For nearly a year, the first generation of Jaredites sat in eight small barges as storms and “mountain waves” moved them across the ocean. After arriving in the promised land, they and their descendants were afflicted by another kind of storm—political instability. Generation after generation of Jaredites lived under oppressive rulers, experienced coups and civil war, or lived in captivity. Ether 7-11 tells their story across 28 generations. Moroni particularly highlights the destructive influence of secret combinations among them. The “Come, Follow Me” manual provides the following explanation:
When two or more people conspire to keep their wicked acts secret, they are involved in a secret combination. They are often motivated by the desire for power or riches.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned from these chapters:
Crossing the sea
- God frequently sends us gifts which we will only recognize if we are watching for them: What Are the “Tender Mercies of the Lord?”
- We can overcome the storms we face by (1) being prepared and (2) exercising faith in God: When They Were Encompassed About – Ether 6:7.
- We can be grateful even before the promised blessings are fully received: He Did Thank and Praise the Lord All the Day Long – Ether 6:9, 12.
Righteous government and leadership
- Be wary of decisions which limit your options in the future: Surely This Thing Leadeth into Captivity – Ether 6:22-24.
- We will make wiser decisions today if we remember how the Lord has blessed prior generations: How Great Things the Lord Had Done – Ether 6:30, Ether 7:27.
- Christlike leadership means ministering to others, not trying to consolidate power for oneself: Captivity – Ether 7:4-5.
- Be careful not to abuse your leadership roles by excessively “taxing” the people you lead: What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Taxes?
- Leadership by fear is unsustainable: Akish Began to Be Jealous – Ether 9:6-8.
- It’s wise to reflect on how your leadership is strengthening or weakening your relationship with those you lead: Riplakish – Ether 10:5-8.
- We will prosper and be happy if we foster righteousness, diligence, community, and creativity: Never Could a People Be More Blessed…and More Prospered – Ether 10:28.
- An important responsibility of a leader is to defend and support people who are unable to defend themselves: Com – Ether 11:1-3.
- We should remember the damaging effect of hidden crimes and be willing to speak up when something isn’t right: What Are Secret Combinations?
- We should be optimists, but we should also strive to be aware of the dangers we face and take appropriate action: Awake to a Sense of Your Awful Situation – Ether 8:24-25.
- We should never prioritize loyalty to a group or loyalty to a leader over doing what’s right: Secret Combinations – Ether 8:22-23.
The blessings of adversity
- Adversity can motivate us to make wiser decisions: Poisonous Serpents – Ether 9:29-35.
- Adversity can soften our hearts and bring us closer to God: The Son of Righteousness – Ether 9:21-22.
- Wise gospel teachers help their students learn to receive revelation: Taught from on High – Ether 6:17.
- We don’t need to be perfect to access God’s power. By trying to be righteous, we access God’s grace, which enables us to be righteous: The Fountain of All Righteousness – Ether 8:26.
- If you resist change long enough, eventually that resistance may become permanent: What Does It Mean to Be “Ripe in Iniquity?”
- We should work hard, but we should never forget that our work builds on opportunities given us by God: Prospered by the Hand of the Lord – Ether 10:28.
- We should hold ourselves to the same standard in our private conduct that we do in public: He Did Do Justice unto the People, but Not unto Himself – Ether 10:11