About 6 months ago, Elder Tambo and Elder Mason gave Tyson his first Book of Mormon. We tried sounding out word for word with him, but that requires extreme effort when you're a little guy delving into writings from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D.. We quickly reverted back to using pictures & retelling scripture stories. It's been a while since then, however. Tyson is 6 months older and is suddenly independently reading (even scriptures). He's been reading scriptures without being told, every day this week and is a WHOPPING NINE VERSES IN to the first chapter of The Book of Mormon.
The Shocker of a Lifetime:
Tyson found a couple extra copies of the Book of Mormon on the shelf. So naturally, he marched across the room to me and blurted, "Mom! Can I give this Book of Mormon to my teacher? I found TWO Books of Mormon on the shelf!"
Within ONE second, every thought I never knew existed in my head came swirling simultaneously to the forefront of my mind: "Where did this come from?" "That was random." "I didn't even know we had extras on the shelf." "Maybe this is not a coincidence." "What will she think?" "Will she think I put him up to this?" "I can't tell him no - I always hope and pray he'll grow up to be a missionary." "He's only 6!" "Apparently he has no fear. Why doesn't he have ANY fear?"
Three-quarters of the way through this frozen second, I knew that even though I had previously thought the afternoon would only entail peacefully doing dishes & avoiding internal conflict, God had other plans. And my son needed an answer. Now.
"Sure, you can do that!" was the ONLY answer I was allowed to give.
The evening was busy as always and the idea was forgotten until a couple hours later when the commotion of our planned activities died down. But the reminder came again that this was not something to be put on the back-burner: "Mom! Can I give that Book of Mormon to my teacher?"
Mitch was home, now, and we exchanged glances.
I explained to Tyson that usually when people give Book of Mormons away, they write a note to go with it. Even Elder Tambo and Elder Mason signed their names in the Book of Mormon they gave him.
He promptly whipped out a ripped piece of scratch paper and started the proces. As I stared at what he wrote, I knew "the WHY". His words moved my heart with such power. I felt that I had NO BUSINESS editing his spelling, but I still wanted him to re-write it on a better piece of paper for his teacher. I told him that usually people write in their best handwriting & that he might have to write the note more than once. Undeterred, Tyson rewrote his message as many times as he needed until he felt it was perfect. He even put little dots on the ends of all the letters to make it fancy to make it the nicest he could possibly write it. After a few tries, he exclaimed, "Well, we just wasted 5 pieces of paper, but that was WORTH it!"
The entire experience of helping him and seeing him desire to share what was in his heart was touching and profound. I told him I loved him and was proud of him.
That was it. Right? The night was over. Right? The kids got ready for bed, but Tyson just couldn't rest, yet: "There is another Book of Mormon. Can I give it away, too?" Part of me wanted to say it was getting too late. Part of me wanted to make sure he was being thoughtful enough about who to give it to. But I knew something good was happening, so I talked back to my doubts and told them they didn't have any business getting inbetween my son and the Spirit of God. I kept my mouth shut and I let him think. He was so cute sitting on the couch, tapping his chin, and pondering out loud: "Who should I give this to? Who should I give this to?....I KNOW! My principal!"
...I still kept my mouth shut, but with a smile now, internally I thought, "Oh my gosh! The PRINCIPAL?! What will HE think?!" My son might as well have picked the captain of an army, the president of a country, or a world famous athlete - my internal anxiety over what might happen would have been the same.
We started the process all over again, but this time he knew what to do, and he knew what to say:
His letters were a little more manly this time, and we were out of extra Books of Mormon, so it was really time for bed.
Sharing the Gospel:
Morning came. The gifts were ready. I can't properly explain what it felt like to have my 6 year old openly happy to share what he believes. I was in 5th grade before I gave a Book of Mormon to my best friend, Jenny. She asked me why I gave it to her, and I said, "I just want you to be able to feel what I feel." So, I KNOW that kids can share the gospel and that they can FEEL a close connection to God, because I was just a kid when I was trying to share that message, myself. Even so, being 6 and being 10 are still different! I had already been baptized. I had already committed to follow Jesus Christ. I already had the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and had probably read the entire book on my own by then...if I hadn't finished it, I was close. THIS CHILD, on the other hand, had only read NINE verses and was chomping at the bit to share something that was important to him. I kept thinking to myself...and am still thinking: WHAT on earth is IN those NINE VERSES that I have been missing?
Tyson didn't hide the Books of Mormon in his backpack. He carried them in his hands and he made sure the notes were stuffed in the book of Alma, "because that's about where the middle is." The kids got out of the car and the Principal was directing traffic. As I drove through the parent drop off loop, I was able to watch my little boy. He wandered for a step or two. Then he looked up and saw the principal. He started running towards the principal with the sweetest smile I've ever seen on his face and he deliverd the book as a gift, and 0.5 seconds later, ran off to the playground! I had to giggle - I have no idea if he even said anything, and I was so glad he had written a note to explain.
Put Yourself in The Principal's Shoes:
You're the principal. It's just any other day. You're directing traffic. Suddenly a child runs up to you with a grin, but that's normal, because you're a rock star. He gives you something - that's not necessarily unusual. You look at it and keep directing traffic. Oh no! Wait! This is a religious book. You can't wave it around as you direct traffic, and especially not as everyone in the school is arriving. What are you supposed to do with it? You can't NOT accept it because the little guy who was so happy to give it to you has already run off. You can't stop directing the car line because the bell is about to ring and it's the busiest 3 minutes of the day. You hold it at your side and then you realize - your pockets are actually large enough to fit a book - you are LUCKY to be a man with large pant pockets and in slides the book. *Whew!* Was that awkward? Maybe a smidgin'. Was it memorable? Undoubtedly!
Tyson's principal and first grade teacher are amazing people. I sent them emails to let them know that Tyson's gift to them was something that was completely from him & that even if they didn't read the Book of Mormon any time soon, to make sure to read his note. They did. The principal wrote me back within seconds of the email I sent him, and he said that Tyson was so happy - his words were faithful and inspiring (that made me smile). He also said it was days like these that make him love his job.
Oh, how that made my heart happy!
I am SO GRATEFUL to these fabulous teachers and principals who have created an environment that is so safe that their students know they can share what is important to them without being hurt or shut down (whether or not these fabulous role models for my kids are religious or atheist, they practice the qualities that I always hope my kids will see demonstrated, and they are qualities I hope my kids will develop). The way they have treated my little boy - especially in this matter of accepting the Book of Mormon that he "offered" to them as a gift means more to me than I can truly explain.
The Lessons from the NINE verses:
I called some family & shared Tyson's story of love, courage, faith, and a giving heart, & they were all inspired. No matter what your relious beliefs are, this example given by a 6 year old has lessons in it that can be applied by all.
Here are two that I learned right away:
1) I had been planning to give a Book of Mormon to a friend, and she even knows I am going to give her one, but I haven't yet. Now that Tyson took the 2 extras from the shelf, I have to acquire another. But after watching him, I realize that I deserve this consequence of having to put forth a little extra effort, now - I was sitting on my plan for too long. Tyson felt the inspiration, and HE ACTED - it was a gift from the heart that he gave FREELY and WITHOUT FEAR and OUT OF LOVE! If you have a gift of any sort that needs to be shared - an inspiring message, forgiveness to be granted, service to render, gratitude to express - STOP WAITING, JUST DO IT, and both the giver and the receiver will be uplifted!
...as I reflect I realize that Jesus Christ himself is the one who gave that example first. He gave himself freely, without fear, and completely out of love. That very message is the reason for the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
2) I am reminded that I need to be quicker to share the good news of the Gospel. I read scriptures all the time, but how often does what I read go "in one ear and out the other"? I don't know. But what I do know is that THE WORD is given to us so that it can SINK DEEPLY INTO OUR HEARTS. When it is in your heart, it changes you. Do we let the word of God change us on a daily basis? We should, because as this little boys has shown - only good things happen when you do.
Now it's time to check out the NINE VERSES:
It's the 1st chapter of the 1st book of the Book of Mormon, here we go!:
1 I, Nephi, having been aborn of bgoodly cparents, therefore I was dtaught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many eafflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a frecord of my proceedings in my days.
2 Yea, I make a record in the alanguage of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
3 And I know that the record which I make is atrue; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.
4 For it came to pass in the commencement of the afirst year of the reign of bZedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at cJerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many dprophets, prophesying unto the people that they must erepent, or the great city fJerusalem must be destroyed.
5 Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his aheart, in behalf of his people.
6 And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a apillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did bquake and tremble exceedingly.
7 And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being aovercome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.
8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a avision, even that he saw the bheavens open, and he thought he csaw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his aluster was above that of the sun at noon-day.
Did you feel something as you read that (verse 9 is my personal favorite)? Now the real question is - WHAT are you going to do about it? I want to be like Tyson & share the good news of the gospel!