Pearl on the Beach

By Nanette Larsen Dunford

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    He that layeth up treasure for himself … is not rich toward God (Luke 12:21).

    “GOLD! Gold!” I shouted, running my fingers through the sand. Everywhere I looked, gold sparkled in the sand. It wasn’t fool’s gold, either—it was real! That’s why it’s called Gold Bluffs Beach.

    Above the sound of the rushing waves, my sister, Lisa, was calling, “Ryan, come wade in the ocean with me.”

    I paid no attention but began stuffing my pockets full of sand and gold. Soon my pockets were bulging, so I bent over and poured sand inside my shoes.

    “What are you doing?” a voice behind me boomed.

    I looked through my legs at Lisa. “I’m gathering gold,” I replied, my head still upside down. “I’m going to be rich. I’m going to buy a swimming pool and the fastest bicycle in the neighborhood and—”

    Lisa wasn’t listening. “Mom and Dad want you to come see the Roosevelt elk,” she said.

    Trying to follow Lisa down the beach wasn’t easy. I could barely waddle along in my lumpy shoes full of sand. But I was not giving up my gold.

    The next day I came prepared. I brought a big garbage bag from our campground. After Mom fell asleep on a beach blanket and Lisa and Dad went for a walk in the redwood trees on the bluff, I began furiously scooping the glittering sand into my bag.

    “What are you doing?” asked a voice.

    Startled, I looked up into the puzzled face of a boy a few years older than I.

    “I’m going to get rich on this gold,” I announced.

    “Well, you’re going to have a rough time of it,” he laughed. “No one has ever figured out how to get the gold out of the sand.”

    “How do you know?” I retorted.

    “I’ve lived here all my life,” replied the boy. “My father’s a ranger at this park.”

    “Well, I bet my dad can get the gold out of this sand. He’s an engineer, and he can do anything.”

    “I wish you luck,” the boy said with a shrug.

    I watched him saunter down the beach, then settle on a smooth, whitened log and begin to read a book. He often looked up and gazed thoughtfully at the ocean, then underlined something or wrote a few words in the book’s margin.

    Once he called to me and motioned down the beach. “See the elk—aren’t they magnificent! That one bull really has a big rack of antlers.”

    I glanced at the big animals in the distance. Their chocolate-colored heads and necks stood out against their creamy bodies.

    I looked down again. Gold was more exciting than elk. Heaving the bag over my shoulder, I searched for the sand with the most sparkles. When my bag got heavy, I began stuffing sand in my pockets. I decided to rest on a log near the trees at the edge of the beach. I struggled over to it, turning my back to drag the bag the last few feet. Just as I reached the log, I lost my balance and keeled over backward, landing in a heap on the other side of it.

    Suddenly I flinched. My hand was resting on something soft and furry. Then something bleated loudly right in my ear. I jerked around. Right in front of my freckled nose was a black quivering nose. My eyes traveled past the long, floppy ears to the brown, spotted body. “An elk calf!” I gasped.

    The tiny elk bleated again. Then I heard an enormous grunt.

    “Look out!” shrieked the boy with the book.

    I staggered up. In horror, I saw a huge cow elk charging down the beach toward me, her ears flattened against her head.

    “She thinks that you’re hurting her baby,” cried the boy. Dropping his book, he ran toward the cow, trying to distract her.

    I grabbed the top of my sack and tried to drag it with me, but it snagged on the log and broke. Gold-filled sand spilled all over as I lumbered away without it. Then the sand spilled from my pockets—the seams had broken from its weight.

    Shaking with fear and exhaustion, I looked over my shoulder. Snorting and pawing, the cow had stopped beside her calf. She glowered at me a long time before finally lowering her head to nudge her baby.

    The boy rushed up beside me. “Are you all right?” He led me to his log where I collapsed, trembling.

    His small book still lay there where he had dropped it. The Pearl of Great Price—so he likes treasure, too, I thought. I got up shakily, lamenting, “We have to go back to Fremont tonight, and now I have to start all over again to get more gold.”

    The boy shook his head. “After all this, I thought that maybe you’d give up.”

    “Oh no,” I said, “I want to be rich.”

    “What would you do if you were rich?”

    “I’d buy the tallest stilts in town, a life-size transformer, maybe a whole toy store!” I was still dreaming about my toy store as I asked, “What would you get if you were rich?”

    “All the money in the world couldn’t buy what I want most.”


    He looked wistfully out at the sunlight dancing on the water. “I want to give my mother back her eyesight.”

    Suddenly I forgot about my toy store.

    The boy gazed down the beach, where the elk were now frolicking in the surf. They bounded and kicked and tossed their heads. “Sometimes I bring my mother here. She can feel the warm sand squish through her toes. She can hear the waves lap on the beach. But it’s not the same as seeing those beautiful elk splashing in the water, or a pink sunset stretching across the ocean.”

    He motioned toward the redwood forest on the bluff. “Sometimes I take her walking in there. She can hear the breezes rustling, and she can feel the rough bark of the huge trees. But it’s not the same as being able to look up and up along one of them until it towers out of sight.

    “But my mother says that she’s happy. She says that it gives her comfort to know that the very biggest ones were living when Jesus Christ was born. She says that when she’s resurrected, she’ll see the redwoods and the ocean and the elk with her own eyes. Best of all, she’ll see the Savior with her own eyes.”

    “Oh,” I gulped, not knowing what to say.

    The boy chuckled, not unkindly. “You know, you remind me of the man who built his house upon the sand.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You’ve been building your dreams on a pile of sand. Even when you were charged by a dangerous elk, you tried to drag your sand with you. For me, I’d rather build my dreams on something that can’t spill out of my pockets.”

    “What’s that?” I asked.

    “A faith in God like my mother’s,” he answered.

    “Oh,” I said. I pointed to The Pearl of Great Price. “Is the ‘house on the sand’ story in that book?”

    “No, it’s in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.”

    I’d never read the Bible, and I’d never even heard of the Book of Mormon. “So what’s in this book?”

    “It explains a lot about why God created us.”

    “Wow!” As I reached for the book, Dad called. I groaned, “Oh, no! I have to go now. I really wanted to see that book.”

    “Quick,” the boy said, “write down your address on my bookmark, and I’ll ask some people I know in Fremont to give you one, OK?”

    “OK!” I said, scribbling my name and address. “Thanks.”

    As I hurried off, I looked back at The Pearl of Great Price in the sand. I had forgotten all about the gold there.

    Illustrated by Virginia Sargent