Experience on an Oyster Boat

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Richard G. Scott

One summer, as a teenager, I worked on an oyster boat off the coast of Long Island in New York to earn funds for college. The other members of the crew were seasoned oystermen, hardened by the harsh winter environment in which they spent much of their lives battling the icy ocean and raw wind to secure their catch. I was an enigma to them, easier to distrust than to understand. They shunned me as a company spy, then as a crazy kid who didn't know how to be a man. Later, I became better at my duties and tried to build friendships. They offered to make me "a real man" by joining them on their all-night indulgences. I thanked them but declined, and the tension grew more intense.

The summer weather was beautiful and the ocean magnificent. We were engaged in relatively simple tasks, such as transferring small oysters to a more distant portion of the sound where the nutrients accelerated their growth and improved their flavor. Except when a dredge full of oysters was dumped onto the deck, signaling a flurry of intense activity, there was much time for contemplation. While my deck mates dozed by their shovels, I read and pondered the content of the Book of Mormon. I cannot adequately express the powerful awakening within me that came from those weeks of study of the Book of Mormon under singularly unusual circumstances.

We slept in envelope-type bunks sandwiched into the restricted space between the ship's diesel engine and hull. One night at dockside I retired early since some of the crew planned unrighteous activity outside our boat. I was suddenly shaken into consciousness by the powerful hand of a deck mate, Toddy, a giant of a man. He was brandishing a hammer in my face, and his breath reeked of alcohol. Stunned, I realized that there was no way that I could escape him. I thought I had come to the end of the road. Then I heard what he was shouting, "Scotty, get your fins and mask. There's a man overboard, and you can save him."

That night I learned a lesson I have never forgotten. Publicly the crew members ridiculed me, but privately they respected me for my standards. The confidence that came from that knowledge let me quietly help three of them with some serious personal challenges.

I know that you will find the same response as you consistently choose to obey your principles. You are establishing a reputation. When you make it clear that you will not vary from your standards, you will be led to individuals like yourself and the criticism from others will become less intense. Often those who publicly deride you for your high standards privately do not want you to violate them. They need your good example. Whether it be turning your back on an off-color joke, refusing to see an R-rated movie or videocassette, or walking out of a party that is moving in the wrong direction, make your standards clear to others by quietly making the right choices when the temptation is first presented. A decisive, correct choice made once and consistently kept thereafter will avoid much heartache. You then can use your energy in keeping your resolve rather than repeatedly wrestling with the same challenge. Also, you will greatly reduce the possibility that you will be overcome by temptation.

Personal Experience shared by Richard G. Scott at a BYU Devotional on March 3, 1996