Reading with Ben

by Tammy Munro

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First-Place ArticleWhat do you do when it’s late, you’re up to your eyeballs, and your little brother wants you to read to him? You might want to do what I did.

Sighing, I let the pen slip idly from my fingers as my head collapsed onto the desk in front of me. “I can’t do this any more,” I groaned.

I looked up at the clock on the wall. It was 8:45 P.M. I had wanted to be in bed by 9:30. Looking back at the math exercises I had been working on, my eyes filled with tears. I was so tired. My head was pounding, and my whole body was aching, but sleep seemed unlikely tonight. The math would take me at least another hour to finish; then I had to learn my lines for tomorrow’s drama rehearsal. My English assignment was due in two days, and I hadn’t started it yet. On top of that, my piano lesson was the next day, and Mrs. Doolan was bound to be unimpressed with the limited practice I’d managed to fit in this week.

“Tammy?” The small voice roused me from my thoughts, and I turned, exasperated, towards the door.

“Ben,” I whined at my brother, “why aren’t you asleep yet?”

The six-year-old scurried happily across the room and onto my lap. “I’m not tired,” he answered simply.

Smiling, I put my arms around him and gave him a hug. It was impossible to stay angry with him for long.

“Read me a story, Tammy,” he pleaded.

“Ben,” I began, “I’d really like to, but I just can’t tonight.” I launched into a detailed account of the pressures I was under. Noting his disappointment, my excuses trailed off, and I began to feel guilty. My eyes fell on the scriptures, where they lay on the bedroom floor.

There’s another thing I have to do tonight, I thought, feeling discouraged.

Suddenly I had an idea. I’d shoot both birds with one stone! Putting Ben down on the floor, I reached for the Book of Mormon.

“You like scripture stories don’t you, Ben?” I asked. Nodding happily he settled down to listen. The seminary reading assignment was Third Nephi chapter 17, and I turned to the page quickly and began to read: “Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and …”

“Tammy, what’s a multitude?” Ben interrupted.

“It’s just a large group of people,” I answered hastily and then continued: “and he said unto them: Behold my time is at hand.”

“Tammy, what does that mean?” I groaned inwardly. This was going to take a lot longer than I had planned on.

I read on for about half an hour, in which time I had read about one page. Ben wanted to know and understand everything I was reading. Jesus directing the Nephites? Jesus healing the sick? Language that couldn’t be written? Everything fascinated him. But not me. I was simply anxious to get through the chapter, send him back to bed, and return to my mountain of homework.

“And when he had said these words,” I continued, “he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

“And when he had done this he wept again;

“And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.

“And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.”

Pausing for a breath, I suddenly realized that I had just read four verses without being interrupted once!

Puzzled I looked down at Ben and was surprised to see that there were tears streaming down his small face. My eyes met his as I searched for an explanation.

“Tammy,” he said softly, “I wish I could have been there.”

Suddenly I felt my eyes stinging with tears, and I was filled with shame. “So do I, Ben,” I whispered.

My homework, drama rehearsal, and piano practice paled in significance as I realized that it was my attitude towards spiritual matters that needed attention. I reached for the sweet little brother who had reminded me of what was really important and vowed to be better.

Illustrated by Roger Motzkus