Tag Archives: President Gordon B. Hinckley

#BOMTC Ether 2-3: Life Lessons

The book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Bro Simon’s “Life Lessons” from Ether 1-3

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quotes from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (Go Forward with Faith, p. 423)

“Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do.” (“To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

All the water in the world,

However hard it tried,

Could never sink the smallest ship

Unless it [gets] inside.

And all the evil in the world,

The blackest kind of sin,

Can never hurt you the least bit

Unless you let it in.

(Boyd K. Packer, “The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign, Nov. 1999)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU too!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself when he says he was at the busiest time of his life: “As my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC_Day_78,_June_23~Ether_2-3_or_Pages_489-494,_JS_I_Made_This_My_Rule

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

  1. The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)
  2. In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, ‘Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles’… But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)
  3. If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . 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.”

Things. 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.

He hurried on: “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.

“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.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Small Stone

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“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, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “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.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “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?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “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.

“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 my own image.

“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.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “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.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “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.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “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. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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#BOMTC 4 Nephi-Mormon 1: MORMON Should Mean “MORE GOOD”

In my previous post I focused on President Russell M. Nelson’s plea and President M. Russell Ballard’s emphasis and followup on the importance of using “The Correct Name of the Church.”

We may never be able to shake the nickname of “Mormons” but as President Nelson pointed out:

“While we have no control over what other people may call us, we are in complete control over how we refer to ourselves. How can we expect others to honor the correct name of the Church if we as its members fail to do so?”

So even though others may not be interested in using the correct name of the Church we should be.

Now, when other’s choose to use the term “Mormon” we can do what President Nelson did during an interview that he had while visiting Samoa and use that opportunity to not just emphasize the correct name of the Church, but do so in a way that emphasizes the Savior Jesus Christ :

SAMOA OBSERVER: In this part of the world, the public face of the L.D.S. Church is its humanitarian work. Can you talk a little bit about that, and can you tell us what drives the humanitarian work of the church?

President Nelson: Let me correct you, it’s not the L.D.S. church. It’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I make that correction because we are humanitarian because Jesus taught us to be a caring people.

See what he did there?! Okay, now that we understand this a bit more, let’s look at today’s post–“MORMON” SHOULD MEAN: “MORE GOOD”.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “‘More good‘, is that proper grammar?” Well, its not, but it is derived from an article that was purported to have been written by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Wikipedia explains:

The May 15, 1843 issue of the official Mormon periodical Times and Seasons contains an article, purportedly written by Joseph Smith, Jr., deriving the etymology of the name “Mormon” from English “more” + Egyptian mon, “good”, and extolling the meaning as follows:

It has been stated that this word [mormon] was derived from the Greek word mormo. This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523d page, of the fourth edition, it reads: And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the Reformed Egyptian … none other people knoweth our language; therefore [God] hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.” … [The] Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, “I am the good shepherd;” and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, good; the Dane, god; the Goth, goda; the German,gut; the Dutch, goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; and the Egyptian, mon. Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word MOR-MON; which means, literally, more good.

Whether [Joseph] Smith was the actual author of this passage is uncertain. Official LDS Church historian B. H. Roberts removed the quote from his History of the Church compilation, saying he found evidence that W. W. Phelps wrote that paragraph and that it was “based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic.” LDS Church apostle Gordon B. Hinckley noted that the “more good” translation is incorrect but added that “Mormon means ‘more good'” is a positive motto for members of the LDS Church. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_(word))

(For a more scholarly take on the origin and etymology of the word Mormon see Book of Mormon Onomasticon: MORMON and “Most Desirable Above All Things”: Onomastic Play on Mary and Mormon in the Book of Mormon, pages 41-61.)

The reason that I am focusing on this for the current post is because in the book of Fourth Nephi we find a people who started off being “more good” and ended up being “more bad” (WAY “more bad”).

After Jesus Christ’s visit and ministry in the Americas, the people applied His teachings and enjoyed 200 years of unity, prosperity, and happiness (“more good“). Eventually, however, the people began to be prideful and became increasingly wicked (“more bad”). Soon they became divided into Nephites and Lamanites again, and after 300 years, both the Nephites and Lamanites had become wicked (“more bad”), with only a few righteous people remaining. A young man named MORMON was one of the few remaining righteous people (“more good“).

As you study from the book of Mormon, you will learn valuable lessons from Mormon, who lived faithfully as a disciple of Jesus Christ (“more good“) even though he was surrounded throughout his life by a “more bad” “continual scene of wickedness and abominations” (Mormon 2:18). The Nephites lost the gift of the Holy Ghost and other gifts of God and were left to their own strength as they battled the Lamanites (“more bad”). By studying the accounts in Mormon we can learn the importance of choosing to live “more good” in a world that is continually becoming “more bad”.

How “more good” was Mormon? When he was “about ten years of age,” the record keeper Ammaron informed him that eventually he would have the responsibility to record “all the things that [he] observed concerning this people” (Mormon 1:2, 4). When he was 15 years old, Mormon was “visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Mormon 1:15). In the same year, the Nephites appointed him to lead their armies (see Mormon 2:1). At about age 24, he gained custody of the plates of Nephi and made “a record according to the words of Ammaron” (Mormon 2:17). Later, Mormon began abridging the large plates of Nephi, which included writings from prophets and record keepers from Lehi through Ammaron. Near the end of his life, Mormon “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to [him] by the hand of the Lord,” except for a few plates that he gave to his son Moroni (Mormon 6:6). He then led the Nephites in their last great battle against the Lamanites. Before Mormon died, he directed Moroni to complete his record. That is a lot of “more good” stuff! (For an interesting analysis of the timeline of Mormon’s life see, “The Writer and His Spokesman:
A Study of the Prophet Mormon and His Son Moroni“)

President Gordon B. Hinckley had this to say about the nickname Mormon:

“While I sometimes regret that people do not call this church by its proper name, I am happy that the nickname they use is one of great honor made so by a remarkable man and a book which gives an unmatched testimony concerning the Redeemer of the world. Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God” (“Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good,’” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 52–53).

That doesn’t mean that we are “more good” (better) than other people by virtue of our membership, but it does mean that by virtue of our membership we should be striving to be “more good” (better) each day.

Therein lies our challenge: to strive to be “more good” in a world that is becoming “more bad”. It is interesting to consider what may have been the result had the people of Fourth Nephi continued to live after a manner of being “more good“. Unfortunately, we only get to learn the consequences of becoming “more bad”. But Mormon shows us that no matter how “more bad” the world may get, anyone can use their agency to become “more good“, if they really want to be.

Here is a little song that can help us to ponder the question we should be asking at this point: How can I be “more good?

How Can I Be

Lets be like MORE like MORMON, today and EVERY DAY, by being “MORE GOOD”!

Mormon Should Mean “More Good”

My beloved brethren and sisters, I greet you with love this beautiful Sabbath morning as we are assembled in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, and as you are gathered in thousands of other Church buildings across the world, as well as in your homes. It is a beautiful autumn morning here in the valley of the mountains where almost a century and a half ago, after much suffering, our pioneer forefathers found a place where they could worship God according to the dictates of conscience. How grateful we are for the peace we enjoy. How precious is the privilege of worshipping our Eternal Father as we desire so to do, while respecting others as they worship according to their desire.

We meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. We meet as members of the Church which carries His sacred name.

Many of our people are disturbed by the practice of the media, and of many others, to disregard totally the true name of the Church and to use the nickname “the Mormon Church.”

Six months ago in our conference Elder Russell M. Nelson delivered an excellent address on the correct name of the Church. He quoted the words of the Lord Himself:

“Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 115:4.)

He then went on to discourse on the various elements of that name. I commend to you a rereading of his talk.

The Mormon church, of course, is a nickname. And nicknames have a way of becoming fixed. I think of the verse concerning a boy and his name:

Father calls me William,
Sister calls me Will,
Mother calls me Willie,
But the fellers call me Bill.

I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the Church. Because of the shortness of the word Mormon and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon church, and so forth.

They could do worse. More than fifty years ago, when I was a missionary in England, I said to one of my associates, “How can we get people, including our own members, to speak of the Church by its proper name?”

He replied, “You can’t. The word Mormon is too deeply ingrained and too easy to say.” He went on, “I’ve quit trying. While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church which bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.

“Look,” he went on to say, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say—‘Mormon means more good.’” (The Prophet Joseph Smith first said this in 1843; see Times and Seasons,4:194; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300.)

His statement intrigued me—Mormon means “more good.” I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But his was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception. And, as we all know, our lives are guided in large measure by our perceptions. Ever since, when I have seen the wordMormon used in the media to describe us—in a newspaper or a magazine or book or whatever—there flashes into my mind his statement, which has become my motto: Mormon means “more good.”

We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.

After all, it is the name of a man who was a great prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I remind you for a moment of the greatness and of the goodness of this man Mormon. He lived on this American continent in the fourth century after Christ. When he was a boy of ten the historian of the people, whose name was Ammaron, described Mormon as “a sober child, and … quick to observe.” (Morm. 1:2.) Ammaron gave him a charge that when he reached the age of twenty-four, he was to take custody of the records of the generations who had preceded him.

The years that followed Mormon’s childhood were years of terrible bloodshed for his nation, the result of a long and vicious and terrible war between those who were called Nephites and those who were called Lamanites.

Mormon later became the leader of the armies of the Nephites and witnessed the carnage of his people, making it plain to them that their repeated defeats came because they forsook the Lord and He in turn abandoned them. His nation was destroyed with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. He was one of only twenty-four who survived. As he looked upon the moldering remains of what once had been legions, he cried:

“O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Morm. 6:17.)

He wrote to our generation with words of warning and pleading, proclaiming with eloquence his testimony of the resurrected Christ. He warned of calamities to come if we should forsake the ways of the Lord as his own people had done.

Knowing that his own life would soon be brought to an end, as his enemies hunted the survivors, he pleaded for our generation to walk with faith, hope, and charity, declaring: “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.” (Moro. 7:47.)

Such was the goodness, the strength, the power, the faith, the prophetic heart of the prophet-leader Mormon.

He was the chief compiler of the book which is called after his name and which has come forth in this period of the world’s history as a voice speaking from the dust in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has touched for good the lives of millions who have prayerfully read it and pondered its language. May I tell you of one such I recently met in Europe.

He was a businessman, successful in his undertakings. In the course of his travels he met two of our missionaries. They tried to set up an appointment to teach him. He put them off, but finally agreed to listen. He somewhat perfunctorily accepted what they had to say. He became convinced in his mind that they spoke the truth, but he was not moved in his heart.

He decided that he would read the Book of Mormon. He said that he had been a man of the world, never given to crying. But as he read the book, tears coursed his cheeks. It did something to him. He read it again and felt the same emotions. What had been conversion of the mind became conversion of the heart.

His way of life was altered, his perspective changed. He threw himself into the work of the Lord. Today he fills a high and holy calling in the cause he has come to love.

And so, while I sometimes regret that people do not call this church by its proper name, I am happy that the nickname they use is one of great honor made so by a remarkable man and a book which gives an unmatched testimony concerning the Redeemer of the world.

Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God. It was the modern translator of this ancient record who declared that through reading it a man would come closer to God than through the reading of any other book.

All of this places upon us of this Church and this generation an incumbent and demanding responsibility to recognize that as we are spoken of as Mormons, we must so live that our example will enhance the perception that Mormon can mean in a very real way, “more good.”

In what way, you ask? There are many ways, but I have time to mention only three or four. When I think of the more obvious matters, I think of what we call the Word of Wisdom. This is a divine code of health received through revelation in 1833, 157 years ago. It proscribes alcohol and tobacco, tea and coffee, and emphasizes the use of fruit and grains. ThisWord of Wisdom came to us from the Father of us all, the God of heaven, for our blessing and the blessing of all who would observe it.

I regret that we as a people do not observe it more faithfully. But remarkable have been the blessings that have come of its observance to the degree that we have observed it. Newspapers across the nation have recently run reports on a significant California study. It was conducted by Dr. James Enstrom of the UCLA School of Public Medicine. It included a substantial number of active members of the Church—5,231 high priests and 4,613 of their wives. I quote now from a newspaper story:

“Compared to the other groups, the study found the Mormons had an average of 53 percent fewer fatal cancers … 48 percent fewer deaths from heart disease and 53 percent fewer fatal illnesses of all kinds.” (Salt Lake Tribune, 12 Sept. 1990.)

Dr. Enstrom, speaking of the eight-year study, said that he “can predict that a very active, health-conscious 25-year-old Mormon male will live 11 years longer than the average American male of the same age.” (Ibid.; italics added.)

Can you doubt that the word Mormon, spoken in this context, means “more good?” It means, on average, a longer life. It means, on average, a life substantially more free of pain and misery. It means more happiness. It means “more good.”

Of course, some of our people suffer from these same diseases that afflict others. Some of them die young. But here are the scientific data, released to the world, of an independent study of eight years made by a faculty member of one of the great universities of the nation, a recognized expert in public health who knows whereof he speaks.

As with personal and public health, so also Mormon should mean “more good” in terms of family life.

I recently read an illuminating article on the deterioration of the family in New York City, which is described as a root cause of the severe problems that plague that city and almost every other large city across the world.

The strength of any community lies in the strength of its families. The strength of any nation lies in the strength of its families. Strong family life comes of strong and clear religious understanding of who we are, and why we are here, and of what we may eternally become. Strong family life comes of the perception that each of us is a child of God, born with a divine birthright, and with a great and significant potential. Strong family life comes of parents who love and respect one another, and who love and respect and nurture their children in the ways of the Lord. These are undergirding principles of our teachings as a church. To the degree that we observe these teachings we build strong families whose generations will strengthen the nation.

These are families where there is daily prayer with an acknowledgment of God as our Eternal Father and of our accountability to Him for what we do with our lives.

These are families where parents and children counsel together. These are families where education is encouraged and where children build upon the strengths of one another.

We are far from perfect in doing all that we ought to do, but, speaking collectively, we are trying, and we are achieving some measure of success.

To the degree that we accomplish these Church-fostered goals Mormonmeans “more good.”

It also means more of tolerance and mutual respect and helpfulness. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, speaking in Nauvoo in the year 1843:

“The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon.’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.” (History of the Church, 5:498.)

Last Sunday I attended a sacrament service in one of our university wards, a ward comprised entirely of young married students who are struggling with their educational pursuits as well as with the burdens of family life. Two babies, recently born, were given blessings by their fathers as they were given names to be placed on the rolls of the Church.

I was touched by the prayers of both of these young fathers. One of them, speaking to his newborn son, blessed him that throughout his life he would have a spirit of love for all people regardless of their circumstances or condition. He blessed him that he should practice respect for others regardless of race, religious denomination, or other differences. I know that this young father, a medical student, has carried in his own life, as a faithful member of this Church, love and appreciation and respect for all.

How great a thing is charity, whether it be expressed through the giving of one’s substance, the lending of one’s strength to lift the burdens of others, or as an expression of kindness and appreciation.

The people of this Church, the people of this so-called Mormon church, have given generously of their resources to help those in need. My mind goes back to one Sunday, a few years ago, when the Presidency of the Church asked that our people fast for two meals and consecrate the equivalent value, and more, to help the homeless and hungry in areas of Africa where we had no members, but where there was much of famine and suffering.

On Monday morning the money began to come in. There were hundreds of dollars, and then thousands of dollars, then hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then millions of dollars. These consecrated funds became the means of saving many who otherwise might have starved.

We do not boast of this. I simply mention it in furtherance of my theme that Mormon can and for many does mean “more good.”

The Relief Society of the Church, the Mormon Relief Society which embraces over two million women organized in more than a hundred nations, has as its motto Charity Never Faileth. Innumerable are the deeds of these remarkable and wonderful and unselfish women in succoring those in distress, in binding up the wounds of those who have been hurt, in giving cheer and comfort to those in distress, in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and in lifting up those who have fallen and giving them strength and encouragement and the will to go forward.

This remarkable choir seated behind me is known across the world as theMormon Tabernacle Choir. Everywhere that it has been heard—and those places are numerous—its song has been a hymn of peace, of love, of reverence, and of humanity, given in anthem of praise to the Almighty and His Beloved Son.

They of this choir are a part, a segment, of this remarkable thing which the world calls “Mormonism” and which we call the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

And so I leave with you the simple but profound thought: Mormon means “more good.”

The current issue of Fortune magazine, a highly respected business journal, carries a lead article naming Salt Lake City the number one city in America in which to do business. This is a great and singular compliment. Some feel it will help to attract many new people to the community. For us of the Church who reside here, this presents a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate through our attitudes, through our integrity, through our industry and neighborliness that we are the kind of people others appreciate.

May God grant us the strength and the discipline so to conduct our lives as to follow more nearly the matchless example of the Redeemer, of whom it was said, He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38.)

I testify of His living reality. I testify of the reality of God, our Eternal Father. I testify of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that when people speak of us by the name of this book, they will compliment us, if we will live worthy of the name, remembering that in a very real sense Mormonism must mean that greatergood which the Lord Jesus Christ exemplified. I so pray in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good'”,” Ensign, Nov. 1990.)

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#BOMTC Ether 2-3: Life Lessons

The book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Bro Simon’s “Life Lessons” from Ether 1-3

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (in Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 423)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU too!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself: “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, I made this my rule when the lord commands do it

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

  1. The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)
  2. In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, ‘Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles’… But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)
  3. If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . 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.”

Things. 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.

He hurried on: “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.

“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.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“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, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “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.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “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?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “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.

“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 my own image.

“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.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “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.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “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.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “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. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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#BOMTC 4 Nephi-Mormon 1: MORMON Should Mean “MORE GOOD”

In yesterday’s post I focused on Elder M. Russell Ballard’s emphasis and followup on the importance of using the proper name of the Church.  As part of his comments he acknowledged that:

“The term Mormon can be appropriately used in some contexts to refer to members of the Church, such as Mormon pioneers, or to institutions, such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Church members are widely known as Mormons, and in interactions with those not of our faith, we may fittingly refer to ourselves as Mormons, provided we couple this with the full name of the Church. If members learn to use the correct name of the Church in connection with the word Mormon, it will underscore that we are Christians, members of the Savior’s Church. (Following Up, Ensign, May 2014.)

We will probably never be able to shake the nickname of “Mormons” and for that reason Elder Ballard also taught:

Some may ask, what about the Internet sites such as Mormon.org as well as various Church-initiated media campaigns? As I said, referring collectively to members as Mormons is sometimes appropriate. As a practical matter, those outside of our faith come looking for us searching for that term. But once you open up Mormon.org, the proper name of the Church is explained on the home page, and it appears on each additional page on the site. It is impractical to expect people to type the full name of the Church when seeking to find us or when logging on to our website. While these practicalities may continue, they should not keep members from using the full name of the Church whenever possible. Let us develop the habit within our families and our Church activities and our daily interactions of making it clear that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the name by which the Lord Himself has directed that we be known. (“The Importance of a Name,” Ensign, Nov. 2011)

That leads us into today’s post–MORMON SHOULD MEAN: “MORE GOOD”.

That doesn’t mean that we are “more good” (better) than other people by virtue of our membership, but it does mean that by virtue of our membership we should be striving to be “more good” (better) each day.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “‘More good’, is that proper grammar?” Well, it is not, but it is derived from an article that was purported to have been written by Joseph Smith. Wikipedia explains:

The May 15, 1843 issue of the official Mormon periodical Times and Seasons contains an article, purportedly written by Joseph Smith, Jr., deriving the etymology of the name “Mormon” from English “more” + Egyptian mon, “good”, and extolling the meaning as follows:

It has been stated that this word [mormon] was derived from the Greek word mormo. This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523d page, of the fourth edition, it reads: And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the Reformed Egyptian … none other people knoweth our language; therefore [God] hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.” … [The] Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, “I am the good shepherd;” and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, good; the Dane, god; the Goth, goda; the German,gut; the Dutch, goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; and the Egyptian, mon. Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word MOR-MON; which means, literally, more good.

Whether [Joseph] Smith was the actual author of this passage is uncertain. Official LDS Church historian B. H. Roberts removed the quote from his History of the Church compilation, saying he found evidence that W. W. Phelps wrote that paragraph and that it was “based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic.” LDS Church apostle Gordon B. Hinckley noted that the “more good” translation is incorrect but added that “Mormon means ‘more good'” is a positive motto for members of the LDS Church. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_(word))

The reason that I am focusing on this for the current post is because in the book of Fourth Nephi we find a people who started off being “more good” and ended up being “more bad” (waaaay more bad). After Jesus Christ’s visit and ministry in the Americas, the people applied His teachings and enjoyed 200 years of unity, prosperity, and happiness (“more good”). Eventually, however, the people began to be prideful and became increasingly wicked (“more bad”). Soon they became divided into Nephites and Lamanites again, and after 300 years, both the Nephites and Lamanites had become wicked, with only a few righteous people remaining.

A young man named MORMON was one of the few remaining righteous people (“more good”). As you study from the book of Mormon, you will learn valuable lessons from Mormon, who lived faithfully as a disciple of Jesus Christ (“more good”) even though he was surrounded throughout his life by “a continual scene of wickedness and abominations” (“more bad” Mormon 2:18). The Nephites lost the gift of the Holy Ghost and other gifts of God and were left to their own strength as they battled the Lamanites. By studying the accounts in Mormon we can learn the importance of choosing to live “more good” in a world that is continually becoming “more bad”.

How “more good” was Mormon? When he was “about ten years of age,” the record keeper Ammaron informed him that eventually he would have the responsibility to record “all the things that [he] observed concerning this people” (Mormon 1:2, 4). When he was 15 years old, Mormon was “visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Mormon 1:15). In the same year, the Nephites appointed him to lead their armies (see Mormon 2:1). At about age 24, he gained custody of the plates of Nephi and made “a record according to the words of Ammaron” (Mormon 2:17). Later, Mormon began abridging the large plates of Nephi, which included writings from prophets and record keepers from Lehi through Ammaron. Near the end of his life, Mormon “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to [him] by the hand of the Lord,” except for a few plates that he gave to his son Moroni (Mormon 6:6). He then led the Nephites in their last great battle against the Lamanites. Before Mormon died, he directed Moroni to complete his record. That is a lot of “more good” stuff!

President Gordon B. Hinckley had this to say about the nickname Mormon:

“While I sometimes regret that people do not call this church by its proper name, I am happy that the nickname they use is one of great honor made so by a remarkable man and a book which gives an unmatched testimony concerning the Redeemer of the world. Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God” (“Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good,’” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 52–53).

Therein lies our challenge: to strive to be “more good” in a world that is becoming “more bad”. It is interesting to consider what may have been the result had the people of Fourth Nephi continued to live after a manner of being “more good”. Unfortunately, we only get to learn the consequences of becoming “more bad”. But Mormon shows us that no matter how “more bad” the world may get, anyone can use their agency to become “more good”, if they really want to be.

Lets be like Mormon TODAY  by being “MORE GOOD”!

Mormon Should Mean “More Good”

– President Gordon B. Hinckley

My beloved brethren and sisters, I greet you with love this beautiful Sabbath morning as we are assembled in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, and as you are gathered in thousands of other Church buildings across the world, as well as in your homes. It is a beautiful autumn morning here in the valley of the mountains where almost a century and a half ago, after much suffering, our pioneer forefathers found a place where they could worship God according to the dictates of conscience. How grateful we are for the peace we enjoy. How precious is the privilege of worshipping our Eternal Father as we desire so to do, while respecting others as they worship according to their desire.

We meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. We meet as members of the Church which carries His sacred name.

Many of our people are disturbed by the practice of the media, and of many others, to disregard totally the true name of the Church and to use the nickname “the Mormon Church.”

Six months ago in our conference Elder Russell M. Nelson delivered an excellent address on the correct name of the Church. He quoted the words of the Lord Himself:

“Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 115:4.)

He then went on to discourse on the various elements of that name. I commend to you a rereading of his talk.

The Mormon church, of course, is a nickname. And nicknames have a way of becoming fixed. I think of the verse concerning a boy and his name:

Father calls me William,
Sister calls me Will,
Mother calls me Willie,
But the fellers call me Bill.

I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the Church. Because of the shortness of the word Mormon and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon church, and so forth.

They could do worse. More than fifty years ago, when I was a missionary in England, I said to one of my associates, “How can we get people, including our own members, to speak of the Church by its proper name?”

He replied, “You can’t. The word Mormon is too deeply ingrained and too easy to say.” He went on, “I’ve quit trying. While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church which bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.

“Look,” he went on to say, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say—‘Mormon means more good.’” (The Prophet Joseph Smith first said this in 1843; see Times and Seasons,4:194; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300.)

His statement intrigued me—Mormon means “more good.” I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But his was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception. And, as we all know, our lives are guided in large measure by our perceptions. Ever since, when I have seen the wordMormon used in the media to describe us—in a newspaper or a magazine or book or whatever—there flashes into my mind his statement, which has become my motto: Mormon means “more good.”

We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.

After all, it is the name of a man who was a great prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I remind you for a moment of the greatness and of the goodness of this man Mormon. He lived on this American continent in the fourth century after Christ. When he was a boy of ten the historian of the people, whose name was Ammaron, described Mormon as “a sober child, and … quick to observe.” (Morm. 1:2.) Ammaron gave him a charge that when he reached the age of twenty-four, he was to take custody of the records of the generations who had preceded him.

The years that followed Mormon’s childhood were years of terrible bloodshed for his nation, the result of a long and vicious and terrible war between those who were called Nephites and those who were called Lamanites.

Mormon later became the leader of the armies of the Nephites and witnessed the carnage of his people, making it plain to them that their repeated defeats came because they forsook the Lord and He in turn abandoned them. His nation was destroyed with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. He was one of only twenty-four who survived. As he looked upon the moldering remains of what once had been legions, he cried:

“O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Morm. 6:17.)

He wrote to our generation with words of warning and pleading, proclaiming with eloquence his testimony of the resurrected Christ. He warned of calamities to come if we should forsake the ways of the Lord as his own people had done.

Knowing that his own life would soon be brought to an end, as his enemies hunted the survivors, he pleaded for our generation to walk with faith, hope, and charity, declaring: “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.” (Moro. 7:47.)

Such was the goodness, the strength, the power, the faith, the prophetic heart of the prophet-leader Mormon.

He was the chief compiler of the book which is called after his name and which has come forth in this period of the world’s history as a voice speaking from the dust in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has touched for good the lives of millions who have prayerfully read it and pondered its language. May I tell you of one such I recently met in Europe.

He was a businessman, successful in his undertakings. In the course of his travels he met two of our missionaries. They tried to set up an appointment to teach him. He put them off, but finally agreed to listen. He somewhat perfunctorily accepted what they had to say. He became convinced in his mind that they spoke the truth, but he was not moved in his heart.

He decided that he would read the Book of Mormon. He said that he had been a man of the world, never given to crying. But as he read the book, tears coursed his cheeks. It did something to him. He read it again and felt the same emotions. What had been conversion of the mind became conversion of the heart.

His way of life was altered, his perspective changed. He threw himself into the work of the Lord. Today he fills a high and holy calling in the cause he has come to love.

And so, while I sometimes regret that people do not call this church by its proper name, I am happy that the nickname they use is one of great honor made so by a remarkable man and a book which gives an unmatched testimony concerning the Redeemer of the world.

Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God. It was the modern translator of this ancient record who declared that through reading it a man would come closer to God than through the reading of any other book.

All of this places upon us of this Church and this generation an incumbent and demanding responsibility to recognize that as we are spoken of as Mormons, we must so live that our example will enhance the perception that Mormon can mean in a very real way, “more good.”

In what way, you ask? There are many ways, but I have time to mention only three or four. When I think of the more obvious matters, I think of what we call the Word of Wisdom. This is a divine code of health received through revelation in 1833, 157 years ago. It proscribes alcohol and tobacco, tea and coffee, and emphasizes the use of fruit and grains. ThisWord of Wisdom came to us from the Father of us all, the God of heaven, for our blessing and the blessing of all who would observe it.

I regret that we as a people do not observe it more faithfully. But remarkable have been the blessings that have come of its observance to the degree that we have observed it. Newspapers across the nation have recently run reports on a significant California study. It was conducted by Dr. James Enstrom of the UCLA School of Public Medicine. It included a substantial number of active members of the Church—5,231 high priests and 4,613 of their wives. I quote now from a newspaper story:

“Compared to the other groups, the study found the Mormons had an average of 53 percent fewer fatal cancers … 48 percent fewer deaths from heart disease and 53 percent fewer fatal illnesses of all kinds.” (Salt Lake Tribune, 12 Sept. 1990.)

Dr. Enstrom, speaking of the eight-year study, said that he “can predict that a very active, health-conscious 25-year-old Mormon male will live 11 years longer than the average American male of the same age.” (Ibid.; italics added.)

Can you doubt that the word Mormon, spoken in this context, means “more good?” It means, on average, a longer life. It means, on average, a life substantially more free of pain and misery. It means more happiness. It means “more good.”

Of course, some of our people suffer from these same diseases that afflict others. Some of them die young. But here are the scientific data, released to the world, of an independent study of eight years made by a faculty member of one of the great universities of the nation, a recognized expert in public health who knows whereof he speaks.

As with personal and public health, so also Mormon should mean “more good” in terms of family life.

I recently read an illuminating article on the deterioration of the family in New York City, which is described as a root cause of the severe problems that plague that city and almost every other large city across the world.

The strength of any community lies in the strength of its families. The strength of any nation lies in the strength of its families. Strong family life comes of strong and clear religious understanding of who we are, and why we are here, and of what we may eternally become. Strong family life comes of the perception that each of us is a child of God, born with a divine birthright, and with a great and significant potential. Strong family life comes of parents who love and respect one another, and who love and respect and nurture their children in the ways of the Lord. These are undergirding principles of our teachings as a church. To the degree that we observe these teachings we build strong families whose generations will strengthen the nation.

These are families where there is daily prayer with an acknowledgment of God as our Eternal Father and of our accountability to Him for what we do with our lives.

These are families where parents and children counsel together. These are families where education is encouraged and where children build upon the strengths of one another.

We are far from perfect in doing all that we ought to do, but, speaking collectively, we are trying, and we are achieving some measure of success.

To the degree that we accomplish these Church-fostered goals Mormonmeans “more good.”

It also means more of tolerance and mutual respect and helpfulness. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, speaking in Nauvoo in the year 1843:

“The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon.’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.” (History of the Church, 5:498.)

Last Sunday I attended a sacrament service in one of our university wards, a ward comprised entirely of young married students who are struggling with their educational pursuits as well as with the burdens of family life. Two babies, recently born, were given blessings by their fathers as they were given names to be placed on the rolls of the Church.

I was touched by the prayers of both of these young fathers. One of them, speaking to his newborn son, blessed him that throughout his life he would have a spirit of love for all people regardless of their circumstances or condition. He blessed him that he should practice respect for others regardless of race, religious denomination, or other differences. I know that this young father, a medical student, has carried in his own life, as a faithful member of this Church, love and appreciation and respect for all.

How great a thing is charity, whether it be expressed through the giving of one’s substance, the lending of one’s strength to lift the burdens of others, or as an expression of kindness and appreciation.

The people of this Church, the people of this so-called Mormon church, have given generously of their resources to help those in need. My mind goes back to one Sunday, a few years ago, when the Presidency of the Church asked that our people fast for two meals and consecrate the equivalent value, and more, to help the homeless and hungry in areas of Africa where we had no members, but where there was much of famine and suffering.

On Monday morning the money began to come in. There were hundreds of dollars, and then thousands of dollars, then hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then millions of dollars. These consecrated funds became the means of saving many who otherwise might have starved.

We do not boast of this. I simply mention it in furtherance of my theme that Mormon can and for many does mean “more good.”

The Relief Society of the Church, the Mormon Relief Society which embraces over two million women organized in more than a hundred nations, has as its motto Charity Never Faileth. Innumerable are the deeds of these remarkable and wonderful and unselfish women in succoring those in distress, in binding up the wounds of those who have been hurt, in giving cheer and comfort to those in distress, in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and in lifting up those who have fallen and giving them strength and encouragement and the will to go forward.

This remarkable choir seated behind me is known across the world as theMormon Tabernacle Choir. Everywhere that it has been heard—and those places are numerous—its song has been a hymn of peace, of love, of reverence, and of humanity, given in anthem of praise to the Almighty and His Beloved Son.

They of this choir are a part, a segment, of this remarkable thing which the world calls “Mormonism” and which we call the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

And so I leave with you the simple but profound thought: Mormon means “more good.”

The current issue of Fortune magazine, a highly respected business journal, carries a lead article naming Salt Lake City the number one city in America in which to do business. This is a great and singular compliment. Some feel it will help to attract many new people to the community. For us of the Church who reside here, this presents a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate through our attitudes, through our integrity, through our industry and neighborliness that we are the kind of people others appreciate.

May God grant us the strength and the discipline so to conduct our lives as to follow more nearly the matchless example of the Redeemer, of whom it was said, He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38.)

I testify of His living reality. I testify of the reality of God, our Eternal Father. I testify of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that when people speak of us by the name of this book, they will compliment us, if we will live worthy of the name, remembering that in a very real sense Mormonism must mean that greatergood which the Lord Jesus Christ exemplified. I so pray in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494: Life Lessons

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Ether is a Handbook for Life

Click on the graphic to study Ether 2-3

To me, the book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Life Lessons from the Book of Ether 1-3, According to Bro Simon Says

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

“As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

“Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (in Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 423)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

“God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself: “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, I made this my rule when the lord commands do it

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

“The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)

“In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, “Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles…” But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, “I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.” By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)

“If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . 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.”

Things. 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.

He hurried on: “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.

“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.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“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, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “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.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “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?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “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.

“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 my own image.

“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.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “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.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “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.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “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. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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#BOMTC Day 74, June 19~4 Nephi-Mormon 1 or Pages 465-470: MORMON Should Mean “MORE GOOD”

#BOMTC Day 74, June 19~4 Nephi-Mormon 1 or Pages 465-470, More Good

Click on the graphic to study 4 Nephi-Mormon 1

In yesterday’s post I focused on Elder M. Russell Ballard’s emphasis and followup on the importance of using the proper name of the Church.  As part of his comments he acknowledged that:

“The term Mormon can be appropriately used in some contexts to refer to members of the Church, such as Mormon pioneers, or to institutions, such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Church members are widely known as Mormons, and in interactions with those not of our faith, we may fittingly refer to ourselves as Mormons, provided we couple this with the full name of the Church. If members learn to use the correct name of the Church in connection with the word Mormon, it will underscore that we are Christians, members of the Savior’s Church. (Following Up, Ensign, May 2014.)

We will probably never be able to shake the nickname of “Mormons” and for that reason Elder Ballard also taught:

Some may ask, what about the Internet sites such as Mormon.org as well as various Church-initiated media campaigns? As I said, referring collectively to members as Mormons is sometimes appropriate. As a practical matter, those outside of our faith come looking for us searching for that term. But once you open up Mormon.org, the proper name of the Church is explained on the home page, and it appears on each additional page on the site. It is impractical to expect people to type the full name of the Church when seeking to find us or when logging on to our website. While these practicalities may continue, they should not keep members from using the full name of the Church whenever possible. Let us develop the habit within our families and our Church activities and our daily interactions of making it clear that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the name by which the Lord Himself has directed that we be known. (“The Importance of a Name,” Ensign, Nov. 2011)

That leads us into today’s post–MORMON SHOULD MEAN: “MORE GOOD”.

That doesn’t mean that we are “more good” (better) than other people by virtue of our membership, but it does mean that by virtue of our membership we should be striving to be “more good” (better) each day.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “More good? Is that proper grammar?” Well, it is not, but it is derived from an article that was purported to have been written by Joseph Smith. Wikipedia explains:

The May 15, 1843 issue of the official Mormon periodical Times and Seasons contains an article, purportedly written by Joseph Smith, Jr., deriving the etymology of the name “Mormon” from English “more” + Egyptian mon, “good”, and extolling the meaning as follows:

It has been stated that this word [mormon] was derived from the Greek word mormo. This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523d page, of the fourth edition, it reads: And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the Reformed Egyptian … none other people knoweth our language; therefore [God] hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.” … [The] Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, “I am the good shepherd;” and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, good; the Dane, god; the Goth, goda; the German,gut; the Dutch, goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; and the Egyptian, mon. Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word MOR-MON; which means, literally, more good.

Whether [Joseph] Smith was the actual author of this passage is uncertain. Official LDS Church historianB. H. Roberts removed the quote from his History of the Church compilation, saying he found evidence that W. W. Phelps wrote that paragraph and that it was “based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic.” LDS Church apostle Gordon B. Hinckley noted that the “more good” translation is incorrect but added that “Mormon means ‘more good'” is a positive motto for members of the LDS Church. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_(word))

The reason that I am focusing on this for the current post is because in the book of Fourth Nephi we find a people who started off being “more good” and ended up being “more bad” (waaaay more bad). After Jesus Christ’s visit and ministry in the Americas, the people applied His teachings and enjoyed 200 years of unity, prosperity, and happiness (“more good”). Eventually, however, the people began to be prideful and became increasingly wicked (“more bad”). Soon they became divided into Nephites and Lamanites again, and after 300 years, both the Nephites and Lamanites had become wicked, with only a few righteous people remaining.

A young man named MORMON was one of the few remaining righteous people (“more good”). As you study from the book of Mormon, you will learn valuable lessons from Mormon, who lived faithfully as a disciple of Jesus Christ (“more good”) even though he was surrounded throughout his life by “a continual scene of wickedness and abominations” (“more bad” Mormon 2:18). The Nephites lost the gift of the Holy Ghost and other gifts of God and were left to their own strength as they battled the Lamanites. By studying the accounts in Mormon we can learn the importance of choosing to live “more good” in a world that is continually becoming “more bad”.

How “more good” was Mormon? When he was “about ten years of age,” the record keeper Ammaron informed him that eventually he would have the responsibility to record “all the things that [he] observed concerning this people” (Mormon 1:2, 4). When he was 15 years old, Mormon was “visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Mormon 1:15). In the same year, the Nephites appointed him to lead their armies (see Mormon 2:1). At about age 24, he gained custody of the plates of Nephi and made “a record according to the words of Ammaron” (Mormon 2:17). Later, Mormon began abridging the large plates of Nephi, which included writings from prophets and record keepers from Lehi through Ammaron. Near the end of his life, Mormon “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to [him] by the hand of the Lord,” except for a few plates that he gave to his son Moroni (Mormon 6:6). He then led the Nephites in their last great battle against the Lamanites. Before Mormon died, he directed Moroni to complete his record. That is a lot of “more good” stuff!

President Gordon B. Hinckley had this to say about the nickname Mormon:

“While I sometimes regret that people do not call this church by its proper name, I am happy that the nickname they use is one of great honor made so by a remarkable man and a book which gives an unmatched testimony concerning the Redeemer of the world. Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God” (“Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good,’” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 52–53).

Therein lies our challenge: to strive to be “more good” in a world that is becoming “more bad”. It is interesting to consider what may have been the result had the people of Fourth Nephi continued to live after a manner of being “more good”. Unfortunately, we only get to learn the consequences of becoming “more bad”. But Mormon shows us that no matter how “more bad” the world may get, anyone can use their agency to become “more good”, if they really want to be.

Lets be like Mormon TODAY  by being “MORE GOOD”!

Mormon Should Mean “More Good”

– President Gordon B. Hinckley

My beloved brethren and sisters, I greet you with love this beautiful Sabbath morning as we are assembled in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, and as you are gathered in thousands of other Church buildings across the world, as well as in your homes. It is a beautiful autumn morning here in the valley of the mountains where almost a century and a half ago, after much suffering, our pioneer forefathers found a place where they could worship God according to the dictates of conscience. How grateful we are for the peace we enjoy. How precious is the privilege of worshipping our Eternal Father as we desire so to do, while respecting others as they worship according to their desire.

We meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. We meet as members of the Church which carries His sacred name.

Many of our people are disturbed by the practice of the media, and of many others, to disregard totally the true name of the Church and to use the nickname “the Mormon Church.”

Six months ago in our conference Elder Russell M. Nelson delivered an excellent address on the correct name of the Church. He quoted the words of the Lord Himself:

“Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 115:4.)

He then went on to discourse on the various elements of that name. I commend to you a rereading of his talk.

The Mormon church, of course, is a nickname. And nicknames have a way of becoming fixed. I think of the verse concerning a boy and his name:

Father calls me William,
Sister calls me Will,
Mother calls me Willie,
But the fellers call me Bill.

I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the Church. Because of the shortness of the word Mormon and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon church, and so forth.

They could do worse. More than fifty years ago, when I was a missionary in England, I said to one of my associates, “How can we get people, including our own members, to speak of the Church by its proper name?”

He replied, “You can’t. The word Mormon is too deeply ingrained and too easy to say.” He went on, “I’ve quit trying. While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church which bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.

“Look,” he went on to say, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say—‘Mormon means more good.’” (The Prophet Joseph Smith first said this in 1843; see Times and Seasons,4:194; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300.)

His statement intrigued me—Mormon means “more good.” I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But his was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception. And, as we all know, our lives are guided in large measure by our perceptions. Ever since, when I have seen the wordMormon used in the media to describe us—in a newspaper or a magazine or book or whatever—there flashes into my mind his statement, which has become my motto: Mormon means “more good.”

We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.

After all, it is the name of a man who was a great prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I remind you for a moment of the greatness and of the goodness of this man Mormon. He lived on this American continent in the fourth century after Christ. When he was a boy of ten the historian of the people, whose name was Ammaron, described Mormon as “a sober child, and … quick to observe.” (Morm. 1:2.) Ammaron gave him a charge that when he reached the age of twenty-four, he was to take custody of the records of the generations who had preceded him.

The years that followed Mormon’s childhood were years of terrible bloodshed for his nation, the result of a long and vicious and terrible war between those who were called Nephites and those who were called Lamanites.

Mormon later became the leader of the armies of the Nephites and witnessed the carnage of his people, making it plain to them that their repeated defeats came because they forsook the Lord and He in turn abandoned them. His nation was destroyed with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. He was one of only twenty-four who survived. As he looked upon the moldering remains of what once had been legions, he cried:

“O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Morm. 6:17.)

He wrote to our generation with words of warning and pleading, proclaiming with eloquence his testimony of the resurrected Christ. He warned of calamities to come if we should forsake the ways of the Lord as his own people had done.

Knowing that his own life would soon be brought to an end, as his enemies hunted the survivors, he pleaded for our generation to walk with faith, hope, and charity, declaring: “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.” (Moro. 7:47.)

Such was the goodness, the strength, the power, the faith, the prophetic heart of the prophet-leader Mormon.

He was the chief compiler of the book which is called after his name and which has come forth in this period of the world’s history as a voice speaking from the dust in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has touched for good the lives of millions who have prayerfully read it and pondered its language. May I tell you of one such I recently met in Europe.

He was a businessman, successful in his undertakings. In the course of his travels he met two of our missionaries. They tried to set up an appointment to teach him. He put them off, but finally agreed to listen. He somewhat perfunctorily accepted what they had to say. He became convinced in his mind that they spoke the truth, but he was not moved in his heart.

He decided that he would read the Book of Mormon. He said that he had been a man of the world, never given to crying. But as he read the book, tears coursed his cheeks. It did something to him. He read it again and felt the same emotions. What had been conversion of the mind became conversion of the heart.

His way of life was altered, his perspective changed. He threw himself into the work of the Lord. Today he fills a high and holy calling in the cause he has come to love.

And so, while I sometimes regret that people do not call this church by its proper name, I am happy that the nickname they use is one of great honor made so by a remarkable man and a book which gives an unmatched testimony concerning the Redeemer of the world.

Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God. It was the modern translator of this ancient record who declared that through reading it a man would come closer to God than through the reading of any other book.

All of this places upon us of this Church and this generation an incumbent and demanding responsibility to recognize that as we are spoken of as Mormons, we must so live that our example will enhance the perception that Mormon can mean in a very real way, “more good.”

In what way, you ask? There are many ways, but I have time to mention only three or four. When I think of the more obvious matters, I think of what we call the Word of Wisdom. This is a divine code of health received through revelation in 1833, 157 years ago. It proscribes alcohol and tobacco, tea and coffee, and emphasizes the use of fruit and grains. ThisWord of Wisdom came to us from the Father of us all, the God of heaven, for our blessing and the blessing of all who would observe it.

I regret that we as a people do not observe it more faithfully. But remarkable have been the blessings that have come of its observance to the degree that we have observed it. Newspapers across the nation have recently run reports on a significant California study. It was conducted by Dr. James Enstrom of the UCLA School of Public Medicine. It included a substantial number of active members of the Church—5,231 high priests and 4,613 of their wives. I quote now from a newspaper story:

“Compared to the other groups, the study found the Mormons had an average of 53 percent fewer fatal cancers … 48 percent fewer deaths from heart disease and 53 percent fewer fatal illnesses of all kinds.” (Salt Lake Tribune, 12 Sept. 1990.)

Dr. Enstrom, speaking of the eight-year study, said that he “can predict that a very active, health-conscious 25-year-old Mormon male will live 11 years longer than the average American male of the same age.” (Ibid.; italics added.)

Can you doubt that the word Mormon, spoken in this context, means “more good?” It means, on average, a longer life. It means, on average, a life substantially more free of pain and misery. It means more happiness. It means “more good.”

Of course, some of our people suffer from these same diseases that afflict others. Some of them die young. But here are the scientific data, released to the world, of an independent study of eight years made by a faculty member of one of the great universities of the nation, a recognized expert in public health who knows whereof he speaks.

As with personal and public health, so also Mormon should mean “more good” in terms of family life.

I recently read an illuminating article on the deterioration of the family in New York City, which is described as a root cause of the severe problems that plague that city and almost every other large city across the world.

The strength of any community lies in the strength of its families. The strength of any nation lies in the strength of its families. Strong family life comes of strong and clear religious understanding of who we are, and why we are here, and of what we may eternally become. Strong family life comes of the perception that each of us is a child of God, born with a divine birthright, and with a great and significant potential. Strong family life comes of parents who love and respect one another, and who love and respect and nurture their children in the ways of the Lord. These are undergirding principles of our teachings as a church. To the degree that we observe these teachings we build strong families whose generations will strengthen the nation.

These are families where there is daily prayer with an acknowledgment of God as our Eternal Father and of our accountability to Him for what we do with our lives.

These are families where parents and children counsel together. These are families where education is encouraged and where children build upon the strengths of one another.

We are far from perfect in doing all that we ought to do, but, speaking collectively, we are trying, and we are achieving some measure of success.

To the degree that we accomplish these Church-fostered goals Mormonmeans “more good.”

It also means more of tolerance and mutual respect and helpfulness. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, speaking in Nauvoo in the year 1843:

“The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon.’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.” (History of the Church, 5:498.)

Last Sunday I attended a sacrament service in one of our university wards, a ward comprised entirely of young married students who are struggling with their educational pursuits as well as with the burdens of family life. Two babies, recently born, were given blessings by their fathers as they were given names to be placed on the rolls of the Church.

I was touched by the prayers of both of these young fathers. One of them, speaking to his newborn son, blessed him that throughout his life he would have a spirit of love for all people regardless of their circumstances or condition. He blessed him that he should practice respect for others regardless of race, religious denomination, or other differences. I know that this young father, a medical student, has carried in his own life, as a faithful member of this Church, love and appreciation and respect for all.

How great a thing is charity, whether it be expressed through the giving of one’s substance, the lending of one’s strength to lift the burdens of others, or as an expression of kindness and appreciation.

The people of this Church, the people of this so-called Mormon church, have given generously of their resources to help those in need. My mind goes back to one Sunday, a few years ago, when the Presidency of the Church asked that our people fast for two meals and consecrate the equivalent value, and more, to help the homeless and hungry in areas of Africa where we had no members, but where there was much of famine and suffering.

On Monday morning the money began to come in. There were hundreds of dollars, and then thousands of dollars, then hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then millions of dollars. These consecrated funds became the means of saving many who otherwise might have starved.

We do not boast of this. I simply mention it in furtherance of my theme that Mormon can and for many does mean “more good.”

The Relief Society of the Church, the Mormon Relief Society which embraces over two million women organized in more than a hundred nations, has as its motto Charity Never Faileth. Innumerable are the deeds of these remarkable and wonderful and unselfish women in succoring those in distress, in binding up the wounds of those who have been hurt, in giving cheer and comfort to those in distress, in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and in lifting up those who have fallen and giving them strength and encouragement and the will to go forward.

This remarkable choir seated behind me is known across the world as theMormon Tabernacle Choir. Everywhere that it has been heard—and those places are numerous—its song has been a hymn of peace, of love, of reverence, and of humanity, given in anthem of praise to the Almighty and His Beloved Son.

They of this choir are a part, a segment, of this remarkable thing which the world calls “Mormonism” and which we call the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

And so I leave with you the simple but profound thought: Mormon means “more good.”

The current issue of Fortune magazine, a highly respected business journal, carries a lead article naming Salt Lake City the number one city in America in which to do business. This is a great and singular compliment. Some feel it will help to attract many new people to the community. For us of the Church who reside here, this presents a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate through our attitudes, through our integrity, through our industry and neighborliness that we are the kind of people others appreciate.

May God grant us the strength and the discipline so to conduct our lives as to follow more nearly the matchless example of the Redeemer, of whom it was said, He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38.)

I testify of His living reality. I testify of the reality of God, our Eternal Father. I testify of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that when people speak of us by the name of this book, they will compliment us, if we will live worthy of the name, remembering that in a very real sense Mormonism must mean that greatergood which the Lord Jesus Christ exemplified. I so pray in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494: Life Lessons

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Ether is a Handbook for Life

Click on the graphic to study Ether 2-3

To me, the book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Life Lessons from the Book of Ether 1-3, According to Bro Simon Says

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

“As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

“Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (in Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 423)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

“God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself: “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, I made this my rule when the lord commands do it

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

“The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)

“In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, “Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles…” But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, “I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.” By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)

“If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . 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.”

Things. 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.

He hurried on: “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.

“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.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“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, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “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.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “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?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “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.

“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 my own image.

“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.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “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.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “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.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “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. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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