Some years ago a local scout outing turned tragic when a gentle wash became an angry river during a thunderstorm. The storm began innocently enough as a light rain. The adults, mostly parents of the scouts, held a brief meeting with the scoutmaster to decide whether to scrub the rest of the weekend outing due to the darkening skies. Unfortunately, the warning signs were ignored and the troop stayed put at the campground. By late afternoon the menacing clouds over Bushnell Tanks clamored in a thunderous deluge of rain. The scout troop scrambled for their cars and headed down the narrow, muddy road toward the wash which loomed between the campground and the safety of the highway just a few feet beyond. When the last SUV in the caravan became stuck crossing the rain-swollen wash, the adults and scouts in the SUV climbed out on the running boards to await the scoutmaster’s rescue.
Tying a rope to his waist and then to a nearby tree, the scoutmaster waded into the fierce current in a desperate attempt to rescue his scouts and their parents. Dusk hampered rescue efforts as the adults and scouts who had safely crossed the wash stood helplessly on the riverbank to witness the growing nightmare. With the lifeline helicopters still minutes away, the passengers in the SUV plunged into the wash when their vehicle overturned in the muscular current. Belted into the sharp rocks and dead tree stumps lining the bottom of the wash, the current dragged the passengers down river. One scout thrust his arms around the neck of the adult driver. The more the current sucked them under, the more the panicked scout tightened his grip, choking the driver. Gasping for air, she broke his grip with a mighty thrust. When she eventually emerged bloodied and bruised on the riverbank with the others, two scouts and one parent had lost their lives to the once gentle wash.
As a result of the decision to delay departure from the threatening storm, a peaceful scout outing became a fateful lesson in the spidery-fine thread between life and death. The time to heed life’s warnings is here and now, before the drizzle explodes into a monsoon. Delaying our response to warning signs creates consequences which reduce choice. Just as darkening clouds signal a warning of foul weather ahead, so too are there spiritual warnings, which, if promptly heeded, can avert the raging consequences of delay:
1. The Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom is a sophisticated early-warning system. Having grown up in an alcoholic home, I can bear personal witness of the lasting consequences of rejecting the Word of Wisdom. No parent, no youth starts out as an alcoholic. No one ingests the first drug or takes his first drink out of malevolence toward others. Yet family and friends are often the unintended victims of choices which seem as innocuous as a light rain when first proposed, but can billow into deadly thunderstorms in the unstoppable inertia of addiction. Once addicted, the choice which moral agency affords us is reduced to a narrow bandwidth of harder choices–including the potential loss of will to choose freedom from addiction. The warning is unmistakable when the Lord said: “I have warned you and forewarn you, by giving unto you this Word of Wisdom by revelation–” (D&C 89:4). By heeding the warning, blessings of physical and spiritual health follow–including “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” and protection from “the destroying angel” (D&C 89:19,21).
2. Casual Response To The Things of God. Elder Maxwell counseled: “Casual members are usually very busy with the cares and things of the world–much as honorable Amulek once was. Called many times, he would not hear. He really knew concerning the truths of the gospel, but Amulek would not acknowledge that he knew” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Settle This In Your Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1992). Like Amulek, when we get so busy with the cares of the world that all we are is busy, we risk losing the companionship of the Holy Ghost–or at least we risk the blessing of a richer relationship with the Spirit.
When I was a new member of the Church, I was shocked at the casual approach to General Conference by some members. The Saturday session was often treated as a day of recreation. More than once I heard the I’ll-get-the-video excuse. The problem is: few ever take the time to watch Conference later on–and if they do, they miss the spirit of obedience in the here and now for which the Lord “doth immediately bless you.