Thursday, December 31, 2020

"Come, Follow Me" in the Doctrine and Covenants



For many decades, this beautiful mural by Everett C. Thorpe (1904-1983) graced the front of the Providence, Utah, 2nd Ward chapel. I stared at this painting during Sacrament meeting every Sunday of my childhood. Ev Thorpe was a Providence native and a professor of art at Utah State University. Murals have been removed from chapel fronts in the last couple of decades to make it clear that we worship Jesus Christ and not Joseph Smith or the pioneers, but before this mural was removed, a former bishop of ours paid an artist to copy out the mural and make prints on home-sized canvases. This is a photograph of my copy.  

"COME, FOLLOW ME" LESSONS


Dec. 28-Jan. 3: Doctrine and Covenants 1

Jan. 4-10:  Joseph Smith--History 1:1-26

 


(To see my old Gospel Doctrine lessons on the Doctrine & Covenants, go to the Doctrine & Covenants page by clicking on the link in the blog heading.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Doctrine and Covenants 1

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS

My dear late friend, Sadie Sproles, joined the Church many years ago while living on the East Coast.  The missionaries told her that Joseph Smith asked questions and the Lord gave him the answers, he wrote them down, and that is the Doctrine and Covenants.  She immediately said, "I want that book!"  They gave her a copy and she received a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored Church through reading the Doctrine and Covenants.  "You're not supposed to get your testimony from the Doctrine and Covenants!" she said to me. "You're supposed to get it from the Book of Mormon!" But that's where she got hers.

President Benson said, "The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ.  The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ's kingdom" (April 1987 General Conference, quoted by Steven E. Snow, "Treasuring the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Jan. 2009).  President Gordon B. Hinckley called it, "The constitution of the Church"  (ibid.).

THE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS

The Doctrine and Covenants is not chronological. The first revelations in this dispensation to be sustained as scripture (at the first general conference of the Church, June 9, 1830) were called the "Articles and Covenants."  They were read at the start of every general conference through Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's tenures as presidents.  These are what we know now as Sections 20 and 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

After this conference, in July of 1830, Joseph Smith wrote down other previously received revelations. They called this the Kirtland Revelation Book. (See Joseph Smith Papers: Introduction to the Manuscript Revelation Books.)

Brother Woolley says there are two characteristics of Latter-day Saints:  1) We're packrats [think: food storage], and 2) we all have to have our own copy of everything. The faithful early saints wanted their own copies of the revelations. Those who had access to them made copies. First Oliver Cowdery handcopied them for himself, then David Whitmer and William W. Phelps and others did as well.

Book of Commandments (1831)

Finally a special conference was held in which to decide whether the revelations should be printed and published at Hiram, Ohio, November 1, 1831.  There were 12 members in attendance, including the most well-educated church members and Joseph Smith, one of the least educated.  There were four more revelations received during those three days.  The consensus of the conference was that the revelations should not be published as making them too freely available would be "casting pearls before swine."  But Joseph Smith was for publication, and his opinion was ratified by a revelation which is one of seventy revelations published in the History of the Church and not in the Doctrine and Covenants.

The decision was made to publish 10,000 copies initially.  (5,000 copies were printed of the first edition of the Book of Mormon.)  Olivery Cowderey, Sidney Rigdon, and William E. McLellin were assigned to write a preface for the revelations during a recess in the conference.  They were stymied and finally asked Joseph Smith to pray for help.  The preface was then revealed to Joseph Smith, the first revelation to be dictated as it was received, and thus we have the only book in the history of the world whose preface was written by God Himself, now Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Section 67 (the third revelation received at this conference) was given after the brethren were still balking at publishing the revelations because they thought the wording of them simplistic and unsophisticated.  It was then that Joseph Smith issued the challenge to the most educated, William McLellin, to write a prophecy which 1) came from the Lord, and 2) was new doctrine never before received on the earth.  Of course, we know the story:  Brother McLellin could not come up with a thing, and acknowledged that revelations received through the prophet were best as they were.

The fourth revelation received at this conference was called "Appendix to the Revelations," regards what will happen at the Second Coming, and is now Section 133. 

While they were preparing this Book of Commandments for publication, William W. Phelps, the printer, published parts of it in the periodical, The Evening and Morning Star. He used his personal copy of the Kirtland Revelation Book, therefore it is not a perfect match with the Book of Commandments (Sections 65, 68, 72, 76, 83, and part of 80).

Meanwhile, while living with her uncle, A. Sidney Gilbert, 15-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins gained a great love and esteem for the revelations that were to be printed.  In her own words, "One evening the brethren came to Uncle's house to converse upon the revelations that had not been printed as yet, but few had looked upon them, for they were in large sheets, not folded. They spoke of them with such reverence, as coming from the Lord; they felt to rejoice that they were counted worthy to be the means of publishing them for the benefit of the whole world." (Mary Elizabeth Rollin Lightner Autobiography, published by Robert Barrett on FindaGrave.com)

When the typesetting of the Book of Commandments was done and the copies of five large sheets containing 32 uncut pages each (160 pages total) had been printed, the press was destroyed by enemies of the Church.  The pages were thrown out into the street, but were heroically rescued by Mary and her 13-year-old sister Caroline.  (See James E. Faust, "Courage in the Cornfield", Friend, July 2007.)

More from Mary's autobiography: 

"The mob renewed their efforts again by tearing down the printing office, a two story building, and driving Brother Phelps' family out of the lower part of the house and putting their things in the street. They brought out some large sheets of paper, and said, 'Here are the Mormon Commandments.' My sister Caroline and myself were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said 'They will kill us.' While their backs were turned, prying out the gable end of the house, we went, and got our arms full, and were turning away, when some of the mob saw us and called on us to stop, but we ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons."

 Picture from lds.org

"The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us. After we satisfied ourselves that they had given up the search for us, we tried to find our way out of the field, the corn was so high we could not see where to go, looking up I saw trees that had been girdled to kill them. Soon we came to an old log stable which looked as though it had not been used for years. Sister Phelps and children were carrying in brush and piling it up at one side of the barn to lay her beds on. She asked me what I had. I told her. She then took them from us, which made us feel very bad. They got them bound in small books and sent me one, which I prized very highly."

As well she should!  Besides being of great spiritual value, they are the most expensive antique books relating to Church history today.  Only twenty are known to exist. 

Those pages which were hand-cut, hand-assembled, and sewn together were printed up as the Book of Commandments. The Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has published replicas through their Herald House printing company. 


My replica of the Book of Commandments--
much smaller than the present day triple combination.



Title Page


First page of the revelations

Because only the first 160 pages had been printed before the mob destroyed the press, this book ends abruptly at Section 64, verse 47 in the middle of a sentence.



You can see that in the original handwritten manuscript which W.W. Phelps was using, that final word "Ephraim" had been circled--the point at which he had stopped for the day. 


Images are from my replica

Please also see Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Compiled"Ensign, Jan. 1985 for more details on the structure of the Doctrine and Covenants.


Doctrine and Covenants (1835 to present-day)

A second special conference was held August 17, 1835 in Kirtland to discuss republishing the revelations in a new book.  Each revelation was read and ratified by the First Presidency, then the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, then the Seventy, and on down through the whole membership of the church.  They stood and voted in turn to sustain the book as scripture.  There is no evidence that there was a single negative vote.

The first edition of this book called Doctrine and Covenants was printed that summer.  It contained two sections: Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith, and 102 revelations, divided into "chapters" rather than "sections."  Frederick G. Williams was the printer.

In 1844, the second edition of this book was published in Nauvoo, the last one that was proofread by Joseph Smith.  The wording has never been changed.  Two more editions were published from these same plates in 1845 and 1846.

In 1876, 26 sections were added.

In 1908, the "Manifesto" was included.

In 1921, the printing was put into double columns and the book included 136 sections and the Manifesto.  The Lectures on Faith were now left out.  James E. Talmadge was the editor.

In 1930 a different edition was published called Latter-day Revelation.  It omitted the personal revelations.  It was never sustained as scripture, however, and did not last.

Our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1981.

(Source: Bruce Woolley, "Structural Development of the Doctrine and Covenants," Lecture, BYU Education Week, August 18, 2005, personal notes, Book 7, p. 137-142)

Section 1: A Voice of Warning

In Section 1, the purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants is put forth by the Lord, and a call is made to "hearken" to it--to pay rapt attention to it, to internalize it and follow it. Verses 1-16 talk about the bad trajectory of the people of the earth and their state of wickedness. In verses 17-18, He states that to remedy this situation, the Lord has given this revelation. 

--Let me interject here that I go back and forth between loving the paper scriptures and the electronic scriptures. I love that I can put limitless notes into the electronic scriptures, and link things without having to copy them out or remember them. But one thing I can't see on the electronic scriptures so easily are the lists. I love scriptural lists, and in my margins, I mark them with numbers or with dots.--

Doctrine and Covenants 1 has two great lists. The first is prophecies that will be fulfilled if the people hearken (verses 19-23):
  • The weak things of the world will break down the mighty.
  • Every man might speak in the name of God.
  • Faith will increase on the earth.
  • God's everlasting covenant will be established.
  • The fulness of the gospel will be proclaimed by the weak to the mighty.
He then states (verse 24), that "I am God and have spoken it," and that he gave the commandments purposely to weak servants, so that (verses 24-30):
  • They might come to understanding.
  • They might know of their mistakes.
  • They might learn, if they seek wisdom.
  • They might be chastened regarding their sins, so they can then repent.
  • They can become strong, if they are humble, and be blessed from on high.
He points out that with these revelations Joseph Smith was able to translate the Book of Mormon, and the foundation of the Church was laid, and will come forth out of obscurity to the world.

In verses 31-38, the point of the voice of warning is given, and in every case in the scriptures it is the same: When the Lord points out the error of His children's ways, and warns them of calamities to come, He also gives them the opportunity to repent. Always!

In verses 37-38, the commandment is distilled: "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heaven and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

Then He seals up this warning, by telling us how we can be sure that the prophecy written here is by His own voice (verse 39): 

"For behold, and lo, 
the Lord is God, 
and the Spirit beareth record, 
and the record is true, 
and the truth abideth forever and ever. 
Amen."

If we were there in 1831 to hear this commendment spoken by the mouth of Joseph Smith, the young and uneducated prophet, and if we were willing to hearken to it, "the Spirit would have borne record" to us, individually, and we would have received our own testimony of that truthfulness. That is the "record that is true"--our own testimony, witnessed by the Holy Ghost. It doesn't matter that we were not there, though. The same can happen for us today, as it happened for my friend, Sadie. That "record [that] is true," that witness of truth borne by the Spirit, will stand--either to guide us as we retain and grow our testimonies, or to judge us if we ignore it. The consequences of those two options are laid out clearly in this introduction. The choice is ours.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Come, Follow Me" in the Book of Mormon

December 30-January 5: Introduction to the Book of Mormon

January 6-12: 1 Nephi 1-7  

January 13-19: 1 Nephi 8-10 

January 20-26: 1 Nephi 11-15 

January 27-February 22: 1 Nephi 16-22 

February 3-9: 2 Nephi 1-5 

February 10-16: 2 Nephi 6-10 

February 17-23: 2 Nephi 11-25 

February 24-March 1: 2 Nephi 26-30 

March 2-8: 2 Nephi 31-33 


March 9-15: Jacob 1-4 

March 16-22: Jacob 5-7 

March 23-29: Enos-Words of Mormon

March 30-April 12: Easter

April 13-19: Mosiah 1-3 

April 20-26: Mosiah 4-6 

April 27-May 3: Mosiah 7-10 

May 4-10: Mosiah 11-17  

May 11-17: Mosiah 18-24 

May 18-24: Mosiah 25-28 

May 25-31: Mosiah 29-Alma 4 


June 1-7: Alma 5-7 

June 8-14: Alma 8-12 

June 15-21: Alma 13-16 

June 22-28: Alma 17-22 


June 29-July 5: Alma 23-29 

July 6-12: Alma 30-31 


July 13-19: Alma 32-35 


July 20-26: Alma 36-38 


July 27-August 2: Alma 39-42 


August 3-9: Alma 43-52  


August 10-16: Alma 53-63 


August 17-23: Helaman 1-6 


August 24-30: Helaman 7-12 


August 31-September 6: Helaman 13-16 


September 7-13: 3 Nephi 1-7 


September 14-20: 3 Nephi 8-11 


September 21-27: 3 Nephi 12-16 


September 28-October 11: 3 Nephi 17-19 

October 12-18: 3 Nephi 20-26 


October 19-25: 3 Nephi 27-4 Nephi 


October 26-November 1: Mormon 1-6 


November 2-8: Mormon 7-9 


November 9-15: Ether 1-5 


November 16-22: Ether 6-11 


November 23-29: Ether 12-15

November 30-December 6: Moroni 1-6 


December 7-13: Moroni 7-9 


December 14-20: Moroni 10

December 21-27: Christmas

Moroni 10

CHAPTER TEN: MORONI'S FAREWELL

Gratitude (Remembering) Increases Faith.
Chapter 10 contains some scriptures that are very familiar to us. This is Moroni's great farewell, his parting words, his exhortations to us. Probably most class members could finish this sentence: “I would exhort you...” (Probably class members will respond with “that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true...”) This is the exhortation that we are most familiar with; however, there are eight exhortations in this chapter, and the first one is not to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. There is something else that we must do first, or it will not do any good to pray about the Book of Mormon. (Ask the class to glance over the page to find the first instance.)

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.” (Moroni 10:3)

Why must we remember and ponder first? Because we can have no faith that the Lord will answer our prayers unless an understanding of the character of the Lord is firmly established in our minds. We must know Him to have faith in Him. Moroni teaches us an important principle here about the importance of remembering and the power of thoughts. The more we notice and remember the mercy of the Lord in our thoughts, the greater our faith will become. Alma 32 teaches us that if we nourish the seed, or the word of God, it will grow. It is not that the word needs our nourishment to mature into a tree. It's that it cannot grow within us without our nourishing it and providing an ever-enlarging space for it in our garden. Thus, remembering and pondering—or we might call it gratitude—increases faith. (Write “Gratitude” on the left of the board and “Faith” in the center with an arrow going from Gratitude to Faith.)

Faith Brings Peace

Moroni's father Mormon had seen terrible atrocities in his day, just about the worst things that you can imagine: cannibalism, rape, murder, slaughter of children. And yet, Mormon's words teach us that it is possible to enter into “the rest of the Lord” on this earth, in this life! Read carefully:

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3)

This correlates with the message the angels proclaimed at the birth of Christ: “Peace on earth, good will to men,” which is more aptly translated, “Peace to men of good will.” Amid terrible strife in the world, Mormon and Moroni knew peace because they knew the Lord. (Write “Peace” on the right side of the board with an arrow going from Faith to Peace.)

In chapter ten, Moroni gives us a lot of information about the Lord that he hopes we will use to build our faith. Each time he exhorts us to do something, he reveals a little more about the character of God. We discussed the first two already:
The Lord...
  1. (Verse 3) ...is merciful.
  2. (Verse 4) ...will reveal truth.
  3. (Verse 7) ...has power.
  4. (Verse 8) ...gives us his power through gifts of the Spirit.
  5. (Verse 18) ...gives us everything that is good.
  6. (Verse 19) ...is predictable.
  7. (Verse 27) ...will hold us accountable.
So the concluding exhortation is...

(Verse 30) Come unto Christ! (The theme of our youth curriculum!)

Ways to Increase Gratitude, and therefore Faith, and therefore Peace

When we remember experiences, write them, or tell them to others, the experiences increase in size in our consciousness and have an effect on us and our relationship with any other people involved in the experience. Often people will say, “When I was growing up, we always...” [Fill in the blank with “...gathered around the piano to sing carols”; “...went on a picnic up the canyon” ; or whatever cherished memory they choose.] In fact, they only did that thing a few times, but they have enlarged the memory of it by recalling it so often an so fondly. Unfortunately, sometimes people will use this principle to their disadvantage in nursing a grudge: “She always...” [Fill in the blank with whatever bad treatment she gave the person on occasion.] The offense grows greater with remembering.

Just like thinking, writing, and telling about incidents with other people influence our relationship with them, thinking, writing and telling about “what great things the Lord hath done for us” influences our relationship with Him. It is wise to write the Lord's mercies in our journals, recount them to others, and remember them frequently in quiet moments. This is why Elder Eyring has counseled us to record such things in our journals, and why we have testimony meetings every month.  (See "O Remember, Remember", from October 2007 General Conference.)

A study of the scriptures can also enlarge our memories and increase our gratitude to the Lord. The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that the book was written to “show...what great things the Lord hath done for [our] fathers.” The conclusion to the first chapter of the Book of Mormon testifies, “Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord or over all those whom he hath chosen...” (1 Nephi 1:20)

CONCLUSION

Let's read Moroni's very last words (you may also want to read verses 32-33): “And now I bid unto all, farewell, I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead, Amen.” (Moroni 10:34) (Then you can show the first 4 minutes and 45 seconds of the video “How Rare a Possession,” ending where Moroni deposits the plates in the ground and the screen goes dark.)

Now we've buried the plates—in January we'll dig them back up! Get ready to study Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants.


Ether 12-15

HISTORY

If you have a chess game, it might be a good eye-catcher to display on the classroom table.

Although the Jaredite civilization overlapped the Nephite civilization timewise, they had a totally different society.  They did not come from Jerusalem.  They did  not even descend from Abraham.  They moved to America a couple of hundred years before Abraham was born.  They, of course, spoke an entirely different langauge, the Adamic language.  It is interesting to note that the names of the people in the book of Ether are quite different than the names in the rest of the Book of Mormon.  And the way their civilization was governed and the way they warred was different as well.

Many kings are mentioned as Moroni gives his rapid-fire history of the Jaredites.  Among them, there is an interesting phenomenon: kings serving in captivity.  Seven of the kings mentioned were overthrown and, rather than being killed in the coup, were captured and imprisoned.  Some of them managed to rise up and gain their kingdoms back; some of them spent the rest of their lives in captivity; one line of kings spent six generations living as captives (Hearthom in chapter 10).  This is similar to the Asiatic civilizations.

"Such is the practice...of keeping a king prisoner throughout his entire lifetime, allowing him to beget and raise a family in captivity, even though the sons thus brought up would be almost sure to seek vengeance for their parent and power for themselves upon coming of age....It seems to us a perfectly ridiculous system, yet it is in accordance with the immemorial Asiatic usage....Benjamin of Tudela tells how the khalif, the spiritual ruler of all western Asia, arranged for 'the brothers and other members of the khalif's family' to live lives of ease, luxury, and security: 'every one of them possesses a palace within that of the khalif, but they are all fettered by chains of iron, and a special officer is appointed over every household to prevent their rising in rebellion against the great king.'...It was the custom of Turkish kings, as was long doubted by scholars but has recently been proved, to allow their defeated rivals to sit upon their thrones by day, but lock them up in iron cages for the night!"  (Hugh Nibley, quoted in Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 495, originally printed in Lehi in the Desert, p. 201-203)

And  why did they do this?  Brother Nibley explains:

"Moving back to the earliest records of all, we find a large class of legends all over the ancient world telling how a victorious god in the beginning bound and imprisoned his rebellious relatives--not killing them, since they partook of his own divine nature..." 

The last of these captive kings mentioned was Coriantor, who was born into his father's captivity and spent his whole life a captive.  Into this environment was born his son, Ether.  (See Ether 11:23.)  We know Ether, not as a captive king, but as a mighty prophet of God.

"And Ether was a prophet of the Lord; wherefore Ether came forth in the days of Coriantumr, and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him."  (Ether 12:2)

Ether had a vital message for his people:

"For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled--Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God." (Ether 12:3-4)

Moroni stopped his narrative of history right here and took this concept Ether so wanted his people to understand--by faith all things are fulfilled--and expounded upon it for us in his own words. 

FAITH PRECEDES THE MIRACLE

"And now I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."  (Ether 12:6; see also verse 12)

In this chapter, Moroni gives twelve examples of faith preceding miracles:
  1. Christ's resurrection [v. 7]
  2. The bestowal of the Holy Priesthood [v. 10]
  3. The Law of Moses [v. 11]
  4. Alma and Amulek [v. 13]
  5. Nephi and Lehi [v. 14]
  6. Ammon and his brethren [v. 15]
  7. Disciples who are unnamed [v. 16]
  8. The Three Nephites [v. 17]
  9. The brother of Jared [v. 20]
  10. Many others like him [v. 19]
  11. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon which hadn't yet happened [v.22]
  12. The disciples who saw Christ in the Book of Mormon [v. 31]
Seven times in this chapter, Moroni reminds us that faith comes before miracles:  verses 6, 7, 12, 17, 18, 30, 31.

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY BRING US UNTO CHRIST

Moroni expressed his worries to the Lord that those who read the Book of Mormon might notice flaws in the writing (verse 25), but the Lord did not say he would fix them all.  Instead, he said, "Behold, I will show until the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me--the fountain of all righteousness."  (verse 28)

The Lord told Moroni that the important thing was to have charity.  Whether or not the gift of the Book of Mormon was received well, all that mattered was that Moroni had completed his own mission and prepared it with the pure love of Christ.  "If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean.  And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father."  (verse 37)

On the way to Carthage Jail, Hyrum Smith read verses 36-38 aloud to Joseph Smith, and turned down the page corner (Class Member Study Guide).  This scripture has lent strength to the greatest of our dispensation.

BACK TO THE HISTORY

The world that Ether lived in was bloodthirsty and vengeful.  There were two warring factions.  Coriantumr was the king of the one, and the other had several kings, but in the end was led by King Shiz.  Ether prophesied to Coriantumr that all his household but himself would be killed if he would not repent (Ether 13:20-22).  But Coriantumr said, "No thanks.  I can handle this myself."  Until he realized he couldn't, and two million of his men had been killed, as well as their wives and children.  He finally wrote an epistle to his enemy, offering to surrender his kingdom in order to save the lives of the rest of his people.  That wasn't enough for King Shiz.  He offered to spare the people if Corantumr would give himself up. Coriantumr didn't want to do that, and the battles resumed (Ether 15:1-6).

This Jaredite society had a system of warfare different than most in the world today, and different than the Nephites, but similar to that of ancient Asia.  This type of warfare is where we the game of chess comes from.  Again, Hugh Nibley explains:

"The insane wars of the Jaredite chiefs ended in the complete annihilation of both sides, with the kings the last to go...This all seems improbable to us, but two circumstances peculiar to Asiatic warfare explain why the phenomenon is by no means without parallel: (1) Since every war is strictly a personal contest between kings, the battle must continue until one of the kings falls or is taken.  (2) And yet things are so arranged that the king must be the very last to fall, the whole army existing for the sole purpose of defending his person.  This is clearly seen in the game of chess, in which all pieces are expendable except the king, who can never be taken" (Quoted in Latter-day Commentary, p. 507).



And so the war continued, killing millions of people, until only the two kings remained, and Shiz had fainted from loss of blood, allowing Coriantumr to chop off his head (Ether 15:30).

In your scriptures you may want to write at the end of the Book of Ether, "The Rest of the Story:  Omni 1:20-22; Mosiah 21:25-28; Mosiah 28:11-19"

THE WARNING FOR US

Although the Jaredite society was very different from the Nephite society, which was very different from our societies, the same evil ruined both of them and can ruin us.  The warning of the book of Ether to us is found in chapter 8:

"Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain--and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction" (Ether 8:23).

This verse applies to us who are not actively involved in secret combinations, but who "suffer [allow] these things to be," who let them "get above you."

Do we have secret combinations in our world today?  Yes!  Any kind of organized crime or corrupt government or unethical business practices involve secret combinations where getting gain is more important than the good of the people being served. Even gossip is a type of secret combination, isn't it? What is the antidote?  The gospel of Jesus Christ!  

These chapters of Ether contain two opposing philosophies and their outcomes:  1) relying on secret alliances with men (secret combinations), and 2) relying on sacred alliances with God (covenants, kept by faith).  It was through their reliance on God that both Ether and Moroni survived the horrific ordeal of watching the complete annihilation of their civilizations due to the secret combinations set up there for greed and power.  Secret combinations always deal in fear: the fear of loss of power or money or social standing, or the fear of not having a "father" figure or a gang "family" for protection, or even the fear of physical danger if a person does not comply with the rules of the secret combination.  But the Lord always offers his hand of help, if we will reach out for it.  It is our choice:  Do we choose faith, or do we choose fear?

You may want to share the example of one who chose faith after a life of secret combinations, Mario Facione, a mafia member who converted to the LDS church.  Follow this link to MormonWiki.com for the story.