Book Review: Ether a brief theological introduction

I am continuously amazed at the insights and principles people can draw out of the same scriptures I’ve been reading my entire life. I conservatively estimate that I’ve read the Book of Mormon at least 70 times, and yet every one of the books in the brief theological introduction series has introduced me to ideas and principles I hadn’t even begun to consider. The book on Ether, written by Rosalynde Frandsen Welch, has given me much to consider as I look to strengthen the connection between myself and Jesus Christ.

The role of the reader or learner in bringing scripture to life is one of the things Welch highlights from the book of Ether. She writes:

Moroni comes to understand that the success or failure of the Book of Mormon as an event will be determined by the way it is received by its reader, not solely by the way it is constructed by its writer. … [Moroni’s} role is simply to marshal the raw materials, the potential. It is up to the reader and the grace of God to breathe over the words and bring them into being as scripture.

p. 75-76

As a reader, that is sometimes really frustrating. I want it all to be on the shoulders of the writer. I want to be able to pick up the scriptures and get everything I need out of it, right when I need it, with little effort on my part. As nice as that sounds, if that’s how scriptures worked they would not fulfill their divine purpose of helping us to become like Jesus Christ. My efforts to wrest revelation out of my study is a vital part of the process. Only when we share the burden of making the scriptures holy are we participating in the work of change.

For Moroni, who worried about his weakness in writing, that understanding must have been a huge relief. Though I obviously haven’t ever been given a task as monumental as his, I can relate to worrying that my efforts are insufficient. Pretty much every time I head home after a girls camp, youth conference, or EFY session I fret about whether or not I fulfilled my purpose and whatever awkward or embarrassing thing I inevitably did. I know I did my best, but the imperfect nature of my best can haunt me.

Side note: I wrote a blog post a few years ago about revelation I received after my interview with the church media department for the Addressing Pornography website videos. Click here to read that post.

In those moments when I am the one fretting, I take great comfort in knowing that my job as a testifier of Christ is just to do my imperfect best, create opportunities for the Holy Ghost to be present, and then allow the Spirit to work with the learner to come unto Christ. As Welch writes:

When we open [the scriptures] with the intent to receive, the Book of Mormon unfolds as scriptures in our eyes. The work of the Father commences. A veil drops. We are brought back into God’s presence.

p. 87

This ties in to another principle Welch conveys. She makes a connection between the book of Ether and the infinite and eternal nature of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. She says:

Ether’s vision underscores the central purpose for the inclusion of the Jaredite record with the Book of Mormon: namely, to show that Christ’s saving grace excludes none, no matter how far flung in time or place or experience from the main body of Israel.

p. 92

Isn’t that such a beautiful aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It is not limited by time, place, ethnicity, or any other thing that makes us different and individual. Christ is available to all who are striving to do the best they can with whatever knowledge they have.

Sometimes that is easier to believe that about others than ourselves. Sometimes we think Christ can’t or won’t save us. As if we were able to find the one loophole in the infantine and eternal suffering of Christ. It’s almost as if we worry that we will pray and Christ will say “Oh, I totally forgot to atone for that. I’m so sorry. You’re on your own and it’s not looking good for you.”

The realty is we are not going to bring the entire plan of salvation down with our mortal behavior. Those problems, sins, and weaknesses, whether they be our own or those of someone we love, are not ever beyond the scope of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As Welch writes, “The book of Ether is Moroni’s historical ‘proof of concept’ for the universal salvation promised in Christianity.”

The book of Ether, as seen through the eyes of Welch, is a book that allows the weak to work miracles, gives the outsider a home, and promises salvation to all who believe. We can, like Ether, see the gentle and patient finger of the Lord in our lives as we do our part to have faith in Him.

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