Sister Sharon Eubank keeps a gift she was given displayed prominently where she can see it every day. The hand carved, beautifully painted wooden crocodile reminds her of the Mara River in Kenya, where herds of animals migrate to reach the sweet grasses on the other side.
Unfortunately, the river is also home to 15-foot-long Nile crocodiles. Often, inexperienced antelope unfamiliar with the threat posed by the low-profile animal floating amongst the plants jump in to cross the river.
“They don’t reckon with how fast crocodiles can move, how strong their jaws are when they clamp onto something, and how quickly they can spring forward on their powerful legs,” said Sister Eubank, first counselor of the Relief Society general presidency, during an Ensign College campus devotional on Oct. 13.
In her address, which was broadcast to students and faculty, the general Relief Society leader compared listeners to the antelope and Satan to the crocodile.
Due to inexperience, she said, “we see the crocodiles in the river, but we don’t recognize them as dangers.” Sometimes others will follow into the water thinking all must be well, but as soon as everyone is in deep water, Satan strikes. “A lot of antelope get lost this way,” she said.
Because Heavenly Father knows individuals are inexperienced and yet need to cross the river, He offers help. Sister Eubank then shared three ways Heavenly Father helps individuals avoid the hidden crocodiles.
Experienced zebra and wildebeests
The first help Heavenly Father offers is the experience of those who have already successfully crossed the river.
Zebra and wildebeests cross the river much more often than antelope, Sister Eubank said. “They have discovered where to cross where the crocodiles don’t like to swim, they have perfected a swift kick or a well-timed jump that keeps them out of the jaws of the crocodiles.”
The experiences of people who have successfully “crossed the river” are written down in the scriptures, she explained.
For example, Alma the Younger rebelled against his parents and God and His commandments. Then one day an angel appeared to him. The thought of his sins and iniquities tormented him with “the pains of hell.” The thought of coming into the presence of God “did rack my soul with inexpressible horror” (Alma 36:12-16).
“In essence, Alma jumped into the water as an ignorant antelope and then bullied other antelope who were hesitating to get in the water with him,” Sister Eubank said. Crocodiles closed in, and Alma became “crocodile food.”
Then Alma remembered the prophesying of his father concerning the Savior Jesus Christ and he cried within his heart, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness. … And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:17-19).
The lesson for every modern problem, Sister Eubank said, is that Jesus can restore any half-eaten antelope out of the jaws of a crocodile.
It might seem impossible or illogical but it’s true, she said. “It happened in my own life. I have scars, but I am whole. This is the miracle of repentance and forgiveness. … It is never too late for you if you call out for Jesus Christ to have mercy on you and give up your sins.”
The stories of zebras and wildebeests and rescued antelopes written in the scriptures point individuals to repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, Sister Eubank said.
A boat to steer through choppy waters
The second help the Lord gives in crossing the water is a boat. “The boat lifts us out of the water, surrounded by a protective layer that keeps crocodiles out. Boats can have sails to catch the wind, or motors to move them upstream, and rudders that make the steering much easier,” Sister Eubank said.
Several years ago, Sister Eubank and a friend steered a small kayak from the mainland across a channel to a small island. However, the ride back was suddenly difficult. The water was choppy and the rudder, a small fin in the back that steers the kayak, didn’t seem to be working. She suddenly realized she had forgotten to put the rudder back down after pulling up on the island. “It showed me how important that small fin could be,” Sister Eubank recalled.
Covenants with God are like boats. “They surround us in a protective layer as we cross the river, and keep us out of the choppy water.” As individuals work to keep their covenants, the Holy Ghost can act like a rudder to steer them to calm waters. “But we have to remember the Holy Ghost and not forget to engage Him in our lives. Our navigation is terrible without His help,” Sister Eubank warned.
Covenants are more powerful than people realize, she continued. “You may think your promises are just a small rowboat, but it will eventually grow to an ocean liner that can rescue hundreds of other people. Your covenants are about other people even more than they are about you.”
Prophets provide a view from above
From the vantage point of the river, it’s difficult to see hiding crocodiles; however, they are easily visible from above, Sister Eubank noted.
Because the Lord gives prophets a higher view, they are able to direct individuals on the location of crocodiles in their lives, Sister Eubank said.
The truth found in Amos 3:7 is just as true today as it has been for thousands of years, Sister Eubank said. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
Recalling the previous weekend where members of the Church heard 10 hours of counsel from leaders during the 190th Semiannual General Conference, Sister Eubank asked listeners, “What did you hear from the prophets that you hadn’t heard before?”
Something she learned from President Russell M. Nelson, Sister Eubank said, is that Israel is not called to be the “chosen” people who can be saved, but an ensign, or flag, referring to the school’s new moniker — Ensign College — which changed it’s name from LDS Business College on Sept. 1.
“[Israel] is called to be an ensign to other people to show them where Israel is being gathered. All those who are willing to let God prevail in their lives are being gathered to meet their God,” Sister Eubank said.
Students at Ensign College are the ensign, or a banner that calls people to come work for a cause, she said. “Ensign College is the place where people who love Jesus Christ are studying for their futures.” Those futures will include jobs and professions, but they will also include helping other people cross the river, Sister Eubank said.
“Your job as the ensign is to point people to the experiences in the scriptures that can teach them what to do. Your job is to help them prepare for and build their own covenantal boats. Your job is to listen to the directions coming from the higher view.
“This isn’t about you anymore,” Sister Eubank said. “It’s about all the people you can help to cross the river to safety.”