Little Decisions

“Little Decisions,” New Era, Feb. 1972, 5

The Message:

Little Decisions

A. Theodore Tuttle

President Tuttle

It may surprise you, but I don’t think there are any big decisions in life. There are only a series of minor decisions, the aggregate of which makes us what we are.

Why do I say that? Here’s one reason: I knew a boy who faced an unexpected and challenging decision. He faced it at the end of the summer in the year he turned fifteen. He had just returned home after working all summer on his uncle’s farm in another part of the state.

It was the first sacrament meeting he had attended since returning home. For some reason, he was detained a few minutes after the meeting. When he found his friends, they were standing in a group just outside the church building. As he approached, he noticed that they were concluding some kind of agreement. When he joined them, he was met with a seemingly innocent question: “Are you going in with us on it or not?”

“On what?” was his reply.

“On a half gallon of beer.”

That answer really shook him. He was not ready for it. His group had always been good kids. This question was completely out of character, he thought. But things were not as he remembered them. He had spent his summer away from his pals, and this had kept him more or less as he was. Something, however, had happened to change his friends. They seemed more grown up and worldly. This surprise made him falter before answering their question. It’s strange how many things can go through your mind in a flash: These were his friends. They were not enemies. He knew each one well. He had sat in Primary and Sunday School classes with them. They had sung songs together. Some of them had been ordained deacons the same Sunday. They had passed the sacrament together scores of times. Their school activities had brought them close. With some of them he had built toy airplanes and scooters and played rubber guns. They had hiked and worked and played together. Why should this simple question threaten this choice association?

Pressure from friends and acquaintances our own age is tremendously powerful! There is a desire to want to be “one” with friends. Besides, who wants to be a sissy, afraid to join in the fun. What’s more, if he didn’t join them, he would be one against the crowd.

But even with all of these ideas running through his head, another idea impressed itself even harder on his mind. There was one reason that stood out against all that seemed so appealing: It was not right. From somewhere within him came the courage to say, “No, I don’t think I will.”

The group turned away and strode across the street toward the beer hall, intent on carrying out their plan. My friend was left standing—alone. I’m sure he did not think of the Lord’s statement, “It is not good for man to be alone,” but he certainly understood its meaning in a new and personal way. He came to understand the truth of that statement in the days that followed and to see why all of us need true and loyal friends who believe and live as they should.

Even though he was fifteen—going on sixteen—tears came to his eyes as he walked home. His mother, sensing that something was wrong, asked, “What has happened?”

He blurted out the short experience.

“You’ve done right, my son” she reassured him.

“I wish I were as sure as you are,” he answered.

“You made the right decision,” she repeated, “and you’ll see. You will be blessed.”

The days that followed this incident were not especially happy ones. It took readjustments to establish his equilibrium. There followed a process of establishing new friendships. There was the inevitable heartache at school when conversations would grind to a stop as he joined his former group. There were moments of loneliness as he walked between the high school and the adjacent industrial arts building. What was formerly spontaneous fun and youthful sport changed to a subdued good humor. There were some obvious moments in basketball practice, too, when he would be in the clear and call for the pass, only to be ignored while another person was sought out to receive the ball.

But that all passed as everyone knows it will. Time is the great eraser. It dulls the former sad moments. It smooths hurts and salves wounds.

It was not long until former friendships were reestablished, although on a different basis than before. In a little more than a year, this young man was elected seminary studentbody president. The next year he was elected high school studentbody president by his friends. Two years later he entered the mission field, the only one of his class to do so. One classmate went on a mission the following year, but his other friends never did.

This young man has since fulfilled many calls to service and responsibility in the Church. Other tests of his integrity and moral standards have come into his life—as they come into the lives of us all. But few such tests have been so well-remembered or have made so lasting an impression on his life.

In a rather undramatic situation, he chose the right. And his mother was right, as mothers generally are. Her promise was literally fulfilled: “You’ll see. You will be blessed.”

Illustrated by Richard Hull