Peace My Brother

Father dropped a stack of books on the table and announced, “Tonight for family home evening we are going to write our testimonies in a Book of Mormon. Practice first on a piece of paper. Then, using your best handwriting, put your testimony on the inside cover, and sign your name. We’ll glue a picture of you underneath it, and tomorrow I’ll give the books to the bishop to donate to the missionaries.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Mother. “Maybe what we write will inspire someone to join the Church. Let’s put our address under the pictures, too, and maybe someone will write back to us.”

David and Anna eagerly reached for a piece of paper.

“I’m going to explain about the priesthood and how I was ordained a deacon,” David said.

“I’m going to write about our family and how we can be together forever,” said Anna.

John just sat and stared at his paper.

Soon everyone except John was busily writing. Several minutes later Mother stopped and said, “What’s wrong, John?”

“Nothing,” he mumbled.

“Can’t you decide what to say?” Father asked.

John shook his head.

“Maybe you could write how the Church has a living prophet,” Mother suggested, “or how we read the Book of Mormon every day as a family and how that helps you to make right choices.”

“Yes, I guess I could,” John said. He stared at his paper some more. What could I say that would help anybody? he wondered. Who would ever believe what a seven-year-old had to say?

John thought about his next birthday. It was four months away, and he would be baptized then. An idea began to form in his mind, and he started to write. Several times he crushed up his paper and threw it away, but he kept working at the project.

Everyone else had finished writing when John finally started copying his testimony on the inside cover of his Book of Mormon. When he finished, he reread it one last time.

My name is John Richards. I am seven years old. Soon I will be eight. When I turn eight, I will be baptized by immersion as Jesus was. My father will baptize me and confirm me a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe that this is the true church of Christ. If you read this book and pray about it, Heavenly Father will tell you that the teachings in it are true. Then you can get baptized too. Please write and tell me how you feel when you read this book.

Sincerely, John Richards

Satisfied, John carefully glued his picture underneath it, wrote his address, and added his book to the stack.

“All finished?” Father asked.

“Yes,” answered John. “That sure was hard!”

“Sometimes trying to express your feelings is hard,” agreed Father. “But sharing your testimony will not only help someone else learn about the Church. It will also help your testimony grow stronger.”

“Is that why I feel good now?” John asked.

“I’m sure it is. And when someone gets your book and reads what you wrote, maybe he will get that good feeling too.”

Each day after school John eagerly raced to the mailbox, hoping to find an answer from the person who received his Book of Mormon.

But it was Anna who excitedly said one day, “An answer! An answer! I got an answer!” And three days later both Father and David got a letter.

“My letter came all the way from half way around the world,” David bragged.

Tears welled up in John’s eyes. He crept round to the back of the house and sat by his favorite tree.

Mother came out and sat down beside him. She sat in silence for a few minutes, then said, “You’re really disappointed, aren’t you? Do you want to talk about it?”

John hesitated, then wiped his tears away with the back of his hand. “What if the person who gets my book laughs at what I said? What if he thinks that I’m stupid? What if he thinks that a kid doesn’t know anything, and he decides not to read my book?”

Mother gently put her arms around John. “No one would laugh. He’d know that you’re very sincere and that you care about him. And children can often touch people’s hearts in a way that grown-ups can’t.”

“The why haven’t I gotten an answer?”

“I don’t know, but I’sure that there is a good reason. Maybe the missionaries just haven’t found the right family to give your Book of Mormon to yet. And whether we like it or not, just because we bear our testimonies doesn’t mean that the persons who receive them will accept them. No one has written to me yet, either, so let’s just hope that we’ll still get letters. Sometimes it just takes a while.”

That night when he went to bed, John prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, please help the missionaries to find the right person for my Book of Mormon. Bless him not to laugh at what I wrote. Bless him to read the Book of Mormon and get a testimony. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Days became weeks. Finally it was John’s baptismal day. Just before lunch, Anna came running into the house, yelling, “John! John! Look what the mailman just brought.”

John took the envelope Anna was waving and quickly tore it open. It read,

Dear John Richards,

Please forgive that I take so long to write. My name is Tuilolo Tuiaaga. I live with my wife and four children in Pago Pago on the Samoan island called Tutuila. One day your missionaries came. I was busy in my bakery and had no time to listen. But my wife listened and kept your book and read it.

Then a bad time came to my family. My bakery burned down. Our sick baby got sicker. The doctors tried hard, but poor baby Sina died.

My wife said God loves Sina. God loves us. She said He cares. I became very angry. I yelled, ‘If He loves us, why did the bakery burn? Why did Sina die?’

One night I hurt bad inside. I could not sleep. I sat in the darkness. The book was by my chair. I wanted to burn the book. I picked it up. I saw your picture and read your testimony. Then I read and read and read the book. I read again what you wrote. The Spirit told me I have found the truth. I believed. I woke my wife. We cried and prayed. I prayed that God would forgive my anger. Peace has come to my soul.

All of our family will be baptized on 30 August. We are very happy. I thank you for sending the Book of Mormon.

Peace to you, my brother, Tuilolo Tuiaaga

That evening, on August 30, as John came out of the waters of baptism, he whispered, “Peace to you, Tuilolo. Peace to you.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Diane Pierce; photography by Craig Dimond