The summer morning was bright and cool as I stood at the side of the Snake River, Idaho. I pondered the beauties of nature surrounding me and the handiwork of an all-wise Heavenly Father. Nearby were the floodgates that controlled the flow of water from the river into irrigation canals supplying fertile fields.
Deep in thought and contemplation, I observed a tiny object some great distance up the river. As it came closer I was able to see that it was a rubber raft. It was not until a few minutes later that I could see what appeared to be a family sitting in the small raft. Ahead of them was a turn in the great river, just where I was standing. The water was deep and flowed rapidly. To follow the main course of the river was safe, and it was traveled by hundreds of boaters every year. But I sensed the family was having trouble in steering round the bend, and the raft was being sucked dangerously close to the concrete tunnels below me that guided the water into irrigation canals.
I could see that the raft had come to rest against the edge of one of the tunnels and it was in danger of being sucked through. Then I saw that the occupants of the raft, a young father and mother, a grandmother, and two little boys, were standing up, trying to push themselves along the concrete wall to the edge of the river where they could get to safety. The father reached his hand up toward me and shouted, “Help us!” Oh, how I wanted to. I reached down as far as I could for his hand, but as he desperately reached up toward me, I saw the raft turn on its side. With all five family members, it was sucked under the swirling water and into the tunnel.
I was horrified! My first thought was that they would be caught in the tunnel on the vertical iron rods that were placed there to catch the tree limbs that were washed down from the river. I turned to see if they would come out the lower end of the tunnel toward the irrigation canals.
As the water rushed through and out of the concrete tunnel it was whipped into foaming waves up to three meters high. I saw the father come up through the foaming water, then the mother. Both appeared to be good swimmers. I heard the grandmother screaming. She had been washed about fifty meters downstream and apparently could not swim. I ran along the edge of the river and was able to bring her safely to shore.
We all stood on the edge of the river terrified. Where were the two little boys? The mother was screaming at the top of her voice. The father was running up and down the edge of the roaring stream. Neither of the little boys came to the surface.
At that moment a car came toward us. I gave the driver a quick explanation of what had happened, and he drove off for help. In just moments a crowd gathered. People in motor boats searched the canal, but it was no use. The two little boys could not be found.
In a moment of crisis and tragedy many thoughts and questions fill our minds. My mind was frantic. In a split second I had seen a happy family transformed into a family of panic, grief, sadness, and loneliness, just because they failed to anticipate a turn in the river, just because the rushing water had sucked them into the wrong tunnel and away from the right course. My heart ached for this young father and mother as I saw the look of grief and despair on their saddened faces.
As I drove home, my mind was troubled. Two young boys had died. But what is death? Only a temporary separation for those who have planned in the temple to be an eternal family. I realized I knew nothing of the family whose tragedy I had witnessed, but I prayed that eventually those who survived would find comfort and peace in our Heavenly Father’s love.
But what of parents who have a son or daughter sucked into the course of temptation and wrongdoing? A son or daughter who loses a testimony, faith, and sometimes even hope? I have witnessed happy families made sad, who suffer for a lifetime because a member of the family failed to stay on the proper course.
Young people, you live in a fast-moving world. You must think clearly and make the right choices. So much of your future life will depend on the choices you make now. You must avoid the courses that lead you to evil.
In a few careless moments, as you travel through life, sin can creep in, bringing panic, grief, sadness into your lives and into the lives of your loved ones. Some people feel that living the gospel and doing the things they are asked to do takes away their freedom and they rebel against it, saying “I want to be my own person, I want to be free, I don’t want to be restricted by all the rules and regulations of the gospel.”
Contrast this with the vast majority of our youth who hold to “the iron rod” (see 1 Ne. 8:19–30), and keep the commandments of God, share the gospel, pay tithing and fast offerings, study the scriptures, attend church, and so arrange their lives to bring happiness to those around them and to themselves. “I am bound when ye do what I say,” said the Lord, “but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (See D&C 82:10.)
The promise is that if you live worthily, you—all of us—can return to His presence and be heir to all that is His. It is our Heavenly Father’s hope that you succeed in this goal. He has provided the way, and the course of life is clearly marked. Do not allow yourself to be swept away into temptations that not only would deprive you of the blessings of physical life but those of your eternal life, as well.