“Ether Woke Us Up,” Ensign, July 1978, 58–59
Over the months, our reading of the Book of Mormon with the children was a faithful and methodical daily exercise. Drowsiness of attitude was setting in more and more. Little did we realize that Ether would wake us up.
It had been more difficult than we had supposed to clarify for the children time sequences and group relationships when we worked our way through the tales of Zeniff and his people, the happenings of Alma the Elder and his group, the adventures of the sons of Mosiah. Now we were approaching the book of Ether. Very likely, we supposed, the recordings of wars, murders, and intrigues in Ether would become mixed in our children’s minds with the tragic events that we read of in Mormon. How could we make it be otherwise? We theorized that if our study approach was somehow different, that difference might make Ether a separate package of information.
There are fifteen chapters in Ether, so we purchased five 22″ x 28″ posterboards and marked each into three sections, one for illustrating each chapter. Each day after reading a chapter, we would have a group drawing session using colored markers. (On some days, the schedule was such that reading and drawing times didn’t happen back-to-back.)
Suggestions for illustrations came rapidly from all family members. And as we discussed ideas of who might draw what and as we spent the extra few moments thinking about what we had read, we remembered more.
Our illustrations aren’t all that great and our approach made for jumbled, overall design. The simple and direct depictions of our 7-, 8-, and 10-year-olds are mixed in with some hasty scribblings by parents. But what was recorded remains as visual clues that quickly evoke remembrances.
The Tower of Babel looms majestically in the chapter one space.
In space number two, our oldest child busied herself drawing bees and bees and bees, plus some fish. Our wisecracking eight-year-old drew many tents. Over one appears a comic-strip dialogue balloon with the words: “I’m sick of living in tents for four years!” In all my reading and rereading of Ether over the years, I had never really grabbed on to the fact that the group had to spend four years on the seashore before embarking for the new land. That fact is now indelibly with me.
Number three space was the place to draw sixteen glowing stone. A finger comes out of a cloud.
Number four space has in it a great mountain with a few words written at the top, summarizing the direction given to the brother of Jared: “Go down and write the things you’ve seen.” (Here and there throughout the chapter spaces are short sentences noting hard-to-depict doctrinal points, etc.)
Number five space includes three silhouettes of people that bring to mind the information Moroni received about the three witnesses who would see the plates in the future.
One child did a beautiful drawing of a king in the sixth space. The space also includes vessels in the water, with a balloon above one stating: “I wonder how much longer to go. It’s been 344 days!”
In space number seven there are back-and-forth arrows leading from one tiny figure to another. A sentence proclaims: “Boy! It’s sure hard to keep track of Kings!”
Our ten-year-old daughter loves to draw girls, and in space eight she had her chance. She drew the evil daughter reclining on a couch, eating grapes, dreaming (in a dream balloon) of her plan to dance before Akish.
Children love to draw snakes, so what was the main subject matter in the chapter nine space? Snakes!
In chapter ten we learn about Riplakish and his wicked rule. Whoever would not or could not pay taxes was put in prison. And Riplakish caused “all manner of fine workmanship … to be wrought in prison.” One child drew a man behind bars, holding up a craft item and saying: “What do you think of this, sir?” The wicked king is yelling, “GIMMEE!”
The pestilence recorded in chapter eleven was illustrated by bugs and spiders, while to depict the famines, our eight-year-old drew a skinny, skinny man who is saying: “Can you believe I’m the fattest person in the town?”
Sloppy, small lettering of the word weakness counters the strong, bold lettering of the word STRENGTH in space twelve.
Space thirteen shows two eyes peering out of a cave and a sign proclaiming “Hiding Place of Ether.”
In space fourteen, a pile of stick figures colored inside, around, and above with red (for blood) represents the whole face of the land being covered with dead. One child drew Coriantumr standing next to this pile, saying, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”
Last-chapter drawings include the hand of Ether writing the sorry history of his people on some plates. Knowing that he did not write in English, the children filled in lines of signs and symbols from their imagination to represent another language.
Some time after we finished the book of Ether we were at stake conference when a speaker made some comments about the brother of Jared. Our then eight-year-old daughter leaned toward me and whispered, “That’s from the book of Ether.” Our children saw those Jaredites as real people, and in spite of the sometimes light-hearted involvement, I felt a greater emotional attachment than ever before to the Jaredites and their struggles. And we keep remembering. Dianne Dibb Forbis, Salt Lake City, Utah