The story we are about to tell you was almost forgotten. And it was almost forgotten because it is a story about a Lamanite. And the Book of Mormon is more about the Nephites than the Lamanites. And so even though there were many great Lamanite prophets, we do not know about any of them, except for one. And his name was Samuel.
We do not know much about Samuel. We do not know how old he was or if he had walking sandals. We do not know who his parents were or where he came from. Because nobody wrote any of this down. In fact, no one wrote anything down. Not for many years.
All we know is a single story about his life. And it’s a story that might change what you think about the Lamanites. You might think that the Lamanites were bad or lazy or wicked and the Nephites were always helping the Lamanites to be less bad and less lazy and more righteous by teaching them about Jesus. But this was not the case. And we know this because of Samuel the Lamanite who came to teach the Nephites about Jesus.
And the Nephites would not listen. And so Samuel climbed up the wall of Zarahemla. He stood tall and strong above all the Nephites. He took a deep breath. And the next hour or so of his life is all that we know about Samuel.
“Nephites,” he said, “I have something important to tell you. You are all sad and angry and playing a very sad game of hide and seek. You are trying to hide from each other. And you are seeking for happiness. But this is impossible. Because you cannot have happiness alone. You need to come out. And you need to come out fast. Because Jesus is coming and you don’t want to miss him.”
And the Nephites did come out. But they were not happy with Samuel. The sun was so bright. “Don’t tell us about Jesus,” they said. “You are a Lamanite. We taught you everything you know about Jesus.”
Samuel shook his head and said, “But I know something you don’t know. Because God told me a secret. And it’s a big one. A very very big one.”
The Nephites shook their head and threw rocks at him. But they were having trouble seeing him because he was so high on the wall and the sun was in their eyes. “Come down or we will shoot you down,” they said. But Samuel would not come down until he had told his secret. And so some of the Nephites returned to their homes to get bows and arrows so they could shoot him down.
The others remained behind and said, “God would not tell you a secret. If God was going to tell us something He would tell Nephi, our prophet. Not some random Lamanite named Samuel.”
Samuel only shrugged and said, “Well God did come to me. And he told me that in five years, He is going to send us Jesus. THE Jesus. The one we’ve all been talking about for years and years and years. He’s coming so we all better get ready.”
“Let us stop you right there,” said the Nephites. “Do you want to know something about Jesus? Jesus isn’t coming here. He will be born very far away, back in Jerusalem. So even if He does come in five years, like you say, we will never know.”
“You are mistaken!” Samuel said. “Jesus is not coming to Jerusalem. He is coming to the world. And the whole world will celebrate. When He is born the stars will be so excited that a brand new star will burn sudden and radiant in the sky. And when you see this star you have never seen before, you will say, ‘Ah, there is the diamond in Jesus’s crown. He is come, the Prince of peace.’ And when He is born, the sky will be so excited that it will stay up all night watching this new little baby and never get dark. And when you see a day and a night and a day pass all shining brightly like a Christmas tree, you will say, ‘Ah, there is the fire in Jesus’s lantern. He is come, the light of the world.’ And it will be like this when Jesus is born. The birds and the animals will be singing. The trees and the rocks will be clanging and dancing like church bells. Everything everywhere from the ocean to the smallest specks of dust will weep or shout or tumble for joy that Jesus is born.
“And just like we will know when He is born, we will know when He dies. Because when He dies, the whole world will be terribly sad. The sky will cover her face with clouds and cry and sob. And the sun will turn away from the earth and refuse to shine. And the rocks will tear themselves in two. And the waves will churn. And whole cities will fall into the water or into holes in the ground and it will seem like the earth has given up on being happy because the earth will be mourning.”
“But after the storm, there will be a still small voice. And that voice will speak, and the storms will stop. And it will speak again, and the sun will peak back over the clouds. And it will speak again, and there will be Jesus. And when He is here, you will realize that even while He was in Jerusalem, He was also here, beside you. He did not forget you. No matter who you are or where you are. He remembers you. And so we all need to believe in Him and doubt no more.”
“How dare you tell us about Jesus!” they said. And they took the bows and arrows and tried to shoot Samuel down. It was too much for the Nephites to hear. They had been waiting for Jesus to come for hundreds and hundreds of years. And sometimes when you are so excited you are also scared. Scared that it will not be what you hoped. Scared that it will not happen at all.
It was all too wonderful to believe full heartedly. It is like secretly wishing for a new silver bicycle with tassels on the handles. And asking and hoping and praying for the bicycle. But then telling yourself that it will never come, or if it does it will probably be old and rusty and not very fun to ride. The Nephites could not bear to believe that Jesus was not just coming, but He was coming to them. After six hundred years of waiting and waiting and waiting, they needed their doubts.
And so they did not want Jesus to visit them in America. He was easier to believe when He was far away in Jerusalem. They would not be there when Jesus walked the streets. They would not be there to see Him raise Jarius’s daughter from the dead. They would not sit on the mount or eat from the baskets of bread and fish. They would never meet the woman who touched His hem or be able to ask for her name. They would not be in a single one of those stories. They would not meet Jesus. And that’s what they wanted. Because then there was always room to doubt. And when there is room to doubt it is safer and easier to hope.
And so the Nephites put arrows in their bows, pulled the bowstring back, aimed at Samuel, and released the arrows. The arrows flew right at his heart. But then they seemed to transform into long white daisies and they fell harmless to the ground. And Samuel climbed down the wall and ran away, arrows falling like flowers behind him. And this is all we know about Samuel.
Because no one wrote down his story. Not even Nephi. Nephi had not received the same revelation. And so maybe he was scared that Samuel was wrong. And Nephi knew the Nephites could not take much more disappointment. And if Samuel was wrong about Jesus coming to them, his story was best forgotten. It would only crush the people’s hopes.
But Jesus was coming, just as Samuel had said. And He was not just coming to Jerusalem. He was coming to the Nephites and the Lamanites. And He was not just coming to the Nephites and the Lamanites. He was coming to the whole world. He was coming for everyone.
And when Jesus came, He told the Nephites to write down the story of Samuel. So that it would not be forgotten. And so it’s because of Jesus we have this story. Because Jesus is a rememberer. He remembered Samuel. And He remembered the Nephites and the Lamanites. And He remembers you and me.
And if you think He has forgotten you, and you begin to doubt, just remember that hope is a hard thing to do for very long. And so we protect ourselves with doubts. Doubts about life. Doubts about death. Doubts about life after death. Doubts about Christ. Doubts that He even remembers us.
And when you have doubts, remember Samuel the Lamanite. He is on a wall somewhere saying, believe a little longer. Believe purely, whole heartedly that Jesus is real. Because He is coming soon. And He is coming for you. And it is going to be even better than you have imagined.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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