These chapters always make me think of the first time I found out the REAL story of Aladdin. My mother had been talking about how Disney movies always create their own versions of the classic tales and it seemed to make everyone believe that the Disney versions were the correct versions (she is very well read, so this is somewhat disappointing to her). I was not aware of what she was referring to (since I am not as well read as my mother…), so I asked her to name a couple of examples. When she mentioned Aladdin I remembered that I had the original story as part of the Harvard Collection at my home. I was determined to discover the REAL story of Aladdin (FYI: It really is better than the Disney one, and Mosiah 26-27 is even better than both versions of Aladdin!).
As recorded in Mosiah 26, some unbelieving Nephites of the “rising generation” influenced members of the Church with flattering words and led them to sin. Mosiah 27 recounts the conversion of Alma (the son of Alma) and the sons of King Mosiah. It tells of their rebellious attempts to destroy the Church of God, the visitation of an angel, Alma’s miraculous change, and the efforts of these young men to repair the harm they had done. As you read the accompanying quotes I hope you will start to see the parallels between the original story of Aladdin and these chapters in Mosiah.
Elder John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1921 until his death in 1952, used the story of Aladdin to warn the youth about giving up the “old lamp” filled with the gospel when the world offers “new lamps” that are empty:
The youth of our day, in their approach to knowledge, are thinking for themselves. For that let us be grateful. And may they think straight, so that truth may not pass them by unrecognized!
Aladdin of Arabian Nights fame secured an old battered copper lamp of magical powers. By its aid he built himself a magnificent palace, acquired great wealth and became the son-in-law of the King. A wicked magician determined to secure possession of the wonderful lamp. With a supply of ordinary but new, highly polished lamps, he approached the palace, offering “new lamps for old.” Aladdin’s wife, who knew nothing of the uncommon properties of the old lamp, gladly exchanged it for a new one. Then Aladdin’s troubles began. Palace, wealth, and station vanished overnight. This ancient tale is being retold in our modern times. Almost every day someone, usually honest enough, offers a new belief or thought, burnished and bright with newness, to replace convictions that we have long held and which have well maintained us. … A careless exchange may result in loss or fearful consequences. (In Search of Truth: Comments on the Gospel and Modern Thought)
Elder Marion D. Hanks, Of the Presidency of the First Council of the Seventy, shared a similar caution:
Most young people know the story of Aladdin, how his precious lamp was traded for a more glittery, shiny one which seemed at the moment very desirable and attractive but which turned out to be worthless and useless. The villain of the story was a scheming man who knew the value of the old lamp, and who with evil purpose acquired it by sounding the enticing cry: “New lamps for old.” The tragic figure of the account was Mrs. Aladdin, who had not learned the worth of the priceless light and who traded it for something which appeared desirable but was actually cheap and shoddy and unsatisfying.
If I were in my teens I would want to understand the relevance of the principle of the story of Aladdin to me and my life. I would want to understand the tremendous importance to my personal happiness of appreciating and honoring the precious light I have been blessed with. I would hope to be made aware of the great worth of the light of the gospel in my life and of the light of liberty which is my heritage in this great free land. I would observe, too, that immoral and deluded and dishonest people still walk the streets of my neighborhood and my town and the corridors of my school trying to get me to trade the lamps my fathers made possible for me for their shiny “new lamps” of corruption and unbelief and indolence and disloyalty.
I would seek and pray for teachers who could help me to understand which are lasting values and which are not, and for companions with whom I could freely and happily find and enjoy that which is of persisting worth. I would hope never to be unwise enough to trade a lifetime and an eternity of peace and self-respect for a few minutes of illicit and questionable “pleasure.” (Improvement Era 1954)
LIKENING his own teaching on another occasion, Elder Hanks taught:
“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8.)
…We hear most clearly those voices that are nearest to us, and we are inclined to be responsive to those voices.
Do you remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians after his allusion to the uncertain trumpet? These words: “There are . . . so many kinds of voices in the world, . . .” (1 Cor. 14:10.)
What are the voices to which our young people are listening? What do they hear in their homes, in the streets of their towns and communities? What do they hear over television and radio? What is communicated to them in books and magazines and photographs? What do they hear when they mingle with groups of their associates?
Well, for some the answer will be very good because there are many wonderful parents whose hearts are truly moved toward a love for their young people. There are good teachers and fine, interested human beings all over the face of the earth who honestly try to be helpful to youth and to speak truly and honorably. But for many young people the answers won’t be so affirmative. What voices are they hearing?
• Very frequently, commercial voices. They may be honest voices from honest commerce seeking the trade of youth. They may be voices of conspiring and deceitful men who seek profit at the expense of the future well-being of youth.
• There are pagan voices, iconoclastic voices attacking old traditions and fundamentals, arrogantly assuring that the old ideals, the old standards, the old viewpoints of nobility and honest effort, all of these are outmoded, no longer applicable, and may be abandoned with old faith, old ways, old accepted patterns of moral behavior.
• Entertaining voices come from illuminated screens, often in company with actions which are designed to emphasize that part of our nature that needs no emphasis.
• False voices issue from parked cars or darkened rooms, sometimes tainted with alcohol or inflamed with drugs, treacherously asking, always asking, for self-gratification. “Don’t you love me?” they say. “You know I love you.” Love they call it, but love it is not, and love they do not. True love “seeketh not her own.” But these voices constantly sing their song of counterfeit love, always seeking satisfaction of their own lusts, never really giving or intending to give, or perhaps knowing how to give, not knowing how to truly love.
• Misguided voices urging rebellion for rebellion’s sake.
• Beguiling voices inviting young eyes to filth or foulness, young ears to that which young ears should not hear.
• Foolish voices which suggest that since most people seem to be doing it, it therefore becomes all right to do.
• Cynical voices that propound moral relativism, saying that there are no virtues or principles that you can really count on anymore, none that are always applicable everywhere. You make your own rules in this time and generation.
• Sophisticated voices that skirt the edge of truth, telling youth, “It’s your life, you live it. Never mind what parents, honest teachers, earnest adults, persons who care, have to say about it or how they feel about it. You decide; it’s your life.”
• Peer voices, voices that are inexperienced, something imitating what someone called the “imitation men” they have seen on the street corners.
• Aladdin voices singing the same old strain, “New lamps for old.”
• Loud voices, persistent voices, persuasive, confusing.
In the midst of all this, where can young people turn to hear a voice that will move them in the direction of their dreams, their noblest and highest and most honorable dreams?
Do you remember the words of the Lord through Isaiah: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”? (Isa. 30:21.)
Where can young people hear this voice?
The Church offers to its youth answers to some of their serious, sacred spiritual questions. It offers them a guide of conduct that will help them to live with meaningfulness and joy in this world, and it offers them this sacred personal commitment we call testimony that allows them to say “I know God lives.” (Conference Report, October 1965, Third Day, Morning Meeting, p.118-121)
Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, used the story of the Prodigal Son to illustrate the same principle:
“[The prodigal son] had exchanged the priceless inheritance of great lasting value for a temporary satisfaction of physical desire, the future for the present, eternity for time, spiritual blessings for physical meat” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 311; see Luke 15:11–32).
THE REAL STORY: The Story Of ‘Ala-Ed-Din And The Wonderful Lamp. Part 22 – 23
Thus ‘Ala-ed-Din daily increased in fair fame and renown, and the love of him grew stronger in the hearts of all the subjects, and he was magnified in the eyes of the people. At this time, moreover, certain of the Sultan’s enemies rode down against him, and the Sultan equipped the troops to resist them, and made ‘Ala-ed-Din leader of the army. So ‘Ala-ed-Din went with the troops, till he drew near to the enemy, whose armies were very strong.
And he drew his sword, and rushed upon the enemy, and the battle and slaughter began, and the conflict was sturdy.
But ‘Ala-ed-Din broke them and dispersed them, killing the greater part, and looting their goods and provisions and cattle beyond number. Then he returned triumphant after a glorious victory, and made his entry into his city, who had adorned herself for him in her rejoicing over him. And the Sultan went forth to meet him and congratulated him and embraced and kissed him, and there was a magnificent fete and great rejoicings. And the Sultan and ‘Ala-ed-Din entered the palace, where there met him his bride, the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, who was rejoicing over him, and kissed him between the eyes. And they went into her palace, and presently the Sultan and all sat down, and the damsels brought sherbets. So they drank; and the Sultan ordered throughout the kingdom that they should illuminate for the victory of ‘Ala-ed-Din over the enemy. And the chiefs and the soldiers and the crowd turned [their prayers] only to God in Heaven and ‘Ala-ed-Din on earth, for they loved him exceedingly, because of the excess of his bounty and generosity and his fighting for his country, and his charge, and his rout of the foe. And thus was it with ‘Ala-ed-Din.
But as to the Moorish sorcerer, when he had returned to his country, he spent all this time in lamenting the labour and trouble he had taken in his quest of the Lamp, and the more because his labour was fruitless; and the morsel had fallen from his hand just as it was touching his lips. And he fell to thinking over all this, and lamented, and cursed ‘Ala-ed-Din in his exceeding rage, and at times he would mutter: “That this misbegotten boy is dead below ground I am satisfied, and I hope yet to get the Lamp, since it is still safe”.
One day of the days he drew a table in sand and put the figures down and examined them carefully and verified them, that he might perceive and be certified of the death of ‘Ala-ed-Din and the preservation of the Lamp, beneath the ground; and he looked into the figures, both “mothers” and “daughters,” intently, but he saw not the Lamp. At this, anger overcame him, and he drew the figure again, to be certain of ‘Ala-ed-Din’s death; but he saw him not in the Treasury. So his rage increased and the more so when he ascertained that the boy was alive on the surface of the earth. And when he knew that he had come forth from underground and was possessed of the Lamp for which he himself had endured privations and labour such as man can hardly bear, then he said within himself: ” I have borne many pains and suffered torments which no one else would have endured for the sake of the Lamp, and this cursed boy has taken it without an effort; and if this accursed knoweth the virtues of the Lamp, no one in the world should be richer than he.” And he added: “There is nothing for it but that I compass his destruction.” So he drew a second table, and inspecting the figures, discovered that ‘Ala-ed-Din had acquired immense wealth and had married the daughter of the Sultan. So he was consumed with the flame of anger begotten of envy.
He arose that very hour, and equipped himself, and journeyed to the land of China, and when he arrived at the metropolis wherein dwelt ‘Ala-ed-Din, he entered and alighted at one of the Khans. And he heard the people talking of nothing but the splendour of ‘Ala-ed-Din’s palace. After he had rested from his journey, he dressed himself and went down to perambulate the streets of the city. And he never met any people but they were admiring this palace and its splendour, and talking together of the beauty of ‘Ala-ed-Din and his grace and dignity and generosity and the charm of his manners. And the Moor approached one of those who were depicting ‘Ala-ed-Din with these encomiums, and said to him: ” O gentle youth, who may this be whom ye praise and commend ? ” And the other replied: ” It is evident that thou, O man, art a stranger and comest from distant parts; but be thou from ever so distant a land, how hast thou not heard of the Emir ‘Ala-ed-Din whose fame, methinks, hath filled the world and whose palace one of the Wonders of the World hath been heard of far and near? And how hast thou not heard anything of this or of the name of ‘Ala-ed-Din, our Lord increase his glory and give him joy?” But the Moor answered: “Verily it is the height of my desire to see the palace, and if thou wilt do me the favour, direct me to it, since I am a stranger.” Then the man said, ” I hear and obey,” and proceeded before him and guided him to the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din. And the Moor began to examine it, and knew that it was all the doing of the Lamp, and cried: ” Ah! There is nothing for it but that I dig a pit for this cursed son of a tailor, who could not even earn a supper. And if the fates aid me I will undoubtedly send his mother back to her spinning, as she was before; and as for him, I will take his life”.
He returned to the Khan in this state of grief and regret and sadness for envy of ‘Ala-ed-Din. When he arrived at the Khan he took his instruments of divination and drew a table to discover where the Lamp was; and he found it was in the palace, and not on ‘Ala-ed-Din himself. Whereat he rejoiced mightily, and said: ” The task remaineth easy, to destroy the life of this accursed; and I have a way to obtain the Lamp.” Then he went to a coppersmith and said: ” Make me a number of lamps, and take their price, and more; only I wish thee to hasten to finish them.” And the coppersmith answered, “I hear and obey.” And he set to work at them and completed them; and when they were done the Moor paid him the price he asked for them, and took them and departed and went to the Khan, where he put them in a basket. Then he went about the streets and bazars of the city, crying: “O who will exchange old lamps for new?” And when the people heard him crying thus, they laughed at him, saying: “No doubt this man is mad, since he goeth about to exchange old lamps for new.” And all the world followed him, and the street boys pursued him from place to place and mocked at him; but he gainsaid them not nor cared for that, but did not cease perambulating the city till he came under ‘Ala-ed-Din’s palace, when he began to cry in a louder voice, while the boys shouted at him, ” Madman! Madman!” Now by the decrees of destiny the Lady Bedr-el-Budur was in the kiosk, and hearing some one crying and the boys shouting at him, and not understanding what it was all about, she ordered one of her handmaids, saying: “Go and find out who it is that crieth and what he is crying.” So the damsel went to look, and perceived a man crying: “O who will exchange old lamps for new?” and the boys around him making sport of him. And she returned and told her mistress Bedr-el-Budur, saying: “O my lady, this man is crying: ‘O who will exchange old lamps for new?’ and the urchins are following him and laughing at him.” So the Lady Bedr-el-Budur laughed too at this oddity. Now *Ala-ed-Din had left the Lamp in his apartment, instead of replacing it in the Treasury and locking it up, and one of the maids had seen it. So she said: “O my mistress, methinks I have seen in my master’s room an old lamp; let us exchange it with this man for a new one, to find out if his cry be true or false.” And the Lady Bedr-el-Budur said to her: “Bring the Lamp which thou sayest thou didst see in thy master’s room.” For the Lady Bedr-el-Budur had no knowledge of the Lamp and its qualities, and that it was this which had brought ‘Ala-ed-Din her husband to his present high station; and her chief desire was to try and discover the object of this man who exchanged new lamps for old. So the damsel went and ascended to the apartment of ‘Ala-ed-Din and brought the Lamp to her mistress, and none of them suspected the guile of the Moorish wizard and his cunning. Then the Lady Bedr-el-Budur ordered an agha of the eunuchs to go down and exchange the Lamp for a new one. So he took the Lamp and gave it to the Moor and received from him a new lamp, and returned to the Princess and gave her the exchange; and she, after examining it, saw it was really new, and fell a-laughing at the folly of the Moor.
But he, when he got the Lamp and knew it was the Lamp of the Treasure, instantly put it in his bosom and abandoned the rest of the lamps to the people who were chaffering with him, and went running till he came to the outskirts of the city, when he walked on over the plains and waited patiently till night had fallen, and he saw that be was alone in the desert, and none there but he* Then he took forth the Lamp from his bosom and rubbed it, and immediately the Marid appeared to him, and said: “At thy service, I am thy slave in thy hands; ask of me what thou desirest.” So the Moor replied: “I require thee to remove the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din from its site, with its inmates and all that is in it, and myself also, and set it in my country, the land of Africa. Thou knowest my town, and I wish this palace to be in my town, among the gardens.” And the Marid slave replied, “I hear and obey. Shut thine eye and open it, and thou wilt find thyself in thy country along with the palace.” And in a moment this was done, and the Moor and the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din and all in it were removed to the land of Africa. Thus it was with the Moorish sorcerer.
To return to the Sultan and ‘Ala-ed-Din. When the Sultan arose in the morning from his sleep, in his affection and love for his daughter the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, he was wont every day when he was aroused from sleep to open the window and look out towards her. So he arose that day, as usual, and opened the window to look upon his daughter. But when he approached the window and looked towards the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din, he beheld nothing-nay, the place was as bare as it was of yore, and he saw neither palace nor any other building. And he was wrapped in amazement and distraught in mind; and he rubbed his eyes, in case they were dimmed or darkened, and returned to his observation, till at last he was sure that no trace or vestige of the palace remained; and he knew not how or why it had disappeared. So his wonder increased, and he smote his hands together, and the tears trickled down over his beard, because he knew not what had become of his daughter.
Then he sent at once and had the Wezir fetched. And he stood before him, and as soon as he came in he noticed the sorrowful state of his sovereign, and said to him: “Pardon, O King of the Age. God defend thee from calamity. Wherefore dost thou grieve?” The Sultan replied: “Perhaps thou dost not know my trouble?” And the Wezir said: “Not a whit, O my lord. By Allah, I have no knowledge of it whatever.” Then said the Sultan: “It is evident thou hast not looked towards the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din.” “True, O my master,” replied the Wezir, “it must now be still closed.” Then said the King: “Since thou hast no knowledge of anything, arise and look out of the window and see where ‘Ala-ed-Din’s palace is which thou sayest is shut up.” So the Wezir arose and looked out of the window towards the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din, and could espy nothing, neither palace nor anything else. So his reason was amazed and he was astounded, and returned to the Sultan, who said: “Dost thou know now the reason of my grief, and hast thou observed the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din which thou saidst was shut?” The Wezir answered: “O King of the Age, I informed thy Felicity before that this palace and all these doings were magic” Then the Sultan was inflamed with wrath, and cried out: “Where is ‘Ala-ed-Din?” He answered: “Gone to the chase.” Thereupon the Sultan instantly ordered some of his aghas and soldiers to go and fetch ‘Ala-ed-Din, pinioned and shackled. So the aghas and soldiers proceeded till they came upon ‘Ala-ed-Din, whom they thus addressed: “Chastise us not, O our master ‘Ala-ed-Din, for the Sultan hath commanded us to take thee chained and pinioned. So we beg thy pardon, for we are acting under the royal mandate, which we cannot oppose.” When ‘Ala-ed-Din heard the words of the aghas and soldiers, wonder took hold of him, and his tongue became tied, for he understood not the cause of this. Then turning to them, he said: “O company, have ye no knowledge of the cause of this order of the Sultan ? I know myself to be innocent, and to have committed no sin against the Sultan or against the kingdom.” They answered: “O our master, we know no cause at all.” Then ‘Ala-ed-Din dismounted and said to them: “Do with me what the Sultan ordered, for the command of the Sultan must be on the head and the eye.” Then the aghas chained ‘Ala-ed-Din and manacled him and bound him with irons and led him to the city. And when the citizens saw him bound and chained with iron, they knew that the Sultan would cut off his head; and since he was exceedingly beloved of them all, the lieges assembled together and brought their weapons and went forth from their houses and followed the soldiers to see what would be the event.
When the troops with ‘Ala-ed-Din reached the palace, they entered and told the Sultan; whereupon he straightway commanded the executioner to come and cut off his head.
But when the citizens knew this, they barred the gates and shut the doors of the palace, and sent a message to the Sultan, saying: “We will instantly pull down thy house over thy head and all others in it, if any mischief or harm come to ‘Ala-ed-Din.” So the Wezir went in and informed the Sultan, saying: “O King of the Age, thy command is about to seal the book of our lives. It were better to pardon ‘Ala-ed-Din lest there come upon us the calamity of calamities; for the lieges love him more than us.” Now the executioner had already spread the carpet of death, and seated ‘Ala-ed-Din thereon, and bandaged his eyes, and had walked round him thrice, waiting for the King’s command, when the Sultan looking out of the window, beheld his subjects attacking him and scaling the walls with intent to pull them down. So he immediately ordered the executioner to stay his hand, and bade the herald go out to the crowd and proclaim that he had pardoned ‘Ala-ed-Din and granted him grace. When ‘Ala-ed-Din saw he was free, and espied the Sultan seated on his throne, he drew near and said to him: “O my lord, since thy Felicity hath been gracious to me all my life, vouchsafe to tell me what is my offence.” Then the Sultan said: “O traitor, hitherto I knew of no offence in thee.” And turning to the Wezir, he said: “Take him and shew him from the windows where his palace is.” And when the Wezir had led him and he had looked out of the window in the direction of his palace, he found the site bare as it was before he built his palace thereon; and he saw never a vestige of the palace at all. (The Story Of ‘Ala-Ed-Din And The Wonderful Lamp. Part 22 & 23)
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