Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears
Belonging to Heaven
by Gale Sears
Published by: Deseret Book
Description: Descended from the Hawaiian royal line, Jonathan Napela became one of the first—and most influential—converts to the Church in Hawaii. A man of intelligence, social status, and wealth, he used his considerable position to further the gospel in his native land. He developed a lifelong bond of brotherhood with Elder George Q. Cannon, helping to translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian and establish a gathering place for the Hawaiian saints in Laie, Oahu. But when his beloved wife, Kitty, was stricken with leprosy, Jonathan made the defining decision of his life. He would leave his life of privilege to become her caretaker and spend the rest of his life on Molokai, the island of lepers. To those who suffered similar heartbreak and banishment, Jonathan's self-sacrifice became their lifeline. Based on true story, this is an extraordinary novel of a man who chose love in the face of death.
My thoughts: The premise of this book is absolutely riveting and fascinating. Jonathan Napela was a pioneer in his own right. Against professional pressure, Napela joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was immediately relieved of his judgeship on the Hawaiian Islands. Highly educated, of royal blood, and influential, Jonathon married his wife, of European descent. Theirs is a beautiful love story. While it is unclear whether or not Kitty, his wife, ever joined the L.D.S. church, she was clearly committed to the man she married and endured the hardships with him while he influenced thousands to listen to the gospel. Because of his early and enduring work, the church is strong in Hawaii. There is no doubt most of the converts of the time can be traced directly back to Napela.
Napela was taught and influenced by the apostle, George Q. Cannon. The story is through the perspective of Cannon, although in third person. This is where I found the story to lose its strength on me. Although Cannon is a key player in the story of Jonathon Napela, the author spends a lot of time including as much factual information and dialogue as possible. I like facts. I like research to be backed up with bibliographies. I don't need every little detail. But that's just me.
Ultimately, this is a love story between a man and his wife. Kitty loved Jonathon enough to support him in his passions and travels. Jonathon loved Kitty enough that, when Kitty contracted leprosy, he would refuse to send her to the leprosy colony on Moloka'i alone. He accompanied her to the colony. Not only did he go to the island with her, he insisted on living with her which was strictly forbidden with the understanding that this would be the end of his freedom of travel. He would never leave Moloka'i. He presided over the Latter Day Saints on the island of Moloka'i until his death from the leprosy he contracted on the island.
This is an amazing story and very worth reading if you don't mind extraneous information that adds to the authenticity. Like I said, I like authenticity, but I really want to read a great book. Jonathon Napela, or his real name is Napelakapuonamahanaonaleleonalani (I am so not making that up), is a fascinating and extraordinary man. The author definitely chose his subject well.