Ether 1:1 an account of those ancient inhabitants...destroyed...upon the face of this north country
Moroni explains that the Jaredites lived and died in the north country. Some have speculated that this was much farther north than the Nephite settlements. But we know that the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed near the same hill, known as Ramah among the Jaredites and Cumorah among the Nephites (Ether 15:11, Mormon 6:6) Furthermore, we know that the Jaredites hunted in the land southward and built cities very close to the narrow neck of land (Ether 10:20-21). This places them north of the narrow neck but not by very far. The land of Desolation, so named because the Jaredites were destroyed there, was defined by Mormon as just north of the narrow neck, bordering the land of Bountiful to the south (Alma 22:29-32).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"We understand that they [the Jaredites] landed in Central America where their kingdom existed the greater part of their residence in America." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:73)
Ether 1:2-5 I take mine account from the twenty and four plates found by the people of Limhi
The twenty-four gold plates spoken of should not be confused with the other record of the Jaredites. This other record was a large stone which was brought by Mosiah and gave an account of Coriantumr and the origin of the Jaredites (Omni 1:20-22). The 24 gold plates, on the other hand, were found by Limhi's scouts who were sent north to find Zarahemla (Mosiah 8:7-10). What happened to the plates next? When the people of Limhi were finally freed from their Lamanite captors, they fled to Zarahemla and gave the record to Mosiah (the grandson of the Mosiah who translated the stone). This Mosiah translated the record using the Urim and Thummim (Mosiah 28:11-14). It seems most probable that Moroni took his abridgment from Mosiah's translation, otherwise he would have had to translate the record all over again.
Ether 1:6-32 The genealogy of Ether
To Mark Twain is attributed the comment that the book of Ether is "chloroform in print." Many who read exhaustive genealogies in the Bible can be found dozing as they read. But there must be something to glean from this list of 30 names. The first point to make is that they knew their genealogy and that it was important to them. Under the patriarchal order, this was very significant and the practice continued among the children of Israel as recorded in the Bible.
Second, the names themselves are very significant. We find Jaredite names which later appear in the Old World, i.e. Levi and Aaron, and names which were derived from before Babel, i.e. Seth and Heth, and names which were later adopted by the Mulekites and Nephites, i.e. Corihor (see Ether 7:3). Even the origin of Moroni's name can probably be traced to the Moron (my personal favorite) spoken of in verse 7. The linguistic expert, Hugh Nibley, has expounded for several pages on this very subject. The reader is referred to Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, pp. 243-248, 260-261.
Ether 1:33 Jared came forth with his brother and their families...from the great tower
"Of interest to the critical reader is the fact that the beginnings of the Jaredite nation are attributed by Moroni to the Tower of Babel episode, mentioned also in the Book of Genesis (11:3). At the present time, most Bible scholars do not believe in this episode as an actual fact; they consider it a myth. If this belief were correct, we should have to assume that the whole of the Book of Ether is based on a misconception. It should be pointed out, however, that one of the great values of the Book of Mormon is the fact that it affirms the essential truth of the Bible. The Tower episode is a case in point. The Mormon people do believe in it. Despite the claims of critics to the contrary, we believe that in the due time of the Lord the Genesis account of the Tower of Babel will be found to be correct." (Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, p. 464)
Ether 1:33 the Lord swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth
Some critics of the Book of Mormon have wondered why the Bible doesn't tell of the exodus of the families of Lehi and Ishmael. The answer, of course, is that Lehi and company left Jerusalem in secret, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness (1 Ne 4:36). In the case of the Jaredites, there is no scripture which explicitly names Jared, but there are references to the scattering of groups all over the earth, the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth (Gen 11:8). Furthermore, we learn from Josephus that some of these groups specifically traveled by sea, "there were some also who passed over the sea in ships, and inhabited the islands." (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chap. V) Thus, there is a scriptural and historical precedent, outside of the Book of Mormon itself, which acknowledges the scattering of many people from the tower of Babel.
Milton R. Hunter
"A few years ago an apostle said to me: 'It would be a discovery of great significance if one were to find an Indian book which sustained the Book of Mormon.'
"Such a book exists; in fact, I shall present quotations from...such Indian books produced during the American colonial period that contain materials similar to those found in the Book of Mormon. The Indian writers add their witness to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Ixtlilxochitl, an Indian prince who lived in the valley of Mexico, wrote a book containing the history of his ancestors from the time of their arrival in America until the coming of the Spaniards...
"Ixtlilxochitl...claims that the first settlers to come to America following the flood came from 'a very high tower' or the Tower of Babel. Observe how similar the accounts are as I quote from them.
'Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered.' (Eth. 1:33.)
"Ixtlilxochitl, the Indian writer, puts it this way:
'And . . . men, multiplying made a . . . very high tower, in order to shelter themselves in it when the second world should be destroyed...When things were at their best, their language was changed and, not understanding each other, they went to different parts of the world.' (Works of Ixtlilxochitl, cited in Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, 1950, p. 24.)
"In order that we might make additional comparison of the Book of Mormon and the Works of Ixtlilxochitl, we quote the Jaredite record:
'. . . the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of [Jared's people]. . .' (Eth. 1:35, 37.)
"Then the Lord guided Jared's colonists over the land to the seashore and, in barges brought them to America, 'into a land which [he declared] is choice above all the lands of the earth.' (Eth. 1:42.)
"The comparable story in Ixtlilxochitl states:
'. . . and the Tultecas, who were as many as seven companions and their wives, who understood their language among themselves, came to these parts, having first crossed lands and seas, living in caves and undergoing great hardships, until they came to this land, which they found good and fertile for their habitation.'(Ixtlilxochitl, op. cit., pp. 24-25.)" (Conference Report, Apr. 1970, pp. 100-101)
Ether 1:34 the brother of Jared
Part of the brother of Jared's name appears in the Book of Mormon, they called the name of the place Moriancumer (Ether 2:13), but no connection is made with the brother of Jared in that verse. The prophet Joseph Smith revealed the name in the following manner:
"While residing in Kirtland Elder Reynolds Cahoon had a son born to him. One day when President Joseph Smith was passing his door he called the Prophet in and asked him to bless and name the baby. Joseph did so and gave the boy the name of Mahonri Moriancumer. When he had finished the blessing he laid the child on the bed, and turning to Elder Cahoon he said, 'The name I have given your son is the name of the brother of Jared; the Lord has just shown (or revealed) it to me.' Elder William F. Cahoon, who was standing near, heard the Prophet make this statement to his father; and this was the first time the name of the brother of Jared was known in the Church in this dispensation." ("The Jaredites," Juvenile Instructor, 1 May 1892, p. 282)
The relationship of Mahonri with Jared is equally interesting. Jared may have been the elder brother, for the recorded genealogy went through him, but, clearly, the spiritual leader of the two was Mahonri. Jared continually goes to his brother whenever they needed something from the Lord.
Jeffrey R. Holland
"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." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 14 - 15)
Ether 1:35 he did not confound the language of Jared
Of the Adamic language, we are told that in the days of Adam, their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled (Moses 6:6). Enoch, once slow of speech, eventually spoke the language masterfully, all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him (Moses 6:31; 7:13). Was this the language of the Jaredites? The issue is debatable because the Jaredites lived over 2000 years after the language originated. No language can remain pure and undefiled for that long, but according to the record the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech (Gen 11:1). Therefore, the language of the Jaredites must have been derived from the pure and undefiled Adamic language.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"It is stated in the Book of Ether that Jared and his brother made the request of the Lord that their language be not changed at the time of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel. Their request was granted, and they carried with them the speech of their fathers, the Adamic language, which was powerful even in its written form, so that the things Mahonri wrote 'were mighty even...unto the overpowering of man to read them.' (Ether 12:24) That was the kind of language Adam had and this was the language with which Enoch was able to accomplish his mighty work." (The Way to Perfection, p. 69)
Ether 1:43 there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed
This is quite a powerful statement when you consider the other empires which were contemporaries to the Jaredites: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and even Greece.
Ether 1:43 thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me
Spencer W. Kimball
"Do you get answers to your prayers? If not, perhaps you did not pay the price. Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord? Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly? Do you offer pennies to pay heavy debts when you should give dollars to erase that obligation? When you pray do you just speak, or do you also listen? Your Savior said, 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' (Revelation 3:20.)....The Lord stands knocking. He never retreats. But he will never force himself upon us. If we ever move apart, it is we who move and not the Lord. And should we ever fail to get an answer to our prayers, we must look into our lives for a reason." ("Prayer," New Era, March 1978, pp. 16-17 as taken from McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 265)