Kelly smiled at the fields whizzing by outside her window. Hay bales stood in neat rows, soon to be stored in the barn. Dad whistled to the radio as he drove. Mom and the baby were sleeping. Soon they would all be at Aunt Lizzie’s farm, surrounded by cousins, aunts, and uncles.
All year, Kelly looked forward to the first weekend in September—the weekend of the family reunion. It was finally here! She couldn’t wait to see her favorite cousin, Angie. Every year they built hay forts, rode horses, and waded in the river.
Kelly jumped out of the car almost before the tires stopped rolling. “We’re here!” she bellowed. She found Angie jumping on the trampoline with a girl she didn’t recognize.
“Kelly!” Angie called.
“Angie!” Kelly called back. She leaped onto the trampoline and hugged her cousin.
“Kelly, this is my best friend, Tricia. My mom said I could bring a friend this year!” Angie bubbled.
Kelly eyed Tricia suspiciously, jealous that Angie had a best friend. Kelly knew it was silly to feel that way—she had friends at home, too. She made an effort to smile.
“Let’s go build a hay fort,” she said to both girls. “Want to?”
Tricia pulled a face. “I’m allergic to hay.”
“What about horseback riding?” Kelly suggested next. “I bet Uncle Jeff would saddle up horses for us.”
“Nah,” Angie said. She looked quickly in Tricia’s direction. “I think we’ll stay here for now.”
Kelly’s heart sank. She could already tell that this reunion would be much different than all the others.
That afternoon, after the hot dog roast, Kelly couldn’t find Angie and Tricia anywhere. “They probably went horseback riding without me!”
“What are you doing, Kelly?” Mom asked. She sat down next to Kelly on the grass, balancing baby Michael in one arm and a juicy slice of watermelon in her other hand.
“Nothing,” she said. “I think I’m going to walk down to the river and go wading.” The river had always been Kelly’s favorite place.
Mom’s smile disappeared. “That’s not such a good idea. Aunt Lizzie says that it’s been raining the past few weeks and that the water is so high you can touch it just by dipping your toes off the bridge.”
“Then I’ll sit on the bridge. I won’t get in the water.” Kelly wanted to be alone.
“I don’t think you should go near the river, not even to the bridge,” Mom said. “Why don’t you go get some watermelon and come back here? Michael and I will keep you company.”
“Oh, Mom.” Kelly pulled herself to her feet and headed for the backyard, even though she didn’t really want any watermelon.
“I’ll sneak off to the river, anyway,” she thought. “Mom will get talking with some aunt or uncle. She won’t notice if I don’t come back.”
Kelly decided to just keep going through the backyard and down to the river.
Don’t go to the river.
Kelly stopped in her tracks. Was the voice real or imagined? “But I want to!” she silently argued. “I’ll be careful.” She started walking again toward the dirt path that led to the bridge.
Mom said not to go.
Kelly frowned. She had been baptized a few months before, and she knew that the Holy Ghost could protect her from danger—if she listened to Him.
“I’m just feeling guilty because Mom would be worried,” Kelly reasoned to herself. “But she’ll never know. And I’ll be OK.”
Kelly passed a deserted picnic table with half-eaten watermelons and butcher knives on it. “Maybe I will have some watermelon. It’ll be nice to have a snack while I’m there.” Kelly swerved toward the table and grabbed a sticky knife. She jabbed the blade into the thick green rind.
The knife clattered onto the cutting board as blood seeped out of a cut on Kelly’s thumb. She felt dizzy. She knew the cut was deep.
“Are you OK?” Uncle Jeff ran to her side. Crying, Kelly showed him her bleeding thumb. “You might need stitches,” he said. He pulled a clean white handkerchief out of his pocket, wrapped it around Kelly’s wound, and went to find her parents.
In Aunt Lizzie’s bathroom, Mom cleaned Kelly’s cut and bandaged it.
“Will I need stitches?” Kelly whimpered.
“I don’t think so.” Mom smoothed Kelly’s hair. “But you’d better stay inside and sit still for a while, so your thumb doesn’t start bleeding again.”
Angie and Tricia peeked through the bathroom doorway. “Kelly, we heard you got hurt,” Angie said.
Kelly nodded, holding up her thumb.
“Do you want to come play a board game with us?” Tricia asked.
Kelly smiled. “I’d like that.”
As the three girls made their way to Aunt Lizzie’s den, Angie and Tricia explained that Aunt Susan had made them take a nap after lunch. They hadn’t been hiding from Kelly after all!
The girls pulled a game off the bookshelf and settled onto the floor.
“I’m sorry about your thumb,” Angie said. “I heard your mom say that you can’t play outside—that means no wading or horseback riding or anything!”
“It’s OK,” Kelly said. She remembered the promptings she had received before picking up the knife. She imagined the roaring river, deep enough to cover her head. Perhaps some good had come from cutting her thumb after all.
She would never know what could have happened at the bridge. But she knew that the Holy Ghost would protect her if she listened to His promptings. A warm feeling of gratitude filled her heart. Even though she had wanted to disobey, Heavenly Father had protected her this time so that she could learn to listen. She remembered her Primary teacher saying that when you ignore the Holy Ghost, He leaves. Kelly never wanted that to happen.
“Heavenly Father,” she prayed silently, “I will listen to the Holy Ghost—the first time—from now on.”
“After we were baptized, hands were laid upon our heads and we were given the gift of the Holy Ghost. When we consciously and sincerely renew our baptismal covenants as we partake of the sacrament, we renew our qualification for the promise ‘that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77).
“We cannot overstate the importance of that promise. President Wilford Woodruff called the gift of the Holy Ghost the greatest gift we can receive in mortality (see The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham , 5).”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Always Have His Spirit,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 59.