Ether 8

Ether 8:8 the daughter of Jared...thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father

While the brother of Jared goes down in Book of Mormon history as a prophet of unparalleled faith, the daughter of Jared (though a different Jared) must be forever remembered for her wicked and devious plan. This story is one of the best examples of how secret combinations work. But Moroni is careful not to tell too much. And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations (Ether 8:20) because he does not want us to use the Book of Mormon for evil purposes as the daughter of Jared had done with the record which [her] fathers brought across the great deep.

Ether 8:9 an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory

As the Nephites carried with them the brass plates of Laban, so the Jaredites carried an ancient record, but Moroni's abridgment does not tell us much about this record. We know that it must have contained the story of Creation, the Garden, and the Fall (Ether 1:3-4). Apparently, it also contained an account of secret plans and combinations. Likely, this record was a lot more extensive than the few chapters we have in Genesis. It probably included a more comprehensive account of the story of Cain as it appears in Moses 5:25-32:

   '(the word of the Lord to Cain) And it shall be said in time to come-That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.

   And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord...

   And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.

   And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret.

   And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.

   And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.

Here is a record of how the secret combinations, certified by an oath, were established on the earth. But it does not explain how these were used to obtain kingdoms and great glory as the daughter of Jared suggests. Obviously, their record was a lot more comprehensive than what we have today.

Orson Pratt

"Did they come upon this great western hemisphere without a knowledge of God? No. Without any written record? No....the Jaredites did not come here without a record of the things from the days of Adam, down; they had it with them. They kept it with them, and multiplied copies in the midst of their nation." (Journal of Discourses, 16:52)

Ether 8:10-11 let my father send for Akish...and I will dance before him

One cannot help but see some similarities between the story of Akish and the story of Salome. Salome, whose name is not mentioned in the Bible but is recorded by Josephus (see Bible Dictionary), was the daughter of Herodias who had illegally married Herod. She and her mother devised a plan to get John the Baptist killed. Like the plan of the daughter of Jared, it involved a dance designed to please Herod and company (see Matt 14:3-12). Hereby, we learn how wicked women wield power over weak men. "The daughter of Jared used her beauty and charm to evil purpose...Jared's daughter is described as 'exceedingly expert' (Ether 8:8); her plan involved no armies, but was quite effective in bringing destruction to many...Her success in enticing Akish led to the downfall not only of her grandfather and father, but to the destruction of her people. In preparing Jared's daughter's dowry-the severed head of her grandfather the king-Akish restored the practice of secret combinations and blood oaths. Here, beauty and skillful manipulation of others brought death and evil. "(Camille S. Williams & Donna Lee Brown, Ensign, Jan. 1992, "Ordinary People in the Book of Mormon")

Today, the practice continues but finds its expression in the huge industries of strip dancing, pornography, and prostitution.

Hugh Nibley

"There is one tale of intrigue in the book of Ether that presents very ancient and widespread (though but recently discovered) parallels. That is the story of Jared's daughter...Historically, the whole point of this story is that it is highly unoriginal. It is supposed to be. The damsel asks her father if he has read 'the record' and refers him to a particular account therein describing how 'they of old . . . did obtain kingdoms (v. 9).' In accordance with this she then outlines a course of action which makes it clear just what the 'account' was about. It dealt with a pattern of action (for 'kingdoms' is in the plural) in which a princess dances before a romantic stranger, wins his heart, and induces him to behead the ruling king, marry her, and mount the throne. The sinister daughter of Jared works the plan for all it is worth...

 "This is indeed a strange and terrible tradition of throne succession, yet there is no better attested tradition in the early world than the ritual of the dancing princess (represented by the salme priestess of the Babylonians, hence the name Salome) who wins the heart of a stranger and induces him to marry her, behead the old king, and mount the throne. I once collected a huge dossier on this awful woman...You find out all about the sordid triangle of the old king, the challenger, and the dancing beauty from Frazer, Jane Harrison, Altheim, B. Schweitzer, Farnell, and any number of folklorists. The thing to note especially is that there actually seems to have been a succession rite of great antiquity that followed this pattern...the episode of the dancing princess is at all times essentially a ritual, and the name of Salome (in reference to Herodias' daughter) is perhaps no accident, for her story is anything but unique. Certainly the book of Ether is on the soundest possible ground in attributing the behavior of the daughter of Jared to the inspiration of ritual texts-secret directories on the art of deposing an aging king. The Jaredite version, incidentally, is quite different from the Salome story of the Bible, but is identical with many earlier accounts that have come down to us in the oldest records of civilization." (Lehi In The Desert & The World Of The Jaredites, p. 212-13)

Ether 8:14 they all sware unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth and by their heads

Satan's wicked oaths are full of deceitful irony. Of course, he does not have them swear "by the devil and also by his despicable underworld and also by his loathesome disembodied helpers." Who would want to swear by such a miserable lot? No, it sounds much better if you swear by wonderful things like God and heaven. Yet, those who enter these secret combinations will never be with God nor will they ever experience heaven. Of his own people, Mormon commented on this irony by saying, they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them (Mormon 3:14). See also commentary for 3 Ne 12:34.

Ether 8:14 whoso should divulge whatsoever thing Akish made known unto them, the same should lose his life

"All associations with rituals and signs of recognition not made public are not criminal, nor condemnable. Only those which, behind a veil of secrecy commit crimes and formulate plans against their fellows, the legally established state, or any lawfully existing institution. Such societies are the enemies of mankind." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 6, p. 131)

If we are to correctly identify secret combinations, we must know what constitutes a secret combination. Ether 8 instructs us that:

  1. They are based on ancient and secret plans (v. 9).
  2. Their members must join with an oath (v. 14)
  3. Their loyalty and secrecy are maintained with threats of violence (v. 14)
  4. Their author is the devil (v. 16)
  5. Their goal is to obtain kingdoms and great glory (v. 9), to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms (v. 16).

For a more comprehensive list, see commentary for Helaman 6:18.

Ether 8:19 the Lord [doth not] will that man should shed blood

Boyd K. Packer

"Every time physical conditions are met, conception will take place, whether in wedlock or out. Once a life is conceived, to destroy that life, even before birth, is a major transgression, save conception results from rape, the mother's life hangs in the balance, or the life of the unborn is certified to be hopeless. We do not know all about when a spirit enters the body, but we do know that life, in any form, is very precious. While we are given the power to generate life and commanded to do so, we have no license to destroy it. 'For the Lord ... in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man' (Ether 8:19). And the commandment given at Sinai was renewed in this dispensation: 'Thou shalt not kill' (Exodus 20:13; see also 2 Nephi 9:35) 'nor do anything like unto it' (D&C 59:6)." (The Things of the Soul, p. 108)

Ether 8:19-21 secret combinations...have cause the destruction of this people

Ezra Taft Benson

"But the greatest handbook for freedom in this fight against evil is the Book of Mormon...This most correct book on earth states that the downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. 'And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking,' says Moroni, 'and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.' (Ether 8:21.)

"Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon -it is a conspiracy fact.

"Then Moroni speaks to us in this day and says, 'Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you' (Ether 8:14.)

"The Book of Mormon further warns that 'whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold they shall be destroyed. ...' (Ether 8:22.)

"This scripture should alert us to what is ahead unless we repent, because there is no question but that as people of the free world, we are increasingly upholding many of the evils of the adversary today. By court edict godless conspirators can run for government office, teach in our schools, hold office in labor unions, work in our defense plants, serve in our merchant marines, etc. As a nation, we are helping to underwrite many evil revolutionaries in our country." (Ensign, July 1972, "Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints")

Ether 8:22 whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations...shall be destroyed

Ezra Taft Benson

"In the contemporary world, secret combinations take various forms and operate at different levels of society. They are expressed in organized crime and in religious, economic, and political conspiracies. The Lord has warned that secret combinations will be present in modern society (D&C 38:29; Ether 8:20-25). They threaten freedom everywhere. However, Latter-day Saints believe that secret combinations and their practices can be overcome, but only through righteous living and full support of honest government.

"...The Prophet Moroni described how the secret combination would take over a country and then fight the work of God, persecute the righteous, and murder those who resisted. Moroni therefore proceeded to describe the workings of the ancient 'secret combinations' so that modern man could recognize this great political conspiracy in the last days: (quotes Ether 8:23-25)

"The Prophet Moroni seemed greatly exercised lest in our day we might not be able to recognize the startling fact that the same secret societies which destroyed the Jaredites and decimated numerous kingdoms of both Nephites and Lamanites would be precisely the same form of criminal conspiracy which would rise up among the gentile nations in this day." (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, p. 71-2)

Neal A. Maxwell

"There will be combinations built up by the devil to overthrow freedom. (Ether 8:25.) He is still acting out against the principle of freedom." (Things As They Really Are, p. 41)

Bruce R. McConkie

"At Armageddon that great political power which 'seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries,' and which 'bringeth to pass the destruction of all people,' and which is itself 'built up by the devil' (Ether 8:25) -- that very political kingdom, in all its parts, shall be burned with fire. It is the great and abominable church." (The Millenial Messiah, p. 494)

Ether 8:22 the blood of his saints...shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance

Remember in the story of Cain, Satan lied to him and told him that the murder of Abel would be forever secret, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world (Hel 6:27, see Moses 5:29). Nothing could be further from the truth, for the Lord made this evil act famous among all people declaring, it shall be said in time to come-That these abominations were had from Cain (Moses 5:25). But who was the whistle blower? How could anyone testify of what was done in secret? The answer is that the earth itself revealed the great secret. The Lord declared, The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto me from the ground (Moses 5:35).

Hugh Nibley

"What is the rationale of this saying we have again and again in the Pearl of Great Price especially-'his blood shall cry from the ground' or 'from the earth.' There's a rationale for this very ancient formula. The earth is the mother of life and is the womb of the resurrection also. From the earth we are resurrected and out from the earth we are born. She is Mother Earth. She is the mother of life and the womb of the resurrection. The destruction of life in any form is the reversal and perversion of existence itself, as we learn in Ether 8:19 in the Book of Mormon. 'For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.' It's an unspeakably horrendous calamity deliberately to reverse the process for which the earth was created. If the earth accepts their blood, it will cry from the ground and demand vengeance, as it does in the book of Moses." (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 52, p. 393)

Ether 8:23 the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you...if ye shall suffer these things to be

Hugh Nibley

"(speaking of secret combinations) What makes the thing so frightening is not the parasite itself but the fact that a society is willing to offer it entry and encouragement (to 'uphold' it), without which it is not dangerous at all. Its presence therefore should be viewed more as a symptom than a cause: 'Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation' (Ether 8:24). Immediate repentance, not police action, is urgently prescribed: 'O ye Gentiles . . . repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain' (Ether 8:23)." (Since Cumorah, p. 396)

Hugh Nibley

"The key word is 'suffer'; we may not stand idly by under such conditions. Nor can we live sheltered lives and still do the work for which we were sent into the world: 'As sheep among wolves'(Matt 10:16)-is that sheltered?" (Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, p. 130)

Ezra Taft Benson

"'Don't worry,' says the devil; 'the Lord will protect you, and besides, the world is so corrupt and heading toward destruction at such a pace that you can't stop it, so why try?' Well, to begin with, the Lord will not protect us unless we do our part. This devilish tactic of persuading people not to get concerned because the Lord will protect them no matter what they do is exposed by the Book of Mormon. Referring to the devil, it says: 'And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell' (2 Nephi 28:21).

"I like that word carefully. In other words, don't shake them-you might wake them. The Book of Mormon warns us that when we see these murderous conspiracies in our midst, we should awaken to our awful situation (see Ether 8:24). Now, why should we awaken if the Lord is going to take care of us anyway? Let us suppose that it is too late to save freedom. It is still accounted unto us for righteousness' sake to stand up and fight. Some Book of Mormon prophets knew of the final desolate end of their nations, but they still fought on, and they saved some souls, including their own, by so doing. For, after all, the purpose of life is to prove ourselves, and the final victory will be for freedom (Abraham 3:24-25)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 660)

Ether 8:24 when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation

Hugh Nibley

"Q. But what can anyone do about combinations as secret and as powerful as those mentioned? Who can oppose them?

"A. First of all, we are told, we can cease to build them up, for 'whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, . . . and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people' (Ether 8:25).

"Q. How can you build up a combination if you don't know where it is or even what it is?

"A. You can do that by playing the game its way. Once you have been warned, as we have been here, that things are being run by such elements, then you know very well that if you aspire to power and gain, influence, status, and prestige; in other words, if you aspire to success by present-day standards, you can only achieve it by doing everything their way. One ceases to uphold those elements only by rejecting a whole way of life, regardless of the risk or inconvenience involved.

"Q. So you don't uphold them; but they are still there. How can you get at them?

"A. As Alma and Ammon did in their day. They went forth 'bearing down in pure testimony' to whoever would hear them, suffering the worst the opposition had to offer, 'not with the intent to destroy our brethren [who were very wicked and depraved, you will recall], but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls' (Alma 26:26). Admittedly it was a risky and dangerous business, but it was all they could do. We are not called upon to seize and occupy enemy territory, for the evil we are combatting is everywhere (D&C 1), and the only place we can confront it and overcome it is in our own hearts. I cannot make a bad person good by pulling a trigger, yet conversion of sinners to saints is exactly what the Lord requires: to persuade the children of men to do good continually, so that Satan may have no more power over their hearts (Ether 8:26). If men are to overcome Satan in this world, they must be alive to do it-shooting them solves nothing.

"Q. But we must overcome the hosts of evil.

"A. Where are they? 'This is my doctrine, . . . that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent' (3 Nephi 11:32). Will you ask God which people you are to love and which you are to hate? Which to deal fairly with and which to cheat? Which to speak the truth to and which to lie to? Which to be kind to and which to be cruel to? The word of God answers all such questions with the greatest clarity; we have only one game-plan, and that is the call to faith, repentance, and charity with which Moroni sums up the Book of Mormon." (The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 368-9)

Ether 8:26 Come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved

Bruce R. McConkie

"Isaiah 12 tells of a millennial day when men shall 'draw water out of the wells of salvation'; and Zechariah, speaking of that same day of peace and righteousness, tells how 'living waters shall go out from Jerusalem' (Zech. 14:8.)

"From all this it is perfectly clear that men must drink living water to be saved. As Moroni expressed it: 'Come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.' (Ether 8:26.) And the same truths flow from the same fountain yesterday, today, and forever." (The Promised  Messiah, p. 206)