I never knew that winning a championship baseball game could make me so miserable. Well, actually, winning the game felt great. It wasn’t until afterward that I began to feel miserable. Coach announced that the regional play-off was just five days away. On Sunday!
Until a few weeks ago, it wouldn’t have mattered to me what day the play-off was. Then Mom and I began meeting with the LDS missionaries, and we liked what they were teaching us. We were even reading the Book of Mormon. We had talked about keeping the Sabbath holy, and I didn’t think that playing in ball games—even regional play-offs—was doing that. But how I wanted to play in that game!
Dad and Mom ran to meet me on the diamond. They were as excited about the victory as I had been at first. “Son, you were fantastic out there!” Dad crowed.
“I knew you’d do it, Kimball!” Then Mom looked at me closely and asked if I was OK.
Dad answered for me. “Sure. He’s fine—just a little tired after a game like that. What he needs now is some celebrating. How about going to the Palace for a pizza?”
I didn’t worry about the game for the rest of the evening—no one worries about anything when Dad is around. If I ever want to be cheered up, I go to him. But if I ever need help with problems, Mom is the one I talk to.
While waiting for our pizza, Dad “interviewed” me. Picking up a breadstick, he pointed it at me, saying, “Don’t be afraid of the microphone, young man. Speak right into it and describe exactly how you made that fantastic catch.”
That night, when Mom came in to say good night, all my concerns returned.
“All right, Kimball, out with it. Something happened at the baseball game, didn’t it?”
“Coach told us that regional play-offs are this Sunday—when we talk with the elders.” Dad had agreed to let us meet with the elders as long as we did it on Sundays, and in the front room (so that we would be out of his way). To Dad, church or anything religious was for Sunday. He didn’t want it interfering with the rest of the week.
Mom sat down on my bed. “What’s on your mind?”
“Well, would it be wrong for me to play that one game?” I hit my pillow. “I just don’t know what to do. Could the elders tell me?”
Mom looked thoughtful. Then she said, “Kimball, I’m glad you care so much about doing what’s right.” She asked me to read 1 Nephi 16:17–32 [1 Ne. 16:17–32] and discuss it with her in the morning.
The next morning after Dad left for work, I helped Mom clean up the breakfast dishes. “Kimball, what did you get out of those verses?” she asked.
“Well, one time Lehi and his family were traveling in the wilderness and needed food. Nephi was hunting and broke his bow, and since his brothers’ bows were broken, too, he made himself a new one.”
“Then what did he do?”
“He didn’t know where he should go to hunt, so he asked his father, Lehi.” All of a sudden I knew what Mom was getting at, and it scared me. “You think I should ask Dad about playing ball on the Sabbath?” I wasn’t sure he even knew what the Sabbath was!
“Why not, Kimball? He’s your father, the head of our family.”
“Mom, that worked for Nephi—his dad was a prophet. But Dad doesn’t know anything about religious stuff.”
Mom got out the Book of Mormon. “Kimball, read verse 20 to me.” She pointed. “This part.”
“‘… and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God,’” I read.
“So even Lehi was complaining. Does that sound like the way a prophet, or a father, should act?”
I shook my head.
“But Nephi went to him anyway and asked him where to hunt. And you know what? Lehi was sorry for complaining and for not behaving like the head of the family should. He repented and made himself worthy to get an answer from the Lord so that he could give Nephi an answer.”
Then I saw that to my mom, this wasn’t just about playing ball on Sunday. It was about trying to help Dad begin to change—like Nephi had helped his father to get back on track. When the missionaries had talked to us about the plan of salvation and temples and sealing and things like that, Mom’s eyes had been shiny with tears. Now I realized just how much she wanted Dad to be a part of it. I wanted it too. “OK, Mom. I’ll give it a try.”
I still wanted to talk to the elders, though, so I called Elder Adams and told him my problem and what Mom had said. He just told me what a wise mom I had. Since he wasn’t going to tell me what to do, I had to gather my courage and ask Dad.
That night after supper, as Mom headed for the kitchen to get dessert, she looked straight at me. I took a deep breath. “Dad?”
“Aye, me mate,” he answered in his best Australian accent, which didn’t make it any easier to get serious.
“My championship game is coming up, you know, and I’m wondering if I should, well, maybe not play in it.” Dad looked shocked, so I hurried and added, “Well, it’s on the Sabbath—I mean, Sunday—and I don’t know what to do.”
“Ah, a spiritual matter. Have you talked to your mother?” he asked, a little amused.
“She said I should get your advice.”
“Oh? What about those two young men? Isn’t that what they’re for—to solve the world’s problems? Did you talk to them?”
“Yes. They said I should talk to you, the head of our family.” I was sort of embarrassed to say that last part, but I thought it might help to point it out to him.
Dad was quiet. Finally, pulling the water pitcher to him, he stared at it and said, “Let’s take a look in our trusty crystal ball. Now, to play? Or not to play?” He studied the pitcher for a long time. “The crystal is cloudy. Maybe I need to change the water or something.” He shrugged. “Sorry, son. I just don’t know. Talk to Mom about it again. Here she comes now, with an awesome dessert.”
That was the end of our talk, the talk that was going to help me make my decision and to bring us closer together as a family. Dad had joked his way through it. I managed to keep back the tears of disappointment and embarrassment until I got to my room. Then I prayed. It helped some to ask Heavenly Father to help me not be mad at Dad and to know about playing on Sunday.
Mom came to my room before I went to sleep. She tried to comfort me, but she was as disappointed as I was. When I told her that I had decided not to play the game, she felt a little better. I didn’t, exactly.
The next morning, I told the coach that I wouldn’t be playing in the game because it was on Sunday. I could tell that he didn’t agree or even understand. But on the way home, I had a nice, peaceful feeling and I knew that I had made the right choice.
None of us mentioned the game again until Sunday morning. Dad looked out the window and commented on what a perfect day it was for a game. But he didn’t do his usual weatherman imitation.
That day at church, I figured the elders would ask me about my decision, but I didn’t see them at the meetings.
Pulling into our driveway after church, we saw their bikes in front of our house. Before, whenever they beat us home, they waited for us on the porch. But they weren’t there. We walked in and heard voices—not from the front room, our usual place, but from the family room. Dad was with the missionaries! On the end tables were scriptures, pamphlets, pictures, and glasses of lemonade.
As Mom joined Dad on the sofa, he squeezed her hand, smiled, then looked at me. “The other night, Kimball, you gave me the shock of my life by asking for my opinion on Sabbath ballplaying. I was caught off guard. I felt bad that you wanted spiritual advice and I couldn’t give you any. I responded the only way I knew how, by joking. I apologize, son.”
Dad paused. I’d never heard him speak this long without cracking a joke.
“I figured that the elders could solve your problems easier than I could, so I was even more surprised when you said that they told you to come to me. Then, when I realized that they cared more about helping our family than gaining converts, I was impressed.”
Elder Adams interrupted. “Your wife gave Kimball that counsel first, sir.”
Dad looked at her in surprise.
“It was something I picked up from Lehi and Nephi in the Book of Mormon,” Mom said, winking at me.
“Well,” Dad went on, “when I saw that this church wants to build me up as the father in the home, I decided to hear what they have to say. That’s when I called these two young cyclists and caught them before they took off for the ‘Tour de France.’”
Mom spoke up, “Why don’t we continue this discussion over some lasagna. It’s in the oven, just waiting for us.” Eagerly we started for the kitchen.
As I set the table, I thought about Dad calling the elders and about his apology, and I thought, Dad might have some Lehi in him, after all.
Then I started thinking about Lehi and his family. They had a hard life in the wilderness. I wondered if Lehi ever joked around with them, just to help make their lives a little happier. Dad would have done that, I thought. Grabbing a breadstick, I spoke into it. “Listen, everyone. I want you to meet my dad—a modern-day Lehi!”