Chapter and Verse


What do you do when there’s a serious question about your church and your beliefs and you don’t know the answer?

Chapter and Verse

The stadium lights illuminated the morning fog like specters from some 1960s horror movie. Under them, Emma marched robotlike and fingered the keys of her clarinet, missing notes repeatedly until the student conductor shouted her name. She wanted to cry. How could one conversation have turned her world so completely upside down?

That conversation had happened only moments before in the band room when Skylar, a senior and awesome flutist, had plopped her instrument case on the counter beside Emma. Although each girl played in the varsity band, they were two grades apart and seldom spoke to one another. But the room was unusually quiet this foggy morning, and the hand-drawn “What would Jesus do?” design taped on Skylar’s case begged Emma’s comment. “Did you draw that? It’s nice.”

“Thanks,” Skylar said, unsnapping her case.

“I don’t suppose you have a copy. I’d love to scan it.”

Skylar shook her head, obviously embarrassed at the flattery. Then she fell quiet and looked intently at Emma until Emma felt embarrassed. “What’s wrong?” Emma asked.

“Nothing. It’s just that, well, I heard you’re a Mormon.”

Emma sighed and nodded, wondering what was to come next. She opened a new reed.

Skylar said, “Can I show you something?”

Emma shrugged. “Sure.”

Skylar surprised Emma by pulling a Bible from her backpack. “My youth group meets tonight,” Skylar said. “I’m assigned the reading but haven’t decided on a verse yet. That’s why I have this.” She held up the Bible. “Anyway, one Sunday my youth minister showed this passage to me. I’ve wanted to share it with you, but it’s weird talking about religion at school.”

Emma chuckled. “Yeah, I go to a seminary class at six in the morning. I don’t mention it much here either.”

Skylar nodded and opened her Bible. “You ever read Revelation 22:18–19 [Rev. 22:18–19]? Most people haven’t because it’s at the end of the Bible.” She shrugged. “Guess they don’t get that far.”

Emma chuckled as she received the book.

“Will you read it out loud?”

Emma glanced around, but no one seemed to be paying attention, so she began reading:

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.”

As she read, Emma’s forehead creased hard. Why was Skylar sharing this particular passage with her?

“Do you know what it means?” Skylar asked, breathing deeply. “My youth minister says it means that anyone who adds anything to or takes anything away from the Bible will be condemned.” Skylar’s voice was shaking. “It’s so important that the Apostle John concluded the Bible with it.”

Emma said cautiously, “That makes sense.” She put her reed in her mouth.

Skylar gulped. “Your Joseph Smith added to the Bible, didn’t he? Isn’t that what your church teaches? That the Book of Mormon is additional scripture?”

Emma said nothing; she felt confused. She closed her instrument case. Mr. Bets shouted for everyone to move outside, now! Emma hurriedly fastened the reed to her clarinet.

“I don’t mean to offend you, really, but my youth minister says that, as a Christian, it’s my duty to warn you,” Skylar said. “If you don’t forsake Mormonism, you’ll be damned.”

Emma’s face flushed.

“Hurry!” Mr. Bets called.

Emma may have walked away from Skylar, out into the morning fog, but she couldn’t walk away from the questions Skylar had planted in her mind. As she lined up, she wondered, Was Skylar right? Hadn’t Joseph Smith added to the Bible? On cue, she’d marched 20 steps to the right. What if he’d made up the Book of Mormon? What if it was all a lie? These and similar questions had scorched her mind throughout drills, and when the conductor finally ended practice, Emma rushed toward the band room, hoping to get away from Skylar. She felt half ashamed for doubting and half filled with fear that her doubts were correct.

Skylar joined Emma in the crowded band room though Emma tried to ignore her. Skylar said, “My youth group is meeting at our minister’s tonight. We’ll shoot pool and listen to CDs. He’d like to meet you.”

Emma threw away her reed. It was Wednesday. The Mia Maids would be collecting used children’s videos from ward members for a local shelter.

“I can pick you up.”

Emma snapped her instrument case. “Thanks, but I’ve got something at my own church,” Emma turned. “My parents make me go.” She blushed. Why did I add that? she thought.

Skylar hummed sympathetically. “My youth minister’s got a book about Mormonism that I think you should read. I’ll bring it tomorrow, okay?”

Emma gazed at Skylar. Revelation 22:18–19 [Rev. 22:18–19] had seemed so plain. No one should add to the Bible, and there was no denying that the Church teaches that the Book of Mormon is additional scripture. Emma hurt, thinking of the implication. All she wanted was to know the truth. Maybe the minister’s book had it.

“Okay,” she said. But agreeing to read the minister’s book didn’t calm Emma’s worries. Throughout the day, troubling questions buzzed in her brain. The day dragged, but finally the seventh period bell rang. She turned in her French test but was in no hurry to leave. She waited until the other students had filed out. She dreaded seeing her family, dreaded going to Mutual later that night. She didn’t want to be around any Latter-day Saints. What would they think of her if they knew her doubts? They’d all try to talk to her, tell her to have faith. But faith in what? In the Book of Mormon? How could she have faith in something she wasn’t sure was true? Emma’s head ached and her stomach felt empty. It was a long walk home.

She entered the kitchen and found her mother baking. “Mindy sent another letter,” she announced, but Emma ignored her and headed toward the staircase. “She included a paragraph in French just for you and …”

“I’m busy, Mom. I’ve got homework, you know.” Emma hurried toward the stairs. She wanted time to think.

Her mother stared silently at her.

Emma trudged upstairs, closed the door, then threw herself onto her bed and stared at the ceiling. Why should she read what her missionary sister had written? It was always the same: her testimony of this, her testimony of that. What did Mindy know about anything anyway? She always did exactly what Mom and Dad wanted.

Emma shook her head and rolled to her side. Why does everyone think they have all the answers? Mindy, Mom, Dad, all are sure the Church is true. She looked at her scriptures on the nightstand. Skylar and her youth minister swear it isn’t. She snatched up the Bible and opened to Revelation 22 [Rev. 22]. “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues …” Her head fell against the wall.

I should talk to Mom, she told herself, ask her about this passage. I should walk right downstairs and say, “Mom, what about this?” But she couldn’t. She lowered the Bible onto the mattress and pulled a pillow over her face. She already knew what her mom would say: “Pray, dear, trust the Lord, and He’ll answer you.” But I’ve been praying all my life, and I still don’t have a testimony! she thought. Maybe God hasn’t given me a testimony because the Book of Mormon isn’t true.

Suddenly her brother Brady’s nasal voice shouted, “Mom, Emma’s crying again!”

Emma threw the pillow toward the closed door, but it was too late. Her mother was in her room in no time. She eased herself down beside Emma. “Want to talk?”

Emma shook her head. She was afraid.

Her mother stroked her hair. “If you don’t talk to me, I can’t …” She stopped. Emma saw her glance at the open Bible, pick it up, and read. She pointed to the last verses. “Is this what’s bothering you?”

Emma’s shoulders tightened.

Her mother said thoughtfully, “When I was investigating the Church, my minister showed this passage to me. He thought it would convince me not to believe in the Book of Mormon.” She paused. “Did someone show this to you?”

Emma hesitated; then words spilled from her mouth. “Mom, it plainly says that man shouldn’t add anything to the Bible. Joseph Smith did!”

Her mother leaned back thoughtfully, then said, “Many people interpret it that way. When the minister showed it to me, my first reaction was that Mormonism had to be wrong. I told the missionaries to forget about baptizing me.” She chuckled. “But they showed me something.”

Emma’s mother pointed to a footnote, “This reference.” She flipped to the Old Testament.

Emma sat upright, a vein of hope rising within her. Her mother began to read Deuteronomy 4:2 [Deut. 4:2]: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.”

Emma burst out, “It says the same thing! Skylar’s right.”

“No, Emma, think. Who wrote Deuteronomy?”

“I don’t know!”

Moses. And he wrote long before John wrote Revelation. Just like John wrote long before Joseph Smith.”

“So?”

“So if you use your friend’s logic, every scripture recorded after Moses wrote Deuteronomy would have to be false because in Deuteronomy God said no one should add to His word.”

Emma blinked.

“But we have the rest of the Bible because other prophets understood that Moses only meant people shouldn’t add to this book, to Deuteronomy. And John only meant that nothing should be added to the book of Revelation.”

Emma stared. Her mother was actually making sense. She wiped away a tear.

“This may say that man shouldn’t add to scripture, but, Emma, where does it say that God won’t?”

Her mother’s words sent a tingling sensation through Emma as they sank into her soul. She reread the passage and looked up in wonder. “It doesn’t say God won’t give any more revelation, does it?”

Her mother shook her head. “And it says not to reject any of God’s words.”

“Including the Book of Mormon!”

“Right.” Her mother hugged her. “Having doubts is a normal part of the testimony-building process. It’s natural to question before you understand. Share your questions because you never know how Heavenly Father will send His answers. Sometimes He even uses mothers.”

Emma grinned.

Her mother rose. “Now, that homework, young lady.”

Emma reached for her backpack, then grimaced. “I forgot. Skylar’s bringing me a book about Mormonism tomorrow.”

Her mother paused at the door. “It won’t be kind, and it will probably use the same kind of logic that led them to misunderstand that scripture in Revelation.”

Emma nodded. “I won’t take it. I don’t need to seek doubts.”

“I agree that would be the best. Dinner will be early.” Her mother pulled Mindy’s letter from her pocket and left it on the dresser.

After the door shut, Emma retrieved the letter. Out fell a snapshot of her missionary sister standing before the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Emma’s gaze traveled to the Book of Mormon on her nightstand. A grin blossomed. “I wonder if Skylar would like to read a book that really explains Mormonism!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer