Moroni lived a long time by himself with his father’s books. And he learned to love his books like people. Because they were like people, in a way, because they carried hope. And Moroni had read the stories so many times they were familiar to him like people, and he could sit with them and they could be together without even opening the cover.
But before Moroni died, he sat down to read his father’s book one last time. He picked it up, and brushed the dust off the cover. And the dust rose into the air and turned gold in the light of the evening sun which was just shining in through the opening of the cave.
And the plume of dust grew and sparkled and spread out and up the cave wall and out into the sky and up and up and up. And Moroni understood that the book was not just a book. It was a prayer. A prayer full of voices. There was Lehi and Nephi and Mosiah and Alma and Ether and the others. But they were also one voice. A voice that rose from the earth like this dust and shone brightly in the sun. A great, bright, sparkling thing.
And in the prayer, he could almost hear his father’s voice. And Moroni yearned to hear it again and so he opened the book, and out fell a letter from his father. And Moroni opened the letter.
“Dear Moroni,” the letter said. “I have seen the worst of humanity. The people I love have become like zombies, more dead than alive, more animal than human. People kill each other and eat each other and humiliate each other. This is a world I no longer recognize. It was once full of love and people and pine trees and brushes and birds in the brushes. It is now full of beasts and cannibals and hate and anger and death.
“The world has fallen. People I remember as children have become monsters. And there is nothing more terrible than seeing a child become a monster. Because that is not supposed to happen. Children are meant to be angels. And you are my angel, Moroni. You beautiful boy. But look at the world I have brought you into.
“I fight every day to see you and your mother again. You are my hope. And I wish I could tell you that it was enough. I wish I could tell you things will get better. I wish I could tell you that we will win the war or that we will restore peace. But we are losing. We have already lost. It is nearly over. I will die soon. And I might never see you again.
“And if I die, you and the others will have to run for your life. They will hunt you down. And if they catch you, they will kill you. You will run and run. But there is nothing to run to. Nowhere to go. That is the future left for you. And there is nothing I can do to change it now.”
“But Moroni, there is hope. I do not understand it. I do not know how I can feel it now, at the end of our people, and the end of our religion, and the end of my life, at the end of everything I have ever known. But I can feel it. It is deeper than my terror. Deeper than my fear. It has gone below all things. It is deep, so very deep. Even deeper than the depths of my breaking heart.”
“And this is my final blessing to you. It is all I have to give: You shall have hope.”
And now at the end of Moroni’s life, he could feel that hope swell within him, still burning. His father’s hope. Not just his father’s hope, his people’s hope. The voices of the prayer filled the cave, twirling, shining, brilliant.
And they spoke to Moroni and with Moroni. It was his turn to offer the prayer. To pass the hope on to another person, another people. And so Moroni wrote his prayer down at the very end of his father’s book. And he said that hope was a gift. It was his father’s gift and his father’s gift and his father’s gift all the way back to the Father of all fathers—Adam and then God Himself. And it is a precious gift because it is both the beginning and the end of faith. And without faith it is impossible to love. And without love, we have nothing. Without love, nothing else matters. Without love, we have failed already.
Moroni knew that all things would fail. His father had failed. The Nephites had failed. Zion had failed. His own body was failing. And future generations would fail. You and I, we would fail. But hope remained. It stuck like a forgotten letter between the pages of our greatest failures. And sometimes, the book sits on the shelf, gathering dust. And we forget about the letter inside. Until we open it, and it falls to our feet.
And Moroni added his father’s letter to the book again. He ran his finger across the words one last time. Hope was the letter and the message was love.
Love that was kind and generous even when the world was crumbling. Love that accepted injuries and did not fear insults or pain or death. Love that did not blush when saying I love you and was never embarrassed. Love that lived alone and was not lonely. Love that was secure and unmoveable like an iron rod. Love that rose up and was greater than everything else and could be killed again and again without ever dying.
And at the very end of Moroni’s life, he could feel his father’s love which was God’s love. And despite everything, it was enough. There was nothing else he needed, nothing else he desired. He was content.
Soon it would be time to bury the book. His father’s book. He would go back to the very place where his father had fought and all his people had died. He would put the book deep in the ground with all the Nephite bodies God had buried. There in the place of failure, in the place of death, in the place of despair, he would plant his father’s hope. And he knew, one day the seed would grow and the voices would speak again.
And so Moroni wrote his final lines. He said that anyone who reads the book will need to do what he had just done. They would need to pray. And if you pray, you will hear them. The voices. The voices praying for you. Hands reached out, blessing your head, filling your soul with indescribable, inexpressible, undeniable hope. Hope of our fathers and their fathers and our Father and their Father. And then, like a bud of an apple tree, hope will blossom into faith and faith will grow into fruit. And we will eat the apple. And it will taste better than good. It is the thing we’ve been hungry for all our lives.
We will be filled with this love and we will know that the voices, like dust from the earth, are prayers from real people who love a real God. And that God is seeing you fail and fail and fail. And He is reaching out His hand to help you up. And He is saying, once more, that you are good.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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