I have a deep interest in the Book of Ether. I've looked around and have not found very much written about the book and the doctrine found there. There are a few commentaries here and there, but not much.
The history of this prophet is an interesting one. He wrote on plates of gold. His father was not a prophet, his grandfather was not, his great grandfather was not. This guy didn't have an impressive pedigree. Lots of the male line before him are called wicked by Moroni who's abridges his record. It it just says: "And Ether was a Prophet of the Lord".
His ministry wouldn't fall under our typical definition of "successful" while he lived. The account says the people "rejected all the words of Ether". All his words, not just some of them. And "They esteemed him as naught, and cast him out".
That reminds of of what Nephi prophesies that churches of our day will do. It says people will "turn aside the just as a thing of naught" (2 Nephi 17:32) (2 Nephi 28:16). So the same pattern we see with Ether is what Nephi says will happen in our day. People will mistreat and esteem as worthless people and messages which actually should have been treated very differently.
How is it that people make these kinds of mistakes? And why is it so common? Are people sent from God or "the just" that difficult to recognize? They must be because esteeming them "as naught" happens all the time in the scriptures, and the Book of Mormon says we will do it too. So what is it about Ether (or in Nephi's prophesy "the "just") that makes them so easy to dismiss? Is it their lack of political influence? Their lack of credentials? Lack of titles? Lack of calling? Interesting questions.
It's not common for LDS church members to turn away the Quorum of the 12, or First Presidency as a thing of naught. Quite the opposite. So for us who read the Book of Mormon and believe in it, chances are those being turned aside as a thing of naught are not those in the Church hierarchy. It must be speaking of others that are getting written off. People who perhaps are devalued due to lack of calling, young age, or lack of some other perceived outward emblem of authority. Christ was treated this way. His lack of credentials or lack of membership in the religious hierarchy of the day was reason for some to ignore or reject Him. The patterns are usually the same. Which is why we are continually invited to learn from history.
The Book of Mormon does not say who ordained Ether, and doesn't say where he got his authority. In our day without those things, is it possible we too may have reacted in a similar way to someone like him? The record states the same year the people cast Ether out, a great war began (Ether 13:15). I think casting our a prophet and destruction or war are equated enough time in scripture that we should take notice.
Moroni twice calls Ether's prophesying "great and marvelous". He didn't need to confine what he said into an approved topic list based on what a correlation department deemed appropriate. He was free to speak and prophesy. There was no question that what he said was prophesy, it was obvious and frequent He was a prophet based on word and deed, not exclusively based on official calling or title. His prophesies were not hidden, or made politically correct by an organization. It's said of him "he could not be restrained because of the Spirit within him".
What a contrast to our day. Our leaders teach us how much we need to strive to even have the Spirit just come be with us. But here's this guy Ether who can't be restrained because of the Spirit within him. The contrast helps us see the spectrum. What's "common" doesn't necessarily mean that is all the Lord is willing to give or desirous for us to have.
But back to Ether. When the big battles happened it says everyone fought but him. (Ether 15:12). He lived to see his prophesies fulfilled about the peoples destruction, but it all left him alone. His final words are a lot like Abinadi's final words. They both say that what happens to them didn't matter "If it so be that I am saved in the Kingdom of God".