The fate of the German battleship the Bismarck served as an illustration for President Thomas S. Monson’s priesthood session address on finding one’s way “safely home — home to God, to dwell with Him eternally.”
He recounted that 75 years ago, on Feb. 14, 1939, the Bismarck, pride of the German navy, was put to sea amid fervent speeches, cheering throngs and the playing of patriotic anthems.
“This, the most powerful vessel afloat, was a breathtaking spectacle of armor and machinery,” President Monson recounted. “Construction required more than 57,000 blueprints for the 380 millimeter, double turret, radar-controlled guns. The vessel featured 28,000 miles of electrical circuits. It weighed over 35,000 tons, and armor plate provided maximum safety. Majestic in appearance, gigantic in size, awesome in firepower, the mighty colossus was considered unsinkable.”
Beginning with the destruction of the British warship the Hood, on May 24, 1941, the Bismarck engaged in battle again and again with British warships and aircraft. “In all, the British concentrated the strength of five battleships, two aircraft carriers, 11 cruisers and 21 destroyers in an effort to find and sink the mighty Bismarck,” President Monson said.
“During these battles, shell after shell inflicted only superficial damage on the Bismarck,” he recounted. “Was it unsinkable after all? Then, a torpedo scored a lucky hit, which jammed the Bismarck’s rudder.”
Repair efforts were fruitless and the ship could only steer a slow circle.
“Just beyond reach was the powerful German air force,” President Monson said. The Bismarck could not reach the safety of home port. Neither could provide the needed haven, for the Bismarck had lost the ability to steer a charted course. No rudder, no help; no port.”
As British guns blazed, the German crew scuttled and sank the vessel.
“Like the Bismarck, each of us is a miracle of engineering,” President Monson said. “Our creation, however, was not limited by human genius. Man can devise the most complex machines but cannot give them life or bestow upon them the powers of reason and judgment. These are divine gifts, bestowed only by God.
“Like the vital rudder of a ship, brethren, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course toward our desired goal — even the Celestial Kingdom of God. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder, never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder and proceed.”
As God provided the sun, moon and stars to guide mariners who sail the sea, to those who walk the pathway of life, “He provides a clear map and points the way toward our destination,” President Monson said. “He cautions: Beware the detours, the pitfalls, the traps. We cannot be deceived by those who would lead us astray, those clever pied pipers of sin beckoning here or there. Instead we pause to pray; we listen to that still, small voice which speaks to the depths of our souls the Master’s gentle invitation, ‘Come, follow me.’ ”
President Monson said priesthood bearers have been placed on the earth in troubled times “with currents of conflict everywhere to be found.
“Ours is the responsibility to be worthy of all the glorious blessings our Father in Heaven has in store for us. Wherever we go our priesthood goes with us. Are we standing in holy places? Please, before you put yourself and your priesthood in jeopardy by venturing into places or participating in activities which are not worthy of you or of that priesthood, pause to consider the consequences.”
President Monson said priesthood holders can make a difference when they maintain their personal purity and honor their priesthood, thus becoming righteous examples for others to follow.
“We are strengthened by the truth that the greatest force in the world today is the power of God as it works through man,” he remarked. “To sail the seas of mortality, we need the guidance of that Eternal Mariner — even the great Jehovah. We reach out, we reach up, to obtain heavenly help.”
As a scriptural example of one who did not reach up, he cited Cain, son of Adam and Eve. “Powerful in potential but weak of will, Cain permitted greed, envy, disobedience and even murder to jam that personal rudder which would have guided him to safety and exaltation,” he said.
“In another time and by a wicked king, a servant of God was tested,” President Monson said, citing the story of Daniel, who interpreted the writing on the wall for the king but refused great riches and power offered to him and remained faithful to God. Later, Daniel defied a decree that would have forbidden him to worship God and was thrown into a den of lions but was preserved from harm.
“Such protection and safety can be ours as we also steer that steady course toward our eternal home,” President Monson said.
“The clock of history, like the sands of the hourglass, marks the passage of time,” he said. “A new cast occupies the stage of life. The problems of our day loom ominously before us. Throughout the history of the world, Satan has worked tirelessly for the destruction of the followers of the Savior. If we succumb to his enticings we — like the mighty Bismarck — will lose that rudder which can guide us to safety. Instead, surrounded by the sophistication of modern living, we look heavenward for that unfailing sense of direction, that we might chart and follow a wise and proper course. As we seek heavenly help, our rudder, unlike that of the Bismarck, will not fail.”