Our mortal sojourn

A man traveling on business to a distant city was nervous and apprehensive, knowing he would be relying for local transportation on a public transit system with which he was unfamiliar, consisting of a large, multi-line subway and city buses. His agenda included several appointments at various locations over the course of several days.

After arriving, he was somewhat relieved to find that the transit system was intuitive enough, and his native intelligence was sufficient, that he could navigate it without inordinate difficulty. He was helped along by having prepared himself in advance with a number of resources, including a street map, a chart of the subway lines, and information obtained from the Internet, such as point-by-point walking directions from respective subway stations and bus stops to his destinations. He also sought and received direction from knowledgable residents of the area.

A few days into his trip, he encountered a group of women waiting for a subway train.

"Are you familiar with this train-and-bus system?" one of them asked him. He replied that he himself was a visitor to the city, but he did know, for example, that riders were required to obtain bus transfers before boarding the train. The questioner then sought more information, and the man was amazed to find himself responding competently enough that the woman was motivated to exclaim, "My, for a visitor, you certainly do know a lot about this!"

The traveler replied that he had been in the city four days and, in that time, had managed to pick up some knowledge.

"A few more days, and you'll be a real pro," she remarked.

"By then," he mused, "it will be time to go home."

How like the above traveler's experience is our sojourn in mortality. We are born into this life with no knowledge or skill in navigating mortality but with the innate light of Christ to guide us in distinguishing right from wrong (see Moroni 7:16-18).

Along the way, we are guided by various resources. These include the scriptures which are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Our Father has also provided experienced and competent individuals to guide us. Paul taught, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).

As we advance in intelligence, wisdom, experience and spirituality, we find ourselves helping others through mortality, even as we, ourselves, continue to grow. God has distributed various talents and spiritual gifts such that we need one another's help to get through this life (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-12; Moroni 10:8-18; and Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-33).

Baptized and confirmed members of the Church have the promise of the Holy Ghost as a guide. When combined with prayer and righteousness, this can be like a powerful global positioning system, a remarkable invention that employs satellite technology and radio waves to tell the user at any given moment his exact position on the earth's surface relative to where he wants to go.

Despite such resources, some become lost. They may be like a motorist in unfamiliar territory who had a nagging suspicion that he was heading in the wrong direction, but refused to stop and check a road map, fearing that his worries might be confirmed. Of course, the only remedy in such a circumstance is to have the courage to stop, get one's bearings, check the map and, if need be, turn around and find the right route. Needless to say, in an eternal context, the analogue to this is repentance.

At length, having accomplished our objective, and hopefully having gained the experience that will serve us in the worlds to come, we return home, ideally to the welcoming words: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of the Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

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