20: All My Love, Rekenah

February 20, 2010 · 3 comments

in 2010 Book of Mormon

March 27, 1939

Clarissa, my angel,

The best mind in ancient languages, if I must say it myself, has been hard at work uncovering a precious history of romance and adventure for your enjoyment! You’ll recall that a two thousand-year-old treasure of perfectly preserved letters was found in an old clay vessel, stashed in a cave with other relics in what is now Belize. You are the first to read it, my love, translated with my usual flair (I don’t have to be humble with you, after all, Clarissa, you know me better than I do myself!). You may determine that this is the most marvelous tale of love and faith on which you have ever feasted.

Your adoring,

Howard

My Dearest Rekenah:

All is well in the land of Ishmael. The king has accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ in a miraculous manner. I send my love to you and our small ones.

Your devoted husband,

Ammon

My Darling,

(Actually, Clarissa, the exact translation of the term of endearment used by Ammon and his wife is “pressed close to my heart,” or “dearest to my heart.” Therefore whenever you see ‘darling’ or ‘dearest,’ you can mentally insert that rather more poetic phrase. You may return to Rekenah’s letter, forgive the interruption.)

In the three summers since we wed, you have been gone nearly two, and I’m afraid I find you a dreadful correspondent. If it is to be our lot to be separated so that you can proclaim the gospel to the Lamanites, I must beg you to include more details when you write!

After receiving your brief letter yesterday, I was visited by Bolteshah, the wife of your faithful friend and companion in the mission field. Zoram apparently had a great deal more to say about the “miraculous manner” in which King Lamoni accepted the gospel.

I was shaken and terrified to hear that you faced a band of ferocious Lamanite bandits alone, single-handedly killing seven of them and wounding many more. Yes, I realize that it was the Spirit of God that aided and protected you, and thank the heavens for that, because you are good, my dearest heart, but you are not THAT good!

And what an absolutely brutal manner for the Lord to show his power through you! It must have been the only way to soften the heart of a king whose people are so hardened and wild, and I trust in the Lord and His purposes, but I cannot help but shudder when I think of the bundle of bloody arms that were laid at the feet of the king.

My darling, please be careful. And I know you wish to save me from worry, but you will remember that I much prefer to swallow the bitter herb of truth right away, than feast on sweet honey while that herb grows large enough to choke me!

Your little Gideon takes great care of Rekiah and me, bringing me little things from the garden as I prepare dinner, and helping me wind yarn when a day of weaving begins. They kneel each night to ask Father in Heaven to protect their dear Papa.

All my love,

Rekenah

My Dearest Rekenah:

The King’s household has been converted. The Lord is in this work, and His hand has been manifest in a most astonishing way.

I send you my love, and two children, orphaned by my hand during the skirmish to protect the king’s flocks. Love them as you do our own, my dearest.

Your devoted husband,

Ammon

My Darling,

What a gift, to send me two children with your letter! I cannot say that I was pleasantly surprised. Indeed, it is not easy to support our small family with my weaving, and an addition of two more mouths to feed was not what I expected when I opened the door to receive Zoram, whom I knew had been just at your side. (How delighted Bolteshah was to greet her husband, even if it was for a few days only! I am trying not to envy her happiness!)

I was over my surprise and disappointment in a quick moment (truthfully, my sweet Clarissa, her exact words were “in a breath of wind,” a reference to the very rare breezes this people experienced in such a hot jungle climate), however, and found myself pleased to be helping you in your work in this small way, and to welcome to my bosom two children that had just been in yours. Makit (how many summers do you believe she is, dearest? Seven?), takes good care of her little brother, Lekonah, whom I guess to be around four summers old. She doesn’t speak much, except to Lekonah, and I find it difficult to understand their language, as it has been perverted from ours over the centuries.

You really have an appalling way of omitting important details, my love, and I was astonished to hear from Zoram that you would have been slain in the throne room by a vicious Lamanite, had the Lord not intervened, striking your would-be-attacker dead on the spot. I rejoice that the King’s family is baptized; I only wish the Lord would accomplish it without putting you in peril every second moon!

But forgive me, your wife does not doubt His promises nor His loving kindness. We kneel as always to offer thanks and plead for your safety. Makit watches as we pray, keeping her distance, but young Lekonah kneels with us, his interested black eyes always on my face.

All my love,

Rekenah

(Forgive me, Clarissa, but I should insert here that I can make no sense of their reckoning of dates; I really must call Phoebe at the university’s Department of Ancient Civilizations and beg her to enlighten me. Meanwhile, all I can tell you is that the letters appear to be written some four weeks apart according to our modern reckoning, with very likely nearly two months to get the letter from one party to the other. That’s all, my angel. Are you enjoying the enchanting story?)

My Darling,

There has been no letter from you for some time, and I would grow quite desperate except that Zoram writes, and Bolteshah reassures me that you are quite safe and busy with the work of the Lord. I beseech you, my dearest, to follow Zoram’s example and send your beloved wife a few words.

I do not wish to grieve you, but adding two Lamanite children to our family has not been without its problems. Makit will not speak to me at all, and when I try to interact with Lekonah in any way, she actually hisses at me! Yes, just like those dreadful green tree-hanging serpents that drop on careless hunters who neglect to search the treetops as they walk. She stares at me all day long with anger, or hatred, or some other black emotion, and rebuffs any kindness or attempt to communicate. I have spoken to the village schoolmaster, and will shortly have her enrolled. Maybe he can sort her out.

Lekonah, for his part, seems to like his new home, and plays sweetly with our little ones when Makit permits it, smiling shyly at me when his she is not looking. When we say our prayers at night, he has taken to climbing into my lap, his little face upturned and his soft hand on my cheek. Makit allows this because he sets to making a violent noise if she protests (“monkey howls,” were Rekenah’s words, referring to the dreadful simians of the native jungle, whose calls are so loud that they can be heard for 3 miles, dearest! I have been jolted from my cot at the sound, always startling me most aggravatingly from pleasant dreams of you. I can quite understand why Makit might yield to such a racket as that.), but the moment we conclude, she whisks him away again.

Ammon, I hesitate to bring it up, but with you gone, little things weigh on my mind. Bolteshah mentioned in passing that you had been offered the hand of a Lamanite princess when you first came into the court of King Lamoni. I wonder, with your wife so far away, was it a little tempting to accept?

All my love,

Rekenah

My Dearest Rekenah:

You have at last shamed me into a respectable letter. Forgive me for not writing more often and more explicitly, as you request. You know that I am less a man of words than a man of action.

The most beautiful Lamanite princess would not tempt me from the exquisite Nephite flower waiting for me in Zarahemla. My heart is yours, and can never be another’s.

(You will be very interested to know that “pelontira” is the word he used for flower, which if I understand my native guide, is a specific flower that has grown in this area for thousands of years. It is as lovely as an orchid, with delicate white petals, and the fragrance quite takes my breath away. But here is the surprise, Clarissa: the flower is most hardy. It may look like an orchid, but while that flower is confoundedly fickle about its growing environment, the sweet pelontira will stand drought, heat, and deluge. My dearest love, I believe our Ammon might have a bit of the poet in him, after all!)

I confess I was concerned that the king would kill the Nephite who rejected such a generous offer, but King Lamoni listened to my description of your beauty and character, and forgave his humble servant the offense. My love, I wear the jade pendant you pressed to your lips and lay at my heart the last time we parted. I press it to my own lips every night, along with the lock of your dark hair that is wound tightly round it. I think of you each time I lay down to rest, and pray continually for your welfare and the safety of our family.

The work progresses miraculously. Not only has King Lamoni’s kingdom largely been converted to the truth, but his Father, the King of all the Lamanite lands, desires to learn more about his son’s new faith. The power of God is indeed great.

Your devoted husband,

Ammon

My Darling,

You relieved my mind greatly with your last letter. I am happy you have not forgotten your Rekenah, who thinks of you with much longing. When is your next visit to Zarahemla? Surely the mission can spare you for one cycle of the moon?

Makit still growls and glares at me, but she is at school much of the day. Her teacher tells me she has had no formal education at all, and cannot read or write, but that she is an apt student, who truly wants to learn. I am very encouraged by this news. Lekonah and I have become quite good friends now that Makit no longer interferes, and when he is not helping me with the household chores, or with my current weaving project, he is watching Gideon and Rekiah. They have adopted him as their affectionate older brother, but are rather afraid of Makit, and who can wonder! (Actually, Clarissa, strictly translated, she said “as little surprising as the sun rising,” but “who can wonder” is a more modern derivative of that sentiment.)

I have another small remonstrance to make, which is that you again neglected to give me even the most basic details of your latest adventure. Bolteshah reveals that you engaged this Great King of the Lamanite lands in a swordfight, to save the life of his son! As fond as I have grown for this King Lamoni through Zoram’s accounts of him, I beg you would not throw yourself in the path of a barbarian who would seek to kill his own child! Please consider that there are now five who count on your safe return.

I know that you follow the Spirit in the mission field, and would not unnecessarily put yourself at risk. But your wife has decided to petition Father in Heaven in a much more specific way when she asks for your safety—perhaps He will agree to keep you and sword-wielding savages in separate company!

All my love,

Rekenah

My Darling,

Truly, this habit of yours of keeping me in the dark (“Covering the lamps that illuminate,” more exactly translated. Is that not a lovely image, Clarissa?) is very tiresome. Aaron’s wife, Mashuel, visited me this morning and literally knelt on the ground and kissed my feet! Ammon, I had no idea what to think. Of course, I lifted her from her knees, but she commenced kissing my hands, all the while thanking me from her heart on behalf of her husband. When I finally got the story from her, I found that you had arranged Aaron’s release from a most brutal imprisonment.

It was no surprise to hear of your heroism, but I was quite disappointed to receive this news secondhand! Surely you could have foregone a little humility to tell your wife of this success, so she would know why her feet were bathed with tears on an ordinary workday morning.

Makit stole my best wooden bowl some moons ago, and used your finest carving blade to fashion it into an idol, like the sort her people worship. I found her kneeling before it one evening, when she thought I was in the garden, and could make out from my limited understanding of her language that she was asking it to take her and Lekonah from our home. I was furious to find the bowl I had been missing used for such a wicked purpose, and my first inclination was to really let her have it (“Roast her over the fire,” Clarissa! The language of this people sings, does it not?). But as I approached her, I felt impressed to move slowly, and kneel beside her. Instead of chastening her for stealing and defacing my bowl, I was moved to tell her the story of the Christ child that is to come, who would enter a world of people who would reject and despise him, and later kill him. She listened respectfully, then tucked her idol beneath her arm and carried it to her mattress beside her sleeping brother.

I don’t know, Ammon. Sometimes I think I make no progress with the child at all. Perhaps she came to us too late.

All my love,

Rekenah

My Dearest Rekenah:

The Lord has accomplished marvelous things among the Lamanites. After much labor, seven entire cities have accepted the truth and become members of the Church of Jesus Christ, renouncing the name of Lamanite and embracing a new one: Anti-Nephi-Lehies. More miraculously, they have made a solemn covenant to stain their swords no more with the blood of their brethren, and have buried their weapons in a pit as a sign of this oath.

Your devoted husband,

Ammon

My Darling,

I was gratified to receive your letter and see that Father in Heaven has arranged for all swords to be buried, in response to my request to keep you from the point of one! But please don’t accuse me of light-mindedness, my love. I understand the sacredness of the oath of the People of Ammon. That is what the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are called by our people: the “People of Ammon.” Does this surprise you? It is a fitting tribute, I think, although I know you would disagree.

Makit has stolen the woven blanket I have just completed. I have no evidence it was she, of course, except that she has stolen little things from me since the beginning, no doubt imitating her thieving father. I am desperate to recover it. It took many moons to create and would have fed our family for twice as long.

Lakonah saw me weeping the morning I discovered it was missing, and crawled on my lap, placing his hand softly on my cheek. “Pray,” he said in our language. I could have kissed his sweet face for that counsel. We prayed together. Now we await our answer.

All my love,

Rekenah

My Darling,

Your little ones are well. Lakonah has grown big enough to fetch water from the spring, and he takes little Gideon with him. I have asked Makit to help me with the weaving, but she is reluctant and surly. This morning as we worked, she intentionally added the wrong threads twice, so that at last I dismissed her to go help her brother with the water.

I work late into the night on this new blanket, burning more oil than we can afford, trying to finish it more quickly. Lakonah has been more diligent than ever in helping me, but food is getting scarce. We pray every night for your safety and ours, with Lakonah offering it in his childish voice as often as me. Makit does not join us.

All my love,

Rekenah

My Darling,

I am beginning to worry for you. Even Zoram has stopped writing. We hear whispers in the city that the wicked Amalekites and Amulonites move against the defenseless People of Ammon, to destroy them. Others say the entire multitude of your converted Lamanites will soon be at our doors, seeking our protection. Please try to send us news..

I found two of my best jade necklaces missing this morning, treasures I had hoped to sell to buy food. Bolteshah has been this morning with half the milled corn she bought for her own family, but it won’t last long. Do you see, Ammon? I tell you these unpleasant truths, even if it worries you, because I would want to know them in your place. Are you well? Are you safe?

All my love,

Rekenah

My Dearest Rekenah,

I am safe. I am coming to Zarahemla. I will be there as quickly as we can travel through the wilderness. I am bringing several thousand of my dearest friends.

Your devoted husband,

Ammon

(It appears, my dear Clarissa, that the next letter was never sent, although it was kept with the others that did traverse the deep jungles to get from one beloved companion to the other. According to a postscript, written by Rekenah, the long awaited return of her dear husband interrupted its posting.)

My Darling,

What joy your little family felt as we received your letter! Gideon and Rekiah squealed and clapped their little fat hands together, and Lakonah’s eyes shone like the sun at noon day. Even Makit looked our way with interest.

Makit may be softening toward us, just a little. The price of this new attitude was having my ears roasted off one morning, when the rain thundered down on our little roof and everyone felt a little gloomy. I had spoken sharply to her for dawdling with her breakfast, when she let loose a torrent of abuse as wild as the storm outside. We had killed her father, she screamed in a combination of her own language and ours, and kidnapped her from her own people, and her own gods! Furthermore, we had stolen records, valuables, and birthright from her ancestors, and she hated us for the Nephite dogs we were!

After her tirade, the house was quiet, three frightened children clinging to my legs, and one mother wishing she was much wiser and knew what to say. I expected her to run out, but instead she began weeping. Tears coursed down her anguished face, and it requires little wisdom to know that love is the best remedy for such sorrow. I held her as she sobbed and shook in my embrace, until the rain let up and her shoulders were at last still. Finally, she broke away, put on a wrap, and stepped outside without another word to any of us. I didn’t see her again all day, but when I returned from visiting Bolteshah with the children, I found my blanket and jewelry, neatly arranged on my bed.

Your family has food to eat, and a new beginning with your oldest daughter. We await your return anxiously and with much prayer.

All our love,

Rekenah

A tender story, and I myself may have wept a tear or two at its conclusion. But, Clarissa, do you worry about Makit? Does the tale of the little orphan girl end well? I have determined for my part to believe that it does, and I’m sure you will agree with me, as we are of one mind where love and happy endings are concerned. I send you my heart, dearest, with this little story, and will join you both as soon as I can.

Your adoring,

Howard

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 3 comments }

Th. February 21, 2010 at 12:27 am

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This is the first story I read all the way through (I have a very hard time reading fiction on blogs) so it has that going for it. Plus I enjoy epistolary fiction. But occasionally I was startled by statements clearly out of line with the history as presented in the Book of Mormon. Of course, I don't think that is an unpardonable sin (in my own story I ignored the source material's chronology), but it is what it is.

That said, I enjoyed the, mm, Victorianess of the thing. Cut several hundred words out and this could be very good.

Incidental question related to this entry (and many MANY others):

I'm not entirely clear how YAish many of these stories are, lacking, as they do, YA protags and other trappings of the form. I would be interested to hear LDSP's take on this issue.

Melanie Goldmund February 21, 2010 at 5:18 am

I really liked this! I liked the contrast between proud Howard and humble Ammon, and the little interjections in the midst of the letters to better explain a turn of phrase, and especially the story of Makit. Well done!

Krista February 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I'm not sure how "Young Adult-ish" this story is, but I really enjoyed the bantering letters and different voices. Very unique.

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