A recurring theme in the Book of Ether is the arrival of unnamed prophets, warning the people of difficult days ahead and urging them to repent. These prophets were consistently rejected by the people but were sometimes protected by righteous kings. Here are some examples:
- During the reign of Shule, the fourth king, “there came prophets among the people, who were sent from the Lord, prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land, and they should be destroyed if they did not repent.” In response, “the people did revile against the prophets, and did mock them.” But King Shule protected the prophets and punished those who persecuted them, “and by this cause, the people were brought unto repentance” (Ether 7:23-25).
- During the reign of Heth, a king who “[embraced] the secret plans of old” and murdered his father, “there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them—that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land.” Once again, the people rejected this message: “They cast them out; and some of them they cast into pits and left them to perish. And it came to pass that they did all these things according to the commandment of the king, Heth” (Ether 9:26-29). Shortly after, there was a famine, and their land was infested with poisonous snakes. When the people recognized that their lives were in danger, they humbled themselves and repented (Ether 9:30-35).
- During the reign of Com, who was raised in captivity but regained the throne, “there came also…many prophets, and prophesied of the destruction of that great people except they should repent.” The people rejected the prophets and tried to destroy them. Com gave them protection, and he was personally blessed by his association with them (Ether 11:1-3).
- After Com’s son, Shiblom, was dethroned by his brother, the new king “caused that all the prophets who prophesied of the destruction of the people should be put to death.” Catastrophe followed: “There began to be wars and contentions in all the land, and also many famines and pestilences.” In response, “the people began to repent,” and “the Lord did have mercy on them” (Ether 11:4-8).
- Three generations later, during the reign of the wicked king Ethem, “there came many prophets, and prophesied again unto the people; yea, they prophesied that the Lord would utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth except they repented of their iniquities.” The people refused to listen, and “the prophets mourned and withdrew from among the people” (Ether 11:11-13).
- During the lifetime of Ether’s father, Coriantor, “there also came many prophets, and prophesied of great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would execute great judgment against them to their utter destruction.” The people rejected this message (Ether 11:20-22). Within a generation, they destroyed one another in a massive civil war (Ether 15).
The only two individual prophets in the Book of Ether are the first (the brother of Jared) and the last (Ether). All of the others are mentioned in groups. Without exception, when these groups of prophets came, they were rejected initially by the people. If the people subsequently humbled themselves and repented, they were blessed. But far more frequently, they rejected the prophets and experienced the calamities the prophets had warned them would come.
Last April, President Russell M. Nelson reminded us of the human tendency to reject the words of prophets:
The Book of Mormon chronicles the classic rise and fall of two major civilizations. Their history demonstrates how easy it is for a majority of the people to forget God, reject warnings of the Lord’s prophets, and seek power, popularity, and pleasures of the flesh. Repeatedly, past prophets have declared “great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe.”
It is no different in our day. Through the years, great and marvelous things have been heard from dedicated pulpits across the earth. Yet most people do not embrace these truths—either because they do not know where to look for them or because they are listening to those who do not have the whole truth or because they have rejected truth in favor of worldly pursuits.“Hear Him,” General Conference, April 2020
Today, I will consider my receptiveness to the words of prophets. I will prepare myself to hear President Nelson’s message of hope and healing which he will deliver this Friday at 1PM ET. I will remember that God mercifully sends prophets to warn us of the consequences of our actions and to provide guidance. How we respond to their messages is entirely up to us.