As 14-year-old Boy Scouts from Troop D in Burley, Idaho, my friends and I were camping in a beautiful pine forest nestled into the canyon of the middle fork of the Boise River.
We had just finished exploring the area with our leaders when we decided our next experience should be fishing.
“Let’s go up above the rapids this time,” Paul suggested. “If we fish the deep-water holes, we’ll probably catch a lunker.”
“Yeah,” Richard agreed, “and we’ll cook it tonight for dinner.”
After we’d gone about a fourth of a mile from camp, we found an eddy with a water hole deep enough to catch a whale. But before we could get our fishing poles ready, I saw a log about 20 inches in diameter and what I guessed to be about eight feet long. It was magnificent. It floated high in the water and was still covered in bark. It was the type of log that cries adventure to three 14-year-old Scouts.
“Hey, guys,” I called to Richard and Paul. “If we don’t ride this log, we’ll miss out on the thrill of a lifetime. Just think of the story we can tell the other guys when we get back to camp.”
At first we all agreed that riding the log would be fun. But as Richard and Paul watched the swift-moving river run over the tops of boulders, they saw how steep the rapids were below us. Paul said, “I’m not sure this is such a good idea, Francis. We might not make it through in one piece.”
“Yeah,” Richard agreed. “This might not be the smartest thing we’ve ever done.”
“Come on,” I coaxed. “Don’t let a little fast water stop you. We’ll be fine.”
“Nah,” Paul said. “I don’t think I’m going.”
“Me either,” Richard said. “It doesn’t look safe.”
“Well, I’m going,” I said stubbornly. “And if you don’t go, I’ll be the only one at camp tonight with a great adventure story.”
Insisting I was crazy to try, Richard and Paul watched with concern as I gripped the log and steered it into the river. Immediately I noticed the river was deeper than I thought it would be. Just as I was about to climb onto the log, a voice came into my mind.
“Don’t do this thing! The tree trunk will roll as it goes through the rapids, and you will be thrown off into the churning water. What appears to be a thrilling and exciting experience could cost you your life. Your friends on the shore will think you are wise if you just let the log go and return to safe ground.”
The voice went on to say, “If you die, your mother will be left alone and brokenhearted. Even now she is praying for your safety.” Then an image of my mother kneeling in prayer came into my mind.
I let the log go and watched it slowly drift with the current. Then suddenly it appeared to be sucked into the top end of the rapids. The large trunk was tossed like a matchstick among the jutting rocks. Splinters were knocked off and large chunks of bark were stripped from the log.
A very clear picture formed in my mind as I realized the life-and-death situation I had been contemplating. If I had gone with the enticement of only living life for fun, I would have been destroyed just like the log.
I knew I would always remember those two very different urges. The first, to live only for the fun, thrill, and adventure of life. That appealed to my pride and vanity. My perception had been clouded. Selfishness was the engine that drove this desire.
The second, a prompting to listen to reason, was life-giving and life-sparing. It stood in opposition to selfishness. It helped me realize the cause and effect of the situation I had placed myself in. I was impressed that life is important and I should not take chances with it.
In the years since this experience, I have rafted on swift-running rivers and gone over many white-water rapids. But I have never forgotten my first experience with life’s rapids.
I learned that making right choices comes from heeding the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Now when a decision needs to be made, I examine closely how I feel. I listen for opposing arguments and do my best to choose the one that leaves me feeling light, warm, responsible, and unselfish. Whenever I feel this way, I know I’m on the right track.