Do I Believe?

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you … for my sake (Matt. 5:11).

Amber stared up at the movie theater marquee and tried to swallow the lump in her throat. Her stomach twisted this way and that. Why does this have to happen to me now that I’m finally making friends here? she wondered. Trish, Sarah, and Kristin are so popular that I’m lucky they invited a new kid like me.

There were several people ahead of them in the ticket line. Amber knew that she had only a few minutes to make one of the toughest decisions of her twelve-year-old life.

She ran her fingers through her hair and pinched her lips together as she looked around at the girls with her. Their eyes sparkled with excitement.

“Only Trish could have come up with such a great plan!” exclaimed Sarah.

Trish, a tall, thin girl, laughed. “Well, since Bambi and TeenAgent are playing here together, why not take advantage of it?”

“I’m not sure my parents would let me go to a PG-13 movie if I asked them,” said Kristin, shoving her hands down into the back pockets of her jeans.

“But what parent would say no to good old Bambi!” Trish observed with a mischievous giggle. “Bambi—what a bore! It’s OK for five-year-olds, but we’re almost thirteen. Why shouldn’t we go to a PG-13 movie?”

Sarah moved a few steps closer to the ticket office. “It’ll be perfect. We see the other movie, and our parents think we’re at the kid show. Amber, you’re going to love TeenAgent. My older sister saw it, and she said it was great. The only reason it’s rated PG-13 is the bad language and a little bit of violence.”

“But it’s nothing we haven’t already heard at school,” Trish put in. “And what’s the big deal about a little violence? I can handle it, can’t you?” she asked Amber. Turning to the other two girls she continued, “TeenAgent will run longer than Bambi, so we’ll have to really hurry over to the pizza parlor afterward. If we’re still eating when my parents come, we’ll just tell them that the restaurant was really busy and it took a long time to get our pizza.” With a crooked smile, she added, “They’ll believe us.”

Amber’s stomach twisted into another knot as she looked at Trish and thought, Why didn’t you tell me the truth when you invited me? Why are you putting me in this awful—she couldn’t think of a right word for a second—situation. The word triggered a memory in Amber’s troubled mind. “You’re going to be put in situations that will test your spiritual strength.” She could picture Sister Hansen, her last Primary teacher, saying those words. “You may find yourself in situations that demand that you lower your standards. Unless you have a firm testimony of Jesus Christ and His Church, your spiritual strength may give way under peer pressure.” Spiritual strength. Testimony. The words echoed in Amber’s mind.

Sarah was buying her ticket now.

Which is more important to me right now: following our prophet, or my new friends? Amber’s mind raced as she watched Trish step up to buy her ticket. Do I really, truly believe?

“Amber, it’s your turn,” Kristin whispered after she’d bought her own ticket. Trish and Sarah were standing to the side of the ticket booth, watching her.

Stepping up to the booth, Amber said in a confident tone, “One ticket for Bambi, please.”

Sarah gasped. Trish’s look of surprise quickly turned into a smug glare. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she said as Amber joined them. “We’re all going to the other movie. What’s the big deal? Don’t you think you can handle a little blood and bad language?”

“I’d rather see Bambi,” Amber answered in a firm voice.

“Your parents won’t find out that you …” Sarah faltered.

Amber shook her head. “It’s not their decision. It’s mine. And I just don’t want to see the other movie.”

“But what about going for pizza afterward?” asked Kristin, now standing next to Trish.

Amber turned to Kristin. She could see worry in her kind eyes. “Bambi gets out a lot earlier, so I’ll just call my parents to come get me. Maybe we can all go for pizza another—”

“Come on,” Trish interrupted, taking Sarah’s arm. “I guess I made a big mistake inviting her.”

Amber thought she saw a glimmer of understanding in Sarah’s eyes as she was whisked away by Trish. After two or three hurried steps, Trish turned and called, “Come on, Kristin, or we won’t get good seats.”

“I think I’ll go to Bambi, too,” Kristin said, her voice sounding apologetic. Turning to Amber, she added, “If that’s OK with you.”

“Great—just great!” grumbled Trish as she and Sarah disappeared into the theater.

“OK? It’s wonderful! But are you sure? They looked pretty upset,” Amber said.

Kristin shrugged her shoulders. “I’d rather see Bambi, too, but I was afraid to say so. Trish can be pretty persuasive sometimes. Let’s go exchange my ticket.”

Standing in line again, Kristin asked, “Why didn’t you want to go to the other movie? Were you afraid your parents would find out and ground you or something?”

“I’m sure they’d be hurt to know that I lied to them. But even if I had asked to go to a PG-13 movie, they would’ve said it was my decision. Then they would have had faith in me to make the correct choice.” Amber found it a relief to talk about it now. “I just didn’t want to see a movie with bad language and violence in it.”

“Why not?”

“Because our prophet, the leader of our Church, has counseled us not to go to movies that go against the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

“Boy, you must really believe your prophet and your Church,” said Kristin.

“I do, but I didn’t realize how much until today.”

Kristin shook her head a little. “I wish I could be strong like you. My family doesn’t believe in anything, and sometimes I feel so empty.”

All through the movie, Amber thought about Kristin’s words and the look in her eyes when she had said them. As the movie ended and the lights came up, she said, “Kristin, let’s call my parents to come get us. We can go to my house for some of my mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted them!”

“Do you think it would be OK with your parents?” asked Kristin.

“I’m sure it would. Mom always says, ‘When you have five kids, what’s one more?’ Besides, I’d really like you to meet my family. I have a feeling that we’re going to be good friends.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch