Why study this book?
As students study the book of Ether, they will learn about the Jaredites—a group of people who traveled to the Western Hemisphere and lived there for many centuries before the arrival of the people of Lehi. Students will learn important principles about prayer, revelation, and the relationship between exercising faith in Jesus Christ and receiving spiritual knowledge. They will also learn about the role of prophets in persuading people to repent and about the consequences that come to those who reject Jesus Christ and His prophets.
Who wrote this book?
Moroni abridged this book from 24 gold plates called the plates of Ether. The book is named for the prophet Ether, who was the last prophet of the Jaredites and who created a record of their history (see Ether 15:33–34). About 500 years before Moroni made his abridgment of the sacred records, some of the people of Limhi discovered the plates of Ether as they were searching for the land of Zarahemla (see Mosiah 8:7–11; Ether 1:2). Nephite prophets and record keepers passed the plates of Ether down until they came into Moroni’s possession. Moroni stated that he did not include even “the hundredth part” of the record in his abridgment (Ether 15:33).
To whom was this book written and why?
Because Moroni abridged the plates of Ether after the Jaredites and his own people had been destroyed, he intended this book for the people of our day. Moroni admonished latter-day Gentiles to repent, serve God, and do away with secret combinations (see Ether 2:11–12; 8:23). He also recorded the words of Jesus Christ, inviting “all ye ends of the earth” to repent, come unto Him, be baptized, and receive the knowledge that is withheld from the world because of unbelief (see Ether 4:13–18).
When and where was it written?
Ether completed the record of his people during and after the final great battle that killed all but two of the Jaredites—himself and Coriantumr (see Ether 13:13–14; 15:32–33). He then hid his writings “in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them” (Ether 15:33; see also Mosiah 8:7–9). Moroni abridged the record of Ether between A.D. 400 and A.D. 421 (see Mormon 8:3–6; Moroni 10:1). Moroni wrote that the Jaredites were destroyed in “this north country” (Ether 1:1), indicating he may have been in the land where they were destroyed when he abridged their record.
What are some distinctive features of this book?
Unlike other books in the Book of Mormon, the book of Ether does not relate the history of the descendants of Lehi. The book recounts how the Jaredites came forth from the Tower of Babel and traveled to the land of promise, where eventually they were destroyed. The book of Ether is a second witness to the record of the Nephites illustrating that “whatsoever nation shall possess [the promised land] shall serve God, or they shall be swept off … when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9).
Jesus Christ’s premortal appearance to the brother of Jared “ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history.” This event “established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon , 17). Moroni’s account of the vision provides a powerful witness of Jesus Christ and presents distinctive teachings about the nature of spirit bodies (see Ether 3:4–17).
Ether 1–3 The Lord preserves the language of the Jaredites at the Tower of Babel and promises to lead them to a choice land and make them a great nation. He leads them to the seashore and instructs them to make barges for their journey across the ocean. The Lord reveals Himself and “all things” (Ether 3:26) to the brother of Jared.
Ether 4–5 Moroni seals the writings of the brother of Jared. He records Jesus Christ’s explanation that these writings will be revealed to those who exercise faith in Him. Moroni teaches that three latter-day witnesses will join the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in testifying of the Book of Mormon.
Ether 6–11 The Jaredites travel to the promised land. The people multiply and begin to spread over the land. A succession of righteous and wicked kings rule over many generations. The Jaredites are nearly destroyed because of secret combinations. Many prophets warn the people to repent, but the people reject them.
Ether 12 Moroni teaches that faith is required before a person can receive a spiritual witness. He expresses to the Lord his concern that Gentiles in the future will mock his weakness in writing the sacred record, and he records the Lord’s response to him. Moroni exhorts latter-day readers to seek Jesus Christ.
Ether 13–15 Moroni discusses Ether’s prophecy of the New Jerusalem. After the Jaredites reject Ether, he witnesses and records their entire destruction.