A few days ago, I started writing a bit about my beloved Ether Ch. 12, and I mentioned that we might with surety hope for a better world. I didn’t say much about the next point that was on my mind, which is that hope cometh of faith and maketh an anchor to the souls of men.
Fortunately, I have some awesome friends who are kind enough to comment almost every time I post, and MoSop and CP both said essentially what I was thinking.
I love the image of an anchor. I imagine a ship weathering a violent storm. What keeps that ship from drifting out to sea and being crushed in the tempest? It is anchored to a sure foundation. As long as it holds fast to its anchorage, the storm is powerless to draw it into strange and forbidden paths.
The anchor, of course, is faith in Jesus Christ, just as Moroni and Ether taught. When we have faith in Christ and learn of those great blessings He has prepared for His saints, that moors us to the straight and narrow path. As long as we are anchored, we cannot go too far astray. The iron rod—the Word of God, as revealed in the scriptures, is the great beacon of hope that draws us to that path and keeps us fixed on it as long as we hold tight.
Being anchored is important for me, and probably for most of us. It’s important for me because I am buffeted daily with strong inclinations that could easily lead me astray. Indeed, I have a pretty good feeling for where I would be and what path I would be on without the hope of faith. It’s not a place I want to be or a path I want to be on.
But doesn’t sin seem so enticing sometimes? Doesn’t it even feel just so right, at least for the moment? There have been many times when the thought of surgically altering my gender feels so very enticing and comfortable. The thought of making myself a woman feels so very good and natural. Indeed, in those moments, I think I could find no serious drawback to the procedure, except that I know it would require me to break the Priesthood covenants I have made and disqualify me from receiving the blessings of the Temple. And then I remember that by forsaking my covenants, I would be forfeiting my eternal family, and then it seems less enticing. It is as though I walk along the path, and when I am beaten by the storm, I see a shack, built of men, as though in the image of a great mansion, but so feeble as to be only a caricature thereof. And those within call to me and say, “turn aside and enter in here, for here we have peace and shelter from the storm.”. But I know that those who enter therein rarely leave, and when they do, it is only with great pains and turmoil that far exceed the present storm. And if I have the hope of faith, I can see the true mansion, though it be far off in the distance. And with even just a tiny glimpse, I can see that its glory and beauty far exceed any concotion of man, for this mansion is built of God, and prepared for me if I will not turn aside. Sometimes, when the storm rages fiercely, it is hard to see the mansion through the darkness. But I know it is there, and if I keep my eyes fixed on that place where I know it is, or in other words, if I keep my eye single to the glory of God, I cannot be led astray, nor enticed into those abodes of eternal sorrow by the wayside.
Whoever you are, whatever your specific trials, I imagine that there are times sin feels comfortable to you—be it anything from over eating to flirting just a little with that co-worker with whom you have such great chemistry (I’m assuming here that you’re married and that this co-worker is not your spouse; if it is, go to town).
That is why I need to be anchored. I need to know for sure where the Lord has set boundaries that may not be crossed. I need to have already marked a bright red line at the threshold of the shack. And then I need to look closely at myself and ask whether I am keeping the spirit of those laws as well as the letter, even in those matters where He has left room for personal agency (which in the end, turns out to be the great majority of things). I need to look at whether I stray too close to that red line. And it’s important to assess those things before the moment of crisis. If I am in the hospital, at the very moment of signing the final papers to authorize surgery, that’s not the best time for introspection about whether this is truly congruous with God’s plan for me (on the other hand, better to do it then than not at all, but nine times out of ten, I can tell you what you will answer yourself). Similarly, standing in front of the fridge at 10 p.m. with a knife in the turtle cake (mmmm, turtle cake) is a lousy time to think about whether you are committed to your diet. And alone with your co-worker in his or her living room is not the best place to decide if you are committed to your marriage.
You have to decide what is important before the moment of crisis. If you do, you can safely base your decision on values. And those values will be based on your hope for the promised reward. You can safely decide then that you will do nothing that will foreclose or even jeapordize your promise of those blessings.
On the other hand, if you wait until the moment of crisis, when you stand at the very threshold of the shack, your decision will probably be based on impulse, for the tumult within will drown out the voice of the Spirit, and when Satan whispers in your ear, he will not urge you to look towards the mansion before you step into the shack.
This is why study is critical. If I am going to make the right decision, I need to know what God has said on the subject through His prophets. I need to know what behavior He has specifically required, and what He has specifically enjoined. I think it is useful then to engage in some role-playing as a mental exercise. Think about things you might be inclined to do. Ask, “In this case, which choice will lead me nearer to promised blessings? Which choice or choices will help me make and/or keep my covenants? Which choices keep me looking toward the mansion and far from the shack. Which choice or choices tend to lead me away from covenants? Which choices take me a step closer to that red line?”
This is true exercise of agency. Learning the will of God, and plotting for ourselves the course we think will best lead to fulfilling it. The path will be a little different for everybody, for we are all unique and have a special role to play in God’s plan. But there are common characteristics of the disciple of Christ, for all those who would follow Him, regardless of individual circumstances, must take upon them His identity and be as He is.
And if we make choices that make us more Christ-like, we will find ultimately that we will be where He is, for we shall be fit for no lesser kingdom.