In sacrament the speaker told a story about a young man who stood up, eventually, against his friends for a disabled schoolmate. That made me think about my oldest child, sweet and mild mannered. She did the same thing, though on the first event when her social clique was planning a nasty trick. Unlike the boy in the story, whose friends came around, her group threw her out and then hounded her mercilessly. For a young girl, in a new town, two years after the latest death of a sibling left her an only child, it was devastating. I’m only glad she had not heard the story we heard in sacrament meeting.
There are many stories we tell. Often they are true, some times they are fables. I would suggest that the stories we tell about virtue being immediately rewarded, about doing the right thing as a painless task, about always being rescued, those stories may fail those we tell them to when they face adversity.
I did the right thing and lost my dream job,it hurt to have the offer withdrawn. Daniel’s contemporaries, when they were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, noted that they were doing the right thing and that if God allowed them to die, as they expected, no one should take that as a time that their faith was in vain. They were delivered, but they knew that not being miraculously saved did not mean that God had failed them or that their faith was false.
Which is what we might be tempted to conclude from the stories we tell these days.
As an aside, the girls failed to hound my daughter into suicide, though they tried their immature best. When a similar situation arose a few years later, with a group of boys propping a chair to block a door and then ganging up to beat up a Jewish kid in the class, my shy, quiet child rose and berated them until they backed down. She had no expectation, really, of anything but being beaten up with him. She did not really know him (he was quiet and bookish), but she knew what was right and when it was wrong to keep silent. The guys backed down. She wasn’t beaten up by them, nor was the young man.
She was ready to pay a real price. Most people who hear our modern stories are only ready to pay no price at all. I think we betray our listeners by sharing such stories, by the implicit promise they make that we will have no negative side effects, no negative outcomes. We do not prepare them to make real sacrifices.
That is my story about the stories we tell. That easy virtue stories lead to no virtue at all.