Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moroni's strawberries

I taught the lesson at our ward FHE a couple of weeks ago, and I keep thinking about it. So maybe I should write it down and share it with you, my imaginary readers. So I will!

A lot of things in my life seem like they're coming to a close. The year is ending, my classes are wrapping up, I am getting ready to move, my dissertation is slouching towards completion. And other things have also finished.

In a sense, everything in this life is temporary:

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

(Psalms 103:15-16)

And that makes me feel a little down.

But for the last few weeks, I've been thinking about this zen parable. Among other places, it's found in an episode of King of the Hill, where it is recounted by Kahn Souphanousinphone.

As a Buddhist, of course, I get comfort from a story. I don't need to tell you how much Buddhists love a story!

Anyway, story begins with man being chased by ferocious man-eating tiger. Tiger chase him to edge of cliff. Man falls off. Halfway down, he grab onto branch.

He look up, he see ferocious tiger. Now he look down, he see another hungry tiger, waiting for him on the ground below. Not a good place to be. He knows for sure he gonna die.

Then out of corner of his eye he see a wild strawberry growing on same branch. He pluck it and eat it. And it was the sweetest-tasting strawberry he ever had.

The man is still going to die. So why eat the strawberry? Because strawberries are good. Plus, you never know, right? Maybe the tigers will go away.

This makes me think of Moroni. He was in a giant battle where most of his people perished, and his father was apparently mortally wounded. But Moroni lived. And he wrote, on his father's gold plates. He says he is only finishing the record because his father commanded him, and that he expects that sooner or later he will be killed by his enemies. But he writes two chapters anyway, which end with a very powerful testimony and an emphatic Amen. The end.

But then we turn the page, and there's Moroni again. He's still alive, and still writing. He translates and edits the book of Ether, giving us fifteen chapters. And at the end there is a lone prophet, the only survivor of his people, finishing his record and burying it in the earth according to the Lord's commandments. It's a very poignant echo of Moroni himself, who surely expected that he would soon die. The end.

But we turn the page, and here's Moroni.

I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished...

Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed...that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord.

(Moroni 1:1, 4)

So he keeps writing. At first, it's just a few little unconnected scraps. Then he passes along three letters that his father wrote him, years before. All three are profound and moving, and end powerfully. Any of them would have been a fitting way to end the record of Moroni's people, and maybe that's what he was thinking as he wrote each one. The end.

But then we get chapter 10, which he starts by saying that he will "write somewhat as seemeth me good... And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you." Then he makes a promise: Read this book, ask God if it's true, and he'll show you by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Like tens of millions of other people, I've read this promise and tried it. And I can testify that the Book of Mormon is true. And I can testify that God will reveal his truths to us through the power of the Holy Ghost if we just ask.

The chapter ends with Moroni bidding us farewell. We've seen this before. He's given us plenty of farewells and amens and closing testimonies. But this one really is the last one. He never got a chance to come back and add a few more words. This was his last strawberry.

What if he had quit before he got to that last chapter? The world would be so much poorer without these words. I'm so glad that he didn't give up. I'm so grateful that as long as he lived, he kept writing.

In Conference, President Monson said, "We never know how soon it will be too late." That's a pretty sobering thought.

The devil also tells me that it might be too late, and adds that I might as well give up. If the tide is coming in, there's no point in continuing to build the sand castle, right? Just let it go.

But the Lord's counsel is different. Our time here is limited, so hurry up and do something good! Be like Moroni, choose the right, be happy. Eat a strawberry. Hang in there. And who knows? Maybe the tigers will get bored and go watch King of the Hill.