In a regional multi-stake conference beamed in from Salt Lake City this month, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke about his experience on board a cruise ship. He talked about the fine accommodations, food and entertainment available to the participants. However, one of the nightly shows was deemed to be too risqué, so he and his wife left the performance. He noted that this episode had relevance in the church experience. Just because one of the events on board the ship didn’t meet with their satisfaction, they didn’t jump off the boat. In a similar vein, he stated that just because something doesn’t go the way we expect in our church experience, we should not abandon the Mormon mother ship. His message to the listeners in this conference was repeated several times: Don’t get off the ship; it will take you to many venues and complete its journey.

I assume that message was prompted by the number of members who are leaving the church. Is this true for the 64 stakes involved in this regional conference or is this message going out to the broader church?

As I pondered his comments, I decided that the analogy of the ship and a cruise is relevant but I don’t think he took the idea far enough. A cruise will take you and its passengers to many destinations but will not be able to carry you to past the port. In other words, a cruise ship to Rome won’t get you to the Coliseum. To accomplish that objective, one must get off the ship and proceed on their own to the chosen venue.

In a similar manner, the church can only take you so far before you have to put on your walking shoes and move under your own power. Elder Eyring, later in the same conference, noted that no apostle, stake president, or bishop can save a person; this must be accomplished by the individual.

While the church can get us close to the destination and provide instructions on how to complete the journey, it does not have the power to carry each of us to the final objective. The fundamental purpose of the church is to teach us how to come unto Christ. It is not the end but a means to an end. We must each learn to ‘walk by faith’ and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. No leader from the president of the church down to the local bishop can carry us to that final destination – our personal sanctification. We must accomplish this under our own power.

In the definition of the gospel given by Christ to the Nephites found in Third Nephi, chapter 27, we read:

18  And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men.  And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

19  And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20  Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

21  Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

If our ultimate goal is to ‘stand spotless’ before Christ, we are instructed to apply this gospel in our lives. We are told we must repent and come unto Christ. We are to be baptized and receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, which sanctifies us in preparation for the presence of our Redeemer.

The purpose of those who guide this church, I believe is found in D&C 19:

31  And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

32  Behold, this is a great and the last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter; for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life.

The more the leadership of the church tries to go beyond this simple admonition, the less effective they will be. Instead of telling us ‘Don’t get off the ship,’ the message should be ‘here are the things you need to know so that you can be prepared to leave the ship and finish your journey under your own power.’

Both Paul (Philippians 2:12) and Mormon (Mormon 9:27) told us that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, or as I would suggest, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The more that church correlation and programs detract from this objective, the less relevant the church becomes.

So… my message is simple. Use the church as a vehicle to bring you closer to your ultimate destination, but at the same time, prepare to leave the ship and move forward on your own.

What think ye?

10 Responses to “Don’t Get Off The Ship”

  • Interesting. I don’t know what region you are in be we didn’t have anything lik ethat. I think this conference shows that the Church is definately aware of what is going on. The problem is that the only people who will really listen are those who have no intention of leaving the Church.Those of us who are aware fo teh problems with the Church are already preparing ourselves for the day we must leave the church(if we haven’t already).

    I’ll go with you on the cruise ship being equated with the Church(TM). I’ll also agree that we must each carry on our journey under our own power.

    However I think that the church(not the Church(TM)), might be more aptly described as the roadways to get to the Coliseum. The pople that are the church are there to help and aid us inour journey. If we do not have the gift of prophecy, another member of the church who does can assist us. While we must make the journey ourselves the aid of the church(again, not the Church(TM)) is invaluable.

    Ok, maybe roadways are not the best analogy. Now that i think about it it give the impression of some predefined path that everyone must follow.

  • Spektator:

    I am in the mid-west. In the last 15 years, the ward in which I reside has actually shrunk in the number of active members. The membership has increased slightly but I would guess that 95% of the converts in the last ten years never became part of the ward.

    I believe the Church is aware of the problem, both with retaining current members and attracting new ones. The basic problem, in my opinion, is the doublespeak. The missionaries preach of revelation and restoration but what people find is a focus on busywork and little spirit. I had to grin at the comments to the bishop at the end of conference. Several people were elated that they had a short meeting schedule, so they could go do their own thing. That certainly speaks of a success in building a spiritual community.

    I actually adapted the analogy from a dream my wife shared with me a few years ago. She dreamed that she boarded a bus along with others for a journey to the top of a mountain. When they got to the base, the bus stopped and the people on the bus had to put their hiking shoes on and make the climb to the top of the mountain under their own power.

    She saw this as a reminder that the Church can only take us so far; the rest of the journey is based on our desire to wear our faith on our feet and exert the strength necessary to make the climb. That dream and interpretation, I believe, is the real message we are supposed to share.

    As I read your comment about the church versus the Church, I pondered the role of the two in our quest for a place in the kingdom of God. I was reminded of a scripture in the first section of the D&C as follows:

    “19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
    20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;”

    I desire a world where we all can speak in the name of God; where we given the inspiration as an individual and not constrained by some arbitrary bureaucracy. Those that sit ‘in counsel’ are largely ignorant of the Lord’s admonition to be ministers and servants to the people (3 Nephi 12:1).

    I agree with you that there are many paths. We are encouraged to find a path that brings wisdom and learning into our hearts and minds.

    • Marie:

      Thank you so VERY much for sharing your wife’s dream. It works for me so much better than the cruise ship analogy. We not only have to CHOOSE to get off the bus, but CHOOSE to put on the hiking boots AND put one foot in front of the other up to the top of the mountain. I have to admit to being very myopic, thinking that being a faithful member of The Church (TM) would be enough. I always understood that my salvation was in my hands, but now it is VERY clear to me what I need to do.

      • Spektator:

        I think you are in the minority of members. Most I know think that the weekly/monthly rituals will be sufficient. I have often wondered what the Lord really meant when He said ‘they draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.’ In my opinion, much of what is required of us in the church today amounts to lip service.

        Thanks for stopping by.

  • aka:

    Thank you for the post.

    It reminds me of D & C 93 where we are taught about worshiping.

    My guess is that those of us that yearn to be with the Father will never be
    satisfied with religion because it can provide so little knowledge of Him.
    Knowledge of Him, can only come from Him. It is sent direct to the individual.

  • Spektator:

    Section 93 applies on several fronts. I would also point to the first verse in the section which outlines what one must do to know the Lord:

    “VERILY, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;”

    What a great promise. No middle man necessary.

  • The Glider:

    Th Cruise Ship analogy must have been in development for quite a while. I first heard it at a stake conference presided over by elder Holland in the 2004-5 timeframe – except it was a life boat that we weren’t to jump out of. The talk was memorable because he actually pounded the pulpit with his book to emphasize each word “Don’t get out of the boat!”. Haven’t seen that much animation in the Church since I don’t know when (at least out of the gym).

    • He did that exact same thing at a Stake Conf. held in 2008. I’ve heard many other accounts of him using boat analogies and banging on stands — I think that’s his standard Stake Conf. fare.

  • Spektator:

    Perhaps with the explosive growth of the church, a larger vehicle is needed, hence the move from the lifeboat to the cruise ship.

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