To Him That Asketh
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“To Him That Asketh,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 73

“To Him That Asketh”

First Place All-Church Short Story Contest

Provo, August 31st

Dear Mamma and Daddy,

Oh, wow! Life is the biggest, fattest, most catsup-smeared french fry that ever was. I love it here!

Three of my roommates have arrived—Julie and Alice from Salt Lake, and Tina from Chicago. She’s so cute and funny—she pronounces it “Shuh-ka-guh.”

I believe I am going to like BYU. I hope BYU likes me. All prayers in my behalf cheerfully accepted.

Much love,


Provo, September 7th

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have registered and got most of the classes I wanted. When I look at my squedule (sp?), however, something tells me I just lit a propane torch to both ends of my candle.

The other two girls came today—Donna from Idaho and Ruthie from Texas. I think we’re going to hit if off.

Hot dog! I haven’t been so happy since I entered this frail existence.

Votre Jeune Fille (Dig that French!),


The Purple Pad,
September 17th

Dear Mom and Dad,

We call our apartment the Purple Pad because Alice has an Aunt Harriet who knitted this great, big, passionate purple afgahan (sp?) and gave it to her, and Alice didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so here it is thrown across our sofa.

We have a really neat Family Home Evening group. We invited the guys over for (to?) dinner the other night, and Ruthie made Mexican food. It was such a smash, Ruthie will probably get proposed to before any of us.

We all take our turns fixing dinner, but when it’s Tina from Shuh-ka-guh’s turn she cheats and sends out for pizza.

We all just grab a bite in the morning, and for lunch we have been going over to a hamburger place near campus called the Cougar Roost. (The cougar is the BYU mascot.) Their super hamburger is called a Cougarburger.

There is a certain guy working at the Cougar Roost who’s tall and dark and really handsome, but he never says a word except to ask you what your order is. We girls have privately nicknamed him “Heathcliff,” and we have a bet going as to which one of us can get him to talk first. I’m holding the bets, 25 cents apiece.

Later—I just came back from my Book of Mormon class. I love it! My teacher is right at the top spiritually. He seems to know the answer to everything.

Much love,


The Purple Pad,
September 27th

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I won! I won the bet! I got “Heathcliff” to talk. Oh, I am so jazzed. I just boogied in there when no one was around and I said to him, “Sorry about your accident.” And he said. “What accident?” And I said. “When you broke your jaw and had to have your teeth wired shut.”

That cracked him up, and we started talking. His name is Mark Cline. He is from back east somewhere, but he has moved around so many places he doesn’t really have a home. His folks are dead, and he’s been on his own for the past four or five years ever since he left high school.

I asked him how he happened to land in Provo, and he said he came here to work in the steel mill. But then he hurt his back, so he had to find some other kind of work. Hence, the Cougar Roost.

I pocketed the 25 cents from each of my roomies—but then I kicked in a dollar of my own and took them all to the Cougar Roost for milk shakes.

Mark grinned when he saw all us gorgeous chickies (hah!) come in. (He doesn’t know the bet was on him!)



P.S. Mark doesn’t know something else. I am going to ask him the Golden Question!

Provo, September 28th

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I asked it—the Golden Question, that is. Oh, brother!

Says I, coolly sipping my limeade, “What do you know about the Mormon Church?”

And he says, “What’s the matter with you Mormons? You’re the third person who’s asked me that dumb question.”

I decide not to let it throw me, so I say, nice and easy, “Well, it’s a kind of a standard question. If you say, ‘Not very much,’ then I’m supposed to ask you if you’d like to know more.”

And do you know what that bozo answered? He just shrugged and said. “No.” Not even, “No, thank you.” Just, “No.”

So I said to myself, “O.K. for you, buddy, you can go eat a rock.” And I left.

So much for my prozel—prosyltizing—trying to do missionary work.

Gotta go study,


P.S. I’m feeling kind of low tonight, missing my family and home and all my friends from high school. Will I go through this every time I have to leave people I love?

The Purple Pad,
October 21st

Dear Folks,

Mark and I are buddies again. He apologized for being rude, and I promised not to hassle him about religion. (I didn’t promise not to use the teensiest bit of persuasion, however!) Oh, if he only realized what he is missing. We are going to the Homecoming football game this Saturday. Mamma, don’t worry. I’m not going to marry him—or anyone for a long, long time. If I got married now it would be numero uno mistako.

Saturday night, late—Hot ziggity! We won! We won! We beat the socks off our great rivals up north! We smeared them! 20–6!

It was such a beautiful evening. The “Y” was lighted way up on the hill, and it was so pretty, and, oh, I feel really jazzed.

I loves ya,


The Purple Pad,
October 30th

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I invited Mark to dinner a couple of nights ago, and it just happened to be the night we were having Family Home Evening here. (Chuckle, chuckle!) He seemed to enjoy the dinner and the discussion. Maybe, I can get him to come to church.

I love the Book of Mormon. I love where Nephi says, “Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss.”

Next day—Yahoo! I got a “B” on my Biology test. Aren’t you proud of me?

Most sincerely yours,

Miss Pauline Garrett

Provo, November 3rd

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s been only four days since I wrote, but I had to let you know—Mark said he would go to church with me next Sunday. Oh, I am so happy!

I find I care about Mark a great deal—not romantically, but as a brother. I think I must have known him in the pre-existence and we made an agreement that whichever one learned about the gospel first in this life would seek out the other and help him. I am as sure as I am sitting here that he is going to join the Church! He just doesn’t know it yet.

My roommates have nicknamed me Polly Parrot. Do you think I talk too much? There are worse faults—aren’t there? Please say you love me as I am.

Much, much love,

Polly Parrot

The Zoo,
November 11th

Dear Folks,

We have another name for our apartment—The Zoo. All of us have stuffed animals sitting around, including my floppy St. Bernard, Woofgang, and Donna’s four-foot tall pink rabbit, Chester, who looks simply smashing sitting on the purple afagahan (sp?).

Later—Mark went to Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting today. He is asking questions about the Church.

Two days later—Mark and I have started reading the Book of Mormon together. Do you know what? We both dig Nephi! He was so great! That cool way he stood up to his brothers, his courage and integrety (sp?), and his patience in adversity. We both love where Nephi says, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them—.”

Mark is such a good person. He just has one little fault—he is hyper-touchy. We girls were teasing him a little bit one evening, calling him “Heathcliff,” and he got mad and walked out. If the least little thing ticks him off, whammo! he splits the scene.

About a week later—Guess what? Mark has promised to take the missionary discussions. Yahoo!

We went to the Preference Ball Friday night. That’s the dance where the girl asks the boy. Mark is not the greatest dancer in the world, not having had much practice, but we had a lot of fun. He was easily the handsomest guy there, with those dark “Heathcliff” eyes and thick eyebrows and lean jaw.

My roomies treat him like a brother, and he acts simply delighted to be asked to come around—even to help us with things like taking out the garbage. It’s as though he had never had a home, and we are his substitute family, or something.

Hugs and kisses,


Provo, November 23rd

Dear Mom and Dad,

All my roomies have gone home for Thanksgiving. I will be spending the day with Aunt Ethel in Springville, so don’t worry about me being here alone. Tina’s rich dad sent her money to fly home, but I realize that we can’t afford that, just for a weekend in Portland.

Thank you, thank you for the CARE package. I’ll share the yummies with Mark. I asked him if he wanted to spend Thanksgiving with Aunt Ethel and family. (I checked with Aunt Ethel first.) But I guess he was afraid of butting in. I don’t know what he’ll do—work that day, I guess, and serve Cougarburgers to people who haven’t got anyplace to go on Thanksgiving.

Mark has made a commitment to be baptized! Isn’t that the jazziest thing you ever heard? I’ve decided that saving souls is a great way to go. Yahoo!

I’ll finish this later. I’ve invited Mark over for a little pre-Thanksgiving dinner. I made a turkey-shaped meat loaf, and put stuffing around it, and I made a cranberry salad. I bought a little pumpkin pie, cause my pie-making’s not too sharp. And I have set the table really pretty with a nice cloth and candles.

Mark will be here any minute. Bye till later.

Next day—Mamma, Daddy, I don’t know how to tell you this without crying. I tried to phone you, but I guess you were out.

Mark came over for dinner and brought flowers for me—a half dozen red roses. They must have cost him a bundle.

We had our little dinner, and then, after everything was cleaned up and we were sitting in the living room, he asked me to marry him.

I didn’t know what to say. He was holding my hand and making all kinds of promises. I said I’d give him my answer today. He’s coming over after work.

I didn’t sleep all night. I did a lot of praying. I do love him—like a brother—but I’m not sure I love him in a marriageable kind of way.

All day I jetted around here trying to find things to do so I wouldn’t have to think. I cleaned this apartment cleaner than it has ever been cleaned since the pre-existence. Then I went for a long walk.

When Mark came I told him as kindly and gently as I could that I did not think I could marry him.

Oh, Mamma, Daddy, you should have seen his face. He just looked like he’d been whipped. He turned around without a word and walked out. I ran after him and called to him, but he just walked away.

What am I going to do?


Provo, November 28th

Dear Mamma and Daddy,

Well, I spent Thanksgiving with Aunt Ethel and family, trying hard to cover up and be jolly Polly.

Oh, do you know what it meant to me to come into this dark, cold apartment and then to have you phone me? I appreciate so much your love and support. And I am sure your advice is good.

I know, deep down, that I am not the right one for Mark. I’m too impatient, too—flighty. He needs someone who would mother him.

But, oh, Mamma, Daddy, he’s gone—just quit his job and left, who knows where.

I’m glad the Christmas holiday begins in three weeks. I just want to come home and be your little girl and have you hug me and tell me you love me.

P.S. What would you say if I just bagged all this and didn’t come back after Christmas?

Provo, January 6th

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you, thank you, for a beautiful Christmas. I don’t mean just the presents, but the spirit—with all of us close together as a family. You gave me strength, and now I can face the new semester. I’m glad you talked me into coming back. It wouldn’t have been a good thing to just stay home and brood.

I think the thing that troubles me most is the feeling that, somehow, I failed Mark. I know—I understand about free agency, and I realize that it’s Mark’s life and he has to work things out for himself. But I keep thinking, “Could I have lent him some of my strength? Should I have tried harder?”

I think I’ll go and talk to my branch president and see if I can’t get my head straightened out.

I believe I know what Lehi meant when he said, “It must needs be that there is an opposition in all things.” But why does it have to be so painful?

We have a new roommate. Julie from Salt Lake went home because her mother’s quite sick. In her place we have a little, teeny girl from Wyoming named Carol Robin. She is a little bit older than the rest of us—a returned missionary. She is so cute—small, and neat, with short, copper-red hair.

Much love,


Provo, January 22nd

Dear Mom and Dad,

Donna, my roommate got appendicitus (sp?) and had to go to the hospital. We all went to see her and took Chester, her four-foot rabbit, for company. She is coming home today, and we have a banner draped over the balcony with “Welcome home, Donna” on it, and we have balloons all around the living room. We are inviting our Family Home Evening buddies over for cake and ice cream.

Later—we had a hoot, everybody joshing around and making jokes, like, “Welcome home, Donna—what’s left of you.”

I put up a good front. Everybody thinks I’m good old Polly, the nut. But I think about Mark all the time and wonder where he is and what he is doing. It’s just ripping my heart out.



P.S. I went in and talked to my branch president about Mark. He gave me the same advice you did—keep praying and don’t blame myself.

The Purple Pad,
February 14th

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Guess what happened this flowery, heartsy, Valentinesy day? Ruthie from Texas got engaged—to one of our Family Home Evening brothers. I just knew she would be the first, with her fantastic cooking ability. They look so happy. They’ll make a great pair.

Write as soon as possible. I really need your letters.

Much love,


P.S. Our new roomie, Carol Robin, is really cute and motherly. You should have seen her taking care of Donna when she came home from the hospital. We call her “Mother Robin.” And she’s so neat—really. You can tell which side of the bedroom is hers cause everything is picked up.

Provo, March 4th

Dear Family,

They are showing “Fiddler on the Roof” up on campus, and all my roomies have gone to see it, but I’ve seen it three times already, and I have a test to study for. I just washed my hair and got into my PJ’s and robe. It’s 9 o’clock. Oops, there’s a knock. What lunkhead would be calling this time of night? Be right back.

Later—Mamma, Daddy, it’s three o’clock in the morning, and I can’t sleep, so I got up to finish this letter.

The most fantastic thing happened. I went to answer the door, and Mark was standing there. He looked so thin and exhausted. There I stood, in my curlers and bathrobe, just staring at him.

He said, “Can I come in?” And then I let out a shriek and threw my arms around him and just bawled.

He kept patting me on the back and saying, “It’s OK. It’s OK.”

I finally asked him, “Where have you been?” And he said, “In the wilderness.”

I must have looked as though I didn’t understand. So then he explained. He meant a spiritual wilderness—like Christ going out into the wilderness to fast and pray.

We talked for a couple of hours. Actually, he had been working on a ranch in Nevada. He figured he’d work there just long enough to get some money to move on—like he’d been doing before.

But then one day it hit him—he was on the road to nowhere. He thought about it and worried about it, and then finally he went way off in a field and knelt down in the snow and started to pray. He said he didn’t even know what he was praying for. He just kept saying over and over, “Heavenly Father, help me.”

And then it was like a voice inside his head. It said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”

Mark said he knew that was his answer. He quit his job and hitchhiked back here.

After he’d told me all this, Mark gave me a kiss—not a passionate kiss, but a brotherly kind of kiss. Then he said, “I think I can make it now.”

We were still talking when my roomies came home. They just stood there in surprise when they saw Mark—all except little Carol Robin, who didn’t know him, of course.

I said, “Carol, this is Mark. Mark, this is Carol.”

Well, they looked at each other, and those looks met in the middle, and just sort of locked there for about half a minute. It’s the only way I can describe it. It was as though they had been waiting through all eternity for that moment.

Oh, I am so happy! Everything is turning out all right. And Heavenly Father knew that it would, all the time.

Oh, wow! Now I think I really know what Nephi meant when he said, “Yea, my God will give me if I ask not amiss.”

Oceans, and mountains, and rivers of love,


Photography by Jed Clark