The Barbed Wire Fence

Yesterday, I shared this story in video format with the youth of our ward. It is an excerpt from Mervyn Arnold‘s talk from the October 2010 general conference.

“Shortly after my sweetheart, Devonna, and I were married, she shared with me a story about how she learned in her youth this important doctrine that we are free to choose but that we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. With the help of my daughter Shelly, I would like to relate Sister Arnold’s experience:

“‘When I was 15 years old, I often felt that 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 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 loss 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 a protection. The commandments and 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.’

“Sister Arnold learned that our kind, wise, and loving Heavenly Father has given us commandments not to restrict us, as the adversary would have us believe, but to bless our lives and to protect our good name and our legacy for future generations…”

I drew the following diagram on the chalkboard. It represents the boundaries—the barbed wire fences—that can protect our fortress. The fortress is our moral integrity.

If one of these boundaries is breached, the next boundary is in jeopardy. Modesty in thought, word, dress and action is the final guard against a moral breakdown.

This is the fortress that protects the love of our spouse and family, even love of self. It is so important to protect this fortress. In fact, I can hardly think of anything more important for our long-term peace and happiness.

We can keep our boundaries strong and secure only through faith and obedience. If we get schmaltzy about our personal standards, the commandments are next to go. If we break any of the commandments and fail to repent in a timely way, the spiritual strength to be modest is weakened. Immodesty is the gateway sin that threatens our fortress walls.

When we lose our moral integrity, it takes a great deal of time and effort to recover our balance and to rebuild our walls, but it most certainly can be done.

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