Likening life to an adventure down a river on a raft, Elder M. Russell Ballard said individuals must follow three rules: stay in the boat, always wear a life jacket and hold on as they experience their mortal sojourn.
“Most of us experience periods in our lives where the tranquil waters of life are appreciated,” he said. “At other times, we encounter whitewater rapids that are metaphorically comparable to those found in the fourteen-mile stretch through Cataract Canyon — challenges that may include physical and mental health issues, the death of a loved one, dashed dreams and hopes, and, for some, even a crisis of faith when faced with life’s problems, questions and doubts.”
But just as an experienced guide has rules and instructions to ensure safe travel of passengers through rapids, so does the Lord in helping individuals return to live with their Heavenly Father.
“The Lord in His goodness has provided help, including a boat, essential supplies such as life jackets and experienced river guides who give guidance and safety instructions to help us make our way down the river of life to our final destination,” he said.
Drawing from the words of President Brigham Young who used the term “the Old Ship Zion” as a metaphor for the Church, Elder Ballard said that “[we must] stick to the old ship, and she will carry us safely into the harbor.”
“Given the challenges we all face today, how do we stay on the Old Ship Zion?” he asked. “Here is how. We need to experience a continuing conversation by increasing our faith in Jesus Christ and our faithfulness to His gospel throughout our lives — not just once, but regularly.”
As members follow the words of apostles, prophets, local priesthood and auxiliary leaders — many who have years of tutoring from the Lord — they are able to arrive safely to their final destination.
“The words of the Lord, as found in the scriptures and the teachings of the apostles and prophets, 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.”
Men and women gain “a sound understanding” as they search the scriptures, fast and pray. It is through focusing on the Lord — rather than “appendages” of the Church — that Latter-day Saints are able to focus on the fundamental principles of the gospel.
“Having questions and experiencing doubts are not incongruent with dedicated discipleship,” he said. Understanding that people will, from time to time, have questions about Church doctrine, history or practice, Elder Ballard encouraged listeners to focus on what matters most — Heavenly Father’s plan and the Savior’s Atonement.
“Stay in the boat, use your life jackets, hold on with both hands,” he counseled. “Avoid distractions! And if any one of you have fallen out of the boat, we will seek you, find you and minister to you and pull you safely back onto the Old Ship Zion, where God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are at the helm and will guide us right.”