As I recall, there were four women and somewhere between 80 and 100 men in the room, not surprising because the banquet was for high school and college basketball referees. I was almost dead center at a table in the crowded room, and exiting gracefully and unobserved would be difficult at best. When the guest speaker rose to address the audience of overwhelmingly "macho" men he began his remarks with an off-color joke. The men roared. I was offended and knew intrinsically that remaining seated suggested my acceptance of what he said. Yet, intimidated, I stayed.

On the drive home and long after, I berated myself for not exhibiting the courage of my convictions by leaving the room as he spoke.

The next year almost the same scenario occurred. This time I gracefully rose and left. In this instance, at least, I had learned a powerful lesson.

My simple action was not lost on others. From then on regardless the partner I worked with, if he happened to swear there was a quick apology.

If my partner heard someone else make an inappropriate comment there was a "Hey, watch your language."

My act of "omission" in not leaving the room on that first occasion, though I regretted it and many other mistakes throughout my life, have not, however, proven to be "the end of the world," although at times they have caused sorrow and regret.

We know that when Jesus Christ sat with the apostles in the upper room at the Last Supper shortly before his crucifixion, the Savior told Peter, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." Impetuous Peter contended, "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death." The Lord responded, "I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me."

The events of that night are well documented. Judas Iscariot came to the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayed the Savior of the world with a kiss. Christ was bound and led away. The 11 apostles fled. Taken to the palace of Caiaphas, Christ was illegally tried and condemned before the Sanhedrin. As James E. Talmage explains, "Jehovah was convicted of blasphemy against Jehovah. The only mortal Being to whom the awful crime of blasphemy, in claiming divine attributes and powers, was impossible. ... " Nevertheless, the duplicity of Israel's leaders, who conspired to take the life of the Son of God, could not be completed without Roman sanction, and Christ was prepared for transfer to Pilate.

Throughout Christ's ordeal, Peter followed at a distance. When Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, Peter mixed with the servants in the court of the palace. The young woman attending the door challenged him, "Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee." Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Troubled, he escaped the courtyard and took up temporary residence in the shadows of the porch. There, another young woman noticed him and pointing him out to others claimed, "This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth." This time with more vehemence Peter proclaimed, "I do not know the man."

Peter moved to sit with a group around an open fire. An hour passed, and the other men began to question his Galilean dialect and possible association with Jesus. His already ruffled calm was disrupted when a kinsman of Malthus, the man whose ear Peter had severed in the Garden of Gethsemane, challenged him, "Did not I see thee in the garden with him?" Overwrought with fear Peter began to curse and violently asserted, "Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew."

As Christ prophesied, Peter denied he whom he revered and loved above all others. At that moment Christ was led from the Palace to go before Pilate, "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." As their eyes met sorrow and recrimination enveloped him, "Peter went out, and wept bitterly."

How stinging the shame of that betrayal must have been for Peter and yet how important to his future bold witness, even unto death, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and that author of our salvation. What is lovely in Peter's betrayal, if such a thing is possible, and in my failure to "stand as a witness of God at all time and in all things and in all places," is that repentance is possible, forgiveness is real and hope is alive — and all through Christ.

Comment on this story

The apostle Paul, who felt the power of the Atonement in his life, testified, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?... But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In every way, hope — bright shining hope — in this life resides in Jesus Christ. His selfless sacrifice makes possible repentance, and it is the knowledge that we can be forgiven of sins that fills the faithful with true joy and hope in this glorious season when we celebrate our Savior's birth.