Friday, October 7, 2011

Book of Mormon painting one.

A long time ago, in a land far far away ... okay, not the greatest entrance, but the Jaredites are an almost-forgotten people.  Are you familiar with the story in Genesis of people attempting to build a tower as tall as possible to get to heaven – the tower of Babel?  In the aftermath of this dumb idea around 2200 BC, the people of Babylon were confounded, scattered, and stricken with confusion.  A group of people then decided to up and leave – we know them as the Jaredites; the people of Jared.

As other ancient peoples have done before and since, the Jaredites maintained a record of their journeys.  Their prophet, Ether, wrote the record, and Moroni later compiled the record into his own record in AD 421, now known as the Book of Mormon.

Let me give you a clue with how to read the book of Ether: there are six parts to the record.  It’s a lot clearer if you are reading an 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, which divided Ether into six chapters rather than the 15-versed chapters we read today:

1: chapters 1–4
2: chapter 5
3: chapters 6–8
4: chapters 9–11
5: chapter 12
6: chapters 13–15

You’ll notice that each of these sections begin with “And now I, Moroni,” with part 5 the exception, with those words beginning the fourth sentence.  These words show us that Moroni edited the Jaredite record to illustrate what he felt was crucial.  In fact, both Moroni and Mormon frequently used a phrase like “thus we see” to signal that he was drawing a point for their readers.
The book of Ether begins with (and to a large extent, focuses on) the story of the brother of Jared:

With the Babylonian people running crazy around the place [1], a faithful man named Jared turned to his even more faithful brother, asking him to go to Lord for help.

And so the brother of Jared goes to the Lord in prayer; he did cry unto the Lord [2] for the Lord’s guidance, and was able to lead the group to another land as a result of the prayers of the people over a long period of time.  “Enduring obedience coupled with frequent persistent prayers is powerful.” [3]

“Do you get answers to your prayers?  If not, perhaps you did not pay the price.  Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord?  Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly?  Do you offer pennies to pay heavy debts when you should give dollars to erase that obligation?

When you pray, do you just speak, or do you also listen? … Should we ever fail to get an answer to our prayers, we must look into our lives for a reason.” [4]

So the Lord promised to lead them to a land of promise, which was choice above all other lands [5] and chapter 2 records their journey to this promised land.  They all arrive at the coastline, they pitch their tents, and stay there for about four years. [6]  After four years had passed, the Lord spoke with the brother of Jared and chastened him.  The brother of Jared had been neglecting the Lord and his prayers.  It must have been a great character-building experience for the brother of Jared – he was chastised for three hours by the Lord, and he endured it.  He immediately repented and prayed, and sought guidance for the journey they had been given.

We should never neglect to call on the Lord.  Elder Russell M. Nelson said he had often heard President Gordon B. Hinckley say the following: “I don’t know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work”. [7]

And so the brother of Jared repents, and begins building barges for the people to cross the ocean.  He encounters three problems: the barges would not have any light in them; they would run out of air; and they wouldn’t know which direction to steer the barges.

Go ahead and read how the brother of Jared and Lord work together to solve these problems here.

We learn from this story that the Lord requires us to do all we can to solve our problems.  He wants us to grow and learn by making our own decisions or conclusions, then taking them to His in prayer.  The brother of Jared was asked to present some solution to these problems, not just ask for help and except to get it.  The brother of Jared studied the problem, found a solution, prepared the solution, and then returned to the Lord for confirmation of his solution as well as the Lord’s help and further instructions.

In relation to the problem of having no light, this is what happened:

The brother of Jared was concerned, and rather than waiting to be told what to do about it, he took the concern to the Lord.  Instead of instructing the brother of Jared immediately, the Lord asked: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? [8]  What do you suggest we should do in order to have light?

The brother of Jared diligently did something himself – he climbed Mount Shelem, melted out 16 small stones from rock, then using great faith, asked the Lord to touch the stones that they may provide light.

The Lord answered, not only providing light, but giving this faithful man a great vision.

The Brother of Jared Sees the Finger of the Lord.
Arnold Friberg

And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger.  And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
(Ether 3:6).

What an event for Friberg to paint!  This very scene “may well be the single most remarkable encounter with Christ ever experienced by mortal man, and we are indebted to Moroni for preserving it.” [9]  It is an unparalleled experience.

You can imagine Friberg's problem, similar to that of Michelangelo when he chose to paint the finger of God in the Sistene Chapel - how to you show the finger of the Lord touching the stones?  The account in the book of Ether is very clear that the Lord has a finger and a hand, yet how do you paint it?

Friberg eliminated the artistic setback by painting the scene from behind the prayful brother of Jared, with emanating light blinding us all from a depiction of a finger.  Thus, the painting "succeeds in conveying great visual power without creating theological controversy". [10]  It clearly shows us that "[t]he brother of Jared fully expected the stones to be lighted.  It was the seeing the finger that astonished and terrified him" [11], and we can really feel that terror and amazement in the painting.

Consider what the brother of Jared did that enabled him to see the Saviour.  It was the brother of Jared’s great faith that brought him into the presence of the Lord.  A similar privilege is promised to us in Ether 4:7:

And 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.

There are so many other great messages in the book of Ether: it “serves as a second witness with the Nephite record of God’s promises and warnings to our day.”  Compare Ether 2:7; 13:20 and 2 Nephi 4:4.  Both declare the same message of obedience and the same parable of destruction of two ancient people that could always be repeated.

Most importantly, it “demonstrates the kind of faith that brought the Jaredites to the promised land and serves as a backdrop against which we read the rest of the book of Ether.” [10]

The Book of Mormon Forum

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[Image found at]

[1] Ether 1:33-43; Genesis 11:1-9
[2] Ether 1:34-39
[3] Book of Mormon Student Manuel, p363 (bold added)
[4] Spencer W. Kimball, “Prayer”, Ensign, Mar. 1978, 17
[5] Ether 2:7
[6] Ether 2:13
[7] Ensign, Nov. 1997, 16
[8] Ether 2:23
[9] Jeffrey R. Holland, ‘For a Wise Purpose’, Ensign, Jan. 1996
[10] Ted Schwarz, Arnold Friberg: The Passion of a Modern Master (Flagstaff, Ariz,: Northland, 1985), 54
[11] Arnold Friberg, Arnold Friberg notes (February 2001), SMA Library - as cited in Swanson, "The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg: "Painter of Scripture", Jornal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011
[12] Richard Dilworth Rust, ‘“I Know Your Doing”: The Book of Mormon Speaks to Our Times’, Ensign, Dec. 1988


  1. Thank you for sharing!!!

  2. I love this idea of sharing The Book of Mormon through the paintings of Arnold Friberg. I'll be anxiously awaiting your next posts.

  3. You are an excellent writer~ Loved all your thoughts~

  4. He is a great example to us of working out our problems hand in hand with the Lord!


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