Peter Whitmer, the Frog

For an eight-year-old, I’ve caught lots of frogs—brown ones, green ones, striped ones, smelly ones—but never a famous one. I hit the jackpot, though, this summer when I caught “Peter Whitmer”! He didn’t start out with that famous name; he started out being “Freddie Frog.” Then someone bigger than I am said that since I’d caught him at a famous place like the Peter Whitmer farm in Fayette, New York, he ought to have a famous name too. So I named him Peter Whitmer. The real Peter Whitmer, of course, was one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s best friends. He let Joseph Smith live on the Whitmer farm while the Prophet did some translating of the Book of Mormon.

My family (all seven of us) had parts in the Hill Cumorah Pageant, and we’d gone that day to see some of the other historic Church sites. While we were visiting the Whitmer farm, smiling for pictures and trying to understand why the old farm was important, I saw something kind of green with lots of spots on it hopping along in the sunshine. My friend Lynne had caught a frog at the Hill Cumorah, where we were staying, but this one was bigger. I watched it as it hopped and stopped, hopped and stopped. I grabbed for it fast, but it got away. Margaret, a teenage friend, was talking to me at the time and just bent over, scooped it up carefully in her big hands, and handed it to me! I could tell that he wasn’t happy, because he wiggled a lot, and I could feel his squishy stomach! Even though I like frogs, I was afraid that I was going to have to hold him in my hands all the way back to the Hill Cumorah. Yuck!

While I was wondering if I really wanted to keep him, I followed my mother inside a big white church to buy some cinnamon suckers. Lots of ladies in aprons were standing around selling punch and caramels and other homemade stuff that looked really good. And there on the floor was an empty soft-drink cup—just what I needed to put Peter in. What a lucky find! I quickly dumped him into the cup, and somebody made some holes in the lid with a pocketknife. By that time the buses were there to take us back to the Hill Cumorah.

Everyone on the bus wanted to see Peter, and I was afraid that he’d get carsick from being passed around so much. When we got to Cumorah, we asked Brother Killian, who was in charge of our food, if he had any boxes that we could put a frog in. One of his helpers found one just the right size. We put Peter in it and started making him a little “farm” like the real Peter Whitmer had. We put in rocks and grass and sticks and leaves. We put some water in the cup that we’d carried him in on the bus, then put that inside the box with a humongous stick on it for a diving board. He sat on the stick, but I didn’t ever see him jump off. We didn’t give him any food except a big leaf that probably had lots of bugs on it. We couldn’t catch any flies because they’d just fly away.

One day I showed Peter to my friend who played the part of Jesus in the pageant. His name was Brother DeLaMare, and all the kids in the pageant loved him. I showed him the frog Peter Whitmer, and he really liked him.

When Brother DeLaMare was dressed in his costume and beard, he looked just like I think Jesus would. Sometimes when he was acting his part, I saw tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. He was a real good “pretend Jesus,” and he was my friend. I was in the scene with him where Nephi sees the vision of Christ blessing and teaching the people. My friend Lynne and I were two of the little children that he blessed. After we knelt down and he touched our heads, he blessed a sick child who was brought to him on a stretcher.

Someday I will meet the real Jesus. He won’t be dressed in a costume. I don’t know what He’ll be wearing, but I know that when I look into His eyes and see His kind face I will remember Him and He will remember me. This makes me happy!

Well, I only kept the frog Peter Whitmer for a couple more days. One morning on the way to our devotional service, I put him in the bushes by the study shelter. I thought about him a couple of times during the devotional, but when I went back to see if he was still there, he was gone.

He had been a good little friend, and I had had a lot of fun with him. I wish that I could have taught him some tricks, but I don’t think that he was big enough. Brother DeLaMare asked me later where Peter was, and I just answered that he was probably having a froggy feast in the bushes!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young