Standing on the Edge
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Digital Only: Latter-day Dads

Standing on the Edge

One more step would take my son away from me, and I was powerless to do anything about it. Or was I?

Little boy hiking

I nearly had a heart attack when I watched my eight-year-old son step to the edge of the cliff and peer down. The sheer drop-off was just one of many we had passed on our hike. I held my two-year-old son in one arm and held on to my six-year-old son with my other hand. Unable to keep my two hands on all three wandering boys, I decided this hike had been a mistake.

The trail wasn’t strenuous, but I found myself exhausted from worrying about keeping my boys safe and always herding someone away from a dangerous ledge. It was beautiful country, but I was grateful when the nerve-racking hike was behind me.

At least I thought it was behind me.

God Loves Us Enough to Let Us Fall

Some weeks later, I had a vivid dream. My three boys had climbed to the top of a cliff. As they stepped to the edge, I felt powerless to keep them safe. Any of them could make a choice at any moment that would lead to a deadly fall. I cried out to God in fear.

I awoke with my heart pounding. I rolled out of bed to pray that Heavenly Father would protect my sons—not from a physical fall but from a spiritual one that now felt just as real.

The Spirit prompted me to open the Pearl of Great Price. His guidance took me on a spiritual journey through the story of Enoch (see Moses 7:21–67). As I read, I realized that our Heavenly Father watches us make choices that could lead us over the ledge toward spiritual death. With my dream fresh in my mind, I now had a better understanding of how hard it must be for Him to watch us make such choices (see Moses 7:28).

But I realized I could not ask God to keep my boys from falling without asking Him to take away the agency He had given them. For a brief second, I understood the draw of Lucifer’s promise that he would save everyone, including our loved ones (see Moses 4:1). But Satan’s promise was deception because it would “destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). And Heavenly Father knew that if we were to become like Him, we must be able to choose to obey Him (see Moses 7:32–33).

I was stunned as I considered our Father’s unwavering commitment to our agency in spite of what it must have cost Him personally (see Moses 7:37). But where did that leave me? Was I really powerless to do anything to help them?

Recognizing the Effect of the Climb

As my own soul ached for my children (see Moses 7:41), the Spirit whispered to me to lift up my heart and be glad (see Moses 7:44). I kept reading and was struck by the following words: “I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity; whoso cometh in at the gate and climbeth up by me shall never fall1 (Moses 7:53; emphasis added).

This climb was what I had just dreamed about! This promise of safety is what I had just prayed for. When I looked at our mortal journey as a climb, I realized my boys were going to slip and fall. We all do. I did. That’s why I wanted to protect them; I was afraid that if they fell off the rock, they might be so hurt that they wouldn’t want to get back up.

But as the Spirit continued to teach me, I realized that the experiences I’d had in turning back to the Savior after my falls had changed me. They created in me an appreciation for what Jesus Christ had done for me. It’s what bound me to Him now. That experience is invaluable, but it is only possible when we are free to choose to turn to Him again if we have chosen to turn away.

I now understood that I couldn’t keep my boys from making choices that would lead to a fall. But I could help them learn to recognize good choices, and I could teach them whom to turn to, not only when they made bad choices but in all things.

How Do We Climb?

Nephi’s metaphor of a path helped me know how I could help my boys learn to turn to Him: “Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20; see also verse 19).

Whether we are talking about clinging to an iron rod or to a climbing rope, the safety I wanted to provide my boys is found in being connected to the Savior by relying upon His word. Instilling in them a love for the scriptures and the teachings of living prophets can give them what they need to press forward—or upward—even if they slip and fall.

Ten years later, I still worry about my boys—and now their younger sister—getting too close to the edge. It’s no less exhausting than it was to chase them from ledge to ledge on that harrowing hike. But I find peace in knowing that following Christ can keep us from falling and that His power can rescue us if our choice leads us over a ledge.