Katrina was excited. Every student in her school class had been assigned to give an oral report on one of the fifty United States, and hers was to be on Utah—the very state she wanted! She had moved from Utah only a few months before, and no one in her new school class knew much about the state where, until now, she had lived all of her life. Many of the children knew that pioneers had settled the west, but no one seemed to know what made the Mormon pioneers special, for Katrina was the only one in her class who was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She worked hard preparing her report. Her teacher, Mrs. McBride, whom Katrina liked very much, had given her permission to use a slide projector, and Katrina and her mother spent hours going through the family slides, choosing the best ones to show the class.
Katrina read books and checked maps to make sure that her information was accurate and interesting. She carefully wrote out what she wanted to say and practiced it over and over again in front of her mom and dad, in front of her brother and sisters, in front of the mirror—even in front of her pet birds. When the day came to give the report, she was more than ready.
The class liked the report. They were fascinated by the picture of the giant red sandstone arches standing starkly against the blue sky. They oohed and aahed over the pictures of a mountain lake by a meadow of wildflowers and of the beautiful Salt Lake City Temple lit up at night. They laughed when Katrina told them that the explorer who discovered the Great Salt Lake thought that he had reached the ocean because the water tasted so salty. They were surprised to learn that the inventor of television was from Utah. And they were fascinated when Katrina showed them a jar containing two giant crickets floating in alcohol and told them the story of how the seagulls had saved the pioneers’ crops from the horrible cricket invasion. Everyone clapped as Katrina sat down.
“An excellent job, Katrina,” Mrs. McBride told her after class as the children left for the day. “You really worked hard.” Katrina felt her face flush with pleasure. “I’m sure we all learned a great deal,” Mrs. McBride went on, sincerely. Then she grinned and winked. “Why, I never imagined there were so many wonderful things in a state where a lot of the people believe in a man who said an angel gave him a book made out of gold!”
Katrina’s heart nearly stopped. She looked carefully at her teacher. Mrs. McBride loved to joke and make the class laugh. Katrina was sure that that’s what she was doing now—just joking. She would never hurt someone’s feelings on purpose.
But Katrina felt like a rock had just dropped on her stomach. How could someone speak like that of Joseph Smith and the angel Moroni and the Book of Mormon, things she loved and felt were sacred? She wasn’t exactly angry. She knew that Mrs. McBride didn’t understand about the Church. She guessed that the thought of an angel giving a gold book to a man could sound pretty silly if you didn’t know the whole story and if you didn’t have the Holy Ghost whispering to you that it was true. But Katrina knew that it was true, and it wasn’t a joking matter.
But what should she do? Thoughts flashed through her mind as quick as lightning. She knew that often when people are teasing and you’re feeling embarrassed, it’s best to just laugh along with them. But she couldn’t laugh at this. Still, if she spoke up, how could she tell Mrs. McBride what was really true? She didn’t know how to teach the gospel. What if her teacher thought she was silly or even stupid? Katrina had been doing well in her class. She didn’t want to risk losing Mrs. McBride’s good opinion of her. Maybe I should just stay quiet and let it pass, she thought. Maybe I can just pretend it never happened.
Katrina knew that she couldn’t do that. In the middle of all the mixed-up thoughts tumbling about in her mind, one thought suddenly appeared, bright, clear, and steady. She remembered a talk given by one of the Young Women in her branch about the meaning of the Young Women’s motto, and she could almost hear the girl saying the words: “We will ‘stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.’” * Katrina wasn’t in the Young Women’s program yet, but she knew that the motto applied to her, too. And “all times” and “all places” included that very moment in her classroom.
Only a few seconds had passed since Mrs. McBride had tried to be funny, but it seemed to Katrina that she had been trying to figure out what to do for hours. “Mrs. McBride,” she began, taking a deep breath, “I didn’t say very much in my report about the Mormon church—except that it was the Mormon pioneers who settled Utah—because I didn’t think that a school report was the best place to talk about it. And I guess that if you’ve only heard a little bit about the Church, some things might seem strange enough to laugh about.”
Katrina paused and swallowed hard. “But I need you to know that I’m a member of the Mormon church. The real name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ‘Mormon’ is just kind of a nickname because we believe in the Book of Mormon—that’s a book of scripture translated by Joseph Smith from that gold book you mentioned. It’s a true book. I know it. It tells about Jesus Christ like the Bible does. And it isn’t strange for Joseph Smith to have seen an angel, because he was a prophet like Moses and Abraham. The Church teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ just like He did Himself when He was on the earth. I’m glad to be a member, because I love Him.”
Katrina looked up hopefully at her teacher. She didn’t know what Mrs. McBride would think of what she had said, but a warm peaceful feeling flowed through her, and she knew that she had done the right thing.
The teasing twinkle in Mrs. McBride’s eyes had disappeared, but she didn’t look angry at all. She stooped so that she could look right into Katrina’s eyes, and she spoke softly. “Katrina, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I was trying to be funny, but I shouldn’t have spoken lightly about a serious subject that I didn’t know much about. I can tell that your church means an awfully lot to you. It must be pretty special to give you the courage to do what you just did. I think I’d like to ask you some questions about it sometime.”
“I’d like that, too, Mrs. McBride,” Katrina said with a smile.