Regret: A Lasting Lesson

In my personal study, I came across the story of Lehonti. Lehonti makes a 12 verse appearance in the Book of Alma. He is an ancillary character in the story of Amalickiah, but he was a man of great influence. 

The King of the Lamanites wanted his armies to go up to battle against the Nephites. There was a mutiny in the army and roughly half of the army fled into the wilderness and they decided that Lehonti would be their king. They set up their camp at the summit of the Mountain Antipas and prepared to fight the rest of the Lamanite army, led by Amalickiah.  

But Amalickiah did not attack. He sent an embassy to Lehonti inviting him to come down to the foot of the mountain for a chat. Lehonti refused to go down. Again, Amalickiah invited Lehonti to come down the mountain, and just so he could feel more secure, Lehonti was to bring his guards with him. Lehonti refused again. Amalickiah sent again, only to be rejected in like manner.

The fourth time, Amalickiah went up the mountain, "nearly to Lehonti's camp" and invited Lehonti to come down just a little bit to discuss Amalickiah's plan. 

Amalickiah convinced Lehonti to come down the mountain with his army and surround Amalickiah's army. Amalickiah would surrender and only asked that he be made second in command. 

Lehonti followed the plan. "And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died." (Alma 47:18, italics added)

I had the opportunity to play football in college. My collegiate career started at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. During the recruiting process, against the advice of my high school head coach, I made it clear that I planned on serving an LDS mission. Soon after making this announcement, most of the schools recruiting me stopped recruiting me. 

I landed at the University of Washington as a recently turned 18 year old, with a fixed resolution to serve my mission. The standards I had set in my life helped me navigate that experience.

That doesn't mean that it was easy or that I wasn't lonely. I was ridiculed by my teammates and was the butt of most of their jokes for awhile; but about halfway through my freshman season, I had earned my stripes on the field and so the jokes slackened in the locker room. 

Many think that the price of discipleship is too costly and too burdensome, it involves giving up too much. But the cross is not as heavy as it appears to be. Through obedience, we acquire much greater strength to carry it
— James E. Faust

That doesn't mean that I was fully accepted. There was a pool to see what kind of drunk I would be, and girls would try to get me to stumble as sport. I was forced to go certain places as they were required team activities, but as soon as the coaches left, I would follow suit, then go back and take home the guys who couldn't get there themselves.

En masse, the guys would still rib me about the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity, but in small groups or individually, guys would come and we would have conversations about how to find happiness and getting their lives on the right path.

Things continued this way into my sophomore season. As the season drew to a close, I received my mission call to serve in Argentina, I was to report immediately following the season. 

At the end of my sophomore year, we were invited to play in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The bowl committee plans activities for the teams to attend after the daily practices conclude. 

One night, we went to a comedy club. Dinner was buffet style at the back of the room and so I sat in the back by the food. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I do enjoy my food). We ate as the Opener went through his set.

I had just sat down with another plate of food when the headline came out on the stage. HE explained in very strong language that the women needed to leave the room because of the content of his show, and anyone who wasn't, I'll say 'Man-Enough", should walk out as well. To a man, my teammates turned to see what I would do.     

I sat and continued to eat.

Character is much easier kept than recovered
— Thomas Paine

One of us was true to our word that night. Before I slinked out the back of that auditorium, it was the foulest language and content I had ever or since heard. I lasted only a few minutes in his set. 

But my regret has stayed with me. For two years I was ridiculed. For two years I was the butt of so many jokes, for two years I had refused to go down the mountain, but I still came down  just a little, and forever compromised my character to may teammates. 

I did not return to the University of Washington following my mission. I have prayed and pleaded that  my teammates not remember me as the slinking coward who couldn't walk out in the light, but could sneak out in the dark, but as the ridiculed man of character; the butt of their jokes.

If I had known then, the regret and pain that would stay with me these long 13 years, I would have acted, not differently, because I failed to act at all. If I could coach myself in that moment, I would have shouted to jump up on the table and jump from table to table until I leapt out the exit. 

His voice leads us not into timid discipleship, but into bold witness
— Charles Stanley

I was asked to stand, and I promised God that when presented a similar opportunity, I will act. I "feared man more than God"  (Doctrine and Covenants 3:7) and have reaped regret. 

We will all have the chance to stand and be counted. Learn form Lehonti and from me, keep yourself at the top of that mountain, do not come down, even if its just a little