The Camera and the Conscience
June 1989

“The Camera and the Conscience,” Ensign, June 1989, 69–70

The Camera and the Conscience

My friend Bob had to do a lot of persuading in order to get another Marine to loan him his new camera to take to a servicemen’s conference in Japan. But Bob assured him that he would take good care of it, and the Marine consented.

We were stationed in Vietnam at the height of the war. For months the Latter-day Saints in our battalion had looked forward to this conference, and Bob wanted to take the camera along.

Our departure from Vietnam was hectic, with lots of red tape and much confusion. Two of the men in our small group could travel only if space was available, and we were all grateful for the two extra seats on the huge jet bound for Japan. The Spirit was mindful of us! At last we were on our way.

For three days we attended meetings, talent shows, dances, and other social activities at the conference, held at beautiful Mount Fuji. After months of exposure to the ugliness of war, we enjoyed the kindness of the members and appreciated the spiritual uplift of hearing a General Authority speak. Battle-hardened men shed tears in some of the meetings because of the great joy they felt in the fellowship of other Saints.

As we neared the end of one of our last meetings, Bob quietly excused himself to return to the hotel and get the camera, which he had left in the room we had shared.

When he returned, we could tell by his expression that something was very wrong. He said that he couldn’t find the camera. I reassured him that it had to be in our room and told him to look again.

He was even more visibly upset when he returned the second time. He knew where he had left the camera in the room, and he knew that it was gone. Locks to hotel room doors were not common then, and both of us realized the possibility of someone entering our room and taking the camera. We knew what a burden it would be to try to replace it on his corporal’s pay, especially with a wife and two small children to provide for. Our elation of the three previous days was gone, and our good feelings were replaced with regret and misgivings.

Bob said that he would pray about the matter and ask the kindly hotel manager if he had noticed anyone carrying that particular kind of camera.

The meeting was over when Bob returned again, this time smiling, with the camera in his hand. He related what the hotel manager, in his halting English, had told him he had seen: an American had come downstairs into the lobby carrying the camera. He had then sat down and looked at it for a long time, as if he were contemplating something or wrestling with himself. Suddenly he had stood up, placed the camera where the manager could retrieve it, and departed.

Since the only Americans in the hotel at the time were those attending the conference, the manager assumed the man was one of our group.

The servicemen’s conference had uplifted all who had attended it—including, quite possibly, a young man who, though tempted to steal a camera, had ultimately obeyed his conscience.

  • Warren Johnson, a meetinghouse custodian, is stake employment specialist in the Smithfield Fourth Ward, Smithfield Utah North Stake.