“We Had a Promise,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 65–66
Usually when I see a California Highway Patrol vehicle, I quickly check my speed and make sure I haven’t forgotten to buckle my seat belt. But on occasion tears fill my eyes as I remember a very special seminary teacher, a CHP officer, who saved my life and influenced me forever.
My teenaged peers in church were a rebellious lot, and unfortunately we demonstrated a lack of respect for our teachers. We were blessed with many great teachers, but even the best had trouble with us. We wore the label of a problem class, year after year.
In the ninth grade, I started my first year of seminary at the insistence of my goodly parents. My friends and I made the best of having to get up at such unreasonable hours to study religion. Since we were all pretty good friends, we kept ourselves entertained with gossip, jokes, and any topic unrelated to the lessons.
Our teacher that year had been recently baptized, with his beautiful wife and his young family. His zest and zeal for life were evident, and we felt he had been called by inspiration to teach our class. I had no idea until years later that my father, a stake missionary, helped bring the gospel to him and his wife.
The first couple of days, we thought he was just another teacher, but then we noticed a difference. When our class was rude, when our class ignored his well-prepared lessons, he showed no sign of frustration.
He knew how to handle us. He didn’t become upset but stayed in control. He was different—so different, in fact, that he was able to persuade a number of youth who never even came to church to attend seminary that year.
He told us stories about his life. He had grown up in New York City, and in his part of town, a guy had to beat someone up in order to be accepted by the others. That was a far cry from what was expected in our middle-class neighborhood. But he related well with us, because he understood the effects of peer pressure.
One lesson I will never forget is when he began talking to the wall. We were being rude and loud until we all noticed that he was quietly giving the wall our lesson. He was even giving the wall compliments on how reverent it was being. For many of us, it was our first moment of realizing just how rude we’d been.
His stories were exciting, and he had a rich sense of humor. He had class parties and even seemed to like being with us. The thing I remember most vividly was that he loved us. He told us somewhere in the course of that year that if any of us ever decided to run away from home, we must promise to come and talk to him first. He assured us he wouldn’t try to stop us, but he told us that his knowledge of the dangers runaways face would likely enable him to talk us out of leaving.
That wonderful man has no idea how many times in life I have felt like escaping from my challenges. But I haven’t run. Many times as I have faced something that seemed impossible to overcome, I’ve tried to go on, to not give up, because I promised this great teacher that I would talk to him first.
I haven’t seen my former seminary teacher now for more than a decade. He moved away soon after our class ended. I’ve always wanted to thank him, but I’ve lost contact with him. I know that for the good he did in our lives, Heavenly Father has surely blessed him.