Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, May 18

Book of Mormon Article: “Ether 12:27–‘Weakness’ or ‘WeaknessES?’ Part 2 of 6” by grego

Book of Mormon Article: “Ether 12:27–‘Weakness’ or ‘WeaknessES?’ Part 2 of 6”
by grego
(c) 2005-2009

Ether 12:27–“Weakness” or “WeaknessES”?


Part 1

The second interpretation is about “weakness” vs. “weaknesses”. Right before this section, Moroni talks about faith and hope, and how miracles and promises from the Lord are obtained through faith. He makes a list of some of the miracles, mostly from the Book of Mormon, that happened to men because of their faith (Ether 12).

It is interesting to note that Moroni himself has obtained, through his faith, almost all the things that he mentions in the lives of these other people: he has an anchor for his soul, he is sure and steadfast, he abounds in good works, and glorifies God; he has been delivered from his enemies; he has seen Christ, after He had risen from the dead; he partakes of the gift; he was called after the holy order of God; he knows of the law of Moses, and the fulfillment of the law by Christ; he has seen miracles; he has seen the three disciples; and whether he saw what the brother of Jared saw, or not, at least by writing the things that the brother of Jared saw, he knows them, too. This is what he writes:
“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4).

“Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith” (Ether 12:9).

“For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith” (Ether 12:12).

“And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren through the Gentiles; therefore the Lord hath commanded me, yea, even Jesus Christ” (Ether 12:22).

It is at this point that Moroni writes this:
“And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of OUR WEAKNESS in writing; for Lord thou hast made us *mighty in word* *by faith*, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;” (Ether 12:23)
“And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them” (Ether 12:24).
“Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold OUR WEAKNESS, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words” (Ether 12:25).

It seems that Moroni does not feel that he or the other Nephites are/ were up to the call of fulfilling the Lord’s promises made to his fathers, and his reading the Jaredite plates just makes him feel this failing further. Then comes this:
“And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of YOUR WEAKNESS;” (Ether 12:26).

And then, the main scripture:
“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” (Ether 12:27).

The Lord continues:
“Behold, I will show unto the gentiles their WEAKNESS, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me–the fountain of all righteousness” (Ether 12:28).

Here, in three verses, the Lord says that three groups each have a “weakness”: Moroni and the other writers of the Book of Mormon; all men; and the Gentiles. The Lord does not say, “weaknesses.”

Is there a difference? If we were to hold to the typical LDS interpretation of Ether 12:27, in light of Moroni’s great faith, we would assume that the Lord would make his writing much better, to perhaps even surpass his speech. But the Lord does not say, “Your writing will improve so much, it will become a strength to you, and you will be able to write even greater than the brother of Jared.” He says, “…because thou hast seen THY WEAKNESS thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.”

What does Moroni’s seeing his weakness in writing have to do with his gaining eternal life? If one interprets the verse in the usual way—nothing. In fact, after this dialogue with the Lord, Moroni still writes: “And only a few have I written, because of my WEAKNESS in writing” (Ether 12:40). Do we assume that his faith wasn’t strong enough to overcome his weakness? But we have already seen that Moroni’s faith was great enough to attain almost every miracle that any other person has ever attained. So, was Moroni’s faith weak only in this one thing—which meant that his weakness was to remain, yet he would have eternal life because of it?; or do these scriptures mean something else instead?

If we keep reading, we see that Moroni actually draws faith from these words, then draws further faith from the record he has just read:
“And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith;” (Ether 12:29)
“And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men” (Ether 12:33).
“And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father” (Ether 12:34).
“Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of OUR WEAKNESS, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly” (Ether 12:35).

Some people see the Lord having died on the cross as a weakness, especially in light of “survival of the fittest.” In fact, the main theme of one modern and fast-growing church (by both number of members and influence) is just that: because Jesus Christ died, He failed to fulfill his mission. Yet, we know and understand that Jesus’ death was according to the fulfillment of God’s plan. It is not the Lord, then, who is judged by God as weak; but we humans are judged by how we look at and understand his death. Some Jews believed in Jesus’ death as the last and ultimate weakness and sign that he was not the Messiah (Matthew 27:39-43).

In fact, by dying, Jesus Christ (among other things) testified to and proved his charity, which then led to His being able to inherit His Father’s kingdom and allowing all men the opportunity to do so also. Moroni then directly relates this to his and the other Nephites writing the Book of Mormon and the way that the Gentiles would judge their words:
“And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity” (Ether 12:36).
“And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because THOU HAST SEEN THY WEAKNESS thou shalt be MADE STRONG, even unto the SITTING DOWN IN THE PLACE WHICH I HAVE PREPARED IN THE MANSIONS OF MY FATHER” (Ether 12:37).

Here we see that being made strong does not mean to overcome a mortal weakness while still in the flesh, such as a weakness in writing, but to be able to return to the presence of God. So moving backwards, what does “weakness” mean, and is it the same for all three groups previously mentioned?

(Folks, this is Part 2 of a 6-part series! :) )

Part 3

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  1. I had a teacher tell me that the scripture is referring to the Weakness of man. That weakness is knowing the true fallen nature of man. Weaknesses that this scripture is not referring to are things like tardiness, not praying as much as you should, etc. He also said that if you are worrying about your weaknesses you are only shuffling chairs of the deck of the titanic, when you really just need to get off the ship.

    Comment by B. Peterson — 2009, December 7 @ 11:13 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing, B. I realized it would be helpful to everyone if I put up links to the rest of the article (it’s a long article split up into 6 parts), so after reading your comment, I did it!

    In my closing paragraph, in Part 6:
    “LDS need to leave behind the current typical interpretation of Ether 12:27 and use the one the writers had in mind, which places emphasis on our weakness of being mortals and the need of the atonement of Jesus Christ. We will be reminded that the weak things (mortals) will be made strong (first men and women of God, and then gods).”

    Comment by grego — 2009, December 8 @ 11:58 am

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