“Winner!” Friend, May 2002, 4


Based on a true story

Stand by your conscience, your honor, your faith (Children’s Songbook, page 158).

“Ready … set …”

I heard Mom’s voice prompting the Cub Scouts as I peeked in from the doorway of the cultural hall. The ten boys in her Bear den were matched into pairs, standing back to back with their elbows linked. I could sense energy and tension pent up in their nine-year-old bodies.

Dad spied me in the doorway. “Hi, Temberly!” He started walking toward me, and I blushed because everyone was looking in my direction to see who was interrupting their fun. Even though the boys were two years younger than me, I still felt embarrassed. Dad wrapped his arm around my shoulder and gave me a quick sideways hug.

“Go!” Mom shouted, and the boys began pushing and straining against each other. I figured out right away what they were trying to do. Each boy was pushing against his opponent, trying to force him to cross a masking-tape line about ten feet away. Whoever crossed the line, lost. Little did I know, I’d have my own serious wrestling match that very afternoon.

Dad walked back closer to the group. “That’s it, keep pushing, don’t give up!” he yelled several times, coaching the red-faced Bears. I noticed that Sister Brandt wasn’t there. She was the assistant den leader, but she’d had a baby last week. I assumed Mom must have asked Dad to help her out. He was smiling widely, obviously enjoying helping with the boys.

Eventually there were five winners and five losers. My brother, Warren, was one of the losers. He was unhappy, but Dad mixed up the pairs of boys and told them all to try again. This time some of the losers became winners, including Warren.

I could tell that Dad was trying hard to make sure that everyone had a fun time. He wasn’t a member of the Church—yet—but I loved him, anyway. He had watched Mom, Warren and me get baptized last year after being taught by the missionaries.

Because it had been a long day of testing at school, I didn’t want to hang around. Mom was busy explaining the next game, so I turned to Dad and asked, “May I walk home?”

He seemed concerned. “Now?”

“I want to get started on my homework. And I’m really hungry, too.”

“I don’t like the idea of you being at the house by yourself,” Dad fussed, hoping I’d change my mind.

“I promise I’ll lock the door behind me.”

“Well, all right. We should be done here in about twenty minutes. But ring the foyer phone once for us so that we know you got into the house OK. Do you know the number?”

“It’s on the ward phone list. Thanks!” I said excitedly, feeling suddenly a little older and more confident in taking responsibility for myself. I turned and walked through the silent foyer and out the double doors. Our house was less than a block away, and I jogged all the way there.

At home, I followed up on my promises to lock the door and ring the phone at the meetinghouse. I was really thirsty at the moment, and something cold and wet sounded good. I went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.

That’s when I saw them. The lighting inside seemed to draw my attention to the six cans of beer, right beside the milk jug. At that moment, I was faced with a fierce temptation, an inner wrestling match: my gospel standards versus sinful desires. I just stood there and stared at the appealing-looking cans. I wondered what beer tasted like. My dry mouth needed quenching. It would be easy to open one, try a sip, then throw it away when I was done. Who kept count of how many cans were in the fridge, anyway? No one would ever know.

Who was I kidding? I knew who would know what I’d done. Me. More importantly, Heavenly Father and the Savior would know. That’s too many of us, I decided. I slammed the refrigerator door shut and repeated the words from My Gospel Standards we had been memorizing in Primary, “I will not partake of things that are harmful to me.” Trembling, I went to my room and lay on the bed.

Temptation, my powerful opponent, had tried to push me to step over a line my spirit knew I shouldn’t cross. I sat up and opened the blinds in the window above my bed and let the late afternoon sunshine fill the room. Deep inside, I felt as bright and glowing as the sun’s rays coming through the windowpanes. I was the winner!

After dinner, Mom loaded the dishwasher and Dad and Warren watched baseball on TV. I had gone back to my bedroom to finish my math homework. I decided it was time to ask Dad to help me.

“Dad?” I leaned my head out of the doorway.

“Am I in demand?” He tilted his head to the side to hear my answer.

“I need a greater brain than mine,” I replied, trying to sound exasperated. I watched him stand up, stare at the screen a few more seconds as a batter struck out, then walk down the hall toward me. My smile waned as I saw him carrying a beer can in his hand. He set it down on my desk. I could smell the beer, and I wished he had left it in the other room. We worked together until the fifteen math problems were solved.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re very welcome, Tembers.” I liked his nickname for me. “Is there anything else you need my intelligence for, before I finish watching the ballgame?”

The moment had presented itself, just as I’d hoped. “Dad, why do you drink beer?”

“Where did that question come from?” He looked surprised and embarrassed.

I took a deep breath and confessed, “This afternoon when I was home by myself, I was tempted to drink some and it scared me.”

He eyed me seriously, “But … you didn’t?”

“No.” I looked straight into his eyes and saw relief on his face.

“I’m proud of you, Temberly,” Dad said sincerely. “You made a wise choice today. I knew that as you and Warren grew older, this would be an issue we’d need to discuss. I didn’t realize it would come up so soon.”

“Oh, Dad, I don’t like having that stuff in our house. I know you don’t drink a lot—just when you’re watching ballgames. But when will Warren be tempted to try it? …”

“Tembers, you can be pointedly honest sometimes.” Dad ran his hand through his dark hair. “I suppose, deep down inside, I already knew you felt this way. I’d appreciate your love and patience with me as I try to find the willpower to quit.”

I wiped the tears off my cheeks with the back of my hand and rubbed it dry on my jeans. I felt the Holy Ghost strengthen me, and I found the courage to say, “Today, I heard you tell the Cub Scouts to ‘keep pushing and not give up.’ Can I keep pushing you about this?”

“Yes, Coach,” he said, squeezing my hand before he left the room. I was startled when he suddenly leaned his head back in the doorway and said, “Don’t ever give up.” He winked.

I smiled to myself. Dad hadn’t exactly promised to stop, but somehow I knew he was a lot closer to it. And that hope made me feel like a winner … again.

[Choose the Right]

Elder L. Tom Perry

“I hope and pray that you young people will have the courage to consistently choose the right. Moreover, I suggest that each of you find or create reminders to help you and your loved ones choose the right … , not only for peace and happiness in the world right now, but also for peace and happiness eternally.”
Elder L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
(Ensign, November 1993, page 68.)

Illustrated by Brad Teare