Ether’s people were scared of death and of each other. They were fighting and killing and dying. And the war grew and grew and everyone joined in and fought and died until there was just one person left alive. One person, beside Ether. And the whole time, Ether could only watch as the world fell apart. And while he watched, he wrote down everything he saw on metal paper so that the stories would last long after he was gone. And by the end, Ether had written several books containing the sorrow and loss and destruction he had seen from his hideout on the mountain. And before Ether died, he set the books out in the open hoping that someday someone would find them.
And that’s just what happened. They ended up in the hands of the Nephites. And they were handed down from father to son for seven hundred years until, as you remember, Mormon gave all his books to Moroni, who lived the rest of his life with no one else but his books. And now Mornoi was reading Ether’s stories. And as he read, he thought that it all sounded very familiar.
Do you remember how before the big, horrible, Nephite-ending battle, people started losing all their things, or burying them and forgetting where they were? That happened to Ether’s people, too! And when Moroni read that, he thought “Ah, I can relate to this story.” And so Moroni kept reading.
Next he read about how everybody during Ether’s life seemed to be fighting all the time. They slept with their swords and made alliances and joined armies to protect themselves and their stuff. “Ah,” Mornoi thought, ‘that happened to my people too.” And so he kept reading.
Then he read about how the people started fighting and the war grew bigger and bigger and bigger until everyone was fighting, even the women and children had shields and swords and fought in the battles. And Moroni thought, “This is even sadder than my story.” But still he kept reading.
He read about how Ether tried to convince the king, Coriantumr, to stop the fighting. Ether told the king that a big army is not as powerful as a tiny bit of faith. And that if they kept fighting, everyone would die. But Coriantumr just laughed at Ether. “If we stop fighting, we will die anyways. Faith is not going to stop the other army from killing us and taking our children and our women and our land and our animals and everything.” And so Ether ran away and he hid in a cave and kept writing. And Moroni kept reading and nodded his head and thought, “I also hid in a cave with my father.” And Moroni kept reading.
And then there was one big final battle, just like with the Nephites and the Lamanites. Only this time, there was no winner. All the fathers were killed. All the mothers were killed. All the children were killed. Until there were only two soldiers left and they turned and fought each other. And one killed the other. And the last man alive was Coriantumr. And Coiantumr looked around and while he was still breathing, everything he had fought for was gone. His wife, his children, his grandchildren. Everything was dead and cold and over. And his heart froze like a winter boulder. And he fell on the ground and screamed.
But Ether was still alive because he had been hiding in his cave the whole time. But when he heard Coriantumr’s scream, he came down from his hideout with water and bandaids to see if he could heal Coriantumr. But Coriantumr said, “Go away.” He was hurt somewhere that a bandaid could not cover. And Ether offered Coriantumr water, and Coriantumr drank and then said, “If you have to say it, say it.” Ether shook his head. “Go ahead, say it. Say, I told you so.” Ether would not say it. Instead, he tried to give Coriantumr a hug. But Coriantumr did not want to be touched. And even though there was no one else in the world to be with, Coriantumr turned his shoulder and walked away from Ether. “There is no fixing this,” he said. And then he was gone.
And Moroni thought, “Ether, I wish you had been here to comfort me. I would have stayed with you. We could be friends, and then neither of us would be alone. Wouldn’t that be nice? You are the only person in the world who could understand me.”
Moroni wanted to know how Ether would live, how he would survive, how he could be happy after all the death and destruction he had seen. And so Moroni kept reading. And as he read, he started to wonder if Ether had written all these books just for him. Maybe Ether was being a pen pal only they were not separated by hundreds of miles but by hundreds of years. And Ether was reaching out across those years to teach Moroni how to live with faith after seeing so much suffering. How to live with joy after feeling grief. How to hope again, when hoping could not be trusted.
And Moroni read and read everything Ether had written to him. And he loved it so much that he wrote some of it down in his father’s book. And because of Ether, Moroni learned again how to be an optimist.
Optimist, a definition:
Believing in God is optimistic. This is not because God is hard to believe in. It is the most natural thing in the world to believe in God. God made us that way. He made us full of hope and faith and love. The three fit together like peas in a pod. And you are the pod. And because peas are very tasty, there is a whole world of people and sorrow and disappointments that will try and eat those peas right out of your heart. And to be an optimist, you will have to learn to grow them back. And so it is not hard to be an optimist but it is very hard to stay an optimist.
And Ether taught Moroni how to stay an optimist. And what Ether wrote is something like this: “Start by getting to know Jesus a little better. I am not the only person who understands you. I needed a friend long before you were ever born. And Jesus was that friend for me. And He has visited me and has been my companion and He will be there for you. And He will teach you how to hope again. He will make you an optimist. And you will believe the world is good. You will come to know it more than you’ve ever known it. Even after everything you’ve seen, you will be sure of it. And you will also know that there is an even better world. One that is built out of the broken pieces of this world. And you will learn how to live in that better world.”
We do not know everything Ether taught Moroni. But we do have the final thing he said. His very last sentence. And he said that all of his sorrows and all of the pain he had gone through, and all the loneliness and suffering he would go through, didn’t matter. All that mattered to Ether was God. He was the last and only hope. Without God there would be no baby Ethers. No children or grandchildren. No joy or singing. No family or books or story time. Without God, it was over for Ether and his people. Without God it was all gone. Without God it was too late. Without God, it was all just broken pieces. Ether could see clearly. The only hope for the past was the future. And God was the future.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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