Forces in Life: A Daddy-Daughter Dialogue

“Forces in Life: A Daddy-Daughter Dialogue,” New Era, May 1986, 4

The Message:

Forces in Life:
A Daddy-Daughter Dialogue

When the whole world starts spinning around you, the center is the one safe place to be.

It was one of those memorable moments—one of those special times when a wonderful daughter comes to her loving father with an honest question that deserves a careful answer. The question of this attractive teenage daughter was, “How far can I go with boys and still maintain acceptable standards with you and with my Father in Heaven?”

Sensing the opportunity to teach a vital lesson, the father philosophically replied, “There are two important forces in the world—centrifugal forces and centripetal forces. The term centrifugal force comes from Latin roots meaning ‘fleeing from the center’. Centripetal force is ‘a force directed toward the center’.”

“Oh, Dad,” she interrupted, “I ask a simple question and you give me a complicated answer! Can’t you just give me a simple answer?”

“What was your question again?”

“The question, Dad, was ‘Just how far can I go and still be proper?’”

“Well, my dear daughter, it all depends on where you want to go!” the father answered as he gently led her by the arm over to mother’s nearby quilting project. “Let’s take a little tuft of this cotton upstairs to your room and put it on the turntable of your record player.” He molded the cotton with his fingers into a small ball as they entered her room and walked over to the record player. Then he placed the ball on the very edge of the turntable and said, “Now turn it on.

She did so, and after three or four revolutions the little cotton ball went flying out into the room.

“Turn the record player off,” the father directed, “and put the cotton at the center of the disc. Now turn it on again.”

She did as she was told, and round and round the turntable went. But this time the tuft of cotton did not move.

“That is what I mean by centrifugal and centripetal forces,” the father continued. “One force causes an object to flee from the center, and the other directs an object toward the center.”

He smiled as he reminded his daughter of one of her favorite rides at the amusement park when she was younger. “Remember how much time you used to spend on that large spinning turntable in the fun house? You and all the other children would scramble toward the center and try to hold your places as the huge wheel spun.”

“Oh, yes,” the daughter replied. “Once that wheel started spinning, the kids closest to the edge went sliding off just like that cotton ball, and the ones who managed to hold their position near the center stayed on.”

Her eyes sparkled as she remembered how she would slip and slide on the big wheel. “I tried my best to work my way from the edge toward the center, but it was a real struggle. I had to crawl and apply great traction with my hands to pull myself up toward the center. And if that weren’t hard enough, I always had to be on guard for those who didn’t make it, because they usually grabbed someone else as they spun off and tried to take them with them.”

“In a way, life is like that,” her father explained. “There are struggles, and people going downward sometimes tend to drag those nearby down with them. We, on the other hand, are trying to climb against those forces that are pulling us down.

“Now back to your question. How far you can go as you enjoy the companionship of your friends depends on where you want to go. If you want to go up and onward, you behave one way. If you want to go down and out, you behave another way.”

“I want to go up, Dad,” she replied without hesitation. “I want to reach my goals.”

Since his daughter had recently attended a lecture by a member of a team that tried to conquer Mt. Everest, the father could not resist another comparison. “If that’s the direction you want to go, let’s take some lessons from those expert mountain climbers you met. What do you remember most about their experiences?”

“Oh, I learned a lot, but the most important thing I remember is their advance planning. They anticipated everything that could possibly happen and were prepared with decisions made well in advance in response to whatever they might encounter.

“Their teamwork was really impressive to me too. As they had tremendous hardships to overcome and heights to climb, they linked themselves together with ropes. The ropes were attached to something solid above as they pulled themselves up. Occasionally even the other people to whom they were linked became their anchors. We saw photographs showing one person dangling in midair while being tethered to people he trusted both above and below. Yet he didn’t fall because of his ties to other people!

“They also maintained excellent communications. Even though they might have been temporarily separated, they were always in good communication. It seemed that the closer they were to potential danger, the more they leaned toward the center.”

After hearing his daughter’s report, the father responded, “Did anyone ever ask the question ‘How close to the edge can I come?’”

“No! Quite the contrary. Their emphasis always seemed to be ‘How close to the center can I stay!’” Then, with a look of enlightenment, she replied, “Dad, now I am beginning to understand.”

The father continued, “Let’s apply these lessons to your question. One of the most important things you can do as you face the challenging climb of life is to plan in advance. You must know what pitfalls might befall you. No matter what your problem may be, you must decide in advance how you will react—what actions you will take—just like the mountain climbers on Mt. Everest.

“Remember you are part of a team that is pulling for you. You are connected by unseen tethers of love to people who pray and pull for you daily, even though those ties are not as visible as the ropes of the mountain climbers. Your teammates even extend into the world beyond. Your ancestors are concerned for you and supporting you. Relatives, teachers in school and in church, and good friends always try to lift. If you ever have acquaintances who are trying to pull you with them on their downward drift, know that these people are not truly your friends at all. Real friends never pull you down; they always lift!

“Communication in your life is as important to you as it is for mountain climbers. That’s why I think you are so special for wanting to communicate with your father when you have such an important question. Just as receptive is your Heavenly Father, who appreciates your communications with him in prayer.

“Finally, when dangers do come, always look toward the center. Remember, your record player would not produce very good music if it were not for that rod in the center that anchors the record to the spinning disc. If you allow the world in which your activities revolve to be anchored centrally to the iron rod of the gospel, life’s music will be sweet for you.

“On this or any other important question you have, cling to the center. Know what your loved ones would do in a similar circumstance. Think what the Lord would counsel you to do. If you are firmly and securely anchored to the iron rod, which is the word of God, you’ll be safe in your activities. The wiles of your whirling world and the winds of temptation will not spin you off but will find you safely rooted centrally toward your quest for salvation and exaltation.

“God has great blessings in store for you. You will attain the heights that he has placed within your grasp. Ultimately he will reward you through your obedience. Listen to his promise: If you are faithful, you ‘shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, … and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever’ (D&C 132:19). This, my daughter, is what I want for you.”

The lovely daughter thanked her father with a warm hug, grateful for his love and understanding. She now knew that she no longer was really interested in the answer to her question. She didn’t want to know how close to the edge she could go. She was now determined to stay close to the center, where the great rewards of fulfillment in life are found.

Photos by Michael Schoenfeld

Sometimes it’s a real struggle to get to the center. It takes work. But it puts us in a position to resist those forces that would pull us away or drag us down.

Every move a mountain climber makes is important. His ropes are attached to something solid above him as he pulls himself up. Sometimes he’s even anchored to people he trusts. Remember that you are part of a team that is pulling for you. You are connected by unseen tethers of love to people who pray and pull for you daily, even though those ties are not as visible as the mountain climber’s ropes. (Photo by Laird Roberts.)