Through Yertle the Turtle
“Yertle the turtle was king of the pond, a nice little pond. It was clean it was neat, the water was warm, there was plenty to eat.
"Until one day the king of them all decided the kingdom he ruled was too small. ‘I'm a ruler of all that I see, but I don't see enough’. . .
"So Yertle the turtle king lifted his hand, he ordered all the turtles onto one another's back. He piled them high into a ten turtle stack.”
I bet you can anticipate what happens next in this story from Dr. Suess's Yertle the Turtle. Yertle forces many of his turtle subjects to pile high beneath him, but he is never satisfied and always desires to see further and climb higher. Things don’t end well for our friend Yertle, who ends up losing his kingdom. Much like the people in the tower of Babel, Yertle eventually sees the havoc his pride created. This story also acts as a parallel to the tower in Lehi's dream:
“And I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building . . . and it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 11: 35-36).
Oh the Places You'll Go
Though this story doesn't have a specific character that teaches us a lesson, it has a message that echoes several principles we teach in the gospel:
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose."
Isn’t this true? President Nelson, in an October 2013 general conference talk entitled “Decisions for Eternity,” explains, “The wise use of your freedom to make your own decisions is crucial to your spiritual growth, now and for eternity. You are never too young to learn, never too old to change. Your yearnings to learn and change come from a divinely instilled striving for eternal progression. Each day brings opportunity for decisions for eternity.”
Sometimes our choices are not always correct, however. And Dr. Seuss reminds us of that with the lines:
"So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left."
That sounds pretty similar to something that Lehi saw in his vision of the tree of life, when “many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads.” We all have the gift of agency to make our own decisions, but God knew we were going to make mistakes. He gave us repentance to help us be able to return to Him despite “mixing up our right and left feet” sometimes. Like the hope of the gospel, Dr. Seuss gives readers that hope as well in some of the closing lines of the book:
“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”
Dr. Seuss probably didn't realize that he was using a line almost straight out of scripture—a promise the Lord has made us as well. We just need to have the faith to move forward in our righteous decisions, correcting our paths when necessary and always relying on the Lord:
“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Lead image of Dr. Seuss from Wikimedia Commons
What other gospel lessons have you learned or taught your children from Dr. Seuss? Share them below!