True at All Times


F. Melvin Hammond
An accident had left me weak and discouraged. But watching those beavers rebuild their dams time after time taught me a great lesson.

I was 17 years old and on top of the world. I had a university basketball scholarship, money in the bank from a hard summer’s work, a motorcycle and a pickup truck to drive, and all the aspirations of a typical teenager. Two months later I lay in a hospital bed with my body broken and my dreams shattered.

It was a motorcycle wreck—a head-on collision. No one was at fault. It was a stormy night. The driver of the car never saw my motorcycle coming. For two months I lay in bed. Then for six months I moved about on crutches. Weak and discouraged after months of inactivity and desperately needing money to continue my education, I began searching for summer employment.

I took a job with the railroad. Our crew was to patrol and repair a 15-mile stretch of track in a remote area called Little Warm River. Pine trees covered the mountains. Dozens of small streams meandered through the meadows. Large culverts had been placed under the railroad tracks to allow the streams to run freely, but beaver colonies would dam up each stream at the head of the culvert, creating a large reservoir with enough water pressure to wash out the tracks.

Volunteers were asked to crawl through the culvert and tear away the beaver dam, allowing the water to flow freely again. I always volunteered because no one else would, and, frankly, I rather enjoyed it. It was thrilling as I picked away at the dam, knowing that at any moment the water would break through and sweep me along with it head over heels, finally dumping me unceremoniously into the stream 15 yards away. There were times when I thought I would surely drown as I bumped along, submerged in that mighty flow of water and debris.

The next morning, as we would make our daily inspection, we could see that the beavers had already started to rebuild their dams. Within a short time, they would be totally reconstructed. It didn’t matter how many times we destroyed those dams, the beavers never seemed discouraged but steadily kept at their task. Those animals taught me a great lesson about never being discouraged, especially with things I could not control.

Steady and constant

I loved that summer. The work was hard and sometimes I was homesick, but I recovered from the effects of that terrible motorcycle wreck. My body became strong once again. In the evening after work I walked those timbered mountains. I sat near those beaver dams with no other human being within miles to disturb my meditation. I had many solitary moments to think about the importance of being steady and constant.

We are all faced with challenges that test our courage and strength. Perhaps it is the awfulness of drugs. Some are caught in the web of immorality. Others struggle just to be honest. There may even be times when we feel that our parents contribute to our problems. Maybe in our eyes they don’t measure up to our personal standards of righteousness. On the other hand, they might be so committed to the Lord and His church that we feel they overlook our desires and needs.

I am reminded of a group of young men. Their parents had covenanted with God that they would never take up arms, even at the expense of their own lives. Finally when freedom and life were threatened by invading armies, the young men, who had not made the same covenant, volunteered to fight in place of their parents. Led by the prophet Helaman, they fought ferociously, vanquishing every foe. Every one of them was wounded, but not one was killed.

“And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20).

I am impressed with the words “true at all times.” Helaman did not have to worry if they would show up. He was not concerned about some of them surrendering before the battle began. They did not blame their righteous parents for causing them to suffer injury and pain. Rather, they “did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives” (Alma 56:47). Although the fighting was awful and they were terribly outnumbered, those young men could be counted upon.

An agonizing decision

I know of young people today who demonstrate a similar commitment. Tara had recently moved from the United States to a foreign land. She was petitioned by the local high school coach to come out for the basketball team. It was not likely she would get much playing time as the team was already formed, but it would give her experience for next season. Then one of the regular players was injured, and Tara was thrust into a more prominent role. The schedule of games was presented to the team. To Tara’s dismay one of the most important games was scheduled on Sunday. Tara discussed the problem with her parents. They assured her of their trust and told her this was her decision.

The next day she approached the coach and explained that as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she was counseled not to participate in school activities on Sunday. The Sabbath was a sacred day for worshiping God. Could she be excused from playing that one game? The coach was sympathetic but wondered why an exception could not be made for the good of the team.

It was an agonizing time. As the new girl, it was important to be accepted. The team knew she could make a difference. What could she do?

All night long Tara wrestled with the decision. She knew who she was and how much she loved the Savior. There was really only one decision. She would not play on the Sabbath. In the morning she told her parents. They assured her all would work out for the best—and it did. The coach accepted her decision. He understood how important her convictions were to her. Tara would be excused from playing on that Sunday, but they needed her for all the rest of the games. She was an important part of the team.

Tara had proven to herself what it means to be “true at all times.”

Shiblon’s example

Every mission president prays he will have missionaries who are steady and true. One such missionary anciently was a young man named Shiblon. His father Alma said to him, “And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments” (Alma 38:2).

This great missionary son had already brought joy to his father for his work among the Zoramites. It also appears that Shiblon never did disappoint Alma, but continued constant to the end. “And he was a just man, and he did walk uprightly before God; and he did observe to do good continually, to keep the commandments of the Lord his God” (Alma 63:2). What a grand tribute!

Becoming the solution

John the Revelator wrote these words of the Lord, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15). To be lukewarm is to be someone on whom we cannot depend. To be hot or cold, on the other hand, is to be predictable.

In the mission field, the most dependable missionary is not the “flash” who runs hard one day and the next is too exhausted to leave the apartment. Nor is it the missionary who teaches 50 discussions one week and then coasts for the rest of the month. It is the steady, hard-working missionary who makes the difference, the one who can be counted on day after day to give his all—like Shiblon. The miracle is that nearly all of the wonderful young men and women called to serve in the mission field fit this model.

Think of the power in the Church if every member were to attend every meeting every Sunday. Think of the faith produced if every member were to worthily partake of the sacrament. Think of the knowledge obtained if every young person graduated from seminary. Think of the peace obtained if we always controlled our temper. Think of the strength generated if every young man and young woman honored the priesthood and prepared for the temple. Think what it would mean if we were the solution to the problem rather than the problem.

How important it is to make our own decisions for right, to be steady, constant, and true at all times. Not only can we make such decisions, but we will! I know we will!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull