The story of the brother of Jared, Mahonri, is always a go-to when we talk about faith. Everyone knows about those barges that were “tight like unto a dish”. We know all about the sixteen stones that Mahonri was able to get the Lord to light up with his finger, and that it was his faith that provided for such a mighty miracle. Have faith and great things happen. Moral of the story delivered; end the Sunday School lesson right there. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll find there’s much more to this story.
When Mahonri goes to the Lord to ask about the stones he goes as a sinner, and pleads with the Lord to not be angry with him because of his weaknesses (Ether 3:2). He doesn’t see himself as some great giant of a man with tremendous faith, he’s just a guy with a heart to follow the Lord. After all, he’s coming off of four years of wandering in the wilderness followed by three grueling hours of being chastised by the Lord for his apathy. He’s well aware he has a long way to go, but he’s committed to being better. He’s committed to believing the Lord’s promises and experimenting upon his words.
In this way, he’s not too unlike you and me. We have ups and downs, periods of unshakable faith and then periods of wandering. We all come to the Lord with a little “help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). We all know that God can do great things. We’ve seen it or heard about it and we say we know. Where Mahonri takes it a step further is he actually experiments with it. He’s never seen God light up stones before, but he knows he’s been given a commandment to call upon the Lord and ask for what he wants, and that God is “able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men” (Ether 3:5). The difference between us and Mahonri isn’t what we know, it’s what we do.
Mahonri asks. He takes stones to the Lord and asks him to make them light up. He not only believes, but he does all of the work to molten these stones out of rock and bring them to the Lord. “O Lord, thou canst do this” (Ether 3:5). His faith was such that he not only believed in the miracles of God, but he worked with God to create a new type of experience with the divine. He just kept asking questions and building on the things he already knew. “And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus” (Ether 3:19).
Mahonri sees Jesus’ finger touching the stones and he’s scared. So much so that he falls down. He knows many things about the Lord from prior experiences with him, but this one is new. Jesus talks him through it a bit, and Mahonri then has the courage to ask the Lord to show himself completely. Jesus asks him if he will believe everything that he’s about to tell him, and Mahonri says yes. The Lord already knew this. He knows all things. But he was giving Mahonri another opportunity to experience his own testimony and faith in declaring his belief. And because Mahonri was so willing to have each experience the Lord placed in front of him, the Lord declares to him, “Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you” (Ether 3:13).
The Lord then shows himself to Mahonri and ministers to him. He tells him all about who he is and about his body. He shows him “all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the end of the earth” (Ether 3:25). Then he tells Mahonri to tell no one, but to write it down and seal up the record along with two of the stones which the Lord had touched, which he would use later to “magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write” (Ether 3:24) because the language which Mahonri spoke didn’t exist anymore (remember that whole fiasco at the tower of Babel?).
Moroni explains that Mosiah had had those records, even had them translated, but kept them hidden because the Lord had told Mahonri to keep them from the world until Christ himself would say they could be revealed after his mortal life. After Christ appeared to the ancient inhabitants of America he did command that the record should come forth, and it was had among the Nephites during their period of righteousness. Eventually, the Nephites dwindled and Moroni hid everything in the earth. The Lord told him they would remain hidden until his people were ready for them.
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. (Ether 4:7)
That’s us, you guys. You, and me, and all of us who are sitting around thinking we aren’t good enough. The Lord held back Mahonri’s story until his people exercised faith, “even as the brother of Jared.” We have his story, and we had the stones to interpret them.
Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land. (Ether 4:17)
We can no longer tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, that we are only working towards some day having the kind of faith the brother of Jared had. We have it now. We just need to use it. We need to exercise that faith so we can become sanctified, and the Lord will show us all things. All. Things. Just like he did for Mahonri.
Neither I nor the Lord have any need for me to have glowing stones, so I’ve got to find a new experiment to help me experience the divine the way Mahonri did. I need a new way to come to the veil and ask for light and knowledge. Some experience where I can come to the Lord with my faith and work on my sanctification. As I pondered these things and thought about the different types of experiences I could have, I could hear the spirit of the Lord remind me that he’s given me the temple and told me to go there often.
Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief. (Ether 4:13)
Not only has the Lord revealed to us the story of the brother of Jared, but he’s given us a real opportunity to experience what it is like to come to the Lord, ask for the desires of our hearts, and part the veil with our faith. The endowment of power the Lord has provided for us in the temple brings us to the veil of unbelief, and with our faith we rend that veil and are “brought back into [his] presence” (Ether 3:13). By so doing, we are endowed with a real power we can use on earth and in our daily lives.
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. (Ether 4:15)
The Lord is patiently waiting for us to stop wandering. He wants us to experiment upon his words and have experiences that will sanctify us. He’s given us temples to help us have specific types of experiences where we can practice using our faith to rend the veil and receive the mysteries of heaven. We call them ordinances. Then it’s up to us to bring everything we learn into our day to day lives. We can know that they are true because their fruits are good. Everything we learn from the Lord persuades us to do good, and if it’s good it is of God. (Ether 4:11–12) We take what we learn, we apply it, and watch good fruits grow. “Signs shall follow them that believe in my name” (Ether 4:18). Through this process we become sanctified.
And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power. (Doctrine and Covenants 43:16)
God is so very, very good. He is merciful and patient and will do all that he can to bring about eternal life and exaltation for us. The only problem is that we get in our own way and think we can’t possibly be as great as those we read about in scripture. We believe we can’t have the type of faith the brother of Jared did. But we can. In fact, we do. This is exactly why the Lord has given us Mahonri’s story. We are ready for it. You’re ready for the type of sanctification that comes from experimenting upon the word of God and experiencing parting the veil with your faith. You’ve just got to come to the veil and ask.
And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold it is I that hath spoken it. Amen. (Ether 4:19)