Evidence #21 | September 19, 2020

Book of Ether

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Scripture Central

Abstract

The book of Ether has a complex production history with layers of source documents that have been distinctively edited into a coherent abridgment.

The book of Ether contains the origin story and political history of the Jaredite civilization, as summarized and abridged by the prophet Ether. That history, written on 24 gold plates, was discovered by the people of Limhi (Mosiah 8:7–9). Limhi’s people then transferred the record to King Mosiah, who translated it by the gift and power of God (Mosiah 28:11–19). The record was then kept by the Nephite prophets until it fell into the hands of Moroni, who further summarized its contents and added his own extensive commentary (Ether 1:2).1 The following chart can help readers keep track of the book of Ether’s primary sources and complex production history:

In addition, it appears that another Jaredite record, this one recorded and sealed by the brother of Jared, may have been had among the Nephites. Precisely when the Nephites first obtained this second Jaredite record and who eventually translated it remains uncertain. Whatever the case may be, Moroni apparently had access to it, summarized some of its contents, and included it with his abridgment of Jaredite history.2

Marvelows Were the Prophecies of Ether, by Walter Rane.

The discovery, translation, and ultimate significance of the book of Ether to the Nephites can only be gleaned by analyzing a number of isolated and yet related Book of Mormon passages. At the same time, the text itself comes across convincingly as a heavily edited historical document. As the text’s abridger, Moroni purposefully selected, explained, and redacted Jaredite history. He also frequently interjected his own commentary which is distinct from the Jaredite history itself.3 When all evidence is accounted for, the book of Ether is anything but a straightforward document, especially when viewed as part of a broader array of complex texts and source documents found in the Book of Mormon.4

Book of Mormon Redaction Chart. Image by John W. Welch and Fernando Vazquez.

 

Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 222–247.

Valentin Arts, “A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11, no. 1 (2002): 50–59; 110–111.

John W. Welch, “Preliminary Comments on the Sources behind the Book of Ether,” Preliminary Reports (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1986).

Ether 1–15

Ether 1–15

  • 1 For brief summaries of the book of Ether, see Morgan W. Tanner, “Book of Mormon: Book of Ether,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1992), 1:156–157; Daniel C. Peterson, “Ether, book of,” in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2003), 252–254.
  • 2 See Valentin Arts, “A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11, no. 1 (2002): 50–59; 110–111.
  • 3 For analysis of the editorial processes involved in the book of Ether, see Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 222–247; John W. Welch, “Preliminary Comments on the Sources behind the Book of Ether,” Preliminary Reports (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1986).
  • 4 See Grant R. Hardy and Robert E. Parsons, “Book of Mormon Plates and Records,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:195–201.
Complexity
Editing
Book of Ether
Book of Mormon

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