The Book of Mormon tells the story of a family who traveled across the ocean to the American continent just after human languages were confounded at the Tower of Babel. The family was led by a man named Jared and by his brother, who is simply called “the brother of Jared” throughout the narrative.
The story of their journey is really a story of a series of prayers.
- Jared requests that his brother ask God that their languages not be confounded, so that the two of them can continue to communicate with one another. Why was the brother of Jared the one to offer this prayer? Moroni tells us that it was because he was “highly favored of the Lord.” He did so, and his request was granted (Ether 1:33-35).
- Jared then asks his brother to request the same blessing for their friends and family. Again, the brother of Jared prays, and again he receives the blessing he seeks (Ether 1:36-37).
- Jared asks his brother to go ask the Lord whether they should leave this place, and if so, where should they go? Unlike the prior two requests, this one requires him to listen for an answer. Jared seems to already have an idea what the Lord will say: “Who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth?” The brother of Jared prays and receives specific instructions. The people are to gather in a specific valley (the valley of Nimrod), where the Lord will give them further instructions. He promises to lead them from that valley to “a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.” He explains that He has given this answer because the brother of Jared has prayed for a long time (Ether 1:38-43).
- When they have gathered in the valley, the Lord comes and talks with the brother of Jared. For the first time in the narrative, the brother of Jared is aware of God’s presence, and speaks to Him in close proximity, even though he can’t see Him. (“He was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not.”) The Lord tells him where the group should travel (Ether 2:4-5).
- During their journey, there are many more answered prayers: They are “directed continually by the hand of the Lord” (Ether 2:6).
- After arriving at the ocean, they simply stop. For four years, they live in tents on the seashore. They don’t build houses. They don’t put down roots. They don’t ask the Lord what they should do next. They just stay in that spot, in a state of perpetual transience (Ether 2:13).
- Finally, the brother of Jared again reaches out to God. The Lord visits him in a cloud and chastens him for three hours “because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” The Lord then instructs him to have the people build barges and prepare to cross the sea (Ether 2:14-17).
- After building the barges, the brother of Jared returns to the Lord with three problems: no light, no air, and no way to steer. The Lord says that He will steer the barges. He provides instructions for how to solve the air problem. And he asks the brother of Jared what he would like to do about the light problem (Ether 2:18-25).
- The brother of Jared creates 16 smooth transparent stones. He approaches the Lord and requests that He touch the stones so that they will shine. As the Lord does so, the brother of Jared sees His finger. Shocked to learn that God has a body, he falls to the ground. When the Lord asks if he saw more, he replies, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” He sees the Lord, who ministers to him and shows him “all things” (Ether 3:1-16, 25-26, Ether 12:20-21).
Here are a few of the principles I see in this story:
- Just like all of our relationships, we have to invest time and energy to become close to God. It doesn’t happen automatically, and the relationship can weaken if we neglect it.
- We earn God’s trust by receiving instructions from Him and acting on those instructions.
- Revelation will most likely come incrementally. We need to be prepared to act on the instructions we have received, trusting that God will give us further instructions after we have completed the first ones.
- We can have confidence in our prayers, both as we request blessings and as we seek knowledge.
- We should continually seek to know what we should do next. We must avoid being “stuck on the beach.”
- Our relationship with God can strengthen over time until we know Him as well as the brother of Jared knew Him.
Moroni, who abridged this record, assured us that the brother of Jared’s experience was a pattern which we could follow. Speaking of us, he relayed the following promise from the Lord:
In that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are (Ether 4:7).
Today, I will remember the example of the brother of Jared. As I strive to follow the Book of Mormon admonition to “come unto Christ,” I will remember that it will be an incremental process. I will likely pass through many iterations of asking for blessings, seeking to understand God’s will, and acting upon the instructions I receive from Him. I will trust that this pattern will eventually lead me to the Savior.