Friday, August 27, 2010

I want to be like Captain Moroni.

Ah, it's Friday and my classes are over for the first week. I would be sighing a long sigh of relief... but it is just the first week and the entire rest of the semester is to follow. Make that a very long sigh that encompasses my resignation that I have a lot of work ahead of me.

For my various classes, I have already been doing a lot of reading this week. Perhaps it is coincidental, but most of the reading I have had to do has dealt with similar themes so that it feels like it is all intentionally connected. I actually forget which class I am reading for as I go along and have go remind myself.

In my history writing class, I have been reading about how the institution of American slavery came about and how the original Virginia colony had an 80% death rate because they refused to plant crops for food, thinking only of the potential profits that they could earn from planting tobacco instead. They starved to death for this folly, but those who survived just kept on doing it. I also have been reading about the KKK, which is not particularly light-hearted reading. Couple these readings with my British literature reading about the dawn of industrialism and the wide-spread exploitation of unemployed men and starving workers and five-year-old children working in coal mines. My intro to fiction class had a long discussion about the Victorian era and the ridiculously oppression under women had to live. (They were basically property that was allowed to have no voice, no opinions, no activities outside of the home, and certainly no desires or pleasures. They were, it can be argued, basically the slaves of the men in their lives.)

I am reading about all of these things thinking, "Oh, my gosh. Has anyone in history actually not abused and exploited other people? Are there actually good things to learn from the past or is it all a big blur of endless ugliness and evil?"

When I learn about the past and all the terrible things that people have done to each other, I do tend to feel that way. Even the Book of Mormon talks about the "natural" state of people in these kinds of terms. Without the light of Jesus Christ, people are nasty and horrible beings. They think about their own needs, their own wants, their own well-being. We have the entire history of world as an example of what people will do to protect their own interests. It's so sad!

But I take comfort in the stories of the Book of Mormon. As I have been reading this time around, I have been intensively touched by the stories of good people in the midst of evil. There's a reason we know the names of Alma, Amulek, Ammon, Captain Moroni, and the brothers Nephi and Lehi. They are remembered because they were so righteous and obedient to God that they were able to make a serious difference in the lives of others. Their devotion to the Lord was a powerful, palpable force, and they were able to change lives and hearts with the Spirit they carried with them. They lived through terrible times in which people oppressed and abused each other, and yet-- their lives are wonderful examples of how we can be.

I am so grateful that I have the restored gospel to give me this hope. The bright perspective that it gives me helps me to find peace. I just hope that the reading isn't this depressing all semester long.