The Parable of the Vessels

Diligence and Obedience are Key to Safety and Security

Today we live in an unstable world. Due to this instability many are security obsessed. They buy the top-of-the-line locks and alarm systems for our homes and our vehicles. They buy expensive insurance policies, even for their pets. They invest their money in stocks and bonds to "keep it safe." We have large militaries and governments. We have nuclear weapons as deterrents. We band hand lotion and breast milk and nail clippers from airplanes. We even go so far as to invade others privacy in the name of security, so that we ourselves can be safe. That's not to say that any, or all, of these things are wrong or even unnecessary. The point is society today is plagued with anxiety, worry and fear.

Fear dates back to the war in Heaven. Satan used fear as a tool to persuade many to follow his plan. He plan was secure; he promised not one soul would be lost; he guaranteed all would return home to again live with our Father in Heaven. His plan took away all risk. So much so that it even took away the risk of allowing God's children their agency, lest they make mistakes. Even after the Fall of Adam and Eve, he used this tactic, pointing out their nakedness and urging them to hide themselves from the Lord. Fear, like sin, separates us from God. Fortunately, for us, Heavenly Father has provided an antidote, a cure for fear.

When pondering the topic of "diligence and obedience bring safety and peace", my mind kept coming back to a Norwich, England Stake Conference in the fall of 2010 in which Elder Quentin L. Cook of the twelve Apostles, and Elder Kearney, the Regional Area Authority, spoke to us. Please know that I am going off my notes from that conference and as such, not everything will be a perfect quote. 

One thing that Elder Cook said in the beginning of his talk is this: "Life isn't perfect. It will never be perfect. It will never go perfectly as planned. However, through the Gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ we can and we SHOULD have peace." He then went on to urge us to have regular religious observances (FHE, family scripture study and prayer, family councils and devotionals) in our homes and he stated that in these things there lays safety and peace.

Just as Satan's oldest and most effective tool is fear, Heavenly Father's antidote has always been the blessings of safety and peace bestowed upon his faithful and obedient children. Christ said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27) Elder Cook's message of faithful, daily obedience in gospel living providing or yielding safety and peace is the same message the Lord's prophets have been delivering to God's children since the beginning.

Adam knew not why he offered sacrifices save only that the Lord God had commanded it and that in being obedient to God's commandments, he would receive the light and knowledge he needed to traverse the corrupt world that was his new home.

This same principle of faithful obedience yielding safety and peace is the very underlying theme throughout the scriptures. Adam, Noah, Moses and the children of Israel, Abraham and Isaac, Daniel, John the Baptist, Lehi, Nephi, Abinadi, Alma and his son Alma the younger, the Anti-Nephi-Lehites and their 2000 courageous sons. All were faithfully obedient to God's command, to all that was asked of them, and all received safety and peace.

I would also like to share with you, from the Stake Conference I mentioned already, the analogy of the ships that Elder Kearney taught. Elder Kearney works with ships in his profession and shared with us how our diligence and our obedience can be compared to different kinds of ships. The first ship is the barge. The barge has great potential. It is large and strongly built and can carry great loads, delivering a multitude of goods to many ports. The problem with barges is that they cannot move of their own accord, they must be pulled or pushed along. The second type of ship is the sail boat. The sail boat is elegant and beautiful and can cut through the waters with great finesse. It is fast and can harness the power of the wind to out-shine other vessels. The problem with sail boats is that they rush to shore at the first time of the bad weather. Sail boats are only out when the weather is nice. The last type of boat, Elder Kearney mentioned is the rescue vessels. Rescue vessels are not pretty or beautiful, nor are they the largest ships. They are built for function over form and are usually painted an obnoxious orange that stands out like a sore thumb. However, these vessels are fully fortified to sail the waters in any type of weather. They are built to withstand raging waves and billowing winds and can fight against the threat of being capsized. Not only are they able to stay afloat in rough waters, they are usually traversing those waters in search of others to rescue. When they are out on the water, they are out with purpose.

When I think of barges, Laman and Lemuel(*) come straight to mind. They had great potential. They were born of good parents and were taught the gospel all their lives. They were privy to the teaching of a prophet in their own home. And, they did, after all, usually end up being obedient. The problem with Laman and Lemuel was that they had to be pushed or pulled along. They were, in every incident we read, compelled to be obedient. They were often shocked or had visits from angels to keep them on course. And once they reached the promised land and their father died and the pushing stopped, their people became lost. And so it is with all who must be pushed along, without the pushing they become a dead weight upon the water and as Mormon says, "They are led about by Satan... as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves without sail or anchor or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so they are." (*Mormon 5:17-18) "Or in other words," as we read in Doctrine and Covenants 82 verses 9 and 10, "I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." The Lord has taught us all, as he did Laman and Lemuel, how to act and what we should do, and when we are obedient, he is bound to us to bless us with safety and peace, but when we do not as he requires, we have no promise.

Shall we talk of sail boats now? Will we be like sail boats and expect to only sail in good weather? Does having the Lord bound to us mean that will we only sail on calm seas and bright beautiful days if we are obedient? No. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "If we are serious in our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are the most difficult. Thus, sometimes the best people have the worst experiences because they are the most ready to learn." Is it any surprise then, that when Elder Maxwell found out he had leukemia, the illness that took his life, he simply shook his head and said, "I should have seen it coming." Brothers and Sisters, while we are promised safety and peace that does not mean that life will be perfect. Remember what Elder Cook said, "Life is not perfect. It never will be. It will never go perfectly." 
But also that we could have peace, through the gospel and the atonement of Jesus Christ.

We can look to the Prophet Joseph Smith for greater understanding of this. The Lord taught Joseph in Doctrine and Covenants section 6 verse 13: "If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation." And when the storms raged against the Prophet Joseph and the Saints and Joseph cried out, "O God, where art thou?" the Lord gently reminded Joseph in verses 7 and 8 of section 121, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high, thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."

Job, who lost everything in the storms of life, whose friends and neighbors cursed him and left him, would not question God, and never doubted, never feared. Brothers and Sisters, do not let the storms of life push you back to shore. For as a wise man once said, "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for." That is not what we are made for. We are made to be in the water, to be ever pressing forward. As the scriptures teach us, "men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness." (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27) And just as a sail boat is unprepared to weather the storms, we cannot take unprepared vessels out on the waters.

Rescue boats are prepared and ready to weather any storm. And by faithful obedience we will be too. In a talk by Elder R. Conrad Shultz, entitled 'Faith Obedience' we are told a story about Elder Shultz and his family being out on a boat one day and being caught in a sneaker wave. These waves, as they are so named, come upon the waters without warning and can be catastrophic. Fortunately, for Elder Shultz family, all were wearing life jackets and even though it did throw one person over board, they were all safe. However, Elder Shultz later learned that 5 people died along the coast that day, for being caught unaware and unprepared. Looking back, those that lost loved ones, were probably dumbfounded, thinking, but we didn't know, the sea was calm and serene, there was no need for precaution.

Elder Shultz, then warns us that that Satan would have us believe that it is blind obedience when we are following the Lord's commands even when we do not understand them or see a need for them. He then quotes President Boyd K. Packer, who said: "Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God... We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see."

There is no need to understand or have a rational explanation for every commandment. After all, we do not have perfect, unfailing vision, nor do we have the ability to accurately predict the weather of life 100% of the time. But if we have faith and trust in Heavenly Father, we will know that we are promised safety and peace when we obey. Just as Alma urged his people not to be like unto the Israelites who would not look to the brass serpent and be saved because the way was too easy and they didn't understand, we too must not be slothful because of the easiness of the way or become complacent when the sea is calm.

Elder Shultz went on to say, "It brings us back to obedience. It will always be so. It's part of the plan of eternal happiness. I know of no doctrine that is more critical to our well-being in this life and the next. All scriptures teach obedience, and no apostle or prophet has ever lived who has not taught the principle of obedience. Sometimes it is necessary to be obedient even when we do not understand the reason for the law. It takes faith to be obedient. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in teaching obedience, said that whatever God requires is right, though we many not know the reason until much later."

An early Christian reformer once said, "The learning of truth so that we may do what is right is the whole summing up of the existence of man." And I firmly believe that is true. We, in the church, know the truth and must do what is right, that is what we are made for.

We must also remember that while a rescue vessel is fortified and protected on the water, it is not their only aim to simply float along on their own. Their purpose is to be out in the waters, searching for others to rescue, to bring others safely in to harbor. President Monson has often called us to the ministry of rescuing others. Serving other also helps us to further fortify our own vessels.

As King Benjamin taught his people, "I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (*Mosiah 2:17) And Christ himself said, if ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me. (parable of the Good Samaritan, Matthew 25)

Service can also give us a new perspective. By helping others through their storms, we learn of our own strengths and weaknesses and we also see our storms in a new light. Not only this, but service truly ensures our own safety, for as Christ said, "whosoever will lose his lives for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:24)

In closing, I would like to draw your attention to Hebrews chapter 11 where we are taught in verse 6 that rewards are given to those that are diligent and then reminded in verses 39 and 40 that without suffering we cannot be made perfect (JST). Brothers and Sisters, please remember that as the hymn says, "Keep the commandments, in this there is safety and peace." May you feel the Lord's arms wrap around you as you are obedient to His commands. "Therefore," as Peter says, "Beloved seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless." (2 Peter 3:14)

I leave you with my testimony that I know that this principle of safety and peace being bestowed upon God's obedient and diligent children is true. I know that Heavenly Father provided a way for us to have safety and peace and that, that way is through is Son, Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus is our Savior and that he truly atoned for each of us. And I know that by obedience to His laws, we can live with Him and our Father in Heaven again. I know that the Lord is aware of us, especially in times of trial and that He enfolds us in the arms of his safety so that we may not be swept away when the storm rages against us.

Reference List:
Faith Obedience by Elder R. Conrad Shultz
Spiritually Anchored in Unsettling Times (book) by Bruce C. Hafen
Ships Are Safe in the Harbor by Elder Claudio R. M. Costa (podcast of BYU Devotionals as found on iTunes)
Act in All Diligence by Henry B. Eyring
Steadfast and Immovable by Silvia H. Allred
Book of Mormon Roundtable Discussions by the BYU Ancient Scripture Department as found on iTunes (particularly the discussion "Alma Counsels Helaman", and the discussion "The Lord Will Deliver His People")
Journal Notes of Miranda Marrott from Fall 2010 Norwich Stake Conference, talks given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and by Elder Kearney of the Quorum of the Seventy.

*References are found in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  You can get a free Book of Mormon here.

No comments: