One day when I was nine or ten years old, my buddy and I came upon the opening to a long, dark “cave.” It was built of concrete and was four or five feet in diameter. It went back under a hill and curved so that we couldn’t see the other end. There was something forbidding about the place and a still small voice inside me warned me to leave it be. But being very young, curiosity and our need to explore got the best of us and we had to see where its dark recesses would lead.
We obtained flashlights and squeezed through the metal grate that covered its entrance. It seemed to us that we explored the mysterious tunnel for hours. We never did find the other end. We had a great time. So great, in fact, that we went back the next day with friends in order to share our Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn adventure with them.
Much to our horror, we found our “cave” running high to the ceiling with brown, frothy, swirling irrigation water. Had we been inside the culvert when the head gate was lifted, our bodies would scarcely have been found in that onslaught of rushing water.
Boyd K. Packer related an incident during a visit to a game preserve in what was then Rhodesia in Africa. “We stopped at a water hole to watch animals come to drink,” he said. “It was a very dry season and there was not much water, really just muddy spots. When elephants stepped into the soft mud the water would seep into the depression and the animals would drink from the elephant tracks.
“The antelope were particularly nervous. They would approach the mud hole only to turn and run away in great fright. I could see there were no lions about and asked the guide why they didn’t drink. His answer was, ‘Crocodiles.’
“I knew he must be joking and asked seriously, ‘What is the problem?” The answer again was, ‘Crocodiles.’
“‘Nonsense,’ I said, ‘There are no crocodiles out there. Anyone can see that.’
“The guide determined to teach me a lesson and we drove to another location where the car was on an embankment above the muddy water hole where we could look down. ‘There,’ he said, ‘See for yourself.’
“Then all at once I saw it!—a large crocodile settled into the mud, waiting for some unsuspecting animal to get thirsty enough to come for a drink. Suddenly I was a believer. When he could see I was willing to listen, he continued with the lesson. ‘There are crocodiles all over the park,’ he said, ‘not just in the rivers. We don’t have any water without a crocodile somewhere near it, and you’d better count on it.’”
Mr. Packer said that the guide was kinder to him than perhaps he deserved. He could have told him, “Well, go out and see for yourself!”
Another ranger related to Mr. Packer an account of a young Englishman who worked for a season in a park hotel. In spite of constant and repeated warnings, he went through the compound fence to check something across a shallow splash of water that didn’t cover his tennis shoes.
“He was two steps in,” the ranger said, “before a crocodile had him, and we could do nothing to save him.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Spiritual Crocodiles”, Ensign Magazine, May 1976)
We live in dangerous times. There are inviting culverts and hidden crocodiles all around us. On a personal level, they may come disguised in the alluring attire of alcohol abuse, illicit drugs, debt, pornography, gambling or even overeating. Giving in to such crocodiles will strip us of our self-respect and will destroy our well-being along with that of our spouses and children.
On a societal level there are the crocodiles of forgetting our roots and the things that have made this country the greatest society and economy that this world has ever known. If we are to avoid being devoured, we must sustain the Constitution of this great land as penned by our forefathers. There is safety and security in subscribing to and in upholding its precepts. We must be ever vigilant to make sure that our children are able to enjoy the blessings of freedom that we have enjoyed.
Another wily crocodile lurking in the mud is the neglect of family ties. David O. McKay declared, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” Friends and acquaintances come and go, but families are forever.
May these forbidden caves remain unexplored and may these hidden crocodiles never be allowed to deprive us of life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness.