A trip I took from my home in Arizona to New Zealand with some close friends was a great experience in every way. But the lasting impact 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 drove my rented car into another vehicle in our hotel parking lot. There was very little damage; a tiny piece of paint scraped off the other car. But my heart grew heavy as I thought of my responsibility and of the four dollars I had left in my purse.
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 real 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 to have his whole car painted?”
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 approve that which 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 hotel room number and asked the owner to please contact me. Then I went out to the parking lot and put the note on the damaged car. I slept well that night, realizing that the result didn’t matter: somehow I would be able to take the appropriate actions.
The next morning, a very nice-looking man knocked on my door holding 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 what was right. 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.
“Mother,” she said, looking me straight in the eye, “I know you, and you would never do that!”
Her faith in my 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, but 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.