I had the strangest feeling when the whole family left for church without me. My mother and father didn’t make half the fuss I had expected when, just before time to leave, I announced, “I don’t want to go to meeting today.”
“Oh!” Grandma said, raising an eyebrow.
“Why not, are you sick?” Mama asked.
“Sort of,” I replied. “I’m sick of listening to long, boring talks.”
“Well, sounds as though we have only a part-time Mormon,” Papa remarked.
“I am not a part-time Mormon,” I protested. “I’m one all the time.”
“Your testimony sounds a bit shaky to me,” Papa responded.
“What does a testimony have to do with going to church anyway?” I asked.
“Everything,” my sister Laura chipped in. “If a person knows the gospel is true, she tries to do what she’s supposed to.”
“You’re preaching,” I objected.
“What will you do while we’re in church?” Mama asked.
“I’ll play with Joyce and Joan and their cousins.”
“Church is out by five. You can play with them after that,” Mother suggested.
Everyone was looking at me like I had two heads. I was annoyed. Couldn’t I be different just once? I knew plenty of kids that didn’t have to go to church, and their parents didn’t go either.
“If we wait until after church, we can’t finish our hut down by the river,” I explained.
Shaking her head, Mama sighed, “So Papa is right. We do have a part-time Mormon in the family.”
Feeling hurt, I asked, “How come?”
“Just think it over,” she answered.
And off my family went to church without me. I almost ran after them as they passed through the gate, but then I overheard Laura say, “She won’t really miss meeting. She’ll catch up with us before we reach the corner.”
Well! I’ll show her, I thought.
To prevent my weakening, I changed quickly into my old sweat shirt and jeans. Already Joan and the others were calling for me over the picket fence.
I had a strong urge to shout, “I’m not going.” Instead, I met them at the gate.
Usually going to the river was exciting, but today it wasn’t. There was still time to change my mind and attend church with my folks, for they always left early. While I stood, debating, Joyce asked, “Well, what’s bothering you? Did your old cat die or something?”
“Of course not, silly. Come on, let’s go,” I answered decisively.
I didn’t feel much like talking, so I ran ahead, making the other girls race to catch up. When we came to the river, we were winded.
The river! Big deal! I thought. It’s nothing more than a trickle through sand and rocks, and I thought it would be so great!
The sun was sizzling hot, my clothes were sticky, and a rock was in my shoe. Suddenly Joyce wailed, “Oh, look! Someone has caved our hut in.”
Sure enough! All our hard work of cutting and placing tamarack branches was wasted. The hut was a wreck.
Discouraged, I plopped down against a boulder in the shade of a black willow, shaking the gravel out of my shoes. A gnat that wouldn’t be shooed away buzzed my ears.
“Who wants a tamarack hut anyway?” I snapped.
Indignantly, with hands on her hips, Joan stood before me. “Look! Something is bothering you. What is it? You’re the one who thought the hut was so important.”
“Ah, I’m all right,” I said. “I just have some thinking to do, OK? Why don’t you all forget about me and go have some fun?”
“C’mon, let’s let the old potato sit and stew,” Joan urged. “The last one in the river is a mud turtle!”
There was a scramble as the girls pulled off their shoes and stockings, and I was left alone.
I sat and thought, If I need a testimony, I’d better do something about it. All my life I’ve heard people get up in church and say what they’re thankful for. Being thankful is important. Our Heavenly Father wouldn’t want to bless us if we weren’t thankful. But a testimony must be more than that. I thought hard.
When Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray, he saw the Father and the Son. So he had a testimony. He knew Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Hot as the day was, that thought made my skin prickle, and I shivered.
In Sunday School we had talked about an angel of God coming down and showing the gold plates to the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. So of course they had testimonies.
But I had never seen an angel or seen a light or heard a voice from heaven. So that’s probably why I was in this sorry state, sitting in the dirt against an old lava rock in my grubbiest clothes, while my sisters sat in church in their crisp pink and blue dresses beside Papa, Mama, and Grandma. Then like a bolt, the thought struck me! None of my family has seen or heard anymore than I have!
I learned back against that boulder ready to cry. I wanted a testimony too! “Please help me, Heavenly Father,” I prayed.
Gradually, a sweet, sweet feeling swept through me. Why, I did have a testimony. I had always had one. If I knew Joseph knew and that the Three Witnesses knew that Jesus Christ was the Son of our Heavenly Father—then naturally I knew too. How wonderful! Tears trickled down my gritty cheeks. “Thank you, Heavenly Father,” I whispered.
I ran to the riverbank where my friends were playing. “Hey, everybody, c’mere,” I called excitedly.
“Well, look who’s come alive,” Joyce said. Eagerly they came.
“Come on, let’s go home. This is no way to spend Sunday,” I told them.
Timidly one of the cousins said, “Mama and Papa would never let us do this at home.”
“Of course they wouldn’t,” I agreed. “And we’re not coming to the river anymore on Sunday. We’ll fix that hut tomorrow.”
“Then the hut matters?” Joan asked.
“Sure it does. Tamarack huts are important.”
The family was already home when I got there. I hurried and scrubbed away my disgrace. No one paid any attention to me except Mama. “Did you have a good time at the river?” she asked.
“I suffered,” I answered.
The following Sunday was fast day, and I had been saving a surprise all week for my family. I was the first one at the pulpit when it was time to bear testimonies. I knew exactly what I was going to say.
But when I looked down at the people, their faces blurred. I was scared. My heart pounded and my throat was dry. I couldn’t remember one single word I had planned to say. Lying on the pulpit was a slip of paper with the title of the closing song, “I know That My Redeemer Lives.”
Tingling from head to toe, I took a deep breath and said, “Oh, how very much I know that my Redeemer really and truly lives.” Tears began to sting my eyes. Fearing I might cry, I could only add, “in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Reaching my seat again, I squeezed in between Laura and Papa. His big brown hand closed over mine and his smile was broad and warm.