The Runaway Ferris Wheel

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Spencer J. Condie

"When I was a boy of about ten, I went to a carnival held in conjunction with the annual summer rodeo in my hometown. My cousin Keith and I decided to ride the Ferris wheel together. He would have been six or seven years old at the time, and he has always been known for his delightful laughter. I have enjoyed many Ferris wheel rides throughout the years, but what made this particular ride memorable was the fact that it lasted so long.
While we were standing in line waiting our turn, we observed that the Ferris wheel operator took about five minutes to load up the sixteen seats, and after that the large wheel made only about eight rotations before starting to unload the passengers again. But on this particular warm summer evening the brake mechanism suddenly failed, making it impossible for the operator to end our journey. After about the fifteenth revolution Keith and I realized that this was our lucky day.

Each time we passed the frustrated operator, who was struggling to repair his brakes, Keith would giggle uncontrollably. In retrospect, I do not know what delighted me more, the thrill of an unlimited ride or the joy experienced by my younger cousin.

In the seat behind us sat a young girl aged about seven who viewed this experience through anxious eyes. When she first realized the Ferris wheel was running out of control she began to shout her objections and demanded to get off, but with each successive revolution her apprehension increased from subdued sobbing to almost hysterical shrieking. What was a fine form of entertainment for us had become a source of terror for her.

Three decades later when I was a mission president, I shared the parable of the Ferris wheel with a young man who had concluded that, due to his incurable homesickness, it was time for him to go home early. I likened his mission to that runaway Ferris wheel ride—once aboard, he could either enjoy the ride immensely or he could be miserable the entire time, but he had been called by the prophet of God to serve for two full years. This fine young man caught the spirit of the modern parable and decided he would stay aboard for the entire ride. I am pleased to report that he endured to the end having served an honorable mission.

I have found through personal experience that whenever I am discouraged and start thinking only of myself and how hard hit I have been, if I kneel in prayer and count my many blessings I come to realize that I am truly blessed above most people on the fact of the earth. When I pray for the suffering little children in Bosnia, in Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Haiti, all of a sudden my problems shrink to almost nil.

As my personal problems dissolve, my panoramic vision of this wonderful world and the great plan of happiness begins to expand and I feel much closer to my Heavenly Father, to the Savior, to the Comforter, to my family, and to all those around me.

At the conclusion of the fourteen-year war between the Lamanites and the Nephites, "because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility".

Participants in that great war had all suffered similar deprivations and hardships. The terror of war had impacted them more or less equally. But from this same experience, some of the people "had become hardened" while many others were "softened because of their afflictions." We may not be able to change our current circumstances, our failing health, our economic challenges, our loneliness from being apart from loved ones, but we can employ our moral agency to change our attitude toward those circumstances and toward the future. There are many, many avenues to joy and fulfillment within the constraints of our immediate environment, and one of the most productive courses of action is to forget ourselves and begin serving others.

Faith, hope, and charity are godly attributes which, when acquired and accompanied by participation in essential ordinances, will help to qualify us for entrance into the celestial kingdom some day. But in addition, these attributes have urgent relevance in helping us to fend off the fiery darts of the adversary in today's world. Faith and hope are antidotes for discouragement, depression, and despair, and charity immunizes us against paranoia and acute high blood pressure, ulcers, and migraine headaches in the wake of offensive behavior by others.

This personal story was shared by Spencer J. Condie in his book: Your Agency: Handle With Care