The Light in White Cloud’s Eyes

By Ray Goldrup

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    At the bottom of a blue, topless sky an angry prairie wind slashed at the flanks of a big red-rock mesa and leapt over its rim like a giant ocean wave.

    A twelve-year-old Navajo boy was seated against an ancient, gnarled tree that grew out of the split stone at the top of the mesa. He squinted as he carved a figure from a piece of wood. Suddenly a voice called out of the dirt-laden wind, “Billy Walking Horse.”

    The boy looked up and saw his grandfather, White Cloud, approaching. “I’m here, Grandfather,” he answered.

    White Cloud, his long white hair streaming in the wind, stopped beside the youth. He was Billy’s father’s father. Billy had enjoyed the company of the old man with the claylike face ever since he had come the week before. What Billy had especially enjoyed was the long drive to town with his grandfather in the old pickup truck. White Cloud had sung tribal songs, told stories, and laughed. Billy had missed the sound of laughter in his own home. In fact, he couldn’t remember ever hearing it. What intrigued the boy most, though, was the glow in Grandfather’s eyes. Billy wondered why his father’s eyes didn’t shine like that—or his mother’s.

    “What is this you carve, Billy Walking Horse?” the old Indian inquired as he sat down cross-legged beside the boy. Billy held up a carving of a rearing wild stallion. White Cloud took it carefully and regarded it closely. “It looks alive! Who taught you this great skill?”

    “No one, Grandfather,” the youth responded. “It’s like something is inside the wood, just waiting for me to let it out. Sometimes it’s a bird or a rabbit or a horse. I just have to whittle it free of the wood around it.”

    Grandfather studied the boy and the horse, then said thoughtfully, “This talent you have is a gift from another of your fathers, perhaps a great-great-great-grandfather. It is a gift of love to you.”

    Billy looked from the horse to his grandfather and said slowly, “I wish one of them had a gift to give to my father, one that would take away his pain.”

    White Cloud sighed. “I, too, have noticed this pain. Such is the lot of many of our people. They are not alone in their suffering. Our forefathers suffered also.”

    “But why is life so hard for my father, Grandfather? He’s a good man. It isn’t fair. I don’t understand.”

    The old man stood and rested a weathered hand on Billy’s shoulder. “Always remember that heaven is up. It is steeper for some of us than for others. Maybe this is good. It means that some of us will try harder. Then others can take courage from our example, as we must from our fathers.”

    White Cloud pointed to the old, gnarled tree that they had been leaning against. “Look. This old tree has not grown without effort. It has cleft that large stone and has become strong. It will stand for a long time—not like a tree that grows in soft earth without struggle and falls in the first little wind. This tree’s roots must be as deep as ours.”

    Billy looked into Grandfather’s eyes. “You keep talking about our forefathers. Why? And why is the light I see in your eyes brighter whenever you speak of them?”

    White Cloud smiled. “The wish you spoke of, a gift to your father from his fathers? There is such a gift. That is why I came to visit you and your family.”

    “What is this gift, Grandfather?” Billy asked excitedly. “Where did you get it?”

    The smile in Grandfather’s eye’s grew even brighter.

    “The gift is a book, a record written by our forefathers. It was given to me by two young men from far away. I came to share this wonderful book with my family.”

    “What book, Grandfather?”

    “It is called the Book of Mormon. Its knowledge, its light, is the gift of our fathers to us. It says that they labored diligently to write it for us [2 Ne. 25:23]. It is our book!”

    Billy’s eyes widened. “It was really written for us?”

    “Yes, Billy Walking Horse—for me, for you, for your mother, for your father,” the old man affirmed. “It is for all our people, whether they be called Bolivians, Indians, Polynesians, or some other name.”

    The wind whipped up the side of the mesa again, moaning as it swirled dust across an outcropping of jagged rocks. White Cloud motioned toward the sight. “The Book of Mormon speaks to us as a voice ‘crying … out of the dust’ [Moro. 10:27] to give us strength and courage, hope and confidence.”

    “What does it say, this written voice?” Billy asked.

    “It speaks of great promises and an even greater destiny that is our sacred birthright if we, like this old tree, master the storm. Great destinies, Billy Walking Horse, require great effort and bring great reward, in this life and the life to come. Our worldwide seed, being one family, shall blossom as the rose. Such is the promise, and so it shall be.”

    Billy Walking Horse asked eagerly, “When will you talk to my father about these things, Grandfather? About this voice that cries out of the dust? I want to see the light I see in your eyes and hear the laughter I hear in your heart in his eyes and heart also.”

    “You will, Billy Walking Horse. We shall all read this great record, this gift from our fathers—the Book of Mormon—together.”

    Illustrated by Shauna Mooney