Area Presidency Message: The Parable of the Wild Duck


When I was a young boy, my parents had a tradition of buying the children baby ducklings at Easter time. They became our pets. Near our home, in Minnesota, there was a small pond. As the ducklings grew, we would allow them to live in it. Each day I would feed them. All I had to do was whistle and they would come to me. They knew that my whistle meant easy food. As the spring turned to summer, the ducks grew bigger and fatter. They were bred not to fly. They were grateful for my free hand-outs.

From time to time, wild ducks would join them. These ducks were different. They were smaller in size. They could fly. And each winter, when it turned cold in Minnesota, the wild ducks would fly south to warmer weather. The wild ducks would never join the others when I fed them. They were afraid of me.

One day, though, a wild duck decided to join the tame ducks. He wanted an easy meal. At first, he did not trust me. But slowly he grew accustomed to my presence. He, too, began to enjoy the free meals. His life was different though. Initially, he could have it both ways. He would eat his tasty meal and then would fly off to be with the wild ducks.

After a while, I noticed a change. He stopped flying. And then I noticed why. All his free meals made him fat. He was no longer able to fly. Perhaps this story would have had a happy ending, but as mentioned earlier, winter in Minnesota brings cold, snow and frozen ponds. One day my mother told me that a man would be coming to take the ducks away for the winter. She said he had a farm and would take care of them. When the time came to say good-bye to my ducks, not only did the tame ducks go, but the wild duck was taken as well.

A few days later, I asked my mother about the ducks. She confessed to me that the man who took them was going to eat them. She just wanted to spare me the pain of telling me. I suspected that this was the case. This happened about 60 years ago, but the experience remains clear in my memory.

I remember the wild duck. This duck had freedom, but he gave it up for what he thought would be an easier life. What he thought was a free hand-out became his prison.

We are taught in Helaman, “And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free” (Helaman 14:30).

As it was for my friend, the duck, so is it for each of us. We are free to choose for ourselves. But when we make our choices, we also choose the consequences. The wild duck’s instincts told him he should stay away, but he succumbed. He did not follow what he, intuitively, knew to be the better choice. As a result, he lost his freedom.

The duck made two mistakes that affected his destiny. First, he sought the easy, problem-free path. Second, he tried to live in two different worlds.

Regarding the easy path, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are given challenges to help us grow. When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, under very trying circumstances, pleading with the Lord to answer his prayers, Joseph was told the following: “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7). And then the Lord added these penetrating words: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8) It is our righteous choices in trying times that produce spiritual growth.

As for the second point, the duck tried to live in a world different from his own. It did not work for him. Nor will it work for us. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot have it both ways. Few people are blessed to know of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We do. We must stay firmly planted on the covenant path. This is the world we belong in.

The Lord taught us, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

The truth shall make us free if we choose to follow it. That is why God has given us our agency.

When it comes to our own self-reliance and preparedness, the same principles apply.

The Lord has declared, “It is my purpose to provide for my saints” (D&C 104:15). This revelation is a promise from the Lord that He will provide temporal blessings and open the door of self-reliance. Self-reliance is the ability to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and for our loved ones.

In fact, He continues, “But it must needs be done in mine own way” (D&C 104:16).

Often, we look for a quick solution to life’s challenges. Especially as it relates to taking care of our loved ones. The temptation is great to put our trust in the arm of flesh, but Nephi taught us the risk if we do: “cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man” (2 Nephi 4:34).

So, as the wild duck taught us, when the arm of flesh is not in accordance with the arm of God, the blessing of agency can turn against us.

Central to self-reliance is our preparedness. We have been taught that when we are prepared, we shall not fear. Moroni has given us a perfect example. In defending themselves against the Lamanites, Moroni ensured that the Nephites had done all they could to protect their homes and their families (see Alma 49:4–5, 8).

So, it is with us. We must be prepared for the battles of life. The West Africa Area plan outlines four important actions we are commanded to take to protect us from the stones and arrows of life.

Strive to become self-reliant with honesty and integrity by doing the following:

Above all, we must be prepared for the time when the Lord returns. President Nelson has instructed us, again and again, that we are to be prepared for this sacred event.

​​“​Prepare ye, ​​​prepare​ ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is ​​​nigh” (D&C 1:12).

Though no one knows the day or the time, it does not matter. The only thing that matters is our own readiness, our own preparedness, to meet Him. May we retain our freedom. May we avoid the plight of the wild duck.