Pain and concentration contorted Clint Smith’s features as the 17-year-old clung desperately to the cliff face with one hand. A faint clatter of pebbles meeting the earth reached his ears from some 50 feet below. While climbing the massive granite wall, his feet had slipped from beneath him. Gravity tore one hand from its hold and threatened to unglue the other.
The scene would be frightening if you didn’t know that Clint is an experienced climber decked out in safety gear and securely attached to a belay line handled by a man with more than 30 years of climbing experience. After an agonizing moment, Clint got his feet back under him and smoothly ascended the remaining rock to the top.
Though Clint’s line would have caught him if he had fallen, there are youth all over the world in a similar predicament—but without similar protection. They’re climbing through life, but they aren’t secured to the “rock of our Redeemer” (Hel. 5:12). If they fall, there’s nothing to catch them. And many of them don’t even realize it.
A Conference on the Rocks
Over the several years they’ve been climbing, Clint and his friends have learned that rock climbing is a lot like life. Now the youth in their ward are learning it, too, as part of the Garden Creek Ward’s Christ-centered youth conference: “Build upon the Rock.”
Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve is a rock climber’s paradise, and it’s right in the Arimo Idaho Stake’s backyard. The hundreds of granite formations that reach toward the heavens are a natural setting for teaching about the Creator of the world and how His gospel affects our lives.
“Christ and His gospel are unmoving,” says Jonathan Boyd, a priest. “They will always be there. They’re something you can put your foot on that won’t slip out from under you. If your testimony is built on Christ, it becomes like your rope. If your feet slip, the rope catches you and keeps you close to the rock so you don’t fall. My testimony has caught me countless times.”
An Analogy for Life
The youth found that the parallels between rock climbing and life are numerous. The symbolism is powerful.
“Every time we go climbing,” explains Jessica Ercanbrack, a Laurel, “there’s someone who goes before us to make sure the way is safe and all the knots are tied right. In a way, Jesus has done that for us in life. He prepared the way. He has experienced it so that if we fall, He can help us get back on the path through repentance.”
“When you climb you have a belayer at the other end of the rope who holds you in place,” says Jayson Nielson, a teacher. “Sometimes you can’t see him, but you have to trust that he’s there. He’s there to help you. That’s what Christ does for us.”
“That rope that connects you is His words,” adds Talina Smith, a Mia Maid. “It’s the gospel and your testimony of it.”
“When you go rock climbing you have to clip onto the rope, or it doesn’t do you any good,” says Clint. “In life we clip onto the gospel through obedience.”
“When we disobey, it’s like climbing without a rope,” Jayson jumps in. “You’re setting yourself up for a big fall.”
“But when you’re clipped on and follow the rope you won’t stray from the climbing route,” Clint says.
“The Savior lets you do it yourself, though,” finishes Jessica. “It’s up to you to make the choices and do the climbing.”
Obedience Is the Key
During the rock-climbing activity, the youth learned that obedience is the key to building upon the rock of Christ and that many youth are dangling by a fingertip without a safety rope because they don’t realize the importance of obedience.
“Every day we’re faced with choices that make us choose what’s more important to us,” taught Morgan Ercanbrack, ward Young Men president, during an early-morning devotional. “Will you choose immodest clothing or the Savior? Smoking or the Savior? Pornography or the Savior? What we choose decides where we build our house—on the rock or on the sand” (see Matt. 7:24–27).
“I learned that if you obey, your testimony will grow,” says Jayson. “You’ll know what’s right and wrong. If you don’t obey, you find out the hard way.”
Jesus taught: “Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—
“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—
“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (3 Ne. 14:24–27; emphasis added).
And just like Clint and his friends, if we seek the Savior’s word and obey His commandments, we can avoid a deadly fall and make it to the top of the rock.
1. What does it mean to build on the rock of Christ?
Clint Smith, 17: Jesus Christ is like a rock, because if He is what our faith and testimony are based on, our faith and testimony will stand firm against our trials.
Katie Ercanbrack, 14: It’s like the Primary song (see “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man,” Children’s Songbook, 281). If you build your faith upon Jesus Christ, then your testimony will be strong. It won’t be washed away. The hardships in your life are like rain; they all build up into floods that will wash away anything built on sand. But the rock—Christ and His gospel—will always be there.
Natalie Christophersen, 16: To me, building upon the rock means finding your security in Christ and knowing that He’ll always be there. No matter what I do or what I face, I can always turn to Him. Trials you face can wash your testimony away if it isn’t built on Christ.
2. How do we build on the rock?
Jessica Ercanbrack, 16: Obedience is the only way to build upon the rock. Study and understand the gospel so you understand the Lord’s commandments. You need to learn to live your life the way He would. To do that you must learn about Him and get to know Him better. Start with the fact that He lived and He loves you. Then you can build on that.
Jonathan Boyd, 16: When you build something on a rock, it’s harder to make the foundation—driving footings into the rock is hard. But it makes the house stronger. Following Christ isn’t always easy, but in the end it’s worth it because what you have built is stronger for the effort.
Jayson Nielson, 15: Seminary really helped me this year. After we began learning about the Savior, my testimony grew stronger. If you obey, your testimony will grow. You’ll know what’s right and wrong. If you don’t obey you find out the hard way.
3. What blessings have come into your life from building on the rock?
Talina Smith, 14: The more obedient you are, the fewer mistakes you make. Your testimony is stronger. You have a stronger foundation. If you follow the commandments, you’ll be happier.
Jake Bastian, 14: It keeps me from going astray. When you have a testimony of Christ, you have a desire to go to Church and follow His commandments. You’ll live a better, cleaner life. You can go to the temple and to the celestial kingdom in the life to come.
“When we act in obedience and always remember Him, we are built on the rock of His gospel. We are blessed as we live His commandments.” —Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Remembering the Savior’s Atonement,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 9.