Chapter 24

“Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart [is] my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.” Isaiah 51:7

Elijah sat on the back porch with his legs hanging over the banister and looking down the driveway. It was a peaceful evening. The sky was blue and the birds sang. A slight, warm breeze added to the serenity. Everything was calm, except for Elijah. Six o’clock was fast approaching and no one had arrived yet. And so, he waited. Mrs. Roche called and said that Mr. Roche had been held up at work and he would pick up the missionaries on the way home, then they would be over after he had changed from his work clothes. Not totally surprising, no one from school had shown up either. Neither Ben nor Jonathan had given him a definite answer.

“There must be some way to hurry everybody up,” he thought. “Perhaps I could will them to hurry!” Elijah scrunched up his face and concentrated, reaching out with his mind. Nothing. He hated waiting. ‘Patience is a virtue!’ Gram always said, but that was one virtue he had never picked up.

Several minutes had passed when Elijah finally heard footsteps on the driveway. Leaning over a little further allowed him to see Jonathan walking up to the house. Something about him looked different. He was visibly sad. His head was down and his hands were buried deep in his jacket pockets. Perhaps Pastor Mike had not taken Jonathan’s coming to meet with the missionaries well.

“Back here,” Elijah called.

Awoken from his thoughts, Jonathan looked up with a start. “Hey!” Jonathan called as he jogged the walkway to the back yard. “Sorry I’m running late.”

“No worries, everyone else is too,” assured Elijah.

“Good, I didn’t want to miss anything,” Jonathan smiled.

Elijah looked over Jonathan’s shoulder as he noticed more movement in the driveway. Ben was now coming up from the sidewalk. He, too, looked a little down. Despite what Elijah was hoping would be an uplifting occasion, so far everyone seemed depressed.

“Hey guys,” Ben said as he approached. “S’up?”

Elijah thought back to Jonathan and Ben’s argument at lunch. At the time, he didn’t think either of his friends would ever come near each other again. It was surprising that either of them showed up at all, yet here they both were.

“Ben, I want to say sorry for the things I said earlier,” Jonathan apologized. “That really wasn’t me talking, it was my dad. I look up to my father a lot. He’s a good man and sometimes I try so hard to be like him that I start spouting off without thinking first. I’m sorry for judging you like that.”

“Naw, you were right about me, J,” Ben said back to Jonathan. “I was afraid to change. I was afraid of what following Jesus meant. Thought about it all day. All the things I’d have to give up. I didn’t want to change who I was or stop doing whatever I felt like. Even after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Maybe I did need a change. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the answer, but I figured I better speak to the man upstairs about it.”

“Nothing miraculous happened like with Elijah, no visions or anything,” Ben nudged Elijah with his elbow, “but something inside me said ‘you can do it’. I knew it was time to straighten things out. So, I flushed my stash and came over here.”

“Well, I’m just glad you’re both here. Now if everyone else would just show up we can start,” Elijah smiled.

“Yes, but I can’t stay too long,” Jonathan added. “My father thinks I came over to hang out. He doesn’t know anything about the Mormons being here. I hate being dishonest. I know how he feels about them, but I just want to form my own opinion without the pressure of knowing he was all bent at me for meeting with them. Not that he’d let me come if he knew.”

“The Elders are good guys and I’m sure whatever time you have to leave will be fine with them. It shouldn’t take long though. I imagine the first discussion will probably seem pretty basic to you. They’re good at answering any questions, too.” Elijah again peered down the driveway. “Speaking of which, it looks like that’s them pulling in now.”

All three boys turned to watch the Roche’s car come to a stop in the driveway. Everyone piled out of the car and greeted each other. Elijah made introductions, as hands were shook all around. Ben asked if Elder was a common Mormon name as he read the missionary’s name tags. Everyone laughed as Elder Poulson explained that Elder was their title. Ben looked a little embarrassed, but brushed it off quickly.

Elijah escorted everyone inside for the lesson.

********

It was the warmest morning of the spring so far. Warm enough that Elijah had convinced Gram to let him wear shorts to school. Surprisingly, Becca made no comment on his pasty white legs. They were getting along better since the vision than they ever had, but her passing up an opportunity like this seemed a little unnatural. Elijah pulled his socks as far up his calves as possible to try to get a reaction, but Becca just made a face and let it go.

The sun had already burned off the morning haze and it had the music room feeling warm and comfortable. Rays of sunlight were streaking across the floor, making the room bright where it lay and casting long shadows everywhere else. There was quite a crowd at prayer group this morning. The meeting with the missionaries had gone well and Elijah believed that Jonathan and Ben were on board with going through all the lessons. Now he hoped to convince the rest of the group.

Last night’s lesson had only further deepened his conviction to learning more about Joseph Smith and the Mormons. They had reviewed the first discussion with Jonathan and Ben last evening. Jonathan had tons of questions, all of which seemed to be answered on some level. Enough to make Jonathan agree to a second discussion. Even Ben wanted to return for “round two,” as he called it.

Ben had even showed up for prayer group and was sitting with Elijah, Becca, and Becca’s friend, Marty. Mark was there too, still sitting in the back of the room with Miss Freed. Debbie Bowely and her friends were sitting at the far right side of the room, although the rays of sun made it hard to see anything but their outlines. Also on that side of the room were David and the other boys that had come from the Christian school.

It was Jonathan who was running late this morning. There was only a minute or two before they would need to get started. Elijah hoped Jonathan would take the lead on updating the group about last night’s meeting. His telling the class the day before that they should meet with the Mormons hadn’t swayed anyone from the group, outside of Jonathan, to come. The group knew and respected Jonathan; they had known him for a much longer time. To hear it from him would make a much greater impression.

Elijah breathed a sigh of relief as Jonathan quickly entered the classroom and went straight to the rickety music stand. Jonathan looked tired, like he hadn’t gotten much sleep. Despite his tired looks he stood at the front of the class tall and spoke clearly.

“Good morning, everyone,” Jonathan said looking around the room. “Yesterday’s meeting didn’t end well, and that was mostly my fault, but I pray that today’s meeting will go better. We’ve discussed over the past couple of days adding a lesson to the meeting, something to help us become more like Jesus. Well, last night I heard a lesson that will help us all become more Christ-like.

“After I left the meeting yesterday morning, I struggled with what Elijah had said about Joseph Smith and the Mormons. Like most of you, I was always taught that Mormon’s aren’t Christians, that they are a cult. I couldn’t see past that at first, yet I truly believed that Elijah’s vision was from God.” Jonathan paused for a moment while he gathered his thoughts. “But they couldn’t both be right, could they?

“We grow up believing what the people we trust teach us, but what if it’s not true? I realized I didn’t know anything about the Mormons, except what I was told second-hand. I can’t explain why, but I just had to find out for myself. So, yesterday evening I went over to Elijah’s to hear what the Mormons had to say.”

In a replay of the previous day, there was a gasp, then silence. It was strange for Elijah to see it from the other side of the music stand. There was a coldness in the room. Faces hardened and several kids were shaking their heads. Elijah could feel the tension thick in the air. Jonathan felt it too and anxiously tried to move on in hopes of changing the group’s demeanor.

“Please hear me out before you pass judgment,” Jonathan said nervously. “The meeting itself was pretty much what I expected. Joseph Smith saw God, restored Christ’s church, and wrote the Book of Mormon. I gave Christian views on it and the missionaries gave theirs. We looked at some scriptures that showed that maybe those things could have happened, but none of it really moved me much one way or the other. In fact, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t walk away feeling convinced either way.”

“They gave me a Book of Mormon and a reading assignment. The Elders said if I really wanted to know it was true I should read the passages they marked off and then ask God if they are from Him. They quoted the book of James, chapter one, verse five. ‘If a man lacks wisdom, let him ask God.’ I couldn’t argue with that, so I said I would.

“I felt a little guilty taking the Book of Mormon home, but if it really was Joseph Smith in the visions, I needed to know if he really was a prophet. I waited until everyone was asleep before I took the book from my jacket. I read the first passage that the missionaries gave me and a strange thing happened. I couldn’t stop reading it. After I read the assigned verses I started from the beginning. The more I read the more I wanted to keep going.”

Jonathan looked out across the group. “By the time I was ready to pass out from exhaustion, I didn’t need to pray. I knew that the Book of Mormon was from God.”

Elijah couldn’t believe Jonathan was already believing. His eyes scanned from face to face, but he couldn’t tell whether they showed any belief in Jonathan or not. The seconds ticked away, each one felt longer than the last. Several of the boys from the Christian elementary school were whispering to each other. David stood up.

“Jonathan, I think your lack of sleep has got you all whacked out! You’re not thinking straight,” David exclaimed. “We’ve known each other for a long time, but surely you can’t expect us to abandon everything we’ve been raised to believe just because you stayed up late reading a book that we already know can’t be true.”

“But it can be true,” Jonathan fired back. “Remember when we watched the show about the Apocrypha. We know there are other books out there that weren’t part of the Bible that could be true. There’s the Dead Sea Scrolls. If you just give it a chan...”

“Listen to yourself, Jonathan,” David interjected. “What would your father say?”

Jonathan was taken aback. Were David’s words a question or a threat? “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” Jonathan snapped back.

“Well, I hope he can talk some sense into you,” David said as he gathered his book bag and walked out of the room. As he passed by Elijah he shot him a scathing look. The other boys sitting around him, along with many other kids around the room followed. Jonathan just stood at the podium and watched as they left.

As the room rapidly cleared, Elijah stood by Jonathan. Becca, Marty, Mark, Ben, and Miss Freed still sat at the back of the room. Despite everyone that had left, there were still many students that had stayed behind. Jonathan looked at Elijah with a new found feeling of sympathy. “Well, that didn’t go as well as I had hoped,” he moaned.

“I find myself saying that quite a bit lately too,” Elijah acknowledged with a smile. “I’ve totally gotta give you props! Not backing down had to’ve been tough.”

Jonathan, in his typical style, threw out a scripture, “... Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.”

They both looked around the room as the remaining students began approaching the podium. Elijah couldn’t help but notice that Debbie and several of her friends had stayed. She smiled as she walked up beside him and stood close enough that he could smell a light scent of her shampoo. He knew inside it was the wrong thing to feel, but as long as Debbie had stayed, the others leaving didn’t bother him as much.

Snapping out of his temporary trance, Elijah’s mind quickly went into action. What should he say to her? Should he try to be cool or act casual? He said the only thing that came to mind, “Hey, Debbie. Thanks for staying.”

“Oh sure. My uncle’s a Mormon and I’ve always thought he was pretty cool,” Debbie said. “In a like nerdy uncle kinda way. We talked it over and we’d like to meet with the missionaries, too.”

In Elijah’s mind he let out a resounding “YES!” but tried to maintain a calm face. “That’s wonderful,” he replied coolly.

“So, what happens now?” Ben’s voice boomed throughout the room as he and the others strode up beside them.

“Well,” said Jonathan. “We meet with the missionaries tonight and we go from there.”

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