Samuel the Lamanite was gone. And nobody wrote down his story. And people tried to forget everything he said. And they tried to carry on their lives as if Samuel had never stood on the wall and never told them that Jesus was going to be born in five years. And perhaps they would have succeeded if Samuel hadn’t given such a short and specific time frame.  

You might think five years is a long time. And you would be right. If you are five now, you will be ten, five years from now. If you are fifteen, you will be twenty. But five years is also a very short time. In five years, your hair will grow two and a half feet. But a saguaro cactus will only grow a half inch. And for the Nephites who had been waiting for six hundred years, five years was so short. Too short. Too short a time to not hope. At least a little. 

And so a bunch of Nephites decided to believe Samuel and they became the Stargazers. Because Samuel had told them that when Jesus was born, there would be a new star. And so every night they checked the sky. But the stars were always the same. And they thought about how old the stars were. And how long it must take to grow a new star. And then the Stargazers would sigh and say, “Goodnight stars!” and go to their beds and sleep. 

Not everyone became a Stargazer. Some became Downlookers. They tried to avoid looking up at the stars. They didn’t want to get their hopes up because they did not want to be disappointed. But even the Downlookers, on cold, clear nights, when they were alone, would sometimes glance up to see if they could find a new star in that huge mesh of stars. 

But then, five years was over. The ten year olds were fifteen. Their hair was two and a half feet longer. The cacti were all a half inch taller. But the stars, they were exactly the same. No new stars anywhere. No day without a night. No Jesus. 

This made the Downlookers angry. They said, “Samuel was crazy. But we were even crazier for letting him get our hopes up. There will never be a new star. But we can make a new law so that we are never hoodwinked again.” And the new law was this: No one was allowed to believe in the new star or Jesus. No more star gazing. No more Stargazers. Because getting rid of the Stargazers was the only way to stop the Nephites from getting their hopes up. 

This made the Stargazers nervous. They said, “But wait. When you turn five years old, you stay five years old for a whole year. And so, tomorrow Samuel’s prediction will still be five years old. We have a whole year to hope and wait and star gaze. Give us one more year, and if we are wrong, you can throw us in prison or even kill us. But we will not be wrong. You will see.”

And so the new law was made. And anyone who still believed in Samuel’s prophecy at the end of the year, would be put to death. And even on cold nights, when the Downlookers were alone, they would not look to the sky. Because they refused to be made fools of ever again.  

And as the year drew to a close, the Stargazers became nervous. And the Stargazers went to Nephi, their prophet. And they asked him what they should do. “The year is almost over and still there is no new star,” they said. “Maybe the Downlookers were right. Maybe Samuel was wrong.”

This made Nephi’s heart very very heavy. And his head was also very very heavy and he could not look the Stargazers in the eyes. Instead he looked down at the ground and said, “This is why I did not write Samuel’s story down. Because waiting for signs can be very dangerous. You hope and you wait and maybe you see the sign and maybe you don’t. There are so many stars, it is easy to miss one. It can be cloudy. You can fall asleep. And the worst part is that the only thing you can do when you are waiting for signs, is wait.”

And then Nephi raised his head. “But I will wait with you,” he said. There is one more night. And we will go outside together and we will look at the stars. And we will trust God and we will trust Samuel. And we will wait to the very end.”

And as they were waiting for it to get dark, Nephi went by himself and knelt down. “God,” he said. “I hope Samuel was right about you and Jesus. We are trusting him and we are trusting you. And we are waiting.”

And God spoke to Nephi and said, “Nephi. If it feels like you are waiting for me please know that I am also waiting for you. And if it feels like I have forgotten you, please know that I will never ever ever ever ever ever forget you. And when you think it is too late and I must have fallen asleep, please know that I stay up very late and I am not sleeping. And if you think you cannot wait another night, then neither can I. And so, Nephi, tonight is the night. Tonight I am sending you Jesus. I am going to keep all my promises. Everything I ever said will happen, will happen. Just like you hoped. And tonight, it is the star. Look out your window. There, in the middle of the sky. Do you see it? I have been waiting so long for you.”

And Nephi peeked out through his curtains, and there, burning bright enough to hide the canopy of a million lights, was a new star. Samuel’s star. It was bright, and beautiful. And the Stargazers greeted the star with a gasp and a single word: Atlast! And the star replied, atlast atlast atlast. 

But when the Downlookers saw the star, they did not feel joy. And instead of saying at last, they said, “Alas.” They had not waited for the star. And the star had come anyways.They did not have to be waiting for God for God to be waiting for them. This made them uncomfortable. They wanted to put out the star. To pluck it like an apple from the sky. But they could not reach that high. It hung there, blinking like an alarm clock in the night: I am waiting, I am waiting, I am waiting.

And tonight is the night. It was true then, and it is true still. Tonight is the night when everything God has ever promised will happen. Tonight God will save you. Tonight He will hold you. Tonight He will dance with you, and laugh with you, and cry with you. Tonight He will wipe away your tears. Tonight God will send you Jesus. Tonight and every night.

All artwork by Lauren Blair.

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4 thoughts on “The stargazers and the downlookers (3 Nephi 1)

  1. So lovely. (I am not sure why but when I listen to it, is cuts off the last paragraph in the audio – the beautiful part about “tonight is the night”). I loved imagining this tale. Thank you.

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