Ether 3

Ether 3:1 they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height

Hugh Nibley

"Shelem means high, safe, secure. The word shalom is derived from that. Remember, shalom means you're safe. Shalom is a 'ladder, a high place.' If you're going to a high place, it is a safe place, a secure place, a shelem. He went to the highest mountain around. Moses did the same thing. Lehi and Nephi did the same thing. So again this is a pattern." (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 111, p. 271)

Ether 3:1 he did carry [sixteen small stones] in his hands upon the top of the mount

Hugh Nibley

"The only trouble is that the stones don't shine. What shall the man do next? He carries the stones up to the very top of 'an exceedingly high mountain'-and that is as far as he can go. Of course God could have appeared to him in the plain, but the idea of the whole thing is that man himself must meet God halfway. So the brother of Jared toils up the mountain as he had toiled at the smelter until, as it were, he reaches the end of the line-he can go no further; he has done all that is in his power. From then on it is up to the Lord. Standing on the mountaintop, the brother of Jared holds up his pretty but worthless stones and asks the Lord to take over." (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 351)

Ether 3:2 O not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness

By way of review, after building the barges, the brother of Jared had three problems, 1) there was no light, 2) there was no means to steer the vessels, and 3) there was insufficient ventilation (Ether 2:19). The Lord told him what to do about the last problem and took care of the second problem by guiding the winds in such a way that they would not need a steering mechanism. Of these three problems, the only one that the Lord wanted the brother of Jared to solve was the problem of light.

Notice how humble he gets after fulfilling his assignment. The brother of Jared really feels like his contribution is inadequate. He is worried that the Lord will be angry with him because his idea was so stupid. To compound his feelings of inadequacy, the brother of Jared has recently been severely chastised for forgetting to pray (Ether 2:14-15). He declares, we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually.

What is most interesting is the way in which the Lord fosters humility in the brother of Jared, for he often does the same thing with us. We know that the Lord gives unto men weakness that they may be humble (Ether 12:27). But the Lord also gives assignments unto men that they may be humble. The cynic is always on the sidelines because, as soon as he is given the responsibility to come up with a better idea, he ends up with a large piece of humble pie on his face. Humble pie is our diet whenever we compare our meager efforts to the holiness and perfection of God. We cannot help but share the emotions of the brother of Jared, declaring, O not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness. Fortunately, for the brother of Jared and for us, the Lord's grace is always sufficient to make weak things become strong (Ether 12:27).

"Imagine that! Here was one of the great prophets of all time, and he began his prayer with an apology for his weakness and his unworthiness. Certainly he was under no illusions about being perfect... It doesn't really matter in the long run that the brother of Jared is unworthy from the celestial point of view. In that respect he is no different from all other human beings. The point is that God has commanded us, unworthy though we may be, to call upon him anyway, because he has prepared a way for us to receive what we desire despite our imperfection." (Stephen R. Robinson, Believing Christ, p. 18-20)

Furthermore, the humility of the brother of Jared was a necessary prerequisite for him to see the Lord. It requires more than just faith to rend the veil; it also requires humility, as you...humble yourselves before me...the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am (DC 67:10).

Ether 3:3 behold these things which I have molten out of the rock

Jeffrey R. Holland

"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." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 17)

Ether 3:5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this

Jeffrey R. Holland

"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' (v. 6)." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 17 - 18)

Ether 3:5 great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men

Dallin H. Oaks

"Many mortals have a myopic view of the power and position of God. As the brother of Jared observed, even the great power of God 'looks small unto the understanding of men.' (Ether 3:5.) In truth, many mortals-even some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-are so shortsighted that they presume to judge the things of God by their own mortal reasoning. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has observed: 'Yes, we may acknowledge His overall plan but criticize His style, because He does things in His own way. . . . We would prefer that things be done in our way, even though our ways are much lower than His.'" (The Lord's Way, p. 3)

Ether 3:6 the brother of Jared...saw the finger of the Lord

S. Dilworth Young

"I have already read of how this great personage lived as the firstborn of his Father in the spirit, and so I am not surprised, although I am deeply moved, to learn that he, as a premortal spirit, visited the brother of Jared (see Ether 3:6-13), and I can sense his fear when the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord and realized that it was like unto the finger of a man. It surprised this prophet, but it does not surprise me, for I have learned that the Lord was the firstborn Son of God, whose name is Man of Holiness. So when the Lord showed his complete self to that great prophet, I am not surprised, but I am awed. The more I study and read the scriptures, the more I know this is true." (Ensign, July 1973, "When I Read, I am There")

Ether 3:11 Believest thou the words which I shall speak?

Boyd K. Packer

"There was a test of faith involved, as the Lord asked: 'Believest thou the words which I shall speak?' (Ether 3:11. Italics added.) Interesting, isn't it, that he was not asked, 'Believest thou the words that I have spoken?' It didn't relate to the past. It related to the future. The brother of Jared was asked to commit himself on something that had not yet happened. He was to confirm his belief in that which the Lord had not yet spoken. . . . Faith, to be faith, must center around something that is not known. Faith, to be faith, must go beyond that for which there is confirming evidence. Faith, to be faith, must go into the unknown. Faith, to be faith, must walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness. If everything has to be known, if everything has to be explained, if everything has to be certified, then there is no need for faith. Indeed, there is no room for it." (quoted in We Talk of Christ, by Neal A. Maxwell, p. 66)

Ether 3:13 Because thou knowest these are brought back into my presence

By virtue of the Fall, all suffer spiritual death which is defined as being cut off from the presence of the Lord. As the brother of Jared reenters the Lord's presence, he is of necessity redeemed from that Fall. The same could be said of any prophet who, while in mortality, stood in the presence of God.

But more interesting is the Lord's statement about knowledge. It was because the brother of Jared knew certain things that he was brought back into the presence of the Lord. What did he know? He knew that God is a God of truth, and canst not lie (v. 12). He knew that God is omnipotent, O Lord thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power (v. 5).  He knew that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things (v. 26).

When the brother of Jared saw God, it wasn't only because of faith. We have learned from his experience that it also required humility (see v. 2) and knowledge. This knowledge is not secular knowledge but that kind of knowledge which is built upon the bedrock of faith. Hereby, we learn about the relationship between knowledge and faith. Many consider them mutually exclusive concepts, but they are not. While the world asks for knowledge instead of faith, we ask for knowledge through faith.

Bruce R. McConkie

"The brother of Jared stands out as a good illustration of how the knowledge of God is gained by faith, and also of how that perfect knowledge, from a mortal perspective, replaces faith." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 211)

Ether 3:14 I am the Father...they who shall believe on my name...shall become my sons and my daughters

See commentary for Mosiah 15:3.

Dallin H. Oaks

"The Book of Mormon explains the significance of being called by the name of Jesus Christ. When the Savior showed his spirit body to the brother of Jared, he introduced himself as the Father and the Son, declaring that through his redeeming sacrifice all mankind who believed on his name should have life eternal through him, 'and they shall become my sons and my daughters.' (Ether 3:14.) Abinadi said of those who believed in the Lord and looked to him for a remission of their sins 'that these are his seed, or they are heirs of the kingdom of God.' (Mosiah 15:11.) He continued this explanation as follows:

'For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?' (Mosiah 15:12.)

"Speaking through the prophet Alma, the Lord explained the significance of this relationship: 'For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand.' (Mosiah 26:24.)

"In these great scriptures from the Book of Mormon, we learn that those who are qualified by faith and repentance and compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel will have their sins borne by the Lord Jesus Christ. In spiritual and figurative terms they will become the sons and daughters of Christ, heirs to his kingdom. These are they who will be called by his name in the last day." (Conference Report, May 1985 Ensign, "Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ")

Ether 3:15 never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast

Jeffrey R. Holland

"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? ...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 (DC 107:53). 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.' (Moses 7:4) 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,' (Gen 6:8-9) the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch's relationship with the Lord. (Gen 5:24)

"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 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 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.' (v. 9,15) 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.' (v. 19)" (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 21-23)

Joseph Fielding Smith

"I have always considered Ether 3:15 to mean that the Savior stood before the Brother of Jared plainly, distinctly, and showed him his whole body and explained to him that he was a spirit. In his appearance to Adam and Enoch, he had not made himself manifest in such a familiar way. His appearances to earlier prophets had not been with that same fulness." (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:37)

Ether 3:15 Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image?

Charles A. Callis

"What a wonderful contribution this is to the divine authenticity of the book of Genesis, wherein we are told: 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.' (Gen 1:27) The Book of Mormon is a witness to the truth of the Bible." (Conference Report, Oct. 1939, p. 20)

Ether 3:16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit

Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr.

"Nowhere in the scriptures is a clearer account given of the nature of the spirit body of the Lord Jesus Christ and, indeed, of the characteristics of our own spirits. The brother of Jared not only saw the finger of the antemortal Jesus Christ but indeed perceived His entire spirit body (see Ether 3:6, 13). Understanding the premortal godhood of Jesus Christ together with our own spiritual identities prior to our births in the flesh is a great blessing and advantage. These insights breaching traditional boundaries were the direct result of the brother of Jared's non-boundaried faith." (Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 185)

John H. Vandenburg

"President Joseph Fielding Smith...said: 'It should be remembered that the entire Christian world in 1820 had lost the true doctrine concerning God. The simple truth which was understood so clearly by the apostles and saints of old had been lost in the mysteries of an apostate world. All the ancient prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ had a clear understanding that the Father and the Son were separate personages, as our scriptures so clearly teach. Through apostasy this knowledge was lost, and in the year 325 A.D., a strange doctrine was introduced and soon spread throughout the Christian world. This doctrine confounded the persons of the Godhead, and distorted the true doctrine of God.' (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 3, p. 117)

"There is no question that Jesus taught the very nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost-three personages of form and substance, individual and distinct. He taught that the true knowledge of the Godhead was essential to eternal life. He included in a prayer to his Father in heaven: 'And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.' (John 17:3.) Other references in the scriptures substantiate the individuality of the Holy Ghost. (See Matt. 3:15.)

"Yet in the light of this truth there was a 'strange doctrine' introduced of man-made creeds. Says one: 'There is but one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the supreme, incorporeal, uncreated being, who exists of himself and is infinite in all his attributes....' Says another: 'There is one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.' Yet another says: 'God is as he reveals himself. He is creative reality ... He is expressive act ... He is responsive power ... He is one God experienced in a trinitarian fashion.' (Alvin R. Dyer, The Meaning of Truth, Deseret Book Co., 1961, p. 50.)

"These are but a few examples of the extent of the departure from the true teachings of the scriptures. Now the Book of Mormon gives us an extension and reaffirmation of the true corporeal nature of a member of the Godhead. Jesus speaks to the brother of Jared, saying:

'...therefore I show myself unto you. ...
'... Behold, I am Jesus Christ ...
'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? ...
'Behold, 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.' (Ether 3:13-16.)"

(Conference Report, May 1974 Ensign, "Touchstone of Truth")

Ether 3:19 he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting

When Alma speaks of faith, he states that there comes a point when the faith of the individual becomes perfect, Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know (Alma 32:34). Certainly, the brother of Jared had come to this point, for his faith would never be the same after such a transforming experience. Interestingly, however, Alma is not referring to seeing the Lord but the realization that the experiment on the word was good, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea (Alma 32:33-34). In other words, the brother of Jared's faith became perfect when he had seen the Lord, but perfect knowledge of certain principles can also be obtained through the Spirit in the manner Alma described. The Holy Ghost is such a powerful witness that a testimony borne of the Spirit is as real and convincing as a visitation from the Lord. Hereby, we presume that is possible to know, nothing doubting, without seeing the Lord.

Ether 3:20 he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore, he saw Jesus

Bruce R. McConkie

"To gain faith men must first have knowledge; then as their faith increases, they come to a state where it is supplanted by perfect knowledge; and in any field in which perfect knowledge has been gained, 'faith is dormant.' (Alma 32:21-34.)...The Brother of Jared is one who followed this course until he saw the Lord. As Moroni explained it, 'Because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil, therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him.' Indeed, 'The Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things.' (Ether 3:19-26.)

'And there were many whose faith was so exceeding strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.' (Ether 12:19.) Today as anciently the same effects flow from faith. 'It is the privilege of every elder to speak of the things of God,' the Prophet said, 'and could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the veil might as well be rent today as next week, or any other time.' (Teachings, p. 9; D. & C. 93:1.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 267)

Ether 3:23 behold, these two stones will I give unto thee

It is both fitting and proper that the Lord gave the first Urim and Thummim to the brother of Jared. Prior to his day, there was no need for interpreters for the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech (Gen 11:1). As soon as the brother of Jared was given a vision of transcending importance, the Lord provided a way for the knowledge of that vision to be shared with the righteous.

Ether 3:24 I will cause in my own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things

Bruce R. McConkie

"Joseph Smith received the same Urim and Thummim had by the Brother of Jared for it was the one expressly provided for the translation of the Jaredite and Nephite records. (D. & C. 10:1; 17:1; Ether 3:22-28.) It was separate and distinct from the one had by Abraham and the one had by the priests in Israel. The Prophet also had a seer stone which was separate and distinct from the Urim and Thummim, and which (speaking loosely) has been called by some a Urim and Thummim. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 222-226.)

"President Joseph Fielding Smith, with reference to the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim, has written: 'We have been taught since the days of the Prophet that the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel. We have no record of the Prophet having the Urim and Thummim after the organization of the Church.' (Mormon Doctrine, p. 818)

Ether 3:25 the Lord...showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth...even unto the ends of the earth

The brother of Jared saw a vision which transcends all divine communications. He was shown the history of the earth and every soul to be born thereon. But he was not the first nor the last to be shown such an incredible display. Moses had a similar experience, for he beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God (Moses 1:27-28). Enoch witnessed the same great vision, Enoch beheld...all the nations of the earth...And there came generation upon generation...and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth...And the Lord showed Enoch all things, even unto the end of the world (Moses 7:23,24,45,67). Even the vision of Nephi is similar (1 Ne 11-14). He had seen much of the history of the earth, the coming of the Savior, and the latter-days. He saw the end of the world and the Second Coming in such detail that the Lord had to keep him from writing it-that was to be the privilege of John the Revelator.

The mortal mind can only imagine what it would be like to view the things these great prophets have seen! To perceive the history of the entire world, all its inhabitants, the marvelous doings of the Lord, and the glorious triumph of God at the last day must have been inconceivable. To have such an experience and then return to the mundane, petty things of the world must have been equally difficult for the brother of Jared. Talk about perspective! No experience could change one's perspective as completely and universally as the vision described. This is the perspective of which Elder Neal A. Maxwell frequently speaks-to know things as they really are, really were, and really will be. (Meek and Lowly, p. 46)

Ether 3:27 Write these things and seal them up; and I will show them in mine own due time unto the children of men

The glorious vision of the brother of Jared was recorded by him and sealed up. It becomes the infamous sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, destined to come forth only when the world is sufficiently righteous (this probably means after the start of the Millenium). Nephi wrote of this sealed portion, saying:

'behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.
Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore the book shall be kept from them.
...And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth.' (2 Ne 27:7-11)

Joseph Fielding Smith

"At the command of the Lord...Moroni also sealed up the greater things in this vision and also the interpreters-which were the same 'two stones' had by the Brother of Jared-so that this vision should not be made known even in our day among the Gentiles, in the day of their wickedness; it could not be revealed 'until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.' (Ether 4:6) So we today do not have the fulness of the account written and sealed up by the Brother of Jared and again sealed by Moroni. This part of the record the Prophet Joseph Smith was forbidden to translate. We have, then, received but the 'lesser part.'" (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:224-5)

Joseph Fielding Smith

"Now the Lord has placed us on probation as members of the Church. He has given us the Book of Mormon, which is the lesser part, to build up our faith through our obedience to the counsels which it contains, and when we ourselves, members of the Church, are willing to keep the commandments as they have been given to us and show our faith as the Nephites did for a short period of time, then the Lord is ready to bring forth the other record and give it to us, but we are not ready now to receive it. Why? Because we have not lived up to the requirements in this probationary state in the reading of the record which had been given to us and in the following its counsels." (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, p. 20)