Ether 15

Ether 15:1-3 Coriantumr...began to remember the words of Ether and began to repent

Coriantumr was told that the key to peace was his own repentance (Ether 13:21). As a leader, Coriantumr's individual disobedience became a key factor in the destruction of an entire nation. Now after two million casualties, his memory finally quickens. But the violence has become a self-perpetuating monster, continually accelerating out of Coriantumr's control.  The national consequences of his individual disobedience had become irrevocable. He had, in effect, procrastinated the day of his salvation until it was everlastingly too late (Hel 13:38).

Neal A. Maxwell

"This grizzled veteran began to reflect upon the loss of two million of his people, and there were the beginnings of sorrow. 'He began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned and refused to be comforted.' (Ether 15:3.) But sorrow which is compelled only by casualty figures is not enough. Coriantumr's sorrow must have been the 'sorrowing of the damned' (Morm. 2:13), because he was still locked into a way of life from which he seemed unwilling to disengage fully." (Ensign, Aug. 1978, "Three Jaredites: Contrasting Contemporaries")

Ether 15:2 there had been slain...nearly two millions of his people

"To provide some perspective of the magnitude of the slaughter among Coriantumr's people, we note that...From the American Revolutionary War through the Vietnam conflict (including the Civil War)­wars that introduced weapons of mass destruction-'only' 652,769 Americans died on the battlefield compared to the millions killed in these final Jaredite struggles where the people died in hand-to-hand combat." (Douglas E. Brinley, Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 4 Nephi - Moroni, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 55)

Ether 15:5 if he would give himself up, that he might slay him...that he would spare the lives of the people

Neal A. Maxwell

"There for us to ponder also is a clear case in which personal pride and rage kept two principals from acting for the welfare of their people. Shiz insisted on 'getting his man,' even if it meant the destruction of his own people; and Coriantumr offered his kingdom but not his life for his people. Each said, in effect, that the ultimate object of his selfishness was nonnegotiable! Neither was willing to play the role of the intervenor and say of the circumstances, 'This has gone too far-enough is enough.' How often on a lesser scale in human affairs do tinier tragedies occur for want of this selfless intervention? How often do we withhold the one thing that is needed to make a difference?" (Ensign, Aug. 1978, "Three Jaredites: Contrasting Contemporaries")

Ether 15:6 the people of Coriantumr were stirred up to anger against the people of Shiz

Neal A. Maxwell

"Though the central characters bear heavy and awesome responsibility for the unfolding tragedy, each of their followers is culpable to a degree. Each of those who heaped their hostility to further fuel the flames was likewise accountable. Each man had a choice, each time, as to whether or not to take up or to lay down his sword. Major mistakes by wicked leaders are usually surrounded by a bodyguard of smaller mistakes by lesser souls. Others are responsible for their failings, but so are we responsible for our reactions and responses to those failures." (Ensign, Aug. 1978, "Three Jaredites: Contrasting Contemporaries")

Ether 15:8 Shiz also pitched his tents near unto them...on the morrow they did come to battle

The Jaredites had been fighting vicious wars for years. Yet, they seem to have developed rather structured rules of warfare. Such structure amidst the violence and chaos of war would be surprising if it were not so common among armies throughout history. In this verse, we see that the armies camp next to each other without a midnight attack. Such an attack may well have been devastating but was apparently  "against the rules."

Hugh Nibley

"...in true epic 'a dignified and fastidious tone' prevails in the dealings of these men with each other, and strict rules of chivalry are observed, especially in war and duels. So we are told in Ether how Shiz and Coriantumr pitch formal camps and 'invite' each other's armies forth to combat by regulated trumpet blasts (Ether 14:28), exchange letters in an attempt to avoid needless bloodshed (Ether 15:4-5, 18), and rest at night without attempting to attack each other, fighting only at the proper and agreed times (Ether 15:8, 21-26). As in all epics, including Ether, 'the waging of war is not incidental but essential to the heroic way of life.' A great chief gains 'power over all the land' only after he has 'gained power over many cities,' and 'burned many cities,' (Ether 14:17) in the best Homeric fashion." (Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites, p. 409)

Ether 15:11 the hill Ramah...was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records

The hill in which Mormon hid the records is the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6, For a discussion on the location of the hill see commentary for Mormon 6:2). Remarkably, the site of the Jaredite's final destruction was the site of the Nephite's final destruction. But there are other striking similarities between the final events of each nation. Obviously, there are parallels with regard to their spiritual downfall, but even the particulars of their destruction are remarkable. They were both destroyed in the same place. Each was led by a powerful military leader. Each had carefully gathered their people together prior to the final battles (Mormon 6:2, Ether 15:14). Each nation had to resort to arming their women and children-who were filled with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked (Mormon 6:7, Ether 15:14). In these similarities, we do not see Joseph Smith repeating the same fictional plot among two different groups, we see history repeating itself. The question remains whether history of the wicked inhabitants of this continent will repeat itself again?

One great event is yet to take place at the hill Ramah/Cumorah. At the end of the Millenium, hundreds of thousands of graves will open and hundreds of thousands of spirits will be reunited with hundreds of thousands of bodies which fell long ago on a bloody battlefield. Mormon spoke of this day saying, these bodies which are now moldering in corruption must soon become incorruptible bodies; and then ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works (Mormon 6:21). Then, the lamentation of Mormon will again ring true-and it will apply to the Nephites and the Jaredites-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! (Mormon 6:17).

Ether 15:15 they were all gathered together...with their wives and their children

"In the final Jaredite battle, women and children actually did fight along with the men to the literal end of their civilization. Four years were spent gathering all the people together, that they might have 'all the strength which it was possible that they could receive.' Sides chosen, a lamentable scene unfolded: 'Both men women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war-they did march forth one against another to battle.' (Ether 15:14-15.) Women were not immune to death by the sword, unfortunately, and slaughter claimed untold numbers of female lives. Even before this great and final battle, Coriantumr sorrowed that 'two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children,' had been slain (Ether 15:2), to the extent that the bodies of men, women, and children covered the face of the land (see Ether 14:21-22)." (Marjorie Meads Spencer, Ensign, Sep. 1977, "My Book of Mormon Sisters")

Ether 15:19 the Spirit of the Lord had cease striving with them and Satan had full power

Neal A. Maxwell

"At first the wicked are lost because they ignore the commandments. At a later stage, we sense that they seem almost to celebrate their alienation and to insist on playing out the decadent drama to the depths. Perhaps theirs is in some strange way, a descending search for the bottom, which, when finally touched, might somehow provide them with some modicum of upward momentum.

"When societies veer toward violence, the violence becomes self-reinforcing: they may seek at first to punish others because they hated them; but later they hate others all the more because they have punished them. Gross guilt feeds upon itself so crudely and so publicly at times. Excess begets excess.

"The anger written of in these episodes is as addictive as alcohol.

"We also see the chilling scene of evil at the end of its journey, when Satan 'had full power over the hearts of the people.' (Ether 15:19.) No wonder another prophet said of Satan that he does not finally support his own. (Alma 30:60.) The adversary is the ultimate loner and a loser; he is no brother, and those who follow him will finally be deserted by him." (Ensign, Aug. 1978, "Three Jaredites: Contrasting Contemporaries")

Ether 15:23-31 after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raise up on his hands

If the scenes of the Book of Mormon were portrayed in a motion picture, the film would have to be rated "R" for violence. The reason we have such a graphic representation of the final battle is because of Ether, who did behold all the doings of the people (v. 13). We imagine him perched in some inconspicuous location, viewing the entire bloody conflict as the only innocent bystander. For two days of the last week of fighting, he gives us a body count, not of the casualties, but of the survivors (vs. 23,25).

The whole ugly scene concludes in an incredulous decapitation. While one might wonder how a beheaded body could extend its arms and struggle for breath, the reader is reminded of the behavior of the proverbial chicken who runs and flaps well after losing its head. Now Shiz was no chicken, but the concept of body movements after decapitation is not unheard of. A brief review of the current medical literature shows scores of articles which study the effects of certain neurologically active drugs on decapitation convulsions which predictably happen in mice and rats (e.g. "The effect of 5,6 dihydroxytryptamine on decapitation convulsions," Life Sci. 1977 Nov 15;21:1475-82) . Certainly, Shiz' body movements were the result of brief muscle spasms-a rare but real form of human decapitation convulsions.

B.H. Roberts

"It is claimed that this represents an impossible thing--a man with his head stricken off rising upon his hands! And yet equally marvelous things of this nature have occurred, and are matters of record.

"Mr. G. W. Wightman, of the Seventeenth Lancers of the British Light Brigade, and a survivor of the wild charge at Balaclava, relates, in the 'Electric Magazine' for June, 1892, the incident of Captain Nolan's death during that charge...

"We had ridden barely two hundred yards and were still at the 'trot,' when poor Nolan's fate came to him...[suffering a fatal wound, his] hand dropped the sword, but the arm remained erect. Kinglake writes that 'what had once been Nolan' maintained the strong military seat until the 'erect form dropped out of the saddle'...The sword-hand indeed remained upraised and rigid, but all other limbs so curled in on the contorted trunk as by a spasm, that we wondered how for the moment the huddled form kept the saddle.

"It is quite as remarkable that a man stricken unto death by the fragment of a shell should continue erect in the saddle, with sword-arm upraised and rigid, while the other limbs so curled in on the contorted trunk that those who saw him 'wondered how the huddled form kept the saddle,' as that a man as his head is stricken off should momentarily rise on his hands.

"Mr. Wightman, in the same article, relates the still more remarkable case of Sergeant Talbot's death:

"It was about this time that Sergeant Talbot had his head clean carried off by a round shot, yet for about thirty yards farther the headless body kept the saddle, the lance at the charge firmly gripped under the right arm.

"After this well attested fact, and many others of a similar nature that might be cited, it is not worth while being skeptical about Shiz convulsively rising on his hands for a moment after his head was stricken off." (New Witnesses for God, 3:556-7)

Ether 15:29 Coriantumr...fainted with the loss of blood

Certainly, Coriantumr would have perished without divine protection. In recent battles, he had three times fainted with the loss of blood (Ether 14:30; 15:9,29). But why would the Lord preserve him? Not because of his righteousness, but so he could see how the word of the Lord had been fulfilled every whit. Certainly, when he recovered from this last battle, he again mourned and refused to be comforted (v. 3).

Ether 15:33 he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them

Like Moroni and Mormon, Ether was writing to an unborn generation, but what good is Ether's exhaustive record if no one ever reads it? Ether did all he could to make sure his record was found. He "hid" the records but he did not want them to remain hidden. He "hid" them like a mother hides an Easter egg for a 3-year old-in a conspicuous location. Fortunately, Limhi's scouts did not have as much trouble finding the record of Ether as they did finding the city of Zarahemla (Mosiah 21:25-27).

Ether 15:34 Whether the Lord will that I be translated...it mattereth not

Neal A. Maxwell

"Ether's great love for the people reflected a selflessness and lack of concern for his own life. Ether said, 'Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God.' (Ether 15:34.) The willingness to die which is born of a despair and a disdain for life is not the same thing as Ether's courage, in which he was willing to suffer before death and then to die, if necessary-even though he loved life.

"We see in the book of Ether intimations that this very special prophet might have been translated, but we never do learn what actually happened to him. The silence concerning his circumstance is not unlike the disappearance of Alma the Younger, of which it was written,

   'And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of.

   Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial.' (Alma 45:18-19.)" (Ensign, Aug. 1978, "Three Jaredites: Contrasting Contemporaries")