Like most insightful and caring fathers, he was always on the lookout for how life's daily encounters could be used to teach his children. And, like those fathers, he seemed to find such teaching opportunities in virtually every experience.

A family outing on a wintry afternoon provided a particularly good opportunity. Bundled warm and protected against the snow and cold, the family ventured into the nearby mountains to go sledding. There, on a plowed road no longer used by cars, they found what Mom and Dad believed to be a perfect sledding hill. Its plowed surface provided smooth sledding and the snow banked on each side would keep the children from veering from the path. The slope was gentle and the path was long. At the end, the road leveled into a long flat area where gravity brought the sleds to a gradual stop. Even the youngest children could easily negotiate the sledding run without fear of mishap while thoroughly enjoying the excitement.But soon that level of excitement wasn't enough for the teenage boys in the family. As they surveyed the surroundings they quickly found what they sought - a steep hill with few boundaries to inhibit their adventure.

Reluctantly, the father allowed the boys to test their enthusiasm against the hill's challenge. Using large inner tubes rather than sleighs, the boys tackled the hill. The father watched with anxious concern as they blasted down, arms and legs flying in reckless and uncontrolled havoc. By no fault of their own, they survived.

The father breathed a little easier and persuaded the young men to follow him to a third hill - one he knew to be his personal favorite. This hill, also a road, was steeper than the first, but not near as threatening as the second - providing just the right increase in excitement while yielding appropriate safety. And it was long - providing more time to enjoy the excitement. If one played the hill just right - dragging his feet to negotiate a full 180-degree turn - he could seemingly ride forever through a wondrous alpine adventure.

"That's just the way I'd like my life to be," the father thought, "filled with great opportunities to learn, to grow and to explore - but never out of control."

"So," he later counseled his children as he related his feelings about the day's activities, "I've committed to make decisions that will allow that."

For the younger children, a good decision meant they would sled on the gentle slope with great protection from danger. For others, choosing the third slope provided the necessary opportunities to learn and grow, while not subjecting them to unnecessary risks. The steep and dangerous hill that left the adventurers completely out of control was, clearly, a poor choice.

So it is with life.

We, of course, have come to earth to learn, to grow, to gain experience and to be tested. To gain that experience necessarily requires that we leave the childhood protection of parents - just as the teenage boys sought to leave the first sledding hill.

But in leaving to explore life and learn on our own, we must vigorously adhere to and apply those things righteous parents taught us.

Never, in the quest for learning, growth or experience, is it necessary to lose control of one's destiny - something the teenage boys learned as they risked life and limb to a fleeting - and unsatisfying - uncontrolled tumble down the steep, snowy hill.

Maintaining that control during the test of mortality is really very simple - we must keep the commandments.

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

"Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:13-14.)

The same message is taught in the well-loved children's hymn "Choose the Right Way," by Sister Clara W. McMaster:

There's a right way to live and be happy.

It is choosing the right every day.

I am learning the teachings of Jesus.

They will help me and show me the way.

Through the gospel I learn to be prayerful; to have faith, to repent, to obey.

And I know if I live by His teachings,

I will truly be happy each day.

Life is a precious gift that increases in worth each day - if we but follow the course lovingly marked by our Savior, Jesus Christ.