Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is the Scriptural Record Really a Guessing Game? – Part II

We started out the last post writing: “As we sit with scriptures in hand, reading over Moroni’s abridgement of the ancient record, do we really see it as a guessing game as to what was meant by the last of the Nephite prophets?”
As an example, it was Hugh Nibley once again who stated that Ether prophesied that all of the household of Coriantumr would be destroyed. Ether further prophesied, in the same verse, that "every soul would be destroyed save it were Coriantumr" (Ether 13:21). Ether closes his record with the declaration that all but Coriantumr had been slain in the final battle with Shiz. What does all this mean?
   The general assumption has been that Coriantumr was the lone remaining Jaredite. A people who had once covered the land, all showed up, every man women and child, to be slaughtered in this last battle. Yes, that does seem preposterous, but what else could Ether mean? Ether said that they would all be destroyed with the exception of Coriantumr and he reports that "they had all fallen" with the exception of Coriantumr.
    First, we might ask, does Ether 13:21 really say that all the Jaredites would be destroyed, or is Ether referring only to the household of Coriantumr? Nibley writes: “A careful reading of this verse would suggest that Ether is not referring to all Jaredites. Rather, the prophesy of Ether is given twice in this verse, the first clearly limited to the household of Coriantumr and the second a parallel restatement of the first. "Every soul" of the second sentence would seem most directly related to the "all" of the first. Thus, this would not be two prophesies, but the common parallel phrasing of a single prophesy: all of the household of Coriantumr will be destroyed.”
    Actually, that is not the case at all. A truly careful reading of this verse gives us a complete understanding of the scripture and not a partial one as Nibley states above. The answer, then to Nibley’s question is found in a correct and complete reading of the scripture in mind. As an example, Nibley begins this question with verse 21; however, it should be started in verse 20:
    “And in the second year the word of the Lord came to Ether, that he should go and prophesy unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people.
    In reality, the Lord through Ether is giving Coriantumr a two-pronged attack through: 1) the king and his kingdom; and 2) the king and his household (i.e., family).
    What Nibley is overlooking is the fact that in this period of time, the kingdom was Coriantumr’s family or household. The two were seen as one. Everything surrounded the king and the king was the one central figure all others acknowledged and voluntarily surrounded. Much like the later game of chess, the knights, bishops, the rooks (castle itself), even the queen, could be sacrificed for the safety of the king; however, the king could never be sacrificed.
    Where the ancient Jaredite life style Nibley often likes to connect to ancient Asia was like this, surrounding the king, protecting the king, setting the king above all else, it also meant that the king was the household, was the family, was the kingdom.
    Thus, this prophesy of Ether’s was a simple one—either Coriantumr repent, or everything would be taken from him, i.e., his kingdom, his household, his family, and he would be left a lone man on the fact of the earth, living out his life until he ran across another people who would be given his kingdom. No great insult or prediction could be given a Jaredite king that that of taking everything from him and leaving him to see another king inherit what had once been his.
In most parts of the world through most of history, it was always known to kill the king and the kingdom would fall. Thus entire armies, palace and Praetorian guards, all assigned one duty—protect the king
    Stated differently, the Jaredite king could not be separated from his kingdom, for the kingdom would cease to exist if the king were killed. This is one of the reasons in the scripture we find when one king disposes another king, he does not kill him, but puts him in prison to live out all his days—even able to have children, of whom some would be sons and of which some would want to right what they considered a great wrong, and as is seen from time to time, such a deposed king living in captivity sires a son in his old age who wrests the kingdom from the conquering king and gives it back to his father.
    Whether this is an Asian custom that Nibley claims the Jaredites mirrored, or whether it was originally a Jaredite custom (assumed after the Flood) the later Asiatics adopted, is not the point here—what is the point is that the king was the kingdom. Kill the king and the kingdom no longer exists. For the kingdom to persist, the king must be kept alive, and become part of the kingdom serving another king.
    Thus when Nibley claims “Ether did not mean every soul of all the Jaredites would be destroyed (killed)” he is again missing the point. Of course everyone had to die in order for Coriantumr to experience his ultimate demise, i.e., dying without an issue to take over his kingdom—that is, dying as the last of his kingdom. Call it a family, call it a household, call it a kingdom, the point is it was all the same to Coriantumr—it was Coriantumr.
    To us in the West, who are independent by nature and personalized in our thinking, to give oneself over to a cause greater than ourselves is contrary to our nature of independence. But in the East, it is and has been for millennia a way of life, epitomized in the scriptural record by the Jaredites.
    Continuing with Nibley’s argument: “That Ether did not mean "every soul" of all the Jaredites would be destroyed (killed) should be obvious by Ether's own survival,” he again misses the point. Ether was not part of the kingdom—he was a spokesman for God, a prophet, a person apart who lived and wrote in a cave. Coriantumr was the kingdom—when he became the last man standing, when all others were wiped out to the man, with Shiz the last of the challengers, Coriantumr’s reason for existence ended as well—there was no kingdom and, with no other person alive, no change to build up a kingdom again. It was over!
    And one last point in all this prophesying of Ether. Note the difference in prophesying when several prophets talked to the people in general. As Ether recorded it: “And it came to pass that in the days of Ether there came many prophets, and prophesied again unto the people; yea, they did prophesy that the Lord would utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth except they repented of their iniquities” (Ether 11:12). This was not a household, a king, or the kingdom. It was the people in general and a different approach entirely was used. However, when one prophet (Ether) prophesied to one king (Coriantumr), he used a totally different prophesying approach, saying: “And in the second year the word of the Lord came to Ether, that he should go and prophesy unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people” (Ether 13:20)—so let us consider that
1) If Coriantumr (as the king over the people) would stop this fighting,
2) the Lord would give Coriantumr back his kingdom, and
3) spare the people, i.e., allow Coriantumr and his kingdom to continue to exist.
Coriantumr, like most despots in history, chose his own counsel over that of the Lord and his fate was sealed as was that of all his people
    However, Coriantumr did not repent and the Lord took everything from him, leaving him to wander around until another people were in place to inherit his kingdom, and where he lived for nine months before being buried by them, exactly as the Lord told Ether to prophesy to Coriantumr.


  1. Even though I overwhelmingly accept the South American model, and reject the Mesoamerican model for a multitude of reasons, I can still believe that the Jaredite record, being as short as it is, does not prove that there were not people that left the Jaredite nation over its long history, and were not included in the prophecy of total destruction. But I would not expect any such group to be living very close to the Jaredite nation. Maybe they went south of the narrow neck and became a degenerate people there living almost like animals. Such a group would not be considered part of the nation Ether was prophesying against. But I would be willing to hear your thoughts on this.

  2. In one foul swoop of a couple of keystrokes, we have just witnessed the birth of "another" group of people appear in Book of Mormon lands.

    At what point in time to we accept what is written in scripture as truth? So total destruction is not really... total destruction. I guess they used the word total in a different way. Total doesn't mean.. total. It means.. almost everyone or everything... but not everyone. I am guessing that "total total" destruction means everyone and everything.. but "total" destruction means.. well.. there were some that escaped destruction.

    So what other parts of the scripture do we not believe either?

  3. I appreciate your zeal! I actually do believe all the scriptures. However, I believe the scriptures are not infallible, because they were written by men. And God does not want them to be infallible, because men would then tend to worship them and not look for further revelation from Him.

  4. An interesting view; however, one I find inaccurate when it comes to the Book of Mormon, a work that was written by direction of the Spirit, abridged by the direction of the Spirit, and translated by the direction of the Spirit. If the scriptural record is inaccurate, then God is inaccurate, and I find that both improbable and impossible. It is not a matter of childish zeal, but a matter of understanding of how God works. When Christ visited the Americas, he said the Nephites had not written all the scriptures down--it is obvious the Lord was well familiar with the scriptures and what had and what had not been written. With that close of an interest in the scriptural record, one would think that they were accurate in every way. Personally, I find it difficult to accept that the Lord would allow man to be misled by the very scriptures with which he was so well familiar. That the Bible cannot stand up to that close of scrutiny only shows what happens when man is allowed to alter what is written, which has not happened to the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine & Covenants. We should be thankful we have such accuracy that can be relied upon and used for the guide to our lives without concern for error and man's intervention.

  5. We know that the Lord is keeping many great truths from us among the Gentiles (Ether 4:6, etc) So we cannot assume there will not be further things revealed that may be stumbling blocks to us because it contradicts “our understanding” of what has been given already.

  6. Ether 4:6 is not about withholding information needed by the members or Gentiles in general, but the unique and advanced knowledge given to the Brother of Jared on the mountain. He told him: “Behold, thou shalt not suffer these things which ye have seen and heard to go forth unto the world, until the time cometh that I shall glorify my name in the flesh; wherefore, ye shall treasure up the things which ye have seen and heard, and show it to no man. And behold, when ye shall come unto me, ye shall write them and shall seal them up, that no one can interpret them; for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read. And behold, these two stones will I give unto thee, and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write. For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded; wherefore I will cause in my own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write” (Ether 3:21-24), It would seem from this, that at least some of what the Brother of Jared wrote down and sealed up came forth after Christ's resurrection, perhaps through Joseph Smith. On the other hand, he also said, “And the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people. And after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people he commanded that they should be made manifest” (Ether 4:1-2); Obviously, the Nephites had some of this information, perhaps all of it during those 200 years of time following the Lord's advent in America. Whether we have any or all of it through modern-day revelation, such as in the Doctrine & Covenants, etc., is not known (at least to me). Finally, the Lord told the Brother of Jared, “For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord” (Ether 4:6).
    There is no indication or suggestion here the the Lord withholds information to create “stumbling blocks” or to hinder the development of his children, Gentiles or anyone. He does reserve some advanced information from time to time until people are ready for it. If members understood how much information would be available to them if they lived more righteously, perhaps we would all be doing much better in our lives. On the other hand, some people, especially criticis of the Church, many scientists, all evolutionists, etc., are going to be greatly surprised, even shocked, when all of the truth of the Lord is revealed, for much of it will set aside the errors of man and enthrone the truth of God.