I used to have nightmares about volcanoes. The nightmares were really awful.
They started after I watched a television special with pictures of different volcanoes erupting and spitting lava all over the place. I thought it was really neat—until the middle of the night! That’s when I had this horrible dream that a volcano was shooting off in my bedroom. I let out a yell, and Mom rushed in and turned on the light. Even though she was very tired, she patiently listened to me tell about my dream, then assured me that there aren’t any volcanoes in upstate New York.
After that I had nightmares every few nights. I’m much too old to wake up in the middle of the night screaming, but by the time I was awake enough to remember that, Mom would be in my room, telling me that everything was OK.
I haven’t had those nightmares for a while now. I’ll tell you why they stopped, but it’s sort of complicated. It started with the Barretts down the street. They have a bunch of kids, and the whole family’s really nice. One day they called Mom and asked if we’d like to go with them to a big show their church puts on every year, called the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Mom had read in the newspaper that it was supposed to be really spectacular, so she said we’d love to go.
The play is held outside, on a hill. Randi Barrett, who is my age, tried to fill me in on what was going to happen, but mostly all I remembered was that there were good guys and bad guys. When we got there, some of the actors were walking around in their costumes and we got to meet them, which was fun. There were even kids in it. I asked one kid if he was in movies, too, but he said no, he just lived in New Jersey the rest of the year.
When it began to get dark, the show started. I liked this guy called Nephi and how he built a ship. I also liked how he had these things called visions, where he saw Jesus Christ even before He was born. I got a little confused after that, but it was still fun to watch.
When they started telling about when Jesus died, we heard rumbling, like thunder, and my mom started to open her umbrella. Suddenly there was all this noise. It was so loud that it felt like the ground was shaking. And then, right in front of us, a volcano appeared out of the darkness and started to erupt. That was it! I yelped and put my jacket over my head so that I wouldn’t have to see it.
Randi told me that it was just part of the show, and Mr. Barrett tried to explain how they made it look like a real volcano. Mom told Mrs. Barrett about my nightmares, and Mrs. Barrett began apologizing for not warning me. Then everything stopped. It just stopped—all the noise, the lightning flashes, even the talking around me. It was suddenly very dark and very quiet.
I thought that maybe the world had ended, and I took my jacket off my head just to check. Then I looked up and saw a light, and in the light was a man. I thought for a minute that maybe I was having a vision, but all the people on the stage could see him, too, and they were looking up and waiting for him.
He came down out of the sky until he was right down among the people. He told them that He was Jesus Christ and that He had been killed but that it was all right now—more than all right, because He was alive again, and they would also live again after they died. He taught them lots more things, and then He blessed all the little children before He went back up into heaven.
I was really quiet all the way home, and Mom was worried because she was sure I would have nightmares that night. But I didn’t. I thought about Jesus coming and blessing all the little kids, and I figured that He would bless me too. I went a whole week without any nightmares. When I did have another one, I asked Mom to tell me about Jesus coming down from Heaven. She told me what she could remember, and I went right back to sleep.
Mom hadn’t remembered the story very well, so the next day I asked Randi about it. She said that the pageant was based on a book called the Book of Mormon, and she offered to let me borrow her copy, if I would return it by Sunday. She helped me find the right part, and I read it every night. The story was more complicated in the book, but there was also lots of good stuff that they’d left out—like when Jesus promised the people that if they’d listen to Him, He’d gather them the way a hen gathers her chickens under her wing.* I liked that, and from then on, when I went to bed, I imagined that I was a little chick snuggled under Jesus’ wing, and I stopped having nightmares.
When I took Randi’s book back, Mrs. Barrett asked if I wanted a copy for myself. She arranged for two people called missionaries to bring it to the house. They wanted to start by telling about somebody named Joseph Smith, but I told them I wanted the part about Jesus coming out of heaven. My mother gave me one of those “be polite” looks, but the missionaries said that it was their favorite part, too, so they didn’t mind talking about it first.
They left a Book of Mormon, and I started reading a little bit every night. Mom got in the habit of coming in my room after I fell asleep and borrowing it so that she could read it. Elder Sutherland, one of the missionaries, gave us another copy, so now I keep mine under my pillow. If I do have a bad dream, I know I have it right there.
But I don’t have nightmares anymore—after all, we don’t have volcanoes in upstate New York, except in the pageant. Besides, I have other stuff to think about. I just found out that the people in the pageant aren’t movie stars at all. They’re just ordinary people. I’m already planning that after Mom and I are baptized, I’ll be in next year’s pageant. Then, when Jesus comes down out of heaven, I’ll be waiting there to meet Him.