Ether 8


A Confirming Covenant Witness

      Mormon 8 -- Moroni



Ether 8:2 Jared . . . Came and Dwelt in the Land of Heth:


     In his old age, Shule begat Omer, and Omer reigned in his stead," implying once again that the youngest son reigned in the king's stead. We are told that "Omer begat Jared2 and Jared2 begat sons and daughters," but that Jared2 rebelled against his father and "came and dwelt in the land of Heth, and . . . he did flatter many people, because of his cunning words, until he had gained the half of the kingdom" (Ether 8:2).

     From this information we can probably assume that the land of Heth was culturally connected, if not also politically connected to at least the general land of Moron over which King Omer reigned. The fact that Jared2 "came" to the land of Heth might imply that from Moroni (or Ether's) perspective (near the hill Ramah/Cumorah) the land of Heth was located somewhere between the local land of Moron and the hill Ramah. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 8:2 Land of Heth:


     According to Bruce Warren, the "land of Heth" (Ether 8:2) is mentioned early in the Jaredite account. An indirect hint for the location for this land might center on the meaning of the letter Heth in Hebrew. The letter Heth relates to the Big Dipper constellation and the number seven (Moran and Kelley 1969, 49, 81). The Popol Vuh account of Wakub Kaqix (pronounced "kaw-kish") might be linguistically tied to the name of "Akish" in the Jaredite account. In the Popul Vuh account Wakub Kaqix is associated with the Big Dipper, and his name means seven macaw. The Tuxtla Mountains of southern Veracruz were referred to by the Aztecs as the place of the Macaw parrots. The Aztec placed name glyph also depicts a macaw parrot for these mountains (Covarrubias 1947, 26, n. 4). Could this tie the land of Heth to the Tuxtla Mountain region of southern Veracruz? It is interesting that one of the major proposed geographical sites for the location of the Jaredites is the Tuxtla mountains of southern Veracruz. It is also the heartland of the Olmecs, a Mesoamerican civilization which corresponds in many ways with the Jaredites of the Book of Mormon. [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript] [See the commentary on Ether 14:3]


Ether 8:2 [Jared] Gained the Half of the Kingdom:


     If Jared2 gained the "half of the kingdom" (Ether 8:2), we can probably suppose that he gained half of the general land of Moron. If so, this probably implies that the land of Heth became connected politically to at least half of the general land of Moron. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 8:3 [Jared] Gave Battle unto His Father:


     Like his ancestor Corihor, when Jared2 felt like he was strong enough to seize the other half of the kingdom,

           he gave battle unto his father, and he did carry away his father into captivity, and did make him serve in captivity. And now, in the days of the reigns of Omer he was in captivity the half of his days. (Ether 8:3-4)


     What might be implied in these verses is that Jared2 had to travel some distance toward the local land of Moron in order to "give battle." When Jared2 "carried away" his father (Omer) to serve him in captivity" we can assume that Jared2 probably returned to his throne in the land of Heth to reign. However, from that location he controlled all the "expanded" general land of Moron (which now included the land of Heth). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Ether 7:7]


Ether 8:5 [The Sons and Daughters of Omer] Gave Battle unto Him [Jared] by Night:


     One might wonder why it would be necessary for the sons and daughters of Omer to attack Jared2 "by night" (Ether 8:5). Was the battle was so fierce and so long that it continued into the night? Or was this a battle fully waged during the night? If Omer "was in captivity the half of his days" and "begat sons and daughters, among whom were Esrom and Coriantumr" (Ether 8:4), then these sons and daughters had apparently been raised in captivity in the land of Heth. But from where did Esrom and Coriantumr recruit their troops? Did they return to the local land of Moron to rally their troops and then come "by night" from the land of Moron to the land of Heth? Or were the troops rallied right under the nose of Jared2 and utilized in a dark-of-night "coup" in the land of Heth? The text does not specifically say. The text does say that they were about to slay Jared, "and he plead with them that they would not slay him, and he would give up the kingdom unto his father. And it came to pass that they did grant unto him his life" (Ether 8:6). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Geographical Theory Map: Ether 8:8 - 9:3 Akish Overthrows Kingdom (Chronology):


Ether 8:8 Now the Daughter of Jared . . . Devised a Plan:


     The text mentions that Jared2 "became exceeding sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom for he had set his heart upon the kingdom, and upon the glory of the world" (Ether 8:7)      

     According to Hugh Nibley, there is one tale of intrigue in the book of Ether that presents very ancient and widespread (though but recently discovered) parallels. That is the story of Jared's daughter and her "plan" (Ether 8:8) in restoring her father to the power which he had gained through rebellion in the first place. Jared's daughter asked her father if he had read,

           the record which our fathers brought across the great deep, [a very instructive account of those secret devices by which the men of old got "kingdoms and great glory"]

           And now, therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; and behold, I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say, I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king. (Ether 8:9-10)


     The most important point of this whole story is that it was not the first time that it happened in history. . . . This is indeed a strange and terrible tradition of throne succession, yet there is no better attested tradition in the early world than the ritual of the dancing princess (represented by the salme priestess of the Babylonians, hence the name Salome) who wins the heart of a stranger and induces him to marry her, behead the old king, and mount the throne. . .You can find out all about the sordid triangle of the old king, the challenger, and the dancing beauty from Frazer, Jane Harrison, Altheim, B. Schweitzer, Farnell, and any number of folklorists. The thing to note especially is that there actually seems to have been a succession rite of great antiquity that followed this pattern. . . The episode of the dancing princess is at all times essentially a ritual, and the name of Salome is perhaps no accident, for her story is anything but unique. Certainly the book of Ether is on the soundest possible ground in attributing the behavior of the daughter of Jared to the inspiration of ritual texts -- secret directories on the art of deposing an aging king. The Jaredite version, incidentally, is quite different from the Salome story of the Bible, but is identical with many earlier accounts that have come down to us in the oldest records of civilization. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 210-213]


Ether 8:9 The Record Which Our Fathers Brought across the Great Deep:


     [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 3:9]


Ether 8:9 Is There Not an Account Concerning Them of Old, That They by Their Secret Plans Did Obtain Kingdoms and Great Glory:


     In the 8th chapter of Ether, we find an interesting statement. In attempting to overthrow king Omer and establish her father on the throne by subversive means, the daughter of Jared says to her father:

           Whereby hath my father so much sorrow? Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?


     According to Bruce Warren, although this account is more particularly addressing records of secret societies or secret combinations, all of which were ruled by shamanistic priests or "medicine men," there can be little doubt that such records also contained shamanistic calendars. A few years ago, David H. Kelley (1969, 143-94) analyzed the workings of some Old World lunar zodiac calendars that were widespread across Europe, the Near East, and northern and southern Asia. He concluded that the earliest evidence for a 364-day sidereal (measured by means of the stars) lunar zodiac calendar was from Semitic-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia early in the third millennium B.C. (Kelley 1969, 148-49). What is very interesting is that Kelley also found such calendars in Mesoamerica. Thus there might be a calendar and cultural link between the ancient people of Mesopotamia and the ancient people of Mesoamerica. [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]


Ether 8:9 They, by Their Secret Plans Did Obtain Kingdoms and Great Glory:


     In the book of Ether, the daughter of Jared2 apparently revived the practice of secret societies by saying,

           Hath [my father] not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory? (Ether 8:9)


     According to John Sorenson, in the Book of Mormon there definitely was historical continuity from the Old World to the New World in the origin of Jaredite secret societies. The secret societies began only a few generations after the immigrants arrived in the new land from the Mesopotamian area. Historian Nesta Webster points out that, "the [Near] east is the cradle of secret societies," however Mesoamerican secret groups were up to the same tricks and operated according to similar rules. But were these practices really ancient in America, or were they late developments? Professor Coe maintains that a similar institution was vital in Olmec civilization before 1000 B.C. J.A. Bennyhoff has interpreted masks recovered by archaeologists as indications of the presence of secret societies anciently. These ritual artifacts are present from about 1200 B.C. to 600 B.C. in the valley of Oaxaca (a proposed Jaredite land of Moron).

     Interestingly, the masks again are found in large numbers during developed Teotihuacan times, for a few centuries after A.D. 300. This happens to be just the period when Mormon reports the rise of the secret society that was instrumental in the downfall of the Nephites (Mormon 2:8, 10, 27-28; Ether 8:19-21). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 305, 308-309]


Ether 8:11 He Desired Her to Wife:


     According to John Tvedtnes, Hebraisms are evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. In Ether 8:11 we read "he desired her to wife." English would prefer for a wife. There is a Hebrew preposition that means both to and for. [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, p. 91]


Ether 8:11 Omer Was a Friend to Akish:


     [See the commentary on Ether 8:15]


Ether 8:14 They All Sware unto Him, by the God of Heaven:


     Moroni writes that in making these secret oaths, Akish had all his kinsfolk "sware unto him, by the God of heaven" that they would keep those oaths secret (Ether 8:14). Kishkumen also "went unto those that sent him, and they all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran" (Helaman 1:11). This is exactly what Cain did, that is Satan said unto him: "Sware thy brethren . . . by the living God" (Moses 5:29)

     According to Cleon Skousen, the reader should note the strange anomaly wherein Satan, the enemy of God, wanted Cain to swear "by the living God," that he would not disclose the great secret Lucifer was about to reveal to him. This reflects the secret respect which Satan continues to feel toward the God of the universe even though he is working day and night to destroy His kingdom. [W. Cleon Skousen, The First 2000 Years, p. 112]

     Note* Swearing "by the God of heaven" might also reflect the ultimate "in your face" attitude of Satan towards God--the ultimate blasphemy of a son of Perdition, the ultimate sealing of one's eternal fate. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes from a class by David Ridges]


Ether 8:15 Oaths . . . Which Had Been Handed down Even from Cain, Who Was a Murderer from the Beginning:


     Cain's actions typify the road to spiritual destruction in that eventually "Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord" (Moses 5:41). Cain was called a son of Perdition ("from this time forth . . . thou shalt be called Perdition"--Moses 5:24) which implies he had once held high priesthood power and also knew the gospel plan yet rejected them. Because of the scriptural parallels, can we put the leaders of these secret societies in the Book of Mormon story in the same class as Cain--that is, were they also sons of Perdition?

     For secret combinations to be linked with Cain (see Ether 8:15 and Helaman 6:27), does this imply that secret combinations worked so well because the leaders held (or had held) high political and priesthood power despite covenanting to destroy that power? The apparent leader of the secret band among the Nephites was called "Kishkumen" (see Helaman 1:9-12; 2-11) Kish was a Jaredite king (see Ether 10:17-18). Kishkumen plotted with Gadianton to put him upon the judgment-seat (see Helaman 2:3-5). Did these secret society leaders come from the high ranks of church and state? King Omer "was a friend to Akish" (Ether 8:11). Does this imply that Akish held power, either priesthood or political or both? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 8:15 Oaths . . . which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning (Illustration): Cain's Path to Spiritual Destruction. [Handout, David Ridges]


Ether 8:15 Akish Did Administer unto Them the Oaths Which Were Given by Them of Old:


     Moroni writes that,

           Akish did administer unto them the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain . . . And it came to pass that they all sware unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth" (Ether 8:15,14).


     According to Hugh Nibley, the oath was the cornerstone of the Asiatic state of the Jaredite. The reader should note that these terrible oaths are traced back explicitly to the Old World. The very oldest texts in "the oldest language in the world," according to Hommel, are incantations" having the stereotyped conclusion: 'let it be sworn (or conjured) by the name of heaven, let it be sworn by the name of earth!" [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 200-201]


     According to J.N. Washburn, we do not find mention of the oath of Cain in the Bible. We do, however, find in the New Testament what the Savior had to say about oaths and swearing in Matthew 5:34-36:

           Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: neither by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by the head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.


     Anyone who, at this point, questions the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, should stop for a moment to think about the foregoing circumstance. Did Joseph Smith invent the oath of Cain? And how did he manage it so that it goes directly contrary to Jesus' admonitions with regard to swearing? [J.N. Washburn, The Miracle of the Book of Mormon, p. 169]


Ether 8:15 The Oaths Which Were Given by Them of Old:


     According to John Heinerman, to understand the oaths and covenants which bound the fraternal order of Gadianton brethren together, one must go back to an even earlier period in earth's long history. For, as Giddianhi observed in his infamous epistle to Lachoneus, "[Our] society and [its] works are of ancient date and have been handed down unto us." The Book of Mormon is very clear on this point: "[These] oaths were given by them of old, who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain" (Ether 8:15). Helaman refers to "that same being who did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth. Behold, it is [Satan] who is the author of [these] works of darkness and doth hand down plots, and oaths, and covenants, and plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation" (Helaman 6:27, 30).

     The book of Moses in The Pearl of Great Price explains something about the secret pacts which Cain and Lamech (a great-great-great grandson) made with the Evil One on separate occasions.

           And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die. And swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not. For if they tell it, they shall surely die. And this that their father [Adam] may not know it. And Satan swear unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret. And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness. (Moses 5:29-31)


           For Lamech having entered into a covenant with Satan, after the manner of Cain, wherein he [also] became [a] Master Mahan [or] master of that great secret which was administered unto Cain by Satan. And Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam. Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath's sake. For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother. Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan, for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men. (Moses 5:49-52)


[John Heinerman, Hidden Treasures of Ancient American Cultures, pp. 62-63]


Ether 8:16 Power . . . Murder . . . Plunder . . . Wickedness:


     According to Donald Parry, parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry. (p. i)

     Apparently, the prophets and writers of the scriptures employed the repetition of alternating parallel lines for the purpose of reinforcing their teachings and doctrines. (p. x)

     When a group of three or more words, similar in sense but not identical in meaning, come together in a verse or passage with characteristics which parallel one another, this is called Synonymia, or "synonymous words." (p. xlix)

     A good example of Synonymia occurs in Ether 8:16 which talks about the secret oaths: "And they were kept up by the power of the devil . . . to help such as sought power

     to gain power

     and to murder

     and to plunder

     and to lie

     and to commit all manner of wickedness

     and whoredoms.

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., p. 465]


Ether 8:17 To Search Up These Things of Old:


     According to Roy Weldon, there are 118 superfluous prepositions in the Nephite record--a very evident Hebraic usage. One good example is found in Ether 8:17: "to search up these things of old . . ." [Roy E. Weldon, Book of Mormon Deeps, Vol. III, p. 271] [See the commentary on Helaman 16:22]


Ether 8:18 They Formed a Secret Combination:


     From the account of Ether, Moroni writes:

           it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired. . . . And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old. . . . And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites. (Ether 8:17,18, 20)


     According to Bruce Warren, "secret combinations" or secret societies were a part pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Mexican artist and writer Miguel Covarrubias describes the nature of secret societies in Mesoamerica as follows:

     "In those days the ancient jaguar cult prevailed throughout southern Mexico and in Central America, superimposed upon the formal, official Indian religion. . . . To quote Sahagun . . ., "People like assassins, daring and accustomed to kill, they carried on their persons pieces of jaguar skin. . . . In ancient times the jaguar was an earth god, symbol of the interior of the earth and of the night, of darkness, because jaguars were believed to swallow the sun and cause eclipses. He was the god of caves, the dark interior of mountains . . . As such he was worshipped throughout southern Mexico and particularly around Tehuantepec."

     Because of their secret nature, often very little is known about secret societies. However, that secret societies did exist in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and that they parallel to a certain degree those found in the book of Ether in some respects is nonetheless certain. [Bruce W. Warren, "Secret Combinations, Warfare, and Sacrifice," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, pp. 229-230]


Ether 8:18-22 (The Laws of God Regarding Secret Combinations):


     In Ether 8:18-22 we learn four important things concerning secret combinations:

     1. Secret combinations are wicked and forbidden of the Lord (see vv. 18-19)

     2. Secret combinations are "had among all people" (v. 20)

     3. Secret combinations "caused the destruction" of both the Jaredite and Nephite nations (v. 21)

     4. Whatever nation upholds secret combinations "shall be destroyed" (v. 22)

[CES, Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 140]


Ether 8:23-26 (Special Warnings Regarding Secret Combinations):


     Moroni said he was "commanded to write" the things that he did (Ether 8:265). As Moroni did so, three special warnings to the Gentiles concerning secret combinations emerged:

     1. Suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you" (v. 23)

     2. If you allow secret combinations, l"the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction" (v. 23).

     3. "When ye shall see these things come among you . . . awake to a sense of your awful situation" (v. 24).


     Elder Ezra Taft Benson spoke concerning Moroni's warning:

           Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon--it is a conspiracy fact.

           Now we are assured that the Church will remain on the earth until the Lord comes again--but at what price? . . . President [J. Reuben] Clark [Jr.] warned us that "we stand in danger of losing our liberties, and that once lost, only blood will bring them back; and once lost, we of this church will, in order to keep the Church going forward, have more sacrifices to make and more persecutions to endure than we have yet known." [in Conference Report, April 1944, p. 116]      He also stated that if the conspiracy "comes here it will probably come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this Church of ours." [in Conference Report, April 1952, p. 80] (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1972, p. 51; and Ensign, July 1972, pp. 60-61)


[CES, Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 140]


Ether 8:26 I . . . Am Commanded to Write These Things That Evil May Be Done Away . . . That They May Be Persuaded to Do Good Continually:


     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 10:23]