Autumn is typically associated with encroaching winter, the fall of leaves, the decay and retreat of life. However, autumn is also a time of new beginnings.
Autumn is the time to return to school. Many look forward with enthusiasm and hope about the future. New friends, new courses, new challenges and new opportunities await returning students. Even mundane tasks may become new in preparation for the commencing school year: new clothes, new backpacks, new books and new learning materials.
September is a late month in our calendar, occupying the ninth spot. Ironically, in Latin it is the seventh month (sept = 7) having retained its name after being bumped forward from its seventh position by the insertion of July (honoring Julius Caesar) and August (honoring Augustus Caesar).
But in other calendar systems, such as in Judaism, this autumn marks the start of a new year, not the waning months of a year fast approaching a close.
Jews celebrate some of their cherished holidays in autumn. The Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah (literally “the head of the year”), occurs on or near the autumnal equinox, depending on the lunar calendar. According to Jewish tradition, Adam and Eve were created on Rosh HaShanah.
This “New Beginning” is marked by the blowing of a trump (a ram’s horn) as directed in Leviticus 23:24. The following 10 days are a time of repentance and reflection, remembering the past year with the intent to seek and offer forgiveness where necessary and to look forward to future, brighter days ahead.
During this time, many Jews read Psalm 27 and find renewed purpose in its words, such as in verse 1:
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
Instead of the death typically associated with autumn, Psalm 27 exudes hope in the light and life of salvation only available through the Lord.
After the 10 days of repentance, the solemn Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, occurs. On this day, sins are absolved and the promise of a fresh start is renewed.
Autumn is also a time of new beginnings because of the Restoration. Starting on the autumnal equinox of 1823 and on the same date for the next four years thereafter, Joseph Smith received divine tutoring from angels and divine messengers. The first encounter with the angel Moroni occurred after Joseph Smith had earnestly sought repentance from his sins: “I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one” (Joseph Smith — History 1:29).
Moroni taught Joseph Smith many things, including the promise of an outpouring of revelation and learning upon the people of God, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29). Joseph Smith eventually received the sacred plates on Sept. 22, 1827, which he then translated and published to the world as the Book of Mormon. Indeed, autumn is not a time of death and darkness, but of light, life, and hope.
Just as the Jews were celebrating their new year, the dawning of a new age with the sounding a trumpet to call everyone to repentance and renewed commitment to God, so, too, the Restoration sounded the trumpet of warning that the time to prepare for the Lord is now. And like the Jewish feast of ingathering, which takes place in the autumn, so too the Restoration seeks to gather in the willing and faithful to the great banquet of salvation. In this regard, these autumnal new beginnings are in preparation for the end.
Though the calendric year is waning, perhaps now is a time for a new beginning in life, finding hope in new challenges or new opportunities. Perhaps like in Judaism, new beginnings are to be found in refreshed relationships through repentance or forgiveness.
Or perhaps, like Joseph Smith, our new beginnings will be marked by new insight, revelation or learning.
Taylor Halverson, Ph.D., is founder and co-chair of the BYU Creativity, Innovation and Design Group and acting associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Teaching and Learning Consultant. His views do not necessarily reflect those of BYU.