I, Olivia, lived about 600 years after the Jaredites came to the Promised Land. I lived during a chaotic time, a time of much wickedness and when secret combinations flourished. I was born to a family that deeply embraced secret combinations. My father was a high leader in our city. I was the second child of my father, but both my parents had children from various partners.
I was abused, raped, and went through various rituals as a young girl, all to appease the gods they claimed to worship. I watched as my older sister, the oldest child of my father who was the leader in our city, was sacrificed to the gods on her 12th birthday. This was a time of celebration as this sacrifice was to multiply our harvest, flocks, and herds. I did not understand why the celebration; I loved my sister. She comforted me during dark times; dark times that my father told me were to be joyful. I did not understand why they had to take her from me. I showed a happy face during the celebration but in my alone times, I cried. I could not let anyone see me cry as my father would find someone to abuse me, all with the intent to bring me joy. The abuses never brought joy; only more pain and sorrow.
Even as a child, I was well-known for my beauty. My hair was long, light colored, and slightly wavy, which made me more appealing to men. My blue eyes shone bright through the darkness. By the time I was 15, I already had been taken advantage of several times (done supposedly for my good), beat many times and once left for dead. My mother found me, took me to a healer, who brought me back to life. I wished that they just left me for dead; I did not want to live anymore.
At age 15, my father married me to a very handsome, but evil man named Gideon. He was five years older than me and paid a high price for me. Other men also tried to purchase me because of my beauty, but my father chose Gideon because of his wealth and high standing in the city. He would become the leader in the city within a few short years. My mother had no say in the decision.
At the beginning of our marriage, Gideon was kind to me. We lived in a large, beautiful home that was extravagantly furnished. I wore beautiful clothes and jewelry. I had servants to help me with the household. It appeared as if I had everything a girl could want. Soon after our marriage, Gideon made it clear to me that he could be intimate with whomever he wanted to be and allowed me to do the same. In fact, it was expected of me since men offered him money to be alone with me. I felt like dogmeat but could not tell anyone; I was expected to act like I enjoyed all the attention.
I became pregnant, knowing it was Gideon’s child. I was thrilled to be carrying a child! I had high hopes to be good mother and try to raise my child in better circumstances than I was raised in. In fact, I even thought about running away; to find a new town to raise my baby. I also know that my baby would become a sacrifice at age 12 if Gideon did in fact become a community leader. It was what we did. It was how we thought we gained more and more wealth.
My baby, a beautiful little girl, came one month early and was very tiny; one of the smallest babies I ever saw. Gideon named her Mara. I had no say in the name, but thought Mara was a beautiful name. Gideon ordered the healer to help me care for my baby, since this baby would be the sacrificial baby when she turned 12 years old. The healer worked a miracle with Mara and she grew big and strong, and beautiful! She caught the attention of several young men, and unfortunately women, at a very young age.
Shortly after Mara was born, I became pregnant by another man. In fact, I had 5 children total, by three different men. Gideon fathered many children; I’m not really sure how many he really fathered as some of the mothers were not sure who the father of their babies were.
Regrettably, Mara went through the rituals that young girls went through during our time, all with the intent to appease the Gods (really it was men’s lusts). I felt awful for Mara; I knew how exactly how she felt since I went through the same rituals. I felt so helpless; I wanted to do more, but did not know what to do.
I wanted to teach my children right from wrong, but was unsure myself of what was really right and what was really wrong. I know what my father, who was a wicked man, taught me; but his teaching did not feel right to me. It seemed that there was more to life than what I was taught to believe.
Mara’s eleventh birthday arrived. The entire city celebrated because that was one year from the time she would be sacrificed. Mara was treated like a goddess, dressed in the finest apparel. She looked so beautiful; she was extraordinarily beautiful since she received the best of physical traits from both Gideon and me. For her birthday, she was given lavish gifts, the best food to eat, and put on a beautiful golden throne to sit on for all to see.
She was told that in one year’s time, on her next birthday, that she would become a goddess. She was told that as a goddess, she would be able to help her family to obtain greater riches and abundance. It was the greatest honor and privilege to become a goddess. She would have all that she wanted and more during the next year.
Men, and women, hoping to have alone time with Mara, gave Gideon and me marvelous gifts. Even the king and queen of our land came to us with gifts. Other community leaders came to us with lavish gifts. I talked to Gideon and asked him if we could spare Mara of having to please so many people. Gideon sweetly, and I say that loosely, reminded me of the importance of Mara. He tried to convince me that her roles of the sacrifice and being a goddess were more important than even a king. So, the more people that could be with her, the more our city and the cities around us would prosper. How could I deny the greater good? This just did not feel right to me. I mentioned that to Gideon, he slapped me across the face and told me never to say anything like that to him or anyone again. What could I do? I felt helpless and alone.
Shortly after Mara’s birthday, men proclaiming to be prophets again came to our town and began speaking to us that we needed to repent or the Lord Jesus Christ would send a destructive famine. Gideon and the other men, and many other women, laughed at them. Who could this Lord Jesus Christ be? There was no way that whomever this man was, could be more powerful than our gods. The Gideon picked up a stone, then one by one, the others watching the prophets picked up stones. They stoned the prophets. I watched, in horror but not letting my emotions show, as three men died.
There was something about the prophet’s message that touched my heart. I wanted to know more, but did not have the courage to talk to them. Oh, how I desired to talk to them, to hear their message, to again feel what I felt when they spoke. I could not talk about my feelings with anyone; if someone found out what I thought and felt, I could also be stoned. I needed to live. I needed to live for my children.
Several months passed then more prophets came. They gave their messages and then quickly left. Again, their message touched my heart; I felt peace.
I watched Mara closely during this year. I loved my daughter dearly and was saddened because her eyes appeared depressed to me. Although she put up a good front of acting the role of a goddess, I recognized her misery. I desired to talk to her and console her, but Gideon surrounded her with servants and guards and ordered them to monitor her continually, except with those who paid a price to be with her. Even then, guards were posted outside her room. He assured me it was to protect her, but I knew there was more to it than that. I so desperately wanted just to hold her and take the pain from her that I saw in her eyes. The times I was able to talk to her, I could only tell her how proud I was of her and how beautiful she was.
A week before Mara’s 12th birthday, additional prophets came to our city. They specifically told us that if we went ahead with Mara’s sacrifice, God would send a famine that would destroy us. Again, Gideon and others laughed and mocked them. Who could this God be? Gideon convinced all who listened that our gods were more powerful than this God the prophets talked about. After all, we were wealthy! We had an abundance of food, clothes, gold, silver, crystals, and whatever else we wanted. Surely our gods favored us, took care of us and would always take care of us.
Again, something about what the prophets said touched my heart and I felt a peace that I never before experienced. I wondered if we were doing the right thing by sacrificing Mara. But, it was our tradition. It was done to keep our gods happy. But, what about this other God? I continued to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. How I wished I had someone to talk to. How I wanted to talk to Mara.
Gideon began to stone the prophets. They quickly ran from our city without injury.
(To be continued…)