Mirthright: Volkswagen on a Snowball
October 1979

“Mirthright: Volkswagen on a Snowball,” Ensign, Oct. 1979, 66


Volkswagen on a Snowball

“Oof,” said twenty teenagers as we lifted the Volkswagen bug off the ground. But we were trying to keep the noise down. We didn’t want anyone to hear and ask embarrassing questions about our Sabbath activities.

The car belonged to a brother in the ward. I don’t remember why or when we started to tease him, but we spent a great deal of ingenuity coming up with new ways to vex him. This time it was perching his car on top of a giant snowball with all four wheels at least three feet off the ground.

We were admiring our work when we realized that some one was “admiring” us—our new bishop. The chill that passed through me put the cold Utah winter to shame. He was also my father.

A wind caught the tiny car and it rocked precariously back and forth. The bishop was not amused. “Get it off that snowball and back where you got it, now!”

We scrambled to obey, then listened in shame-faced silence to twenty-five minutes of one-sided discussion, on the pros and cons—mostly cons—of our behavior. After it was over, we individually and effusively apologized to the bishop and disappeared into the meetinghouse just in time for Sunday School. We were ashamed of ourselves—and scared.

Once we were through feeling sorry for ourselves, several of the older boys expressed their concern for me when I got home. The awful weight of being the bishop’s son fell heavier with each condolence.

Never have I walked home from church more slowly. After three hours of aimless deliberation, I decided to take it like a man. My hand faltered at the doorknob just twice and I entered hoping only for the dignity of being dealt with as an adult.

“Where have you been?” It was mom.

“Sorry I’m late.”

“Dinner’s in the oven, son. Your father had to go to a meeting so we ate without you.” That was all, no “Oh by the way, you’re grounded for a year.” Not even “I heard what you did to Brother Smith’s car.” Deciding that my father apparently wanted to handle this himself didn’t make me feel less tense.

Neither did my father’s reaction when he got home. He didn’t even mention it. I waited for the axe to fall. After a whole week, I was still waiting.

Finally, I couldn’t stand the torture any longer. After Sunday School, I went to the bishop’s office and, gulping, knocked on the door.

“Sir, I’ve been waiting a week and I can’t stand it anymore. Why haven’t you said anything to me about what we did to the car?”

The bishop smiled. “Well, I didn’t tell any of the other boys’ parents so I didn’t see any reason to tell yours.”

Dad was to become one of the greatest bishops I’ve ever known.

  • John Harmer, a U.S. Air Force instructor, serves as executive secretary in the Rantoul, Illinois, Ward.

Illustrated by Bob Simmons