“Friend to Friend,” Friend, Jan. 1993, 6
When I was nine years old, my family purchased a farm and moved to the small town of Fairfield, Utah. I felt that life there was the best a young boy could possibly have. I was fortunate enough to have three outstanding friends my age. In the summertime we swam in a natural swimming hole filled with clear well water. In the wintertime we ice-skated on frozen sinkholes.
Each year as winter approached, a number of sheep herds came through town. One year one of the herds camped about a mile from our home so that the sheep could graze on the sagebrush-covered floor of the valley. The sheepherder left in charge stopped his horse-drawn wagon, which he called a “sheep camp,” not far from a large gully. I remember wondering what life as a sheepherder was like. So with the permission of my parents, I rode my horse out to the sheep camp and introduced myself to the sheepherder. We developed an immediate friendship, and although it only lasted a very short time, it taught me a valuable lesson.
One day as I arrived at his camp, he was about to saddle up and ride around the herd to make sure that everything was all right. He had selected a horse I had never seen him ride before, and the horse seemed nervous. Usually my friend kept the saddle on a cart wheel and simply threw it onto his horse. After buckling the cinch, he would mount the horse and ride past the rear door of the camp, away from the gully, and toward the sheep. It seemed to me he had mastered the art of taking as few steps as possible in accomplishing all these tasks.
This day was different. He watched the horse very carefully. He seemed to take more time than usual in putting the saddle on and in making sure that all the rigging was just right. When he finished, I expected him to just get on the horse as he always had. Instead, he led the horse away from both the sheep camp and the gully.
I followed him and asked about this sudden change in procedure. His answer taught me a lesson that has been important all my life. He said, “This horse isn’t fully broken and therefore can’t be fully trusted. He’s apt to buck or run off in any direction. I didn’t want him to be near the sheep camp or the gully when I got on, for fear he’d begin to buck and get tangled up in the sheep camp and get hurt, or fall into the gully—then we’d both get hurt. So I brought him out here where there’s plenty of room for him to make whatever mistakes he is going to make without getting either of us hurt.”
As the years went by, I replayed that story in my mind and began to understand how much it applies to all of us as we grow up. Whenever we are in a situation where we can be hurt, we need to take every precaution possible to avoid that happening. That’s true when it’s a physical hurt, and even more true when it’s a potential hurt to our spirits. That’s why we need to choose our friends wisely, obey our parents, love our brothers and sisters, and obey our Heavenly Father.
If we don’t do these things, we run the risk of getting “tangled up in the sheep camp,” or “thrown into the gully.”
When we follow what the prophet tells us we should do and are obedient to our parents, it’s like taking ourselves to a place of safety. Whenever we do things contrary to what we are taught by our parents and by those who represent Heavenly Father, we put ourselves in danger of being thrown into the gully or smashed against the sheep camp.
Fortunately Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will always help us know when we are getting out of the safe area. All we have to do is ask Him and then listen carefully for His answer.