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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.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Fourth Nephite by Jefferey S. Savage

We’ve all heard them: the arguments given from many different sources that try to discount or explain away the stories associated with the restoration of the gospel. But, what happens when those rationales and excuses are stemming from your own doubts and fears about your place in the gospel? It happens. Some are blessed with strong, unwavering faith. Some struggle to find a footing in life that makes them feel a part of any spiritual journey.

Where does it happen most? Probably among our teens and young adults. They are turning their whole lives upside down trying to figure out who they want to be and where they fit in the world around them. Entering this stage without a firmly planted testimony can lead to many questions and searches for answers. Some will look in the right places. Some will not. How do we help our youth find their place in Christ’s church, and more importantly how do we help them welcome Him into their hearts and lives? Jeffrey S. Savage seems to have found one way to offer a little support and encouragement in the form of The Fourth Nephite.

Kaleo Steele is just a typical struggling teen finding himself caught up in a life that threatens to carry him away and he’s not really sure that a bad thing. . . .until he gets caught by his seminary teacher. In an effort to cover up his mistakes, rather than any real sense of regret, Kaleo bargins with his teacher and gets sent on a special assignment to redeem himself. It’s a journey that requires Kaleo to decide if he is willing to stand as a witness to the truth of the gospel and the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith.

The Fourth Nephite is not heavily laden with scriptural insights and more “ites” to keep track of than you could manage to save your life. It’s simple, straight forward, and honest in its approach. For this I applaud Mr. Savage. His true intent was not to publish a work that celebrated his in-depth knowledge of the gospel; but rather, to reach out with his own beliefs and personal testimony that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God. It’s just right for his intended YA audience.

While most of the arguments given are ones that a seasoned member of the church would understand in their fullness, I can see the need to answer these types of questions for the younger member, new convert or hesitant investigator. I don’t think The Fourth Nephite would ever be souly responsible for someone’s conversion- and that’s as it should be- but it does offer a more personable view point that may make eternal concepts easier to grasp and take to heart. I think the most accepting audience, and those that it could have the greatest effect on, would be the young teens: ages 11-14-ish.

Okay, go ahead- ask me what I found to whine about this time. Just because I’m a little weird I seemed to be disoriented by the basic plot mechanisms. While I think the cover is beautifully done, between the name and the cover I would have had no idea what the book was actually about had I not flipped it over to the back copy. The cover shows a conglomerate of modern, early church and ancient American information. But I still had trouble getting my mind to resolve what kind of story I would actually find. It was a little disorienting to find my sense of time and place in the story. I kept expecting Kaleo to go visit and travel with the three Nephites in some way or another. That’s not the case. Using the three Nephites in both early church history and as a door to the past from our present world was a clever way to explore how one might go about experiencing history from a firsthand perspective but for some reason it still kept throwing me off.

Weird, huh? I have no excuses. I’m just a flake sometimes.

All in all though, The Fourth Nephite is a valuable piece of literature that I hope finds its way in to the hands of the Kaleos of this world. If you have young teens or pre-teens in your house this is a title that you might consider stuffing in a stocking or two. Thank you, Jeffery S. Savage for your sincere, sweet look into the life of the prophet Joseph Smith. It was refreshing.