“Halt, who goes there?”
I stopped cold in my tracks.
The voice spoke again, this time with a bit more gruffness, “Identify yourself, or I will let loose this arrow that is ready to fly into your heart.”
“Speak up,” the voice commanded.
“My name is Tim,” I almost shouted.
“What a strange name. What are you doing here, Tim?”
An old man showed himself. He had been hiding behind the tree just ahead to my right. He seemed to be dressed like an Indian, with long white braided hair.
There was something different about the markings of his clothing. I couldn’t quite place it. If I didn’t know better I’d say those markings were Hebrew.
“I’m lost. I’m sorry. Did I frighten you?”
“Ha! You could not frighten a mighty hunter. But you did frighten the deer I was stalking. What was that strange noise you were making?”
“Huh? Oh, you mean the whistling. We do that when we are fright…”
“Yes, I can see you are still trembling. This…whistling…will not increase your courage. You must face your fears squarely, like a man. Like a mighty hunter.”
He had taken the arrow out of the bow, put it in his quiver. He wrapped the bow around his body in a fluid motion. I imagined he had done it thousands of times before.
The Indian walked closer toward me, stopped within an arm’s distance. He crossed his arms, stood proud and erect. He had broad shoulders and was at least a head taller than me.
He looked me over, as if curious to see who dared walk through his forest. He pushed back my hoodie and ran his fingers over my glasses.
“Glasses,” I said. “To help me see better.”
“You are weak,” the Indian said. It was a statement of surprise, but not contempt. “You do not answer my question.”
“Huh?” I said. “Oh, like I said, I’m lost. I’m looking for a way out of this place.” I began to look around as if that would help him see I meant it.
“I have never seen one of your kind in this part of the forest before.” He completed a circle around me, taking in the belt on my blue jeans and my sneakers. “How did you get here?”
“I read your story a few moments ago. Then I knelt down to pray. The next thing I knew I was walking here in the forest looking for a way out.”
“Yeah…You know. Enos the mighty hunter. Everyone knows your story. You go into the woods to hunt beasts. But instead you get to thinking about what your dad Jacob taught all those years so you…”
“Stop. How do you know my name and that of my father?”
“Oh, come on. Everyone knows your name. You’re Enos, Jacob is your father, mighty preacher of righteousness. Your grandfather was Lehi who crossed the ocean and brought you to this land. I live here too.”
Enos knelt down on one knee and bowed his head. I couldn’t help but follow his example. I watched him closely. He seemed to be praying, but to himself. For a moment I thought I saw tears forming in the corners of his eyes.
I didn’t want to seem rude so I closed my eyes while he finished his prayer. I could tell he was done because I felt him staring at me, but he still knelt.
“So, the promise was fulfilled. But you’re not…”
“A Hebrew or a Nephite like you?”
“You don’t even look like a Lamanite. What are you?”
“I’m an American. I think you guys called us Gentiles.”
“Ah. I see, Tim. You are indeed a Gentile. I can see it now. Nephi told us about you.”
We both rose, He extended his hand as if to shake, I tried to grab it, but he reached past my hand and grabbed my wrist. He held my arm for a long time and looked deep into my eyes.
I felt something pass between us, some sort of energy. It was a positive feeling. There was something special in the arm grasp. It was as if he was greeting a brother. He broke the grip.
“You have great courage to come here, after all, my Gentile friend.”
“This is the spirit world. There must be some doorway nearby or you have some gift. I have been hunting in this forest for many generations. You are the first Gentile I have seen.”
“I’m in the spirit world? Wow. Does that mean I’m dead?”
Enos looked at me closely, squinting. Perhaps his eyes were as poor as his ears.
“No, you are not dead. But I can see you nonetheless. You must be a man of great faith or have some spiritual gift otherwise I could not see you.”
“Do you know what this means?” Enos said.
“Uh, I’m dreaming in my sleep?”
Enos looked at me with sternness. I felt like he wanted to reprimand me.
“No. It means the end of time is approaching. God has shown me your day. He told me the Gentiles would inhabit this land.”
“He told me someday I would meet a Gentile. If you are a Gentile then tell me a little about your world. I want to learn.”
He sat down crossed-legged in front of me. I followed suit.
“Uh, where do I start?”
“Tell me of the record where you learned my name.”
“We call it the Book of Mormon.”
“I do not know this Mormon, but tell me more.”
“Well, Mormon lived after you…a long time after you. He took all the sacred records of Nephi and the other prophets into one place then made a long book from all the little books.”
Enos look at me strangely. “You have seen this book. Someone read it to you?”
“No, we have thousands, even millions of copies of this book printed on paper.”
“I do not know paper. My father told me the Egyptians used something they called papyrus to record their records. He said Nephi had seen them. But I have only these metal plates on which I write the history of my people.”
“That’s right,” I said. “The Gold plates. That’s what Mormon used to put together the history of your people. Then his son hid it in the hill Cumorah until Joseph Smith got them.”
“Curious. I am glad to know our history is so well known. God is truly faithful. He promised me our people would not be forgotten.” Enos looked sad for a moment.
“Tell me. What happened to our people – the Nephites?”
“All destroyed in one huge battle. Even Mormon was hunted down and killed. You guys had a terrible hatred for each other.”
Enos bristled. “They will not listen to reason. They are a stubborn people. I myself had to kill many of my own brethren because they tried to destroy our village. We have moved much.”
“Well, we have your record. It is all over the world. It makes it easier because we have machines that automatically copy them over and over onto the paper or papyrus as you call it.”
“And the Messiah? He came and visited my people as was prophesied?”
“Yes, that’s one of the best parts of the book. He taught his gospel, commanded us to have faith in him, to repent and baptize one another. Having faith is the hard part for me.”
“Yes, I can see it affects your confidence. You must practice like Enos.” He stood. “I prayed all my life to have this gift. You must do the same. It is a most important part of life.”
“Are you leaving?” I said.
“I must go and tell the others that a Gentile has been seen in the forest. It is one of the signs we have been waiting for. I am glad you asked God to help you have faith. It must have opened the door so you could come into this far part of the spirit world. Nobody comes here.”
“Why is that,” I asked.
“This is where the dark spirits stay. They do not like the light. It is also the part closest to your world. You must pray harder to move past the dark area. It is not good to stay here long.”
Once again he extended his hand. This time I grasped his wrist as we had done before.
“Goodbye Tim. I am glad to have met you. You have much to learn but I can see you have found how to access the spirit world. You must be careful from now on.”
“Thank you, Enos. I hope to see you again.”
“That all depends on you and your faith. Pray for the gift. Pray all day long if you have to. God will speak to you. He has spoken to me many times. I will await you in the light.”
And with that he disappeared. Slipped behind the same tree I suppose but I didn’t see him go. I thought for a moment, felt sleep come over me, closed my eyes and awoke in my own bed.