A Few Things My Kids Learned from Reading Ether

By: hawkgrrrl
May 6, 2014

Ether, needing Excedrin.

My 15 year old son recently informed us that he gets extra credit if he reads the entire Book of Mormon for seminary.  He doesn’t really need the extra credit, but since he hadn’t read it cover to cover before we said we could help him read it as a family.  We decided to start in Ether to hit the chapters chronologically rather than sequentially.  While our little family project has stalled a bit (meaning stopped completely after Ether), it was an interesting book for family scripture study.

When taken alone, this is a weird little book.  Here are a few things my kids pointed out:

  1. There are people named Nimrod and Moron in the book, which they obviously found hilarious.  Several named Moron, actually.  On the upside, my daughter won’t be complaining about her name anymore.
  2. Jesus invented touch sensor lights.  Talk about likening the scriptures unto us.
  3. Apparently you can get a husband by dancing like Miley Cyrus.  The daughter of Jared came in like a wrecking ball!
  4. The name Akish sounds like you are saying “a kiss” with a slurring, drunken voice.   As in “How about Akish?” slurred while swinging on a wrecking ball.
  5. If an entire society is involved in secret combinations, how are they still secret?  Actually, I think we need to do a follow up FHE centered around The Godfather II to explain this one.
  6. Even when you are writing on plates, presumably in a very difficult manner, you can still take the time and effort to write in long, repetitive, awkward sentences.
  7. A war can end in 100% total annihilation.  Literally every single person dead but the victor, like the Hunger Games, but millions of people.
  8. Child soldiers, even toddlers, existed in the book of Ether.  Did they arm actual infants or was Coriantumr left with a bunch of crying babies to tend?
  9. You can struggle for breath, even without a head.

Never ask me about my business.

Maybe next we’ll have to tackle the Old Testament.  I think that’s probably the only book that can compete with Ether for weird stories that are bigger than life, and intermittently boring and utterly bizarre.  Perhaps that’s why Ether includes one of my favorite scriptures, Ether 12:27:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

Too bad the Bible didn’t come with the same qualifier.  I was teaching my 11 year old daughter’s Primary class on Sunday, about Jacob being fooled by his crafty uncle Laban into marrying mustachio’d spinster Leah instead of nubile hottie Rachel.  One of the questions in the lesson was why Jacob was instructed to go to Laban’s house to find a wife.  One of the girls said it was because all the other people were idol worshipers, but Laban wasn’t.  However, this is not accurate, as we see in the entertaining exchange in Genesis 31 between the duplicitous Rachel and the vengeful Laban when Rachel steals her father’s idols, then sits on them and says she can’t stand up because she has her period (“the custom of women is upon me”).  Apparently the tiny green apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  The lesson manual made it sound like Laban was righteous and observant if dishonest and manipulative in his dealings with Jacob.  Perhaps the Bible redactors forgot to take out the bit about his idol worship, which was prevalent throughout ancient Israel for centuries, despite what Cecil B. DeMille portrayed in the Ten Commandments.

What scripture stories do your kids (or you) find bizarre or incomprehensible in our day?  How do you address it when your kids are flummoxed by these stories?


13 Responses to A Few Things My Kids Learned from Reading Ether

  1. Hedgehog on May 6, 2014 at 5:59 AM

    Lamoni and Ammon gets a lot of discussion in our family.
    Ammon is brought before the King, and professes a desire to live amongst the Lamanites. Apparently this pleases Lamoni, who says Ammon should marry one of his daughters…
    So, was this because the daughter was present, and liked the look of him? Or was Lamoni in the habit of handing out his daughters to total strangers? What did his wife think? Either way, none of them knew Ammon so far as we know? Or did they? As the neighbouring King’s son it might have been a good political match.
    But Ammon declines. He’d rather be a servant than marry the king’s daughter. Now did he think Lamoni was bluffing with the marriage offer? Lesson manuals generally attribute it to Ammon’s humility, but are they right? Anyway, he turned down the daughter, huge insult surely. Which probably explains why he got the really rotten job of looking after the sheep who are constantly being set upon by thieves…
    Chopping off the arms, sounds so improbable. Especially the way it is pictured. He’d have had to be very swift to have removed all those arms with raised clubs. I can’t imagine the robbers queueing up for a swing of the club one at a time. Comes across as exaggerated. Did he perhaps get some of those arms from those slain by the sling to make up numbers? (Either way – the BoM Stories book has some way out illustrations for a children’s book – chopped off arms presented to Lamoni, women and children thrown into fire – that last one is later on).
    Final confusing detail is not going to the feast organised by Lamoni’s father because he won’t like Ammon, only to run into said father whilst heading elsewhere…

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  2. Rambling Roses on May 6, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    “Even when you are writing on plates, presumably in a very difficult manner, you can still take the time and effort to write in long, repetitive, awkward sentences.”

    Amen! The Book of Mormon really should be about half as long. I like to imagine that “And it came to pass” is really some kind of punctuation marker that Joseph felt like wasn’t Biblical enough. I once ran across a modern English version of the Book of Mormon in a thrift store. I should have bought it because it was all kinds of entertaining.

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  3. hawkgrrrl on May 6, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Hedgehog: I agree about the arms story. Plus, not one of the thieves died due to loss of blood? He didn’t hit any arteries? Really? Personally, I don’t think this points to the history or non-history of the BOM. There are lots of exaggerated “campfire” stories in cultures. If we take them at face value, they are pretty ridiculous.

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  4. Nate on May 6, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    When I was a child, I never thought to question the story’s historicity. Are your children more skeptical, or do you present it to them as completely historical?

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  5. anita on May 6, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    I was intrigued to read in Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon how he sees that Moroni added most of the Christian content to the book of Ether. Noticing how Moroni overlaid those elements into the narrative really changes one’s understanding of their society.

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  6. Roger on May 6, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    I’ve always chortled over the “armload of arms”.

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  7. handlewithcare on May 6, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Excellent post, so glad you weren’t in my seminary class!
    Although actually, if i think about it, as a convert I kinda saw the BoM as like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ or suchlike, a great story that might have some useful meaning in my life, and it did, although of course in a much more real- world- behaviour way than Tolkein. I don’t think I ever believed in it’s historicity. Harder for my kids, they could have done with teachers like you HG who had a sense of both irony and humour, and enough sense to look further than the cognitive dissonance. As it is, having intelligent and questioning young people who are travelling on their parents testimony rather than making a conversion choice is a great challenge and a constant crisis.

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  8. Jes on May 7, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Re: Ammon being offered Lamoni’s daughter, I figure that Lamoni must have known (whether from information gathered by his own spies or just from the regular course of conversation with Ammon) that Ammon was the son of King Mosiah. To marry his daughter to the son of a Nephite king would create an alliance that would be a HUGE tactical advantage if Lamoni wanted to conquer other Lamanite kingdoms or defend his own.

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  9. hawkgrrrl on May 7, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    I just figured Lamoni’s daughter was a real uggo.

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  10. New Iconoclast on May 7, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Aww, c’mon, Hawk – she had such a sweet spirit.

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  11. Rigel Hawthorne on May 9, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    Why did Joseph of Egypt marry Asenath instead of turning her down like Ammon did the daughter of Lamoni? Was he not as strong at holding out?

    I remember for awhile the youth of the ward I was in were asked to give sacrament meeting talks that were about their favorite scripture. The Bishop’s son gave a talk dedicated to Shiz and his descriptive demise, much to the bemusement of many in the congregation.

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  12. Hedgehog on May 10, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    Rigel, we do seem to skip over Joseph’s marriage. We go from Isaac marrying Rachael and the importance of covenant marriage, to Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife to Joseph as Egyptian leader, and for the most part totally ignore Joseph’s marriage, at least in the standard curriculum materials.

    I believe Nibley wrote a lot of stuff about Joseph’s marriage arguing for some sort of covenant marriage. I recall reading it a good few years ago. But I also came across an argument that this is why (non covenant marriage) we don’t have the tribe of Joseph, and that Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh in order for them to inherit.

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  13. hawkgrrrl on May 10, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    Asenath = exotic hottie. Lamoni’s daughter = Mahana.

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