Accused of cheating, he learned of inner peace

Young Ezra Taft Benson rode horseback three miles each way to high school. There, he learned one of life's great lessons, but it did not come from a textbook.

In Cross Fire, he wrote of one experience:"[Uncle Serge B. Benson] taught me in three different classes - but above all, he taught me lessons in moral, physical, and intellectual courage that I have tried to apply in later life. He reinforced my parents' emphasis on honesty, on standing by the truth at all costs.

"Sometimes the cost came high.

"One day in the middle of an important examination in high school, the point of my lead pencil broke. In those days, we used pocket knives to sharpen our pencils. I had forgotten my penknife, and turned to ask a neighbor for his. The teacher saw this; he accused me of cheating. When I tried to explain, he gave me a tongue-lashing for lying; worse, he forbade me to play on the basketball team in the upcoming big game.

"I could see that the more I protested the angrier he seemed to become. But, again and again, I stubbornly told what had happened. Even when the coach pleaded my cause, the teacher refused to budge. The disgrace was almost more than I could bear. Then, just minutes before the game, he had a change of heart, and I was permitted to play. But there was no joy in it. We lost the game; and though that hurt, by far the deeper pain was being branded a cheat and a liar.

"Looking back, I know that lesson was God-sent. Character is shaped in just such crucibles.

"My parents believed me; they were understanding and encouraging. Supported by them, Uncle Serge's lessons in courage, and a clear conscience, I began to realize that when you are at peace with your Maker you can, if not ignore human criticism, at least rise above it.

"And I learned something else - the importance of avoiding even the appearance of evil. Though I was innocent, circumstance made me look guilty. Since this could so easily be true in many of life's situations, I made a resolution to keep even the appearance of my actions above question, as far as possible. And it struck me, too, that if this injustice happened to me, it could happen to others, and I must not judge their actions simply on appearances."

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