A trip I took to New Zealand with some close friends was a great experience in every way, but the repercussions of one particular moment strengthened my testimony of the importance not only of being honest, but of repenting in this life.
We were to return home from New Zealand in three days when I backed into a parked car in our hotel parking lot. The damage was minor, scraping off a square inch of paint on the other car’s left rear side. But my heart sank as I thought of my responsibility and of the four dollars I had left to my name.
No one except a friend accompanying me had seen the accident, as it was late at night. A series of thoughts went through my mind as I walked to my room:
“This sort of thing happens all the time, and no one ever worries about it. No body damage was done to the car. No one could possibly know who had done it. I don’t have any money. What if this person tries to take advantage of the situation and charges me hundreds of dollars for a new paint job?”
I entered my room and immediately got down on my knees, intending to ask Heavenly Father to let me know that not doing anything about the situation would be all right. But the second I closed my eyes, I knew I couldn’t ask Heavenly Father to condone something that was wrong. Instead, I quickly asked him to help me do what was right.
Without even waiting for the answer I had known all along, I immediately got up from my knees and wrote a quick note explaining what I had done and where the damage was. I included my room number and asked the owner to please contact me. I slept well that night, realizing that the result didn’t matter: somehow I would make the appropriate amends for my actions.
The next morning, a very nice-looking man knocked on my door, the note in his hand. He quickly let me know that the damage was nothing to be concerned about and that he was surprised and pleased that anyone would have bothered to leave a note.
“Are you sure?” I asked, explaining that I wanted to do the right thing. He reassured me that I need not worry about it, and left.
What would have happened had I not taken these steps? I never would have been able to make amends to that man. One month later while watching a similar accident on television with my family, I received another reward besides that of peace of mind.
“That’s what I did in New Zealand,” I said to my husband, who was already familiar with the incident.
When my oldest daughter asked what I had done about it, I seriously explained that it was late at night and that, since no one had seen me, I went to my room. My list of rationalizations followed.
“Mother,” she said, looking me straight in the eye, “I know you, and you would never do that!”
Her faith in me made me eternally grateful I had repented of my error while in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s like repentance in this life instead of the next: restitution for my actions was fast and physically easy because the man and car were right there. I could simply ask him what I needed to do—and do it.
Had I tried to repent later, the process would have been longer and more difficult because I never could have made restitution. I would have had to find another way through much prayer and deliberation. I am grateful that I repented quickly of my error and didn’t disappoint myself or my daughter.