Daniel and Nephi
Covenant Communications, Inc., American Fork 2001
Chris Heimerdinger’s book Daniel and Nephi is a Young Adult book written in the Adventure genre. If you believe The Bible and the Book of Mormon are historical documents, then you could also call his work historical fiction. Heimerdinger is very skilled at taking ancient religious texts and giving the characters personality. In Daniel and Nephi, Heimerdinger takes the Bible character Daniel, who interpreted the dream of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, and Nephi, a prophet from the Book of Mormon who lived in Israel before crossing the sea to America, and imagines them before they became prophets of God.
Heimerdinger’s known for mixing current scholarly work and the information gathered from both religious and archaeological theories with his own imaginations of the characters portrayed in these texts. In this case, he imagines Daniel and Nephi near the same age, around 12 years old, meeting in the city of Jerusalem. The first encounter does not go well. Daniel is an arrogant and selfish prince, while Nephi is an upper class commoner. They get into a spat over a rare piece of silk.
With unrest in the air and a looming threat of war, a conspiracy emerges. Daniel father is murdered and Daniel escapes death when one of the conspirators decides to sell him as a slave instead. Through a series of events, Daniel acquires amnesia and ends up staying with Nephi’s family. At first, Nephi see Daniel’s memory problems as a method for revenge. Nephi’s father sees it as a way to rid himself of the unwanted nickname Jophy, which means beautiful. Gradually Daniel and Nephi become friends. With God’s help, they avoid being murdered and are eventually able to inform the King about the conspiracy. That’s about as much as I can say without spoiling the end. Personally I love reading books that build worlds based on historical evidence. You get the thrill of a fictional adventure in a very well researched setting. Heimerdinger effectively opens the world of ancient Israel to your mind in a way that makes you feel like you know these characters. The only problem I run into with these kinds of texts, is while reading the original texts of the Bible or Book of Mormon, it’s hard to not think of the characters as Heimerdinger presents them. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I am sure, that Daniel and Nephi will at least make you think about these characters and question who they really were. That is a good thing. The book is based on the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, it would be appropriate for all YAL readers. It would be an excellent story for classes that are covering world religions as well as archaeology. It would be great to have young adults take some archaeological findings and have them write a story about the people who created the artifacts. Ask them what the artifacts tell them about the people.