Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ether 3: Light My Way

The brother of Jared continues his unlikely preparations for his improbable journey.

Who Abridges the Abridgers?
The opening verse of this chapter is, simply, a complete mess:
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
Why is that parenthetical comment needed?  Who cares about the number of boats right away in the middle of the sentence?   Why do we need to know the name of the mountain—a word that means nothing to us in any modern language?  Why do we need to know why the mountain was named that nonsense word because it happened to be a particularly tall mountain?  How exactly, were the stones both white and completely transparent?  And how is it at all important for us to know that the method the brother of Jared used to transport the stones to the peak of Mount Shelem was by using his hands?

Moroni has created the absolute worst abridgment in the history of abridgments.  If he's taking the salient points of doctrine from these records and carving them onto his own plates, why not keep it simple:
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared went forth unto a mount and did molten out of the rock sixteen small stones; and he did carry them to the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
Look at that, I've cut the word count by roughly forty-five percent without breaking a sweat.  I suppose, realistically, that the word counts might not be the same in Reformed Egyptian, but still, it sure seems like this prophet was making a lot more work for himself than necessary and laying down some truly awful prose in the process.

Approximately Human
God stretches forth his finger and touches the stones so that they mysteriously glow to provide light inside the airtight Jaredite barges.  But that's—arguably, of course—not the weirdest thing about it.  The weirdest thing is that the brother of Jared is scared peeless by the fact that God has a finger of "flesh and blood."

The problem with this is that God isn't supposed to have blood at all.  As a resurrected, exalted, and celestial being, he's supposed to have the pure essence of spirit pumping through his veins.  Or something like that, as taught by some inconsequential person you've probably never heard of, by which I mean Joseph Fielding Smith, prophet of God and president of the church.  He's quoted in church-produced materials as saying:
After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones, but they will not be blood bodies, they will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal and they shall become immortal and shall never die.
But in Ether, which was translated by divine inspiration and is the most correct book on the face of the earth and contains the fullness of the gospel, God himself uses the word "blood" when referring to his own circulatory system.  Or at least to his own finger.

This is obviously not important doctrine that is essential to anyone's salvation, but in my opinion, these small but demonstrably contradictory discrepancies are exactly the kinds of things you should see if these concepts emanated not from a perfect deity but instead from a series of imperfect humans who were making stuff up as they went along.  You know, kind of the same way a detail in season seven of a TV show puts fans in an uproar because it doesn't jive with the backstory of the show based on that one line of dialogue from one character in season two.

The Awesomest Awesome that Ever Awesomed
The reason the brother of Jared sees God's finger, according to verse 9, is because no one else has ever come before God with so much faith.  This continues a trend in the Book of Mormon of absurdly idealized characters whose righteous traits exceed those of some of the most celebrated prophets of the Bible.  Who needs Moses and Abraham and Paul and John the Baptist and their middling feats when you have Moroni's theoretical power over the devil, Nephi's blank check of priesthood authority, and the brother of Jared's unprecedented faith to see the actual flesh of God?

This brings to mind a comment once made by David Cone of the New York Yankees:  "You run out of superlatives at some point."  When every Book of Mormon prophet is so amazingly amazing that no amazingness can express the amazement, it starts to get kind of old.  There isn't much else to say to make the next prophet seem important too.  And it's not just boring—it's unrealistic.  It makes the author seem desperate to one-up the larger-than-life figures of the Bible instead of trying to, as the cover of the book says, simply provide another testament of Jesus Christ.  The tone becomes competitive rather than complementary.  It reeks of fable rather than fact.

Make Up Your Mind!
Despite the fact that this story is supposed to be in the founding book of scripture for a religion that rejects (and sometimes mocks) the concept of the Trinity, in verse 14 of this chapter, God and Jesus have become the same person again:
Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
You are the Father and the Son?  Oh, man, this is getting really confusing.  Second Nephi, Mosiah, Third Nephi, and Mormon have already caused some problems where the identities of the members of the godhead are concerned.  I guess we can just add Ether to that illustrious list.

A Long Journey for a Useless Rock
In verse 23, God gives the brother of Jared two stones that can be used at a later date to translate the records that the brother of Jared was keeping.  This is kind of a strange thing for God to do because he's providing the means for future translations before the original manuscript is even close to being finished.  Even if he's referring to King Mosiah translating the Jaredite record (as opposed to Joseph Smith translating the entirety of the Book of Mormon), this is still centuries and possibly millennia in advance.  That means that Jared and Company are going to have to make sure these stones get safely across the ocean and are preserved for generations upon generations so that at some point on the hidden horizon of time, somebody else can use them to make sense of their writing.

That's crazy.  That's not foresight, it's totally unnecessary planning.  I mean, Moroni is just going to have to abridge everything later.  Why not provide the tools for translation then, when it's vastly more practical?

And it really sounds like God is referring to the Urim and Thummim here.  If that's true, then this makes even less sense, because according to Emma Smith, the Urim and Thummim were only used in the translation of the lost 116 pages and not for anything that wound up being part of what we know today as the Book of Mormon.  (I don't think I've ever done this before, but I don't have a website reference for that—it's on page 43 of No Man Knows My History.)

If anything, this makes God seem lazy.  He doesn't want to be bothered with giving translators the necessary tools so he thought he could kill two birds with one stone (get it?!  stone?!) while he was answering the brother of Jared's concern about lighting the barges.  So he threw the seer stones in with the lamp stones and made Jared's family do all the heavy lifting in making sure the tools were preserved so that somewhere down through the ages a translator might use them.


  1. The Book of Mormon is very clear on the nature of the godhead: 3 beings, the father, son, HG, are 1 spirit being. In fact, verses 16-17 say that he a spirit appearing then to the Brother of Jared not a body of flesh and bones.

    16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after 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.

    17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.

    This is just a confusing mess when you try to justify it with current Mormon doctrine on the godhead. I agree with you. This is all made up. The thing is, it's all or nothing. To be a good Mormon, you have to believe all this jumbled mess proves Joseph was a prophet. To me, it proves the opposite.

    1. It just warms my heart to see that, even after all this stuff I'm pointing out, there are STILL things I missed. There's so much in this book that makes so little sense.

      I think your point about verse 17 is especially damming. Not only does Moroni refer to the brother of Jared's experience seeing God as taking place with Jesus, but he ALSO states that this is the same person who appeared to the Nephites. That's basically two times he's said that God and Jesus are the same person in the same exact sentence.