Brother of Jared at the Veil

The Brother of Jared at the Veil is an extract of a chapter from the Selected Writings of M. Catherine Thomas. The story of the brother of Jared is found in the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Dr. Thomas begins the story this way:

The Brother of Jared Sees the Lord's Finger Pierce the Veil and Touch the Molten Stones The temple is the narrow channel through which one must pass to reenter the Lord’s presence. A mighty power pulls us through that channel, and it is the sealing power of the at-one-ment of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior’s at-one-ment is another word for the sealing power. By the power of the at-one-ment, the Lord draws and seals his children to himself in the holy temples.

In scripture we can study how the ancient great ones were drawn through that narrow channel to find their heart’s desire: we find, for example, Adam, cast out, bereft of his Lord’s presence, searching relentlessly in the lonely world until he finds the keys to that passage to the Lord. Abraham searches for his priesthood privileges (see Abraham 1:1) and after a diligent quest exclaims, “Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee” (Abraham 2:12). Moses on Horeb, Lehi at the tree, Nephi on the mountain top—all these men conducted that search which is outlined and empowered in the temple endowment, gradually increasing the hold, the seal, between themselves and their Lord.

This was the very search for which they were put on earth: to rend the veil of unbelief, to yield to the pull of the Savior’s sealing power, to stand in the Lord’s presence, encircled about in the arms of his love (see D&C 6:20; 2 Nephi 1:15). This then is the temple endowment: having been cast out, to search diligently according to the revealed path, and at last to be clasped in the arms of Jesus (see Mormon 5:11).

In particular, I wish to focus briefly on some of the temple elements in the experience of the brother of Jared: (1) the tower of Babel, (2) his period of probation, (3) his experience at the cloud-veil, and (4) some observations on faith and knowledge as revealed in the brother of Jared’s search for the heavenly gift. One can see that these four elements follow a temple pattern: a false religion is offered; a period of probation or trial of faith is provided; and upon obedience, light and knowledge are granted.1

Following “the brother of Jared’s rejection of the spiritual chaos at the tower of Babel” and the “successful navigation of . . . tests”, these experiences “brought the brother of Jared to the need for more light and thus to the mount Shelem” (see Ether 2 & 3). She continues:

The word shelem has three main Hebrew consonants forming a root word that spans a wide spectrum of meanings: peace, tranquility, contentment, safety, completeness, being sound, finished, full, or perfect. Shelem (and shalom) signify peace with God, especially in the covenant relationship. It also connotes submission to God, which we see in the Arabic words muslim and islam. In particular, shelem has reference to the peace offering of the law of sacrifice, which corresponds to the seeking of fellowship with God,2 and thereby has a relationship to the meanings of the at-one-ment; that is, shelem, fellowship, sealing, and at-one-ment have an obvious relationship. When the brother of Jared carried the stones in his hands to the top of the mount, whether or not a temple peace offering is implied, he sought a closer fellowship or at-one-ment with the Lord. Therefore, the mount is called shelem because of its exceeding height (see Ether 3:1), not because shelem means great height, but rather that it suggests a place that is suitably high for temple activity.

The small stones themselves suggest meanings beyond their practical use in the barges. Note that he did molten the stones, or extract them from the rock of the mount itself and shape them by fire: white, clear, and glasslike, they evoke the Urim and Thummim (Hebrew, “lights and perfections”). What is the relationship between these sixteen small stones and the two Urim and Thummim stones that the Lord gives the brother of Jared later on? It seems that the brother of Jared was led to fashion that which would give his community not only practical light, but spiritual light as well; indeed, they were the very instrument of his calling as prophet, seer, and revelator. The small stones evoke the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17 and explained in Doctrine and Covenants 130:10-11, which stone becomes a Urim and Thummim to those who come into the celestial kingdom, “whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.”

At the top of the mount, the brother of Jared seems to be operating under the influence of forces of which he is not fully conscious, but which his spirit seems to understand. He says that he is there for light, but his words reveal that his greatest concern is his unredeemed nature. He even appears to be afraid of the Lord’s anger here and is so overcome with his inadequacy that he seems to be fighting the temptation to withdraw. It is with deliberate courage that he presses on past this fear, taking heart in the knowledge that the Lord has commanded him to ask and receive what he needs in spite of his fallen nature.

The fear he manifests suggests similar scenes in at least two other places in scripture when people have a close encounter with the Lord: the first example is King Benjamin’s people who fall to the earth “for the fear of the Lord had come upon them. And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state. . . . And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 4:1-2; italics added). They experience pain and fear at their spiritually induced awareness of their fallenness in contrast to God’s perfection. They plead for and receive a cleansing response from the Lord.

The second example comes from Isaiah’s vision of the Lord. “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). The Lord responds by cleansing him in his presence.

As the unredeemed soul, even a guiltless one, closes the gap between himself and his Maker, he perceives the contrast as so overwhelmingly great that he is sorely tempted to shrink back, to give up the quest. Those who will not be redeemed do shrink, overcome by fear of this encounter (e.g., the Israelites in Exodus 20:18-21); but those who are determined to be redeemed press boldly on, and, exercising mighty faith, penetrate the veil, and receive the transformation they so desire.

Standing now before this cloud-veil, having asked for light, the brother of Jared is stunned to see a finger appearing through the cloud-veil. He falls to the ground, struck with fear, because he knows what he sees. What he had held for so long in his “eye of faith” has just been visually confirmed. He has, to use Moroni’s language, “ren[t] that veil of unbelief” (Ether 4:15) with his persistent believing-as-though-he-were-seeing, and has in some marvelous way operated the law that quickens and focuses his spiritual eyes. He had asked for the finger to touch the stones, and that is what he saw—what he asked for and believed. As Elder Packer observes, the world says, “seeing is believing: show me!” “When,” he says, “will we learn that in spiritual things . . . believing is seeing? Spiritual belief precedes spiritual knowledge.”3

The Lord says to the brother of Jared: “Because of thy faith thou hast seen . . . for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?” (Ether 3:9; italics added). It must have been with pounding heart that the brother of Jared said: “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me” (3:10). A further dialogue takes place at the cloud-veil, the Lord testing the brother of Jared’s desire and preparation, after which he says, “Ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you” (3:13). The brother of Jared receives the heavenly gift, described by Moroni in Ether 12: “For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers . . . and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift. . . . Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith. Behold it was by faith that they of old were called after the holy order of God. . . . Wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith” (vv. 7-12; italics added). President Ezra Taft Benson explained the holy order of God: “To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord.”4

It was at this point that the brother of Jared’s experience at the veil moved beyond faith and into the realm of perfect knowledge. Dr. Thomas wrote:

Faith is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, and that end is to be like and to be with the Lord. When we say in our testimony meetings, “I know that the Lord Jesus lives,” without having actually seen him, we mean that the Holy Ghost has given that assurance to our souls. But we do not have a perfect knowledge until, after an extended period of probation, we see for ourselves as the brother of Jared did. Joseph Smith observed, “Men at the present time testify of heaven and of hell, and have never seen neither—and I will say that no man knows these things without this.”5 Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ leads in one direction and that is into the Lord’s presence.

Sources:

  1. Thomas, M. Catherine. Selected Writings of M. Catherine Thomas. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000. 388-397.
  2. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs. The New Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1907. 1022-24; also LDS Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Sacrifices,” 767.
  3. Packer, Boyd K. “What Is Faith?”. Faith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983. 43. italics added.
  4. Benson, Ezra Taft. “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple”. August 1985. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 26 December 2008.
  5. The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph. Comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991.

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  1. Justin’s avatar

    Great post.
    I first picked up on the Temple themes in this story when I noticed that the Lord extends his hand through the veil first, then the brother of Jared wishing to see more, is admitted to view the Lord in full.
    Thanks for posting this.

  2. Dean’s avatar

    Greg,

    Great article and Great Resources! I noticed just last week that M. Catherine Thomas book is back in limited quantities. I appreciate you bringing together these different authors and their perspectives.

  3. Greg’s avatar

    Justin – Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Dean – Thanks, I need to get a couple extra copies!

  4. Jeremy’s avatar

    I would really like to hear your thoughts on whether the Bro. of jared’s faith became obsolete at this point. As we learn in Alma 32:18 and in Ether 3:19, when we attain a perfect knowledge of something, we have faith no longer. I posted on this topic a few months ago, including passages from Ether 3:

    http://theseerstone.blogspot.com/2008/08/eternal-faith.html

    I propose that faith serves a dual purpose in our life, as Joseph Smith taught, that it can be a principle of action and power. If we lose our faith that feeds the principle of action, does faith as a principle of power still exist with us?

    Honestly, it hurts my brain to think about these things.

    Did Dr. Thomas touch on this in her book?

  5. Jeremy’s avatar

    Sorry, that was Alma 32:34, not 32:18…

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Jeremy – I tried to leave a comment on your blog tonight, but couldn’t for some reason. I think you ask a good question; e.g. faith vs. perfect knowledge.

    Dr. Thomas did touch on this question in her book, but I didn’t feel it appropriate to go beyond this point. She spent the rest of the chapter discussing this question and pointing to many scriptures, a number of statements attributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith (e.g. Lectures on Faith) and otherwise, and then concluding with a statement by President Benson in regards to “the blessings revealed by Elijah the prophet.”

    One scripture she quoted was Ether 3:13-15. It is apparent from this chapter that the Lord refrained Moroni from writing more about the brother of Jared’s experience, but with a promise that those who come unto him with like faith will receive similar blessings. I think Elder Richard G. Scott’s statement concerning The Trial of Your Faith helps point us in the right direction.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find it interesting that John the Beloved is mentioned three times in the Book of Mormon, and that one of these scriptures is in Ether 4:16, the verse immediately following the one which Dr. Thomas quotes above.

    Maybe the Lord is trying to tell us something by these references in the Book of Mormon to the disciple whom Jesus loved.

  7. Jeremy’s avatar

    Looks like I need to get the book then, huh?

    Interesting stuff. Thanks for leading me to more knowledge…

  8. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for understanding Jeremy. I hope to refrain from going into such things on this blog. Not because they are not important, but because there are others who are called to teach us about those doctrines.

    M. Catherine Thomas discusses many of the concepts you discussed in your post above, plus, the whole book is of the same stature. So I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book. It’s in the Believe All Things Store. Another book you may enjoy is The Words of Joseph Smith. It’s a little pricey right now since it’s been out of print for almost 17 years, but I understand a new edition will be out in 2009. Thanks again for your understanding.

  9. Brian Barker’s avatar

    I am not certain if I understand your tower of Babel comment.

    Is this the new one in Malaysia or the old one by Pieter Brugel? If the old one what about a new global language? Or the future of World communication?

    Only joking!

    If you have time however you might like to see http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU or http://www.lernu.net

  10. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Brian…

  11. sue maxwell’s avatar

    M. Catherine Thomas’ new book is available through Deseret Book Stores, BYU book store, will be in Seagull books and is available through the publisher http://www.digitalengend.com/catalogue. All of her books are in print, and many of her FARMS talks are on the net. I have read her new book 6 times and am still referring to it nearly daily as it is really challenging and helpful.

    I learned, from reading The Blessings of Abraham: Becoming A Zion People, by E. Douglas Clark, and other sources, that the tower of Babel was a counterfeit temple. The person in power was Nimrod, who had the stolen garment of Noah, giving him patriarchal authrority to rule the world- which he did in a henious way. His society was so wicked, that when the Jaredites left it, Hu Nibley says that a furious hurricane destroyed everything, the languages were changed, and that wind ( or spirit) blew them across the ocean until they got to their destination. I can see why, coming from such a wicked society, that the Brother of Jared prayed the way he did. Nimrod was also a contemporary of Abraham, according to old records in Brother Clark’s book, and Abraham was the one who had the right to patriarchal rule, and that was why they tried to kill him. His father was high in the court of Nimrod, and that put Abraham in that terrible position.

  12. sue maxwell’s avatar

    One thing I love about her talk on this story, which I have pondered over and over again in the scriptures, is that she says here and in her new book, that their constant praise enabled them to have continuing light and revelation. There must be a relationship between that part of the story and Nephi’s experience on the boat when tied up.

    The story shows the progression of the B. of Jared’s interaction with the Lord, but she breaks it up into understandable categories which adds to it.

    And rending the veil of unbelief must relate to the old style temple, where only the high priest could go once a year to atone for the sins of himself and Israel. When the Savior died, the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom, meaning that we need to rend our veil of unbelief and come boldly before the throne of grace seeking grace for help in time of need. Because of their unbelief, the Israelites could not pass beyond those veils in the tabernacle and temple, but it is open to us, as it was to any ancients who had an eye of faith.

    I love the story of the Brother of Jared, and her talk on it.

  13. Greg’s avatar

    Both are wonderful books! Abraham and Nimrod seem to fit the ancient archetype of rivalry for the “inheritance” as described in Polarization in the Book of Mormon.

  14. sue maxwell’s avatar

    Oh- I havn’t read that book. I reread the book on Abraham a few weeks ago, and was just stunned. I knew I liked it, but in trying to understand some things in greater depth, I did a study on the first part of the Book of Abraham, and then some things in Gospel Doctrine, and then reread the book- wow! Yes, both books are stunning. I forgot to mention that Noah’s stolen garment was thought to be that of Adam’s, but I know there are two versions of what happened. I love your sight. I am so glad I found it.

  15. Greg’s avatar

    It is fascinating to contemplate the privileges accorded the Melchizedek Priesthood of the Nephites with the loss of privileges as recorded in the Joseph Smith Translation of Exodus 34:1-2.

  16. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you.

  17. sue maxwell’s avatar

    In regards to arriving at a full knowledge, and being shown all things, he had his calling and election made sure. But in her book, I think she goes beyond that concept in chapter 11, called The Predominant Principle in Man: A New Identity. The other day, I really concentrated and read it extremely carefully- I was really startled. I don’t know how much you talk about very sacred concepts on this site, but it is about how the identity of the God’s blend together, including those who want to reach that goal. I had never heard of this principle in the depth that she explains it and I felt like that was, perhaps, the most important thing I ever learned. It has so many applications, and for me, because of the in depth research I do on individuals in my family, for a book I am co-authoring, I felt that that gave me so many more insights into the importance of bringing the temple to people as well as bringing their lives to light, when possible. I really was incredulous when I read that chapter, but don’t know if I should explain more of what it says. Sue

  18. MuchoBrento’s avatar

    Sue

    Your phrase “the identity of the God’s blend together” reminds me of something that my mother once said to me (without expounding further), which piqued my interest.

    Do you have any scriptures that refer to what you are contemplating? I’d love to read them.

  19. sue maxwell’s avatar

    Well, it is a very sacred doctrine, but you can find an entire chapter on the subject in M. Catherine Thomas’s last book: Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life.” I have read the book 7 times and did not realize what she was saying in one chapter- I forget which one- but when I suddenly understood it I was so startled that I had to really ponder it as it made total sense. I suggest picking up a copy. I don’t remember which chapter this concept is in but she is a brilliant gospel scholar.

  20. Greg’s avatar

    Excellent book by the way – highly recommended.

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