Roger threw his jacket onto the back of the couch, slumped into the wing chair in the living room, and let his books slide to the floor.
“How was school?” Mother asked from the doorway.
“Not very good.”
“I thought something must be wrong when the smell of chocolate chip cookies didn’t lure you into the kitchen. Do you want to talk about it while I finish baking the last batch?”
Roger followed her into the kitchen in silence. He pulled a stool up to the counter and watched as she scooped out spoonfuls of cookie dough, rolled them into balls, and placed them on the cookie sheets in neat rows. The timer buzzed, and she exchanged the sheet of raw dough with the sheet of freshly baked cookies in the oven. Roger didn’t even reach for one of the warm cookies.
“Is it a school problem?” Mother asked, looking at him with loving concern. “Or is it a friend problem?”
When Roger didn’t answer, Mother tried again. “I haven’t seen Lance around lately. Has he been sick?”
“He hasn’t been around because I don’t want him around.”
Mother slipped the cookies one by one from the sheet onto the cooling rack. “I see. Any reason in particular?”
“He’s a thief,” Roger announced. “I don’t need a thief for a best friend. Especially when he steals from me.”
“It sounds like Lance has done something that really hurt you.”
“He stole the twenty dollar bill that Grandma Smith gave me for my birthday.”
“When did this happen?” Mother asked.
“Last Saturday. I had it on the shelf above my dresser. Lance kept taking it, saying he needed it more than I did.”
“He was just teasing, wasn’t he?”
“I thought he was. But Sunday morning when I went to get it so Dad could change it and I could pay my tithing, it was gone.” He picked up a cookie from the rack and took a bite.
“You didn’t actually see Lance take it and not put it back, did you?”
“No. But no one else was in my room. And it was there Saturday and gone Sunday.”
“Have you asked Lance about it?”
Roger scowled. “I don’t even talk to that thief anymore.”
“Losing that money is really upsetting, isn’t it?”
“With that money, I finally had enough to buy the new eighteen-speed bike I’ve been saving for. Now I don’t know how long it will take me to get the bike.”
“That’s really frustrating. I know you’ve saved a long time for that bike. But maybe we need to look at it from Lance’s point of view. Suddenly his best friend doesn’t speak to him, and maybe he doesn’t even know why. Wouldn’t it hurt you if Lance suddenly stopped talking to you without giving you any reason?”
“He knows he stole my money. He can figure it out.”
“You think he stole your money, and it sounds like you have a very good reason to suspect him. But you haven’t asked him if he took it. Did anyone else in the family see him take it and tell you about it?”
Roger shook his head. “I’ve been praying that I could forgive him, Mom. Honest, I have. And when I get done praying, I feel calm inside, like I can still be Lance’s friend. But then when I see him at school, I just get mad again.”
The buzzing of the oven timer announced that the cookies were finished. Mother removed the cookie sheet and placed it on the top of the stove to cool. “Let’s go into the living room and sit for a while,” she said. “I have a story to tell you.”
They sat on the couch under the picture window. Roger could hear his brothers and sisters and the neighbor children playing a game of hide-and-seek outside.
“Years ago,” Mother began, “I had a neighbor who felt I had done something very wrong. It hurt me deeply. I couldn’t even see her in church without hurting so much that I wanted to go home where I wouldn’t have to look at her. I talked to your dad about it, but it didn’t help. I even talked to the bishop. But still the hurt went on and on. In time, I think she realized that she was wrong, but she never apologized to me.”
Mother reached for the large family Book of Mormon on the end table next to the couch and flipped through the pages. “I used to pray so hard that I could forgive her so that we could go on being friends like before. But it didn’t seem to help. I didn’t even want to have a Church calling anymore if it meant working with her or teaching her children. It was like a poison, and I knew it. But I just didn’t know how to overcome it.
“I was reading in the Book of Mormon one afternoon, and I came across these verses.” She pointed to Moroni 7:47–48 [Moro. 7:47–48]. “Will you read them for me, Roger?”
“‘But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“‘Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.’”
“Well, at first I thought, That’s just what I’m doing. I pray every morning and every night that I can forgive, but it just isn’t helping. And then another thought came to my mind as clearly as if someone had spoken it: It doesn’t say to pray to forgive, it says to pray for the pure love of Christ. The thought was startling to me, and I realized that by asking Heavenly Father to help me forgive her, I was really asking Him to side with me. After all, if I had to forgive her, then she was wrong and I was right. But if I just wanted to love her the way Jesus Christ loves her, it didn’t matter who was wrong and who was right. Then I was leaving the judgment in the Savior’s hands, where it belonged.”
“Are you still friends?” Roger asked.
Mother nodded. “That neighbor was Kathy.”
Roger sat up and looked at his mother in surprise. Kathy and Mom were always doing things together. Mother had often told him that she was a “spirit sister.” Now he understood why.
He leaned his head against Mother’s shoulder. “It feels terrible to be angry with Lance. It was a lot better when we were friends. Will you pray with me that we can be friends again like you and Kathy?”
Mother nodded. Together they knelt at the couch. Roger prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, Thou knowest what angry thoughts I’ve had about Lance because I think he stole my money. I’ve been praying to forgive him. But now I just want to love him and not ever wonder again if he stole my twenty dollars. Help me have the courage to tell him I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Roger felt a deep love pour over him as Mother slipped an arm around his shoulders. “Will it last?” he whispered.
“For me it would last awhile, and then I’d have to pray again. Remember, Moroni said ‘with all the energy of heart.’ It takes a lot of praying, but you’re on the right track.”
“Is it all right if I go over to Lance’s?”
Mother smiled. “Why don’t you take a plate of warm cookies with you?”
As Roger ran to the kitchen, Mother picked up his jacket and books and took them to his room. When she came into the kitchen, Roger was sitting silently on the stool, a plate of cookies sitting on the sideboard in front of him. “Mom?” he said as she started to take the last batch of cookies off the cookie sheet. “I think the Holy Ghost just spoke to me.”
Mother put down the spatula and looked earnestly at Roger. “What happened?”
“I was thinking about Jesus while I put the cookies on the plate. I started thinking about him hanging on the cross and saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’* And then the thought came to me, Father, forgive me, for I know not what Lance did. I think I need to ask Heavenly Father to forgive me for being angry with Lance.”
Tears glistened in the corner of Mother’s eyes. “I think you’re right, Roger. It was a very special message from the Holy Ghost to you.”
“Isn’t it great, Mom?”
“Isn’t what great?”
“That we have the Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost.”
“Yes, Roger,” Mother agreed. “And best of all, we have the Savior’s Atonement.”
A few minutes later, as Roger headed for Lance’s home with the plate of cookies, he felt happier than he had for a long time.