Defending His Name
February 1997

“Defending His Name,” Ensign, Feb. 1997, 68

Defending His Name

It was game four in the final series of the 1992 National Basketball Association (NBA) championship. I was especially excited because I had a date with my husband to go in person to the coliseum to join the excited crowd and cheer our team on.

We felt the pulse of the arena as we took our seats and the game began. The reader board flashed, music played loudly, and cheerleaders danced; the building rocked with enthusiasm. However, the excitement I felt soon faded. A woman sitting behind us began using the name of Jesus Christ to express her anger each time a player missed a basket or the referee made a call she didn’t agree with. As the game progressed, so did the intensity with which she defiled the name of the Savior.

Our team was down by 14 points, but the sadness and frustration I felt stemmed mostly from the stream of obscenities coming from behind me. As I sat there feeling troubled, I remembered the story of President Spencer W. Kimball and how he had felt great sorrow as he was being wheeled from surgery by a hospital orderly who was profaning the Lord’s name. President Kimball had pleaded with the man to stop. The man did stop and even apologized. (See Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr. [1977], 264).

When I could bear it no longer, I turned around and, without saying a word, just looked at the woman. Her face was full of anger. She gave me an icy look and yelled, “What?”

Relying on the courage of President Kimball, I said, “I’m sorry. It’s just that it hurts me when you use his name to express anger and disgust.” Her face turned ugly as she said, “Well, excuse me! If you don’t want to hear it, maybe you shouldn’t be here!”

I said nothing, but turned around and tried to ignore the sting of her words. Tears blurred my eyes, and her angry words echoed in my mind. I wondered, Is she right? Should I not be here? Is there no place left to go in public where the Lord’s name is not defiled and used in vain?

Our team pulled ahead in the scoring. I tried to concentrate on the game. An entire quarter of the game had passed when I became aware that the atmosphere had changed. I suddenly realized that she was no longer using the Lord’s name in vain.

We were in the final three minutes of the game when a time-out was called. I felt I should turn around and speak to her. With a prayer in my heart, I turned and touched her on the arm. She looked down at me, and I said, “Thank you.”

“For what?” she replied.

“You haven’t said it anymore, and I appreciate your consideration.”

Then her face softened, and she leaned forward and said, “I’m a Christian too. I didn’t mean anything by it; it’s just something I say. I talk like that all the time, and I don’t even think about it—but maybe I should.”

We smiled at each other and turned back to the game. All the sorrow and pain I had felt turned to joy as I clapped and cheered. Others were cheering for a basketball team, but I was cheering for a much more important reason. The game ended, and I turned around to say good-bye to her. She reached down, hugged me, and whispered, “Thank you, and God bless you!” I hugged her.

Our team did not win the championship, but it really didn’t matter. While the final score was soon forgotten, I’ll never forget the lesson I learned that night at the NBA.

  • Sheron S. Gibb of the Tigard First Ward serves as a counselor in the Relief Society presidency of the Tualatin Oregon Stake.