I believe in the power of example.
Several years ago I attended Oak Canyon Jr. High in Orem, Utah. I was twelve and wanted to fit into some group and feel accepted like everyone else. I naturally found myself seeking to be popular. In the ensuing months I made many friends. Some were good, but most were somewhat rebellious. I tried hard to imitate them, but also stand out so everyone knew who I was.
I often followed the crowd, doing things that I thought brought happiness (dating exclusively and attending indecent parties or dances). This happiness though, was temporal and died out quick like a firework shot up into the air only to quickly burn out. I resorted to this way of life for about two years and then wondered why the fun and games never lasted. I was so excited in the moment, but afterwards felt as if I had been pushed off a cliff into obscure water. I began to question this momentary pleasure and often asked myself how I could find true happiness that lasted longer than a few hours.
In the midst of my questioning, I met Stacy Bartholomew who always seemed to be happy no matter her circumstances. She loved and accepted me despite my low standards. When I gossiped or swore she didn’t condemn me, but politely changed the subject. When I tried to borrow her answers on a test, she courteously refused. I wondered how she could be so happy when she didn’t have a boyfriend or even care to have one; she didn’t attend late night parties or dances and never broke any rules. I tried to understand why rebellious activities weren’t important to her.
One night, near the end of my 8th grade year, I slept over at Stacy’s house. She pulled out The Book of Mormon, sacred scripture that is part of my religion, and silently read from it before we went to bed. I lay there on the floor thinking, She is happy because she reads this book and lives by it. Maybe if I do the same I can be happy like her. That summer I read The Book of Mormon all the way through for the first time. I learned about faith, humility, repentance, love, and forgiveness. I began obeying my parents and speaking kind words to them. I threw away all my immodest clothing, discontinued my swearing habit, and resisted steady dating. I started loving and serving others, paying attention in church, and obeying the commandments because I wanted to. I came to understand they gave me more freedom and happiness. My priorities fell into place and I discovered true joy. Everything good that has happened in my life, I can trace back to that experience. Stacy’s example may seem small and insignificant, but for me, it changed my life. I will be forever grateful for the simple example of a friend.