Over the past few months the adult Sunday School lessons have focused on the Old Testament prophets from the historical era that included the empire of Nebuchadnezzar and the departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem. Keepers of the Sword by Guy Morgan Galli provides a realistic picture of that era’s political intrigue, the evil that permeated the priests, the persecution of prophets, and the greed of the rich and powerful that led to the destruction of Israel. Galli takes a real person, Zoram, who is often almost dismissed as unimportant and makes him a major character in his story. The background information in this novel brings to life the conditions and intrigue prophets such as Jeremiah, Lehi, and Ezekiel faced in that historical era.
In explaining the role of the Keeper of the Swords, in this case Zoram, in relation to Laban, Keeper of the Records, we get a picture of a man with a responsibility that far exceeds the usual role Zoram is cast in as a servant of Laban.
Much of this story is supposition, but that’s what fiction is. Galli gives as an explanation of why Zoram, a good man and contemporary of Daniel wasn’t carried off to Babylon with others of his class when Israel fell to Babylon, by sending him to a far country for specialized training in working metals. There he is part of a class of apprentices from many different countries. Along with learning to work metals and make the highly prized steel, he learns a great deal of wisdom, forms a friendship with a contemporary, Wu Yien, learns specialized combat arts, and gains a testimony of The One True God.
Returning to Jerusalem after ten years absence and the loss of his parents, he doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe. He rescues a young woman, who happens to be Ishmael’s oldest daughter, from soldiers. Rebekah introduces him to Lehi and she becomes one of the few people he trusts. Another woman is determined to become his bride, but Zoram questions whether friendship is all he feels for Rebekah.
Intrigue surrounds the brass plates as they are central to Laban’s plan to secure greater wealth and power for himself. Zoram struggles to protect the plates and finds himself caught between Laban’s strategies to discredit King Zedekiah, unravel the reasons behind the murder of his father, and evade the trap set for him by a woman determined to force him into marriage.
Most characters in this story are portrayed well, are distinct individuals, and are complicated enough to feel real. Zoram has high standards and an idealistic view of Jewish leaders. His naive approach to life makes him gullible and too easily manipulated. He is most comfortable following rather than leading, but can be strong and powerful once he is convinced of the rightness of his course. I always thought he followed Nephi too easily in the Book of Mormon account, so I found this view of him appealing and realistic. Laban is rotten and conniving, an egotistical and greedy man which leads him to over-confidence. His assumption that he can outsmart everyone else to gain what he desires leaves him unable to see he is being played as well. His lack of faith in God leaves him unprepared to consider the consequences of tampering with sacred things. Galli’s portrayal of female characters lacks depth and feels a little incomplete. On a personal note, I’m not comfortable with Sam, Nephi’s brother, portrayed as simple nor Laman, the oldest brother, as a brutish oaf.
Readers who enjoy David Woolley’s and Heather Moore’s accounts of this historical era of “the prophets” will find Keepers of the Sword a fascinating read. It has a fast, well paced plot line and though it stays within the realm of possibility of the known facts of the time and incidents brought out, it introduces some thought provoking possibilities that will keep the reader turning pages. It’s a fun way to cap off a year of Old Testament study and launch readers into a new direction as they approach the New Testament.
Guy Morgan Galli is a divorce and child custody mediator. He has a great love for the scriptures and sees the people in the scriptures as much like us, people struggling for inspiration and testimony. He lives in Utah with his wife and two children.
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KEEPERS OF THE SWORD by Guy Morgan Galli, published by Covenant Communications, 377 pages, soft cover $17.99, Available on CD and for e-readers