Rajinder sat in Primary with his arms folded. On one side of him was an empty chair. On the other side was a boy who couldn’t sit still. Rajinder felt very much alone.
He couldn’t help noticing how different he looked from the rest of the children. His skin was dark and smooth. Their skins were shades of pink, sometimes tanned or freckled from the sun. His hair was shiny black; theirs, brown or red or yellow. His eyes were large and dark instead of pale-lashed and blue.
Rajinder didn’t know how to go about making friends. Not only had his family just moved to a new country called Canada, they had also joined a new church with a name so long he could hardly pronounce it. And when someone in this new church talked to him, he was too shy to answer. He had finally decided that the best thing to do was sit quietly until it was over and then go home.
At home, Rajinder wouldn’t be lonely anymore because there he had lots of friends. At home, Rajinder had his dragons. He drew them in notebooks, on scraps of paper, and even on old pieces of cloth. He drew red dragons with smoke spiraling from their nostrils. He drew green dragons with flames shooting from their gaping jaws. He drew pink and blue baby dragons and black and purple grandfather dragons, dragons that slept, dragons that flew, and dragons that ate in great greedy gulps. When Rajinder was at home with his dragons, he was never lonely.
Then one Sunday Sister Werth, the Primary president, announced that each class would draw a large scene from the Book of Mormon, and all the pictures would be hung on the walls of the Primary room. The children were excited, and the very next Sunday during Sharing Time, everyone set to work.
For a while Rajinder tried really hard. He drew a Lamanite holding a sword, but the warrior ended up looking like a tall skinny dragon with no wings. Then he tried to draw a group of Nephite children clearing away rocks, but they looked exactly like a cluster of newly-hatched baby dragons popping from their shells. Finally Rajinder gave up and just watched.
Rajinder didn’t notice that Brother Olsen, his Primary teacher, was watching, too, with concern in his eyes. Rajinder couldn’t see Brother Olsen kneeling beside his bed that night, either, asking Heavenly Father to help him find a way to make Rajinder feel welcome. He didn’t see Brother Olsen sitting in his easy chair, reading the Book of Mormon and finally setting it down with a look of relief and excitement.
The next Sunday during Sharing Time, Brother Olsen took his class over to one corner of the room and spoke quietly. After that, Rajinder worked side by side with the rest of his class, his dark head bent over the paper, his eyes glowing with excitement. Standing nearby was Brother Olsen, looking very pleased and blocking the view of every curious child from another class who ventured too near.
Two weeks later, the drawings were all finished and ready to be hung. One by one the classes taped their artistic creations on the Primary room walls. There were drawings of fierce Lamanites, great Nephite kings, and prophets warning the people. There was a picture of Jesus in America, blessing the little children.
Then, at last, it was Rajinder’s turn. He and his classmates carried their picture forward and held it proudly for all to see. The other Primary children oohed and aahed. Sister Werth looked surprised. Rajinder’s class had drawn a beautiful picture of two great armies facing one another, ready for battle. On one side, eager to conquer, were the Lamanites with painted faces. On the other side, holding their flag of freedom, were the Nephites wearing their armor and shields. And here and there, standing alongside every third or fourth soldier, were dragons. There were red dragons with smoke drifting up from their noses, and green dragons with flames spewing into the air. There were big dragons and little dragons, there were angry ones and calm, thoughtful ones. They were the most magnificent dragons Rajinder had ever drawn.
Only one person in the whole Primary was frowning. Jenny jumped up from Sister Pierce’s class and pointed a finger. “You can’t put that picture up!” she exclaimed.
“Why not?” asked Brother Olsen, with a mysterious twinkle in his eye.
“Because the drawings must be from the Book of Mormon,” Jenny answered smugly. “Those are the rules. And there are no dragons in the Book of Mormon.”
Brother Olsen smiled at her. Then he opened his Book of Mormon and read Mosiah 20:11, emphasizing one word: “But they [the Nephites] fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight.”
Jenny sat down. Rajinder stood holding the picture and smiling the biggest, brightest smile anyone in Primary had ever seen.
Sister Werth hung the picture at the front of the Primary room, and during the weeks that followed, many ward members came to see it. The bishop especially liked the yellow dragon with brown spots that was blowing fire at the Lamanite leader. The ward clerk was partial to the little blue dragon coming from behind a tree. And the Relief Society president asked Rajinder to make her a copy of the big orange dragon wearing a breastplate.
Best of all, from then on, only some of Rajinder’s friends were dragons.