Yesterday, I wrote about the lessons we can learn about coming unto Christ from the brother of Jared. Today, I’d like to explore a more specific question: why did Jared ask his brother to pray for him? Why didn’t he just offer those prayers himself?
Jared and his brother lived at the time of the tower of Babel. They led a group of people away from the tower and across the sea to the American continent, establishing what we know as the Jaredite civilization. From the beginning of their story, we hear about Jared repeatedly asking his brother to petition the Lord on his behalf:
- “Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words” (Ether 1:34).
- “Cry again unto the Lord, and it may be that he will turn away his anger from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language” (Ether 1:36).
- “Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go” (Ether 1:38).
Here are some observations about these requests:
- Jared and his brother were a team, and good teams leverage the strengths of each member. Jared was apparently the first person to identify problems and to seek a solution. He even seems to have had a sense of how the prayers were likely to be answered. (“Who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth?” he asked.) His brother was “highly favored of the Lord,” which suggests that Jared thought they had a better chance of receiving a favorable response if his brother was the one doing the asking.
- The brother of Jared approached the Lord in an attitude of humility, but he was also willing to make requests which would terrify most of us. (“Touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger…that they may shine forth in darkness.” “Show thyself unto me.”) He was uncommonly fearless in his willingness to petition the Lord for extraordinary blessings. He epitomized the Apostle Paul’s admonition that we should “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). His prayers may have been more effective simply because he was willing to ask. The promise isn’t, “When you need, you will receive.” The promise is, “Ask, and ye shall receive” (John 16:24, 3 Nephi 27:29).
- It’s worth noting that prophets have consistently encouraged us to each develop our own personal connection with God, rather than relying on a human intermediary. It is perfectly appropriate for us to lean on one another’s spiritual strength at times, as Jared did in this situation. The Lord told the prophet Joseph Smith in 1831 that some people are blessed to know that Jesus is the Christ, while others are blessed “to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:14). But how will they receive eternal life? By coming to know God for themselves. (See John 17:3.) Moses said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29) Jeremiah prophesied of a time when no one would challenge other people to know the Lord, “for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them” (Jeremiah 31:34). President Thomas S. Monson said, “It is essential for you to have your own testimony…, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far” (“The Power of the Book of Mormon,” General Conference, April 2017). And just last year, President Russell M. Nelson said, “I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge'” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).
Today, I will be grateful for the examples of Jared and his brother. I will be grateful for friends with great spiritual strength, whom I can ask for help, and whom I can lean on when I’m passing through difficult experiences. I will remember that some blessings come only after I ask for them, and that I should “come boldly to the throne of grace.” I will also remember that each of us needs to learn to communicate directly with God, and that our salvation ultimately depends on our individual relationship with Him.