“Ethan,” Dad called, “stay here on the path next to me.”
Five-year-old Ethan frowned. He loved hiking with Dad, but he didn’t want to stay on the boring old trail. There was much more to see alongside the stream.
“Come here,” Dad called again. “You might stumble and fall in those tall weeds.”
Obediently, Ethan bounded toward Dad. But as he walked, his eyes kept wandering off the trail. It wasn’t long before he saw a fallen tree and scampered toward it. Climbing on top of it he cried, “Look at me, Dad!”
Dad shook his head. “Didn’t I tell you to stay on the trail?” Ethan groaned and shuffled back toward Dad.
As they hiked, they soon came to a section of the stream lined by large boulders. Each rock looked as if it had been carefully stacked in place to hold back the soil. Ethan pointed. “Look, Dad!”
Dad nodded. “Interesting rock formation, isn’t it? I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a look.”
Grinning, Ethan bolted toward the stream and leaped onto a boulder. Dad followed. Ethan hopped from boulder to boulder, as if playing hopscotch, until he was standing on the highest one. He watched the stream swirl and cascade over rocks below, enjoying the sight—until he heard a terrible sound.
Hiss, rattle, rattle, rattle.
There, wedged between two rocks near Ethan’s feet, was a rattlesnake.
“Daddy!” Ethan cried.
Dad was on the other side of the rattlesnake and couldn’t reach Ethan to help him. “Don’t move!” he yelled.
Ethan trembled. The only way back to the trail was to hop down the rocks the way he had come, and he was afraid that the snake could move much faster than he could. What if he startled the snake and it struck him? The snake glared at him, flicking its tongue.
“Jump in the stream,” a voice spoke to his mind. Still watching the snake, he thought about the cold, muddy water and the jagged rocks below. “Jump in the stream!” the voice said again. So Ethan took a flying leap off the boulder and landed with a splash. Dad jumped in right after him, scooped him up, and helped him to shore. Ethan hugged Dad tight, his heart pounding.
“I wanted to tell you to jump, but I didn’t dare because I thought you might get hurt,” Dad said. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
“The Holy Ghost told me to jump,” Ethan said. “At first I didn’t listen, but then He told me again.”
“Obeying those promptings saved your life, son.” Dad looked at Ethan thoughtfully. “If I had listened to the Holy Ghost in the first place, we wouldn’t have been in danger.”
“What do you mean, Dad?”
“As we walked away from the trail, I saw something move in the grass,” Dad said. “I thought it was a mouse or a chipmunk. Suddenly, I remembered a story I read in the newspaper a few days ago about a man who recently died from a rattlesnake bite. The thought didn’t make sense to me, so I ignored it. If I had been listening, I would have recognized that the Spirit was trying to warn me.”
Ethan hugged Dad tighter, shivering to think what could have happened. “We should have stayed on the trail,” he murmured. “It’s safer.”
Dad nodded. “That’s true in life too. Even when we can’t see danger, Heavenly Father knows where the devil is lying in wait to corner us. The only safe way is to stay on the marked path.”
Ethan silently vowed to always obey. As he followed his parents, the prophets, and the Holy Ghost, he’d be safe from the worst serpent of all.
“If we follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will be safe, whatever the future holds. We will be shown what to do.”
President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Cloven Tongues of Fire,” Ensign, May 2000, 8.