I was sitting in the temple earlier this week and reading in the scriptures, and happened upon some verses in Ether that I immediately wished I had included to my book. How did I not notice these before?
The fourth chapter of Ether is written by Moroni, and follows up the story of the Brother of Jared and his remarkable vision of the Lord. Because of his faith, not only did he see the spirit body of the Lord previous to his mortal birth, but the Brother of Jared also was shown an expansive vision of the history and future of the whole earth. He saw what happened on this world from the days of Adam clear into the future until the last days of the earth.
And when the Lord had said these words, he showed unto the brother of Jared 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 ends of the earth.
For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things. (Ether 3:25-26)
The Lord then gave him a commandment to write the vision, but to seal it up so that it would not be revealed unto men until after the time that Christ should come. In Ether 4 then Moroni continues his comments about this information that was sealed up. He says that after the time of Christ among the Nephites, he "commanded that they should be manifest" (Ether 3:2), so the Nephites had this information at the time when they were very righteous in the 200 years or so after Christ's visit to them. But they fell into unbelief again, and vision was sealed up again by Moroni (Ether 4:3).
Now Moroni talks to us about this problem of unbelief. He describes that he has sealed up the things which the Brother of Jared saw, and they are contained on the gold plates that were given to Joseph Smith — in what we have come to call the sealed portion.
For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
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.
The Lord teaches that he will not show any great things us until we "exercise faith". I think that's an interesting and key phrase, and a helpful way to think about faith. It is like a muscle.. we need to work at it, we need to try to have it, to try to believe. The Lord knows it can be difficult, but he asks us to make an effort.
If we instead decide to criticize, or to "contend against the word of the Lord", and deny them, then the Lord will show us "no greater things" (verse 8). Our unbelief will cost us the knowledge and visions and understanding that we might have gained. Now I'm finally to the verse that I wanted to discuss:
But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good. (Ether 4:11)
If we first choose to believe what the Lord has said, then we are blessed with the Spirit. And we are to then testify and bear record about what we have experienced. And it is by the Spirit — because of the Spirit — that we know these things are true. But belief must come first. It is only as we choose to "exercise faith", that is, to believe, that we gain the blessings and manifestations of the Spirit.
Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
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 4:13-15)
It is up to us to rend our personal "veil of unbelief". We must tear it down, and make the choice to believe in what the Lord has taught and that the scriptures are indeed true. As we choose to soften our hearts, and begin to believe, then God will begin to enlighten our minds and show us the "greater things".
We are all at various levels in our faith. I wonder what "greater things" remain hidden from me because of my own unbelief? Do I have the faith and belief of the Brother of Jared, or Moroni? I have had some spiritual manifestations, but there is far more I should like to know and learn. As we learn to exercise our faith, God will open to us, and reveal the greater things.