Sometimes Different Is Good


Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

The McDowell family moved into Mr. Capper’s house nearly six months ago. They sure are different from the rest of the families in the neighborhood! The first McDowell I met was Nephi, the family’s eleven-year-old son. Nephi told me that his parents named him after an ancient American prophet. I’d never heard of any ancient American prophets, but he showed me a book where his name was written—a book called the Book of Mormon.

My family goes to church, and sometimes we read the Bible, but neither my parents nor I had ever heard of the Book of Mormon. Nephi called it a second testament of Jesus Christ, and said that it was an ancient record of the Lord’s dealings with people in the Americas. That was my first clue that Nephi and his family were “different.”

Next, I met Nephi’s older sister, Glitchen. She wasn’t named for a prophet, but for her great-grandmother, Glitchen Kelly, who came to America from Ireland a long time ago. Glitchen’s great-grandmother had red hair and married a man from Poland named Alex. Glitchen knows all this because her family studies their family history.

All I know about my family is that my parents were born in Mexico and grew up in Arizona. I’d like to know more, but I can’t imagine spending the time that Glitchen’s mother does researching their ancestors, or “growing the family tree,” as she calls it.

When the McDowells first moved in, the whole neighborhood changed. For one thing, it looked better. Mr. Capper hadn’t kept up his house too well, but not long after unloading their furniture, the McDowells set to work repairing their new home. They put a fresh coat of paint on the house and fixed the front gate on the picket fence. Then Mr. McDowell put Nephi to work in the old garden plot, clearing weeds and tilling the soil.

Back then, no one in the neighborhood cared much for gardening, but Nephi said that their prophet wanted them to grow a garden and be as independent as they could. At first I thought he meant the same prophet Nephi was named after, or maybe Moses or Abraham. But Nephi said that he meant the living prophet, the one that stands at the head of their church today. A man who speaks for God down here on earth. After all, he said, the world needs a prophet today as much as ancient Israel needed one in the Bible.

When I told Mom about this living prophet, she didn’t laugh, like I thought she might. Instead, she sighed and said that she prayed that such things were true. That evening we went into our own abandoned garden plot to pull weeds.

So Mom, Dad, and I grew our garden, and the McDowells grew theirs. In the fall, Mom and Mrs. McDowell swapped zucchini recipes, and Mrs. McDowell taught Mom how to bottle fruit and freeze corn. Then Nephi’s dad and my dad began fishing together on Saturdays and sometimes on Friday evenings—but never on Sundays. We learned fast just what the McDowells would and would not do on Sundays.

“It’s our Sabbath,” Nephi told me. They didn’t fish or hunt or have birthday parties or go boating or shopping or do anything but spend family time together and do church stuff. I really felt sorry for Nephi and Glitchen, but they didn’t seem to mind, even when I heard Nephi’s stomach growling one Sunday when he’d been fasting all day.

Now, believe it or not, after all I’ve seen of the McDowells, I still like them. Maybe it’s because they laugh a lot and seem to enjoy each other. Or maybe it’s because Nephi throws such a mean fastball. Or maybe it’s because I just feel good when I’m with them.

Tonight, after dinner, the McDowells are bringing over some missionaries to tell my parents and me more about their church. Mom has cleaned the house and made cinnamon cake, and Nephi and Glitchen are bringing a Book of Mormon just for me.

I’ll soon know all about Nephi the prophet, and about family history stuff and gardens and the Sabbath day, plus a whole lot more. I’ll even learn what it means to be different, like the McDowells. Sometimes different is good.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki