- Gordon B. Hinckley
- Gordon B. Hinckley
A foil is a person who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of the main character's personality: to throw the character of the protagonist into sharper relief. A foil usually has some important characteristics in common with the other character, such as, frequently, superficial traits or personal history.
One of the strongest foils in these chapters is Amalickiah v. Moroni. They're both (originally) Nephites, both have fairly equal education and military experience, both commanders of very large armies. Look how Mormon juxtaposes their characters in chapter 49.
"Amalickiah, who was a Nephite by birth (1) ... was exceedingly angry with his people (2), because he had not...subjected them to the yoke of bondage (3). Yea, he was exceedingly wroth and he did curse God (4), and also Moroni, swearing with an oath that he would drink his blood; [here comes the foil] and this because Moroni had kept the commandments of God in preparing for the safety of his people. [more direct comparison] And it came to pass, that on the other hand, the people of Nephi did thank the Lord their God, because of his matchless power in delivering them from the hands of their enemies" (v. 27-28).
2/3. Amalickiah is angry with is people because he didn't get what he wanted (to bring the Nephites into bondage). Moroni was also angry with his people (several times). Remember why? Because they sought to overthrow the government and establish a king and refused to fight to preserve their freedoms (Alma 51:14, 17). See the difference?
4. Amalickiah curses God. Moroni and his people praise God and thank Him for their victories.
This is definitely not the only time Mormon uses a foil to highlight Moroni's character and the cause of justice. In chapter 46 Mormon contrasts Amalickiah's deceitful rise to the kingship of the Lamanites and Moroni's rising of the title of liberty. In chapter 48 he contrasts Amalickiah's inciting of the Lamanite army to anger against the Nephites with Moroni's spiritual and physical preparation of the people for war.
In fact, 48:7 is a direct contrast: "Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God."
Intense, right? There are many more examples. But get this: the term foil refers to the practice of putting dark, polished metal (a foil) underneath a gemstone to make it shine more brightly.
Considering that, it isn't any wonder Mormon chose to tell the story this way. Can you think of any other great character foils in the scriptures?
*War Chapters: Alma 43-63, p.313-368.
**photos via plainbookofmormon.com, sacredsymbolic.com, bookofmormonbattles.com
In a recent address*, Julie B. Beck explained the theology of the family:
"In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a theology of the family. It’s based on the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement... The Creation of the earth was the creation of an earth where a family could live. It was a creation of a man and a woman who were the two essential halves of a family. It was not about a creation of a man and a woman who happened to have a family. It was intentional all along that Adam and Eve form an eternal family. It was part of the plan that these two be sealed and form an eternal family unit. That was the plan of happiness.
"The Fall provided a way for the family to grow. Through the leadership of Eve and Adam, they chose to have a mortal experience. The Fall made it possible for Adam and Eve to have a family, to have sons and daughters. They needed to grow in numbers and grow in experience. The Fall provided that for the family.
"The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. It allows for families to have eternal growth and perfection. The plan of happiness and the plan of salvation was a plan created for families. I don’t think very many of the rising generation understand that the main pillars of our theology are centered in the family."
This doctrine puts a new perspective on the fundamental principles of the gospel: since everything was designed to further the work of families, no wonder it's such an important principle to teach, and no wonder we are charged to protect it.
The plan is all about family.
*Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast • August 4, 2009
My visiting teacher's new year's resolution is to have regular family home evening - even though her youngest is just a Sunbeam. I keep pestering her for ideas. This month her theme is "You are special" and she's keeping it simple. For example, one week they read Max Lucado's "You Are Special" and sang I Am A Child of God. I can do that, I thought (but haven't yet).
I do keep thinking that family night really should be very simple, that the First Presidency's direction includes this phrase: we "should make Monday evening a sacred time," and that sacred has some pretty powerful connotations.
Rachel grew up in British Columbia (my home province in Canada) and did all kinds of neat things - including an active political career and a lovely family. She passed away July 2, 2009 of cancer. But in March 2009, she gave a talk to what was supposed to have been a small gathering of women from her church (she is not LDS) but turned into a presentation to over 600 women from the Vancouver area.
The title of her talk is "Death is not dying" and she talks about her unshakable faith in the Savior despite her impending death. She is inspiring. But what most touched me was her declaration: "Cancer does not define me. Neither does being a wife or a mother. All these things are part of who I am but they do not define me. What defines me is my relationship with Jesus."
This is a monumental change of perspective. What I do, what I am, who I serve are all important and certainly part of who I am, but what defines me is my relationship with the Savior. And all of a sudden Matt 16:25-26 has so much more meaning:
I love how this painting spans so many millenia of prophets and encapsulates so much hope and promise and expectation for our time and our generation.
It was written by a woman who was a healthy, active and involved young adult. Now, however, she struggles daily with a very painful chronic disease. She writes:
"I now experience constant pain and fatigue, and I have forgotten what it feels like to be healthy... some days I am not even able to get out of bed. There are times when I feel I have lost a significant part of my identity. How can I be of worth if I can’t even get out of bed?
As a youth I learned about individual worth. Now I’m really being tested as to the source of my worth. Is it based on my accomplishments, or is it based on the truth that I am a child of God? When faced with feelings of inadequacy, I seek guidance through conversing with my Heavenly Father as well as reading and pondering the scriptures.
I have often asked the Lord if I am still important. After much prayer and scripture study I have learned that Heavenly Father’s closeness helps me understand more fully who I really am. I have learned, and continue to learn each day, that my worth does not depend on my abilities but is founded in the fact that I am His child." (emphasis added)
I find comfort in this idea that my worth doesn't depend on what (or how much) I do but on who I am. The very simple and profound fact that I am a child of a loving Father makes me important. And if that's true, I really don't need to run faster than I have strength.
*Ensign, July 2009