My family spent every 4th of July on the beach. Somewhere in the early part of the 20th century our family began lighting 4th of July bonfires. Not small cozy bonfires, we lit epic fires. We planned and executed bonfires that caused witnesses from over two miles away to dial 911. At one point we actually dismantled a small house, drug it down to the beach and had a 4th of July fire to rival all bonfires. Luckily, someone smarter than us became worried about safety and created a law. I think they named it after us. Bonfires could only be 4 feet by 4 feet.
We felt slighted, our fun was over! We discussed ways to get around the law. Luckily, reason and our mother prevailed. She pointed out that we were all now responsible parents. How could we teach our children obedience to laws and principles, when we broke them?
The next 4th of July, as aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews gathered around our 4 foot by 4 foot fire, 2-year-old Haley, tripped and fell and we all watched in horror as she rolled toward the fire. Nothing is more heart breaking than the burned hand of a tortured child. The rules were made to prevent injury, to keep us safe. We spent hours in the emergency room and Haley spent weeks following up. She still has a scar on her hand as a reminder that fire is dangerous.
As children, we are instructed clearly not to play with matches and given other rules to keep us safe, and yet many of us are fascinated with things we are told not to do. One of the risks we take by breaking rules is getting burned. As parents we tell our children not to play with matches because we love them, not to spoil their fun; just like God warns us not to break commandments because he loves us. When we keep commandments we are free, free to have fun and feel joy. When we break commandments there are consequences, sometimes unforeseen and awful.
During a public address, Thomas Monson, a religious leader, once shared his experience with fire. He talked about going to a cabin annually with his parents. He often went fishing, hiking and exploring with a friend. They wanted to clear a field. Knowing they were not allowed to play with matches at 8 years old, they decide to use some to burn the field of June Grass. His story ended with everyone in the camping area fighting the blaze to avoid a forest fire.
This experience taught Monson the importance of obedience. He explained, “Rules and laws…help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, God has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so that we might successfully navigate this often treacherous mortal existence.”
Monson then told the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only and beloved son Isaac, a child he had waited years to have. He was a miracle in Abraham's life. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham was obedient. He was about to take his son’s life when God interceded and told Abraham, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God…”
Abraham was obedient and faithful. Because he was tested and remained true, he was blessed to father nations. We are not asked to make such great sacrifices. We are asked to keep simple and basic commandments, and like Abraham, the blessings outweigh the sacrifices.
Most of the commandments are basic and easy to follow, thou shalt love, not steal, not lie or murder. Others, in this day and age, we sometimes chose to ignore. And just like playing with matches we risk being burned. We are fascinated by the bright pretty flame of temptation. Our children are just as tempted as we are. Teaching them that there is safety and protection in obedience is done best by example.
We have been shown how to stay safe through obedience by the Savior's example. The Savior never promised being obedient would be easy. Monson shared the moments when the Savior was tempted by Satan, or faced the agony of Gethsemane for us. Monson said, “As the Savior instructed his early apostles, so he instructs you and me. ‘Follow thou me.’ Are we willing to obey ... The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord's commandments.”
Talk to your family about the basic commandments and discuss how keeping the commandments can bring freedom from painful consequences. When we keep commandments we are entitled to God's blessings, the enlightenment of the spirit and the added blessing of teaching our children to keep commandments through our actions.