Ether 3:17-28 – The prophetic vision of Forever – LeGrand Baker

25 And when the Lord had said these words, he showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth (Ether 3:25).

Moroni is very careful to tell us just enough about the vision, but not too much. He writes:

7 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.
18 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him (Ether 3:17-18).

In Ether chapter 4, Moroni gives us a short history of what happened to the written account of that vision. He reports:

The Lord commended the brother of Jared to write the things which he had seen, but he was to show it to no one “until after Christ should show himself unto his people (v.1).”

When the Savior came to the Nephites, “he commanded that they [the writings] should be made manifest.” After that, during the peaceful time of 4 Nephi, they were apparently part of the Nephite scriptural canon (v.2).

When the Nephites apostatized again, Moroni was “commanded that I should hide them [the original plates on which they were written] up again in the earth (v.3).”

Moroni was also commanded to make a copy of them on the gold plates which would eventually come into the hands of the Prophet Joseph (v.4).

Having explained that, Moroni writes a personal letter to the Prophet Joseph (who will read it about 1,400 years later) explaining that he has sealed that part of the plates, along with the “interpreters” so that they can eventually be translated when people are worthy to read a full account of the vision.

6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord (Ether 4:6).

1 And now I, Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to my memory; and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God (Ether 5:1.)

The rest of chapter 4 is the promise, spoken by the Savior, that when the saints are truly a Zion people, they will have that record again.

Moroni also tells us that the Lord had shown this same, or a similar vision to many prophets. He wrote:

19 And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.
20 And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared; for so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith (Ether 12:19-20).

“Which word he had obtained by faith.” Faith, here, clearly has the same meaning as faith in the New Testament. There, it is translated from the Greek word pistis. The nearest English equivalents are either contract or covenant. We learn about that covenant in a previous chapter where Moroni tells us:

26 For he [Jehovah] had said unto him [brother of Jared] in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things (Ether 3:26).

Even though “many … whose faith was so exceedingly strong [they] could not be kept from within the veil,” there is relatively little in our scriptures about what they saw. In fact, the only full account we have is the highly encoded Revelation of John the Beloved.

Six hundred years before John’s time, Nephi wrote that would be John’s assignment:

27 And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel (1 Nephi 14:27).

And 400 years after John wrote, the Savior confirmed John’s assignment to Moroni, and promised that the time would come when we would actually be able to understand John’s code.

16 And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed (Ether 4:16).

Of the “many” who have seen this or a similar vision, we know of several. They are: Adam, Enoch, the brother of Jared, Abraham, Isaiah, Lehi, Nephi, John the Baptist, John the Beloved, Mormon, Moroni, and the Prophet Joseph Smith

All of these men have had the same thing in common. Each one had a far-reaching responsibility. In order to fulfill that assignment, each had to understand his place in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, each had to be shown who they were and what they had covenanted to do. The following is an example of some of their reports about what they saw and understood:
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ADAM

Adam prophesied about “all the families of the earth,”

9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God (Moses 5:9-10).
—————

ENOCH

Enoch’s vision is reported in Moses chapters 6 and 7 and in the apocryphal Book of Enoch and the Book of the Secrets of Enoch.

67 And the Lord showed Enoch all things, even unto the end of the world; and he saw the day of the righteous, the hour of their redemption, and received a fulness of joy (Moses 7:67).

1 And the Lord summoned me, and said to me: Enoch, sit down on my left with Gabriel.
2 And I bowed down to the Lord, and the Lord spoke to me: Enoch, beloved, all that you see, all things that are standing finished I tell to you even before the very beginning, all that I created from non-being, and visible things from invisible. {1}
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ABRAHAM

Abraham, like Enoch, saw not only the fulness of human history, but also his own place in the universe (Abraham ch. 3-5)

11 Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made;
12 And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof (Abraham 3:11-12).

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Abraham 3:22-23).

1 And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth (Abraham 4:1).
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ISAIAH

Isaiah chapter 6 is the most complete example of a sode experience in the Old Testament. {2} He tells us he returned to the Council in Heaven and re-committed to fulfill the covenants he had made before the world was.

8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me.
9 And he said: Go and tell this people—Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed, but they perceived not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.
11 Then said I: Lord, how long? And he said: Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate;
12 And the Lord have removed men far away, for there shall be a great forsaking in the midst of the land (2 Nephi 16:8-12. The Book of Mormon version is better than the one in the Old Testament).

Much of what Isaiah saw about his contemporary world is in the first 35 chapters of the Book of Isaiah. Chapters 36-39 are about king Hezekiah. Some of that appears to be taken from the king’s own writings.

Chapters 40 through 66 are Isaiah’s poetic review of the ancient Israelite temple drama. This is apparent because he begins in the Council in Heaven, quotes many of the psalms, and concludes with the Savior’s millennial reign, just as the drama did. Or else, those chapters are a poetic rendition of the vision he saw of all of human history. I suppose it doesn’t matter which it is because they are both essentially the same story. (This is true except for Isaiah 44:28 through chapter 48. That part has all the fingerprints of an ancient forgery.{3}
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LEHI

Lehi’s sode experience is the most simple and also the most complete. In it, Lehi returns to the Council, sees its members (angels) who are singing; sees God who is presiding, sitting on his throne; receives an assignment from Jehovah, and reads a book in which he learns of the destruction and apparently the ultimate redemption of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:8-15).

Later, the information he learned there was augmented by his vision of the tree of life.
—————

NEPHI

When Nephi asked to see what his father saw, he was shown everything John the Beloved would later see and record (1 Nephi 14:27). That tells us that both Lehi and Nephi saw the entire vision.
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JOHN THE BAPTIST

John the Baptist’s testimony is found in the Gospel of John, but more fully in Doctrine and Covenants 93:1-18.

6 And John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was….
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us….
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
18 And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the record of John.
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JOHN THE BELOVED’S BOOK OF REVELATION

Several years ago, after I returned to BYU, I audited a New Testament class from my friend Professor C. Wilfred Griggs. The following outline of John’s Revelation is from my notes in that class:

Chapter 1 – Introduction – when, where, how the revelation was received {4}
Chapters 2-3 – Cover letters
Chapters 4-22 – The revelation
Chapters 4-11 – The theodicy – God’s justification – we will do it my way. This continues until the second coming
Chapters 12 -15 – Now we go back to the Council in Heaven and fight premortal war. It tells how evil came to be in heaven and how it was kicked down to earth
Chapters 16-20 – Continuation of war on earth (following chapter 11) and the defeat of evil
Chapters 21-22 – The new heaven and new earth
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MORMON and MORONI

Since Moroni is so thoroughly conversant with the Brother of Jared’s vision, and since both he and his father Mormon wrote the Book of Mormon to us, for our benefit in our time, because they had seen us and knew our needs, it seems reasonable to believe that both of those great prophets had seen the same, or a similar vision as the brother of Jared.
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JOSEPH SMITH

The Prophet Joseph’s testimony is found in what appears to be a poetic version of Doctrine and Covenants 76. However, Section 76 describes a single vision that he shared with Sidney Rigdon and always says “we saw.” The poem is different. It always says “I saw.” Besides being written in first person singular, it is also more explicit and contains insights that are not in Section 76. (I have wondered if it also includes some account of what he saw in his First Vision.)

A VISION
BY
THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH

I will go, I will go, to the home of the Saints,
. Where the virtue’s the value, and life the reward;
But before I return to my former estate,
. I must fulfil the mission I had from the Lord.

Wherefore, hear 0 ye heavens, and give ear 0 ye earth,
. And rejoice, ye inhabitants, truly again;
For the Lord he is God, and his life never ends,
. Aud besides him there ne’er was a Saviour of men.

His ways are a wonder, his wisdom is great;
. The extent of his doings there’s none can unveil;
His purposes fail not; from age unto age
. He still is the same, and his years never fail.

His throne is the heavens — his life-time is all
. Of eternity now, and eternity then;
His union is power, and none stays his hand,
. The Alpha, Omega, for ever. Amen.

For thus saith the Lord, in the spirit of truth,
. I am merciful, gracious, and good unto those
That fear me, and live for the life that’s to come:
. My delight is to honour the Saints with repose,

That serve me in righteousness true to the end;
. Eternal’s their glory and great their reward.
I’ll surely reveal all my myst’ries to them —
. The great hidden myst’ries in my kingdom stor’d;

From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth,
. And for ages to come unto them I will show
My pleasure and will, what the kingdom will do
. Eternity’s wonders they truly shall know. …..

And now after all of the proofs made of him,
. By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea, he lives!
. And sits at the right hand of God on his throne.

And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
. He’s the Saviour and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
. Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
. Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons
. By the very same truths and the very same powers. {5}

—————
FOOTNOTES

{1} Book of the Secrets of Enoch, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. Translated and edited by R. H. Charles. V.2: 431-69, [Oxford: Clarendon, 1976], ch. 24:1-2.)

{2}An interesting discussion of Isaiah’s sode experience is Christopher R. Seitz, “The Divine Council: Temporal Transition and New Prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 109, no. 2 (1990), p. 229-247.

{3} This forgery is apparent for two reasons: (1) It purports to break Gods “everlasting covenant” with the House of David and give the kingship of Judah to Cyrus, a non Israelite. (2) Isaiah 48 in the Old Testament and 1 Nephi 20, are significantly different. The former is about Cyrus, but the latter (which is the brass plates’ version) is about Joseph Smith’s part in the premortal councils. For an historical background on the forgery in this website, search “1 Nephi 20.” When you do that, you will also find the commentary of verses 12-17 and 18-21:1, but this search engine puts some out of order so you will have to scroll down a bit to find the commentary on verses 1-11.

{4} There are three colophons at the beginning of Revelation.
The first two are what Wilfred called the Introduction.
(1) John says he is on the Isle of Patmos, where he is instructed two write.
(2) The second he sees the Lord and is instructed to write his vision.
(3) The third colophon is a sure evidence that we are reading someone who really is who he claims to be, and is almost as deeply encoded as his account of the revelation. It is written as seven letters to seven churches. The colophon is in the encoded message. If one reads just the first half of each of the letters, one can follow the outline of the ancient Israelite temple drama. If one reads only the second half of each of the letters, one finds an explanation of the drama’s symbolism.

{5} It was published in the Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843, and republished in the Millennial Star, August, 1843. You can find the full poem on this website under “Favorite Quotes,” then go to “Smith, Joseph – D&C 76, poetic version.”

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