A Confirming Covenant Witness
Mormon 8 -- Moroni
The Book of Ether (Some Thoughts on the Book of Ether):
Hugh Nibley says the following: I think we are agreed that it would take a great deal of training for anyone to acquire the background necessary to compose First Nephi. Now imagine any man insane enough to try after such colossal exertions to write another such story, of equal length and detail but this time about a totally different race of people, living in an age far removed from the other and in a wholly different geographical setting! As far as I know, not even Joseph Smith ever called anyone's attention to this prodigious feat; we all take it for granted. Yet you will soon see that the author of Ether could have obtained precious little help from any materials used in writing First Nephi. On the contrary, the former experience could only tend to embarrass any attempt at a new history, which would call for an entirely new training and preparation.
What the author of Ether has to supply is not a new plot but all new props and scenery. . . . (p. 155)
There are some strange and unfamiliar things mentioned in the book of Ether such as: the valley of Nimrod, the confounding of the languages, the great wind, deseret, and the flooded plains of the Old World, while in the New world our list includes such items as the great assembly of the nation, the drawing off of followers by bribes, oaths by heaven and earth, secret societies, kings in prison, fine work done in prisons, the dancing princess, strange breeds of animals, plagues of serpents, great national hunts and special hunting preserves, the nation in arms, peculiar strategy and tactics, the formation of armies by forced recruiting, systematic terrorism, the rule of robber bands, wars of extermination regarded as personal duels between rival rulers, with the ritual survival of the king. . . . (pp. 254-255)
All this I find published in 1830, when Joseph Smith was but twenty-four years old, and the Church was not yet organized. . . . (p. 262)
Six months before his death the Prophet Joseph Smith declared: "I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions." (Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 331) Of what traditions is he speaking? Not infant damnation, or baptism by sprinkling, or Neoplatonic ideas about God, for such things the Saints had left behind. The traditionalism to which he refers is clear from another address given by the Prophet at about the same time, when he said, "I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry 'treason' and put me to death." (Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 348)
Notice that good members of the Church are charged with two follies: (1) taking the Bible as the only possible source of knowledge, and (2) interpreting the Bible strictly in the light of their own limited experience. Turning to the Book of Mormon, is it not possible there also to fall into the old sectarian vice of oversimplifying? . . .
Nothing is harder than to convince a man of a thing he has not experienced: "Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not" (Ether 12:5). Those without faith live in a world of their own which to them seems logical and final; they take the very unscientific stand that beyond the realm of their own very limited experience nothing whatever exists! God's works to them look small, and they will never be cured of their myopia until they are willing to face facts and pass a test that only the honest in heart can consider without a chill of aversion. The test is this: "If men will come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; . . . then will I make weak things become strong to them" (Ether 12:27). (p. 260) [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 254-255, 262, 238-239, 260]
(The) Book of Ether (The Title and the Superscription of the Book of Ether):
Sidney B. Sperry states that while the title of the book of Ether is now "The Book of Ether," in the early editions of the Book of Mormon the title was simply "Book of Ether." The article seems to have been first added by Elder Orson Pratt in the 1879 edition. Immediately beneath the title of the book there now occurs an explanatory note or superscription in italics which reads: "The record of the Jaredites, taken from the twenty-four plates found by the people of Limhi in the days of King Mosiah." This superscription does not appear in all but the current editions of the Book of Mormon and is not to be regarded as part of the original text. The superscription seems to have been inserted by the committee appointed to edit the text [for the 1920 edition]. [Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, pp. 460-461]
The Book of Ether: [The Title and the Superscription of the Book of Ether] (Illustration): The Title Page from the book of Ether, First Edition (1830). [Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor, The Book of Mormon, 1830, p. 538]