by Elder M. Russell Ballard
Isn't the analogy Elder Ballard uses in this talk is awesome? He uses four safety instructions given before a white water rafting trip and applies them to life.
Rule Number ONE:
"Stay in the boat!"
When trials come, or the strong rapids of life come at us (see what I did there?), sometimes we are tempted to abandon ship. We feel like we aren't worthy to pray, or that Heavenly Father has deserted us. We feel like everyone at Church is judging us or our family and it would just be better if we didn't go. This is leaving the boat.
In Elder Ballard's talk he quotes President Brigham Young who referred to the Church as the 'Old Ship Zion'. Quoting President Young, Elder Ballard said:
"We are in the midst of the ocean. A storm comes on, and, as sailors say, she labors very hard. 'I am not going to stay here', says one; 'I don't believe this is the 'Ship Zion'. "But we are in the midst of the ocean.' 'I don't care, I am not going to stay here.' Off goes the coat, and he jumps overboard. Will he not be drowned? Yes. So with those who leave this Church. . . "
We can also be tempted to leave the boat when things are calm and life is going well. Again quoting President Young:
"It is in calm weather, when the old ship of Zion is sailing with a gentle breeze, [and] when all is quiet on deck, that some of the brethren want to go out in the whaling boats to have. . . a swim, and some get drowned, other drifted away, and others again get back to the ship. Let us stick to the old ship and she will carry us [safely] into the harbor; you need not be concerned."
Sometimes in life when things are going really well, and the blessings seem to be flowing, we get distracted, and casual. Maybe we let our daily prayers go a little, or we slack off on our Church attendance some. This is leaving the boat.
Elder Ballard tells us how to stay on the boat. He says:
"Here is how. We need to experience a continuing conversion by increasing our faith in Jesus Christ and our faithfulness to His gospel throughout our lives - not just once but regularly."
In other words, we need to keep doing those primary answer things that will continue to strengthen our testimony - daily prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance, etc.
Rule Number TWO:
"Always wear a life jacket!"
Rule Number THREE:
"Hold on with BOTH hands!"
"The words of the Lord are found in the scriptures and the teachings of the apostles and prophets. They provide us counsel and direction that, when followed, will act like a spiritual life jacket and will help us know how to hold on with both hands. . . In searching the scriptures and the words of past and current apostles and prophets, we should focus on studying, living, and loving the doctrine of Christ."
Elder Ballard also tells us that prayer, fasting, and avoiding distractions will also help to keep us safe as well as help us to hold on with both hands.
"In addition to developing the habit of personal scripture reading, we need to . . . give ourselves 'to much prayer, and fasting (Alma 17:3)'. It seems that these things which are not easily measured are of great importance. Stay focused on these simple things, and avoid becoming distracted."
Elder Ballard reminds us to keep our focus on the fundamental principles and not on the 'appendages'. "Satan tempts us to become distracted from the simple and clear message of the restored gospel. Those so distracted often give up partaking of the sacrament because they have become focused, even preoccupied, with less important practices or teachings. . . The important questions focus on what matters most - Heavenly Father's plan and the Savior's Atonement. Our search should lead us to become kind, gentle, loving, forgiving, patient, and dedicated disciples."
"Others may focus on the questions and doubts they experience. Of course, having questions and experiencing doubts are not incongruent with dedicated discipleship. . . Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding."
Along with the analogy of the rules, Elder Ballard also makes an analogy to
EXPERIENCE RIVER GUIDES
The job of a river guide is to keep you safe, to protect you from harm, and to guide and lead you through the river. A river guide is someone who has been trained and who has had a lot of experience rafting through the rapids.
"The experienced river guides today can be likened to the Church's apostles and prophets and inspired local priesthood and auxiliary leaders. They help us arrive safely to our final destination"
If we follow and obey our guides - prophets, apostles, bishops, stake presidents - we will be kept safe. They know what treacherous rapids and rigid rocks are coming up and they'll help us to steer away from them but we have to listen and obey the directions they give us.