Karen pulled the twine off the bale of hay and hung it on a fence post.
“You do that pretty well for a shorty,” said Josh as he dropped the last bale by the manger.
“I could do the whole job by myself if I wanted to,” Karen snapped. “And if everyone weren’t in such a hurry to read scriptures before breakfast, I would too.”
“Oh, don’t get your feathers all fluffed up,” Josh said with a grin. “What’s the matter, don’t you like stories about the Nephites and Lamanites?”
“I just don’t see why I have to work so hard at studying scriptures. I’ll never be struck down by an angel for preaching against the Church like Alma the Younger. And I sure hope I’ll never be burned at the stake like Abinadi.”
Josh sat down on a hay bale, took off his gloves, and shook out the leaves and chaff.
“You’ve got to apply the scriptures to your own life,” he said. “Take the story of Abinadi: the Lord is just showing us how important it is to speak up for the truth, even if we get into trouble for it.”
“I suppose you’re right as usual, big brother,” sighed Karen.
“Of course I am,” agreed Josh good-naturedly. “You can understand your own problems a lot better if you see how people in the scriptures acted.”
“Well, we’ll never make it back in time if you sit there holding down that bale all morning,” said Karen, pitching a forkful of hay to the waiting cows. “I bet I can feed these cows and be in the house before you can get the calves fed.”
“All right, Shorty, you’re on,” Josh said, pulling on his gloves. “See you later.”
“Don’t call me Shorty!” shouted Karen. But Josh was already over the stackyard fence and gone.
Karen worked so quickly that she was soon feeling warm in spite of the cold wind. She was tempted to stop and take off her coat, but she didn’t want to waste any time.
The sun eased over the hill and shot spears of light into the ragged clouds. A flock of blackbirds sailed into an elm tree, where they flapped and chattered to each other.
Karen tossed the remaining hay into the manger. Most of it landed on the cows’ heads since they were too hungry to move out of the way.
The shortest path to the house was through the barnyard. But the melting snow and the thawing ground had left knee-deep manure that was soupy and smelly.
Karen thought about taking the long way around the barn, but finally decided to walk the pole fence that divided the barnyard from the holding corral. Last summer she had walked along the top of the fence until she could almost run without tripping. But during the winter the snow and ice had made the fence so slippery that she had not tried for several months. But this is an emergency, she thought. Besides, the ice is gone so I won’t slip.
The going wasn’t easy. She was not very nimble in her heavy boots, and her winter coat made it difficult to maneuver around the fence posts. She spread out her arms to balance herself and watched each step—left, right, left, right. It’s too late to turn back now, she decided.
Suddenly the treaded sole of her boot caught on a knot in the wood. Karen grabbed wildly at the air and then landed on her back in the oozing barnyard.
“Eeeyuck!” she groaned, staggering to her feet and flipping some of the soggy manure from her hands. “Talk about stinking to high heaven,” she grumbled.
The barn steps were only a few yards away so she waded through the muck and went inside. No one was there. Gary, her younger brother, must have finished setting up the milkers and gone to the house.
Karen turned on the hose that was used to clean the barn after milking. The water was cold, but at least she could wash off most of the guck before she had to go to the house.
I wish a big hole would just open up right here and swallow me, thought Karen as she hosed off her jeans. I won’t even be able to get on the porch like this. Everyone’d smell me coming. They can probably smell me right now!
But no one except Josh was on the porch when Karen opened the door. “Don’t laugh or I’ll clobber you,” she hissed.
Josh was almost too amazed to laugh—almost. “You fell into the manure,” he chuckled. “What are you going to do now?”
“Just once would you be a little sympathetic and give me some help?” Karen pleaded.
“All right,” said Josh, taking off his coat. “Lay your dirty clothes inside the doorway and I’ll put them in the washer.”
Karen pulled off her boots and stepped behind a screen. She put her clothes on a chair and wrapped herself in one of Dad’s big coats.
“One more thing, Josh. Check and see if there is anyone in the bathroom. I’ll watch through the door. If by some miracle it’s empty, then give me a wave.”
Josh gingerly picked up the clothes and walked down the hall to the laundry room. As he passed the bathroom, he glanced in. A miracle must have happened because he signaled that it was empty.
Karen hurried through a shower and shampoo. She wondered what her brother would tell the family about her being late.
Josh met Karen as she came out of her bedroom. “You’re in luck,” he said. “Dad had a flat tire coming up from the lower field. He’s late, too, so no one will ask any questions.”
Soon the family gathered in the living room to read from the Book of Mormon.
“Let’s see,” said Dad. “We were reading Alma, chapter seven, where Alma is speaking to the people of Gideon. Mother, I think it’s your turn to read. Start with verse twenty-one, please.”
“And he doth not dwell in unholy temples; neither can filthiness or anything which is unclean be received into the kingdom of God; therefore I say unto you the time shall come, yea, and it shall be at the last day, that he who is filthy shall remain in his filthiness.”
Karen looked up from her book and saw Josh watching her. He nodded his head and gave her a wink.
“… And may the Lord bless you, and keep your garments spotless, that ye may at last be brought to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the holy prophets who have been ever since the world began, having your garments spotless even as their garments are spotless, in the kingdom of heaven to go no more out.”
Mother finished the chapter and Dad explained: “Jesus has shown us the way to live while we are here on earth. If we follow His path, it will lead us back to our Father in heaven. But if we make a mistake, we are not forced to stay out of the kingdom and away from our families. We have been given the promise that if we do all we can to correct the wrong, our elder Brother, Jesus Christ, will forgive us and help us to return.”
Karen felt a peace come into her heart and a new understanding as she knelt by the couch for family prayer.