As a school administrator and as a parent I have seen many a young person balk when expected to follow certain rules and regulations. And it isn’t just youth, however, who get upset with having to follow rules. I recently traveled on Southwest Airlines. When you’re in a hurry, having to go through all the security rigmarole at the airport can be a real pain in the neck. And yet, to whose advantage is it, really, that the rules are in place? Ultimately, the rules for flying on commercial airlines are there to protect me.
Devonna Arnold recently shared the following story: "When I was 15 years old, I often felt there were too many rules and commandments. I wasn’t sure that a normal, fun-loving teenager could enjoy life with so many restrictions. Furthermore, the many hours spent working on my father’s ranch were seriously dipping into my time with my friends.
"This particular summer, one of my jobs was to ensure that the cows grazing on the mountain pasture did not break through the fence and get into the wheat field. A cow grazing on the growing wheat can bloat, causing suffocation and death. One cow in particular was always trying to stick her head through the fence.
"One morning, as I was riding my horse along the fence line checking on the cattle, I found that the cow had broken through the fence, and had gotten into the wheat field. To my dismay, I realized that she had been eating wheat for quite some time because she was already bloated and looked much like a balloon. I thought, ‘You stupid cow! That fence was there to protect you, yet you broke through it and you have eaten so much wheat that your life is in danger.’
"I raced back to the farmhouse to get my dad. However, when we returned, I found her lying dead on the ground. I was saddened by the death of that cow. We had provided her with a beautiful mountain pasture to graze in and a fence to keep her away from the dangerous wheat, yet she foolishly broke through the fence and caused her own death.
"As I thought about the role of the fence, I realized that it was a protection, just as the commandments and my parents’ rules were for my own good. I realized that obedience to the commandments could save me from physical and spiritual death. That enlightenment was a pivotal point in my life." (Mervyn B. Arnold, Ensign, Oct. 2010).
The ability to make choices in this life is a God-given eternal principle that carries with it moral responsibilities for the choices made. "While we are free to choose for ourselves, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. When we make a choice, we will receive the consequences of that choice." (For the Strength of Youth booklet, 2001).
Years ago I belonged to a civic group that met early each Saturday morning. My religion imposes certain dietary restrictions on its adherents that include abstaining from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee and tea. While other members of the group struggled to get their "motors running" each Saturday morning by downing multiple cups of coffee, I was content with a glass of orange juice.
"I don’t know how you do it," said one member of the group one day. "I can’t get going in the morning without my coffee." He went on to tell me how overly restrictive he felt my church’s rules were. I just smiled. Who was it, really, who enjoyed the most freedom?
The great cinematographer, Cecile B. Demille, said, "We cannot break the commandments. We can break ourselves against them—or else, by keeping them, rise through them to the fullness of freedom under God. God means for us to be free. With divine daring, he gave us the power of choice."