Scott (name has been changed) had every excuse to stop coming to church. His mom never went. When his alcoholic dad wasn’t in prison, he wasn’t around, so he wasn’t going to take Scott to church. His two younger sisters went to Young Women sometimes but weren’t really interested.
The only reason Scott had been going in the first place was because his family was living with his grandma, who would wake him up for priesthood every Sunday. But when he turned 16, Scott’s grandma died, and his family moved away from the only bishop Scott had really connected with.
It would have been easy for him to just not show up anymore.
But Scott didn’t stop going to church.
“I felt good at church,” Scott says. “I felt the Spirit there. I knew that’s where I was supposed to be, so I kept going.”
He didn’t realize it at the time, but when Scott decided to keep going to church, even though it seemed he had every reason not to, he changed my life and affected hundreds of others.
Scott went on a mission, even though there was no way he or his family could pay for it. By then his dad had left the family. But, supported by ward members, Scott served a faithful mission. He taught hundreds and baptized dozens.
After returning home, he married in the temple. He served as elders quorum president, Young Men president, and bishop, blessing the lives of hundreds of ward members and their families.
He and his wife had their own family, where his influence was perhaps more strongly felt. It was there that his four children gained their own testimonies of the gospel. In large part because of his faithfulness, the three oldest have served missions—together having taught more than 1,000 people and baptizing more than 100. Scott’s youngest son is now serving a mission.
Forty years after Scott made the decision to be faithful, people are still being affected by his decision. I know. He’s my dad.
Scott’s decision was like a rock tossed into still water—the ripples continue to move outward through generations, touching not only the lives of those around him but the lives of their children and their children’s children.
Those ripples are now moving into the third generation as I look into the eyes of my two-year-old son, who, because of my temple marriage, can be part of our family forever.
I have wondered what would have happened if my dad had simply chosen not to go to church anymore. Would I have come to know the Savior? Would I have served a mission? Would I have married in the temple? Would my son be facing a future without the blessings of the gospel? Those are questions I’m glad I don’t have to answer.
What I have learned is this: 14-year-olds are changing the world every day, usually without realizing it. When I was 14 and faced with decisions, I wasn’t thinking about how I was affecting others. But now I understand that every choice I make is like throwing another rock into the water—others will be affected.
I’m grateful my dad made the decisions he did. I hope that my children and their children will be able to say the same thing about me.
Too Many to Count
You never know how the decisions you make will affect others. But the story of Abinadi (see Mosiah 11–17) is an example of how doing what’s right, even when it’s hard, can affect many lives for good.
Abinadi’s testimony to wicked King Noah cost him his life (see Mosiah 17:20), but changed the life of one of the king’s priests, Alma the Elder (see Mosiah 18:1), who at the time was “a young man” (Mosiah 17:2).
Alma the Elder
Alma helped bring into the Church about 450 of King Noah’s people (see Mosiah 18:35). They joined the Nephites at Zarahemla, where Alma became the high priest of the Church and baptized many more (see Mosiah 25:18). His son was Alma the Younger (see Mosiah 27:14).
Alma the Younger
Alma was the Nephites’ first chief judge and high priest of the Church (see Mosiah 29:42). He helped convert more than 3,500 people and converted many more during later missions to Nephite cities. Alma’s sons served missions as well. His oldest son was Helaman.
Helaman, Son of Alma
Helaman kept the records and was one of the high priests of the Church (see Alma 46:6). At about 73 B.C. and again about 54 B.C., he reestablished the Church after years of war (see Alma 45:22; Alma 62:46). He led the 2,000 stripling warriors. His son was also named Helaman.
Helaman, Son of Helaman
Helaman kept the records of the people as well. He became chief judge of the Nephites. During his righteous rule, “tens of thousands” joined the Church (Hel. 3:26). He had two righteous sons, Nephi and Lehi.
Nephi and Lehi, Sons of Helaman
Nephi was chief judge before leaving to preach the gospel with Lehi. These brothers were such powerful missionaries that most of the Lamanites were converted to the gospel (see Hel. 5:50). Nephi turned the records over to his son, Nephi.
Nephi, Son of Nephi
Nephi became a great prophet. He taught and baptized many in the wicked days before Christ’s coming, even raising his brother from the dead (see 3 Ne. 7:15–26). He was chosen as one of Christ’s 12 disciples when the Savior appeared (see 3 Ne. 12:1). The disciples helped convert all the Nephites and Lamanites after Christ’s coming (see 4 Ne. 1:2).
Abinadi’s teachings and example affected countless lives over the years, from Alma the Elder to Nephi. These men didn’t just affect the lives of their converts. Those people likely affected others, including their own children and children’s children, who also affected others. You never know how many people will be affected by what you choose to do. So make sure you choose the right.
“The influence of your personal testimonies is ever so far-reaching. …
“You can make a difference.” —President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “You Make a Difference,” Ensign, May 1988, 43.