17th Century artists employed a technique called chiaroscuro where the extreme contrasts between light and darkness are highlighted to achieve dramatic and emotional effect and to create depth. Because Rembrandt first painted his canvas backgrounds black, the contrasting lighter colors shimmered and stood out more.
Similarly, the light of the Restored Gospel is all the more brilliant when painted across the darker landscape of the world. There is a great need for a creative community of Latter-day Saints whose works reflect Gospel light and radiate with the Spirit. The Restoration is both a declaration of light as well as a refutation of darkness. Parents and teachers of youth play a major role in preparing the hearts and minds of their students to rise up and become the latter-day lights whose works will shine in the darkness. Foils provide contrast.
Wikipedia describes the term “foil” with the following:
“The term foil refers to the practice of putting polished foil underneath a gemstone to make it shine more brightly. A foil is a character that contrasts with another character, usually the protagonist, and so highlights various facets of the main character’s personality. A foil usually has some important characteristics in common with the other character, such as, frequently, superficial traits or personal history. The author may use the foil to throw the character of the protagonist into sharper relief.
“It is also likely that widespread use of the word ‘foil’ in literature comes from the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, in which Hamlet says that ‘I’ll be your foil, Laertes: in mine ignorance / Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night, Stick fiery off indeed’ (Act 5 Scene 2).
“A foil’s complementary role may be emphasized by physical contrasts. Dreamy and impractical Don Quixote is thin; realistic, practical Sancho Panza is fat. Sherlock Holmes is tall and lean; Doctor Watson, although at first, on his return from Afghanistan, described as lean, is later described as ‘middle-sized, strongly built.'”
While reading the Book of Mormon, there are some very interesting, contrasting foils to consider:
- Contrast and compare Sherem (Jacob 7) with Enos (Enos 1). Both are obviously members of the Church in their day, yet their lives turn out so drastically different. What can we learn from the lives and experiences of Sherem, compared to Enos, to help us in our quest for greater spirituality? Is it more than coincidence that both these stories are sandwiched back-to-back in the Book of Mormon, especially given the fact that Jacob signed off earlier (see Jacob 6:13), and then came back at a later time to write his experiences with Sherem (Jacob 7).
- Also, compare Noah with Abinadi (Mosiah 8-11). How are they different from one another? What can we learn from their lives that will benefit us? After reading about these two individuals, can we better discern between the Noah’s and Abinadi’s in our own world? In our individual lives?
- Then compare the journeys of Limhi’s people from the city of Nephi to Zarahemla (Mosiah 21-22) with the same journey undertaken by Alma ‘s people during the same time (see Mosiah 18, 23-24). Note how the lack of faith among Limhi’s people caused them much pain and suffering, while the faith and righteousness of Alma’s people enabled them to achieve the same goal (escaping from the Lamanites and getting to the city of Zarahemla), but without all the suffering and loss of life. In our journey through life, and towards eternal life, what can we learn about “travelling well” from Alma and his people?
The Savior is a master Teacher. He created the Book of Mormon with side-by-side contrasts (foils) so that we might better see how personal righteousness, faith, and trust in God can lead us to have greater spiritual experiences, especially during our various journeys through life. The Book of Mormon is the epitome of relevancy within antiquity.
In a unique twist of irony and in a play on words, we, brothers and sisters, are the adversary’s “foil” in the latter days. The everlasting covenant has been sent into the world as a standard, as a light for people to seek after, and as a messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord (see D&C 45:9). But before the “kingdom of heaven may come,” the kingdom of God must “go forth” across the earth (see D&C 65:2, 6). The Lord’s arm will continue to be made bare in the eyes of all nations, and He will continue to bring His restored Gospel “out of darkness and out of obscurity” (D&C 1:30).
The same can also be true of our students — individual talents can be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness to enlighten the world. We live in the promised day when God said He would pour out His spirit “upon all flesh”, when many young men and young women would “dream dreams [and] see visions” (Joel 2:28-29). “Verily I say unto you all,” the Savior declared to those living in the latter days, “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C 115:5 ).