Sit down, dear readers, and get comfortable, because I’m going to tell you a story. This story, like many others, involves great and strong men. There are kings and travelers, wars and bloodshed, and of course, good and evil. But this story is not about any of them, not really. This is a story about two very special books, one made of gold, and one made of brass.
Once upon a time (for as a friend told me once, this is how all good stories start), there was a beautiful kingdom called Zarahemla. Zarahemla was a large kingdom that grew out of wilderness and spread far and wide, and the people who lived there were called the Nephites. In the capitol, the City of Zarahemla, lived the king, a wise and noble man named Mosiah. Now, for the Nephites, just like all people, keeping records of the events in the land– notes about great leaders, stories of wars, and tales of ancestors– was a high priority… so important that it was entrusted to the king. King Mosiah faithfully kept these records, which were laboriously engraved on thin plates of gold (so that they would last a long time) and bound together to form a book. This book was kept with another, equally important, made of brass, which told the story of the ancestors of the Nephite people. They were so important as to be considered sacred, and Mosiah took this job very seriously.
Now Mosiah ruled his people with love and kindness, and in return, the people loved him back and worked hard. There were wars and struggles, but the people of Zarahemla remained safe and happy, and lived in peace under the good king Mosiah for over thirty years, and Mosiah recorded everything that happened in the book of records, and kept the book of his ancestors safe. When Mosiah began to be old, he decided to confer the kingdom to one of his three sons, but there was a problem. None of Mosiah’s sons wanted to be king. They were traveling missionaries, and they loved their people so much that they wanted to serve them directly, instead of from the throne. This was quite a dilemma for Mosiah; he could appoint another relative to inherit the throne, but that might invite the possibility of civil wars and conflict among his people, and he loved them too much to take that chance. So Mosiah came up with a plan.
Mosiah called his people together and proposed to them that instead of a king, they be governed by a council of judges. The people liked this idea, and so the land of Zarahemla, once a monarchy, became a republic. The people chose a very famous religious leader to be the chief of all the judges. This man’s name was Alma. (Alma’s father was also named Alma, and so technically he was called Alma the Younger, but this was a long and cumbersome name, so we will just call him Alma.) Alma accepted the position and was humbled by his people’s faith in him. He vowed to be a good judge. Even more importantly to our story, he vowed to continue to update the book of records and to take good care of the book of the Nephite ancestors as well.
Alma served as chief judge for nine years. He helped his people overcome a violent uprising by some wicked men, and to fight off attacks by intruders who wanted the land of Zarahemla for themselves.
And because he was the chief judge, he also kept the records, which were, you remember, so very important to his people, and to our story. The people were happy and prosperous for several years under his leadership. However, over time, wicked men began to corrupt the people, teaching lies in order to gain fame and fortune, and unhappiness began to spread like a plague in the land. Alma had to take action; he appointed a new chief judge and, taking both books with him, traveled among the land as a missionary for the next ten years, teaching the people directly and trying to bring them back to happiness.
During these travels, Alma met lots of great people and had many adventures, but those are stories for another day. The important things in this story, as we established earlier, are the books. Alma continued to keep a record as he traveled far and wide in the land of Zarahemla, and kept both books safe. After ten hard years, Alma was disheartened. Instead of becoming holier, his people were growing more and more wicked and materialistic, and he felt that there was more work than he could accomplish alone, so he went back home to meet his three sons: Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. Alma’s sons were good men, and they agreed to help him, so they divided up the tasks that needed to be done and decided to head in different directions in order to reach as many people as possible. Before they left, though, Alma gave each of them some counsel, wise words for them to carry in their hearts throughout their long and trying journeys, and passed the books on to his son Helaman.
The work wasn’t easy, and the story is long, so we’ll skip to the end. Alma and his sons, along with men who came after them, brave and strong men with names like Moroni, Nephi, Teancum, and Mormon continued to fight the wicked influences that threatened the people from both inside and outside their borders. The book of records, which had been so important to Mosiah and Alma, was passed down from Helaman among the generations and kept faithfully. The book of the Nephite ancestors was cherished and kept safe. After almost 500 years, the Nephites, who had become completely wicked, were destroyed in a ferocious war with another people called the Lamanites.
THE END. (Almost)
I know, dear readers, what you’re thinking. Where’s the happy ever after? Why would I tell you such a sad and frustrating story, full of men who worked so hard for nothing? The answer is that it wasn’t for nothing. Remember– it wasn’t really a story about kings and judges and wars… it was a story about two very important books, and guess what? Those books survived all those years and many, many more, and have blessed more people than you or I could ever meet in our combined lifetimes. Before the Nephites lost the war, the last keeper of the records, Moroni, combined the two books into one and buried it in a hillside, where it was preserved for over a thousand years and later retrieved by a man named Joseph Smith, Jr. That book altered the course of an entire people, and has changed my life. The Nephites may have lost, dear readers, but the books? They won.
Stay tuned, dear readers, to find out why I told you this story. All shall be made clear in due time.