The brother of Jared has some lessons he can teach each of us about how to believe in God. The story begins with praying in faith, and oddly enough (I’m joking) it ends with prayers of faith. This week’s article is extra long. Feel free to skip the first part and go directly to where the brother of Jared sees the Lord if you are in a hurry to get to the “good part.”
Jared, the leader
Most of our conversation is generally about the brother of Jared, so why talk about Jared at all? They lived in a day and age when the patriarch ruled the family, just like in Abraham’s day. Jared is the apparent leader of the family. In the scriptures all four of his sons are listed by name, whereas his righteous brother, who had more than 20 children to Jared’s 12 has only one child named, and he was named only because he was the people’s first pick for being their king (Ether 6:25). In fact, the people went through all of the brother of Jared’s sons before they began down Jared’s line looking for a king to lead them. They couldn’t get any of them to become king until they got to the youngest of the family.
We are not told explicitly who Jared was or what position he held in the family, but he was clearly the leader, because he gave all the orders and directions for the family. Jared was probably the first born. Just a guess. Just as clearly, yet not explicitly stated, is the brother of Jared’s ability to connect with God and get answers to his prayers. Whenever Jared needs answers from the Lord he turns to his brother to take the matter to the Lord.
The prayer of faith
The brother of Jared had a special kind of faith. It is clear from the record that he actually knew precious little about the true nature of God. He was completely unaware that God looked like a man. This is remarkable, considering how close he was to the days of Noah and the original patriarchs. It just goes to show you how quickly knowledge can be lost when not written down and properly preserved and passed down to the next generation. It only takes one generation’s silence on a subject to lose vital information to the silence of history.
In chapter 1 Jared tells his brother to go and inquire of the Lord whether they can be spared from the fate of having their own language scrambled. He says in verse 34, “Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.” His use of the word “cry” is interesting.
When we use the word cry we generally mean they wept tears, as in the scripture that says “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) When the scriptures use the word cry it means to cry out with emotion. It is a much more emotional term than we would use today. Jared’s term implies a heartfelt pleading with the Lord to spare them from something disastrous. This explains why the scriptures say the “Lord had compassion upon Jared.”
Jared sent his brother to plead with the Lord several times. Each time for a specific reason. It is interesting that he didn’t just give his brother a shopping list of things to enquire about so he could do it all at once. Instead they “felt the waters” and checked to see how the Lord felt about their plans each step of the way.
A special request
In Ether 1:38 Jared sends his brother back to the Lord with a special request. On the surface this sounds pretty gutsy, but I’m guessing there are reasons for even thinking about this request for which we have no record. Ether is, after all, an abridgment of someone else’s record. Jared sends his brother to ask the Lord if He will drive (take) them to a new land that will be choice above all others. We have no idea where this idea would even come from, but he wanted the question asked, and was ready to abide by whatever terms the Lord put on answering his request.
38 And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.
Once again the brother of Jared was successful in his cries to the Lord, and the Lord promised to take them to the choicest place on the whole earth. In fact, the Lord went so far as to tell them that the nation he would raise up out of their descendants would be a great nation. Ether 1:43 says, “And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth.”
And why was the Lord willing to give such a promise, the verse finishes with the explanation – “because this long time ye have cried unto me.”
The Lord blesses persistence. The Brother of Jared also had faith in everything that the Lord told him, and in all that followed, the brother of Jared also faithfully fulfilled all the instructions he received from the Lord.
We hear in the Book of Mormon over and over again the Lord’s conditions for being allowed to live and stay on this land, which is choicest above all nations on the earth. Even as far back as the Tower of Babel this condition was spelled out to the Jaredite people. Ether 2:12 says:
12 Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.
The “we” referred to is, I believe, Mormon and Moroni. So centuries before Abraham’s day this condition for living here was in place. As far as we know the Jaredites were the first to be brought here. We have no record that would indicate otherwise. A lot happened between the Tower of Babel and the destruction of Jerusalem in 592 B.C. During that whole time the Jaredites were thriving and spreading across the Western Hemisphere. Lehi and Nephi were latecomers to this party.
There is an important principle we need to understand in this narrative about Jared and his more famous brother. The Lord never just answers our prayers and leaves it at that. Like any parent he stretches us every chance he gets. He wants to bless us and if he can make life more difficult for us, because we will learn important lessons that will bless us later on, he’ll do it.
During their journey to the promised land they had to cross waters on multiple occasions. Each time they built a very specific type of barge to get them across. Once they reached the shore of the waters that divided the promised land from the continent they were currently on they rested for four years. During this time they all forgot to turn to the Lord in prayer. Specific to our story, the brother of Jared forgot to pray.
The Lord came to him in a cloud and for three hours he got the dressing down of his life (Ether 3:14). Note this. The brother of Jared wasn’t worshipping golden calves or false gods or anything awful like the children of Israel would do. He simply had forgotten the Lord and had not sought him out in prayer during the last four years. If this was the worst thing we ever did we would probably consider ourselves pretty well off spiritually. The Lord thought otherwise.
He warned the brother of Jared about the end of this spiritual road he was on, telling him he needed to repent of the evil he had done in not praying to the Lord. He warned him that “my Spirit will not always strive with man.” He finishes by warning him that the end result of not praying is that when they are fully ripe they will be cut off from the Lord’s presence. That means they will be damned.
I thought about what makes it evil not to pray, and it occurred to me that anything the Lord commands and we don’t do, by definition is evil. We have been commanded to pray to him, so when we choose not to pray we are committing evil. By definition. So why does the Lord command us to pray to him? The answer is in Ether 3:2 at the end of the verse:
… O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.
The reason the Lord wants us to call upon him is so that we can “receive according to our desires.” Hardly the selfish and controlling reason some would ascribe to a jealous God. The purpose of prayer is to bless and enrich our life. This is why the Lord gave the brother of Jared his ultimate test.
Jared’s clan was told to build barges like they had done before, but evidently with some specific modifications that would allow them to withstand the rigors of the ocean voyage. They finished the barges, as directed, but there were three problems they could not figure out a way to solve.
In Ether 3:43 the brother of Jared goes to the Lord and lays out what they had done. They had been obedient in all things, even though they didn’t understand why they were doing some of the things they had been commanded to do. Here are the three problems still remaining: There is no light, there is no way to steer, and oh yes, we can’t breath. None of these problems could be solved by human means because that would have meant altering the Lord’s plans for the ships. They needed direction on these issues.
The Lord immediately told the brother of Jared how to fix the breathing problem with an approved modification to His design. He then told them that they had no need to steer the ships because he was going to literally blow them to the new land.
The problem of light he actually dumped back into the lap of the brother of Jared. He said, you know what is needed, what do you propose? You can’t have windows because they will be dashed to pieces. You can’t have fire because I have forbidden having fire on this trip.
This left the brother of Jared with no human way to solve his problem. His back was in the corner. He had to come up with a way that required intervention on the part of the Lord. He NEEDED a miracle and was being told to ask for it. How is that for a test of faith?
A principle is a principle
One of the conditions of faith is that we exercise belief in something that is true. Exercising belief in something that is not true can not produce the results we seek. The brother of Jared had no idea of the true nature of God, yet to him, God was a man like any other man. He talked with him, reasoned with him, had been chastised by him, like he might deal with any man. He just hadn’t seen him.
I don’t know what he thought of in his head when he thought of the Lord, but I think he instinctively believed that if he had any kind of shape He would look like a man in form. So he ponders this problem the Lord has given him as to what miracle he wants from Him. He decides that if the Lord is willing, he can do anything He wants. So he makes it easy on the Lord. The brother of Jared goes to work and creates 16 small stones that are like glass. He takes them up the mountain and lays them before the Lord, and explains his solution to the problem the Lord has given him.
First the brother of Jared explains the situation back to the Lord (Ether 3:2).
2 O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.
Brilliant statement! This is our condition – we are going to be buried in the floods on the way to the new land. These are our weaknesses – we are weak, unworthy of thy blessings, and we have evil fallen natures. BUT you have commanded us (unworthy creatures that we are) to pray to you so we can receive the desires of our hearts. In other words, I’m just doing what you told me to do, acknowledging my weaknesses in the process of my trying to be obedient. This showed true humility on his part.
The brother of Jared acknowledges that the reason they were in this position in the first place was because of the wickedness of his society. They tried to build a building that would go to heaven and the Lord punished the people with the different languages.
In verses 4-5 he bears his testimony. This is what he knows with all his heart – “thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man.” Based on this absolute conviction he then asks the Lord to “touch” the stones to change them so they would glow and give off light for their ships.
4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.
He has no idea how the Lord does what he does, but he absolutely knew that the Lord could do this thing, and he felt justified in asking him to do it because the Lord had told him to bring Him a solution to the problem. This was that solution.
Isn’t it wonderful that the brother of Jared used the term finger when he asked the Lord to “touch” the stones. Only someone with a finger could touch the stones. He had no idea if God even had a finger, yet he instinctively believed in such a way that he could actually touch them to make them glow. He was staggered beyond belief when he actually saw the Lord’s finger appear before him and actually touch the stones, one at a time, all 16 of them, and make them glow.
He fell to the earth in wonder that that which his mind had conceived was actually real. The Lord knows all things. He knew exactly why the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth. But he never takes away our opportunities for growth. He asked him why he had fallen to the earth. The brother of Jared responded with what he had just experienced. He stated that he didn’t know the Lord had a body of flesh and blood.
So the Lord admits that no one has ever seen his finger before like the brother of Jared has, and he asks him if he saw more than just his finger (Ether 3:9). Now the brother of Jared is speaking to an old friend, and one that suddenly has a form he can comprehend. With all his heart he wants to see what he looks like. He says, “show thyself unto me.”
Here is where the lesson of this week’s study comes in. The Lord says, “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” Why would he ask such a question of someone who has just exercised enough faith that the veil between the worlds was torn asunder and he couldn’t be kept out? The answer is because knowledge of godly things must always be at the request of the receiver. And that knowledge is only granted upon the promise of believing what is to be given. It was that way in the Garden of Eden, and it is an eternal principle that Mormon also states later on.
Again, the brother of Jared bears him his witness that he knows that God is a being of perfect truth and cannot lie, so yes, he will believe everything he is told. If you read the rest of the chapter and all of chapter 4, you will see that this is the moment in which the brother of Jared is redeemed from the fall of Adam through the redemption of Christ. That redemption wouldn’t actually take place for thousands of years, but that is material for another article.
The Savior shows him his spirit body, and teaches him about his mortal ministry that is yet to come. He also shows him THE vision, the one that all those whose calling and election are made sure receive.
Did you know that the doctrine in the famous promise of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4) actually comes from the record of Ether? Read his words in Ether 4:10-11.
10 And he that believeth not my words believeth not my disciples; and if it so be that I do not speak, judge ye; for ye shall know that it is I that speaketh, at the last day.
11 But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.
The Lord’s words are found in the scriptures. If someone won’t believe His written word then they won’t believe his servants words. If they won’t believe his servant’s words they won’t believe the Savior’s or the Father’s words. If we believe the scriptures we are given then he will follow that belief with the manifestations of the Spirit who will bear witness of the truth of what we have chosen to believe.
Read chapters 3 and 4 and you will find that all of our spiritual witnesses are based on our willingness to believe the word of God which is found in the scriptures. It is this willingness of believe the word of God and his willingness to pray and communicate through prayer that prepared the heart of the brother of Jared to be ushered into the presence of the Lord. The process is the same for all of us.