Church-Ball Champ


How can losing feel like winning? When I played basketball the way a priesthood holder should play.

As my body hit the gym floor, a flood of mixed feelings swept through me. A numbing pain throbbed in my left temple, and I wanted to punch something … or somebody—number 11 in the black jersey, to be specific.

It had been a great game, the kind of Church basketball game that you look forward to telling college roommates about years later. We were the undersized, undermanned underdogs. Our opponents were priests, but they looked like men, sporting beards and bowling-ball-sized biceps. For three quarters they had manhandled us, and yet somehow the scoreboard showed us deadlocked at 33. Our pint-sized crew was still in the game.

After making a quick layup to tie the game, I was tightly guarding an opponent to prevent him from catching the inbounds pass when I saw number 11—all six feet four, 225 pounds of him. Suddenly, a massive elbow crashed into my head, sending me sprawling onto the carpeted gym floor.

And now, every fiber of my being wanted to hit him back. I got up quickly and glared at the giant, with every intention of sending a message of my own. He stood there, stone-faced, ready for a fight if that were the case. My natural inclination screamed at me to deck him.

But my eyes then focused past him to a poster on the wall. Our stake president had requested that a scripture be placed on the gym wall during the basketball season. The poster had part of Mosiah 18:9 on it: “To stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in.”

The words hit me harder than his elbow had. I, a priesthood holder, was responsible to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all places, not just on Sunday, not just at the sacrament table or in seminary. My actions portrayed my beliefs, no matter where I was or who was watching me.

We ended up losing that game. But before I left the court, I found number 11. I reached out my hand, and he shook it briefly. “Good game,” I told him, and I headed down the hall. We lost that game, but for the first time I felt I had truly won.

[illustration] Illustrated by Steve Kropp

Elder Tony Anderson is serving full-time in the Bulgaria Sofia Mission.