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Fifth-grader invites elders to school; class learns of LDS history


Criticism of Mormon pioneers brought a 10-year-old boy to his feet during an elementary school history class.

Paul Griffiths couldn't stay quiet when early Church members were called "troublemakers" and other derogatory terms during a discussion.

"That's not true," the fifth-grader insisted. Offended by Paul's defense, the teacher threatened to send Paul to the principal's office until several of his classmates explained that he was a Mormon and should know the truth.

As a result, Paul was allowed to invite two missionaries from the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission to attend the class two days later. During the visit, Elders Todd Monson and Andrew Gordon explained that the saints moved from Kirtland because of persecution. The missionaries also answered several questions.

Paul's teacher called the visit a positive experience. The missionaries agreed. "The class was very responsive," Elder Monson said.

And now, because a 10-year-old stood up for what he knew was true, a whole class of fifth-graders, plus their teacher, know more about Church and its early history.


Assigned a research project, she chose Lehi as `famous explorer'


Rosanna Moreau was excited about the assignment her fourth-grade teacher had given the class - a research project on a famous explorer. One of the first people 9-year-old Rosanna thought of was Lehi from the Book of Mormon.

Her teacher, a non-member, questioned Rosanna about who Lehi was and what he had done. Rosanna promptly presented him with a Book of Mormon, accompanied with a picture of her family and her personal written testimony.

After reading the first part of the book, the teacher allowed Rosanna to prepare her research project on Lehi and his explorations recorded in the Book of Mormon.

After the project, when the teacher offered to return the book, Rosanna insisted that he keep it so he could "learn more about the truth if he wanted to."


Poster of Prophet Joseph's life wins top prize


Fourth grader Christina Serrano shared the gospel as she participated in a school research project about famous people. Instead of choosing from the usual list of famous people, such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Florence Nightingale or others, Christina prepared her assignment on the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Using the book, "The History of Joseph Smith," written by the Prophet's mother, Christina wrote her paper and prepared a poster depicting the First Vision, Moroni's first visit, translation of the golden plates, and receiving the priesthood. The poster was displayed at the Broward County Fair with the work of other county elementary school students, and received a first prize and blue ribbon.

After grading the report, Christina's teacher complimented her student on her good work and then asked to know more. She wanted to know if Joseph Smith was "anyone special." Being a good little missionary, Christina replied that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Her prompt and immediate response led to a discussion about the meaning of the word, `prophet,' the duties of a prophet, and whether or not there was a prophet today. Christina eagerly told her teacher that there was, indeed, a living prophet, and his name was Ezra Taft Benson and he lived in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Although her teacher's interest hasn't gone any further yet, Christina hopes that someday the conversation they had will prompt her teacher, and others who saw the poster, to study the gospel.


14-year-old is speaker at teachers' wedding


Guests at the wedding reception for two junior high school teachers were surprised when the main speaker turned out to be one of their students. They were even more surprised at the maturity of the young man's remarks.

Fourteen-year-old Joshua Madsen first met Scott Steele and Randi Carbajal when he entered Kastner Junior High School here in 1986; Mr. Steele was Josh's 7th grade academic block teacher and basketball coach, and Miss Carbajal was also a teacher who often attended the basketball games and was the unofficial photographer.

When Josh attended a basketball camp at Santa Barbara City College headed by Miss Carbajal's father, Josh told the teacher that he and another LDS friend did not participate in sports on Sunday. She admired them for their beliefs and offered to take them to an LDS ward in Santa Barbara, which she did.

The next spring, Josh was asked to speak in the Fresno California North Stake conference, and invited Mr. Steele and Miss Carbajal, who were by this time engaged to be married, to attend.

"They came and were touched by the Spirit," recalled Josh's mom, Tiffany Madsen. "We gave them the tape `Our Heavenly Father's Plan.' "

When they started making wedding plans, the two asked Josh if he would speak at their wedding.

"In marriage, as in team sports, it will be just as important for Mr. and Mrs. Steele to play the game fairly, to be good team players, and to give a 100 percent effort," said Josh in his remarks. "I know that if they do this, they will find happiness together and will continue to bless each of our lives."

After he finished speaking, the minister who performed the ceremony said, "There's no more to be said. Josh has said it all!"

President of both the junior high and his deacons quorum, as well as an Eagle Scout, Josh is "admired and loved by all who know him," said his mother proudly.


Example of 11-year-old inspires others to live and study the gospel


The story of Alex Bongawan and his enthusiastic spirit and unfailing commitment to the gospel is one that inspires many here.

Small for his age, 11-year-old Alex (then a non-member) made quite an impression on Elder James L. and Sister Mary Alice Slade, missionaries serving in the Philippines Cebu Mission. The couple first met the bright-eyed, friendly boy selling seashells along the street.

Touched by his eager and sweet spirit, the couple felt strongly that this pre-teenager was going to figure importantly in their lives. Upon their second meeting, the feeling was even stronger.

When the couple returned, with other missionaries, for a third visit, they were disappointed to discover that Alex wasn't at his regular "street vending" spot. After inquiring, some neighbors brought the boy and his mother to the Slades.

"The small child before us hardly resembled Alex," remembered Sister Slade. "His fantastic smile was gone; his sparkly brown eyes shaded and full of pain. And at his side hung an arm that would never let him play as he had formerly. It was bulging at the elbow and couldn't straighten out."

The Slades found out that some tourists had coaxed Alex to climb a coconut tree so they could take a picture. Somehow, his hold had slipped and Alex had fallen to the ground, his elbow crushed upon landing. The arm had not been properly taken care of.

The Slades were concerned and made arrangements for Alex and his mother to travel to Cebu for surgery that would correct the problem.

When the Slades met Alex and his mother on their return from Cebu, Alex's smile had returned and his spirits were high. The surgery had been successful.

The small family still had trials to overcome. Mrs. Bongawan had lost her job as a washwoman when she accompanied Alex to the hospital. Alex experienced an allergic reaction to some of his medication and the entire skin on his arm had to be removed because it had blistered and died. But the Bongawans were strong.

One thing that helped them through these trials was the gospel. While in Cebu, the Bongawans had met Philippines Cebu Mission Pres. C. Elliot Richards and his wife. They, too, had been touched by this young boy and gave him a special Book of Mormon Reader. They presented his mother with her own copy of the Book of Mormon.

The boy and his mother grasped the gospel quickly and were baptized in August 1988. Every Sunday the two travel 28 kilometers (one way) on a jolting, open, dusty bus to attend their meetings. Alex's example inspires others, both children and adults, as he enthusiastically studies and lives the gospel. He treasures his copy of the scriptures, reported Elder Slade, and smiles when he says, "Only seven more years and then I can become a missionary."


`Mormon boy' shows his belief in gospel by living its principles


"Brothers and sisters, I am happy to be a Mormon boy."

That's the way 12-year-old Julius B. Caesar started out his testimony.

Julius has learned that being a Mormon boy means more than just attending meetings on Sunday. He knows that being a Mormon boy means that he has to obey commandments and live like his Heavenly Father has asked him to live.

"My religion has taught me many things that my classmates don't know," explained Julius. "One thing I've learned about is honesty."

Recently Julius had a chance to prove that honesty was more than just a vague concept talked about in Church meetings. "One morning I went to school without eating breakfast," he recalled. "While we were having our class, my stomach kept making a funny sound! It meant that I was hungry."

During recess, Julius hurried to a nearby barbecue stand to get a couple of sticks of barbecue. After eating the treats, he returned to the classroom. However, he soon discovered that the money for the barbecue treats was still in his pocket.

"I ran back to the store and paid for my snack," he exclaimed. "How happy the vendor was. And because of my honesty, he gave me another stick - this time it was free."

When Julius returned to the classroom, though, his teacher was not impressed. The young boy had forgotten to tell her where he was going in such a rush and she demanded to know where he'd gone.

"I told her everything," Julius said. "And to my surprise, she put her arm around my shoulder and we faced the class and she said something that made me feel like a giant. She said, `Class, we should all try to be honest like Julius.'

"Then my teacher asked me why I returned the money. I told her it was because I was a deacon and couldn't pass the sacrament if I wasn't worthy. My teacher didn't understand that so I told her we believe in being honest. Proudly, I said, `I'm a Mormon.'

"Brothers and sisters, I know that by being honest to myself and to God, He will bless me. I know that I am a child of God. I also know that He is honest in His love for me."