Saturday, December 13, 2008

Crossing the Raging Deep

Faced with scattering because of the wickedness of their people, the ancient Jaredites were led by the hand of the Lord "into that quarter [of the land] where there never had man been" (Ether 2:5). They built barges and crossed to another land, "being directed continually by the hand of the Lord" (Ether 2:6). But when they got to that land, the Lord still wasn't done leading them, for "the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people" (v. 7). Much like the Lehites, reaching the land Bountiful after traveling for many years in the wilderness wasn't good enough for the Lord, for almost immediately, Nephi records, "the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship...that I may carry thy people across these great waters" (1 Nephi 17:8). The Lord intended both the Jaredites and the Lehites to reach their promised land, and He wouldn't be satisfied with helping them reach an "acceptable land," or even a "good land," for the land He had prepared for them was "the best lands," even a " land of promise...choice above all other lands."

In order to reach that land, the Lord instructed the brother of Jared to build barges in which to carry his people. Faced with the daunting challenge of crossing a great ocean without modern technology, the brother of Jared asked the Lord for assistance. His greatest challenge was providing light in the barges, which were sealed with pitch and would be just as black. Fire wasn't an option, and windows would be shattered under the stormy conditions they would face. The brother of Jared prayed about his dillemma, asking, "O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?" (Ether 2:22). He later pleaded with the Lord, saying, "O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness" (Ether 3:3).

The Lord then touched the sixteen small stones that the brother of Jared had brought, and they shone brightly, filled with the light of the Lord. The brother of Jared placed at stone at each end of each barge, and, equipped with food and provisions, "they got aboard...their vessels...and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God" (Ether 6:4). Immediately after they had prayed, "the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land: and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind" (v. 5).

So immediately after they had been obedient and exercised faith in the Lord unto prayer, life got rough. The seas were choppy. The storms raged. The winds blew. But through it all, "there was no water that could hurt them...and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water" (Ether 6:7,10). Their voyage was not smooth sailing, for "the wind did never cease to clow towards the promise land...and thus they were driven forth before the wind" (Ether 6:8). But they had light, and air, and the eye of the Lord was upon them, and His hand was steering them toward the promised land, "and they did sing prases unto the Lord...all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord" (Ether 6:9). After almost a year aboard the barges, a long time to be perpetually seasick, "they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land...and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because the multitude of his tender mercies over them" (Ether 6:12).

The Lord intends to bring us to our own promised land, to bring us back into His presence to dwell with Him forever. His work and glory is to bring us to live with Him and to live like Him (see Moses 1:39). He doesn't intend us to be mediocre for eternity. The mission of His Son was not to condemn the world for its sins, but to save all who would repent of their sins (see John 3:17). In order to reach our promised land, sometimes we have to be driven by fierce winds. Sometimes we'll be swallowed up in the sea. But when we dedicate our lives to the Lord, His eye will always be on us, and He will lead us, as He promised Nephi, "I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you...and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led" (1 Nephi 17:13). The winds that are so frightening are what will drive us toward our promised land, if we exercise faith in God.

The Lord may require us to pass through trials to get to the promised land, but we will not pass through our trials alone. We must cross the raging deep, but He will not suffer us to cross it in darkness, for He will be our light. And when we enter His presence, we will bow ourselves down and shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of His tender mercies over us. We will know that it is by the Lord that we are led.

I bear witness of the light and peace that comes only from the hand of the Lord. I bear witness of His tender mercy and love. I know that He will guide us through our raging deep, no matter how dark or long. "And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God...may be and abide in you forever. Amen" (Ether 12:41).

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