“A Grizzly Experience,” New Era, July 1991, 4
During a summer visit to my boyhood home in southern Alberta, one of the old-timers who was teaching a Sunday School class related an incident that occurred in nearby Waterton National Park in 1922. It was a happening with which most of us were familiar.
A young man who held the office of teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood was employed during the summer by the park administration. One August morning he was given the responsibility of packing fingerling trout to the Belly River Lakes for the purpose of stocking those waters with fish. It would require a day-long hike along a poorly defined mountain trail. His pack consisted of several gallons of water, into which hundreds of fingerlings were placed.
It was a beautiful day for a hike, and the young man was excited to begin the journey. He followed the course of the river, and as he rounded one bend and approached a wild berry patch he found a large grizzly feasting upon the ripe berries. The bear stretched on its hind legs to its full eight feet and roared disapproval at the sudden intrusion.
The young man was unarmed. The terrain and heavy growth of the mountainside was such that he could not make his way around the grizzly. He knew that it would be foolish to challenge the bear directly. At this point the young teacher could have cast the fingerlings into the bushes and beat a fast retreat to camp, and he probably would not have been criticized for his conduct. But this thought did not seriously enter his mind.
Almost without thinking he dropped to his knees on the mountain trail, in full view of this giant bear, and offered a simple prayer to his Heavenly Father. He explained in simple, but urgent, words that he had been given an assignment to deliver fingerlings to the lakes. There was no other possible trail for him, and in order to continue his mission, it was necessary that the Lord intervene to remove the bear.
When he finished the prayer he rose slowly and looked squarely into the eyes of this huge creature. The grizzly swung his head from side to side a time or two, then dropped to all fours and lumbered off through the berry patch, leaving the trail free for the young teacher.
This young man undoubtedly felt fear, but displayed rare courage. He had lived his life in such a way that at the very moment he needed help, he knew that he could be in immediate touch with Heavenly Father. His safety did not depend upon a high powered rifle, but on unwavering faith that he could count on the Lord for protection.
Every one of us has, or will, meet a few “grizzly bears” on the trail of life. They may be in a different form but will be no less real. Whatever form they appear in, they will tempt you to turn away from your duty. You may be tempted to cast the fingerlings into the bushes where no one will ever know and return home, perhaps saying that you have carried out your duty. There are many grizzly bears that may appear along the trail during the years of our youth. Let us examine just a few:
Following a high school football game you are invited to join a party with some of the players. The young man who ran the kickoff back for the winning touchdown is there. He is handsome and very friendly. He is eager that you be fully included.
Suddenly someone produces a pack of cigarettes, another pulls out several cans of beer, one fellow has some “hard stuff.” One of your friends surprises you by accepting a can of beer. The boy who made the winning touchdown offers you a beer. Suddenly the grizzly bear is staring you in the face, as big as life. Will you cast your principles aside, or will you utter a silent prayer and remain loyal to the principles you know are true?
People who have not developed the courage to stand by their principles will find that the foundation of their lives is built upon sand which is ever shifting and will not withstand the storms which will inevitably beat upon them. In contrast, those who develop the courage to stand by the principles of truth will build their lives upon a rock (see Matt. 7:24–27).
One of your friends has use of the family car. In a few minutes it is packed with six young people, all active in the Church. Merely riding around doesn’t seem to furnish enough excitement or challenge. Someone suggests that it would be a good Halloween trick to harass a local restaurant owner. Two of them enter the restaurant while the others wait in the car. Suddenly they come running out with a pizza—unpaid for. They scamper into the car and a getaway is attempted. There is that grizzly bear again. Wouldn’t it be easier for you to cast the fingerlings into the bushes than to utter a silent prayer for sufficient courage to speak up and put a stop to the whole affair?
Following a family study period on Sunday morning you prepare to leave for Sunday School with your mother and your younger brothers and sisters, but Dad is missing. You find him in the basement watching a football game on television.
“I’ll try to get there in a little while,” he says. He reasons that no one will miss him at church, and he has few opportunities to see his favorite sport.
The bear that blocks the path may appear small, but it could grow quickly into a grizzly bear for both you and your dad. Besides setting a good example through your own church attendance, it may become necessary to say a prayer for the courage to respectfully express how you feel.
“Dad, we’ll all miss you. Our family doesn’t seem complete when you’re not there.”
Near the close of the Savior’s ministry he went to the Mount of Olives with his disciples. At that time Jesus said Peter would deny him three time that night. You will recall the other important events of that evening: the Savior suffering at Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his arrest and the mocking conduct of the officers and crowd while the disciples watched from the sidelines. And, of course, Peter’s denial of the Savior (Matt. 26:30–75).
While Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (see Matt. 16:13–16), he did not, at that time, have the courage to stand by the Savior during those terrible hours. Following this event Peter developed the courage to stand up for the Lord and the principles of the gospel. His testimony became unshakable.
Many of us have some of the characteristics Peter displayed the night of Jesus’ betrayal. We proclaim our loyalty to the Lord, his prophets and church, but are silent in the company of others who mock their teachings.
A true and abiding testimony of the Savior can be a powerful force in our lives, but we must add courage to make it rock solid in our hearts. Then we will have the courage to meet the grizzly bears of life in whatever forms they appear. We can face every challenge to our spiritual, moral, or physical safety by remembering that our Heavenly Father will sustain us in doing what’s right. He is only a prayer away.