I lived in Salt Lake City for nine years, and all my friends were members of the Church. I got the idea that just about everybody was a Mormon. I was always taught to choose good Mormons for my friends, and finding them was never a problem. But then my family moved to Virginia and things really changed.
Our first Sunday there I found there weren’t any fellows my age in my ward. That whole summer I shot baskets out on my driveway by myself. Finally at the end of the summer, two new boys moved into the ward, and we became good friends.
In September I really felt alone when I found out I was the only Mormon in the freshman class in high school. My two Church friends went to a different school, but almost every day after school we would get together. If it hadn’t been for them, I would have been really lonely.
At first I didn’t try to make friends at school because I was uncomfortable around nonmembers. They had different habits and beliefs. But when I became involved in sports, I began to make friends at school. Soon everyone knew I was a Latter-day Saint. My nickname came to be “Mormon.” Everywhere I went someone would say “Hey, Mormon!” or “How’s it going, Mormon?” Soon I became very used to the fact that to my school friends I was “The Mormon.” I was proud of the fact that I was a Latter-day Saint, so my nickname didn’t bother me at all.
Because everyone knew I was a member of the Church, I had a great responsibility to set the right kind of example. It wasn’t always easy to do this. I was on the varsity football and track teams. If you have ever been in a locker room, you know what kind of bad language and shenanigans often go on. I always watched myself to see that I never took part in anything I knew was wrong.
Soon everyone came to know I didn’t smoke, drink, tell dirty jokes, or swear. After I began dating some of the girls at school, they all soon learned that I tried to carry my Church training into every facet of my life.
Still most of the activities I participated in were with my Church friends. I didn’t hang around with school crowds too much except in classes and practices because their morals were different from mine. When I did go out with them, I found they got most of their excitement from smoking, drinking, and being immoral, so I stayed around my Church friends.
One day one of my closest school friends came up to me and said, “Dayle, you’re one of my best friends, but what do you ever do for excitement?” That statement really made me think. It helped me realize that even though I was trying to live God’s commandments, I wasn’t setting a good example because I never showed my nonmember friends how much joy you can have from living the commandments. To my school friends it seemed like I had a boring life because they had never seen me having fun.
After thinking about this for awhile, I set myself a new challenge. I was going to show my school friends there were more fun ways than theirs of having a good time. I wanted to show them it wasn’t really necessary to smoke, drink, tell dirty jokes, or swear to have a great time.
I started by inviting everyone to go swimming after track practice one night. We all had fun cliff diving, swimming, and rope swinging. Later I had a few get-togethers—without liquor—at my house after some of our football games. I invited some of the kids to the Church dances. Now and then I went on double dates with some of them and had really good times. I tried to set an example by being with them and showing them how I enjoy life.
After awhile I got very close to some of the kids at school. They were really great friends. They respected me for my beliefs, and I didn’t ever look down on them for what they did. A couple of them even made up a song during my senior year. Whenever I walked into the locker room, they would bunch together and pretend they were the Tabernacle Choir. Half of them would stand in a row on the locker room bench and the other half would make a row on the floor. The leader would hum to get them in tune and then, directing with his hands, would say, “Ready, begin.” They would sing a song that went like this:
After each performance I would just turn red and laugh with them. That tune really helped me remember who I was.
At the end of the season, one of my friends who had made up the song told me that he respected me for living my religion, and he wished he was that strong. It made me feel great to hear him say that. I told him it wasn’t a matter of strength; it was more a matter of getting into certain habits and resisting temptation.
I never converted any of my friends, but I showed them that you really can be happy living God’s commandments. Maybe someday the missionaries will come to their doors and reach them. I hope they remember the fun and active lifestyle that is possible through living a clean life.