When my dad left and my parents divorced, I was devastated. I felt abandoned. Everything changed, including my attitude and my outlook on life.
Money, or the lack of it, became a major issue. My mom worked two jobs. When my best friend wanted me to go shopping, I was too ashamed to tell her we barely had enough money for food—let alone clothes.
Seeing how bad I felt, my mom taught herself to sew and made me a few outfits. As good as her intentions were, none of the outfits turned out very well. She made me a pair of pants that were not only too short, but they were such a bright color that I felt self-conscious. As much as I didn’t want to wear them or any of my homemade clothes, I also didn’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings.
The day I wore those pants to school still stands out in my mind as one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. Mike, one of the most popular guys at school, always took time out of his busy schedule to make fun of my homemade outfits. The day I wore those pants I gave not only Mike but everyone else something to laugh about.
As bad as things were at school, they were worse at home. With Dad gone and Mom working so many hours, my brothers and I were left in charge of the house, inside and out. To my horror, even though we were doing our best, we got anonymous notes about what a mess our yard was and what a disgrace we were to the neighborhood. I had to agree. Our home and yard did not look as good as the others. I was ashamed to invite friends over.
When I started early-morning seminary, things changed. They got better. I was introduced to someone I could relate to—someone who had problems worse than mine. The difference was that while I felt sorry for myself, he stayed close to the Lord and refused to complain. The person I’m talking about is Nephi.
Sister Mortensen, my seminary teacher, pointed out that no one escapes heartbreak or pain in life—not even Nephi. What made Nephi great was that he never lost hope or his testimony while he battled one problem after another. Nephi helped me realize that my biggest problem in life was not my parents’ divorce or my bright pants or things and people beyond my control. My biggest problem was my attitude, something I have complete control over.
Nephi’s family had their world turned upside down. Unhappy that their dad led them away from their home and possessions, Nephi’s brothers began to murmur and complain. Nephi, on the other hand, prayed for understanding.
Nephi’s brothers took a lot of their frustrations out on him. They hit him with a rod, bound him with cords, and even plotted to kill him. Hearing how violent they were toward Nephi made me realize how insignificant Mike and the bullies in my life were. What’s amazing is that while I felt nothing but contempt for those who were unkind to me, Nephi was patient and loving and “did frankly forgive them all that they had done” (1 Ne. 7:21).
While most of my friends didn’t say much about my family situation, one friend called to say her mother no longer wanted her to be friends with me. Her mom said people like me who came from families with problems were a bad influence. I burst into tears and after that spent many nights crying myself to sleep.
Nephi also admits to crying himself to sleep. He said, “Mine eyes water my pillow by night” (2 Ne. 33:3). The difference was that Nephi, during the day, continually prayed for his family, something that hadn’t occurred to me because I was too busy wallowing in my tears.
While Nephi came from a family with many problems, he remained true. His way of dealing with pain and anguish was to lean upon Heavenly Father.
Nephi never fell into Satan’s trap of thinking Heavenly Father’s love could be measured by how well things were going for him. Nephi proved that while we don’t always have a choice about the bad things that happen to us, we always have a choice about how we respond to these problems.
Nephi explained, “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Ne. 19:23).
“The holy scriptures [are] an unfailing guide in our lives. Become acquainted with the lessons the scriptures teach. Learn the background and setting of the Master’s parables and the prophets’ admonitions. Study them as though each were speaking to you, for such is the truth.”
—President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “A Time to Choose,” Ensign, May 1995, 97.