Thomas (Part 1)

During one of the righteous Jaredite times, a time when prophets taught the people and they listened and obeyed, a happy time as the Jaredites focused on the coming of Jesus Christ and His Atoning sacrifice for them, a time when the Jaredites lived after a manner of happiness, a healthy baby boy was born to David and Mary. Even though all seemed well for the Jaredites, there was still opposition, temptation, and trial.

Thomas was David and Mary’s first born child. They were young parents, David was 18-years old and Mary was 17, yet they were full of optimism for their son. Many severe complications occurred during the birth of Thomas, so much so that David feared he would lose both Mary and the baby. With the expertise of a gifted healer, prayers, and blessings, Mary finally delivered Thomas, a large, healthy baby. It was not without consequence as she was unable to bear anymore children. David and Mary were heartbroken; they desired to have a large family, but were determined to give Thomas the best childhood they could give a young boy.

David was a bow and arrow artisan by profession. He learned from his father and continued to work with him. Intricate bows and arrows were their specialty, however they made several other useful household items with wood.

From the time Thomas could walk, he loved to go into the workshop where his father and grandfather worked. He loved the aroma of fresh cut wood and watching his father and grandfather interact with each other. He felt the love and respect that they had for each other. Thomas often watched his father and grandfather craft bows and arrows for their customers and was always intrigued at the craftsmanship that went into each bow.

When Thomas was about 4-years old, David came home from the workshop at the end of his workday with a big smile hiding his left hand behind his back. Thomas, eagerly greeted him and tried to jump into his arms. Thomas was big for his age, taller than most of his friends who were his age. He had the build of a potentially strong athlete. His light-colored hair and eyes caught the attention of all those he met. Thomas, seeing his father’s hand behind his back, knew that his father had something just for him. He could not contain his excitement at receiving a gift from his father. David often brought gifts home for Mary and Thomas and Thomas loved every single gift he received.

Thomas unsuccessfully tried to peak behind David’s back as David turned his hidden hand away from his very curious son. He tried to pull at David’s arm to glance at the surprise, but David’s strong arms were no match for Thomas. He jumped up and down, begging to see the surprise. Mary came out of the cooking room to see what the commotion was. She greeting David with a hug and kiss and asked what he was hiding behind his back. Thomas immediately informed her that he was sure it was something for him, but David wouldn’t let him see it.

David slowly moved his arm from behind his back to reveal what he was hiding. It was a miniature bow and some arrows. It was almost the perfect size for Thomas’s hands and arms, a bit big allowing for Thomas to grow. Thomas could not hide his excitement! Finally! He had his own bow and arrow set.

The bow was made of a strong hardwood with intricate carvings in the limbs of the bow. The arrows were made of a softer, but strong wood. The bowstring was carefully made from spun flax. There were feathers at the end of each arrow to provide stability. Arrowheads were connected to the end of each arrow, but they were created with a dull, broad point while arrowheads fashioned for hunting had a sharp point.

Thomas was anxious to go outside to try out his new gift. Mary told them that dinner was just about ready, but they could go outside for a short time. They walked to a grass and weed covered field a short distance from their house where David had already set up a target for Thomas to practice.

David explained the importance of safety when using the bow and arrows. Thomas, at first, only partially paid attention to his father as he felt very impatient. David cautioned Thomas that if he did not heed his words, he would not be allowed to use his bow and arrows. He shared a couple of stories of family and friends that were injured because essential safety issues were not followed. Thomas immediately decided that he needed to pay close attention so he could use his bow; he really did not want to hurt anyone.

Handing the bow and one arrow to Thomas, David showed him how to correctly hold the bow, nock the arrow, aim for the target, and when to let go. David lovingly put his arms around his son, showing him the correct way to hold the bow and the arrow. After aligning the arrow to the target which was about 20 feet away, nocking the bow, David helped Thomas pull back on the bow, and instructed Thomas to let go of the bow when he was ready. David backed away then with a steady gaze on the target, Thomas let the arrow go. But, as he let go, he flinched, causing the arrow to go straight to the ground about 10 feet in front of him.

David smiled at Thomas and told him that he did well, especially for the first time using his bow. He assured his frustrated son that just about all of his customers had to learn how to use new bows for the first time and it was fine.

They walked back to the house for their evening meal, with the promise to Thomas that they would return to the field for more practice after eating. After Thomas hastily ate most of his meal –and with prodding from his father, all of his meal –he grabbed his bow and arrows then deliberately dragged David back to the field. David, laughing at his son’s enthusiasm, blew Mary a kiss and followed after Thomas.

After about four attempts, Thomas finally hit the edge of the target. He jumped up and down with triumph, finally feeling some success! Because the sun was about to set, creating long shadows, David informed Thomas that it was time to return home and they would practice more tomorrow. Thomas did not want to go back; he pitifully pleaded for one more shot. David could not resist the pleading eyes and allowed him one more try.

A determined Thomas picked up his bow, chose an arrow, nocked the arrow, precisely eyed the target, then let go of the arrow. The arrow shot directly to the center of the target! David, feeling proud of Thomas, picked him up and swung him around! They laughed and thoroughly enjoyed the moment. Thomas retrieved the arrow, picked up his other arrows and his bow and quickly ran home so he could share the great news with his mother.

After listening to Thomas excitedly recount his success at hitting the center of the target, Mary hugged him and told him how proud she was of him. Thomas beamed! He declared that he would become the city’s best target shooter and hunter!

(To be continued…)

5-year old Adam

 

Adam, a spunky five-year old with dark brown hair and eyes, is about average height and slender built, lives during one of the righteous Jaredite times. His mischievous smile endears all who meet him. He is clearly proud of his name because it is the same as Father Adam, the first man that lived upon the earth. He informs everyone he meets that he wants to grow up to be just like Father Adam. He wants his wife’s name to be Eve, and even if the girl he marries has a different name, he is determined to call her Eve. He desires hundreds of children. He names, well renames, animals with unique sounding names; he even renamed several of the small insects and bugs as well as the bigger animals. He intends to teach his children the truth about Jesus so none of them will kill each other, like Cain killed Abel. He recognizes that Adam taught his children about Jesus, but in his young mind and understanding, he assumes he can do better than Adam.

One of Adam’s favorite pastimes is teasing and picking on his two older sisters, Nediva, age 8 and Beula, age 6. Nediva has beautiful long dark hair that she usually wears pulled back in a leather tie. Adam will obnoxiously pull her tied-back hair and quickly run away with Nedvia angrily chasing him. This and other mischievous pranks Adam does to try to get them into trouble; however, after much complaining from Nediva and Beula, their parents finally wised up and realized that Adam instigates the trouble!

Adam has a younger brother, Reed, age 3, and a baby sister, Tahlia, just a few months old, that he absolutely adores. He loves to hold his sister and he sings to her as he holds her. He also enjoys teasing his younger brother, but not as much as his older sisters.

Besides teasing his older sisters, Adam’s favorite place to be is anywhere outside. He delights in exploring the grassy fields and woods next to him home. He especially enjoys helping his parents tend their flocks and herds. There is a particular large she-goat that adores Adam and comes to him each time he goes outside. The goat will let Adam carefully ride her, with a little help (Adam made sure to emphasize that point, a little help) from his parents. Adam would ride his goat all day if he could. However, he does realize that goats are not meant for riding, but that does not stop Adam!

Friends are a big part of Adam’s childhood. He savors his playtime with his friends. They have quite the imaginations! They sometimes pretend that they are on big barges crossing the great waters. They pretend that they are Noah and on the ark. They pretend they are Father Adam’s family, of course, Adam plays the role of Father Adam. They created many other imaginative games that they enjoy. Many of Adam’s closest friends are cousins that are about his age that live close by. They have a fantastic time and the parents appreciate how well the cousins play together.

Adam also loves to chase the wild animals that are in the forests! He will try to follow a squirrel or a deer or whatever animal that will cross his path. One bright sunny day while Adam was playing outside, a female deer slowly meandered nearby. Excitement lit in Adam’s eyes! He gradually and carefully walked toward the deer, desperately wanting to touch her. The deer, sensing Adam’s approach, starting walking away from Adam. He couldn’t let this deer go. He followed the deer through a grassy field and into some woods. As a five-year old, he did not think about getting lost, his only thoughts were to touch the deer. He continued to follow the deer until she decided to scurry off, disappointing Adam. That was the closest he had ever been to a deer and wanted to be even closer to her.

Adam’s stomach began to rumble so he decided he better go back home. He turned around and began to walk the way that he thought he had come. As he walked, he enjoyed the beauties of the woods while chasing a couple squirrels. He came to a field and chased some robins that were digging for worms. He found a particularly large ant hill that he stuck in stick in. Ants angrily scurried out of their protected home to see what the threat was. Adam decided he did not want ants crawling all over him, so he ran off, leaving them alone. He ate some wild strawberries that were growing on the ground. A brilliant blue and black butterfly fluttered near to him. So of course, he trailed the butterfly, trying to convince it to alight on his outstretched hand. While chasing the butterfly, he faintly heard voices calling his name; his mother and father’s voices. Adam quickly ran to where the voices came from, finding his parents. He hugged them and immediately informed them that he was hungry!

Adam’s mother embraced her son with tears in her eyes. Adam did not understand why she was crying. He asked her, she responded that she was very worried about him and then inquired as to what he was doing. Adam enthusiastically rehearsed all his adventures to his parents. His father gently, but firmly, reminded Adam that he needed to stay near his house unless a grown-up was with him. His father affirmed his great love for him and did not want him to get lost or get hurt. Adam promised his father that he would not wander off again.

Unfortunately, hat was not the first time or the last time Adam wandered off, despite his promise. His parents learned that they need to keep a close eye on him because of his immense love for the outdoors and the animals.

After Adam ate some delicious food, he grabbed his a favorite blanket and curled up on his mattress to rest. His grandmother made the blanket for Adam. It was made of soft woolen fibers dyed in beautiful bright colors. He felt protected with the blanket around him. It was almost like a magic blanket that gives comfort and reassurance. If Adam felt upset for any reason, he would retrieve his blanket, put it around him, and almost immediately felt better. Adam loved that blanket and his Grandmother for making it.

Adam wants people to know that he lived in a righteous Jaredite time and that he grew up to be a strong leader among his people and in the church. He wants us to know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and to follow Him. And, none of his children killed each other!

Selma Part 2

Selma Part 1

Selma grew into a beautiful young woman. She traveled to far away cities to perform for large audiences. She traveled with a young married couple from her city who were renowned dance performers. Her parents were eternally grateful for this couple; because of other responsibilities they were not able to always travel with Selma. The couple gave her company and protection.

When she was about 16 years old, she and the dance couple performed for the first time at a theater several miles from her home. After the performance, a man and woman came up to Selma and congratulated her on her beautiful voice. The woman looked very familiar to Selma. In fact, she appeared as an older version of Selma. Selma and the woman immediately recognized the similarities. The man that was with the woman was shocked at how much they looked alike. The woman asked Selma where she was from, how old she was, and about her parents. Selma told her. The woman started to cry, sobbing. Selma inquired as to what was wrong. The woman informed Selma that she was her mother, that she gave birth to Selma. Now, Selma was in shock and in tears. The woman introduced herself as Elva and her husband as Jacob.

Selma was ecstatic! She desired to learn as much as she could from her birth mother. Elva invited Selma and her traveling companions to her home the next day. Selma could hardly sleep that night in anticipation of learning about the woman who gave birth to her.

After the sun rose, Selma and her companions quickly walked to Elva’s home. Elva and Jacob greeted them with hugs then a morning meal. While eating, Elva disclosed her story. She told Selma how she had been forced by one of the king’s guards. The guard threatened her and her family if she told anyone. Elva was young, only 15 years old at the time and felt so fearful that she did not know what to do or who to turn to. After realizing she was with child, she thought her only choice would be to leave the city so no one, including her parents, would know she was with child and then want to know how it happened. Her parents searched and searched for her, but could never find her. Elva, from a distance, saw her parents as they looked for her, but remained concealed.

After about four or five moons, the guard who forced Elva went to her parents’ home trying to locate her. Elva’s parents had no idea where Elva went. Unfortunately, the guard did not believe them. He mercilessly beat Elva’s father, but there was nothing they could tell him, except that she was gone. He threatened them that if Elva was not at their home in one week’s time, he would destroy them. He also warned them that if they told anyone that he was there, he would defile Elva’s mother then kill her. Elva’s parents quickly and quietly left the city that day without telling anyone, not even their closest friends.

From afar, Elva watched her parents, looking downtrodden, as they hurriedly left the city. Elva bawled. She knew she was to blame. She desperately wanted to go to her parents, but knew that would put all of their lives in danger.

Elva recounted to Selma how she lived in a cave, hunting animals and picking herbs and vegetables to survive. Sometimes, she would cautiously sneak into the city at night looking for leftover scraps of food. A couple times, when she felt extremely hungry, she stole food from people, but she did not take much. She hated doing that, but only took food when she felt desperate.

Elva knew that she would not be able to keep her baby. Even though she grew to deeply love her baby and loved feeling the baby move around inside of her, she believed that she would not be able to protect the baby from the king’s guard. She knew of a family whose mother was still nursing a young boy. She decided that would be the best family for her baby.

When the time was close for the baby to be born, Elva gathered up all that she would need for the birth. She found a warm, soft cloth that she could wrap her baby in and found a basket that was just the right size for a small infant.

Shortly after Elva gave birth, she lovingly wrapped her beautiful baby girl in the cloth she found, gently placed her in the basket, and under the cover of night, she carried the basket to the home. She gave her baby one last kiss and then with tears streaming down her cheeks, she departed the city determined to find her parents.

Everyone was in tears as Elva told her story. Selma went to her, hugged her tightly, and wept. In that moment, they connected as mother and daughter.

Selma desperately desired for Elva and Jacob to come home with her to meet the parents who raised her. Elva expressed hesitancy because of the fear she had for the guard. Selma’s traveling companions learned the name of the guard and told Elva that they would inquire about him then let her know when it would be safe to travel.

There was a knock at Elva’s door. Jacob and Elva knew exactly who was there. Jacob excitedly arose to open the door. Standing at the door were Elva’s parents, Bain and Pamuy. They rushed in, each hugging Elva, then Elva introduced them to Selma and her companions. Pamuy put a hand on each of Selma’s cheeks, looked closely at her, then tears began falling down her cheeks. She told Selma that she looked just like her mother at the same age. They hugged. They wept. Even Bain, a strong muscular man, had tears falling down his cheeks.

They spent hours getting to know each other until the time came when Selma and her companions had to depart. Selma sang a beautiful traditional song for her new family, when Elva joined her in perfect harmony. They sang another traditional song, crying while singing.

Selma and her traveling companions had four more cities that they needed to perform in before heading back to their homes. Selma found a courier, wrote a short letter to her parents telling them her experience of the day, paid the courier, and sent him on his way.

Once Selma returned home, her parents and siblings excitedly greeted her. They were all curious to learn about her birth mother. Selma rehearsed the story about her conception and birth. She recalled the name of the guard who forced himself upon Elva. Joseph remembered one of the guards visiting them after Selma was dropped off. He was very curious and agitated about Selma and demanded to know who dropped her off. Of course, Joseph and Nadie and no idea. They felt threatened by the guard, not knowing why he showed so much interest. Joseph, knowing a couple of the king’s servants, mentioned this guard to them and asked that he leave them alone. The guard never bothered them again. They wondered if that was the guard who forced himself on Elva.

Joseph did some inquiring and discovered that guard had been killed in a skirmish several years earlier, so was no longer a threat. Selma found some writing utensils to write a note to Elva informing her of the news. She found a courier, he put the note in the leather pouched tied to the saddle on his chestnut horse, and took off to deliver the message to Elva.

About two weeks later, Nadie and Selma were at the market shopping for various meats, vegetables, and fruit. Joseph came running to the market looking for Nadie and Selma. Once he finally found them, he excitedly told them that Selma’s birth mother was at their home! Nadie and Selma quickly finished their purchases and ran back to their home as quick as they could. There was a joyous reunion as Selma was once again reunited with her birth mother. Elva was ecstatic to become acquainted with Nadie and Joseph. She thanked them over and over again for raising Selma to become the beautiful young woman that she was.

Elva and Jacob, along with Elva’s parents, decided to move back to the city where Elva came from. Elva wanted to be close to Selma and also occasionally travel with her. The two families became very close, in fact, becoming like one family. Nadie and Joseph took in Elva as if she were a close sister. Jacob was also accepted like a brother. Bain and Pamuy were immediately accepted back into the community. They had family and friends who were very grateful and excited to have them back.

Selma continue to travel to other communities to perform. During one of her trips she met her future husband. After marrying and starting a family, she chose to limit her performances and her travel. She gave voices lessons to many aspiring singers and raised a beautiful family.

 

 

 

Selma the Singer

Selma was born to a single mother, Elva, and was conceived from a ruthless rape by one of the king’s guards. Because Elva felt so embarrassed and ashamed, she hid herself from her family and friends. Her parents looked and looked for her, but never found her.

Elva finally gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was scared and alone, no one to help her. She had seen her mother give birth before, so she somewhat knew what she needed to do, but felt very nervous as she took a knife to cut the cord that gave her daughter needed nutrients.

Elva loved her beautiful daughter, but knew she could not take care of a small infant and raise her properly. She wrapped her daughter in an old cloth she previously found, put her in a small woven basket, and in the middle of a dark night she went into the city and put her at the door of someone she knew would be marvelous parents for her little girl. Elva knew that the mother was still nursing a two-year old child, so was hopeful that this mother would be able to feed, nourish, and raise her little girl.

After dropping off the baby, Elva quietly left the city and traveled to another place far away, somewhere where no one would know her and her past life.

Outside the door, the little infant girl began to cry. The crying woke up the 12-year old daughter, Alona. She recognized the cry as that of a brand new baby and arose from her bed mat to search where the crying was coming from. She went to the door and discovered the baby. She picked up the baby, held her close and tried to calm her. The mother, Nadie, heard noise and came out of her bed chamber to see who was crying. She found Alona struggling to comfort the baby, but the baby continued to cry. Nadie lovingly took the baby and tried nursing her. By this time, everyone in the house, except for the two-year old, was awake and came to see the new baby.

The little baby quickly latched on and began to suck; she was so hungry. Nadie sang to the baby as she nursed her. The baby calmed and after feeling satisfied, went to sleep.

Alona asked her mother where the baby came from; Nadie did not know but told her that they would search for her mother in the morning. Everyone went back to bed; the baby stayed with Nadie.

After the sun came up, and the family woke up, the family was excitedly ogling the baby. The five siblings were fighting over who would hold the baby. After all, she was only about 1-2 days old and so cute! Nadie’s husband, Joshua, immediately fell in love with the little girl. He desired to keep her, and had a feeling they would keep her, but knew they needed to locate the mother.

After the morning meal, Joshua and Alona went to family and friends looking for the baby’s mother. They went to the market place and to the city leaders. No one knew of any woman who was pregnant.

Later that day, a young man about 20 years old, arrived at their home and informed Joshua and Nadie about a young girl, a good friend of his, who suddenly disappeared about 7-8 months previous. Her disappearance upset him because he really cared for the girl. He said the girl’s name was Elva. Her parents did not know what happened to her. Joshua and Nadie attempted to talk to the parents, but apparently they left the city about 5 months earlier and no one knew where they went. He told Joshua that if he found Elva, to tell her that he loved her and was concerned about her.

Over the next several weeks, Joshua and Nadie expanded their search to surrounding communities. Still, no word of a missing girl or where her parents could be. Many of their friends and family helped them search, especially those who travelled to other cities.

After about 5 months of searching, Joshua went with what his heart told him all along, that this baby was theirs to raise. They named the little girl Selma.

Selma was quite a precocious little girl. She won over everyone’s hearts that she came in contact with. She almost always smiled, even as a baby, and did not cry often. She loved to sing, and in fact, began singing before she started talking. She charmed others as she communicated by singing. Nadie knew that Selma would become a sensational singer and would be involved in productions that included singing.

Because Selma loved to sing, when she was six years old, Joshua and Nadie hired one of the best voice teachers in their city to give her singing lessons. Piers, the teacher, knew immediately that Selma was highly gifted and felt delighted to help her improve her gift.

Selma loved her voice lessons. She practiced daily; no one had to remind her. Her siblings, at times, would tire of listening to her, but understood her gift. They all had their own gifts and talents that they were also developing.

About a year after taking voice lessons, Piers concluded that Selma was ready to sing in one of the performances held in the city. Selma was ecstatic! She had already sung in the marketplace and enjoyed singing for an audience. Joshua was skeptical at first, but Selma looked at him with her pleading, big brown eyes and all Joshua could do was to laugh and give his permission.

The evening arrived for Selma’s performance. She had diligently practiced the three songs she was to perform and was ready and excited. Piers walked with Selma to the middle of the stage and introduced her to the crowd, then walked to the side of the stage and waited.

Selma began to sing, the crowd hushed, and became mesmerized by her clear, sweet, angelic voice. After she finished her first song, the crowd immediately stood on their feet, clapped, and cheered for her. After a few minutes of cheering, the crowd settled back down and waited for Selma’s next song. Again, after the song, the crowd stood on their feet and cheered for her. Selma sang one more song, disappointing the crowd as they wanted her to sing more songs.

Word quickly spread to nearby cities and communities of the Selma and her beautiful voice. Entertainment produces wanted to her to come to their cities to perform. Joshua and Nadie were very careful of how often Selma performed, especially while she was still a young girl.

(To be continued….)

 

 

Olivia Part 4

Olivia Part 1

Olivia Part 2

Olivia Part 3

In the following days, we continued to receive rain, too much rain. We were unable to plant new seeds because the fields were rain soaked and muddy. We knew that we needed to plant the seeds soon otherwise there would not be enough time to grow another crop before the cold season set in. We (they) prayed to the gods, the false gods, for the rain to cease and the sun to shine to dry out the fields. The rain finally stopped. After a couple of bright sunny days, the fields were dry enough to plant our seeds.

Gideon and the other leaders, knowing that the cold season would quickly arrive, concluded that another sacrifice must be rendered to the gods to appease them and to implore them for good weather so we would have sufficient food for the cold season and next year’s growing season.

My heart froze. Not another young girl to be sacrifice. I pled with Gideon and asked if there was not another way. He stared at me in disbelief and demanded to know if I listened to the prophets again. I informed him that I had not recently listened to the prophets, but felt truth to their message. Gideon’s anger rose to epic proportions. He hit me, again and again, then left me for dead. It was my dear son Shule who found me. He later informed me that after finding me, he prayed to the true God for help, then ran for a healer. The healer took me to his home and used herbs to help revive me and to help my injuries to heal.

Before coming completely back to my senses, I thought I heard the healer praying to the true God. As soon as I opened my eyes, he stopped praying. I begged him to continue to pray for me; his secret was safe with me. He looked at me with disbelief; I whispered that I believed in the true God.

The sacrificed occurred while I was recovering from my injuries. Another beautiful young girl, only 6 years old, was taken to the temple for her heart to be given to the gods. Again, all in our city celebrated. I was so grateful that I was unable to participate in the sacrifice and the celebration. It was almost worth the beating to not have to attend the celebration and the sacrifice with Gideon.

Our recently planted seeds began to grow. The fields were beautiful as the green plants grew, producing food to sustain us. We did not receive much rain, but our crops still flourished as the ground was sufficiently moist from the previous rains.

About one week after the sacrifice, another horrendous storm blew in bringing devasting winds, torrential rain, and then ice, not hail, but ice! No, not ice! It was too early for a frost. Our crops were not ready to harvest. A freeze would kill our crops.

The next morning, as we all gathered to determine the damage, Gideon again, wanted to blame the prophets and those who listened to the prophet for the damage. He angrily sought me out (I was no longer living in his house because of fears for my safety). He blamed me for the ice storm. Several people stood between me and Gideon, protecting me and telling Gideon that I was not to blame and to leave me alone. Gideon went on a rampage, blaming the prophets and their God for all the destruction.

We were all very concerned and fearful about how we would survive the cold season. We did not have much food left in storage and many of our animals were killed in the hailstorm. We knew we needed to carefully ration what food was left. Some people in our city were caught stealing food from others. Surprisingly, Gideon and other ranking people in our city made a declaration that anyone caught stealing food from anyone would be imprisoned and possibly put to death.

Gideon sent people to various cities around us asking if we could purchase food from them; most everyone was in a similar predicament as we were. Some food was brought back along with seeds for the next season.

The cold season was unseasonably cold. We had enough wood to keep us warm, but not enough food to help sustain us. My 11-year old daughter became very sick and passed away. There were not enough healing supplies to help her heal. In fact, many people in our city became sick and died. In a way, it was a slight blessing as there were fewer people to feed; but oh, how we mourned the loss of our people, our family, our friends. I grieved over the loss of my daughter and worried about my three remaining children. They were becoming so thin, weak, and frail. Inwardly, I prayed to the true God for them.

Finally, the temperatures warmed enough to plant seeds. We planted with great hope for a bounteous harvest. People in our city prayed to the gods for rain. I inwardly prayed to the true God for rain. None came. Our plants sprouted but then withered away in the dryness. The natural grasses did not grow well, so more of our animals died. My 10-year old son became sick and died. My heart broke! How could I continue to live. Two weeks later, my 9-year old son fell ill and passed away. Now, it was just Shule and me with so little food. My strong, brave strong Shule, now 7 years old was so frail. I feared for his health. He continued to pray to the true God for rain.

Gideon became violently ill and died. I cannot say that I was too heart-broken over his death as he created so much grief and pain. After his death, I decided it was time to talk to the people about the true God and to encourage praying to him. We had already lost too many of our family and friends. Rain was not coming. Our newly planted crops were withering away. Our animals were dying. If something did not change soon, we would all die.

I started talking to my neighbors. I told them that maybe it was time to pray to the prophets’ God and ask for forgiveness and ask for rain. Some thought I was crazy, but others took to heart what I had testified and decided that they would begin to pray to the true God.

The day came when Shule became sick. My dear, sweet and faithful Shule. I did not want to lose him. He was my anchor. If he died, then I wanted to die. In his weakened state, I knew that he would not last through the night without healing herbs and nourishment. I had nothing left to give him, no one in our city had anything to give him. All I could do was to pray to the true God.

I was tending to Shule when I heard a loud commotion outside. I ran to see what was happening. Down the street from my home, there were several wagons all loaded with food! I could not believe my eyes. How did anyone know that we were starving to death. I rushed to one of the wagon drivers and pled for food and herbs because my son was dying. A woman gathered some food and herbs from her wagon and followed me back to my home.

She quickly examined Shule, said a quiet prayer and gently gave him some herbs with a small amount of food and water. She told me that she would come back in a few hours to give Shule more herbs and food, but we needed to go slowly and give his body time to adjust to the food. She left to go help others.

These people were our angels. Only a true God could know of our critical condition. Our angels stayed with us for just a day, distributing food and herbs and most important, hope. And, my son; he recovered from his illness! I know that if these generous people did not come, I would have lost Shule that night.

Because of the angels who came, many of the survivors in our city began to doubt the gods they had been worshipping and started asking questions about the God that the prophets taught about. We did not know much about Him, but wanted to learn more. How could we do that? I mentioned to them that Shule and that I had been praying to the true God. Someone asked if I would pray to the true God for them. I uttered a simple prayer since that was all I knew how to do. I prayed that the prophets would come back and teach us how to really pray and I prayed for rain. That was my prayer. As I looked around, there were tears in many eyes; something was felt by all who listened to my prayer. It was a feeling of love, joy, peace, and hope.

Rain still did not come. The rivers and creeks were drying up. Soon we would also be without water. The food that the angels brought was about gone. However, because we gathered together daily to pray, we continued to have hope and faith that a change would happen.

A few more of our people became sick and died. We continued to pray, pleading for hope and for rain.

After our food supplies diminished and we tried to hang on to hope, another group of people came to us with several wagons loaded with food and supplies. We cheered them as they came into our city. The prophets came with them. Although we were physically starving, we first surrounded the prophets as we were spiritually starving. We wanted to know more about the true God they talked about. They were gracious in receiving us, but reminded us that we needed physical nourishment before spiritual nourishment. They distributed the food and supplies to us, those most desperate receiving what they needed first.

We celebrated the arrival of food and the prophets with a humble feast. I had been a part of many celebrations before, but this was unlike any celebration. We celebrated the gift of life as so many of our friends and loved ones passed away during our drought. Feelings of love and peace permeated everyone who attended.

One of the prophets, Noah, stood before us and began to teach us about Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. Almost everyone there listened with strong intent. Unfortunately, a couple of my dear friends left; I suppose they were not ready to hear what Noah taught us.

Noah and the other prophets instructed us for several hours. They taught us, they answered our questions, they gave blessings of healing and comfort. Although it was several hours, the time seemed so much shorter. During the teaching, Shule enthusiastically ran up to Noah and told him that he wanted to be baptized. Noah laughed at Shule’s enthusiasm and promised him that he could be the first one baptized. Others of us expressed our desires to be baptized. Noah announced to us that they would baptize us the following day. We were ecstatic!

The next morning, a beautiful sunny morning, those of us who were ready to be baptized met down at the deepest part of the river that flowed near our city. The river was very low because of the drought, but there was one place that would be sufficient for our baptisms. Noah took Shule with him down into the water and baptized him. I was so proud of Shule! He glowed as he came up out of the water.

Noah then ask me to come down into the water and he baptized me. As I came up out of the water, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace that I had never felt before. Tears came to my eyes as I hugged Noah.

As more were baptized, clouds began to fill the sky. We prayed that these clouds would bring rain to our parched land. After the last person was baptized, the heavens opened and showered us with the blessing of rain! It was beautiful! We danced and sang in the rain. We knew that the true God heard and answered our prayers.

Noah established a church in our city where we worshipped the true God and His son Jesus Christ. We learned to obey the commandments and found great joy and happiness in doing so.

I later remarried to a wonderful man; one who loved the true God and served Him. We had three more beautiful children. Shule developed into a great leader in the church and the community. From the time he was baptized, he was completely committed to following and serving the true God. He taught many about Jesus Christ and His coming. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, we truly lived after the manner of happiness.

Olivia Part 3

Olivia Part 1

Olivia Part 2

One week after Mara’s death, I was with my four remaining children in our large garden, picking some of the beautiful flowers and herbs that grew there. I suddenly heard Gideon’s booming voice yelling and ordering someone to leave. I went to him and saw the same man that I saw at Mara’s death, the one who appeared sad and had tears in his eyes. The man was with two other men, telling Gideon and others who were with Gideon that they needed to repent or the Lord would send a famine to the people.

My heart jumped. He was a prophet! A true prophet, one that Mara told me to listen to. I rushed to Gideon and pleaded with him to listen to them. They came with an important message for us. Gideon immediately slapped me across the face, sending me to the ground, then warned me to never listen to them. Their God was nonsense and we worshipped the true gods. I arose, looked at the prophets with pleading tears in my eyes and ran back into the house.

I knew that I had to find a way to speak with the prophets; I wanted to learn more about what they taught. Later that day, Gideon left to visit a neighboring city. I could only guess he was traveling there to talk to the leader about what to do with the prophets.

After he left, I went to the marketplace to look for the prophets. I found them! They were talking to the people and telling us that they needed to turn to the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only by following the teachings of Jesus Christ would we find true happiness. My heart burned inside me as I listened to their message. What did that mean?

The prophets also warned us that if we did not repent and turn to Jesus Christ, our communities and villages would be afflicted with a severe famine and many would die. Several of the onlookers laughed and mocked at this statement. They told the prophets that we have had plenty of rain, we had a great amount of food in storage because of our bounteous harvest last year, and we had just made a sacrifice to our gods to assure our continued success. In fact, while they were talking, it started to rain! Some of our people again laughed at the prophets and bragged to them that the rain was a sign that our gods were taking care of us.

Because of the heavy downpour, most people went back to their homes. Not caring if I got wet, I walked over to the prophets, looking directly at the one that I saw at Mara’s sacrifice, and asked them about their God. I told them what Mara told me and that she came to me after her death.

Because I was Gideon’s wife, they cautioned me to be careful. They saw what Gideon did to me. I informed them that I did not fear Gideon; I feared their God. They briefly taught me about Jesus Christ, that He would come to the earth to save us from our sins. They taught me that by following His commandments, I could find true happiness and be with my Mara again. They told me that the burning of my heart was the Holy Ghost confirming to me that what I heard was true.

There was so much to learn! How could I be taught by these holy men without the wrath of Gideon coming upon me? They advised me to be patient; the time would soon come when I could be baptized. They also assured me that I would be protected during the famine, but they could not guarantee the protection of my children. They did say that if any of my children died during the famine, because of my faith, they would be taken to Heavenly Father’s arms, just like Mara. I felt so much peace from their words, a peace that I had never felt before. It brought joy and hope into my heart.

Two days after listening to the prophets, while secretly praying, Shule knocked on my door. I let him in. He desired to know more about the prophets. He heard them talking to the people and also felt Gideon’s anger toward them. He could not understand his father’s anger to men who actually seemed really pleasant. He confessed to me that he felt happy inside when he listened to the prophets and truly wanted to believe them. I gave him a big hug, right then and there! We hugged and we cried because of our newfound faith. I reminded Shule that we could not mention this to anyone, especially his father. We understood that we could not mention our faith to my other children, not knowing how they would react. We hoped that they would feel the peace that we felt and come to me. We decided then and there that we would secretly pray for them, and for Gideon.

Gideon and the other leaders in our city decided that the prophets needed to leave or die. They tried stoning them, but it was as if a giant shield was around them. They could not be hit by any of the stones. This infuriated Gideon. He ran after them with his sword, but was not able to catch up to them. Deep in my heart, I knew the true God protected them.

Our growing season seemed like we would have another bounteous harvest. Gideon and others laughed and laughed at the prophets and their prophecies about famines. It seemed as though we received the perfect amounts of rainfall, at exactly the right times to insure a productive and plentiful harvest.

About midway through our growing season, just as we were beginning to gather some of our harvest, the sky suddenly turned an eerie dark. It was almost as dark as night. We ran to our homes to take cover, understanding the potential intensity of the storm. The storm thundered upon us and it thundered hard. A whirlwind blew through destroying a neighboring city. Hail as big as apples, poured out the sky. The sound of the hail hitting the roof was deafening. Many pieces of hail broke through the roof and into the house. The howling wind was frightening! Trees and unsecured homes were blown over. One of our beautiful flowering trees fell onto our house!

After what seemed like several hours, but was probably only about one hour, the storm exited our area, heading to destroy neighboring cities. The bright sun shone after the encompassing darkness. We walked out of our house to complete chaos. The damage was devasting. All of the homes in our city were damaged or completely destroyed from the hail and wind. Many animals were injured or dead because of the hail. Some of our people died and were severely injured from the wind and the hail. All of our crops and fruit trees were completely destroyed.

As a community, we gathered together in the market area to make a plan. We needed to care for the injured, bury the dead, replant our crops soon, and rebuild our homes. We felt overwhelmed!

Gideon immediately blamed those who listened to the prophets for the storm. He told us that our gods were angry because some, including me, listened to the prophets. He threatened death to anyone who listened to the prophets. He said it was better for one person to die rather than our entire city to die. In fact, he sentenced the prophets to death. If they came back to our city, they were to be stoned.

Three days after the big storm, while we were cleaning up and repairing our city, and cleaning our fields so we could replant, the three prophets came back to us. They tried to remind us to repent and as we repented, our crops and herds would be safe. However, if we did not repent, a famine would soon come to our land. Because of Gideon’s threats and his death sentence, as the prophets were speaking, many threw stones at them. Some shot at them with their arrows. However, they could not be hit. I knew the power of the true God was protecting them. As I looked around, I saw others who knew the prophets were speaking truth but like me, were too afraid to listen to them.

After delivering their message, the prophets safely fled our city. I was awed by their protection. Shule came to me privately and told me that he knew they were true prophets and that we needed to repent and find Jesus Christ. I asked him how we did that. I knew repentance had to do with being sorry for the things that you did wrong, but how to pray and find Jesus. Shule suggested that we pray to the true God and tell him that we were sorry for what we have done wrong and ask for help from Jesus. It was simple yet straightforward. Not knowing exactly what to do, Shule prayed a very sweet and simple prayer. He said,

“God, the true God. Momma and I are sorry for what we did wrong. Please send Jesus to help us so we won’t die in the famine. That’s all. Thank you. Amen.”

After the prayer, Shule and I were overcome with feelings of peace, joy, and love that must have come from the true God. I had never felt anything like that before, especially from the gods that I claimed to have worshipped. I knew that there was a true God, a God who loved us and would help us. We also knew that the famine would indeed happen, but we would be protected. In my heart, I prayed for my other children. Unfortunately, they seemed to follow what Gideon and the other leaders were saying. I could only hope that I could find a way to bring the true God’s love to them.

(to be continued…)

 

Olivia Part 2

Olivia Part 1

Mara’s 12th birthday arrived. It was a beautiful day. The temperatures had warmed after our cold season. The leaves on the trees were budding and springtime flowers were in full bloom. I helped dress Mara in a beautiful white dress made from the finest silk and cloth available. The dress was made especially made for this occasion by our finest dressmaker. Fresh flowers adorned her beautifully plaited hair. Mara looked so beautiful in her dress, and so queen-like. My heart was sad as to what would take place that day, but so proud for her beauty. This day, Mara had an uncommon look of determination in her eyes, unlike the sadness that I usually saw.

Because this was such an important day for our city and the communities around us, people came from all over to participate and witness the events. Our gods would be appeased today and this was most significant for all our communities. Even the King and Queen came to join in the celebration.

The day started with a procession with Mara atop a high carriage for all to see. Everyone cheered for her. Many extravagant gifts were brought for her (which Gideon would take for himself). Gideon and I were also dressed in the finest of clothes, made by the best clothiers specifically for this occasion. Gideon ensured that we looked the part of the parents of a goddess. We were greeted by many dignitaries, including the king and queen. They bowed to us as they showed their appreciation for Mara’s sacrifice. They reminded us that we would be richly blessed by the gods. In my mind, I wondered how they could know that.

We hosted an elaborate feast with the best and riches foods and wines. Many entertainers including musicians, dancers, and musicians enhanced the celebratory mood. Everyone seemed to relish in the entertainment available to them.

Something in all the wealth, luxury, and extravagance seemed hollow to me. Something did not feel right. It did not feel right and appropriate that I should lose my daughter. I was told from the time Mara was born that I would not lose a daughter but giving the greatest gift I could ever give to the gods; Mara was born for this very purpose. Because of Mara, our abundant way of life would be preserved.

During the feast, in a rare alone moment, Mara confided in me and shared with me that an angel of the true God came to her in the night and instructed her not to be afraid. The true God would be with her and comfort her, and bring her home to him. She pleased with me not to be sad or afraid because I would be taken care of. Gideon then sat down next to Mara, we quickly changed the subject, however our eyes met with a clear understanding that my daughter knew something that I needed to learn more about.

My heart just about failed me. I somehow had to maintain my composure. I always thought something was not right about our gods, but now I knew. Now what was could I do?

After the feast, Gideon, Mara, and I led the procession to our temple. Then came the king and queen, our other children, followed by my parents, Gideon’s parents, then most of the banquet attendees. After arriving at the temple, Mara was offered wine with a strong relaxing drug, but she refused it. She humbly laid herself down on the alter, looked at me, this time with an even greater determination in her eyes. She looked up and stared as if she was looking at someone. Then Mara smiled.

The priest who would make the sacrifice, witnessed Mara’s expression and shouted for all to hear that she was looking at the gods and smiling at them. He proclaimed that the gods were very satisfied with Mara’s sacrifice, and with Gideon and me as her parents. Those watching cheered at the proclamation! He then performed the sacrifice while the onlookers continue to cheer. Her heart was held high for all to see and then put in a special orate vase made of gold to be given to the gods.

I was devastated. My beautiful, sweet Mara. But, even with the devastation I felt, I could not cry. I had to continue to appear as if I were celebrating with Gideon. I was so ready to go to my bedchamber and be alone to cry and to grieve the death of my daughter, but had to wait and pretend to enjoy the celebrations.

My mother came to me, put her arms around me and told me how proud she was of me and Mara. She assured me that I had just done the highest service for our people that I could ever do. I hugged her back and thanked her for her words. After all, she knew exactly what it was like to sacrifice a daughter. Did she ever feel like I felt? Did she have regrets? Her actions and words appeared that she had no regrets, but did I see a slight bit of sadness or regret in her eyes? I would probably never know.

The celebration continued through the day and into the night. Many people came to congratulate Gideon and me. They assured us that the Gods would bless us and take care of us. How could the death of a beautiful daughter be worthy of congratulations? How I craved to be alone.

During the events of the day, I noticed one man who seemed very familiar to me, but I could not place his face. He did not seem to share the same celebratory mood as the rest of the people. In fact, after Mara was sacrificed, I noticed a tear falling from his eye. Who was this person? Why was he at our celebrations? Why did he not celebrate like everyone else?

Finally, late into the night everyone returned to their homes. After checking on my children, I retired to my bedchamber, expecting to be alone like I usually was. Tonight, Gideon came to be with me. Oh, how I resented that. I needed to be alone. I was tired of faking my happiness. I needed to grieve! I told Gideon that I didn’t feel well; that did not stop him. He said that we needed to celebrate the sacrifice of our daughter and forced himself on me. I pretended, again, to enjoy myself but my heart was dying. As the sun’s light began to lighten the eastern sky, Gideon left. Finally, I was alone. My handmaid came in to see if I needed anything; I asked her to bring me some food, then I wanted to be left alone. I informed her that I needed time to worship our gods.

It was not long until food was brought, but I could not eat much. I was finally along and it was time for me to grieve. And oh, how I grieved. I cried and cried. I cried for hours. My dear Mara. In the midst of my grieving, my dear sweet Mara came to me. At first, I thought I was hallucinating from the wine I had the day before (even though I did not have much). Mara sweetly assured me that this was a real vision. She told me that she was happy and finally free of what she endured during her life. She implored me to listen to the prophets and I would be saved. She wanted me to find happiness and if I listened to the prophets I would find true happiness. She told me that the prophets will teach me about the true and living God and that He would help me. Then, she was gone. I cried for her to come back, but she did not.

Shortly after my vision, my youngest son Shule, 6-years old, knocked on my door. I quickly dried my eyes and let him in. He asked me why Mara had to be sacrificed. He loved his sister. They looked very much alike as Gideon was the father to both of them. Of all my children, Mara and Shule were the closest, despite the age difference.

Tears came to his eyes; I could see that he felt very sad. I offered the explanation that I was expected to give him, how Mara was born to be a goddess and that giving her life would help assure that we had food to eat and toys to play with. Shule did not seem satisfied. He told me that he thought something was wrong with that.

Again, I wished to tell him of my vision of Mara, but did not dare; I feared that he would tell the wrong person. He was only six years old and I did not think he would understand the kind of trouble we would both be in if anyone knew of my inner conflict. However, I had a feeling that at some point in time that I would be able to confide in him.

I hugged Shule and told him how much I loved him then we cried together. He was surprised that I was crying. He thought I was happy about Mara’s sacrifice. I lied to him, that even though I was happy, that like him, I missed her, but we can still be happy about what she did. Then Shule whispered to me that we could not tell anyone that we cried together and that we missed Mara. What a wise little boy! He possessed wisdom beyond his years.

(To be continued…)