The Book of Ether and “The Power Cycle”

Students of the Book of Mormon are familiar with the “pride cycle,” that part of Helaman edited to warn us about society’s tendency to become morally slack in times of wealth.  An equally important observation is given in the second half of Ether, a sequence that might be called “The Power Cycle,” or even “The Politics Cycle,” as it shows us the ruin brought upon communities when selfish leaders claw their way to the top by any means necessary. 

Mormon edited the pride cycle; the power cycle is the work of his son, Moroni, who writes it as a cold, hard overview of a civilization’s tragic tunnel vision, its refusal to learn and remember its own lessons.  Time and again over hundreds of years, those in authority indulge in petty games of power, to the detriment of their people, who themselves often fall into general wickedness as their leaders fail to guide them in more spiritual paths.  Moroni’s commentary in these chapters gives us some of the Book of Mormon’s clearest inspiration (the rejection of the prophet Ether’s ministry is Moroni’s launching point for his famous sermon about the power of faith) and direct instruction (such as his declarations in Ether 8 that he’s writing all of this so that readers in the last days will “repent of your sins” and “be persuaded to do good continually“).

Perhaps most significantly for contemporary readers, no specific ideology is identified with any of the scores of unworthy leaders who hinder their people over time–one bad leader is often overthrown by another who turns out to be equally bad.  Let’s remember this on election days.

Though I’ve added and changed some elements, my notes below are based mostly upon Hugh Nibley’s work, “The Prophetic Book of Mormon,” from the book of the same name.


THE POWER CYCLE Greed/wickedness/lust for power Prophets minister People repent? Result of repenting or not
Round 1 7:4-7 n/a Yes, 7:13 Posterity, 7:14
2 7:15-17 7:23-24 Yes, 7:25-26 Prosperity & peace, 7:26-27
3 8:2-19, 9:1-11 n/a n/a Genocide/destruction, 9:12
4 –Happiness 9:13-25 9:26-27 9:28-29 Yes, 9:34-35 Revival, 9:35
5—Happiness, 10:1-4 10:5-15 n/a n/a Finally, a righteous leader / people prosper, 10:16
6—Happiness, 10:17-29 10:30-34 11:1-3 No: prophets rejected, 11:5 “Great calamity,” 11:6
7 11:7 n/a Yes, 11:8 “mercy,” 11:8
8 11:10-11 11:12 No: prophets rejected, 11:13 Ongoing wickedness, 11:14-16
9 11:17-19 11:20-21 No: prophets rejected, 11:22 n/a (status quo)
10 n/a 12:2-3 No: Ether rejected, 13:13,17,22 “Great war,” 13:15

“Ceased not,” 13:22

Robbers, 13:26

Theft, paranoia, selfishness, 14:1-2

Total destruction, 15:12-30

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s