If a Tiger Can Change His Stripes

“If a Tiger Can Change His Stripes,” Friend, Aug. 1993, 32

If a Tiger Can Change His Stripes

Have ye spiritually been born of God? … Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14.)

“They’re putting the Angel Moroni statue on the temple!” cried Nicole. Joey, her three-year-old brother, ran to the window to see.

Nicole’s best friend, Kim, was visiting from next door. She and Nicole watched the machinery and workers swarming over the building as the statue was lowered into place. “Remember our tree house that used to be over there?” Kim said sadly.

“A tree house is for a little time,” Nicole said. “A temple is forever.”

“Not being a Mormon, I wouldn’t know,” answered Kim.

Nicole remembered watching day after day as the equipment crunched and leveled the desert. It had seemed like the groundwork had taken forever. But gradually the majestic, white Las Vegas Nevada Temple had risen at the foot of Sunrise Mountain. Six white spires reached toward the sky.

“They’re like fingers,” Mom said, “directing our thoughts heavenward.”

And now a great statue of the Angel Moroni, golden, with uplifted trumpet, was placed on the spire over the east entrance.

By November, grass, shrubbery, and flowers had all been planted behind a graceful iron fence. Trees were in place. The temple was completed.

Nicole invited Kim to go to the temple open house with her and her family.

“I’m not a Mormon,” Kim reminded her.

“Everybody is invited to the open house before the temple is dedicated,” Nicole assured her.

“My parents may not let me go,” said Kim. “They think Mormons are strange.”

“Do they think my family is strange?”

“Of course not,” said Kim. “They know you.”

Nicole laughed. “If they knew other Mormons, they wouldn’t think they were strange, either.”

“Let’s ask if I can go,” said Kim.

A few minutes later Nicole burst back into the house. “Kim’s mom said she could go to the open house!”

The next morning Nicole lay on her stomach in the living room. Using her new magic markers, she made a poster for Primary. Mom held Joey on her lap, reading a story about a tiger to him. When she finished, Joey asked to hear it “lots more.”

After Mom read it again, she closed the book. “It’s time to get ready for the open house,” she said.

Nicole called Kim, then scurried upstairs to dress. Mom and Dad were waiting for her when she came down.

“Where’s Joey?” Mom asked. “I dressed him in his new suit and told him to wait here.”

Nicole went to find him. She came back leading a squirming Joey. Everybody laughed—Joey had found the magic markers. He had bright orange and black stripes on his face and arms.

“I’m a tiger,” he announced.

“Tigers can’t go to the temple,” Mom said. “Temples are quiet places. Let’s wash the stripes off so that a reverent Joey can go.”

Just as Kim arrived, Mom returned with a freshly scrubbed Joey. They all walked across the street to the temple and waited their turn to sit in the rows of chairs where people helped them slip surgical booties over their shoes.

“These are to keep the new carpet clean,” Nicole explained quietly to Kim.

“No, Joey,” Nicole heard Mom whisper.

Joey had booties on both hands and feet. “A tiger has four paws,” Joey protested as Mom took the booties from his hands.

“Remember that the tiger changed his stripes back home—you’re Joey,” Mom reminded him softly as she tried to calm him down.

Nicole and Kim went ahead, followed by Mom, Dad, and Joey. Men and women dressed in white directed lines of people walking silently on the soft, rose-colored carpet.

Looking at lovely pictures on the rose-tinted walls, Kim whispered, “Why do you have pictures of Jesus everywhere? I thought you worshiped Mormon.”

“Our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Nicole whispered back. “Mormon was a keeper of ancient records and a prophet, but we don’t worship him.”

The two girls stopped to look at the beautiful white baptismal font resting on the back of twelve oxen. “We do baptisms for the dead here,” Nicole quietly told her friend.

Kim’s eyes widened. “You baptize dead people?”

“No, no!” whispered Nicole. “Everyone eight years of age or older needs to be baptized to live with Heavenly Father again. Many people have died without baptism, so living people come to the temple and are baptized for them.”

Nicole and Kim passed elegant tables on which were beautiful vases with lovely flower arrangements. Nicole was happy to share this quiet beauty with her best friend.

The two girls peeked into a sealing room. “This is where I’ll be married,” Nicole said softly. “I’ll be dressed in my white wedding gown, and my Church friends and family will be with me.”

In the celestial room, Nicole gazed at the crystal chandeliers sparkling overhead. Sunshine sifted through the cut-glass windows, splashing bits of rainbows about on the room’s furniture and white walls.

“Where’s Joey?” Mom whispered worriedly. “He slipped away from me at the door.”

Nicole began a frantic search. She turned when she heard a low growl. There was Joey’s head behind a big potted palm!

“Never bother a tiger!” he growled softly.

Nicole took his hand and said calmly and quietly, “Tigers are not allowed in the temple—only reverent people. You changed your stripes. You’re Joey, remember?”

Dad carried Joey the rest of the way. At home, he said, “Now you can be a tiger again.”

“This tiger changed his stripes,” said Joey. “I’m Joey now, and when I grow up, I’m going to the temple again.”

The next day when Kim came, she said, “I told Mom and Dad all about the temple, and we’re all going to the open house today!”

After Kim left, Nicole ran to tell Mom. “Do you think they might join the Church?” she asked.

Mom took hot loaves of date nut bread from the oven. She sliced one, spread honey on three slices, and gave one to each of them and to Joey, who had followed his nose to the kitchen. “We can hope so, but you and Kim will still be friends if they don’t, won’t you?”

Nicole smiled at Joey licking honey from his bread. “Yes, Mom, but you know—if a tiger can change his stripes, anything is possible.”

Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn