If I could ask them one question . . .
Come Follow Me, Lesson 44
For Come Follow Me, lesson 44, Nov 9-15, Ether 1-5
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Why did Moroni give us Ether’s Genealogy?”
Things to consider:
- Moroni begins his abridgement of the plates of Ether by telling us, “He that wrote this record was Ether” (Ether 1:6). Then, over the course of 27 verses, Moroni gives us the genealogy of Ether, 28 generations deep, to Jared who immigrated from the Old World to the New after the tower of Babel incident.
- And, so there is no doubt about how we are to understand the Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon … was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us.
Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations. … If they saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, “Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”
~ President Ezra Taft Benson (ellipses as found in source)
- Yet, there seems to be no purpose for a modern audience to have this genealogy. How could you possibly use this in your life? What contextual information does it give to better understand the account?
- The only quasi-explanation I found for this genealogy was that such genealogies were important to Hebrew people as demonstrated in the Old Testament (Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121–122, p. 361). That manual even goes on to explain that this is the only extended genealogy in the Book of Mormon. The explanation tells us why such a genealogy might be important to Ether (might because Hebrew is a term that might not apply to such an early group, and even if it did, what was important to biblical Hebrews may not have been important to much earlier Hebrews), but there’s not even speculation as to why Moroni would be interested in such a genealogy, let alone why we should be. The Come Follow Me manual doesn’t even try to speculate what purpose the genealogy might serve, and I submit it may be because there is nothing but speculation for its purpose.
- Besides, doesn’t the genealogy just cause problems? For example, this is in an abridgement by Moroni he is engraving on metal plates. As Jacob explained, he could only write a little of his words because of how difficult it was to engrave them on plates (Jacob 4:1). Yet, even though the prophets have explained no purpose for this genealogy, Moroni spends the time it takes to engrave 27 verses.
- Also, consider that there are 28 generations between Ether and Jared. Doing the math from 600 BCE (roughly when Ether put his book together) back to Jared, we’d have to assume an average age difference between the fathers and sons listed of about 57 years in order for the math to work out to place Jared at the tower of Babel at about 2200 BCE.
- Yes, it’s possible that in Ether 1:23 where it says “Morianton was a descendant of Riplakish,” multiple generations were left out. That’s doubtful from the beginning to me, because it would be like saying “It’s important to have all these father/son relationships listed, but not for this one span of generations.” Besides, in the other two instances in this genealogy, where it says “was a descendant of” we know the author means “was a son of.” (see my annotation for Ether 1:6-32 for more details)
- How do you (or did you) apply Ether’s genealogy? “What lesson can I learn from that [genealogy] to help me live in this day and age?” I really want to know if anybody does/did find value in it, because maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m the odd one out on this?
Other observations about this lesson’s reading:
- Moroni starts with records on 24 metal plates that are the Book of Ether. He doesn’t give us the first part of the plates and abridges (shortens, makes more concise) only the part after the history of Adam until the tower. He tells us he only wrote a hundredth part of the record, but somehow that concise abridgement of 24 gold plates ends up being 24.8 pages of text in English (Ether 1:2).
- The Tower of Babel is declared an actual event even though it’s clear that languages didn’t evolve as this biblical story tells us (Ether 1:33, see also my If I could ask … Lesson 33 about whether the Tower of Babel event actually happened).
- Moroni waxes way wordy in spite of the fact he allegedly was engraving this on metal plates (Ether 2:8-10, see also my If I could ask … Lesson 19 about Book of Mormon wordiness).
- The God of the land seems oddly Trinitarian (Ether 2:12 and Ether 3:17-18, see also my If I could ask … Lesson 18 about Trinitarianism in the Book of Mormon).
- The Jaredite barges would seem to have a ventilation problem (Ether 2:20).
- There seems to be an anachronistic reference to glass which wouldn’t be used for windows until a couple of millennia after the alleged time frame (Ether 2:23).
- The brother of Jared asks the Lord to touch some rocks with His finger, but then the brother of Jared is surprised to discover the Lord has a finger (Ether 3:7-8).
- The Book of Mormon teaches that once you know something, nothing doubting, you no longer have faith in that thing (Ether 3:19). But, President Monson taught that faith was having no doubts. Which way is it?
- The original edition of the Book of Mormon placed king Benjamin into the story line after his reported death (Ether 4:1).
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 44