When I was nine, my father and I explored a sea cave. Being frightened of the dark and of the crawling things inside, I pleaded for a light. However, he declined as he took my hand and led me into the cave.

Once inside, he had me use my hands and feet in exploring the sand and walls before I ventured farther into the narrow darkness. Then he dropped my hand, pushing me ahead to lead the way. A feeling of aloneness enveloped me. Trembling, my tears falling uncontrollably, I wanted to rush to his side and bury my head in his protecting arms. But since he stood quietly waiting for me to walk on, I moved forward, fighting my fear.

Unsure of my steps, I stumbled on until I could see light from the other end of the cave. Courage and self-confidence surged through me, and I filled the air with boastings of my achievement. My father only smiled, then told me to return through the darkness, this time alone.

My pride crumbled and my lips quivered, but for a second time I would not refuse. Into the cave I walked, my steps accentuated by my moans of distasted and feelings of desertion because my father was forcing me on this journey. However my curiosity was soon aroused, and I began to explore, using the devices and methods he had taught me. The excitement that touching and discovering each new wall brought to me as I felt my way through the cavern filled me with joy. The experience of new sensations entranced me. Too soon I walked into the sunlight. There, smiling with pride was my mother.

As a child, the only lesson I learned from the experience was that I was brave and could stumble through a cave alone. Today, years of learning have shown me my father’s purpose in that adventure.

Life is sometimes a dark cave. You can remain on the outside, always afraid of the unknown, or you can enter, your own abilities determining success. If you use what other travelers give your as feelers, you can move through the darkness. You learn not to rely on surface characteristics presented only to the eye; rather, you base your movements on the impressions received by all of your senses. And always, in the back of your mind, there is the assurance that someone has walked before you and now waits on the other side. He will be there to guide you through your ventures and reach out a hand when you falter.

[illustration] Art by Merrill Gogan

Sister Worlund, an English major at the University of Utah, has written here about an experience that took place in Japan when she was a child and her father was stationed there with the U.S. military. Carla is a Sunday School teacher in Cottonwood South Sixth Ward, Little Cottonwood Stake.