Choice and Accountability Stories
There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, it won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry,’ the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”
Scott Richard G.
Making the Right Decisions
I speak primarily to the young men and women of the Church throughout the world. Your circumstances and personal challenges vary tremendously, yet each of you is in that period of life when you make decisions that will affect the entire course of your life. I come to you as a friend with a sincere desire to help each one of you to obtain the greatest and most lasting benefit from this critical period of testing. I speak as I would to a son or daughter to communicate what I know to be true.
I pray that you will understand the importance of three principles we will discuss. May there come promptings to you from the Lord through the Holy Ghost regarding their application in your life.
I recognize that many of you will understand what I say because of decisions already made. I pray that others will be prompted to make the same personal commitments, for this counsel will have limited value until that is done. I will explain with an example.
My parents gave me a beautiful watch for high school graduation. I looked at it frequently because of the love it communicated. Each night I carefully cleaned and wound it. As years passed, I often neglected to wind the watch. Consequently, it stopped being useful, often when I most needed it.
Today I use an automatic watch. It is consistent and always gives me the correct time. It is totally dependable. I never need to worry whether I can count on it or not. I realize that as with watches, there are differences in youth. Some need to be wound up, while others are automatic because of important decisions already made. I commend you who are automatic, who have committed to be true to the Lord and to live by faith when you cannot see the end from the beginning. When faced with choices, you select the path
consistent with the teachings of the Savior. I know you are sometimes criticized by those who call you fanatical, who cannot understand why you don’t do what the crowd does. Hold fast to your principles.
You cannot today remotely imagine what that decision to be unwaveringly obedient to the Lord will allow you to accomplish in life. Your quiet, uncompromising determination to live a righteous life will couple you to inspiration and power beyond your capacity now to understand. To others, if an honest evaluation of your life reveals a continuing dependency on individuals or things that are not good, please listen. I sincerely want to
help you. If you understand and use the principles we now review, they will bring you great reward.
The first principle: Place the Savior, His teachings, and His church at the center of your life. Make sure that all decisions comply with this standard. This principle will see you through periods of testing and growth. Upward growth occurs in cycles that build upon each other in an ascending spiral of capacity and understanding. They are often not easy, but they are always beneficial. As you walk the path of righteousness, you will grow in
strength, understanding, and self-esteem. You will discover hidden talents and unknown
capacities. The whole course of your life may be altered for your happiness and the Lord’s purposes.
The next principle: Recognize that enduring happiness comes from what you are, not from what you have. Real joy comes from righteous character, and that is built from a pattern of consistent righteous decisions. When the things that you acquire are used as tools to help others, they won’t rule your life. Your righteous decisions determine who you are and what is important to you. They make doing the right things easier. For happiness now and throughout your life, steadfastly obey the Lord, no matter what pressure you feel to do otherwise.
And now the last principle: Stay morally clean. Any sexual intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage, and I emphasize that means any involvement of the sacred, private parts of the body-is a sin and is forbidden by God. While the world has other standards, you must stay morally clean. There are many reasons. Chief among them is that it is a commandment of God, the violation of which He considers to be serious sin that will bring great suffering. To ensure you keep this sacred commandment, in moments of quiet reflection when [p. 35] you feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, set specific personal
standards of what you will do and what you will not do when temptation comes-for it surely will. Then, when you find yourself in the battlefield of life, don’t change your standards; don’t abandon them no matter how you feel, no matter what pressure is applied.
Satan will use rationalization to destroy you. That is, he will twist something you know to be wrong so that it appears to be acceptable and thus progressively lead you to destruction. Love, as defined by the Lord, elevates, protects, respects, and enriches another. It motivates one to make sacrifices for another. Satan promotes counterfeit love, which is lust. It is driven by a hunger to appease personal appetite. One who practices this
deception cares little for the pain and destruction caused another. While often camouflaged by flattering words, its motivation is self-gratification. You know how to be clean and live a righteous life. We trust you to do it. The Lord will bless you richly and will help you keep clean and pure.
How can you keep your resolve to live worthily? How can you be sure that your resolve will not be eroded by the pressures around you?
Choose good friends, those who have made similar decisions in their lives, those like yourself who are wise enough to live a life of order and restraint. When one gets off track, it is generally because the other kind of friends were chosen. Be surrounded by true friends who accept you the way you are and leave you better because of their association.
Consistently live the truth you already know. Much of the disappointment and tragedy that youth encounter comes from misuse of the increased freedom to act that is necessary for you to grow. Now, when you have increasing responsibility for the decisions you make in life, you will make them wisely because of your unwavering determination to obey the Lord. You will learn that the restraints provided by the teachings of the Lord actually form a platform to greater freedom. If they are hurriedly dismantled in the misuse of increased personal choice, there will result binding chains of transgression.
Don’t be found in compromising circumstances. Seek counsel from those who are worthy. Pray in faith for help. Go to your Father in Heaven. He wants to help you, but because of your agency you need to take the first step. Important lessons will be learned as you are on your knees. Some will distill in your mind and heart as you seek to establish the right balance in your life. Powerful personal development will come through urgent prayer offered in faith from a foundation of righteousness.
When all the challenges pour down on you, you will have a quiet inner feeling of support. You will be prompted to know what to do. You can live in a world of turmoil and great challenge and be at peace. You will be inspired to know what to do and to have the power or capacity to do it. Remember this promise of the Lord as clarified by President Harold B. Lee: “Ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves [that is, keep my commandments] and ye shall be endowed with power.” (D&C 43:16.)
I know that the principles we have discussed are true. They have been proven in my own personal life. With my companion, Jeanene, who excels me in every worthwhile quality, I have walked the path shared with you today. I know these truths are correct. I pray that somehow there will come a reinforcement through the Spirit to your mind and heart of their great worth when they are challenged in your life. (See D&C 8:2-5.)
Test your daily thoughts and acts against the principles we have reviewed. Are you making progress toward them, or have you begun to wander down destructive paths? Life is a workshop where you can test the correctness of the principles you have chosen to guide your life.
Now is the time to set your course, to establish fundamental priorities. You will learn to select from many good and bad things those that are righteous and most important. Young women, use the inspiring Young Women Values and the referenced scriptures to help you do this. Young men, use the scriptures regarding priesthood to give your life focus. I encourage both to use the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth. It will bless you in your resolve to be pure.
As the mighty eagle, you can rise to glorious heights. You can discover truths that will ignite your spirit. Do you believe that? I know you can. As you combine positive experiences of life with eternal doctrinal truths, you will discover what it means to be a divine child of a Father in Heaven who is perfect. As you apply His truths, they will generate vision in your mind and commitment in your heart. You will be inspired and can have power beyond your own capacity. You can qualify through that divine power to be instruments in the hands of God to accomplish what you could not do alone. You will learn to make reality of your worthy dreams for the future. You will be led to see a vision of your true potential and then, through obedience to correct principles and the consistent, appropriate use of moral agency, begin to convert that potential into reality. We love you. We need you. We pray for you. You are the instruments the Lord will use in the future. Please pray about what I have said to gain your own witness until you [p. 36] know that it can happen. And then, as you are righteous, it will happen to you.
As you live high standards publicly and privately, and even under great pressure adhere to them, you raise the vision of others, helping them realize more of their divine capacity. Like a worthy magnet, you will draw others to a higher standard of life. The power of your worthy example is increased as you help others caught in the web of transgression and guide them into a harbor of safety where there is parental strength and priesthood inspiration, where they can repair through repentance the strained and damaged parts of their character. Many yearn to overcome transgressions that bind them to a path they really don’t want. While public actions denounce any desire to change, privately they want to change but don’t know where to begin. Be that saving influence in
their lives. Help them.
In closing, I return to my automatic watch. It is powered by a solar cell and to function must be exposed to light. We are like that. We operate on light and need a constant renewal of that light. If we drift into a path where there is darkness, it can be extraordinarily difficult to come back. You will not have that challenge because you will live in the light of truth.
There is one more blessing that will come from your decision to obey. Of all, it is the most beautiful, but the most difficult to talk about. As you stay morally clean and consistently obey the teachings of the Lord, your love for your Savior will deepen, your understanding of your Father in Heaven will broaden, and you will love them more and more, until all you really want to do is to know their will and, with their power, do it.
I know they love you. They know each one of you personally. They know every detail of your life, every thought, every desire to strengthen yourself and to change. Be obedient to them, and they will bless you with the power to be obedient to their teachings. I so testify in love for you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
“You Knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up”
By: Iron Eyes Cody, Reprinted from Guidepost, November 1989
On film in Hollywood I have played many American Indian roles…. the warrior, the medicine man, the chief wearing his double-tailed eagle headdress and smoking the peace pipe.
And in a TV spot for the “Keep America Beautiful” Campaign, I was an Indian drifting alone in a canoe. As I saw how our waters were being polluted, a single tear ran down my cheek, telling the whole story. All three versions of my public service “tear” commercial are still playing after 17 years.
But now I have another story to tell, an old legend, with a warning as potent as that tear.
Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. But on the third day as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow.
I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders, and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. “I am about to die,” said the snake. “It is too cold for me up here
and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.”
“No,” said the youth. “I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up you will bite, and your bite will kill me.” “Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me you will be special. I will not harm you.”
The youth resisted for a while, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it into his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, where suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leapt, biting him on the leg.
“But you promised..” cried the youth. “You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away. And now, wherever I go, I tell this story. I tell it especially to the young people of this nation who might be tempted by drugs. I want them to remember the words of the snake: You knew what I was when you picked me up.
What happens when you sit on the fence…
There was a large group of people. On one side of the group stooda man, Jesus. On the other side of the group stood another man, Satan.
Separating them, running through the group, was a fence. The scene set, both Jesus and Satan began calling to the people in the group and, one by one – each having made up his or her own mind – each went to either Jesus or Satan. This kept going.
Soon enough, Jesus had gathered around him a group of people from the larger crowd, as did Satan. But one man joined neither group. He climbed the fence that was there and sat on it. Then Jesus and his people left and disappeared.
So too did Satan and his people. And the man on the fence sat alone. As this man sat, Satan came back, looking for something which he appeared to have lost.
The man said, “Have you lost something?” Satan looked straight at him and replied, “No, there you are. Come with me.” “But”, said the man, “I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor him.” “That’s okay,” said Satan, “I own the fence.”
WHEN QUEENS RIDE BY
By Olive White Fortenbacher
John and Jennie Mangrave had eager plans when they married and took over the old farm. But their great faith dwindled as the first years passed. John worked later and later in the evenings. Jennie took more and more of the heavy tasks upon her own shoulders and had no time for the home and children. They were no further on and life had degenerated into a straining hopeless struggle.
One hot afternoon, Jennie was loading baskets of tomatoes to take to town when the children came running to tell her there was a dressed-up lady at the kitchen door. Wearily she followed the children back and saw a woman in a gray tweed coat that seemed somehow to be a part of her brownish hair. She was not young, but she was beautiful! An aura of eager youth clung to her, a clean and exquisite freshness. The stranger in turn saw a young woman, haggard and weary. Her eyes looked hard and haunted. Her calico dress was shapeless and begrimed from her work.
Stranger (smiling) “How do you do?” We ran our car into the shade of your lane to have our lunch and rest for a while. And I walked on up to buy a few apples, if you have them.”
Jennie (grudgingly): “Won’t you go in and sit down? I’ll go and pick the apples.” Stranger: “May I go with you? I’d love to help pick them.”
Jennie: “Why, I s’pose so. If you can get out there through the dirt.” (She led the way along the unkempt path toward the orchard. She had never been so acutely conscious of the disorder about her. She reached the orchard and began to drag a long ladder from the fence to the apple tree.)
Stranger (crying out) “Oh, but you can’t do that! It’s too heavy. Please let me pick a few from the ground.”
Jennie: “Heavy” This ladder? I wish I didn’t ever lift anything heavier than this. After hoistin’ bushel baskets of tomatoes onto a wagon, this feels light to me.”
Stranger: “But do you think you should? Do you think it’s right. . . Why, that’s a man’s work!”
Jennie (furiously): “Right! Who are you to be askin’ me whether I’m right or not? A person like you don’t know what work is!”
Stranger (Soothingly): “I’m sorry I annoyed you by saying that. If you were to tell me all about it-because I’m only a stranger-perhaps it would help. Why can’t we sit down here and rest a minute?”
Jennie: “Rest?” Me sit down to rest, an’ the wagon loaded to go to town? It’ll hurry me now to get back before dark.”
Stranger: “Just take the time you would have spent picking the apples. I wish I could help you. Won’t you tell me why you have to work so hard?”
Jennie (half sullenly): “There ain’t much to tell, only that we ain’t gettin’ ahead. Henry Davis is talkin’ about foreclosin’ on us if we don’t soon pay some principal. The time of the mortgage is out this year, an’ mebbe he won’t renew it. And it ain’t that I haven’t done my part. I’m barely thirty, an’ I might be fifty, “I’m so weatherbeaten. That’s the way I’ve worked.”
Stranger: “And you think that has helped your husband?”
Jennie (sharply): “Helped him? Why wouldn’t it help him?”
Stranger: “Men are such queer things, husbands especially. For instance, they want us to be economical, and yet they love to see us in pretty clothes. They need our work, and yet they want us to keep our youth and beauty. And sometimes they don’t know themselves which they really want most. So we have to choose. That’s what makes it so hard. Just after we were married, my husband decided to have his own business so he started a very tiny one. I helped my husband in the store, but we would both be tired and discouraged
after a hard day at the office and we didn’t seem to be having any great success. The house got run down and dinner was always a hasty affair, and soon we both started complaining and bickering with each other. Finally, we decided that maybe I should stay at home and let him take care of his work at the office as best he could. And then I worked in my house to make it a clean, shining, happy place. My husband would come home dead-tired and discouraged, ready to give up the whole thing. But after he had eaten and set in our bright little living room, and I had told him all the funny things I could invent about my day, I could see him change. By bedtime, he had his courage back, and by morning, he was all ready to go out and fight again. And at last he won.” (Jennie did not speak. She only regarded her guest with a half-resentful understanding.)
“There was a queen once, who reigned in troubled days. And every time the country was on the brink of war and the people ready to fly into a panic, she would put on her showiest dress and take her court with her, and go hunting. And when the people would see her riding by, they were sure all was well with the government. So she tided over many a danger.
“And I’ve tried to be like her. Whenever a big crisis comes in my husband’s business, or when he’s discouraged, I put on my prettiest dress and get the best dinner I know how, or give a party! And somehow it seems to work. That’s the woman’s part, you know….to play the queen…” (A faint “honk honk” came from the lane. The stranger started to her feet.) “That’s my husband. I must go. Please don’t bother about the apples. I’ll just
take a few from under the tree.” (Taking some coins from her purse) “And give these to the children.”
Jennie’s thoughts were too confused for speech, but, as she watched the stranger’s erect figure hurrying toward the lane, she remembered her words with the pain of anger. Jennie: “Easy enough for her to set talkin’ about queens! She never felt the work at her throat like a wolf. Talk about choosin! I haven’t got no choice, I just got to keep on goin’, like I always have…
She stopped suddenly and picked up a fairy-like hanky of white linen that the stranger had dropped. It’s faint, delicious fragrance made her think wistfully of strange, sweet things. Of gardens in the early summer dusk; of wide, fair rooms with the moonlight shining in them; of pretty women in beautiful dresses dancing, and men admiring them.
She, Jennie, had nothing of that. Everything about their lives, her’s and John’s was coarseness, soiled somehow by the draggin, endless labor of the days. Suppose…. suppose…suppose she were to try doing what the stranger had said, suppose she spent her time on the house and let the outside work go… Jennie (with sudden resolution): “Mebbe I’m crazy, but I’m going to do it” Jennie brushed her hair, changed her shoes, and put on her one good dress. Then with something of the burning zeal of a fanatic, she
attacked the confusion in the kitchen. Buy half-past four the room was clean. Now for supper! she decided upon fried ham and browned potatoes and apple sauce with hot biscuits, and pie. With a spirit of daring recklessness, she spread the one white table cloth on the table.
The first pan of the flaky brown mounds had been withdrawn from the oven when Henry Davis’ car came up the lane. Cold fear struck Jennie. He could be coming for only one thing. As she stood shaken, wondering how she would live through what the next hour would bring, she heard the words again, “There was a queen once…” Jennie (cordially): “Well, howd’ you do, Mr. Davis? Come right in. I’m real glad to see you. Been quite a while since you was over.”
Henry (embarrassed): “Why no, now , I won’t go in. I just stopped to see John on a little matter of business. I’ll just…..” Jennie: “You’ll come right in. John will be in from milkin’ in a few minutes an’ you can talk while you eat, both of you. I’ve supper just ready.”
Henry: “Why, now I reckon I’d just speak to John, an’ then be gettin on.” Jennie: “They’ll see you at home when you get there. You never tasted my hot biscuits with butter an’quince honey or you wouldn’t take so much coaxin!” (Henry Davis came in and sat down in the big, clean kitchen. His eyes took in every homely detail of the orderly room.) “And how are things goin’ with you, Mr. Davis?”
Henry: “Oh, so so. How are they with you?”
Jennie: “Why, just fine, Mr. Davis! It’s been hard sleddin’, but I sort of think the worst is over. We’ll be ’round to pay that mortgage so fast come another y ear that you’ll be surprised.”
Henry: “Well, now, that’s fine. I always wanted to see John make a success of the old place, but a man has to sort of watch his investments… Well, now, I’m glad things are pickin’ up a little.”
Jennie felt as though a tight band at her throat had relaxed. At the kitchen door John stopped, staring blankly at the scene before him…at Jennies moving about the bright table, chatting happily with Henry Davis! At Henry himself, his sharp features softened by an air of great satisfaction. At the sixth plate on the white cloth-Henry was staying for supper! But the silent depths of John’s nature served him well. He made no comment. He merely shook hands with Henry Davis and then washed his face at the sink. Jennie arranged the savory dishes, and they sat down to supper. Henry seemed to grow more and more genial and expansive as he ate. So did John. By the time the pie was set before them, they were laughing over a joke Henry had heard at Grange meeting. As they rose from the table, Henry brought the conversation awkwardly around to his errand.
Jennie (quickly): “I told him, John, that the worst’s over now, and we’re gettin’ on fine! I told him we’d be swampin’ him pretty soon with payments. Ain’t that right, John?” John’s mind was not analytical. He had been host at a delicious supper with his ancient adversary, whose sharp face was marvelously softened. Jennie’s eyes were shining with a new and amazing confidence. It was a natural moment for unreasoning optimism.
John: “Why, that’s right, Mr. Davis. I believe we can start clearin’ this off now pretty soon. If you could just see your way clear to renew the mortgage.” It was done. The papers were back in Davis’ pocket. They had bid him a cordial good-bye from the door. Jennie cleared off the table and began to wash the dishes. John was fumbling through the papers on a hanging shelf. He finally sat down with an old tablet and pencil. John: “I believe I’ll do a little figurin’ since I’ve got time tonight. It just struck me if I used my head a little more, I’ll get on faster.”
Jennie: “Well, now you might.” (She polished two big apples and placed them on a saucer beside him.)
John (pleased): “Now that’s what I like. Say, you look sort of pretty tonight.”
Jennie (smiling): “Go along with you.” But a wave of color swept up in her sallow cheeks. John had looked more grateful over her setting those two apples beside him now than he had the day last fall when she had lifted all the potatoes herself! Maybe even John had been needing something else more than he had needed the hard, back-breaking work she had been giving him!
Jennie walked to the doorway and stood looking off through the darkness. A thin, haunting breath of sweetness rose from the bosom of her dress where she had tucked the scrap of white linen. She wished that she could somehow tell the beautiful stranger that her words had been true…that she, Jennie, was going to fulfill her woman’s part. She had read the real needs of John’s soul from his eyes that evening. Yes, wives had to choose for their husbands sometimes.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
At that very moment, speeding along the sleek macadam highway, a woman in a gray coat with a soft gray hat and a rose quill leaned suddenly close to her husband.
Wife (Stranger): “I’m all right. Only, only I can’t get that poor woman at the farm out of my mind. It , it was so hopeless.”
Husband (smiling tenderly): “Well, I’m sorry too, but you mustn’t worry. Good gracious, darling, you’re not weeping over it, I hope!”
Wife (Stranger): “No, truly, just two little tears. I know it’s silly, but I did so want to help her and I know that what I said sounded insane. She wouldn’t know what I was talking about. She just looked up with that blank, tired face. And it all seemed so impossible. No…I’m not going to cry. Of course, I’m not…but…lend me your handkerchief, will you dear? I’ve lost mine somehow….”
President George Albert Smith was taught the importance of honoring his name. “A number of years ago I was seriously ill, In fact, I think everyone gave me up but my wife. With my family I went to St. George, Utah, to see if it would improve my health. We went as far as we could by train, and then continued the journey in a wagon, in the bottom of which a bed had been made for me.
“In St. George we arranged for a tent for my health and comfort, with a built-in floor raised about a foot above the ground, and we could roll up the south side of the tent to make the sunshine and fresh air available. I became so weak as to be scarcely able to move. It was a slow and exhausting effort for me even to turn over in bed.
“One day, under these conditions, I lost consciousness of my surroundings and thought, I had passed to the Other Side. I found myself standing with my back to a large and beautiful lake, facing a great forest of trees. There was no one in sight, and there was no boat upon the lake or any other visible means to indicate how I might have arrived there. I realized, or seemed to realize, that I had finished my work in mortality and had gone home. I began to look around, to see if I could not find someone. There was no evidence of anyone’s living there, just those great, beautiful trees in front of me and the wonderful lake behind me.
“I began to explore, and soon I found a trail through the woods which seemed to have been used very little, and which was almost obscured by grass. I followed this trail, and after I had walked for some time and had traveled a considerable distance through the forest, I saw a man coming towards me. I became aware that he was a very large man, and I hurried my steps to reach him, because I recognized him as my grandfather. In mortality he weighed over three hundred pound, so you may now he was a large man. I remember how happy I was to see him coming. I had been given his name and had always been proud of it. “When Grandfather came within a few feet of me, he stopped. His stopping was an invitation for me to stop. Then-and this I would like the boys and girls and young people never to forget-he looked at me very earnestly and said: “‘I would like to know what you have done with my name ‘
“Everything I had ever done passed before me as thought it were a flying pictures on a screen-everything I had done. Quickly this vivid retrospect came down to the very time I was standing there. My whole life had passed before me. I smile and looked at my grandfather and said: “I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.’
“He stepped forward and took me in his arms, and as he did so, I became conscious again of my earthly surroundings. My pillow was as wet as thought water had been poured on it-wet with tears of gratitude that I could answer unashamed.
“I have thought of this many times, and I want to tell you that I have been trying, more than ever since that time, to take care of that name. So I want to say to the boys and girls, to the young men and women, to the youth of the Church and of the entire world; Honor your fathers and your mothers. Honor the names that you bear, because some day you will have the privilege and the obligation of reporting to them (and to you Father in heaven) what you have done with their name.” (“Your Good Name, “Improvement Era, Mar 1947, p. 139)
From Gordon B. Hinckley’s Childhood:
The next year we enrolled in junior high school. But the building could not accommodate all the students, so our class of the seventh grade was sent back to the Hamilton School. We were insulted. We were furious. We’d spent six unhappy years in that building, and we felt we deserved something better. The boys of the class all met after school. We decided we wouldn’t tolerate this kind of treatment. We were determined we’d go on strike. The next day we did not show up. But we had no place to go. We couldn’t stay
home because our mothers would ask questions. We didn’t think of going downtown to a show. We had no money for that. We didn’t think of going to the park. We were afraid we might be seen by Mr. Clayton, the truant officer. We didn’t think of going out behind the school fence and telling shady stories because we didn’t know any. We’d never heard of such things as drugs or anything of the kind. We just wandered about and wasted the day.
The next morning the principal, Mr. Stearns, was at the front door of the school to greet us. His demeanor matched his name. He said some pretty straightforward things and then told us that we could not come back to school until we brought a note from our parents. That was my first experience with a lockout. Striking, he said, was not the way to settle a problem. We were expected to be responsible citizens, and if we had a complaint we could come to the principal’s office and discuss it.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to go home and get the note. I remember walking sheepishly into the house. My mother asked what was wrong. I told her. I said that I needed a note. She wrote a note. It was very brief. It was the most stinging rebuke she ever gave me. It read as follows:
“Dear Mr. Stearns, Please excuse Gordon’s absence yesterday. His action was simply an impulse to follow the crowd.” She signed it and handed it to me. I walked back over to school and got there about the same time a few other boys did. We all handed our notes to Mr. Stearns. I do not know whether he read them, but I have never forgotten my mother’s note. Though I had been an active party to the action we had taken, I resolved then and there that I would never do anything on the basis of simply following the crowd. I determined then and there that I would make my own decisions on the basis of their merits and my standards and not be pushed in one direction or another by those around me. (CR Apr 1993)
From 1978 until 1992 I worked for Southern Pacific Railroad. We had a train, crew go to work one morning in Klamath Falls. Tom Barney was the Engineer, “Turkey” Harrison (inactive member of the church) was the conductor. They were on duty around 4:00 AM and were called for the PTLAT (which is the Portland to LA trailers, the hottest train on the west coast.)
Just like cars, trains have speed limits too. The track speed varies along the route depending on the steepness of the grade and also the tonnage of the train. For example: The PTLAT track speed is 40 MPH, through Mt Shasta if the train weighs 80 ton per car or less. If the weight of each car is greater than 80 tons, the speed is 25 MPH through Mt Shasta. The crew checked over their paperwork and found their train weighed 80.1 tons per car. They were.1 tons or 200 lbs per car over the limit. They had a 40 car train, making it only 4,000 lbs over, which is nothing when the train weighs 3,200 tons. After a long discussion they decided to obey the rules and do 25 MPH and not 40 MPH through Mt Shasta. It took the crew two hours after they left Klamath Falls to get to Black Butte, where the 25 started. Tom Barney slowed the train to 25 MPH, and continued on. At this same time a propane semi truck was pulling into the propane plant in Mt Shasta. In order to get into the plant, the semi had to cross the SP tracks and make a sharp left hand turn. In doing so, the rear set of tires on the trailer hung up on the railroad tracks and they could not move in either direction. The trailer was in a position, so when a train came by it would crash into the propane trailer and most certainly blow up.
One man immediately ran across the street and tried to find a front-end loader or any big piece of equipment that might be able to move the trailer. A second man ran for the phone. He dialed 911 and reported the stalled trailer on the tracks to the Mt Shasta 911 operator. The operator immediately called the Dunsmuir crew dispatcher for SPRR. The dispatcher on duty quickly called Bobbie Baker the Eugene Dispatcher, Bobbie in turn called Tom Barney the engineer and told him to stop his train right now.
Tom did as instructed and when the train came to a stop there was less than 100 feet between the train and the propane trailer. Mt Shasta area, is right in the forest and there is no way the crew of that train could have seen the trailer before it was to late. I have often thought, what would have happened if one of those phones would have been busy, and the call had been delayed? Only Bobbie Baker the train dispatcher in Roseville could talk directly to the train. What if the engineer had hesitated before applying the brakes? What if the crew had decided to do 40 MPH through Mt Shasta instead of 25 MPH. The difference of time between the two speeds is less than five minutes. This would have
put them there right after the trailer got stuck.
The rest of the story is: Cross petroleum is across the street from the propane plant, where thousands of gallons of gasoline are stored. The propane plant had two jumbo rail cars on the spur and two giant storage tanks next to the track, all full of propane. Mt Shasta Hospital is located about 200 yards from the propane plant. Sometimes we do not know what affect our decisions have on other people. I for one, am glad the crew decided to
obey the rules and make righteous decisions.
One day I was reading Calvin and Hobbes in the comic strips. In the cartoon, Calvin is in the front of a little red wagon and Hobbes is hanging on for dear life as they speed down a mountainside. Calvin says, “Ever notice how many decisions make chain reactions? Well, each decision we make determines the range of choices we’ll face next. Take this fork in the road, for instance. Which way should we go? Arbitrarily, I choose left.” Hobbes looks scared to death as Calvin explains, “Now as a direct result of that decision, we are faced with another choice: should we jump this ledge or ride along the side of it? If we hadn’t turned left at the fork, this choice would never have come up.” Then we see the little red wagon sailing through the sky and Hobbes comments, “I note, with come dismay, you’ve chosen to jump the ledge.” “Right,” says Calvin, “and that decision will give us new choices.”
by Elizabeth Cottrell
It was a beautiful September day with warm sun shining. It was even still warm enough to water-ski, but I was sitting in seminary. It was only the beginning of the year, but I was already anxious to finish high school and seminary forever.
*And this scripture I want you to mark with a V.I.S.,* said Brother Eliason, my seminary teacher. It was Genesis 39:9 [Gen. 39:9], and I automatically colored in the scripture, emphasizing ** how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?* We skipped to verse 12 and darkened ** fled, and got him out.* Then I wrote V.I.S. in the margin, which was Brother Eliason*s code for *Very Important Scripture.*
He told us about Joseph*s situation and how it took a great deal of strength for him to run away from Potiphar*s wife. Joseph knew he was in a situation where he needed to have made his decision beforehand. Then Brother Eliason said, *If you ever remember a scripture in your life, remember this one.*
*Then why did you tell us last week that we have to memorize 40 of them?* someone wisecracked from the back of the room. The bell drowned out Brother Eliason*s answer, and we all filed out of class.
Soon, that day was over, then that week, the month, and then the year. I was planning to go to school in the fall, but my plans changed drastically when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She and my stepfather and I moved to a small apartment in Houston to be close to the hospital she needed.
CHOICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
My stepfather and I took turns driving Mom to the hospital. The chemotherapy made her terribly sick, and soon she lost all of her hair. She had been a strong woman who had survived the death of a husband and the problems of blending two families, so to see her like that was very depressing for me.
I enrolled in a community college to take classes and get out of the house, and it was there that I met Ron. He was the friend I needed, and we soon started spending all of our time together. He was older, although he*d never been married, and he had a nice sports car, a house, and a boat. He was not a member of the Church.
It was easy to forget my problems at home when I was with him, because we did so many fun things together. He even came to church with me regularly. But soon he was suggesting that we spend the night together, since that was the way his relationships usually progressed. I repeatedly told him about my religious conviction against this, but he didn*t give up.
I needed a friend, and I mistakenly continued to see him. I started to weaken at the same time I knew being with him was wrong. I was weak and vulnerable, and it became easier to ignore the Spirit.
Then one night, in one of my weakest times, I started to rationalize. I believed that Ron loved me, and I knew he could take care of me. I suddenly felt very secure in his arms. Then I heard a voice in my head that said, ** fled, and got him out.* I was startled that I would remember that phrase after all that time. Then the voice seemed to come even louder, ** fled, and got him out.* Without another thought I literally fled from the room and the situation.
When my head cleared, I could see how close I had come to making a mistake that would have changed my life forever. I could see how Satan used my emotions to cloud my judgment, and I could also see how one scripture had saved my life.
I often wonder if Brother Eliason knew the impact of what he was teaching us on that ordinary fall day. I am thankful for him and for both a Heavenly Father and an earthly father that love me more than Ron ever did. And I*m thankful for the scriptures*especially for the one I remembered so well.
CHOICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
As I kissed my mother good-bye and went out the door, I would look longingly at my comfortable spot in front of the heat vent and find that the cat had repossessed it. How I envied that cat! If that weren*t enough, she would look up at me with heavy eyelids and an expression as if to laugh at me and say, *Have fun in school, Glenn. I*m sure glad I*m not a human!* I hated it when she did that!
However, an interesting thing would happen as the day went on. I would come home after experiencing the joys and sorrows of the school day and see that lazy cat still curled up in front of the vent, and I would smile and say to her, *I*m sure glad I*m not a cat.*
To those of you who are inching your way closer and closer to that great and spacious building, let me make it completely clear that the people in that building have absolutely nothing to offer except instant, short-term gratification inescapably connected to long-term sorrow and suffering. The commandments you observe were not given by a dispassionate God to prevent you from having fun, but by a loving Father in Heaven who wants you to be happy while you are living on this earth as well as in the hereafter.
Compare the blessings that come from living the Word of Wisdom to those available to you if you choose to party with those in the great and spacious building. Compare the joy of intelligent humor and wit to drunken, silly, crude, loud laughter. Compare our faithful young women who still have a blush in their cheeks with those who, having long lost their blush, try to persuade you to join them in their loss. Compare lifting people up to putting people down. Compare the ability to receive personal revelation and direction in your life to being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. Compare having the blessings of the priesthood of God with anything you see going on in that great and spacious building.
The members of many churches in the world have been putting pressure on their leaders to change doctrine to fit the changing life-style of the members. Many have been successful, and more and more we see churches made up of the doctrines of men. There are absolute truths of eternity. They do not change as a society drifts from them. No popular vote can change an absolute, eternal truth. Legalizing an act does not make it moral. Don*t be fooled by the argument *Everybody*s doing it.* Your spirit should be offended and your intelligence insulted by such reasoning.
When all of the evidence is in, the world*s graduate school of hard knocks will teach what you young people were taught in the kindergarten of your spiritual training, *Wickedness never was happiness* (Alma 41:10). Why wait for finite man to prove what his infinite Creator has already revealed to his prophets?
I know how much you like thrills, adventure, and excitement. Do you want excitement? I*ll give you excitement. Do you realize you are outnumbered in the world 1,000 to 1? The sons of Helaman didn*t face those odds. As the winds of popular opinion intensify and the mocking increases from those who are trying to justify their own unrighteous actions, you will be required to put on the full armor of God. You will need to fight with all of your strength to keep unspotted from the world. We plead with you to stay true*not for us, but for you.
With odds of 1,000 to 1, shall the youth of Zion falter? I give a firm testimony. No! Never! The youth of the kingdom will emerge victorious. Now that*s exciting! What adventure in that great and spacious building would you trade for the thrill and excitement of building the very kingdom the Savior will come to the earth to govern?
CHOICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
THEY*RE NOT REALLY HAPPY
Bishop Glenn L. Pace
When our children were younger and we would be on our way to Sunday church meetings, occasionally we would pass a car pulling a boat. My children would become silent and press their noses against the windows and ask, *Dad, why can*t we go waterskiing today instead of to church?*
Sometimes I would take the easy but cowardly way out and answer, *It*s simple; we don*t have a boat.* However, on my more conscientious days, I would muster up all the logic and spirituality available to a patriarch of a family and try to explain how much happier our family was because of our Church activity.
I first realized I wasn*t getting through when on a subsequent Sunday we saw a family laughing and excited as they loaded their snow skis onto their car. One of my teenage sons said with a sly grin, *They*re not really happy, huh, Dad?* That statement has become a family joke whenever we see someone doing something we cannot do. When I see a teenager driving a beautiful, expensive sports car, I say to my sons, *Now there*s one miserable guy.*
You young people are growing up in a most challenging and confusing world. Activities always forbidden by the Lord and for many years frowned upon by society are now accepted and promoted by that same society. The media serves up these activities in such a fashion as to make them look very desirable. Add to acceptability and desirability the power of peer pressure, and you have an extremely explosive situation.
Lehi*s vision of the tree of life is appropriate for our day. In that vision, he saw a great and spacious building, which represents the pride and temptations of the world:
*And I * beheld * a great and spacious building; *
*And it was filled with people, both old and young, * and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who * were partaking of the fruit* (1 Ne. 8:26-27).
Even though you have a testimony and want to do what is right, it is difficult not to be drawn to the great and spacious building. From all appearances, the people in the building seem to be having a great time. The music and laughter are deafening. You would say to me what my children have said, *They*re not really happy, huh, Dad?* as you watch them party.
They look happy and free, but don*t mistake telestial pleasure for celestial happiness and joy. Don*t mistake lack of self-control for freedom. Complete freedom without appropriate restraint makes us slaves to our appetites. Don*t envy a lesser and lower life.
When I was in junior high school, I would get out of bed on cold winter mornings and head for the heat vent to get warm. The family cat would always beat me there, so I would gently shoo her away and sit down. Soon my mother would tell me it was time to leave for school. I would look out at the icicles on the house and dread going out into the cold, let alone begin another day of school.