Not Bad

“Not Bad,” New Era, Jan. 1992, 34

Not Bad

Dad has a bad habit, but he’s not a bad man. How dare they judge him!

“Today we’re going to talk about temple marriage,” my Mia Maid teacher said, smiling sweetly. I braced myself. It was going to happen—again.

Whenever subjects like temple marriage or the Word of Wisdom came up, someone always seemed to mention my dad, who was both non-LDS and a smoker. Many times he had even been used to illustrate the point.

Two hours later, still flushed and embarrassed from the class comments, I walked home.

My dad has a bad habit, but he’s not a bad person, I thought angrily. How can they judge him when they don’t really know him?

That night after church, I looked up some scriptures on judging others and found just the one I was looking for: “But … as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, … hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter” (D&C 10:37).

I read the words over and over again, and each time I felt angrier and angrier at the ward members.

This scripture is proof that I’m right and they’re all wrong, I thought angrily.

I pictured myself at the pulpit quoting this scripture and setting everyone straight. No doubt, the congregation would be moved to repentant tears. I could hardly wait until testimony meeting next Sunday.

But during the week, my anger began to wear me down. It was too great a battle for one person to fight.

How can I take on the whole ward? I worried.

By Sunday, I’d formulated a better plan—one that would really show my resentment. I’d stay home with my dad on Sundays.

As my mom and sisters got ready for church, I put on sweats and an attitude and plopped down in front of the television with my dad. Mom was upset, but I was sure Dad would be on my side.

After everyone had left, he asked why I was home. I told him everything, including how harshly he was being judged by some ward members.

He just sat there for a moment. Then he asked if the Church was important to me.

“Of course,” I said.

“Do you believe it’s true?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s true,” I said, wondering what he was getting at.

“If it’s true, then you should never let what someone says or does keep you away. Besides, I thought Mormons weren’t supposed to judge,” he said, nudging me playfully.

“Hold your peace,” the words from the scripture rang in my head. It suddenly seemed to apply more to me than to the ward.

In my anger, I had forgotten that people make mistakes and sometimes say things that hurt, though they don’t mean to.

Perhaps I had judged the ward members unfairly, I thought. Next Sunday I would go back to church.

All my life my father had been teaching me honesty, respect, hard work, and love, but that afternoon he taught me to forgive.

Photography by Steve Bunderson