Appearances


Based on a true story
Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thes. 5:22).

It was a warm fall day in 1961. Bobby and his friend Jeff were walking home from a Cub Scout den meeting. Bobby was feeling good. It had been a fun meeting. They had talked about the Cub Scout Promise. Their leader let them draw pictures on a chalkboard to show what the Cub Scout Promise meant to them. Bobby had drawn a picture of a smiling Scout taking out the trash. That was how he could “help other people.”

“What did you draw?” Bobby asked Jeff. “I forgot.”

“I drew a Cub Scout going to church,” Jeff said. “He was doing his ‘duty to God.’”

“Oh, yeah.” Bobby looked down and noticed chalk dust on the sleeve of his uniform. He brushed it off. He was proud of his uniform. When he wore it, he felt like someone important. He tried to take good care of it.

Jeff thrust his hand into his pocket. “Hey, what is this?” He pulled out a long stick of chalk. It was the chalk he had used to draw on the blackboard at Scouts. “Oops. Guess I’ll have to return this next week.”

Bobby reached for the chalk. “Give it to me for a second.” He put the chalk between his index and middle fingers and brought it up to his lips. Then he looked away and pretended to blow smoke. “Who do I look like?” he asked, repeating the action.

Jeff laughed. “The cowboy guy on that billboard ad.”

“Yeah, look at me. I’m cool.” Bobby strutted around, puffing on his chalk stick. Just then a car drove by and honked. The car was full of teenagers who waved at him and cheered.

“Who are they?” Jeff asked. “Do you know them?”

“No,” Bobby said. “And I don’t want to. They are the tough kids at the high school.” Bobby handed the chalk back to Jeff. “Here. You keep this.”

They walked home in silence.

When Bobby walked through the front door of his house, his mother was waiting for him, arms folded. “Sit down, Son,” she said. “We need to talk.” They sat on the couch. “I just got a phone call from Sister Jensen. She was on her way home from the store and saw you and Jeff standing on the corner. She said you were smoking cigarettes.”

Bobby moaned. “It was chalk, Mom. We were just pretending. Honest.”

“Where is the chalk now?”

“Jeff has it. We accidentally brought it home from the den meeting. You can ask him.”

“I will. But first I want to know why you would pretend to be smoking.”

Bobby squirmed. “Well I thought it would make me feel cool. Like that guy on TV.”

“Did it?”

“Just for a minute. Then I felt really stupid.”

“I didn’t think you really had been smoking,” Mom said, putting her arm around Bobby. “But can you see how even looking like you’re doing wrong can get you into trouble? The Apostle Paul taught that we should avoid the very appearance of evil.” *

“That’s only half of it, Mom. While I was pretending to smoke, some obnoxious teenagers drove by and cheered. I felt dirty and ashamed. Why did they do that? I’m not like them. I never want to be like them.”

“But they thought you were. Which is another reason to avoid the appearance of evil. Evil attracts evil. If people making bad choices think you are doing bad things, too, they’ll encourage you to keep doing worse things. You want good friends who will encourage you to do your best.”

“D.Y.B.” Bobby smiled. “Do your best.” That was the Cub Scout Motto and something Bobby’s mother said to him every morning when he walked out the door. “But what do I do now, Mom? Do I need to repent? I didn’t really do anything wrong. I just pretended.”

“I think you still need to undo any wrong impressions you gave. Why don’t you call Sister Jensen and apologize for acting the way you did?”

Bobby sighed. “OK.”

“And from now on, try to be so good that there will be no doubt in the minds of those teenagers what you really stand for and whom you follow. And return the chalk, of course.”

“Of course.”

“And tell Jeff what you learned from all this. By the way, what did you learn?”

“Well, my Primary teacher once told us you can’t do bad and feel good.”

“That’s true. In the Book of Mormon, Alma taught, ‘Wickedness never was happiness.’”

“But I’ve learned that there’s even more to it than that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve learned that you can’t even pretend to do bad and still feel good.”

[Choose the Good]

President James E. Faust

“My strong advice is, if there is any question about your personal conduct, don’t do it. It is the responsibility of prophets to teach the word of God—not to spell out every jot and tittle of human behavior. Our moral agency requires us to know good from evil and choose the good. If we are trying to avoid not only evil, but the very appearance of evil, we will act for ourselves and not be acted upon.” President James E. Faust Second Counselor in the First Presidency (Ensign, November 1995, page 47.)

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young