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.


  1. Couldn't agree more on this great counsel to be swift to seek healing!