To my son it was candy. But to the Masai children it was a mystery.
The Chocolate Bar90950_000_003
When my son Joseph was 12 years old, he traveled with me to Kenya in east Africa. We flew into Nairobi, which is the capital city, then got into four-wheel-drive vehicles and journeyed out into the area inhabited by the Masai people.
The Masai live in huts encircled by what I call the original barbed wire fence. Actually, they cut down thorn trees and pile them up in a semicircle or an oblong circle. At night they herd their cattle inside and shut the gate by dragging a thorn bush across the opening. The people and the cattle live together.
Health, nutritional, and sanitary conditions being what they are, the average life span for a Masai today is about 38 years. But they are a friendly, happy, beautiful people.
When Joseph arrived in the village, he suddenly found himself surrounded by 30 or 40 Masai children his own age. As is their custom, they wore no clothing. I can guarantee that this was very disconcerting to my son. They were laughing, smiling, and talking to him, trying hard to transcend the enormous cultural and language barrier.
Our guide explained that we were in a pretty remote area, and that although these children had seen white men before, Joseph was probably the first white boy they had ever seen.
I could tell Joseph wanted to be friendly, so I handed him a chocolate bar.
“Give them a piece of candy,” I said.
He opened the package and broke off a square. He tried to hand it to a boy who seemed about 14. I will never forget the reaction of that boy. He looked at the chocolate and shrunk back. He didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
So I said, “Show them that you eat it.”
Joseph put a square of chocolate in his mouth, then handed another square to this same 14-year-old boy. The boy looked at it and held it. He was suspicious as he tried to understand it. Then he took the first, tiniest little nibble, then a larger nibble; then he put the whole piece in his mouth. You could see the joy come over his face as he tasted chocolate candy for the very first time.
Then we handed out squares to all the other children, and they weren’t afraid to try it because they’d seen someone they knew eat it and he had enjoyed it. There was something wonderful about that chocolate.
Later in our trip, we came back to that same village. As soon as we arrived we were mobbed by the same group of 30 or 40 children, and we didn’t need a translator to know what they wanted. They wanted more chocolate, more of something wonderful and sweet.
I would like to compare the taste of that chocolate bar to the taste of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the gospel tastes sweet and wonderful and good, sometimes other people don’t understand it, and it’s hard to get them to take just a tiny nibble. But if they’ll take that nibble, and then a larger nibble, they will arrive at a marvelous moment when they place it in their mouths and taste the wonderful sweetness.
I think that we, as members of the Church, are much like my 12-year-old boy was, surrounded by a world of people who want more of something they don’t even understand. I believe that many of the prayers of the people on this earth can only be answered by the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord has given us the mandate to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. We can’t say, “They might not understand.” We must help them. There is nothing that will be sweeter to them than the gospel, nothing that will bless them more than the knowledge of the truth.
We have something wonderful and sweet, something much more vital than a chocolate bar, something that affects everyone for all eternity. We have tasted the gospel, and we know it is good. We cannot and we must not ignore the opportunity to help others taste it, too.