While living and working in Alaska a number of years ago, I had occasion to go on a fishing trip with a group of young men that included one of my sons. The other adult leaders and I knew that the area we would be camping in was bear country, so prior to the trip, we gathered the boys together to discuss certain safety measures.
We talked about four basic rules to remember when fishing in bear country: First, don’t do things that would invite a bear into the camp. For example, don’t store food out in the open that would attract the bears. Second, keep the camp clean. Take care of all garbage. If you catch and clean fish, get rid of the entrails and slime. Third, if a bear does come, know how to defend yourself. Drop down, be still, and play dead. Fourth, if someone gets hurt or is attacked by a bear, know how to get help. Signal to others that you are in trouble, and keep a good orientation of your surroundings so that you know the fastest way to go for assistance.
I am confident that all would have gone well on that trip had we kept all those rules. But we didn’t! On our last day we cleaned fish in the center of the camp and didn’t properly dispose of the remains. That night a Kodiak bear wandered into camp. We had just settled inside our tents, when we heard its panting. We literally froze in fear. We couldn’t talk.
Luckily for us, the bear got what it was after and nothing more. It found and ate some of the fish we had cleaned, and it ran off with two buckets, which were filled with the day’s catch. But it left us alone and didn’t do more harm.
I have come to see that the precautions one must take when fishing in bear country are similar to the rules we should follow to avoid falling into temptation. First, there is the rule that we shouldn’t do anything to invite Satan into our lives. We should choose friends carefully, dress modestly, and participate in appropriate activities. Second, we should keep our minds clean, avoiding books, music, and movies that don’t help us to have good thoughts. Third, we need to know how to defend ourselves when temptation does come. We can make, beforehand, decisions to resist it and to remove ourselves from bad situations. Fourth, if we make mistakes or get into trouble, we must know where to go for help. We can pray to Heavenly Father and go to bishops, parents, and the scriptures for assistance.
That trip taught me how important it is to follow the rules and guidelines that have been made for our protection. When we know what is expected of us, when we know the rules, we should be committed to following them.
One important rule my family had as I was growing up on a homestead in Clinton, Utah, was that you had to get your work done before you could play. As a young boy, I delighted in going to the Saturday matinees to see the cowboy movies. But Saturday was also the day we did the major cleaning of the barn, the corrals, the chicken coop, and the other animal stalls. I soon learned that if I didn’t do my share of the work, I wouldn’t be allowed to go to the movies. There are always consequences for doing or not doing what we should.
Another of my responsibilities on the farm was helping to care for the livestock. We had cows, chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs, and ducks. Both my parents and the animals themselves depended on me to make sure they were fed, comforted, and protected. I had to learn the rules of caring for them. Take dairy cows—they don’t know how to stop eating. If they get loose and into green alfalfa, they will eat until they bloat. Then you lose a cow or two, and when you’ve lost a cow, you’ve lost a valuable investment.
As children of our Heavenly Father, we have been given bodies that are of great value as well, and Heavenly Father wants us to take care of them. It is for our own protection that He has given us rules and commandments to live by, and, because of what Nephi tells us in 1 Nephi 3:7 [1 Ne. 3:7], we know that “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
My young friends, it is our job to be obedient children. It is for our own good that we should do the things we have been asked to do and to do them the best that we can.