The Ultimate Prize

By Janet Peterson

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    Give heed unto the word of the Lord (1 Ne. 15:25).

    Brent liked to keep track of all the books he read. Mrs. DeBry, his first-grade teacher, had a long, long, paper caterpillar that went around three walls of the room. Every time a child read a book, Mrs. DeBry wrote the name of the book and the name of the reader on a colored circle and pasted it on the caterpillar’s body. Brent already had thirty-four colored circles on it.

    He had his own reading chart at home that he and his mom had made. Every time he finished reading a book, he carefully printed the title in one of the squares that zigzagged around the poster. Every fifth square offered a prize such as “buy an ice-cream cone” or “have a friend sleep over” or “go to the library.” The “grand prize” in the last square of the poster was a trip to the amusement park.

    Warm spring sunshine filled the room as Brent sat down on the couch in the family room one April afternoon. Finding his copy of the Book of Mormon on the table by the couch, he called to his mother in the kitchen. “Mom, can you help me read?”

    “Sure, Brent,” Mom said, coming in and ruffling his hair as she sat down beside him. “Where are you going to start today?”

    “That’s easy to find. Yesterday I marked where I read with Dad.” He pointed to 1 Nephi 15:23.

    Holding a card under the first line of verse 24, Brent began in his best reading voice: “‘And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and’”—he stopped and frowned. “What’s w-h-o-s-o?”

    “It’s who and so put together,” Mom explained. “We’d probably say whoever.

    “Oh. ‘And whoso would’”—Brent stopped again. “What’s that word, Mom?”

    Hearken. It means to listen and obey.”

    Brent continued, “‘… hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never’”—he sounded out perish, then looked up. “I don’t know if I can read all these hard words. My reading books at school don’t have words like these.”

    “You’re right, Brent. First-grade reading books are much easier to read. They don’t have difficult words like temptations, fiery darts of the adversary, and destruction. But just think of how reading the Book of Mormon is helping you become a better reader.”

    Brent struggled to remember the words Mom had just told him as he went on: “‘Neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness …’ I can read temptations, and I know what it means, and I know what darts are, but what are ‘fiery darts of the adversary’?”

    “Well, adversary means enemy, and the ‘adversary’ here means the devil,” Mom explained.

    Brent’s shoulders slumped. “I’m only in 1 Nephi, and this is such a long book. … Do you think I’ll really be able to finish it before I’m baptized?”

    “If you keep reading every day, I’m sure you will. Besides, your eighth birthday is months and months away, and you’ll be a second grader by then. But we’d better get back to this verse now.”

    “‘… to lead them away to de-struc-tion.’”

    “Brent, you are an excellent reader! Those are really difficult words in that verse. Do you think that you can read it all the way through now?”

    Brent hardly hesitated at all as he read, “‘And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them away to destruction.’” He grinned happily. “I understand it now too. It means that if we read the scriptures and obey the commandments, Satan won’t have power over us.”

    “Good, Brent. You really do understand, even though some parts of it are hard.”

    “Mom, this is the hardest book I’ve ever read. The longest too! What prize will I get when I finish it?”

    “A testimony.”

    “What actually is a testimony?”

    “Well, a testimony is knowing deep inside that something is true. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know deep inside that it is truly the word of God.”

    “How do you know?” asked Brent.

    “Here. Listen to what Moroni promised every person who reads the Book of Mormon and prays about it.” She turned to Moroni 10:4 [Moro. 10:4] and read: “‘And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.’”

    “Do you think a seven-year-old can have a testimony?” asked Brent.

    “Brent, it doesn’t matter how old you are. You could be seven or a hundred seven. If you read the Book of Mormon and ask Heavenly Father if it’s true, He will answer your prayer. Through the Holy Ghost, you will receive your own testimony.”

    “Let’s read more verses tomorrow,” said Brent, giving his mother a hug before running out the door to play.

    Illustrated by Robert A. McKay