The boy has the biggest part of any kid in the primary sacrament meeting program. The primary president gives him the script weeks ahead of time, and he spends hours each week memorizing his lines and learning his cues. They have two Sundays of rehearsals, and he delivers all of his dialogue without looking at the script. He is seven years old. The other main characters are an adult man in the congregation and a younger primary kid who has fewer than half the lines he has. Every kid in the primary has at least one line, and of course, they are to sing songs, as well.
On the day of the program, his parents help him dress in a nicely pressed shirt, a blue tie, and slacks. The primary children are invited to the stand after the passing of the sacrament, and the boy sits at the front of the stand with the adult and the younger primary kid. They have a handheld microphone to pass between them to deliver their lines.
At age seven, the boy is skinny and small, shorter than most other kids his age. His father is an attorney and was a state champion debater in high school. He has helped the boy practice projecting his voice, looking at the audience, and controlling his nerves.
The program begins, and within a couple of minutes, his first lines are up. He takes the microphone, looks out seriously on the congregation of more than two hundred fifty people, and booms his line clearly through the microphone. He has the stature of a seven-year-old, but the seriousness, projection, appearance, and skill of a forty-year-old man. As he speaks his very serious line about Jesus and families, a few in the audience titter. He pays little attention.
They sing a song and hear from a couple of other kids. Then, the man talks, and then it is the boy’s turn again. He takes the microphone and projects again. Now, it’s not just a titter–it’s scattered but widespread laughter. He is confused. The line is not funny.
The little girl gives a line, another couple of kids do as well, and then they sing two more songs. The microphone comes back to him for his next line. He delivers it perfectly, and now, the congregation roars. The line is not funny. He cannot understand why they are laughing. He hands the microphone to the man who gives his line.
After more songs and other lines, the mic is passed to him again. He can see the anticipation in everyone’s faces. He tries to lower himself behind the wall of the stand so that only his eyes can be seen. He delivers his lines perfectly, and everyone roars again. He tries not to cry. He calls on all the things his father has taught him to maintain his composure, his eye contact, and the power of his voice. When the mic comes again, he can see that they are all anticipating his delivery. He doesn’t want to, but does it anyway and gets the now predictable roar of laughter.
The full forty-five minutes go this way with each delivery of his lines drawing a huge crescendo of laughter. Finally, they sing the closing song and have the closing prayer. As soon as he hears, “Amen,” he hops to his feet. The man tries to tell him how well he has done. So do the primary president and the bishop. He scoots past them because he can’t stop the tears now. By the time he reaches his parents, he is bawling, and he falls into his mother’s embrace and buries his face in her dress.
“Oh, honey, you did so great. You really did so great,” she says.
“It was amazing, Son,” his dad says.
“Everyone laughed at me,” he cries. “Every time I spoke, everyone laughed at me.”
“They weren’t laughing at you,” his father says.
“Yes, they were,” the boy says. “Every time I talked, everyone laughed. They didn’t laugh at anything else.”
“You didn’t do bad. It was actually how well you did. No one expected it.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” the boy says.
His dad rubs his hair and says, “No, I suppose it doesn’t. You were super mature and none of the rest of us were.”