It was only a shadow moving under water near a sunken rowboat in a small pond near our home in Rome, Georgia. I had been fishing for bass, bream, and crappie when the shadow caught my eye. It was moving under the boat when a quick jerk on my line shifted my attention. Pulling in my line, I could see something was stealing my bait.
“The shadow?” I asked myself out loud. In the next hour, I offered my underwater friend crickets, worms, and pieces of a chicken sandwich. Each time I pulled the bait closer to the surface. The shadow turned out to be a turtle—a very smart and very large snapping turtle.
I was fascinated watching my reptilian neighbor use its beaklike jaws to dine on the cuisine being served, without ever touching the hook. How easily and gracefully it moved; how safe and in total control this leathery looking aquatic creature appeared. Nothing could ever harm the turtle or lure it from the pond.
One day the shadow was gone, and I wondered why. “I reckon it’s pretty easy,” Mr. Owens, the resident sage of Little Sand Mountain, told me when I asked him what happened to the turtle. “My dogs won’t touch them if they ever catch one on land, and you shouldn’t either. They are terribly mean, but you can catch them and make great turtle soup.”
He smiled as he told me how. “Take a 2-by-12 piece of wood and pound 16 penny nails through it, beginning one foot from the end. Bend the nails over about a quarter of an inch until the nails are parallel to the wood and facing the same way. Lay the finished plank down into the water on a small bank with the nails pointing up.
“Place chicken parts or hamburger on the top quarter of the wood and make as much meat juice as possible run down the wood into the water. Just sit down and wait. It’s just too tempting,” he added. “The turtle will follow the smell right out of the water and up the wooden plank.
“When you see the turtle climb out of the water and reach the bait, move quickly towards the turtle. As the turtle pulls into its shell and starts sliding down to the safety of the water, its bottom shell will catch on one of the nails, and it’s trapped. Unable to get back to the water or defend itself, it is at the mercy of man. And the Georgia snapping turtle becomes turtle soup.”
Just as the snapping turtle has the knowledge and safety of the pond, you have the knowledge and safety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much like the protection given the turtle with its formidable jaws and shell, you as young members of the Church have parents, leaders, teachers, and a bishop to help protect and teach you.
Your personal scriptures, conference talks, the New Era, and other Church publications offer additional truth and insight. Attendance with your family in sacrament meetings and family home evenings as well as your Young Women or priesthood quorum meetings helps provide the additional blessings and testimony growth. Television, movies, magazines, and other media of our day scream out that good times are associated with immorality, alcohol, and violence. Some seemingly good kids in your school may smoke marijuana and use drugs. The attractive young men and women in beer commercials seem to be having fun.
It’s bait. Just like the smelly meat on the plank in my Georgia pond, this bait can be used to trick and betray you. If we allow ourselves to be tricked into leaving the safety of the Church and gospel, we may also be trapped. You simply cannot afford to take the risk of becoming turtle soup!