Ether 14

Ether 14 Coriantumr battles against the armies of Gilead, Lib, and Shiz

Ether had prophesied to Coriantumr that his people would be spared if he would repent, but if he would not, they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself (Ether 13:21). Ether 14, in large measure, records the fulfillment of that prophecy as Coriantumr faces one determined foe after another.

Neal A. Maxwell

"In contrast to Ether's righteousness, Shiz and Coriantumr, Ether's contemporaries, are classic examples of ruthless military rivals who finally reached the point where they did not care for their own lives or for the lives of their people.

"Shiz was the brother of Lib, a previous military leader who was killed by Coriantumr's forces. Our first encounter with Shiz in the scriptures introduces his insensitivity, for he 'did slay both women and children, and he did burn the cities.' (Ether 14:17.)

"We see in the rivalry of Shiz and Coriantumr, as in other Book of Mormon episodes, an awful cycle of family vengeance. Those who are caught up in revenge lose all perspective concerning the sanctity of life.

"Shiz swore to 'avenge himself upon Coriantumr of the blood of his brother.' (Ether 14:24.) That Shiz was an intimidating individual is made perfectly clear by the quailing question, 'Who can stand before the army of Shiz?' (Ether 14:18.)

"There are some lyrical lines from a twentieth century musical, Kismet, that remind us all of the transitory nature of human power as seen in men like Shiz and Coriantumr.

Princes come, princes go

An hour of pomp

An hour of show

"There are some men at arms who-unlike Shiz and Coriantumr-learn from war and can distill immense, important lessons from the terrors of war. One such modern man was Douglas MacArthur, general of the United States armies and veteran of three great wars. In May of 1962, at age eighty-three, he spoke movingly and eloquently without notes of any kind to young soldiers at West Point. Significantly, General MacArthur noted in his benedictory address some of the things he had distilled from his experiences 'in twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires,' such as how we must 'master self before we seek to master others,' how important it is to 'have a heart that is clean,' how divine help is needed to sustain the soldier, and of right and wrong. Reading of Shiz and Coriantumr, one has difficulty envisioning them learning such lessons from their many battles. As he recounted the lessons of life he had learned amid 'the strange mournful mutter of the battlefield,' General MacArthur also spoke of the 'judgment seat of God' and of man's being created in the image of God. While the soldier pines for peace, MacArthur knew human nature well enough to cite Plato's comment that 'only the dead have seen the end of war.' (Reminiscences, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1964, pp. 423-26.)

"The senseless slaughter of which Shiz was a part is described with poetic vividness: the armies marched 'from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood.' (Ether 14:22.)" (Ensign, Aug. 1978, "Three Jaredites: Constrasting Contemporaries")

Ether 14:1-2 a great curse upon the land

Both the Nephites and the Jaredites suffered the curse of the 8th commandment, thou shalt not steal (Ex 20:15). The natural effect of a society which ignores this commandment is the chaos and paranoia described among the Jaredites. The Nephite treasures similarly became slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land...for behold no man could keep that which was his own, for the thieves and the the land (Mormon 1:18; 2:10). Again, the Book of Mormon teaches us that when we obtain any cursing from God, it is by disobedience to that law upon which it is predicated (see DC 130:21). That a man should lay his tool or his sword upon his shelf, and then, on the morrow, not find it was because of the collective Jaredite disobedience to the 8th commandment.

The First Presidency

"We are not given the step-by-step backsliding of this Jareditic civilization till it reached the social and governmental chaos the record sets out, but those steps seem wholly clear from the results. Put into modern terms, we can understand them. First there was a forsaking of the righteous life, and the working of wickedness; then must have come the extortion and oppression of the poor by the rich; then retaliation and reprisal by the poor against the rich; then would come a cry to share the wealth which should belong to all; then the easy belief that society owed every man a living whether he worked or not; then the keeping of a great body of idlers; then when community revenues failed to do this, as they always have failed and always will fail, a self-helping by one to the goods of his neighbor; and finally when the neighbor resisted, as resist he must, or starve with his family, then death to the neighbor and all that belonged to him. This was the decreed 'fulness of iniquity' (Ether 2:10)." (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay, Messages of the First Presidency, 6:99 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 507-8)

Ether 14:2 Did Jaredites practice?

"Ether 14:2 states that 'every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defence of his property and his own life and of his wives and children.' This verse seems to indicate that the people practiced , but whether or not it was sanctioned by the Lord is not made clear in the record." (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 327)

Ether 14:9 his high priest murdered him as he sat upon his throne

Hugh Nibley

"The success of any conspiracy against such watchful royalty depends therefore on secrecy and surprise before all else, and so we have as the unfailing adjunct and nemesis of Asiatic kingship the secret society, investing all life with a paralyzing sense of insecurity...overthrowing dynasties and empires in a single night...Even Jenghiz Khan, the mightiest of them all, was nearly pushed from his throne by an ambitious high priest, and at the dawn of history more than one such high priest seized the rule for himself. The case of the brother of Shared, whose 'high priest murdered him as he sat upon his throne' (Ether 14:9), is, then, thoroughly typical, and that by no mere coincidence. For we are...told that the system was inherited 'from them of old' and perpetuated by the same methods of secret societies, family compacts, bribes, oaths, assassinations, etc., as in the Old World." (Lehi in the Desert & the World of the Jaredites, p. 203)

Ether 14:20 they were divided...the army of Shiz, and...the army of Corianutmr

Hugh Nibley

"Patriotism shows itself in times of crisis: 'These are the times that try men's souls!' is the refrain of the earliest purely patriotic odes-those of the Greek lyric poets, who describe the true patriot as one who stands shoulder to shoulder with his fellow citizens, facing any odds. In this atmosphere of crisis, an attitude of defense and defiance naturally associates patriotism with the panoply of war...There is something wrong with this patriotism, which is based on conflict. As Froissart tells us forcibly, under chivalry the only way to prove one's nobility was by fighting somebody. The tradition survives, and to this day there are many whose patriotism is not a widening but a contracting circle, recalling the defensive-aggressive posture of the Roman trux et minax (dour and threatening), the walled towns and castles of the Middle Ages, the family shelter of the Jaredites in which 'every man did cleave unto that which was his own; . . . and every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defence of his property and his own life and of his wives and children' (Ether 14:2), and finally, the narrowest circle of all, with every man 'walk[ing] in his own way,' seeking his own interests amid the rich offerings of Babylon (see D&C 1:16). The passion for security ends in total insecurity, with the would-be patriot fancying himself as a lone frontiersman, facing the world with his long rifle, his keen eyes searching the horizon for enemies and finding them everywhere; until one day as he draws his circle even smaller, we find him coolly keeping his next-door neighbor and fellow countrymen in the sights of his trusty .22, lest the latter make a suspicious move in the direction of his two-years' supply." (Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, p. 250 - 251)

Ether 14:23 the scent thereof went forth upon the face of the land

The smell of decaying human flesh is one of the most disgusting smells imaginable. Such an aroma of death plagued the land of Ammonihah after the desolation of Nehors. The record states that the smell was so bad that the land remained uninhabitable for many years (Alma 16:11). In both the case of the Jaredites and the people of Ammonihah, the situation was a quick, wholesale slaughter of a great number of people. One Civil War historian recorded, "On June 27, [1864] thirteen thousand Union men stormed the Confederates on Kennesaw Mountain-and failed....Three days after the battle, an armistice was granted for burying the fallen-'not for any respect either army had for the dead,' a Confederate remembered, 'but to get rid of the sickening stench.'" (Geoffrey C. Ward, Ric Burns, & Ken Burns, The Civil War, p. 324 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 506)

But such a terrible slaughter with decaying flesh is prophesied to happen again. At the Second Coming when the Lord comes to destroy the armies of Gog, the prince of Magog, the multitude will be destroyed so quickly and in such great numbers that their bodies will be left strewn upon the land. The resulting stench of decaying flesh will stop the noses of the passengers, and it will take 7 months to bury all the dead (Ezek 39:11-20).

Ether 14:24 Shiz...had sworn to avenge himself upon Coriantumr

Hugh Nibley

"Since in heroic ages one becomes a leader by proving his prowess in open competition, personal rivalry and ambition are the ordinary and accepted motives for war and need no excuse. Throughout our Jaredite history the perennial source of strife and bloodshed is the purely personal rivalry between great leaders...Blood vengeance is obviously the rule in this as in other heroic societies, where it touches off those long tragic feuds that make up so much of the epic literature" (Lehi in the Desert & the World of the Jaredites, p. 410-11)

Ether 14:25 the Lord did visit them in the fulness of his wrath

Marion G. Romney

"We have been warned that we are ripening in iniquity and that we will be destroyed if we do not repent. Now my beloved brothers and sisters, I realize that these predictions are not pleasing, but nevertheless they speak the truth...There is but one way these impending calamities can be avoided, and that way is repentance...the foreboding calamities can be averted if the inhabitants of the earth will repent, believe, and have faith in God as our heavenly Father, in His Son Jesus Christ as our Redeemer, and will conform to their teachings." (The Tragic Cycle, pp. 15-16 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 506)

Ether 14:27 the armies of Shiz...swept off the inhabitants before them, all them that would not join them

Hugh Nibley

"Both Shiz and Coriantumr as they moved about on their endless campaigns 'swept off the inhabitants before them, all they that would not join them' (Ether 14:27). This is the classic Asiatic method of forced recruiting: 'If the neighbouring province to that which they invade will not aid them,' says an eyewitness of the Tartar technique, 'they waste it, and with the inhabitants, whom they take with them, they proceed to fight against the other province. They place their captives in the front of the battle, and if they fight not courageously put them to the sword.' In such a way the Asiatic war-lords from the beginning '[swept] the earth before [them]' like Shiz (Ether 14:18),...forcing all that lay in their path to become part of them. 'I counted them among my people,' says the Assyrian conqueror of one nation after another." (Lehi in the Desert & the World of the Jaredites, p. 203)

Ether 14:30 Shiz smote upon Coriantumr that he gave him many deep wounds

Certainly, Shiz did not know that in spite of all his efforts, he could never kill Coriantumr. Coriantumr had forgotten the prophecy of Ether that he would survive to witness the destruction of all his people (Ether 13:21). Apparently, the Lord preserved him as a punishment. As has been said, "To a civilization fully ripened in iniquity, judgment and destruction become the kindest gifts God can give." (Michael W. Middleton, Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 4 Nephi - Moroni, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 194) But Coriantumr was not even worthy of death for he was to suffer the consequences of survival with a scorched conscience.

Accordingly, he survived in spite of many wounds, for he had been wounded in the thigh by Shared (Ether 13:31), wounded in the arm by Lib (v. 12), and wounded in many places by Shiz. The last of the three injuries left him in what is now called hypovolemic shock, a state in which all but the most vital organs are shut down by inadequate blood flow. That he survived such a severe injury would be surprising if it weren't for the promise of Ether that he would live to witness the fulfillment of the word of the Lord (Ether 13:21).