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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Birthright and The Kings Heir by Loralee Evans

Last time we looked at one way historical fiction can be used to help us understand the Book of Mormon better by discussing the Out of Jerusalem series by H.B. Moore.

Is this the only way to express an understanding of the Book of Mormon? Absolutely not. Remember, Heavenly Father inspires His children to write and provide the avenues most needed by His children, and inspires His children to find those most appropriate for them. For me, what works best is a slightly different approach. Today, we’ll look at an example of this method by discussing The King’s Heir and The Birthright by Loralee Evans.

These two books employ a different method of helping us understand the material in the Book of Mormon. It takes the events and times and uses them as a background for an interwoven fictional tale. The main characters do not necessarily appear anywhere in the scriptures, or perhaps only hold a small mention. It’s an attempt to show the lives of everyday people, who would have been involved in the events, not necessarily center stage to them. These tales have a little more freedom than those that are trying to adhere to only those things recorded in the scriptures, such as the Out of Jerusalem series. This option is employed to give a different viewpoint altogether.

The Birthright tells the story of a Lamanite girl named Miriam and her Nephite friend Jacob as they experience and get caught up in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon contained in Alma. You get a rich view of everyday life, details about little things like how the people ate, slept and lived as well as a feel for what it would have been like to live as a part of these historical events. The King’s Heir, though published second, is actually a prequel to The Birthright. In it you get to back up and find out all the juicy details that lead up to a sweet girl with dark skin, bright blue eyes and a great capacity for love and goodness.

Loralee Evans proves herself to be a detailed but imaginative person, artfully weaving fiction and faith to create a captivating story that opens the reader’s eyes just a little bit more. True, it is a fictional story. Some things can only be assumed and hypothesized, but as far as we are currently able to understand things, these types of writers in general, and Loralee specifically, spend a great deal of time look at all those minute details and scholarly information. This allows them to paint a more personable image for those of us whose tiny minds never manage to absorb the information on how the Nephite’s would have planted and harvested their fields from an actual archeological study.

Just as with any other fiction book, if it is done well the reader is caught up and transported to the sights, sounds, and sensations of the time and place described in a more real and captivating way than most nonfiction books can manage.

I like this approach slightly better than the strict historical fiction accounts. It teases my mind a little bit more to call out what I know about the scripture accounts and keep it in context as another story plays out. It intrigues me a bit better because I don’t already know exactly how everything will turn out. ;)

As mentioned before, everyone does not learn in the same manner, take a moment to think about some of the experiences you’ve had in your own life that have made the scriptures really “pop” and come alive for you. If you feel like it, tell me about them.

No matter which route leads to better understanding for you personally, I for one count it a great blessing that Heavenly Father inspires, and continues to inspire, all kinds of artisans to open our minds, eyes, and hearts to the things of His gospel. I love the scriptures, but finding ways to expand my experience with them is a huge blessing for me.

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