through Christ's faith, and those who hoped for the redemption.
12  For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.
This is the principal of "faith precedes the miracle."  There can be no miracle without first having laid the foundation of faith.  Christ did not show himself (probably referring to His appearance to the Nephites at Bountiful) until they had exercised their faith in Him and in the prophecies of their fathers.
Concerning faith and miracles Moroni later states: "And the reason why he [God] ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.  Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth (Moro. 9:20-21)."
13  Behold, it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth.
Moroni now continues with his list of examples.  He cites the example of the faith of Alma and Amulek who were imprisoned at Ammonihah.  Such obedience frequently involves risk, in this case the risk of losing their lives.  But because of their faith, the prison and the wicked people of Ammonihah, were destroyed and they were liberated (Alma 14:26-29).
14  Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
Nephi and Lehi had risked their lives by going among the wicked Lamanites and calling them to repentance.  They were at the point of being executed when this miracle occurred.  They were rescued and the Lamanites were miraculously converted (Hel. 5:45-52).
15  Behold, it was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which wrought(14) so great a miracle among the Lamanites.
Ammon and his brothers exercised great faith in going to preach among their enemies, the Lamanites.  Many who had tried this earlier had been persecuted or killed.  Their faith was rewarded by the conversion of thousands of formerly wicked Lamanites (See Alma Ch. 17-26).
16  Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ(15) and also those who were after.
Without faith miracles do not occur and cannot be wrought.  Speaking of faith, Alma gives the example of the Liahona.  He says: "And it [the Liahona] did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.  Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works.  They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions (Alma 37:40-42)."  
17  And it was by faith that the three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death; and they obtained not the promise until after their faith.
Three of the Nephite disciples of Christ believed that they could remain on the earth until the end of time to assist the Lord in his work among men.  They had possibly heard of that John the Revelator was given this gift (John 21:20-23).  They exercised their faith and were rewarded with this gift while the other nine disciples were not (3 Ne. 28:7).
18  And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.
It is impossible to perform a miracle without believing in Christ. The first step in performing a miraculous work is to believe in Him.
19  And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.
Even before Christ's coming many had such strong faith that they were able to penetrate the veil and see things which they had only imagined before, prophets such as Moses, Enoch, and of course, the brother of Jared.
20  And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared; for so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith.
One of these individuals of great faith was Moriancumer who saw the finger of the Lord when he touched the stones to make them luminescent.  Christ could have done it without anyone seeing his finger.  But he had previously told Moriancumer that if he had faith he could know all things.  He had received this knowledge because of his faith.  Moriancumer then exercised this faith and was able to see through the veil and see the Lord's spirit.
21  And after the brother of Jared had beheld the finger of the Lord, because of the promise which the brother of Jared had obtained by faith, the Lord could not withhold anything from his sight; wherefore he showed him all things, for he could no longer be kept without the veil.
This refers to a previous, unmentioned, revelation that Moriancumer had received earlier in which he was promised that if he had faith he could know (or see) anything he desired.  Because of this promise, Moriancumer was able to see through the veil, see the Lord (in his spirit body), and receive a revelation of the history of the world, from beginning to end.
22  And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren through the Gentiles; therefore the Lord hath commanded me, yea, even Jesus Christ.
Throughout their history, the righteous leaders of the Nephite nation had petitioned the Lord that their history and revelations should be preserved and passed on to the surviving remnant of their people. The Lord had promised them that this would come to pass. This promised blessing was to come about by way of the gentile peoples (or white Europeans) who would inhabit the land in the latter-days.  They had faith that this would come to pass.  The Lord had commanded Moroni to compile, preserve, and pass along these records.  That was a specific calling or stewardship given to Moroni until all these promises should be fulfilled.
23  And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
Moroni here has a conversation with the Lord about his translation of the records.  Moroni is worried that the gentile (white European) people will ridicule these records because of their weakness in writing.  Moroni notes that they were powerful in speaking and preaching because of the influence of the Holy Ghost, but that they were not eloquent or skilled in writing.  This was due to the awkwardness of inscribing on metal plates.
24  And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands.  Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
Moroni says that he has difficulty writing because of the "awkwardness" of his hands.  He is talking about the difficulty of inscribing on the metal plates.  This would have been much more difficult than their ordinary writing on bark paper or animal skins, which may have been in the Hebrew language.  The prophet Jacob had earlier observed that "I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates (Jacob 4:1)."  In contrast, Moroni tells us that Moriancumer's skill in writing was overpowering in comparison to that of the Nephites.  He wrote as if God himself were writing the words.  Here Moroni is not speaking of Ether's writing, so he must have had access to the original record of Moriancumer.  "Overpowering of man to read them" probably refers to the Spirit which accompanied the writings and which bore witness of their truthfulness.
25  Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
The verbal preaching and teaching of the Nephites was powerful and impressive, so much so that they are unable to adequately express them in written form.  When they write, they can see the contrast and felt that the writing wasn't adequate.  For this reason Moroni thinks that the gentiles will make fun of his writings.
26  And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
The Lord dismisses Moroni's concerns.  He is not worried about the Nephite's weakness in writing.  Those proud latter-day individuals who belittle them will be deprived of the potential blessings, while the Lord's grace will bless the humble seekers of truth and they will be able to understand and benefit from Moroni's writings in spite of the "awkwardness" or errors.
27  And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
If we come to Christ, he will bring to light our weaknesses.  There is a purpose in this, but many times we rebel against this process due to our innate pride.  But if we truly humble ourselves we can tap into the strength and grace of Christ and will become truly strong.
28  Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
The Gentiles will become aware of their weakness, either through humble repentance, or through the intervention of an angry God.  They will thus learn (if they can accept the lesson) that possessing the qualities of faith, hope and charity will lead them to the source of all righteousness.
29  And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith;
Moroni's original concern is satisfied and he accepts the will of the Lord because he knows that the Lord always operates in the lives of men according to their faith.
30  For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed.  And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith.
Here Moroni gives us another example of the power of faith.  Unfortunately, we do not know the complete story of this incident.  Why and when did Moriancumer move this mountain?  Where was the mountain named Zerin?  It could have been anywhere and anytime during the life of Moriancumer, but it would be my guess that it occurred during their exodus from Babel, and during their trip across Asia to the sea.  There would have been a valid reason for this miracle as the Lord does not perform miracles just for show.  It would probably have been comparable to Moses's parting of the Red Sea, or Josuah's victory at the battle of Jerico.  This miracle was accomplished through Moriancumer's faith in the Lord.  Without faith it would not have happened.  It is unlikely that Jared, his brother, could have duplicated it.  
31  For thus didst thou manifest thyself unto thy disciples; for after they had faith, and did speak in thy name, thou didst show thyself unto them in great power.
Throughout history Christ has manifest himself to those disciples who had sufficient faith and were acting in their calling (see TG Jesus Christ, Second Comforter, especially D&C 93:1.  See also the More Sure Word of Prophecy, 2 Pet. 1:19 and D&C 131:5).  This may be equivalent to the ordinance of the Second Anointing.
32  And I also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared.
In this verse Moroni is reviewing the Lord's promises, (and perhaps strengthening his own faith in the process) as he continues on with his translation, and with his long, multi-year journey away from Cumorah.  The Lord has promised us a dwelling place in the Celestial Kingdom.  Undoubtedly, those dwellings are beyond our comprehension, but the Lord compares them to temporal mansions here on earth.  We must have hope and faith in this promise, and act upon it, or we cannot receive the promised blessing.  This includes keeping the Lord's commandments and covenants, and enduring to the end.  
33  And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.
Christ's love of mankind motivated him to sacrifice his life, in order to bring about the atonement, that He might prepare the way for them to return to His Father, if they would so chose.  Christ is our advocate with the Father, and through his grace we can perfect ourselves and be worthy to enter into Celestial glory.  
Moroni later writes:  "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.  
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moro. 10:32-33)."
34  And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.
(See 1 Cor. 13 and Moroni 7).  This motivating love that the Lord has for mankind is charity.  Unless a man develops a similar quality of charity he will not be prepared to enter into the Celestial Kingdom.  Moroni also comments on the necessity of charity: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth.  Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure (Moro. 7:46-48)."
35  Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.
Moroni is still sensitive about his weakness in written expression.  But he is comforted by the Lord's assurance that the responsibility will be laid upon the reader, not the writer.  If the gentiles, who are to be the recipients of Moroni's message, misjudge the message, because of Moroni's weakness in writing, they will be held accountable.  
The last part of this verse is very interesting.  The Lord planned to give the gentiles a special blessing, or talent (in the sense of ability, skill, capability or genius) which would make them great.  If they do not humbly receive Moroni's message, and the complete Nephite abridgement, this blessing will be taken from them and given to another more worthy recipient.  The one more worthy would probably be the converted Nephite/Lamanite remnant.
There are several interesting scriptures related to the blessing/cursing of the latter-day gentiles.  In Nephi's vision he is shown the great gentile nation on the promised land and that they would be blessed and become greater than other nations.  "Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations (1 Ne. 13:30)."  Later the Savior comments on these latter-day gentiles in more detail.  "all the kindreds of the earth [shall] be blessed—unto the pouring out of the Holy Ghost through me upon the Gentiles, which blessing upon the Gentiles shall make them mighty above all ...  Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fulness of my gospel, then if they shall harden their hearts against me I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father (3 Ne. 20:27)."  But, "At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them (3 Ne. 20:27-28)."  This is the time when their "talent" shall be taken from them.  
36  And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity.
The Lord had told Moroni that the gentiles must have charity, or the love of God, in order to receive his message.  So Moroni, having great charity himself, prays that they might be blessed with this charity and accept his message.  It is interesting that Hyrum Smith had read and marked this very verse shortly before he was murdered at Carthage in an act diametrically opposed to charity.  

37  And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean.  And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
The Lord responds that it is not Moroni's responsibility.  If the gentiles do not accept the message, they will be held accountable.  Moroni has recognized his weakness, but in spite of it, he has performed his duty faithfully and is promised a place in the Celestial Kingdom.  Perhaps this is an example to all of us.  If we recognize our weaknesses and rely on the Lord, they can become strengths for us.  
38  And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
This is something worth striving for -- to know that we have completely fulfilled our responsibilities to the point that we will not be held accountable for anyone else's sins.
39  And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
Moroni bears his testimony.  This probably occurred during the previous dialogue that Moroni had with Christ concerning his weakness in writing.  However, it is possible that he may have conversed with the Savior multiple times during his solitary life following Cumorah.
40  And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
He only recorded a small part of the revelations he received.  He blames it on his weakness in writing, however he may have been commanded to withhold some information, or he may also have been short of gold plates on which to write.  This, and other scriptures, make it clear that we only have a small part of the actual record.  
41  And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.  Amen.
Moroni concludes his commentary by leaving us with his blessing and encouraging us to turn to Christ that we may be recipients of his grace.

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