Monday, December 8, 2008

Ether 1-6

I began this lesson with a question, "How does your faith affect how you deal with crisis?" These chapters show a group of people in an extreme crisis, they have to leave everything behind and journey to a new land. Their leaders, Jared and his brother, demonstrate a method I hope to emulate in my own life.

The first thing I noticed was, how did Jared know that the Lord was going to confound the languages? The Biblical account is very short, only 9 verses. This account implies that all the people were involved in the project, because they had one language and were one people. Yet we know from the scriptures that a. not everyone was in on the project, because the people of Jared weren't and b. the Lord must have warned the people because "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets," Amos 3: 7. In our class discussion we brought up the possibility that the brother of Jared was a prophet and his brother was the secular leader. This explains why Jared is the named person in the accounts, and why Jared went to his brother to ask a blessing for the people as a whole.

In the verses Ether 1:33-43 I see a pattern of anticipation/reaction/acceptance. They anticipated the dispersion of peoples and asked for mercy. When they realized that even though their language would not be confounded, they would still be required to leave, they asked for guidance and help in the journey. How often do we ask to be saved from a trial? When we are not given the help we asked for, are we able to accept and instead ask for guidance and help in the trials facing us?

In chapter 2 The Jaredites are driven/guided "into that quarter where there never had man been" v.5 and then v.7
And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.
Have you ever been hiking with small children? The Lord was with them constantly as he was with the people of Moses, not letting them rest because he knew what blessings were ahead of them.

Despite verse 7 we see in verse 13 they rested for four years. This is the place where we have the remarkable verse 14:
And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.
A good counterpoint to this verse is Chapter 3 verses 2-5 where the brother of Jared prays to the Lord to touch the stones and light the boats. These verses are a model of humility and faith in asking of the Lord.

In 2:17-19 we see the brother of Jared fulfilled the commandments of the Lord, even though he could see some problems with the instructions he had been given. The Lord had shown him the way to build the barges, and he did it exactly as he had been commanded. Then, after they were built, he went to the Lord and asked, "And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish."v.19. The Lord responds to his question in two ways. First, in Verse 20, he answers the question and gives him a solution: he instructs him how to make air holes. But in verses 23-25 he answers the way we more normally get answers from the Lord, "Figure it out yourself."

Chapter 3 is one of the most amazing stories in the scriptures. Not just because the brother of Jared saw the Lord, but because of the fulfillment of faith it demonstrates. In verse 13 we are told, "And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you" His faith was so strong that he was redeemed. This is the ultimate goal and purpose of our faith in Christ, to be redeemed and brought back into his presence. Then in verse 19 we see another result of faith fulfilled,
And 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.
After the trial of his faith, he no longer had faith, but knowledge. Verses 14-16 tell of the kind of knowledge we receive as our faith increases, knowledge of Jesus Christ and his gospel. The brother of Jared's faith was so strong that his knowledge grew to visions of the entire world and everyone on it.

In Chapter 4 and 5 we have commentary by Mormon about faith and knowledge. The contrast of increased knowledge by faith and obedience and decreased knowledge by unbelief is described. In Ether 4: 13-14 we have an invitation
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it
hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
Then verse 15 seemed to sum it up for me:
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.
We have to responsibility to "rend the veil of unbelief." The Lord will invite, guide, direct, encourage and warn but he will never force us. We have to choose to believe, ask for his help, and by this act of faith we increase our knowledge and our ability to have faith in even more things, and so on, until redemption and perfect knowledge.

I hope this makes sense. This was one lesson I had difficulty bringing together. A lot of ideas, but not as much of a cohesive whole as I have had for other lessons. In three weeks I get to do the end of the Book of Mormon lesson, then on to the Doctrine and Covenants.


jendoop said...

I love that- "rend the veil of unbelief". It is amazing the many facets there are of unbelief. As I struggle to grow my testimony it never ceases to humble me, the areas in which my faith is weak. Right now I'm trying to focus on doing things for the right reasons, not out of sheer guilt and obligation- but because I need more joy in service.

readerMom said...

Right now if I did that I wouldn't do any service. Sometimes the guilt and obligation are helpful to get you started.