My friend Jorge reached across the table, offering me a sip from his glass of champagne. I was surprised by his offer. He knew I was a Latter-day Saint and drinking alcohol was against my beliefs. I politely shook my head, indicating that this time, like all previous times, I would pass.
He brought his hand to his forehead and exclaimed, “¡Pero es nuestra graduación!” (But it’s graduation night!)
Yes, it was graduation night. And in Ecuador, this was our night to celebrate. The evening had begun with a formal dinner for our entire families. A bottle of champagne had been placed in the center of each table, and well-mannered waiters had served an excellent meal. After dinner, those of us who had just graduated danced a waltz with our father or mother.
Eventually all the parents left, and only the graduates and our friends remained. It was around midnight when Jorge approached me and offered me some of his drink. Jorge felt that just this once wouldn’t do me any harm, especially considering the event was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion and everyone was expected to have a drink.
I simply replied, “I know it’s graduation night. That doesn’t matter.”
All through high school, I had been invited to drink and smoke, but I had always refused, explaining that my religion taught me drinking and smoking were harmful. My friends usually did not persist after the explanation, but I never knew how they really felt about my turning them down.
To my surprise, Jorge smiled, extended his right hand, and shook mine. All he said was “I really admire this about you,” and he walked away.
Later, while reflecting on what happened that night, I remembered the counsel President Gordon B. Hinckley has given us to “stand for something” (see “True to the Faith,” Ensign, June 1996, 4). To Jorge and my other friends, I had stood for something. I realized that often we may think our efforts to do the right thing make us unpopular. While that may be true in some instances, for the most part, people take note and see Latter-day Saints as people who stand for something worthy of admiration.