During my high school years my relationship with my parents was not always smooth sailing. In particular, I felt that I should be given more independence. Why should I have to tell my parents everything I was doing and everywhere I was going? And why did I have a set time to be home at night and then have to check in when I got home? I had a difficult time understanding them when they said I’d have more freedom if I was more obedient to the rules. With all those rules, I wouldn’t be free; I’d be a slave.
At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I figured out a plan. I would prove that obedience would not bring more freedom. I would become the ideal child. If Dad said, “Be home by 10:30,” I would come in by 10:15. If Mom asked, “Will you please take out the garbage?” I would already have done it. I would do everything they asked of me and more. Then, after graduation, I would confront them with the facts: “I have been totally obedient this year. Do I have more freedom? Have I become independent because I have demonstrated my responsibility? No! But now I declare my independence! Good-bye.” I smiled as I thought about it. The plan was a good one.
Although my motives were far from pure, my actions brought a positive change in our home. We rarely had any disagreements, and my relationship with my parents improved. Occasionally I would remind myself of why I was doing this. I would think, “Sure, things are going great. Why shouldn’t they be? You are their slave.” For the most part, however, I just enjoyed the year and the harmony within our home.
On a Wednesday evening around the first of April, my friend stopped to say that he couldn’t give me a ride to school in the morning.
Dreading the thought of having to take the bus I asked, “Why can’t you give me a ride?”
“My brother and his family are moving to a town just outside of Las Vegas, and I am going to drive a truck filled with their stuff to their new home.” Then he added, “When I finish helping them move in, my brother said he will let me take his car and drive into Las Vegas.”
Then an idea popped into his mind. “Come with me. We’ll only be gone for a couple of days,” he said.
“A couple of school days,” I reminded him. “There’s no way that my parents will let me go to Las Vegas.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to ask. Let me know in the morning. It will be a blast if you can go.”
When I got home, everyone had gone to bed. I turned off the clock light over the stove. My mom always left it on so that the last person home would turn it off, and she could simply look at the clock in the kitchen and know that everyone was safely home. Turning off the light was in addition to checking in. It always amazed me that I could report in, have a brief conversation with my parents, and they would still have to get up in the night to see if I was home. I remember them often saying in the morning, “We didn’t hear you come in last night.”
“I talked to you when I got home!”
“Did you? I don’t remember.”
On this particular night, I stood at the door of their bedroom and went through the ritual. “I’m home,” I said softly.
A sleepy okay came from Mom.
But this night I added, “Can I go to Las Vegas in the morning with Boyd?”
My mom again, “Okay.”
And that was it. I had permission! As I began to step quietly from the room, my Dad’s voice came out of the dark, “Rich?”
“Yeah,” I replied, knowing it was over.
“There’s a $20 bill on my dresser. Take it.”
I picked up the $20 and made my way down the stairs to my bedroom in the basement. What’s going on? I wondered. And then I began to get angry. They were asleep and didn’t hear me. They weren’t going to let me go to Las Vegas. Tomorrow morning was a good time to throw my lack of freedom in their faces.
In the morning I wasn’t as angry, but I was apprehensive about the forthcoming confrontation. I came upstairs and walked quietly into the kitchen. My mom was cooking breakfast.
“What time are you leaving today?” she asked.
She didn’t seem upset. Maybe she was going to let Dad lower the boom. “I’ve got to call Boyd to find out for sure, but I think we’ll be leaving at about 10:00.”
“How long are you going to be gone?”
“Just two days.”
“Two days?” my dad said, coming out of the bedroom.
Here we go, I thought.
“Then you might need more money,” he said as he handed me another $20.
I was stunned.
My dad must have noticed my surprise. “You do know why we’re letting you go, don’t you?”
I didn’t answer.
He continued, “You’ve shown to us this past year that you are responsible and that you can be trusted. Here’s some of the freedom you wanted. We’re letting you go because we trust you, and we know you won’t do anything foolish you or we would be ashamed of.”
I went to Las Vegas with Boyd. We had fun, and we didn’t do anything that would bring shame to us, our parents, or our Father in Heaven. I was never able to confront my parents with my lack of freedom.
Conforming to gospel principles is like traveling up through an hourglass. At first it can appear as if all freedom is being restricted. You must do this! You can’t do that! But if a person will continue in obedience and faith, he or she will emerge into a world of newfound freedoms. An obedient person is free to serve a mission, free to attend the temple and receive saving ordinances, free to have his marriage and family sealed, free to call on or use the power of the priesthood, free to feel the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, free to receive personal revelation from the Lord. These, and many others, are freedoms that can come only through obedience.