Person to Person, Please

by Moana Bennett

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    A group of young people in the East Millcreek Eighth Ward, Salt Lake Mt. Olympus Stake, made for themselves a unique theatrical experience; they wrote their own script in a solid nine months of writing and then, practicing every morning at 5:30 A.M. for more than a month, they made their presentation to their ward membership.

    The production was a reverent examination of the thought—their own question—“How do I know that God cares about me?” In a world of millions of people and great impersonal stress forces, they wanted to know: how can I know that God really cares about me?

    The bishop, Kenneth M. Smith, had given his young people a challenge to prepare a presentation. In response to the challenge, they considered many alternatives. Finally a writing committee was asked to serve and work with an adult adviser. By common consent they settled on studying the nature of God, and they chose the readers theater format.

    Their questions led them through other men’s ideas of God, their own questions about God, the scriptures, the Church’s concept of God, and back to the single question, “But how do I know He cares about me?

    Two talented young men undertook the responsibility of working out the lighting with borrowed electronic controls. The writing committee included four youths—Heather Bennett, Camille Curtis, Steve Davis, Steve Mangum—and an adult adviser. The music was directed by another youth, and all the readers chorus, accompanists, soloists, and group musical numbers were young people.

    Following are some excerpts from the script:

    Person to Person, Please

    (Light up on one reader seated down center on a medium stool. Then the lights come up on the whole center section of readers.)

    READER 1: Questions? Questions? Questions? There are so many questions.

    READER 2: And not enough answers.

    READER 3: Expressed in words or not uttered.

    READER 1: Questions are more troublesome than they used to be for me.

    READER 4: The answers seem harder to find.

    READER 2: It seems that it used to be easier.

    (On screen: pictures of children about 3 years old.)

    READER 6: When we were little, the questions we asked were different.

    READER 7: And the answers more complete.

    READER 3: Everybody smiled when we said cute things.

    READER 5: Teacher, I want to know what God looks like. Please draw me a picture. It doesn’t have to be exact.

    READER 4: If there wasn’t anything at all when God created the world, what did he stand on to do it?

    READER 1: If we are all made in God’s image, how come some people aren’t as pretty as others?

    READER 4: When we were little children we had very simple answers, too. They brought immediate, sharp, clear pictures to our minds.

    READER 6: In those days of our childhood, there was no question about God helping us or caring about us individually.

    (Music interlude.)

    READER 6: But the day comes when questions about God don’t seem simple.

    READER 5: What happens to one person doesn’t seem to be true for everybody.

    READER 7: Then the soft, warm feeling of being secure in the world of our homes is gone.

    READER 6: You wake up and say—as you’ve always done—here I am.

    READER 5: And beyond the faces you’ve always seen there are others who don’t smile with warm welcome. So what, they say.

    READER 6: The soft, warm walls come tumbling down.

    READER 7: Suddenly the world is very harsh. There are so many people—so many, many people. How can God care about me?

    (On screen: pictures of Joseph Smith.)

    READER 1: Young man, the truth of this matter lies here with us …

    READER 2: Nonsense—they teach nonsense in that Church …

    READER 3: But the Methodists do have the answers—you’ll see. Come, come and join us.

    READER 4: Don’t be foolish, Joseph. You don’t want to divide your family. Why your mother and your sister and two of your brothers found truth here among the Presbyterians. Come, you join with us too. We can answer your questions.

    READER 1: No, no, young man, come over here and listen to me. I can give you the truth. Those other men do not know what they are talking about.

    READER 7: I am so confused.

    READER 6: Joseph, my son …

    READER 7: Mother, how shall I know. They say, “Lo, come here,” or “Why don’t you go there?” Methodists, Presbyterians … I don’t know what to believe.

    READER 6: Read your scriptures, son.

    READER 7: I will. I have been studying for such a long time. I can’t feel persuaded any one way. And I really want to know.

    READER 6: You will find your answer if you keep seeking, Joseph.

    READER 7: I hope I find it soon. I’ll read a little more before I go to sleep. Good night, Mother. (Pause.) Now let’s see. Where shall I start tonight? The Epistle of James. It says here James was a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. I guess I’ll see what he has to say.

    READER 1: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.)

    READER 7 (reading): “If any of you lack wisdom.” Oh, I do. I do lack wisdom. “Let him ask of God.” I guess God is the only one who can tell me which Church is really true … I know what I’ll do. I’ll go and ask him. I will go to the woods in the morning where it’s quiet, and I will ask him.

    READER 2: When morning came it was a beautiful, clear day in the spring of 1820.

    READER 5: The 14-year-old boy knelt down to seek some answers to his troubled questions.

    READER 7: “I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me. … Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. … just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head … which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.” (JS—H 1:15–17.)

    READER 1: A boy 14 …

    READER 2: A question …

    READER 3: An answer.

    READER 4: But that was a hundred years ago.

    READER 5: It is today I worry about—today!

    READER 6: My problems weigh down like lead upon me. They are important to me. Can he hear me today?

    READER 2: One 18-year-old boy stood on the deck of a troop ship out in the Pacific.

    READER 1: He didn’t really want to be there.

    READER 2: He really wanted to be on a baseball diamond. For almost all of his 18 years, he had wanted to be on a baseball diamond, and five major league scouts were considering him.

    READER 1: Then Uncle Sam called. Suddenly he didn’t have a bat in his hand.

    READER 4: He had a rifle, and he was on a troop ship.

    READER 2: The water was almost like glass. The ship lay there still and calm.

    READER 4: Three thousand men were crowded onto the bow of the ship singing “Abide with Me.”

    READER 2: Then the chaplain started speaking:

    READER 3: Now, men, I’m not going to kid you tonight. You’ve been training for what you’re going to do for the last year, and you know full well what’s before you. All our statistics tell us that a lot of you aren’t going to make it. About half of you will lay your lives down in this attack. What I’m saying, men, is that half of you will be standing before your Maker tomorrow morning before 8 o’clock. Are you ready?

    READER 1: And the boy Paul, who wanted most of all to be a big league baseball star, suddenly wanted very much to know the answers to certain questions: Does God really live? Why am I out here? Does he care about me?

    READER 2: The whistle went off at 5 o’clock in the morning, and he was assigned to the seventh wave.

    READER 4: The first six waves didn’t even get ashore. They were completely blown out of the water.

    READER 5: By then the tide was in, and I had to wade ashore in water clear up to my chest. I had to push through the dead bodies of my friends. I was asking a lot of questions. Why’s that wonderful 19-year-old kid lying face down in the water there? Why? Finally I was pulled ashore and I got about 10 feet on the beach where I dug a small—a mighty small—hole. There I took off my helmet and started to ask the Lord why? “Why, Lord? Why should I be out here? Do you live? Are you real? Is Jesus Christ really a Savior? Is Joseph Smith a prophet?” And then it came, that sweet, inner commitment and verification. It was Spirit touching spirit, saying in a solid voice: “It is so.” A testimony was born because I asked with real intent to know. I really wanted to know. “Are you there, Lord? Will you tell me?” And he did.

    (Music: 20 second organ interlude “Abide with Me”)

    READER 2: But sometimes prayers aren’t answered. And if they aren’t answered, then it must mean he doesn’t care or he isn’t there, doesn’t it?

    READER 4: Or maybe it means his answer is different than we thought it would be.

    (Music interlude.)

    READER 6: How do we know that God really cares?

    READER 1: Mrs. Houstalis, I’m sorry, but the examination shows that your baby has no vision in one eye and just partial vision in the other.

    READER 4: How much vision? How much?

    READER 1: Well, very little.

    READER 4: No, it can’t be. Surely there’s enough to see. He’s got to see.

    READER 1: Now, Mrs. Houstalis, I’m going to tell you something. It doesn’t matter whether your son can see or not as to what kind of a person he’s going to be. If he is going to be a healthy human being, it will be your doing. And if he is going to be an emotional cripple, it will be your doing. The fact that he can see or not has nothing to do with it.

    READER 4: We took Steve home, and it was something to adjust to … frightening. We were very grateful for the tiny bit of vision—something like 3 percent—that Steve had in his right eye. Not much, but next to total blindness it meant everything. One afternoon when Steve was seven, he came home from school, and I gave him a plateful of his favorite cookies that I had just finished baking.

    READER 3: Mommy, there must be something wrong with the lights in the classroom because they kept flashing off and on today.

    READER 4: I absolutely froze. My heart started pounding. I had refused to face the possibility that Steve might lose the little vision he did have—although the doctors warned me that he might. And now the doctor confirmed. There was no hope. The retina had detached. He had no sight now. But I will never forget a most beautiful experience at the end of a Church meeting. I had been deeply moved, and I turned to Steve and said that anything he would ask in prayer would be granted.

    READER 3: Anything? Anything, Mom?

    READER 4: Immediately I realized what a foolish thing it was to have said. But I had to stand behind my words. “Anything, Steve.” After the service Steve wanted to tell me what he had asked for. I didn’t really want to hear. I was nearly afraid to. “What did you ask for, Steve?”

    READER 3: Well (pause), do you think God would help me get some music in braille for my flute?

    (Music interlude.)

    READER 5: Sergei stood at the rail of the trawler and wondered:

    READER 2: What impels a man to jump from his warm, safe ship into a stormy ocean thousands of miles from home?

    READER 3: Freedom?

    READER 4: He had material freedom in the motherland.

    READER 5: His future?

    READER 4: At 19 he was attending a naval academy.

    READER 5: So why did Sergei want to escape?

    READER 6: Perhaps it was that strange light he had seen in the eyes of the woman he had been about to strike so many months ago.

    READER 5: These people called themselves Christians.

    READER 4: The government tolerated them if they held their meetings under state supervision.

    READER 5: But they had this strange habit of secretly gathering in homes, barns, and even out in the forest.

    READER 3: And through police intelligence it was always known where they would gather.

    READER 1: A number of the big fellows at the naval school were paid by local police as volunteers to break up the meetings.

    READER 7: Sergei was one of these.

    READER 4: After breaking through the door, they would grab the Bibles and handwritten hymnals and rip them up.

    READER 2: Any cry of protest was our excuse to wade into the people with truncheons flying. After all, they had broken the law and were enemies of the state.

    READER 7: The police said, “Faith will fly out of their heads when they see your stick.”

    READER 2: But I cannot forget Natasha, a blue-eyed blonde of about 18 years. She had long flowing hair. We found her in a worship meeting in a little town. One of our group was a giant whose arms seemed the girth of telephone poles. He picked up Natasha by her hair and threw her out of the door. Then he laughed.

    READER 5: It would have been nicer to have been friends with her.

    READER 2: A week later on a nearby street, we made another raid. And there she was! We beat her so hard with truncheons that we boasted, “She won’t be able to sit down for a week!” Three days later we found her again at another meeting. Why, Natasha, why?

    READER 4: After the raids they would haul the literature to the police station and burn it in a potbelly stove.

    READER 2: As I shoved the literature into the stove one time after seeing Natasha, I slipped a booklet into my pocket. Later I read it in a quiet corner at school.

    READER 6: In it he read about a young man who’d turned on his father and run off to a far country where he squandered all he had. Yet when he crawled home, his father welcomed and kissed him!

    READER 2: As I read on, I was flooded with a strange emotion—part disbelief, but mingled with it, a fascination with what this book called love. Something within me was touched, and I trembled.

    READER 3: Sergei tore the books into shreds.

    READER 2: On our next raid I followed through mechanically. As I raised my truncheon at an old woman, she said something. I hesitated and heard her praying.

    READER 6: Oh, Lord, save this young man.

    READER 2: Someone or something held my arm, and I spun around; there was no one there. I dropped the club and left the melee. Why, Natasha, why? And you, old grandmother, why do you pray for me? I went to the police director and told him I was through with the activist group.

    READER 6: It was 9:45 Friday night, September 3, 1971.

    READER 2: I closed the radio room door behind me for the last time. Through the mist I could make out the outline of mountains on the horizon. I estimated the shore at three miles away. I was alone on deck. This was the time. I swung over the rail and dived into the blackness. Struggling to the roaring surface, I struck out toward what I thought was shore. It was frightening. I would climb one soaring crest only to be buried by another crashing on me.

    READER 5: After two hours, a dark shape loomed above him.

    READER 6: When he made out what it was, he became sick with shock.

    READER 7: It was his ship!

    READER 1: He had been swimming in a circle.

    READER 2: My first thought was to give myself up. I couldn’t go on any longer. But at that moment the clouds broke, the night sky lightened, and I could see the whole line of our trawlers, their bows all pointed toward shore. Now I knew where to head. I struck out again.

    READER 6: But after two more hours of fighting waves, Sergei weakened and started cramping.

    READER 4: As he choked and gasped, his arms became leaden, and he began to sink into the dark depths.

    READER 2: Something from deep within me cried out, “God, if you really are, if you do exist, and I feel sure you do, when my body drowns, take my soul into paradise with you.” As l finished my prayer, something happened. New strength, new courage flowed into my heart. I did not feel alone anymore. I struggled upward, broke water, and began swimming again, using the same powerful stroke that earned me a school swimming award.

    READER 5: After a while a new sound grew in intensity.

    READER 6: It was the crashing of giant breakers. As he looked up, jagged rocks awaited him.

    READER 7: But a wave carried him into an inlet where he tumbled onto the shore.

    READER 1: It was about six o’clock in the morning, and the sun was coming up over a new land before him. As its rays began to warm him—

    READER 2: I gave thanks to Him who brought me here. And you, old grandmother, you who prayed for me as I was about to strike you, I think of you often. Now I know why you do what you do.

    (Music interlude.)

    READER 1: Who am I that God should sorrow?

    READER 2: Who am I that God should care?

    READER 3: How can he possibly care about each one of us in all this world?

    READER 4: How can I know that God cares about me?

    READER 5: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock; and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63.)

    READER 6: So many people have so many questions.

    READER 7: And so many problems.

    READER 5: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7.)

    READER 2: The Lord gives many answers.

    READER 1: He who asks with real intent and perseveres. …

    READER 4: Shall have an answer given to him alone for his particular need for a witness from God our Heavenly Father.

    READER 6: And each must ask for his own witness and his own answer to his own problem.

    READER 5: “Behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit.” (D&C 6:14.)

    (Music to finish.)

    A complete script with suggested pieces of music for use in the production is available upon request.

    Illustrated by Preston Heiselt