Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's in the Book of Mormon

Dear Daniel,

It's a New Year!  While you may not have known or understood why we were celebrating, it's a New Year!  I hope this one is filled with wonderful things for you.

New Year's always come with celebrations.  Here in PA, it's a tradition for things to be "dropped".  In New York City, they "drop" an apple, because it's the "Big Apple".  In PA, we drop all sorts of random things, depending on the town you're in.  In Lebanon, they drop a giant 13 foot bologna.  (You pronounce this "baloney", as we should.:)  In Hershey, they "raise" a kiss, and no one knows why they don't "drop" it.  Harrisburg drops a strawberry, York a white rose, Lancaster a red rose.  Palmyra drops a shoe, and from time to time, Cleona drops a pretzel.  Dillsburg drops a pickle, Foulmouth drops a goat.  What else is there? I think Elizabethtown drops a giant M&M.  I'm sure I'm forgetting somewhere.  Yes, we Pennsylvanians are weird!

When I was thinking of what I wanted to share with you, while things are festive, this time of year I often remember the stories in the Book of Mormon that relate.  I know we're likely on different calendars.  There is no place, to my knowledge, that says that when Mormon and Moroni abridged the plates, that they correlated the calendar of the Nephites and Lamanites to our modern-day calendar.  Despite this, there are traditions that seem to take place in the Book of Mormon in relation to months.  I would like to highlight one to you.

There are a few significant events tied into the end of the year.  There are two, in particular, that I can recite by memory, because they tie into one of my favorite persons, which is Teancum.  In Alma 51:34, Teancum puts an end to the evil Amalickiah on the eve of the new year, putting a javelin to his heart.

(photo source - James H. Fullmer.  Really enjoy his work.)

In the book War in the Book of Mormon, (I can't find the author now.  I believe it's either Nibley or Sorenson), the author expounds on the theory that there was great significance to this event.  I wish I could quote directly for you.  He points out that in Arabian countries, for a leader to perish on the eve of the new year, it is considered a terrible omen for the upcoming year.  For Teancum to take out Amalickiah, an apostate Nephite, on New Year's eve, surely meant devastation for the likely superstitious Lamanites that he had been leading.  Following his assassination, the Lamanites backed up their evil war plan for many days, even months.  (Alma 52:2)

(photo source)

Following this event, the war continued off and on.  This war totaled about seven years, when all was said and done.  And what ended it?  Again, this man Teancum.

In Alma 62, it appears to be two days before the new year.  Once again, Teancum and his army (along with the armies of Moroni and Lehi) seem to be all gathered together, preparing for more fighting the next day.  Teancum does his super-sleuthing maneuvers, and kills Ammoron (Amalickiah's brother, who succeeded him as the Lamanite leader).  Ammoron, however, unlike his brother, was alive long enough to have his guards (or whoever) chase down Teancum, and "slew him".

The next day, which was the eve of the new year, as Moroni and Lehi and the others mourned Teancum's death, they defeated the remaining Lamanite army, thus ending the war.  (Alma 62:37-38).

What does this have to do with New Year's?  Often we talk about the New Year being a new beginning.  Here we have a story of one of the most patriotic, effective warriors and leaders in the Book of Mormon, drasticly changing the course of the war, giving his own life in the process.  He likely knew he would die, and he likely knew the war would end when Amalickiah's ridiculous brother Ammoron died.  What Teancum gave up, we don't know for sure.  But rarely in the Book of Mormon do we see a martyr, and it is apparent to me that he was one.  In essence, he was a type, or symbol for Christ.  He gave up his life so that others could live.  Whether or not you respect him or not is up to you.  Only a few dozen years later, Christ would come, and do the same thing.

As you start your "New Year" each year, I hope that as Teancum symbolically allowed an "end" to the war and a fresh start for those surviving, Christ also allows an "end" to our personal wars, giving us a fresh start for the days ahead.

As for you, little Daniel, you are a warrior, just like Teancum.  Don't ever give up.

~Mom <3

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