Loving an Enemy


I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning (1 Ne. 19:23).

Celeste hopped into the van and scrunched down so that no one outside it could see her. Tears flooded down her freckled cheeks and splashed on her jumper like a monsoon thunderstorm breaking loose.

“It isn’t fair,” she muttered. She pulled a crumpled tissue out of her pocket and wiped her hazel eyes. “Why doesn’t Eli pick on someone else, for a change?”

“Hey, look who’s talking to herself!” said Peter, her older brother. “Celeste is having a celestial chat!” He started to laugh, then noticed her tear-stained face. “Aw, Celeste, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything. What’s wrong?”

“What did you do?” Jimmy, her younger brother, asked Peter. Celeste turned away and stared silently out the window.

Mom gave the boys a meaningful look and said, “Please remember, Sunday is supposed to be a peaceful day of rest, a day free from the cares of the world and,” she added pointedly, “from the teasing of brothers.”

Celeste looked guiltily at Peter and Jimmy. Normally they deserved a lecture like this, but today wasn’t really their fault. It was Elijah Smith’s. The only time Eli had been decent to her was the week Sister Newman had given a lesson on “love your enemies.”

Later, in her room, while Mom sat quietly beside her, the day’s tragic events spilled out.

It had begun when Celeste enthusiastically answered two tough questions in her Valiant B class. Sister Newman had complimented her. “Good job, Celeste! I can always count on you.”

Celeste had flushed with happiness until Eli whispered loudly, “Miss Goody-goody Two Shoes knows all the answers.” The other children had snickered.

Later Eli bumped into her, then flopped on the floor, groaning, “Oh no! I’ve touched Miss Righteous. Help—I’m going to be translated!”

Even Celeste’s best friend, Mary, had laughed.

“Mom,” she asked now, “how could anyone name a boy like that after a great prophet?”

“Two prophets, if you count his last name,” replied Mom. “Don’t let him get to you, Celeste. Eli may not know about Elijah or Joseph Smith. He and his dad just started coming back to church this year. Besides,” Mom encouraged her with a big hug, “you know how to handle teasing. That’s one advantage of having two brothers, right?”

Celeste smiled, then broke into laughter when Mom winked at her, tiptoed to the bedroom door, opened it quickly, and Peter and James tumbled in.

“Eavesdropping, guys?” Mom asked sweetly. They grinned.

The next Sunday, things went from bad to rotten. In class, Eli brushed past her chair and snorted, “Teacher’s pet.” Celeste pasted on a smile and looked right through him.

The real bombshell hit when Sister Newman announced, “Class, we are going to have a prophet-mastery contest like the seminary youth do with scriptures! I’ll divide you into teams of two, and you can study together.

“Mary, you team up with Charles. Celeste, you’re partners with Eli.”

It was hard to tell whose jaw dropped first. Both Celeste and Eli looked like goldfish gasping on dry land.

“Please meet with your partner this week,” said Sister Newman, handing out a list of some prophets.

“Mom,” moaned Celeste during lunch, “how can I work with someone who doesn’t even like me?”

“I could ask Sister Virden to transfer him to my Blazer class,” Peter volunteered.

“No—to my class!” Jimmy clamored. “Sister Florio doesn’t let anyone get away with what she calls shenanigans.”

“See, honey,” Mom told her, “even though they tease you a lot, your brothers are telling you that they love you.”

Celeste sighed. “I guess that leaves me with ‘love my enemy.’”

At school, Eli and Celeste avoided each other all week. Finally, Saturday morning, Celeste called him. To her surprise, Eli agreed to come right over.

“We can’t show up tomorrow and look like dummies,” he explained. “That’s the only reason I’m here.”

They studied for two hours before Mom brought in some almond brownies.

“Food!” shouted Eli.

While he ate two in quick succession, Celeste said shyly, “You know, there is another prophet I think you’d really like. He’s in the Old Testament.”

“Oh, yeah?” Eli mumbled.

“His name was Elijah, like yours.” Eli stopped chewing as she continued. “He was one of the great prophets—in fact, another Old Testament prophet spoke of him, and Jesus told the people in the Book of Mormon about it. Elijah performed many miracles in the Lord’s name, like when he called fire down from heaven and burned up a sacrifice and an altar too.”

“Cool!”

Celeste rushed on, “He sealed up the heavens for three and a half years so it wouldn’t rain. During the famine the drought caused, he blessed a widow’s flour and oil so that she would always have food. And later he even raised her son from the dead. And he did all these things to help people turn to the Lord and to be good.”

“Wow! How do you know all this great stuff?”

Ducking her head modestly, she answered, “Oh, our family reads scriptures together. I do some on my own too.”

Before Eli left, she gave him a piece of paper with “1 Kings 17” [1 Kgs. 17] and “2 Kings 2” [2 Kgs. 2] written on it so that he could read more about Elijah.

The next day, when Eli came into Primary, he whispered, “Celeste, how come you didn’t tell me Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, pulled by flaming horses? He really was a great prophet of the Lord. I’m proud to have his name—and my last name’s the same as the Prophet Joseph’s!”

Mary and Charles won the prophet-mastery game, but Celeste and Eli were just one point behind. When Sister Newman asked the triple bonus question: “Name two prophets who appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple,” Eli surprised everyone by waving his hand.

Moses and Elijah,” he said proudly. “That’s from Doctrine and Covenants section 110 [D&C 110]. My dad showed me.”

“Wonderful!” said an amazed Sister Newman.

“Better watch it, Eli,” teased Celeste as they filed out of class, “if you get too good, a fiery chariot with your name on it might show up.”

Eli laughed and said, “Know what, Celeste? If it did, I’d let you come too.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young