The Pocketknife


The pocketknife always stayed in the closet, hanging from the shelf by a cord. Sometimes when I bent over to get something from the closet floor, I would hit my head against it. I had almost used the knife a few times—for camping or to cut a piece of bread. But I had never dared to.

I had always dreamed of having a knife like this. It was just the size I liked, and its handle was made of deer antler. But there it hung, swinging like a pendulum, unused. I had handled it just a few times, opening, one by one, its steel blades and accessories. In our Uruguayan climate, it was already beginning to rust.

I had decided long ago that I could never use the knife. In the first place, my conscience bothered me every time I held it. In the second place, if I used the knife, I ran the risk of losing my best friend. You see, the knife belonged to him. I had stolen it.

It had happened very quickly, during the confusion of a moment, when a group of youth from our branch were all together. Ariel didn’t notice at the time that his knife was missing. And now the knife held me prisoner.

In the two years since then, the knife had never been far from my thoughts. My bitter mistake had made me resolve to never again, under any circumstances, take something that was not mine. But as far as the knife itself was concerned, I vacillated. Back and forth I went in my mind, trying to decide what to do with it.

And now I had another reason to think about the knife. Our priests quorum was preparing for a fireside with the Laurels in our ward. The fireside was to be on a Sunday afternoon, and the priests would be giving presentations that focused on one principle of the gospel.

The principle we had selected was repentance, and each of us was to discuss one of the steps involved in repenting of sin: realizing that you have done something wrong, being sorry, confessing, making restitution, and resolving to never do it again. By some unhappy coincidence, I was assigned the topic of restitution.

Of course, the pocketknife swung into my thoughts immediately. What was I to do? With too few opportunities to associate with other members of the Church in Uruguay, I could not conceive of missing the fireside or not sharing the company of my friends. But how could I talk about restitution and repentance while my terrible guilt for stealing the knife hung around my neck like a great weight?

Finally, I took the pocketknife from the cord in the closet. I did everything I could to make it look like new. I mixed some cleanser with lubricating oil and rubbed each part. I consulted a mechanic at the place where I worked and tried washing it with solvents. But the rust was already part of the metal. It was impossible to make the knife the way it had been.

On the Sunday of the fireside, Ariel was surprised when I asked him to follow me into one of the classrooms at church.

“What’s the big mystery?” he asked.

“I have something to give you,” I said. I took the knife out of my pocket and placed it in his hands.

“What’s this?”

“It’s the knife I stole from you.”

“You? Stole from me? No way!”

“Yes—I stole it from you.”

“I thought I had lost it! Where did you find it?”

He did not want to believe me. I explained in detail how I had stolen the knife. “Will you forgive me, Ariel?” I asked when I had finished. “I have to know if you can forgive me!”

He embraced me. I returned his embrace. We wept together. Then he said, “We are friends. Of course I forgive you.” We had a prayer and embraced each other once more before we left the classroom. No one else had any idea what had happened.

How wonderful our presentation was that night! And how delicious the refreshments were! I could not remember when I had felt happier.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Greg Newbold