By Rachelle J. Christensen
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
In ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end. (Hymn 124, Be Still My Soul.)
I stood on my tiptoes to hang my bird feeder on an upper branch of the apple tree. The mesh bag hung six feet from the ground and I noticed my furry tortoiseshell cat watching me expectantly. “That should be high enough to keep them safe,” I said.
I loved feeding the birds, but recently my cat was showing up with feathers in her mouth. I had seen her climb into the apple tree and try to reach the birds from an upper branch. I also noticed her sitting below the bird feeder patiently; tail swishing, waiting for a bird to fly a bit too low. I adjusted the bag of thistle seeds higher and returned to the house.
Later, I sat at the dinner table with my family and watched the birds fluttering around the apple tree. The tiny goldfinches with yellow, black, and sometimes coral-colored markings hung on the feeder and extracted the small, black thistle seeds from the tiny holes in the mesh bag.
Then I saw something which explained the feathers in my cat’s mouth. At times, the bag of thistle seed was crowded with six or seven finches grasping onto the mesh and digging for seeds. The birds would chatter and fight for a place near the coveted seeds. As the mesh bag was jostled to and fro by the other birds, small amounts of seed fell to the ground. Rather than wait for an opportunity to get the thistle seeds from the bag, a few birds took an easier and, ultimately, deadly path to get their food. These finches swooped below the bag and landed on the frozen crust of snow where thousands of thistle hulls made black specks against the white snow.
The birds had to work quickly to distinguish the few seeds among the hulls scattered on the snow. As they pecked at the seeds, a dark shape crept closer. My cat moved slowly and then jumped suddenly. The birds flew in every direction—one of them barely missing her sharp claws.
I realized it wouldn’t matter how high I hung the bird feeder, I wouldn’t be able to protect the birds. As long as the finches chose to land on the ground to hunt for seeds, my cat would inevitably show up with feathers in her mouth.
We are often tempted by delicious seeds strewn along the path and may wonder why it is wrong to pick them up, rather than climb the tree to reach the seeds high above ground. In1 Nephi 8:22-24, Lehi explained the difficulties of staying on the path.
“And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost. And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.”
Although it required more effort, time, and energy the birds that clung to the mesh bag and carefully ate the seeds from the source were safe. The only danger to the goldfinches occurred when they ignored the dangers and landed on the ground to retrieve their seeds. In the case of the thistle seeds, the danger—my hungry cat—was within sight. These birds knew she was near, but still chose to fly low.
Robert D. Hales cautioned:
“He does lie at our door, as the scriptures say, and he follows us each day. Every time we go out, every decision we make, we are either choosing to move in his direction or in the direction of our Savior. …We have been given agency, we have been given the blessings of the priesthood, and we have been given the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost for a reason.
“ …Are we following on the strait and narrow path that leads to God and eternal life? Are we holding onto the iron rod, or are we going another way? I testify that how we choose to feel and think and act every day is the way we get on the path, and stay on it, until we reach our eternal destination.
“Choose to accept—truly accept—that you are a child of God, that He loves you, and that He has the power to help you.” (Robert D. Hales, “To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency,” Ensign, May 2006, 4–8)
“Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness,” (Alma 41:10) and the easy way often leads to temptation. We must work hard to rise above the evil influences of the world. I’m thankful of the reminder I have daily when I watch the birds in my backyard. Each day brings new struggles, some choices are big and others are small, but I know that if I keep each step on the strait and narrow I will someday see my Savior’s face and taste of the good fruit.