Marcus’s Promise

Marcus’s Promise

“Congratulations, Marcus,” Mom said as we walked to the car. “You sure played a great game!”

“When you played your first game, did you think you’d be your team’s starting pitcher in the regional finals?” Dad asked as we started home.

“I guess I dreamed about it some,” I answered honestly, “but I didn’t really think it’d happen. I thought the Pirates would end up going again.”

Dad, Mom, and I relived the game, especially the ending with the Pirates close behind and their star player, Gary, up to bat. Everybody on his team was counting on Gary to win the game and send them to the regional finals. But Gary swung and missed each of my three best pitches, and we won the game.

“Oh, before I forget, Marcus,” Mom told me, “Sister Anderson wants you to give a talk in Primary a week from Sunday.”

Usually talking in Primary wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but this time I knew immediately what I was going to talk about. “I think I’ll talk about baseball,” I said.

“This is Primary, you know,” Mom pointed out, “not another baseball game.”

I grinned. “I know, Mom. I’m not going to talk about the game of baseball.” I explained, “I’m going to talk about how Heavenly Father has helped me this season. It hasn’t been easy to be the only member of the Church on the team. But I’ve tried really hard to do what’s right, and He’s helped me.” I paused. “I could feel Him helping me this afternoon. I wasn’t nervous, even when it was Gary’s turn to bat. I just said a little prayer, asking Him to help me do my best, and I knew everything was going to be all right. That’s what I want to talk about—how the Lord can bless us when we work hard and choose the right.”

During the next week and a half, our team worked hard to get ready for the regional games. The games were scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Friday I woke up to a gray, overcast sky. “You don’t think it will rain, do you?” I asked Dad as we drove to the field.

“The clouds will just make it nice and cool,” Dad said, trying to be optimistic.

But Dad was wrong. Throughout Friday and Saturday it rained off and on. Games were postponed, schedules were changed, and by late Saturday we were finishing the semifinal championship game. Our team was tied with the Tigers. We didn’t give up, though. The game went into extra innings, neither team able to get the advantage over the other. Then, with Bobby Simms on second base, I hit the ball to right field. Bobby raced around the bases, scoring the winning run.

After our team celebrated the victory, the coach gathered us around him. “Well, guys, one more game and we’re regional champs!”

“When do we play?” Chad asked.

“Tomorrow afternoon. The weather’s supposed to be good all day.”

“Tomorrow?” I asked. “Tomorrow’s Sunday.”

Coach Decker shrugged. “It’s too late to play tonight, so everybody decided to play Sunday afternoon.”

I felt sick. Nobody else seemed to care that we were going to be playing on Sunday.

“The game starts at 2:00 P.M.,” Coach Decker told us. “I’d like you here no later than noon. That will give us time to get ready for the game. Any questions?” He looked around the circle of eager faces. I felt worried inside.

As the group broke up, Coach Decker slapped me on the back. “Don’t look so glum, Marcus. We’re one game from the championship. You’re not nervous, are you? You’re going to pitch us to the championship.”

I tried to smile. “Do we have to play on Sunday?”

Coach Decker laughed. “No, Marcus, we get to play on Sunday.”

“I have church tomorrow,” I said quietly.

The smile on Coach Decker’s face began to fade. “Marcus, this is the championship. You can go to church any Sunday. But this is the only time you’re ever going to play this game. Now you head home and get a good night’s sleep.”

I slowly walked to where Mom and Dad were waiting for me. Looking at their faces, I knew they had heard about the Sunday game. They waited for me to speak. I was quiet until we got in the car.

“Church starts at 8:30,” I remarked. “It’ll be over at 11:30.” I hesitated. “I’d be a little late getting here for practice, but we could still go to church. I’d be able to give my talk in Primary.”

Mom and Dad were quiet for a moment. Then Dad said, “Do you feel good about that?”

“Dad, I didn’t want this game to be on Sunday. That’s just the way things turned out. If it hadn’t rained so much, we would have played the championship game tonight. I have to pitch in that game. The whole team’s depending on me. We’ll lose if I don’t. Tony’s the backup pitcher, and he can’t do it on his own. I have to play.”

“It’s a tough decision,” Mom commented. “You have to make sure you do what is right.”

“I’ll be going to church,” I said defensively. “Isn’t that what Sundays are for?”

“Is that the only thing Sundays are for?” Dad questioned gently.

“That’s the main thing.”

Dad took a deep breath. “The Lord has asked us to keep His day holy. We are to worship Him. Not just when we’re at church, but all day.”

“Sunday has always been a special day for us,” Mom added. “That’s the way the Lord intended it to be. That’s why we don’t go to movies or shop on Sundays. We’re careful not to do some things that we do on other days of the week.”

“But I can’t play this game any other day of the week,” I argued. “Do you think it’s fair for me to let Coach Decker and the team down? I owe them something.”

“Do you owe the Lord anything?” Dad asked. “You made a commitment when you were baptized to obey His commandments. That was long before you ever agreed to pitch for the Chiefs.”

“It’s going to be just one time, Dad. One time can’t hurt anything. Besides, the Lord has helped me this season. I know He has. That’s what I was going to say in my Primary talk. Did He help me all this time just so I could sit home and not play in the biggest game of the season?”

“Marcus,” Dad spoke again, “do you know what a covenant is?”

“Isn’t it like a promise?”

“That’s right. But it’s a special promise, a promise between you and the Lord. When you were baptized, you made a covenant to keep the commandments, including honoring the Sabbath. And the Lord has made a covenant to bless us if we keep His Sabbath holy.”

“But I’ve kept the Sabbath holy,” I argued. “This is just one time.”

“Maybe this is a chance for you to show the Lord that you will keep your covenant. Was it easy to keep the Sabbath holy last week?”

“Yes. It was just like any other Sunday.”

“So if you really wanted to show the Lord that you are obedient, which Sunday would show Him that—last week or tomorrow?

“Marcus,” Dad continued. “We’re not going to tell you not to play tomorrow. This is a decision you have to make.”

We didn’t say anything the rest of the way home. I did a lot of thinking, though. I thought about the team. I thought about Coach Decker. I thought about the championship trophy.

Then I started thinking about the Lord, my family, and everyone else who was depending on me to make the right decision. I thought of all the things the Lord had given me. I thought of what I could offer Him. Deep inside I knew the only thing I could really give the Lord was the way I lived my life—to show Him He can count on me, no matter what.

I offered a silent prayer, asking Him to help me know what to do and to have the courage to do it. After the prayer, there was no question in my mind.

“I need to call Coach Decker,” I said quietly as we pulled into our driveway.

“Do you want me to talk to him?” Dad asked.

In a way I did, yet I knew that wouldn’t be right. “No,” I answered softly, “I want him to know this is my decision.” Looking at Mom, I added, “And I think I’m going to change my talk for Primary tomorrow. I’m going to talk about keeping the Sabbath holy.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Mark Robison