By James L. Ferrell
An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by Deseret Book.
You weren’t expecting me again?” Grandpa asked when he saw the look of astonishment in Rick’s eyes.
“Well, not in my kitchen.”
Grandpa smiled. He was holding a very old and very large book, which he extended to Rick, opened to a particular page.
“There is something I would like you to read,” he said.
Rick stood up and joined him at the table. On closer inspection, “old” didn’t adequately describe the book. It was in perfect condition, as if new, but at the same time it looked ageless, timeless.
“Go ahead, look,” implored Grandpa Carson.
The large pages were made of a kind of paper Rick had never encountered, if they were made of paper at all. The pages were soft to the touch, and so light they seemed almost to float. In this respect, they were almost feather-like. Yet they were at the same time so crisp, substantial, and weighty that Rick had the impression that no wind of this world, however strong, could rustle even a page.
As Rick looked down at the page, two things were very curious. First, although the page appeared to be thinner than any found in an average book, to the eye it looked to be of infinite depth, as the words seemed to float on the surface of an entire cosmos. Second, a line on the upper left illuminated itself and appeared to swim almost off the page. Or were the words swimming away from him, down into the depths of the page? Rick wasn’t sure, but the sentence caught his eye and captured his attention, and as he started to read, he felt himself being pulled into it-either into the passage, or what was beneath it, or both.
Wo, wo be unto the inhabitants of the earth, it read.50
The words were physically tugging at him, as if he were tethered to them, like a car on a train that dutifully followed the line in front of it. He rushed to meet the page (or else the page rapidly engulfed the room; he wasn’t sure which), and presently it felt as if he had joined the passage, and with it had plunged into the great beyond beneath the words. The words now presented themselves to him, and reading was no longer necessary, at least not reading as he had ever known it. He could feel, hear, and almost touch the words. They pulsed with life and were everywhere around him, yet they directed his mind to something beyond-something that was slowly coming into focus.
The words continued-
And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness.51
Rick now saw a great shadow below him, a darkness that chilled him to the bone, and a being whom Rick could only describe as anger personified, his hair and eyes jet black, his face pulled tight in an evil smile. In his hands he held a chain, each link larger, darker, and more foreboding than the one trailing it. But far in the distance, eons farther than Rick’s eyes normally would have seen, Rick could see that the distant parts of the chain looked not to be a chain at all, but a silken cord-fine, soft, and inviting.
He leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, spoke the words around him, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.52
This was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity. . . . And then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.53
Rick suddenly plunged into the darkness beneath him. He found himself on the earth among throngs of people in a great mist of darkness. Some were laughing, others crying, still others walked in grim silence. All, however, were moving, even those who thought they were not. The mist was moving, and all within it were moving as it moved. It was all very curious, as if the people were embedded within the mist-part of it, as it were-and so moved in unison with it.
Why don’t they struggle against it! Rick wondered. Why do they simply follow?
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!54 came the words. This is what is meant by the chains of hell.55
For behold, at that day shall [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security. . . . And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.56
Rick looked intently at the throng. Here and there he noticed the soft fluttering of the flaxen cord he had seen a few moments earlier, lighting on the people before him like the line of a master fly fisherman. The people never flinched under the cord’s touch. They appeared to be unaware of its presence.
Rick focused more intently and noticed, to his astonishment, that the mist of darkness was made up entirely of this cord as it swirled in and around the children of men. Above his head, the fluttering, gray mists darkened steadily until they gathered as one into a funnel of metallic darkness in the skies overhead, ending finally in the grip of the great hand he had seen earlier.
And [Satan] looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.57
“No!” Rick yelled to the masses, as he began to run toward them. “Wake up!”
At the same moment, the words of the book cried to the throngs as well,
Awake! Awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.58
For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains-from whence there is no deliverance-and they perish.59
“Do you know the meaning of what you are seeing?”
Rick started at the voice, which belonged to his grandfather, who was standing beside him.
“They’re headed to their spiritual deaths, Grandpa,” Rick exclaimed, gesturing to the masses, “and they don’t even know it! They won’t listen. They won’t hear.”
“You are quite right, Ricky.”
“You tell me, Ricky. Why don’t you listen? Why don’t you hear?”
“What do you mean?”
His grandfather swept his arm as if to dismiss the throngs in front of him, and suddenly they were back in Rick’s kitchen. He and Carol were in the middle of the argument they had had just that morning. Rick grimaced as he watched how he had acted and heard what he had said. It was all the worse having to witness it with his grandfather beside him. After Carol stomped her way up the stairs, his grandfather turned to him, his look solemn-not with disappointment but, it seemed to Rick, with love.
“You know better than that, Ricky, yet you still did it. In fact, at the time, you felt fairly compelled to say what you did, didn’t you, despite what we have seen and heard together.”
It was true. From the moment Rick ascended the stairs to see Carol, to the moment she stomped away in fury, Rick had felt out of control, almost as if he lacked the capacity to choose another way-to choose civility, calm, and compassion.
“There is a reason you felt that way, and a reason you find it near to impossible to follow the notes you wrote on that paper in your back pocket.”
Rick was very interested in what his grandfather would say next, and he unconsciously leaned forward in anticipation.
“If you had looked more closely, Ricky, you would have seen yourself among the throngs you just witnessed, just as you saw yourself among David’s men in the wilderness of Paran.”
Rick’s face showed surprise.
“You have just been shown your own predicament, Ricky. The flaxen cords have been caressing you for years. They have been wrapping themselves around your thoughts, your feelings, your memories, your desires. Having indulged them-having even been flattered by them-you have offered another the reins of your heart.”
A cold chill ran down Rick’s spine that reminded him of the shrill laughter he had heard when Satan and his hosts rejoiced at the plight of man.
“How can I escape them?” Rick asked earnestly, almost in a whisper.
“By following your own counsel-by waking up. By shaking off the awful chains with which you are bound.”
“But how can I do that?”
Grandpa gave Rick a long look. “Perhaps we should work first on understanding what they are and how they are forged.”
“Teach me, Grandpa. I want to know.”
Rick’s earlier resistance and defensiveness were gone.
Now, he just wanted to understand.
Printed with permission of Deseret Book Company
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.