The Book of Ether is one of the books that make up The Book of Mormon. The Book of Ether tells of an ancient people (the Jaredites), descendants of Jared and his companions who were led by God to the Americas shortly after the confusion of tongues and the destruction of the Tower of Babel. The title refers to Ether, a Jaredite prophet who lived at the end of the time period covered by the book.
The book begins with the journey of Jared and his people from the tumultuous wickedness of the Tower of Babel to "the promised land." The brother of Jared is described as "a large and mighty man...highly favored of the Lord" (Ether 1:34), and seems to have been the spiritual leader of the group. Through his faith, he is given a prophetic vision of the history of the world, and inscribes prophetic writings that are to be "sealed up" until the Lord sees fit that they be revealed. The brother of Jared is directed by the Lord to build barges in which to cross the ocean to the promised land. The brother of Jared goes to a mountain and brings several molten stones; then God touches the stones and makes them light. Because of the great faith of the brother of Jared, he could not be kept from beholding within the veil, and saw finger of the Lord. "For he knew nothing doubting." He saw and was ministered unto by Jesus. He leads the people to successfully establish a righteous nation, but as Jared and his brother grow old their people desire that they appoint a king to govern in their stead. They anoint Orihah, the youngest son of Jared, to be king, but only after all the sons of the brother of Jared and all of Jared's older sons refuse to be king.
Orihah reigns in righteousness, but strife and dissension arise among the children of Orihah. From this time forward there is a nearly constant contention for the government of the Jaredites that continues for many generations, and ultimately the book ends with an enormous final war in which millions of Jaredites are killed and the Jaredite nation is destroyed. The prophet Ether had warned Coriantumr, the last king of the Jaredite nation, that if he did not obey the Lord he would live to see the end of the Jaredites. The prophecy is fulfilled, and, on the last day of the war, only Coriantumr and Shiz, the commander of the opposing army, remain. Coriantumr slays Shiz and he wanders alone, the last Jaredite, for many years. Coriantumr is finally discovered by the Mulekites, another Book of Mormon people who come to the Americas sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. Later, the people of Zarahemla also discover a large stone containing a history of the Jaredites that Mosiah was able to translate (Omni 1:20-22).
In addition to the historical events outlined above, the Book of Ether contains several interpolations by Moroni (Ether 4-5, Ether 12) regarding points of doctrine or lessons illuminated by the actions of the Jaredites, such as how faith works and the importance of following Jesus Christ to be blessed as a nation.
The Book of Ether parallels in many ways the story of The Book of Mormon as a whole. A small group (Jared and his companions; Lehi and his family) separate themselves from a wicked society (the Tower of Babel; Jerusalem just prior to its destruction) and establish a new nation (the Jaredites; the Nephites) in "the promised land." In each case the group is divided following the death of the original leaders and the divisions contend for many generations. The fortunes of the nations are dependent upon their obedience to God -- righteousness brings prosperity and wickedness brings destruction (sometimes delayed). Ultimately, the wicked prevail and the nation is destroyed.
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