In times of wickedness or righteousness, the answers are the same: faith in God and repentance. However, in times of wickedness, the Lord calls on prophets to go remind the people of the way home, a token of mercy. During times of righteousness, the inherent mindset is one of repentance and change. This is what constitutes righteousness.
At the end of chapter 11, we have the birth of Ether the prophet. Throughout the whole Book of Ether, I have been asking myself why we were following this particular line of rulers, and why was it that this line of rulers seems to be the preferred line of authority, even in their wickedness. However, at the end of this book, what we have now is an ancestral lineage of the prophet Ether. Ether stands at the end of this long line of kings, except that he is not a king; he is a prophet.
Ether had every right in the patriarchal sense to be heir to the throne, but God put in his heart a much more important mission.
(It is so hard for me to articulate what I am feeling in my now multiple readings of this chapter. Yet every time I read, I feel my soul being nurtured. Faith is grown or increasing.)
The thing with prophets (going back to the end of Chapter 11) is that they have the testimony of experience, personal experience, to back their words. When they cry repentance, they have repented themselves.
(for tomorrow, start to dissect this chapter 12, line by line, for there is just too much packed into it to ignore otherwise. This also comes on the cusp of a personal miracle where God is literally providing money for us, almost out of thin air. Thus is the nature and our experience with entrepreneurship. )
So at the start of chapter 12, the stage has been set: Coriantumr is king of the land. Ether is a prophet of the Lord. Ether’s narrative starts with this statement:
Ether came forth… and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.Verse 2 (emphasis added)
Truman G. Madsen once quoted Joseph Smith as stating:
…You can always tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits: for it will take malice and envy and enmity from the heart and all evil and whisper peace and joy and your whole desire will be to do good and build up the kingdom of God…
If the people will seek for the Spirit of God, they will eventually find themselves organized as they were before the foundation of this world. Our Father organized the human family in the pre-mortal councils… but they are now disorganized and in great confusion.Joseph Smith, from talk by Truman G. Madson, “Elijah’s Mission” 5 Jun 1977
The Spirit of the Lord was such upon Ether that he went forth from the morning until the evening, “exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed…” (vs. 3, emphasis added) This is the classic call of a prophet, but in my current situation, I see the ultimatum not being with the people but with Ether as a prophet. God had sent him to warn and save the people, if it were possible. What could Ether tell them that would keep them from destruction: the only thing that would actually work — the truth. That truth was that they needed to change course and exercise enough faith that it was a compelling force for repentance in their life. The catalyst for change, or the change agent that really was the focus of Ether’s remarks is faith.
Moroni emphasizes this point at the end of the verse with the one quote he chose to summarize Ether’s prophetic mission: “By faith all things are fulfilled.”
I am in verse 4 today. This explanation of faith and hope and good works, causes me to look at the end (good works) exactly opposite of how skeptics of our faith view our interpretation of faith. We’re not motivated or compelled by good works. No, it is just the opposite. We are lead to good works by our faith! This is the fruit of our faith.
Again, fear of the consequences, fear of punishment would produce works (that may have the appearance of being “good”). However, good works are, and can only be, born of faith.
This faith, or rather a belief in God, should have the effect of creating a sure hope within us of existing in a better world. What world? The one where God dwells. And not just existing in this divine sphere, but of being there “at the right hand of God”. A position of favor, importance, significance. If we believe in God, then we must believe all that he has promised us, which is all that He has. “and if children, then heirs” (Romans 8:17) This is exactly what the prophets are saying. Belief in God is a belief in a Being who holds us in the highest regard owing to our greatest potential of becoming even like Himself.
Again, coming back to verse 4 again, in reading just the first line “Who so believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.” There is so much packed into this statement. How? Why? This says to me that it is through our faith in God that we will absolutely, or with assurance, arrive at the place where God is. Belief in God is belief in God and in His Holy Way of Being. Christ and the Father are just waiting for us to arrive at a place of faith and hope strong enough for Christ to be able to return into our presence and for us to be able to endure it.
“Hope for a better world.” My faith in God should be the grounds for a hope that the world will get better, or that I am destined for a better world. The translation between English and Spanish on this phrase is different. Spanish presents it as a noun: “Those that believe in God can have a firm hope in a better world.” The English translation changes “hope” from a noun to a verb: “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.”
I know I’ve already gone over this verse 4, previously, but as I am sitting with it again this morning, and just slowly contemplating the significance of each phrase, it is overwhelmingly significant what my faith has the power to accomplish. If I understand what it really means to have faith, then it has the power to restore my identity of who I am, from whence I have come, and to impact my ultimate destination.
The hope, which comes from faith, (the verse makes this reminding reference) becomes as a rivet, or an anchor, to the soul of man. Suddenly there is no more back and forth, nor vacillating obscurity, grayness, and confusion about one’s identity. Maybe one does evolve into the space, but maybe one can just come to understand what faith means, what powers are associated with faith in Christ, and henceforth be led to glorify God, abounding in good works. (How can so much be packed into so few words? Yeah, both hidden and revealed in so few words! )
Once we figure out the core tenant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ works, namely repentance, then are our souls riveted to Christ and His Gospel. Can hope really be an anchor to the soul in such a way that we would always abound in good works? (Remember that it’s hope that is referred to as the anchor, not faith.)
I completed a brief self-evaluation last evening on Hope and I feel that I scored low as I contemplated the role of Hope in my life. Moroni later in the Book of Mormon publishes remarks made in his day to “the peaceable followers of Christ” and then defines them as those “that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3)
There is an earlier passage, where the missionary Aaron is discussing hope with the Lamanite King, and connects hope with repentance and humility before God:
…If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.Alma 22:16
The end of verse four reads as such: “[hope] would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” This is another scriptural oxymoron (which thing I find to be a semi-common occurance), to let our light shine before men so that they may glorify God. Yet, I’ve had that very experience over the phone with women as they have gone searching for doula training programs, and for them to discover ours and literally give praise to God for having found us. I know this is only an example of the many ways in which one may bring forth good works to glorify our Father in Heaven.
One other thought, it is in the record keeping that we are able to make our light shine before men.
Studying further the topic of “Good Works”, two passages stand out to me as I contemplate how to perform works that bring glory to God:
Alma 37:34 – “Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.”
Alma 26:22 – “Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.”
Moving on, Moroni interjects at this point in the narrative to offer commentary on the principle of faith. Verses 6-8 offer the foundational premise of the need for men to have faith in Christ, stating that Christ could do nothing save it were that men first had faith in Him.
One of the observations that is most striking to me about Moroni’s commentary is that it has been the faith of men that has been the catalyst for Christ to come, and without the faith of some men to have first experienced Christ (because of their faith), the way has been paved for many more to experience faith in Christ, because he showed himself not to everyone at first.
Another curious insight is that a visual witness is given only after the trial of faith.
Wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.
But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world… that they might hope for those things which they have not seen.Verses 7 & 8
The part of verse 8 that I intentionally skipped over makes reference to those who “might be partakers of the heavenly gift”. I don’t know exactly what that “heavenly gift” has reference to, except it be having faith in Christ and the salvation that comes through Him. Moroni makes reference to “the gift” again in verse 9, with a promise that we might be made “partakers of the gift, if [we] will but have faith.”
Sometimes in the scriptures we don’t have direct instruction, but rather inference to ideas or principles that in the minds of the prophets are eternal absolutes or given statements of fact. This concept of a heavenly gift that is or can be obtained in the present moment. What seemed to be hidden to me was a great deal more richly documented then I had realized: TG – Gifts of God. Subsequent verses in Ether 12 also make reference to the gift of God.
Two immediate takeaways:
- “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
- God intends for us to live an elevated life in the here and now.
I am also sitting with the profound reality of gifts, things given us that we can in no way or in no wise ever repay. We are simply asked to receive them with grateful hearts.
Studying scriptures this morning while watching kids, I am reflecting on the many ways in which I have already walked by faith, and how the biggest life decisions that I have made have all had their foundations based on faith:
- Exercising faith unto repentance as a teenager.
- Temple Endowment
- Serving a Mission
- Temple Marriage to Rachel
- Which includes not waiting to have children and start a family. (This one has been particularly hard.)
I am hence left to contemplate my position presently. I, on one side, find myself in a season of reflection, fortified with a witness of the path that I have chosen. On the other side I am looking forward, contemplating my next moves and reflecting upon the current position that we now occupy. How do I continue to walk in faith, centered in Christ, and the hope of eternal life?
The words “gift” and “miracle” are used interchangeably in these verses. Both describe things that are extended to us, given to us, that are desirable and yet not of our making; things that we receive that are beyond our control. The miracle that is forgiveness is one such example. “God can do… miracles among them.” (Verse 12)
Verse 13 – 15 document three unique events and the leaders who were associated with these events and how it was the faith of these leaders that caused the miracles realized to be accomplished. Each of the three events were of divine origin:
- Walls of a prison falling to the ground.
- A change of heart among the Lamanites, resulting in their baptism with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
- The conversion of thousands of the Lamanites during the time of Ammon and his brethren.
It is being strongly impressed upon me of the absolute connection between miracles and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot realize miracles without faith, “wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.” (vs. 18)
Moroni shifts focus in verse 23 and goes from the discussion on faith to a commentary on the weakness of his writing style, that which was common among his people. He juxtaposes it to their power in spoken word, which from Moroni’s perspective was a very effective means of conveying spiritually important information.
…for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith… for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;Verse 23
Then in verse 24, the footnotes lead me to consider this passage differently than what I feel Moroni is trying to illustrate. Moroni is expressing his frustration with the written limitations of his language to communicate spiritual truth. The footnote suggests that that limitation was not so much a weakness of the language as much as it was the limitations of the medium (metal plates) that their language was being engraved upon. I tend to think that Moroni really meant what he said, that his language was limited it what he could express. The weakness or restriction of written language was real and that is the point that Moroni is trying to express.
The second footnote in this verse points to the fact that the writings of the Brother of Jared were restricted from being revealed publicly until after Christ should reveal himself. And for some reason, I feel like this is also diminishing the point that the records that the Brother of Jared made were powerful. Moroni feels weak because of the restrictions of his language. The Brother of Jared had a written language given him from God that allowed him to make a record which was powerful, mighty even like unto God!
This point is emphasized by a personal experience that I recently had in which I had discovered an impression given me from some 4 years ago. The words that I recorded (and which I have kept private to myself) were a powerful connection back to that revelation. For some reason, Moroni didn’t feel like his record wasn’t able to carry that same spiritual power.
In verses 26 and 27, a strong correlation between human weakness and the grace of Christ is established: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;”
Moroni is able to bring us back full circle in this discussion on faith. Weakness accepted in humility, gives us access to his grace. And if we are humble enough to accept that grace, and to have faith in Christ, then can Christ make weak things become strong unto us!
Verses 26-28 are a quote directly from Christ to Moroni. Verse 28 ends with a capstone on this discussion of faith and weakness:
Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
The “fountain of all righteousness” is Jesus Christ. I had to read this in Spanish to see that. Men have weakness. Faith, hope and charity bring us to Christ who is the fountain of all righteousness.
After establishing that faith, hope, and charity lead to the fountain of all righteousness, Moroni goes on to offer some very significant examples of each principle in action.
Faith – The Brother of Jared moved mountains by faith. The Lord also revealed himself unto his disciples after they had faith and spoken in his name. (See vs. 29-31)
Hope – Christ has said that he goes to prepare a house for man among the mansion of His Father. (He’s not mincing words here.) Man must hope or he cannot receive this inheritance. (See vs. 32)
Charity – Christ was motivated by love for all the world. It was his preparations in lying down his life, taking it up again, and move on to prepare an eternal dwelling place for man that was motivated by love. Our capacity to receive this inheritance is also informed by our ability to feel love. Without charity, we cannot dwell where God dwells, for God dwells in love.(See vs. 33-34)
Moving on, verses 36 & 37 were quoted by Hyrum Smith just before his and the prophet Joseph’s martyrdom. Reading this this morning causes me to consider that it is the very doctrines that I love straight from the Book of Mormon that these men also lived for and died for. This rivets me just a little stronger to the prophet Joseph this morning as well.
It also helps me to internalize these verses by thinking of the Lord’s voice as I read His words in verse 37. For these are His words.
The wording of the Lord suggests that being made clean and being made strong, both were future events and prerequisites for inheritance in the kingdom of God, or as Christ says, “even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” Both are actions that are preformed by Christ. Ours is the task of having faith in Christ, hope in His promises, and charity like He did. We much be humble, penitent, and teachable. This is what we must do.
Moroni bids farewell to two groups at the end of this chapter, he supposing that this was near the end of his record: first the Gentiles and then “my brethren whom I love.” I am contemplating who these two groups are. Moroni is talking about the two intended audiences of this book, because a contemporary audience there was none. No one in his day was going to read what had been written.
Who are the Gentiles? Those who exist outside of the faith, the unbelieving. Not members of the House of Israel, those who do not make or keep covenants with God. Not the followers of Christ.
Who are his brethren? We are, if we believe in Christ! I want to believe that he is talking to me. And I am moved when he says that he loves us. Earlier, Moroni spoke to his audience saying:
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.Mormon 8:35
Before the Judgment-Seat of Christ
In no uncertain terms, Moroni states here at the end of this chapter that he expects to meet us “before the judgment-seat of Christ.” The scriptures are quite verbose on the topic of Jesus Christ as Judge. So it would seem the world thinks to ignore the Judge, but there will be no ignoring Him when at the end of times we are brought before Him to Judgment.
Is there salvation in the judgments of the Lord? See 1 Chronicles 16:31-34
The Lord shall judge His people. Psalms 7:8 Why would I want to be judged of the Lord? Is this something to be feared or deeply desired? What happens when I get judged of the Christ? Would he condemn me, or knowing who I really am, offer correction so that I might continue to progress?
But there is a final judgment, isn’t there? A cut off point? He will be my friend when I show up for that day, because I have taken the time to know Him. I have sought after Him.
Why am I so afraid of Judgment? Many people are afraid of being condemned. But Christ isn’t the condemner or the accuser. The adversary of my soul possesses that title, so judgment that comes from Christ looks much different, much, much different than the condemnation that we our minds race to be default. If we have taken the time to know Him, we would understand this clearly. Christ does occupy the position of being a stop-point on our journey, a measuring stick to gauge our progress.
Still studying judgment, and Christ as the Judge and there are within me many questions about how this works, and why it works. I read in 2 Nephi 29:11 today about how the world will be judged out of the books which the Lord shall inspire to be written.
What are my questions: when I think of the judgments of Christ the best example that I have to call up on or to reference are the experiences of my mission with my mission president. He would often act as a judge on my behalf when I needed critical counsel, he could offer the decisive direction that I needed.
How could he do that?
I have spent many days now, at least a week or more studying Jesus Christ as Judge as a part of this study. I am very curious based off of what I’ve already learned to pursue this particular study (especially entries found in Isaiah), but I will continue elsewhere and conclude this study of Ether 12 by making a few additional comments about Moroni’s parting comments, his second of three farewells.
In verse 39, Moroni talks about how Jesus had spoken directly with him “in plain humility” concerning the things which he had accounted for in this record. This is the Christ that I am coming to understand better.
And then the stirring invitation found at the end of this chapter:
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.Verse 41 (emphasis added)
There is a reminder here to seek for Christ in the words of the prophets. I also find it interesting that Moroni promises the grace that is in all three members of the Godhead, not just in Christ alone.
In conclusion, I am a different man at the end of this study than I was before I began. I understand better the power that is available to me, not only through faith, but through hope and charity: all this centered in Christ. I understand my weaknesses are mine and that they are given to me for a purpose. I have written and recorded a powerful, Christmas-time discourse on Christ, repentance, family, and our eternal identities as children of Heavenly Parents, which was heavily influenced by ideas in this chapter as well.
Now I must pray.