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How the Jaredite story might be more like yours than you realize

by | Nov. 17, 2020

Editor’s note: “Resources to follow Him” curates study resources, teachings, and thoughts to deepen your study of this week’s Come, Follow Me.

During my Come, Follow Me study yesterday, I was thinking about how much I love the book of Ether. There is something so poetic about the words in this particular book of scripture. Phrases like “mountain waves,” “dashed in pieces,” “furious wind,” “monster of the sea,” and “tight like unto a dish” invite you to look deeper than what meets the eye and find new application and meaning in the words each time.

Many teachers and scripture study resources also found particular phrases or words meaningful going into this week’s Come, Follow Me as they discussed the Jaredites’ long and arduous journey across the great deep, studied about righteous and wicked kings, and discovered the consequences of secret combinations. Each topic has lessons that are applicable for us personally as well as our society. Here are a few highlights from these resources to enrich your own scripture study as you dive deeper into the book of Ether this week.

Not Knowing

The Jaredites were driven forth 344 days upon the water, not knowing how long their journey would take. They made all their necessary preparations and brought their flocks, herds, beasts, animals, and fowls with them (Ether 6:4). In a recent lesson on “Don’t Miss This,” Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler discuss the Jaredites’ departure to the promised land.

“They really had no idea how long they were going to be in the boats. There was no end date or arrival date. And they didn’t ever find out how to steer. In fact, the Lord’s going to eventually tell them, ‘I will move you to that place where you’re going to go.’ And it’s so interesting because at the top of my chapter 6, I just wrote down ‘Not a cruise.’ Because sometimes I think we’re like, ‘And then they got on these boats and they just floated across the water and they just went straight until they got to that promised land. When you read chapter 6, you all of a sudden realize, no, this was not a cruise. This was like that ride at Disneyland you don’t want to go on. That’s what it was,” Freeman says.

Butler jokes that there is no Disneyland ride he doesn’t want to go on—but jokes aside, not seeing the end of a journey is something we can all relate to during the pandemic.

“When we were in a quarantine, it would just be nice for someone to say, ‘Tell me when all of this is over, and I can manage my patience out for that many days. But there’s something about waking up, and to live in hope, and also in disappointment when the sun sets, every single day . . . something about that is really refining to the soul.”

Still, making the decision to keep moving forward even while not knowing what’s ahead can also bring opportunity. In 2019, associate professor Amy Tanner spoke in a devotional on Brigham Young University campus about what she has learned from the story of the Jaredites’ journey to the promised land.

“In embracing the uncertainties of life and moving forward in spite of knowing that all might not turn out as we would hope or like, we create our own stones for the Lord to touch and turn to light. Maybe something good will happen when we move forward in darkness. Maybe something bad will happen. Probably it will be a little of both. But God can touch all of those stones. If we make our decision and offer our decision up to the Lord, He can turn all of our stones to light. He can give us opportunities to do good, build relationships, find faith, change, and grow, even with the stoniest of stones that we offer him,” she said.

The Jaredites did experience hardships on their journey. In verse 6, it says that ‘they were many times buried in the depths of the sea” and there were “great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.” Similarly, there are times when we might feel like we are going through our own tempests. Butler reminds us, though, that just because we experience those feelings doesn’t mean we are in the wrong place in life:

“It’s interesting, because this was God’s idea for them to get into the boats. . . . God said, ‘I want you to go,’ and there is an idea that we have sometimes that, ‘Okay, if God’s the one who gave the idea, that means it’s going to be a pleasant trip.’ And it’s interesting to note that the presence of a storm does not mean the absence of God. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, or you’re in the wrong place. In fact, it kind of seems like those places of resistance is where revelation grows best, you know?”

The Stones

In this week’s Sunday on Monday podcast, host Tammy Uzelac Hall points out symbolism illustrating how Christ is always with the Jaredites on their journey. In Ether 6:3, it says that the “Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.”

Tammy circled the words “stones” and “light,” together in her scriptures, and explored the significance of these two words more deeply.

“For me, there was a connection there with stones and light. And then I immediately thought of Christ, and Christ is the light, but Christ is also the stone.”

Explaining that the Hebrew word for “stone” is eben and the Hebrew word for “help” is ezer, Tammy discusses a powerful line of lyrics in the beloved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”:  

“So, ‘Here I raise my Ebenezer’—­my stone of help, who is the Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the rock. He is the stone,” she said. “So that’s what stood out to me . . . the stone’s in the darkness to give light unto men, women, and children, and that’s what Christ does for us. He gives all of us light in the midst of all of our darkness, which is what that song is totally about.”

Tammy also points out Ether 6:8, which says that “the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.”

The word “spirit” in Hebrew, ruach, means “wind,” Tammy explains. She and her guests for the episode then make the connection that, likewise, the Spirit often pushes you in the direction in life that you need to go.

“When we’re doing what we should, the furious wind—it’s going to constantly move us in that direction toward God. I think of my life, at times when I’ve made poor choices and I’ve come back, the wind never stopped pushing me in the correct direction,” Tammy says.

The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original presented by LDS Living. You can access the full study group discussion through the Bookshelf app. Listen to a segment of this week's episode above or listen to the full Sunday on Monday episode here.

Singing Praises

When the Jaredites arrived in the promised land, Freeman and Butler point out that they have a remarkable reaction, found in verse 9:

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

“It really has made me think to myself, when was the last time I praised the Lord? Because I’m praying, I’m begging for relief, but really when was the last time you praised the Lord for 2020?” Freeman reflects.

Recently, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about the importance of communicating with Heavenly Father through prayer.

“We ought to always have a prayer in our heart. But there is something about saying the words, and for me, saying them out loud,” he said. “We need to carve out time—and good time, high priority time—when we can say the words, kneel, where possible, be vocal, be out loud, and really have that communication.”

The Rule of Kings

Freeman and Butler also encourage listeners to note in this week’s chapters when the kings remembered what God had done for their fathers—and how remembering influenced whether their rule was righteous. This is evident in examples like Shule, who “did execute judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets” and “remembered what the Lord had done in bringing Jared and his brother across the deep” (Ether 7:24, 27).

 You may also like: What this week’s Come, Follow Me teaches us about remembering the words of the prophets

The same is also true in Ether 10:2, where Shez “did remember the destruction of his fathers, and he did build up a righteous kingdom; for he remembered what the Lord had done in bringing Jared and his brother across the deep; and he did walk in the ways of the Lord.”

However, in Ether 6:23, the brother of Jared worried that having a king would lead his people into captivity, which did happen in Ether 7:5. The Come, Follow Me manual lists the kings in Ether, encouraging readers to “see what you can learn from their examples—positive and negative—about leadership.”

Today, while kings may not be a part of our government, we have been reminded to pray for our leaders, as President Russell M. Ballard entreated during October 2020 general conference:

Today I expand my call for prayer to all people from every country around the world. No matter how you pray or to whom you pray, please exercise your faith—whatever your faith may be—and pray for your country and for your national leaders. As I said last October in Massachusetts, we stand today at a major crossroads in history, and the nations of the earth are in desperate need of divine inspiration and guidance. This is not about politics or policy. This is about peace and the healing that can come to individual souls as well as to the soul of countries—their cities, towns, and villages—through the Prince of Peace and the source of all healing, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Secret Combinations

Ether 8:7–26 describes how a secret combination was formed, warning that whichever nation upholds them “to get power and gain” will be destroyed. In verse 17, it also describes how one daughter of Jared was a catalyst for the secret combinations which occurred in this section.

“I am so interested in that thought, that one girl could cause so much destruction,” says Freeman in "Don't Miss This." “And you think about [how] there [are] other places where we see the power of one girl. We read it in the story of Esther, we read it in the story of Abish—through scripture you’re going to see the power of one girl, but you’re also going to see it on the back end of that too.”

In the October 1997 priesthood session of general conference, President Ballard shared how secret combinations are manifested in our day, including organized crime, gangs, and drug cartels. But he also said how we can help prevent this occurring in society today:

Dealing with crime is very complex. However, there are some simple things that we can do in our day to prevent others from drifting toward gangs and crime. We can avoid the temptation of being cliquish at school or at church. All of us can refrain from finding fault or alienating anyone by our words or actions. Nothing is more hurtful than to feel left out or made fun of. Therefore, we must never do anything that may drive others toward being accepted by a gang because they feel rejected by us. Many new families are moving in among us. Brethren, reach out the hand of friendship and make everyone feel welcome and secure in our neighborhoods and in our Church. Guard against spreading rumors or saying unkind things or allowing anything to occur that may hurt another. Make friends with your neighbors, watch out for each other, and help build a spirit of unity, peace, and love among them. These may seem like small things, but I assure you, if we do these kinds of things, they may be every bit as effective in keeping people away from evil and crime as whittling and whistling were in the days of Nauvoo. True friendship may well be the best thing that we can do to help reach those who may be drifting toward unsafe and morally damaging activities and counterfeit forms of belonging.

“Don’t Miss This” also references Elaine S. Dalton’s talk “Return to Virtue” and the power of virtuous people and the influence they can have.

“I truly believe that one virtuous young woman or young man, led by the Spirit, can change the world, but in order to do so, we must return to virtue,” she said. “I testify that a return to virtue is possible because of the Savior’s example and the ‘infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice.’ I testify that we will be enabled and strengthened not only to do hard things but to do all things. Now is the time for each of us to arise and unfurl a banner to the world calling for a return to virtue. May we so live that we can be instruments in preparing the earth for His Second Coming, ‘that when he shall appear we shall be like him, . . . purified even as he is pure.’”


Danielle christensen

Danielle Christensen

Danielle is a features writer and editor for LDS Living. Previously, she served as web producer for Church News, where she managed their website and social media platforms. Danielle is a graduate of Brigham Young University in English and has been published with Deseret NewsChurch NewsBYU Magazine, and Spires Intercollegiate Arts and Literary Magazine.

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