The stories of Ether are not about the Nephites or the Lamanites. They are much older. They start way back, when people first came to live on the earth. At first, people did not know if they could trust the earth to take care of them. And then there was a big storm and lightning and tornadoes and fires and floods, and the people said, “We have got to get out of here.”
And so they decided to build a tower so tall that they could climb to the very top, open the window, and step right out into heaven. They thought, if we can just get to heaven, we will be safe, because God is in heaven and He will protect us. And so they started building, floor by floor. And the higher they got, the more excited they became.
“We are almost to the clouds!” they said. “Look how small the trees and homes and people are from here. Soon we will be in heaven and we will knock on God’s door and say, Hello there! Can we stay with you?” And they imagined seeing God and what he would say and what heaven looked like. The one thing they knew, is that there would be no storms or fires or tornadoes in heaven. And God would be there, and He would protect them.
But this made God sad because He did not live in the clouds. He was not behind a locked door. And heaven was not built in the sky. It was going to be built here, on the beautiful earth God had created. And so God wanted His children to stop building a tower and to start building heaven. And so He made a miracle happen.
When everybody went to work in the morning, they were all speaking different languages. And it worked, the people stopped building the tower because they could not work together because they could not understand each other. And instead of running away from the earth, they ran away from each other. Because it is easy to be scared of people you do not understand. Maybe they are saying mean things. Maybe they are calling you names. Who knows. And so instead of building a tower, they built fences and walls and only let in the people who spoke the same language. And this split up friends, and cities, and even families.
But one of those families had two brothers. One brother was named Jared, and the other brother was named the Brother of Jared. He wasn’t actually named the Brother of Jared. He had a real name, but it was a very very very long name. And though his parents thought it was so cute, it was very impractical. And so everyone just called him the Brother of Jared.
And when God was changing everyone’s language, the Brother of Jared had prayed and asked God to keep his family’s language the same. So that they could communicate and stay together. And God had answered his prayer. But then God said, “But you are going to have to leave. I need your help building a city. And the city we will build together is going to be a long ways from here.”
And Jared and the Brother of Jared took their families, and their friends, and their animals, and their seeds and their little honey bees, and they left into the wilderness where God was waiting for them.
And God led them through the wilderness and brought them to a ginormous lake. He told them to build boats and they sailed over the water. But after all that traveling, they just came to an ocean. And the ginormous lake was just a little puddle compared to the ocean. And God told them to sail across the ocean too. And Jared and the Brother of Jared and their family were nervous, because an ocean is a very big thing to cross. And so instead of crossing, they waited. They waited for one year and then another year and then four years had passed away.
And God was not happy. Because He had big plans for this family. But they were too scared of the ocean to follow. Instead of crossing over, they were building a city, right here on the beach. And God said, “You have forgotten me. But I have not forgotten you. And this ocean is not big enough to get between us and our city. You will build boats, or something more like a submarine. We will call it a barge. And you will put all your people and seeds and animals inside these barges. And you will cross this ocean. And I will be with you, all the way to the end of the earth.”
“God,” said the Brother of Jared, “I am sorry we forgot you, but we are scared. We are so small. And the ocean is so big. What if there are storms, and the ocean swallows the barges up?”
“You are right,” God said. “There will be storms. And you will be like a whale floating along in the middle of the sea. And the waves will grow tall as mountains, and you will sink all the way to the bottom of the ocean. But I am deeper than the ocean. And I will reach into the water, and pull you back up. And I will open my mouth and blow you all the way to the Promised Land.”
And when the barges were built they did not let in any water but they also did not let in any light. And they did not have electricity, so the journey across the ocean was going to be pitch black. And this made the kids scared. And it also made the adults scared. Because everyone’s a little afraid of the dark. “We need light,” they said. And so the Brother of Jared thought long and hard. Then he brought rocks up a mountain, and put them on the ground and spoke to God. “Obviously, I don’t have any good ideas on how to make light,” he said. “But you made the earth and the sun out of less than this. Please, can you make us lights because we are scared of the dark?” And God reached down and touched the rocks, and made them glow bright like sunshine. And the Brother of Jared saw God’s finger, touching the rocks. And he was frightened. He did not realize God was there beside him.
“God!” he said, “Are you here?”
“Child,” God laughed, “I have been here all along.” And all of the sudden, the Brother of Jared opened the eyes of his soul, and there was God, standing with him in the world.
And God spoke to the Brother of Jared and said, “You are not on the earth to run away from your fears or from each other or from darkness or difference. You are here to run towards something. And it is the city I have been talking about. It is the city of God. It is where I live with my people. So take these lights, and do not fear, do not run away ever again. Run towards. Run into the world and into the darkness. I will make a path for you. Even if it is over an ocean. And it will be a straight and narrow path because a straight line is the shortest distance from where we are now to where we are going. So sally forth already, brave voyagers.”
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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