Editor’s Note: Like last month’s “Because of Him,” this article was written by someone other than Walter—a fellow gospel brother. (Each month will feature a different male whom Walter loves and respects.) As with all of Walter’s “guest pieces,” this article provides a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse into a different man’s gospel perspective and to learn from his life experiences. Walter wrote about this article, “Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite pieces. I know this person well. He is a man without guile and the hardest worker I ever met. He is always aware of shining the light on Jesus Christ—and as such, many go to him for advice, counsel, and comfort, which he lovingly offers. He and his wife are favorites of my family. I am who I am today because of him.” We hope you enjoy it!
Over the years, I have heard the expression “I pray we will keep true to the end” said by general authorities. I have also read variations of this phrase in the scriptures. When I heard this said years ago, I thought how much easier it must be to stay true to the principles as we get older (particularly when we are elderly) and find ourselves in responsible positions.
But now I’m nearly 61 and finding that temptations are still there and that hard decisions have to be made at every age in life.
You see, on March 1 we closed our restaurant and sold the equipment we could at the time. With the proceeds from equipment sales, we paid off our creditors. After that, we moved our baking equipment to an old building behind a local apartment where we planned to make our living doing wholesale baking. However, much time and some money was required: we had to put a pitched roof over the badly leaking flat roof, complete sheetrocking, and otherwise finish the inside of the building.
Now it is the end of April—time to pay our taxes—and the bank account is down to zero again after paying the current bills that came along. From sales at the restaurant before we closed, we owe $422.00 in sales tax, which we haven’t the money to pay. To us, that amount is a lot. I drive a school bus, and would have to do so for three weeks (and my wife would have to bake long hours for two and a half weeks) to raise such a sum. Furthermore, each new week brings more bills equal to, if not in excess of, all we earn together in a week.
It would be easy to get free from much of the sales tax debt by reporting less in sales than occurred or by saying that the restaurant was closed. Believe me, every justifiable reason came to mind; the temptation to be free of this nearly back-breaking burden was overpowering. As I sit here alone, deep in thought, other powerful impressions flood my mind.
As a leader in our church, I’m called upon to guide members through a wide variety of trials and temptations of their own. Each is called upon to have courage and faithfulness to principle when it’s not easy to do either. How can I do less than I’d have them do?
Over the years, I have had some very challenging experiences giving blessings, counsel, and exhortations to the congregation and to individual members. When the Holy Spirit was with me, nothing was beyond my capacity. When it wasn’t—and the times I found myself without it were few—I was absolutely ineffective and not capable of what was required of me. Having the Spirit’s presence in God’s work is so vital and its absence so devastating that if for no other reason, every principle should be lived because the Spirit is gone when they aren’t. Its presence is as critical in affairs of my family, service to them, and in meeting the challenges of daily life as it is to church service. I can’t succeed without it. How can I drive it from me by such dishonesty?
I consider my children, who honor and respect me. Can I betray them? My son graduated yesterday from BYU and is moving out into the working world to be a beacon of Christlike life. I have another son who labors in his ward bishopric to spread light and truth. My youngest daughter seeks my guidance in her serious decisions. Then there is my boy whose efforts as an assistant to his mission president have helped to turn a mission completely to the right. There are others still who completely trust me. How could I let them down?
There are grandchildren to consider. There are already 21 of them who love me. When I am gone, my written stories will be left to inspire them. Will this story be one I’ll want to leave with them? My parents and my wife’s parents have appreciated me for so long. There is little I can do for them, but they tell me that the goodness of my life is a great joy to them. Can I do less now than what I’ve pledged to do for them by honoring them and bringing joy to them in the one and only way I can?
Last of all, let me not forget the great feeling it is to respect myself. In the words of what is perhaps my favorite poem:
“I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know. . .
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself and so,
whatever happens I want to be
self respecting and conscience free.
How could I struggle so with this trial? I must retire. It has gotten late. But first… I have to fill out the tax form to let them know I owe $422.00. I will pen a note that says I’m sorry that I don’t have it for them on time, but that it will be paid as soon as I can pay it.
And then I am going to bed for a really good night’s sleep.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.