The Missing Coat


(Based on a true story)
Let every man be … slow to speak, slow to wrath (James 1:19).

“The bus is coming! Get your coat on!” Jacob’s mother called. Opening the closet, Jacob looked for his red, black, and blue coat. He had been given the coat for Christmas, and his mother had written his name on the inside of one of the sleeves with a marker.

“Hurry, Jake!” Mom called again.

“I can’t find my coat!” Jacob cried. “Where is it?”

Mom hurried to the closet. “Just put this jacket on,” she told him. “We’ll find your coat tomorrow. There’s no time now.”

Jacob wished the jacket would somehow magically turn into his coat as he slid his arms into the sleeves. He looked down at the blue jacket with disappointment. It wasn’t nearly as awesome as his Christmas coat.

“Don’t worry,” Mom said, as she smiled with encouragement. “We’ll find it later.”

Jacob tried to smile back, but he couldn’t. His heart felt tight and heavy. He hated to lose things that he really liked.

The next day, Jacob woke up earlier and went through the coat closet. He lifted the vacuum out, picked up the coats and jackets that had fallen on the floor, and checked every hanger, but couldn’t find the missing Christmas coat.

He frowned as he reached for the blue jacket again. Where could his coat be? He had looked everywhere. It was as if it had been swallowed by an invisible snow monster.

As Jacob walked to the bus with his head hanging, a thought occurred to him: What if it wasn’t lost? What if it was stolen? Had he left it at school and forgotten? He thought hard and decided that the possibility of his coat being stolen was very likely.

During the next few days, Jacob stopped looking for his coat and instead started looking for who the thief might be. Everyone became a suspect, and it wasn’t long before he found someone to blame. When Mom picked him up from school, he noticed a boy his age walking to the bus with his Christmas coat on!

“There’s my coat!” he cried, pointing an accusing finger at the boy heading for the bus. “Let’s go get it!” Jacob reached for the door.

“Wait a minute,” Mom said. “Maybe it’s just a coat that looks like yours.”

Jacob shook his head. “I’ve never seen anyone wear a coat like mine until today. There’s no way it could be anyone else’s coat but mine.” He turned around and looked at the boy who was boarding the bus. “He’s the same size as me. I’ll take it and turn the sleeve inside out, and my name will be there. You’ll see.”

Mom shook her head. “I don’t know, Jake. I would hate to find out that it really isn’t yours. We better go home and check really thoroughly one more time.”

As the van pulled away, Jacob’s heart sank. He had looked everywhere thoroughly. He knew his Christmas coat wasn’t at home. His coat was on that boy!

When they arrived home, Mom went with him to the coat closet. Together, they systematically began removing everything inside—the vacuum, the coats on the floor, and boxes. At the back of the closet was a box that Jacob hadn’t seen since Christmas. It was filled with Christmas decorations and still smelled like cinnamon sticks and pinecones.

After Mom lifted the box out, she asked, “Jake, would you crawl in there and see if you can see anything else?”

Jacob crawled into the closet on his hands and knees. “My coat!” he cried. “I found my coat!” It had been well hidden by the box. As he emerged from the closet, he turned the sleeve inside out, just to be sure. His name was clearly printed on the inside. Jacob held it up for Mom to see.

She nodded her head. “I am so glad that you didn’t accuse that boy. Can you imagine how awful you would have felt, and how awful you would have made the other boy feel?”

Jacob’s smiling face changed to a quiet, thoughtful one. He hadn’t worried about what might happen if he accused someone falsely. His only worry had been finding the coat or the person who took it. As he looked at his mom, relief spread through his body. He was glad she had insisted that they check the closet one more time.

“Thanks, Mom,” Jacob said.

“I’m glad you found your coat, and I think you found something else too,” she replied.

“What?”

“You found that it’s best to be sure you’re right before accusing someone of doing wrong.”

Jacob nodded. “And that’s something worth finding!”

[Refrain from Judging]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“We should refrain from judging people until we have an adequate knowledge of the facts.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 13.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Matthew Smith