secret combinations
Week 47 is scheduled for study Nov. 16-22, 2020. If evil is to be done away it must first be defined and understood for what it is. This week we look at principles of righteous vs. wicked leadership, what secret combinations are, and how we can become humble.

Day 1

Ether 6:1-12 – The Lord will lead me toward my promised land.

Speaking of the Jaredite record, Mormon commented that “it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account” (Mosiah 28:19). Keep this in mind as you read Ether 6-11. Why are these things expedient – or beneficial – to you and your loved ones?

This is one of those lessons we can’t take literally, since we all know we are not being physically lead to another land. My wife and I have discussed what seems to be an endless list of genealogies and who killed or captured who list in the book of Ether. We have wondered why the prophets have been so insistent that this is an important book for us to know about. Surely the prophets would not promote this record like they do if they didn’t see genuine value in its pages. We just need to find what they see in it.

Their story

One of the great challenges of our study of the scriptures lies in our ability to liken the lessons of the scriptures to what is happening in our own life. If we can’t find a way to relate to the scriptures they will forever remain just nice stories to teach our children and grandchildren. It is only when we make them personal to our own situation that we are able to find the comfort and solace they really have to offer us.

Let’s look at the story of the Jaredites fleeing from the tower and being taken to a land of promise as a “big picture” kind of story. We refer to the world and its beliefs and behaviors as Babylon, precisely because ancient Babylon was so steeped in the philosophies and practices of the world that it came to represent all the world has to offer. That’s not a compliment.

Jared, the head of his clan saw the confounding of the languages around him. He knew it was happening because of the wickedness of their society. He also knew his brother had a gift of talking with and receiving revelation from God, so he asked his brother to petition the Lord to spare them from the results of the punishment God was dealing out to all the people around them. Because they had been keeping the commandments they were spared from having their language confounded. They continued to petition the Lord and rely on His counsel, and the Lord promised to take them to a land that was precious above all others. The rest of the story of Jared and his brother was basically them getting from point A to point B. They learned many lessons and had many trials in the course of their travels.

The following verses were covered in last week’s lessons, but apply here (Ether 2:6-8).

And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.

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.

And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.

Keep these verses in mind as you read the comparison below to our journey through life.

Our story

For the Jaredites, their physical journey was from the tower to the promised land. For us, our journey is from the beginnings of mortality in Babylon, the world, to the celestial kingdom, our own land of promise. The gospel Christ has given us from our Father contains everything we need to go from point A to point B. The people of Jared built barges to cross bodies of water multiple times. Again and again the Lord said that where they had landed was not good enough. He had something better in mind for them. Finally, they came to the edge of the great sea and were told to build barges once again, but these had some modifications to them not required in the other barges they had built. These had to be “tight like unto a dish.”

The Jaredites had physically left the world far behind, but they still needed to go further yet, and they needed to spiritually leave behind all their ties to the world they had already physically left. They had to prepare themselves for this last leg of their journey in a number of ways. The Lord tried their faith. I talked about the “flaws” in His barge design that brought the brother of Jared to his knees to solve the problems these “flaws” presented. They had spent four years without prayer to God, and the brother of Jared was chastised by the Lord for a long time over this sin. The people had to prepare physically for a long journey in confinement. This included all the food they would need for themselves, their animals, and all the implements needed to settle a new land. Once they entered their ships they would not see land again for almost a whole year. And what a rough year it would be.

They were promised that in order to get to the new land they would be buried in the depths of the sea. The wind and the waves would howl around them and push them forward day and night the whole time they were in their ships. Anyone who has spent any time on rough seas has to have some sense of sympathy of what it must have been like to be in a dark room full of animals, children, and supplies being tossed to and fro 24/7 for almost a year. I can’t even imagine what that would do to a group of people.

We are told that the brother of Jared sang and offered praises to God day and night the whole time they were on the sea.

What about us? How is God helping you and your loved ones to leave the world behind? What are you asked to do by the prophets to prepare for this long journey of life, so you can be guided to the celestial world by God? What covenants does the Lord require of you and your loved ones in order to receive His protection and guidance? We too have been told that the Lord requires of us to prepare ourselves physically and spiritually for long periods of hardship. Do you have the food storage God has told you to gather? Do you have the savings the prophets have told you to put aside? Have we all learned to live on less than we make, if it is at all possible to do so? Are we wasteful or do we make do with what we have until it is beyond able to be used any longer? The world would have us throw away everything, but the prophets have told us we need to learn to use it up, make do, wear it out or do without.

One of the ways for us to participate in Babylon is to spend like the world spends, to hoard like the world hoards, and to focus on the things the world focuses on. To fully leave Babylon and be prepared for the journey we need to make in the latter days, we need to identify which habits we have that are of this world, and change them to more godly behaviors. If we expect to receive all of God’s blessings, we must place ourselves in a position to be worthy of those blessings. Are we praying regularly or only sporadically? Do we study our scriptures and try to liken them to ourselves? Are we full covenant keepers or do we pick and choose which ones we keep and when? Do we pay a full tithe and a generous fast offering or do we find ways to pay less, because we have justified that we don’t need to pay that much?

The people of Jared had to be exacting in their obedience to the Lord to be taken to their promised land. We also must be exacting in our adherence to God’s commandments if we are to return to live with Him in the celestial kingdom. I am sure that as you ponder the first six chapters of Ether the Lord will help you identify other comparisons between their journey and our journey. All throughout the scriptures the Lord presents us time and time again with a physical example then follows it up with spiritual comparisons. One such well known example is the sacrifice Abraham was commanded to make of his son Isaac. God was willing to offer up His Son as well, and we are all asked at one time or another to give up something that is most precious in our own eyes, because God requires it of us. We all have an Abrahamic sacrifice in our life. It may be a habit, a lifestyle, an attitude, our comforts, etc. God will always test us, since that is why we are here. We need to expect it, and prepare ourselves for those tests that will surely come.

Day 2

Ether 6:5-18, 30; 9:28-35; 10:1-2 – The Lord blesses me when I am humble.

Speaking of the Jaredite record, Mormon commented that “it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account” (Mosiah 28:19). Keep this in mind as you read Ether 6-11. Why are these things expedient – or beneficial – to you and your loved ones?

Humility is not something that just happens. True, some are more prone to be humble than others, but humility can be felt by anyone willing to do what is required to experience it.

The people of Jared built those barges. They could easily have been like Laman and Lemuel and taken credit for their great craftsmanship and taken the credit for being safe while traveling across the great waters. But the Jaredites chose to recognize that the plans and solutions to their problems for this journey came from God. It wasn’t enough to just recognize the source of their blessings, they prayed and talked about God’s blessings every day. Look at Ether 6:30.

30 And it came to pass that Orihah did walk humbly before the Lord, and did remember how great things the Lord had done for his father, and also taught his people how great things the Lord had done for their fathers.

This verse tells us what we need to know about how to gain humility and how to retain humility.

  1. Orihah remembered to detail in his own mind the blessings they had received from the Lord.
  2. He remembered and could tell you the stories about how the Lord had blessed his forefathers.
  3. He taught his people about all the great things the Lord had done for them, as a people.

To learn humility we must first acknowledge where our blessings came from, and we need to recognize that we don’t supply our own blessings, but that they come from God, no matter how much of a hand we may feel we have in getting them.

For humility to grow we must recognize that God’s blessings are not just restricted to one instance with us, but that His blessings have been manifest in the lives of those around us, and in the lives of those who came before us. This shows us the eternal nature of God’s mercy and love. It is constant and consistent to all who keep His commandments.

To perpetuate humility we need to teach gratitude to our posterity and neighbors. We need to talk about God’s blessings, and verbally give credit so they hear us being grateful. When we go silent in our expressions of gratitude, our gratitude starts to fade into ingratitude. This principle can be found in the number of times throughout the scriptures the Lord and the prophets tell us to remember, remember the covenants and the blessings of God between Him and His people. We need to state our acknowledgement of God’s goodness regularly and sincerely.

The Lord tells us that we can humble ourselves or we can be compelled to be humble, and He tells us how much greater are the blessings of those who choose to be humble, rather than to have to be compelled to be so. The steps that guide us to greater humility are simple, and not difficult. We just need to try to feel the emotions behind those words. If they are just lip service they won’t do us any good. We must genuinely feel those expressions of gratitude. Sometimes this might require prayer to help us feel what a grateful heart ought to feel. Our pride often gets in the way of acknowledging our dependence on the Lord, and consistent prayer can help us change our heart so we feel genuinely thankful for God’s gifts.

Day 3

Ether 7-11 – Righteous leaders bless the people they lead.

Speaking of the Jaredite record, Mormon commented that “it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account” (Mosiah 28:19). Keep this in mind as you read Ether 6-11. Why are these things expedient – or beneficial – to you and your loved ones?

The people referred to in today’s lesson were all kings. The following list was made referring to the results of how each king lived and ruled. But there is more here than just what happens to rulers when they are either righteous or wicked. The principles are the same if you look at anyone who is in a leadership position anywhere. This is especially true in the home.

After you review these two partial lists, think about what kind of influence parents have on their children if they are righteous, and what kind of influence their behavior has on their children if they are not righteous. It really is true that the example of parents can extend to the third and fourth generation. This is not, of course universal. Righteous parents raise children who choose wickedness, just as wicked parents raise children who choose to be righteous. But the example set by parents is usually adopted by most of their children, which in turn is adopted by their children, and so forth.

Righteous leaders

Promote and protect the prophets

Obey the commandments of God

Judge righteously

Promote peace among their people

Seek the conversion of their people for their own happiness

Set an example of living a good life for their people

Generally live lives filled with peace and rejoicing, especially after the people repent

Remember and teach the blessings of God to their forefathers

Are merciful to their people

Their people are often known for their industry and hard work, which makes them prosperous

Wicked leaders

Reject the prophets and the commandments

Live indulgent and irresponsible lives

Put burdens on the backs of their people, like heavy taxes

Guilty of flattery for personal gain

Engage in war for personal gain

Will betray others

Promote sinning among the people

Participate in secret combinations i.e. plots against others for personal gain

Wicked leaders usually experience a lot of strife and contention in their lives

Ignore God’s former blessings to their people

Judge and punish their people harshly

Their people are often known for their idleness and pleasure seeking, which leads to poverty

When king Mosiah translated the book of Ether, he used the examples of these former kings, along with their own current example of king Noah to convince the people that they would be better off with a system of judges. In several ways the book of Ether was to the Nephites in the days of Mosiah like the Book of Mormon is for us today. It served as a warning and as a guide post to help them navigate the needs of their own day. It served as a great blessing to them, as changing to a system of judges was considered a great blessing to them.

We too can take the examples of these ancient leaders and consider our own behavior in our relationships. Are we promoting peace among all those with whom we come in contact? Do we set an example of righteous behavior that encourages others to be obedient to the commandments? Or do we neglect our responsibilities as accepted through our covenants to be obedient? Are we influencing others to embrace Christ’s gospel and its principles or are we demonstrating a casual or active disregard for God’s commandments?

We don’t have to be kings and queens to have an influence on each other. How often has your life been profoundly affected by someone who was willing to perform some small act of kindness like giving you a smile when you were down or by helping you with something when you were struggling and assumed you would have to do it all by yourself? How do these simple acts of kindness affect the lives of those around you? Can you really say that you know the extent to which your behavior affects others? God can measure the ripples of our behavior, but we can’t. He can see how what we do affects whole generations. Our example really does make a difference, whether we are a public figure or a private citizen, our life matters in the lives of others more than we know.

Day 4

Ether 8:7-26 – What is a secret combination?

Speaking of the Jaredite record, Mormon commented that “it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account” (Mosiah 28:19). Keep this in mind as you read Ether 6-11. Why are these things expedient – or beneficial – to you and your loved ones?

When we think of secret combinations in the scriptures we usually think of those official combinations that required oaths and blasphemous ceremonies. This is, indeed, one kind of combination. But as the manual points out, “when two or more people conspire to keep their wicked acts secret, they are involved in a secret combination.”

This means that when two or more people cooperate with each other to steal from a grocery store, cover up someone else’s dishonest act, plot against someone they mutually don’t like, etc., these are also secret combinations. Our family experienced teachers in school who told our children not to tell their parents about that day’s activity. We also experienced the children teaming up with the phrase, “don’t tell Mom and Dad.” I fear secret combinations are far more common than we might want to accept.

A secret combination is an mutual agreement among two or more people to promote wickedness. That pact may include tiny lies or something as big as murder. It really doesn’t matter how great the wickedness is, the people involved are using Satan’s tools to increase their ability to be wicked, because they are participating in cooperative wickedness. Just as we can perform greater righteousness by combining our faith and good works, so too can we perform greater evil by combining our efforts and keeping the secrets in which those evil acts thrive.

According to this definition, do you think you have ever participated unwittingly or purposely in a secret combination? This may take some time and reflection. I personally believe that most of us, if we have participated in secret combinations, weren’t aware at the time that this is what we were doing. But knowing what a secret combination is, are there any changes we may need to make to separate ourselves from such behaviors? 

FHE/Personal Scripture Study

Ether 9:11 – Desires

Before I read today’s lesson, I had always wondered how almost all the Nephite and Jaredite societies could be convinced to join the secret combinations of their day. After reading and rereading Ether 9:11 I am more convinced than ever that when our focus, our heart, is set on gaining wealth, comfort, ease, or property and influence, we are more likely than ever to run across someone willing to buy our allegiance.

There are, for example, political parties and candidates that promise they will pay for your expenses, take care of you, and give you things for which you don’t have to pay any money. We don’t think about the fact that someone has to work for that money, and it has to be taken from them in order for us to get it. We are taught that it is our right to be given these things. Such teachings are pleasing to the carnal mind, and only principles of honesty and hard work, and ethics will help us remember that God wants us to support ourselves and earn our own way.

Each time I think of buying a new toy, like a camper, trailer, riding lawn mower, etc., I have to remind myself that unless I really need it, once possessed that machine will require regular upkeep and maintenance. Is that where I want to spend my time? Given enough “toys” our life begins to revolve around all our possessions, because they require constant upkeep. We are often restricted in our ability to serve others because our lives have become so cluttered with material possessions. When we focus on the Lord and what He would have us do, many of these worldly pleasures become far less important to us. Our relationship with others becomes our new focus. Our heart turns from our things, to others, and to God.

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BoM Week 47

(Ether 6-11)