Sister Mary R. Durham opened her April 2016 General Conference talk, A Child’s Guiding Gift, with a story of two men who, during a hike with two children, decided to take a shortcut by swimming across a lake, fully clothed, with the two kids on their backs. Sister Durham used the men's water-filled hiking boots as an analogy for the weight of the world, telling us that, in order to keep ourselves and our children afloat, we need to let go of the things in the world that weigh us down. There's another lesson we might learn from this experience: Don't try to swim across a lake, fully dressed, with a kid on your back. If you fail, both you and the kid will drown. If you succeed, you will teach your kid that they can do stupid things like that and get away with it.
In life, we are also tempted to take "shortcuts," especially with regards to morality and keeping the commandments. In a world full of spiritual dangers, we should teach our kids to avoid such dangers, to face them only when necessary, and with every advantage they can get, not to go in over their heads in them with two serious handicaps.
Though, perhaps I shouldn't call the kettle black just yet. I also do dangerous things, sometimes in the presence of children, trusting in my physical ability to prevent myself from coming to harm. There have been times when I've jumped or climbed over things when it would have been just as easy, and safer, to go around them. I have set a bad example for my nieces and nephews, and I, as an adult, should have known better.
I hope that my bad example and that of the two men in Sister Durham's story don't extend into things of a spiritual nature. I hope I never flirt with temptation, trusting in my strength to resist, and I especially hope I don't make that mistake in front of anyone who might follow my example. I don't want to set such an example for anyone, especially not the youngest members of my family. This story has brought me to the sobering realization that my bad example may jeopardize their souls.
We should all try to be careful about the examples we set and the messages we send to our children, especially in regards to the risks we take. Some risks are necessary, but swimming across the lake wasn't, and neither are lowering our standards and allowing ourselves to say "just this once."