When I was just two years old, my older brother and I were walking near a large irrigation ditch on our farm. My father was keeping an eye on us as he fed the cattle. The next thing he knew, my brother was running up to him, crying out, “Rolfe’s in!”
Dad raced to the irrigation ditch. From my footprints, he could see that I had gone as close to the edge as I possibly could, and then my feet had slipped and I had fallen in. He ran along the ditch until he glimpsed my red sweater in the water. He was able to pull me out, apply first aid, and save my life. I had gotten as close to danger as I possibly could, and the results were almost tragic.
Here’s another example of taking foolish risks: Perhaps you have been vacuuming the carpet for your mother. You find a sock on the floor and say to yourself, Well, I don’t feel like reaching down and picking it up—I’ll just vacuum around it, as close as I can get. All of a sudden, zap! The sock is sucked up into the vacuum.
When we try to see how close we can get to danger, trouble, or sin, the results can be something we’re not prepared for. They can even be disastrous. It is important to keep away from evil and wrongdoing! Stay out of harm’s way!
I have always enjoyed sports. When I was growing up, my home in Tremonton, Utah, was a gathering place for the boys in the neighborhood, and we loved to play softball and football in the pasture and basketball in the yard.
As a young man, I was invited to be on a semiprofessional baseball team. I was thrilled! But I soon found out that the games would be on Sunday. I talked with my father, probably trying to persuade him that it would be OK because I would still be able to go to my Church meetings, then play baseball in the evening. My father listened carefully and then asked me to think about how my decision might affect my friends and others who might be watching.
I thought about that advice, and I knew what I should do. I turned down the offer to play on the team. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one I have never regretted. Ever since, I have tried to remember that the way I choose to live my life can affect others.
One of my favorite scriptures is Alma 39:11. In this verse Alma says to his son Corianton, who has not been very faithful or obedient, “For when [the Zoramites] saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.” The scripture was pointed out to me on the day that my father was called to be a stake president. It helped me understand that although Dad was the one who held that important calling, I carried part of the responsibility, because the way I lived could affect how people in the stake would respond to him. People often say, “It’s nobody else’s business what I decide to do.” But every choice we make affects someone else, too, whether it be family or friends or even people we don’t know who may be watching us.
My great-grandfather was John Pack, one of the early members of the Church. One day he and his wife were surrounded by a mob of Mormon haters, and he was told to make a terrible choice: either he could say that he did not believe in the restored gospel and the Prophet Joseph Smith, or he would be shot on the spot. John Pack stood up straight, looked the men in the eye, and bore a strong testimony of the gospel and of the Prophet. One by one the members of the mob sneaked away, and the leader of the mob could get no one to carry out the evil deed.
John Pack, even at the threat of his life, chose the right and bore testimony of the truth. Ever since I first learned of that story, I have hoped that I would be willing, no matter what the temptation, to stand for what I know to be true and to always choose the right. John Pack’s example has been a source of strength for me.
Another message I give to you, the children of the Church, is to learn to pray, not just say your prayers. Too often we learn words and phrases to say in our prayers and we just repeat those same words and phrases every time. But learn to talk to your Father in Heaven in your prayers. Don’t pray for the same things every time; pray for different things. Thank Him for the blessings He has given you, and ask for the things that you need. Try to talk to Heavenly Father, not just say the words that you’ve learned.
And learn to search the scriptures, not just read them. Try to understand what the words really mean, and think about them and ask questions about them. They will help you stay close to Heavenly Father, and when you are faced with hard decisions, He can then better help you to choose the right.