Monday, July 8, 2013

Lessons from Rattlesnakes

I think I read the story in one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  A man described the home he grew up in as surrounded by tall weeds and that rattlesnakes were a constant concern.  I seem to remember that he said his mother was fairly short, but maybe that is just the way my imagination sees her.  Anyway, I guess the kids would play outside in the summer and she would watch from the kitchen window.  From time to time she would go flying out of the house, grab the hoe left at the ready on the porch, and tear out into the field.  He said sometimes the weeds were so tall and she was so short that all you could see was the hoe waving in the air.  She would return triumphant and warn the kids again to be watchful.  Be Ever Watchful.

My fourth great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, and his young family traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844 when the Latter-Day Saints fled the United States to seek religious freedom in the west.  Brigham Young, the president of the LDS church at the time and leader of the exodus, asked Benny and several other families to stay behind a year and plant crops for those who would be coming along later. Among other instructions President Young left specific direction NOT to harm the rattlesnakes, and a promise that if they would leave the snakes alone, the setters would not be harmed.  He never promised that the snakes would leave the setters alone, however.

 Benny described several encounters with rattlesnakes.  One day he was pulling long weeds around his home and ended up with a handful of rattlesnake.  Remembering the direction from the prophet, he carefully carried the snake far from the cabin.  Another day the family was returning from a walk and found the 2 year old clapping her hands and pointing to something behind a chest, exclaiming, "Pitty, pitty".  It was a rattlesnake, coiled to strike.  Again, Benny carried the snake far from the cabin.  Benny describes how the family would walk to gather wild berries not far from their home, and as they traveled the path, they could hear the rattle of the snakes along either side of them.  They stayed on the path, gathered their berries and returned home, unharmed.  Benny's family never harmed the snakes, and the snakes never harmed them.  He followed an inspired leader, removed danger whenever it crossed the line, and stayed on the path.

I read this last night as I studied scriptures with my husband, "...there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake.  One may, in anger, fear or vengefulness pursue the creature and kill it.  Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we many not be around long enough to finish it." (Ensign, Jan 1974)  Should the worst happen, and a rattlesnake enter and strike, with swiftness focus your efforts on healing.

So to my children who are all beginning to have children of their own I share these lessons from rattlesnakes:
Be Ever Watchful
Follow Inspired Leaders
Remove Dangers Far from the Family
Stay on the Path
Be Swift to Seek Healing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

There is hope

It's the day after Independence Day and I find myself thinking about hope. I have been doing a lot of family history lately and I like to imagine that my ancestors traveled to America because they were driven by a hope that some aspect of life would be better.

For example there is Lizzie and James. Living in England they found each other through their new faith, the restored truth preached by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and fell in love. They wanted to be together forever, not just until they died, and they wanted their children forever, not just until the grave claimed them. They knew the best hope for that was to be sealed, not just for time, but for eternity, and they knew that opportunity was only available in the temple. So they bid farewell to their families and made the ocean voyage, and then the long journey across America to Utah, a dessert in the middle of no where that wouldn't even become a part of the United Sates for another 15 years. She was 17, he was 20. The year was 1881. They had an eventful trip but arrived in Salt Lake City and were married in the Salt Lake Endowment House June 9, 1881.  Their hope was well rewarded as they had a good long life together and had 15 kids!

The thing is, Lizzie and James didn't just sit around and hope, they got up and put their hope into action.  I think America is inhabited by people who not only had hope, but got up did something about it. I believe that I am genetically encoded, thanks to generations of good sturdy people from all over the world, to not only be hopeful, but to get off my well padded bottom and get going. I like that!

"For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope." 1 Corinthians 9:10

or as Audrey Hepburn said:

My granddaughter, Liberty Dale, was named after her Uncle Dale who was killed in Afghanistan. He was an American soldier who believed everyone should be able to live according to their hopes and dreams.

"For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Job 14:7

From Lizzie to Liberty, the seed of hope is handed down. Plant it, nurture it, water it, put it in the sun. Let hope grow.