Sunday, February 14, 2016

Some observations on Jared the usurper and his daughter

I was reading about Jared, the man who usurps the Jaredite kingdom from his father Omer, and I thought it was interesting to read these versus again about his reaction once his brothers take back the kingdom for their father and mercifully let him live.

7 And now Jared became exceedingly sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom, for he had set his heart upon the kingdom and upon the glory of the world.
8 Now the daughter of Jared being exceedingly expert, and seeing the sorrows of her father, thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father. (Ether 8:7-8)

It sounds to me like Jared became deeply depressed. And it seems to be a situational depression, probably a feeling of having lost everything he ever wanted and being frustrated in his desires.   The verse tells us he had set his heart on the kingdom and the world’s glory.

Jared, born as a prince, was in a pretty high status anyway, and it makes me think about what there might be for a prince to aspire to, if not gaining the kingdom.  IT may have seemed to Jared that there was nothing else.  Eternal salvation and serving to build and improve the kingdom wasn’t on his radar.  Or maybe he thought being king was the best way to improve things.. 

It’s not really clear whether he usurped the kingdom in the first place to forestall competing with other brothers for the crown, or whether he would have inherited anyway and he just wanted to hurry it along.

Anyway, Jared’s depression over his drop in status in the kingdom teaches us it is important to pay attention to what our aspirations are.  Aspirations can drive us, but they can also cause us grief when we are frustrated in them or when they are gained and then lost.  Are they good aspirations?   What are we willing to do to obtain them?  Will we do anything, or will we pursue them in a lawful way?

We are all princes and princesses in God’s kingdom, but it is worth asking what our aspirations are.  Do we simply aspire to rule over everyone, or do we want to build up the kingdom?   Do we sometimes get the feeling we are “demoted” from callings of authority, and does that depress us?

Let’s move on to the verses about the daughter of Jared.  Ignoring all the awfulness that follows from the particular plan the daughter of Jared comes up with, there are some neat things about her in the verse that I want to point out.

First it is noted that she is “exceedingly expert.”  Our natural question might be “Expert in what?”  Since it doesn’t say, I am brought to the conclusion that she seems to have been expert in just about everything.  (Except.. being faithful to God.)  She seems to have dealt with her high status and the need for a driving aspiration in a different way from Jared her father.  She was granddaughter to a king, and in the time her father was king, she was a princess. Her aspiration seems to have been gaining every bit of learning and skill that she could. And she attained it, which may or may not say something about opportunities for women to learn in those days. I don’t know.   Is being “exceedingly expert” bad? Really, it depends on what use the expertise is put to.

Second, she saw the sorrows of her father, and she wanted to alleviate them.  This was a good desire, even if the manner of doing it was wrong-headed.  What parent wouldn’t want a child who would go to great lengths to help them pull out of a blue funk?

Third, she thought to devise a plan to help him, so she seems to have been pretty goal-oriented. You get the sense that she has made plans and executed them successfully in the past, based on her confidence in herself that she can pull off this admittedly ambitious project of redeeming the kingdom to her father.

Fourth, it is interesting that her project is called “redeeming the kingdom.”  You and I know that Moroni who is abridging this account would see through this terminology and know what she is doing. She’s trying to usurp the kingdom back for her father.  So it is likely this “redeeming” was language in the Jaredite account that Moroni allowed to pass through. It shows us the daughter of Jared was skilled at spinning the truth. “Redeeming the kingdom” sounds virtuous, whereas “usurping the kingdom” does not.  The lesson here is that projects need good names, but they have to be good projects, such that naming them doesn’t require lying to ourselves and others about their true nature.

Seeing these qualities in the daughter of Jared, I get the sense that she was a neat woman who began to make some very bad choices to help her father in a bad way.  She goes blithely into it with such naivety that I wonder if she had been making bad choices for a while and this was just another easy step for her.  How could she just do what she did with no regard for the consequences and the evil it would unleash upon the world? 

In the end, she turns into an object lesson illustrating the principle that when people are learned too often they think they are wise and then they don’t hearken to the counsels of God. All their learning becomes foolishness. To be learned is good if we hearken to God’s counsels.