Psst! What’s Number 7?


Because Jen passed the real test, I was led to the real answer three years later.

Dear Jen * and Kersten: Do you know what the answer to number seven is?”

The words were scribbled hastily on a wadded-up piece of paper and handed to us by Shane, one of the most popular students in our high school class. I nervously glanced at Jen as she read the words on the paper. We were taking a math test, and our teacher had stepped out of the classroom for a moment. Shane had taken the opportunity to hand us the paper without getting caught.

I thought back to my conversation with Jen that morning as we walked to the end of the street where our bus would pick us up.

“Don’t you think Shane is the most gorgeous guy in our math class?” Jen asked me.

“Try the most gorgeous guy in the entire school!” I said. “If he ever gave me the time of day, I would be the happiest girl in the world!”

When we arrived in fifth period math class, Shane, who usually ignored us, started up a conversation.

“Hi. Did you study for the test?”

“Sure,” I said, flashing a smile. “Did you?”

He said that he had, but he was still a little nervous.

I understood what he meant. Even though I had studied hard, I could feel my palms sweating as Mr. Harrison passed out the exam.

Just as they were sweating now, I thought as I took the note back from Jen. I knew that cheating was wrong, but Shane had actually passed me a note! Maybe if I helped him, he would pay more attention to me, or maybe even ask me on a date! My daydreams of dating Shane became more elaborate as I passed back the note with the answers Jen and I had written on the paper.

As I finished my test, the smell of chalk and pencil lead suddenly seemed to overpower me. I felt sick to my stomach. When Mr. Harrison collected the tests, my hands shook as I gave him the papers. I felt so guilty! I hadn’t expected to feel so awful. I looked at Jen and could tell she felt the same way.

When the class was finally over, Jen asked me to wait while she went to talk to Mr. Harrison.

I wondered what she was talking to him about, and I nervously peered through the door from the hallway trying to read their lips.

After a time I saw Mr. Harrison smile and pat Jen on the back as she turned and walked slowly towards me.

“What was that all about?” I asked nonchalantly. She told me that she had admitted to Mr. Harrison that she had cheated on the test.

“What?” I looked at her, dumbfounded.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t tell on you or Shane. I just knew I had done something wrong, and I felt so bad I wanted to repent.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and asked her what the teacher said. He told her that he was disappointed in her for cheating and hoped she would never do it again. Because she had the courage to admit it, he would only drop her score one letter grade instead of giving her a failing mark.

At that time in my life, I didn’t think I would ever understand why Jen would risk failing a test just so she could feel better about herself. I never admitted cheating to Mr. Harrison or to my parents. In fact, I forgot about the incident completely until three years later, when I found myself being taught by the Mormon missionaries. I remembered Jen, who I knew was a Latter-day Saint, risking so much to repent, and I finally understood. Though she may never know it, her example three years earlier helped me to understand the importance of integrity.

As I read the scripture in Matthew 7:16 [Matt. 7:16]: “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” I thought of Jen and all the other members of the Church who had set good examples for me. That’s when I decided to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Shane never did ask me out on a date or even talk to me again. But as I went into the waters of baptism, I really did feel like the happiest girl in the world.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Greg Newbold

Show References

  1.   *

    Names have been changed.