The Mariner’s Resolution
In 1830, a debate between Senator Daniel Webster and Senator Robert Y. Hayne culminated in a speech by Webster that many historians regard as the greatest congressional speech ever given. Towards the end of his speech he made this statement:
Mr. President: When the mariner has been tossed for many days in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself at the first pause in the storm, at the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course. Let us imitate this prudence, and, before we float farther on the waves of this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are. I ask for the reading of the resolution.
Today, I feel the desire to follow this same example. The storms that come from trying and failing to live righteously in an unrighteous world have many times set me off course and I have found myself feeling adrift on the waters with no land in sight, my sails torn, and feeling ill from the buffeting of the sea.
When I feel lost at sea, when emotions twist reason, and when twisted reasoning questions my resolve, I desire to give up this journey of faith. I feel much like the mariner in Webster’s analogy. I too must ask for a rereading of my resolution.
To this end, I use a checklist of 6 questions to help determine where I must go. I pray that my experience may be of some use to you.
Question 1: Do I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the creator of the earth, born of the Virgin Mary and the Savior of the World?
If this answer is true, then regardless of my current struggles in this life, I am not without hope. There is a person always waiting for me to reach out my hand to him.
Regardless of my current position in life, he is there to guide me safely back to shore. He is there to trade my burdens with his much lighter and easier load. I can always repent and reset my course and steer myself to safer waters. The words of Isaiah bear this out:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isa 1:18).
Elder Packer expressed this in the April 1995 Conference:
Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fullness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.
If the answer to my first question is yes, then hope is always my motivator.
Question 2: Did Joseph Smith really see God the Eternal Father and his son Jesus Christ?
If this is true then regardless of what the other philosophies may arise in the world today. There is a reality that the true path of God is had by revelation. The heavens are not closed. God is not dead. A person can receive answers through searching, pondering, and praying.
If he answer to my second question is yes, answers to my prayers can be every bit as important to me as this was to Joseph Smith. My answers may not be as dramatic as was the prophet’s answer, but they are no less importatnt.
Question 3: Is the Book of Mormon truly the word of God written by ancient prophets and revealed to us by a Heavenly Angel and translated by the gift and power of God?
If this is true, then the word of God is not isolated to a single volume of scripture.
If true, it reinforces the truth of the Holy Bible while at the same time expanding and clarifying many doctrinal uncertainties. It reveals to the truth the reality of the Mission of Jesus Christ and expounds the doctrine of the Atonement while at the same time giving evidence of the holy calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
If true, it prepares us against the storms of men that will try to dissuade us from the true path of Christ. From Laman and Lemuel, to Sherem, from Sherem to Noah’s priests, to Nehor, from Nehor to the Zoramites, to the city of Ammonihah, to Ammoron, to Korihor and so on, the power of testimony over wicked teachings and tactics is irrefutable
There is yet a complaint against the restored gospel of Jesus Christ whose recipe is not derived from the extracts of those anti-Christs found in the Book of Mormon. If fact, the more I read this book, the more I realize that the worldly philosophies designed to release our grip from the iron rod are hardly innovative at all. They seem tired, worn out, and passé.
If the answer to my third question is yes, there is a compass, a Liahona to help me re-plot my course regardless of how far I have drifted.
Question 4: Were all the rights, powers, and authorizations, to fully act in the name of Christ, commonly known as the priesthood keys, granted to Joseph Smith who in-turn bestowed them on others by inspiration?
If true, then there is an order to the workings of our Heavenly father. It follows the pattern of truth revealed when the Savior called his apostles saying “Ye have not Chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” It shows that the teachings of Paul about the organization of this Christ’s church was not some random listing of titles, but an established order for one set purpose, to keep us on the path of righteousness:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:11,12,14)
Thus the modern expression “I don’t believe in organized religion” is as useless as it is short. I may as well express “I don’t believe in disorganized religion” and be on equal philosophical footing.
The Lord has given us the leadership we need to not only help us return to God but to bring others to the Gospel as well. The priesthood is central to this success.
If the answer to question four is yes, then there is a place of refuge for me that that I may go and better learn the saving truths of God. There is a stop where I may repair my wounded ship restock it with supplies and where others may help me fix the errors of my navigation.
Question 5: Does this exact same priesthood power that was given to Joseph Smith through heavenly manifestations exist in our leadership today. From the prophet on down the Bishop, and Deacons Quorum president, do we have leaders called and ordained by God?
Ultimately, I have to decide whether or not I continue to follow today’s prophet and perhaps more importantly, our own local leaders. This may be a large challenge as the closer we get to those God has called, the easier it is to see faults and the more likely it is that we question their leadership.
In those moments, we have to ask if we are willing to not only raise our hands in sustaining them but open our hearts to embrace them for as long as they are called. This includes all who are called by them, including the Relief Society, the Primary, all teaching and administrative callings.
If the to my fifth question answer is true, I must set aside any negative feelings about the others and strive to see them as God does. Elder Holland expressed it this way in the April 2013 conference:
Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work…when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.
Final Question: If yes, then what?
When I answer yes to each of these previous questions, which I inevitably do, I have a fixed point and from there I can determine my position. But more importantly I can see that this fixed point remains the desired destination of my journey.
I find myself strengthened and ready to repair my ship. I find my sea sickness abating and the strength returning and I feel I can continue the journey rather than abandon it or change course to seemingly closer, but perilous mirages on horizon.
This final question may pose many other questions. Like those asked in Alma Chapter Five or the ten-question test given by Elder McConkie in his classic conference talk, “The Caravan Moves On.” I can use these I can plot my way back, perhaps avoiding the storms in the future.
But for now, I know that I can and want to continue. If these answers are true, there is one destination only.
In his talk “The Caravan Moves On,” Elder McConkie explained it this way:
The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.
What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.
Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.
Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.
Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!