Hidden Choices

“Hidden Choices,” New Era, Oct. 1986, 17

Hidden Choices

No matter how well we think we cover our thoughts and decisions, the time will come when they’re exposed.

They say everybody loves a party, and I guess that is generally true, if it’s the right kind and with the right friends. You do have to choose carefully though, for a wrong choice can be embarrassing. I know I’m a lot more careful about the kinds of parties I go to now, especially since the accident. I’m a police officer and do have some type of professional image to maintain. But, nevertheless, awhile back my wife talked me into attending a Police Association Halloween party.

She had planned what was sure to be a prizewinning costume for us, and as reluctant as I was to wear it, she won the day and I agreed that we would go as “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Our costumes were quite simple, consisting of two pair of long thermal underwear, dyed to fit our characters—a gray pair for Nancy and a bright green pair for me. A cardboard shell and a funny cap completed my rig while a cute cotton tail and a pair of ears rounded out hers. It was a little distressful but fun, and we did win a prize.

Not long after the party, on Thanksgiving Day, I was riding my police motorcycle on traffic patrol duty. It was a beautiful day, but the weather was cold and I was dressed warmly with high motorcycle boots and breeches, a leather jacket, and earmuffs in my helmet. I would be glad when my shift ended at 2:00 P.M. that afternoon and I would be free to join my family for a special Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to check traffic on 9th East and had just stopped my motor on a side street to watch, when—Zipppppp—a nearly new car went zooming by at a very high rate of speed.

My foot punched the gear lever into low as my fingers released the clutch and cranked the throttle open. The bike jumped forward and I was in pursuit. “Get a clock first on his speed,” I thought, as I rapidly accelerated and stabilized my speed with that of the car. Forty-eight. Forty-nine. We were steady, and I punched my speedometer lock, which would keep it set at the clocked speed. Noting the distance we had traveled at that rate, I prepared to make the stop. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves, and simultaneously pushed the red-light switch with my thumb, screwed the throttle full on, and pushed down the siren pedal with my heel. The powerful cycle leaped forward, siren screaming. The cold fall air bit deeper into my cheeks, and my eyes began to water as my speed reached 55, then 60 miles per hour.

I was still perhaps a quarter of a block behind the speeder and gaining rapidly, when suddenly I saw a movement from the side of the road. A dark small car, having stopped at the side street stop sign, had let my violator pass and was pulling into the street right in front of me. The driver had failed to see my speeding police motorcycle in spite of my lights and siren and had pulled right into my path.

Instant reflexes took over. Throttle off, brakes on hard, weight shift smooth to the left and front wheel turned hard to the right to put the motor into a broad slide. Training I’d been through many times before on a dirt field and at much slower speed could now perhaps save my life—if I remembered it and did it correctly. The idea in such an emergency was to lay the motorcycle down so that it was sliding toward the object, wheels first on its crash bars. If the rider can stay on and hold the bike down, the wheels and engine will protect him from death and reduce his injuries.

So far, so good. I was in the broad slide, and my speed was down to probably about 45 miles per hour. The driver of the car had seen me at last and had stopped abruptly in the center of the lane. My skidding cycle shot past the front of his car, missing him by inches. I was going to make it. I relaxed. What a mistake. When I did so, my heel released slight pressure from the brake, allowing the wheel to turn. It caught the pavement and flipped the motorcycle hard to its opposite side. The effect of this acted upon me like a giant catapult, and I was thrown into the air head first, arms outstretched, still moving probably 40 miles per hour. I must have looked like a great ungainly bird sailing along for a moment, and then the pavement was slamming into my chest and arms and I was sliding and skidding along the road.

Still sliding, I realized that I was now on the wrong side of the roadway and that other traffic was coming at me. A car was very close, and I could see the driver. His eyes were wide with surprise and indecision. I could see his white hair, and I just knew he was old and probably had reflexes which would let him run right over me before his foot got to the brake.

“I must get turned around and hit him feet first,” I thought. “At least I won’t be killed, just seriously injured.” Somehow I did it. In the few seconds left before impact I turned on the roadway and the crash ended as my posterior hit the oil pan of the old gentleman’s car and my motorcycle came to rest between a tree and fire hydrant nearby.

All was very quiet for a moment and I lay very still, afraid to move, feeling great waves of nausea and pain come over me. Then people came from everywhere to help. There were sirens in the distance, and soon helpful persons had pulled me from beneath the car and were trying to determine the extent of my injuries. My uniform was torn and my leather coat had holes worn in its sleeves and, oh, did my bottom hurt.

Then it happened. Right there on that public street the ambulance crew began stripping away my uniform to check my injuries and, in front of everyone, exposed to view the brightest green thermal underwear you have ever seen. I was mortified and embarrassed. A police officer is supposed to be manly and maintain an image of strength and decorum at all times, and suddenly my secret was exposed to the world. I couldn’t explain about the costume party and the fact that I only had one pair of thermals to wear on a cold November day. My secret was exposed to the world, and when I got to the hospital, those nurses didn’t help my ego any with their snickers and whispers either.

I have shared my motorcycle experience with you to illustrate a very basic and simple fact regarding our lives and the choices we make every day: no matter how well we think our thoughts and actions are hidden and secret, the time will come when all will be exposed for the world to see.

Being free to choose for ourselves what we will do is one of the great gifts that God has given his children. Satan tried to take away this agency and was cast out because of it. That’s how important it is to our Father in Heaven. Satan has been working hard ever since to use our free agency against us.

He is very cunning in his approach, as the Prophet Nephi pointed out in a sermon to his people. He told them, “And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Ne. 28:8).

What Nephi was trying to warn the people about is a process which we call “rationalization.” It is a defense mechanism which persons can use to help make them feel better about what they do and think. It helps us to justify what we do, and it also aids us in softening the disappointment connected with unattainable goals. We sometimes use rationalization to hide away faults, failures, or even sins, just as my uniform hid away the green thermal underwear.

When I was about nine years old, I obtained a summer job working on a farm. Most of the other boys on the field gang were older, and when I went to work the first day I noticed that everyone had a pair of leather work gloves. My hands were soon sore from my labors, and I knew I just had to have a pair of gloves like the others. I also knew gloves like those cost four or five dollars, and it would take several days to earn enough money to buy them.

That evening I went into the local market to check the price of the gloves. As I examined and tried them on, Satan began to use his influence on me. “I need these gloves right now,” I thought. “If I take them, they will never be missed, and then after I get paid,” I rationalized, “I will come back and pay for them.” It sounded logical and perfectly all right.

This is how rationalization sometimes works. I had decided that my supposed need would justify stealing the gloves. I had been in the store for quite some time trying to get up my courage, and finally I stuffed the gloves under my shirt and began to leave the store. Suddenly I thought, “I must buy something or they will suspect me,” and so I picked out the only thing I could see quickly that I could buy with a quarter. It was a pocket comb, not a very good choice for a kid with a crew cut. I went to the counter and, with sweaty hands, paid the clerk. I could feel the gloves scratching against my stomach, and I thought he would never close the cash drawer and let me leave. Finally it was over, and I started for the door. Just as I reached out to push it open I felt a large but firm hand take hold of my shoulder, and the store owner said, “Dave, didn’t you forget about the gloves under your shirt?”

My heart sank to my toes, and suddenly all the “good” reasons I had had for my act were gone. My captor called my father to come to the store, and my process of repentance began. I had learned a valuable lesson which I never forgot. That is how Satan works with this rationalization business. He can make things that you know are not right sound okay under the circumstances. He will use other people to try to persuade you, and on many occasions you will really feel that opposition that Nephi spoke about.

Your friends may encourage you to disobey your parents by staying out later than you should, or you may be tempted to try a little beer or puff on a cigarette, thinking that you will repent right away and the Lord will understand. After all, you don’t want to be embarrassed or make your friends angry by not joining in. It’s true that, upon true repentance, the Lord does forgive the sins we commit, but a sin which is committed with full knowledge that it is wrong is much tougher to overcome and will stay with you a long, long time. If you want to avoid the pitfalls of rationalization, you should make a major decision now. Decide that your choices will always be measured according to the guidance our Father in Heaven provides through prayer, scripture study, and the counsel of wise leaders and parents.

Remember when the Prophet Joseph Smith went into the Sacred Grove to pray for the first time, how an “astonishing influence” came over him so that he could not speak and “thick darkness gathered around [him], and it seemed to [him] for a time as if [he] were doomed to sudden destruction” (JS—H 1:15). This is the power of Satan, which strives continually to cloud our minds and to discourage and confuse. The choices he influences do not always have a bearing on what is right or wrong, but may reflect upon how we achieve and how we think about ourselves. We may rationalize by saying, “I am too shy to ever be a missionary. I could never go talk to strangers.” When we think poorly of ourselves or of our talents, Satan is working and perhaps winning, but remember his dark influence is always subject to the Spirit of God as the Prophet related, “Just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound” (JS—H 1:16–17). The light which dispelled the darkness for the Prophet will work for you also.

Your leaders and parents will try to teach you the truth and set a good example for you, but in the end your own choices are what will determine your destiny. We can’t keep our secrets hidden forever, and one day all that we have sought to hide will be exposed to view. I don’t know about you, but I want my thermal underwear to be snowy white on that special day.

Photography by Grant Heaton

Everyone else had a pair of sturdy work gloves, and my hands would be raw without them. I rationalized that my supposed need would justify stealing them. I planned to pay later anyway. But those good reasons disappeared when I felt a hand on my shoulder.