Perhaps no man with greater faith than that of the brother of Jared has ever walked the earth (Ether 3:15). Because of his faith, he received a vision of the Lord Jehovah. Because of his faith, he was taken into God’s presence and blessed with a perfect knowledge of things.
Moroni wrote: “Never were greater things made manifest than . . . unto the brother of Jared” (Ether 4:4). Jared’s people were guided safely to the promised land, where they built a great civilization that lasted 1500 years.
The Book of Ether is not primarily a history of the Jaredites, but is Moroni’s warning to us to avoid their mistakes. The prophet Ether wrote a record of the Jaredites, and Moroni abridged it into this book (Ether 1:1–6).
THE BROTHER OF JARED
Events at the Tower of Babel
The prophet Ether wrote the record of the Jaredites, who left Babylon when the Lord confounded the language of the people (Ether 1:33–37; Genesis 11:1–9). Ether provides a history of a man named Jared, his brother, and their families who were at the Tower of Babel and were scattered” (v. 33). The brother of Jared is described as “a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord” (v. 34). The Jaredites’ language was not confounded at the tower of Babel (vv. 34–37). They all continued to use the original Adamic language.
The Jaredites Are Led Toward a Promised Land
The Lord promised that they would become a great nation in a choice land (Ether 1:38–43). Like Noah before them, they took all forms of life with them (Ether 2:1–3).
— They took animals of all kinds with them, male and female (v. 1).
— They also took birds and a vessel full of fishes (v. 2).
— They also took seeds of all kinds with them (v. 3).
— “Deseret”: They also took swarms of what they called “deseret,” which we are told means “a honey bee” (v. 3). The word is evidently transliterated [spelled like it sounds] from the original record. If so, it would be an actual Jaredite—and therefore Adamic— word.
Their route of travel over land (Ether 2:4–6). The Lord led them north to a valley named Nimrod, where He spoke to the brother of Jared from within a cloud (v. 4). They were then led through wilderness and over “waters” to the seashore (vv. 5–6). They pitched their tents, and stayed there for four years (Ether 2:13). They named the place Moriancumer— which was the brother of Jared’s name. Kent Jackson said, “The record does not give much specific information about the route of the group’s travels from the valley of Nimrod to Moriancumer. Elder George Reynolds suggested: ‘It is evident that they first traveled northward, but whether they turned east or west is not so apparent.’”1
The land to which the people of Jared were going was to be a “land of promise, which was choice above all other lands” (Ether 2:7–12). The Lord said that whoever served him should prosper in the land and whoever forsook him would be “swept off.” Moroni adds his commentary concerning this decree in verses 10–12.
After four years of camping on the seashore, the Lord spoke again to the brother of Jared (Ether 2:14–15). For three hours the Lord chastened the brother of Jared for neglecting his daily prayers. The brother of Jared “repented of the evil which he had done” and the Lord forgave him with the warning “thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man” (v. 15).
The Lord concluded his scolding of the brother or Jared with a warning that if he [we] persist in that kind of neglect [of prayer] “until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord” (v. 15)—permanently.
The Jaredites’ Barges
The Lord instructed them to build small, light, and water-tight ships (Ether 2:16–17). Their barges were to be of the type “which ye have hitherto built. . .according to the instructions of the Lord” (v. 16). This apparently refers to the barges they had previously built while traveling toward the ocean (Ether 2:6).
— “They were small, each one being “the length of a tree” (vv. 16–17).
— They were “light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water” (v. 16).
— They were “exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the. . . ends thereof were peaked” (v. 17).
— The bottom, sides, top, and door (when closed) were all “tight like unto a dish,” admitting no water into the interior (v. 17).
They had no source of air when closed, due to their air-tight design (Ether 2:18–21). The Lord instructed him to put an air hole in the top and bottom of the ships, stopped with a plug, through which air could be obtained (v. 20). The fact that they would need two holes, and that if they unstopped one and “the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole” suggests that at times these barges might have either side (or both) under water.
There was also no light within the ships (Ether 2:19, 22). The brother of Jared asked “O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” (v. 22).
The Lord asked the brother of Jared what solution he would suggest, while noting the challenges that would need to be overcome: (Ether 2:23–25)
— “Ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces” (v. 23). Note that the use of glass for windows was known in their day.
— “Neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire” (v. 23).
— “Ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you” (v. 24).
Personal Initiative (D&C 9:7–9): We must study things in our minds before asking the Lord for solutions. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is a well understood principle that the Lord does not do for man what man can do for himself.”2 President Harold B. Lee said, “It was as though the Lord were saying to him, ‘Look, I gave you a mind to think with, and I gave you agency to use it. Now you do all you can to help yourself with this problem: and then, after you’ve done all you can, I’ll step in to help you.’”3
The Brother of Jared Sees Jesus Christ
The brother of Jared went to Mount Shelem and made sixteen small stones, then asked the Lord to give them light by touching them with his finger (Ether 3:1–4).
The brother of Jared spoke of God’s greatness and man’s weakness (Ether 3:2–5). Perhaps because of his previous scolding from the Lord, the brother of Jared begged the Lord “do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee. . . ” (vv. 2–3). And he expressed absolute faith that the Lord could do whatever he requested (v. 5).
The Lord touched the stones one by one with His finger, and the brother of Jared was frightened when he saw the finger of the Lord (Ether 3:6–8). The brother of Jared asked the Lord to show himself to him, and because of his great faith, the Lord did (Ether 3:9–13). But first, He asked him a crucial question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” (v. 11). “And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie” (v. 12). The reason for this question was because the brother of Jared was about to be sealed up unto eternal life—to have his calling and election made sure—which happens whenever a person receives a personal vision of the Lord Jesus Christ.
After the brother of Jared had expressed his complete faith in the Lord, He “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 [and] I show myself unto you” (v. 13). The brother of Jared was thus sealed up unto eternal life—his calling and election was made sure (v. 13).
“Never have I shown myself unto man whom I have created” (Ether 3:15). Hugh Nibley explained, “‘But he had already showed himself to Adam’ [a student of his once wrote]. No he hadn’t. He hadn’t showed himself to Adam in the flesh. He showed himself to Adam before the Fall. After that he didn’t show himself to Adam. Adam before the Fall was not a body of flesh and blood. He was not perishable; he was immortal.”4 Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “All revelation since the fall has come through Jesus Christ. . . . The Father [Elohim] has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son.”5
The Lord explained the nature of spirit bodies and mortal bodies—both are made in the image of God (Ether 3:14–17).
The brother of Jared was taken within the veil and shown things he was forbidden to show to any man (Ether 3:17–21). “He had faith no longer” means that his knowledge was now sure, for he had seen all things pertaining to this earth in this vision (v. 19) and he had a “perfect knowledge of God” (v. 20). The brother of Jared was forbidden to discuss what he had seen. This is consistent with the command given to those who have seen the Lord, and it is rare that any of them will discuss their experience except under the most sacred of conditions.
Urim and Thummim: The Lord told the brother of Jared to write what he had seen in a language (the Adamic language) that no man can understand (Ether 3:22–24). A Urim and Thummim is provided so future prophets can translate them—the same one that Joseph Smith later used to translate the Book of Mormon. The Urim and Thummim are described as “two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow” (Mosiah 28:13)—“things . . . prepared from the beginning, and . . . handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages” (Mosiah 28:14). And whoever possesses the Urim and Thummim is called a “seer, after the manner of old times” (Mosiah 28:16).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Joseph Smith received with the ‘breastplate’ and the plates of the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim, which were hid up by Moroni to come forth in the last days as a means by which the ancient record might be translated, which Urim and Thummim were given to the brother of Jared (D&C 17:1).”6
MORONI COMMENTS ON THE JAREDITE RECORD
Moroni Seals up the Writings of the Brother of Jared
The Lord later revealed to the Nephites what the brother Jared had written (Ether 4:1–2). Moroni transcribed onto the plates exactly what the brother of Jared saw, and sealed them up, along with the Urim and Thummim (Ether 4:3–5). These “sealed” pages of the plates are the same as those Joseph Smith described when he received them in 1827.
We will receive these records when we have faith like the brother of Jared’s and become sanctified (Ether 4:6–7). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “[The sealed portion of the plates] was returned by Joseph Smith to Moroni, its divinely appointed custodian . . . Joseph Smith [did not] either read or translate it. We know of no one among mortals since Mormon and Moroni who have known its contents. It was known among the Nephites during the nearly two hundred years of their Golden Era. [4th Nephi] But for the present, the book is kept from us; only the portion upon which no seal was placed has been translated.”7
The Lord exhorted the Gentiles and the house of Israel to come unto Him (Ether 4:13–15). Gentiles who come unto Him will receive “greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief” (v. 13).
The Bible and Book of Mormon are signs that the Lord’s work has commenced among the descendants of Lehi (Ether 4:16–19).
Amen #2. Moroni again wrote “Amen,” thinking he was finished writing (Ether 4:19). He had said “Amen” earlier at the end of his father’s record—the plates of Mormon, but finding himself still alive he began to translate the Jaredite record. When he got to this point, he again “signed off” with a solemn “Amen.”
Moroni’s Instructions to Joseph Smith
Finding he was still alive, Moroni spoke directly to the latter-day prophet who would translate the record he was writing—Joseph Smith (Ether 5:1). He told him that three witnesses will be permitted to see the record and bear witness of it (Ether 5:2–4). And the world will be judged by its reaction to the book and its witnesses (Ether 5:5–6).
Amen #3. Again, Moroni thought he was finished with the record and signed off (Ether 5:6). We can assume that in between these various “amens” he was moving around to protect his life, uncertain whether he would ever write anything more. But as we know in retrospect, he was still not finished with his record at this time.
THE JAREDITES IN THE PROMISED LAND
The Jaredites Travel by Sea to the Promised Land
The Jaredites put the lighted stones into their ships, along with their food and the animals, and placed themselves into the hands of God (Ether 6:1–4). There were 8 ships containing 28+ people, food, and animals. (Ether 3:1). According to tradition, seven of those ships contained people. The other ship could have carried animals, fish, and/or supplies.
Fierce winds (hurricanes?) blew the Jaredite ships across the ocean to the new world (Ether 6:5–10). Despite the fearful conditions of the journey, the Jaredites sang songs of praise to God within their ships. Nearly one year later—344 days—they arrived at the promised land and gave thanks unto God for their safe arrival (Ether 6:11–12).
The Jaredites “multiply . . . and wax strong in the land” (Ether 6:13–18). The Jaredites immediately “went forth upon the face of the land, and began to till the earth” (v. 13), and to raise their families. Jared had four sons—Jacom, Gilgah, Mahah, and Orihah (v. 14)—and the brother of Jared also had “sons and daughters” (v. 15). There were about 22 souls at the time they arrived.
Hah: Note that “the last two names [of Jared’s sons] end in hah, which in Mayan means ‘by or connected with water.’ These two sons, in other words, may have been born while traveling on or living by the ocean. A search of Book of Mormon names from Lehi to Mosiah yields no names ending in hah. Once King Mosiah translated the plates of Ether, however, the term hah came into use.”8
All of the Jaredite people “were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and . . . were also taught from on high” [received revelation] (v. 17).
Since the flood had preceded the Jaredite journey to America, we can assume that all forms of animal life on the American continents had been killed in the deluge. This was, no doubt, the reason why the Lord commanded the Jaredites to bring with them pairs of animals and even fish to repopulate the continent. It was, no doubt, vast and beautiful and covered with vegetation when they arrived. But it was likely empty of any other people, at least in the vicinity where “the Jaredites settled on this hemisphere at the time of the tower of Babel approximately 2600–2300 BC.”9
Their Descendants Eventually Desire to Have a King
When Jared and his brother were old and near death, the people asked them to anoint a king to lead the people (Ether 6:19–24). The brother of Jared prophesied that it would bring them into captivity (v. 23).
None of the sons of the brother of Jared, and only one of the sons of Jared— Orihah—would agree to be their king (Ether 6:25–27). Jared and his brother died (Ether 6:28–30), and Orihah ruled in righteousness and humility while the Jaredites became “exceedingly rich” because of their righteousness (v. 28).
1. In Kent Jackson, ed., In Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 8: Alma 30 to Moroni , 45.
2. The Way to Perfection , 171.
3. “How to Receive a Blessing from God,” Improvement Era, October 1966, 863.
4. Teachings of the Book of Mormon—Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988–1990 [Provo: FARMS, 1992], 271.
5. Doctrines of Salvation, 1:27.
6. Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 1:161–162.
7. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 443.
8. The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, 63.
9. Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 81.