When I was a young man growing up in the LDS church, I had the opportunity of going to youth conference each year. Many of the years that I attended youth conference, we would do the “Hold to the Rod” rope course. For those of you that may never have done this type of course before, the leaders set up a rope that goes through a grove of trees. The course wound back and forth, wrapped around trees, and had twists and turns.
Once the rope course was set up, the leaders had the youth gather in a group for instructions. The instructions would go something like, “Each of you will be going down to earth to be tested. You will not remember anything you have learned before going to Earth. While on Earth you will have an iron rod (i.e., the rope) to guide you through life. While following the iron rod you will have people along the way that will try to help you and others that will try to tempt you to let go of the iron rod. You must listen to the Spirit to discern who to follow. When you make it to the end of the iron rod (i.e., the end of your Earthly life) you will arrive at a veil and be judged on the decisions you made throughout your life. Make sure to hold fast to the iron rod. If, however, you happen to let go, you will have the opportunity to repent and be guided back to the iron rod.”
After the instructions, each youth was led to the iron rod and went through the course. Most people made it through the course without letting go of the rope. Some people would inevitably listen to the “devil” and be led astray, letting go of the iron rod. After everyone went through the course, there was a devotional where we discussed our experiences and what we learned.
Recently, I went to a family reunion at a camp in Heber Valley, Utah. As part of the reunion, I had an opportunity to do another “Hold to the Rod” rope course. This time, I did the course with my 5-year-old son Beau. Doing the course with my son gave me a whole new perspective on “Holding to the Rod.” While I was still blindfolded for the course, I was not completely “blind” as to what lie ahead. I knew what was coming and what to expect. I knew how to better navigate the course. As my son Beau held the rope with one hand and held my hand with his other hand, he was totally reliant on me to guide him through the course. He relied on my experience and knowledge to help him make it through.
As I had time to ponder the experience, I realized there are many similarities between this experience and being a parent. As a parent, we have been through many of the things our kids will have to experience. We know what they will face and are not blind as they are. It is our responsibility to guide them through life and hold their hand as they gain experience to make choices in life.
This experience also gave me a greater insight into how our Heavenly Father must feel as He guides us through life. He is always there, holding our hand and helping us through life. He has been through this before and knows what we will face. If we listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, Heavenly Father can guide us through life. While we are blind as to what lies before us, if we trust in our guide we will not fall away. Our guide will help us make it to the end of the course of life and return back to our Heavenly Father’s presence.