Sister Craven shares 3 lessons from the parting of the River Jordan

During a devotional for Ensign College, Sister Craven summarized the lessons in three phrases — ‘First in. Stand firm. Last to leave’

After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites were finally permitted by the Lord to enter the promised land. To get there, however, they needed to cross the River Jordan, which was deep and overflowing its banks.

“Imagine the scene,” Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, invited Ensign College students during the weekly devotional held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 29. 

The priests who bore the ark of the covenant led all of Israel to the water’s edge. “Then with great faith, and maybe even a little apprehension, they stepped in,” she said.

The scriptures say only as the feet of the priests “were dipped in the brim of the water” did the waters part and rise up. But the priests “stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan” until all of Israel had passed over the river (Joshua 3:15, 17).

Sister Craven added that “for the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing was finished” (Joshua 4:10).

After recounting this Old Testament miracle, Sister Craven shared three principles, or lessons, that can be learned from the priests who carried the ark across the dry riverbed. She summarized the principles in three short phrases: “First in. Stand firm. Last to leave.”

Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, addresses students gathered in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. | Laryssa Gasparini, Ensign College

‘First in’

A young man recently asked her if it was wrong for him to serve a mission if he didn’t have the desire to do so. Sister Craven said she quickly thought of a long list of things she did not have strong desire to do, such as speaking in general conference. 

“But I do have one overriding, powerful desire that propels me to do those things I might desire less,” she said. “That motivating desire is my love for our Savior Jesus Christ. I want to follow Him and live the covenants I made with Him.”

That desire requires her to sometimes do things that are hard, test her confidence or take her out of her comfort zone.

Sister Craven encouraged listeners to think of the names of people who are consecrated and the Lord can depend on. “They are the first ones you call, and the ones who stay until the job is finished. They are the ones you admire and respect because they are ‘first in’ as well as ‘all in.’”

Developing that “first in” attitude is best cultivated by placing Jesus Christ at the center of one’s life, Sister Craven said.

“Are we willing to trust that the Lord will pave a way for us to do the things He has asked of us? Things that are hard? Things that are uncomfortable? Or things that require our time?

“Can we trust in Him when we don’t always know what is ahead? Or when we don’t have answers to every question? Of course, we can. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know us. They love us. And They want us to find joy and success in our righteous efforts,” she said.

“Let’s be ‘First in.’”

‘Stand firm’

Although it must have been difficult for the priests to stand with the weight of the ark while every Israelite man, woman and child made their way across the Jordan, the priests did not waver. “They stood firm.”

At any moment, individuals’ commitment to stand firm in their convictions and covenants can be tested, Sister Craven said.

“Satan’s distractions and intrusions are everywhere. By understanding that our nature is divine, that our destiny is eternal, and then relying on the Holy Ghost to both guide and warn us, we will not be overtaken by the mists of darkness so prevalent in today’s world.”

Just as the Lord directed the priests to stand firm through the counsel of the prophet Joshua, the Lord guides His people today through living prophets, Sister Craven declared.

Several years ago, Sister Craven and her husband, Brother Ron Craven, visited a rainforest in a national park in Central America. They hired a guide who was a trained naturalist and pointed out to them the most beautiful plants, animals, frogs and bugs. “What we learned and experienced was remarkable,” Sister Craven recalled.

She and her husband soon noticed other people on the trail who seemed to be simply taking a walk in the park. “They were not seeing what we were seeing or learning what we were learning about the fabulous environment we were in. They did not have a guide.”

These individuals were not only blind to the hidden treasures of the rain forest, but they were also blind to its dangers, Sister Craven observed, such as a poisonous tree frog or viper.

Sister Craven and her husband soon likened their experience to the gospel. “What would it be like traveling life’s path without the guidance of living prophets, the scriptures, and personal revelation? What would we miss that would bless and beautify our earthly experience? What dangers would we not know to avoid?”

Following the counsel, warnings and invitations of our living prophets will help individuals stand up and stand firm in any circumstance, she testified.

Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, addresses Ensign College students gathered in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. | Laryssa Gasparini, Ensign College

‘Last to leave’

When Sister Craven’s husband was a young boy, he and his brothers loved to play in the large bales of hay stacked in their grandfather’s barn. Unfortunately, getting to the barn required the boys to pass the pen of Billy, a gigantic, prized bull, who would wake up and snort and bellow and paw the ground whenever anyone passed by.

Grandpa told the children, “Oh, don’t worry about Billy; he’s all show and no action.” Soon he would go back to his corner and go back to sleep.

“Are we sometimes like Billy?” Sister Craven asked. “We receive a new calling, we hear a great talk in a meeting, we read something inspiring, or we have a meaningful impression. We awake from our slumber. We become motivated and excited with all kinds of good intentions, and then, after a day or two, we go back to our corner, lie down, and go back to sleep.”

A few days before her father-in-law, Rulon Craven, succumbed to a form of leukemia, his faithful bishop, Jerry Cook, came to his home. Bishop Cook was also battling cancer, but his counselors pushed his wheelchair up a steep hill to the home of “Dad Craven.”

“It was a difficult journey on that cold January afternoon, but dressed in his suit and tie, Bishop Cook was determined to minister one last time to a beloved member of his fold,” Sister Craven said.

Bishop Cook was a “divine example of consecration,” she said. For the time after that Bishop Cook lived, “he endured beautifully. I promise the Lord will sustain us when we choose to linger, lift and love those around us.”

Individuals should not run faster than they are able, Sister Craven said, “But applying the simple principles exemplified by the priests who bore the ark ― first in, stand firm, and last to leave ― can help in our effort to be accountable to our loving Father by honoring our covenants, convictions and commitments. I invite you to consider how these principles might bless you in your education, in your employment, and in your relationships.”

Christ’s example of ‘First in. Stand firm. Last to leave’

When Father in Heaven presented the plan of salvation in the Grand Council in Heaven and asked, “Whom shall I send?” The Savior answered, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8, Moses 4:2). 

Sister Craven said, “He was first in.”

In preparation for His ministry, the Savior fasted for 40 days. Satan presented Him with enticements but Jesus Christ boldly resisted, saying, “Get thee hence Satan” (Matthew 4:10).

“Christ stood firm,” Sister Craven said.

At any point during His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the cross, Jesus could have stopped His agonizing pain. “Yet because of His love for God and each of us, and because of commitments He had made, He finished what He started. He followed through. ‘It is finished,’ were His last mortal words.”

Jesus Christ did not leave until His work was complete, Sister Craven said. “What a blessing it is to be led by Him. To trust Him. To follow Him as His true disciples ― willing to show up, do the work, and turn off the lights on our way out.”

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