My husband recently surprised me with a tropical vacation for our anniversary. We’ve previously gone scuba diving, but since we’re not certified it always includes about 45 minutes of safety instruction.
As we drove up, our genial coach greeted us and we began chatting as we waited for others to arrive. He mentioned he was from Utah so of course I asked if he was a Latter-day Saint and told him we were members. He said his family is, but that he’s inactive because he doesn’t like all the rules and regulations.
After our safety course, we had a beautiful dive and saw lots of underwater creatures. Diving is a beautiful experience; you feel as if you’re flying. And you’re literally immersed in another world.
As we were peeling off our wetsuits, I asked our instructor if all the Latter-day Saint tourists try to get him back to church. He smiled. “Yes, but it’s okay. I know it comes from love.”
“And we’re no different,” I told him. “But I want to give you one thing to consider. You don’t go to church because it’s too restrictive. Yet you’ve chosen a profession that includes hours and hours of explaining rules and regulations.”
And suddenly he got it. His eyes grew wide and he said, “I’ve never thought of that!”
“Rules keep us safe,” I said. “They give us freedom from the consequences of disobeying them.” He laughed and nodded, amazed at the parallel.
Whether he pondered this further I don’t know, but I was struck by the similarities in diving and in living the gospel.
First, you’re going to feel pressure. As you descend, your ears will feel pressure, and you’re taught how to equalize your air spaces. So true in life as well—society and friends exert pressure on us to conform to their standards. This is why it’s so vital to choose friends who support us, rather than try to pull us from what we believe. And, interestingly, we feel no pressure when going up—just as we are less vulnerable to social pressures as we get closer to the Lord.
The next important rule is to keep breathing. This reminds me of our continuous efforts, our “endure to the end,” our trusting in God as we make our way through life.
You’re taught hand signals. But who are these for? They’re for other divers to see. Just as in life, we should never try to go it alone, but communicate with those around us. Yes, this means asking for help when we need it, and asking others if they’re okay as well.
That connection with others is so important. This is why you not only have your own regulator to breathe through, but a buddy regulator to share if someone else is in trouble. And isn’t this how life goes? Sometimes we’re out of spiritual strength and we have to rely on those around us. Then, when a friend—or even a stranger– begins flagging, perhaps we can be the strong one for them. You see this in a marriage, how one person calms the other, then the next day they might switch roles.
We’re told to monitor our air gauge. This reminds me of people who tend to take on too much, and then collapse. We should always know just how much we can handle, pull back when we’re overwhelmed, delegate, and practice healthy self-care. When you know your reserves are low, this is not the time to volunteer for a demanding project.
By adhering to all of these rules and regulations we can enjoy a safe dive. We can experience peace, wonder, and enchantment as we gaze upon God’s creations, more of which live underwater than above. We can love the ocean and respect its inhabitants. Many divers say the experience is actually life-changing.
And so it is with keeping God’s commandments. They weren’t given to restrict us, but as gifts to help us be safer, happier, freer. “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:21.)
None of us would like to see traffic signals disappear and chaos ensue on busy streets. No parent would abandon their house rules about children not running into the street, or how much candy a child can consume. Even prisoners who’ve broken serious laws keep strict watch over other rules; they know not to cut in line at mealtime, for example. There’s a universal understanding of proper behavior and decent treatment of others.
And these guidelines make for smoother living. Our Father in Heaven gave us commandments to help us, not hold us back. When we strive to keep his laws, even the ones we don’t understand, we see blessings—sometimes miracles. We have a successful dive. And we even see vistas we never could have imagined.
But it’s more than just a recipe for easier living. As Elder Dale G. Renlund has so beautifully stated, “Through the Atonement of Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, we undergo this ultimate operation, this spiritual change of heart.”
And perhaps that is the most wonderful blessing of all, that through our obedience we can become changed, renewed, reborn. We can be made into our potential, casting off the “old man.” Obedience brings many blessings, but greatest of all is that one.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling LDS books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.