Some time ago I was asked to give a Relief Society lesson on Sister Michelle D. Craig’s October 2018 talk entitled “Divine Discontent.” Naturally, I began by talking about straits.
Our modern use of the word strait deals almost exclusively with narrow waterways, but the classic definition is any narrow passage between two impassible areas. So, when you see the term “strait and narrow path” in the scriptures, it is not being redundant — it is telling you that not only do you have to pay attention to stay on the path but also that you’re likely to crash into something if you veer off course.
So what does this have to do with Sister Craig’s talk? I’m glad you asked. In her talk, Sister Craig identified Satan’s counterfeit to divine discontent — the feeling we can and ought to be better than we are — as paralyzing discouragement, which is the feeling that we are hopelessly flawed and have no business trying to be any better because any such attempt is doomed to failure. Sister Craig’s talk was both excellent and needed, but I felt like she was leaving out half of the equation by addressing only one of the dangerous sides of the strait. Too often, Satan has multiple counterfeits to the same principle that branch out in opposite directions. In the case of divine discontent, there is another, equally dangerous counterfeit, and one that’s growing in pervasiveness: the idea that you are perfect just the way you are and don’t need to change a thing.
For my lesson, I went looking for pictures of ships traveling through the Strait of Gibraltar to use as a visual aid. I didn’t find any to my satisfaction, but I did find a lot of pictures of ships navigating the much more dangerous Straits of Magellan at the southern tip of South America. One in particular, though, caught my eye: the wreck of the Santa Leonor.
The Santa Leonor reportedly ran aground on the Isla Shoal after a miscommunication between her captain and her helmsman. Normally, when we think of the dangers of navigating a narrow strait, our minds go straight (ha!) to things like sheer cliffs and rocky outcrops — things that you might smash into. But as you can see here, something doesn’t have to look dangerous in order to actually be dangerous. There were no fatalities on the Santa Leonor that day because they were able to call for help that immediately came, but the ship itself was a total loss.
There is a lesson here.
The adversary (aka Jerkface) knows our weaknesses and lives to exploit them. Some of us, he can convince we are incapable and incompetent, thereby tricking us into smashing into a cliff. But there are others of us on whom such tactics might not work so well — those, he lulls into a false sense of security, perhaps even convincing them the crummy little island in the midst of a hazardous strait would be a wonderful place for a picnic or sightseeing or even a nap; and they can get back underway well enough after they’ve had a good rest. He might even go so far as to whisper that this little island is, in fact, their true destination, always has been, and no further effort is required on their part.
He is, of course, a liar.
Our aim in this life is to be more like our Father in Heaven, and the process is an exacting one. When the Lord told us that His is a strait and narrow path, He was telling us that to veer too far to one side or the other of the path is dangerous. Moreover, He was telling us we must be watchful, not only of the terrain but also of the peculiar winds and currents that can be found in such places where air and water are forced into a confined space. If the prevailing culture of your day and time is pushing you too far to one side or the other, you must counter it with a calm and steady hand, with eyes on your destination. Keep in mind Satan doesn’t much care whether you are headed toward the cliffs or the sandbar, he only wants you to crash your boat — and if he can somehow get you to veer wildly enough that you hit them both, he most likely sees that as a bonus.
None of us is, of ourselves, equal to the task ahead of us; our Father in Heaven designed it that way to teach us humility. But, as Sister Craig stated, “the good news of the gospel is that with the grace of God, we are enough. With Christ’s help, we can do all things. The scriptures promise that we will find ‘grace to help in the time of need.‘” As a current recipient of such grace, I can testify this is true.
They say teaching a lesson in church is often just as much for the teacher as it is for those who hear it; I think this was the case for me because this lesson meant a lot to me, and I did something to make sure it stuck. During my planning, I came across another picture of a ship in a strait; this one was an illustration from a 19th-century newspaper someone was selling on Etsy.
That newspaper clipping is now framed and hanging on my wall as a reminder to follow the admonition the Lord gave to Joshua:
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do all according to the law… turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:7, emphasis mine)
Ours is a difficult task, but our Father in Heaven has not only made Himself available as our “eyes in the sky,” as it were but has also prepared a way for us, through His Son, that we can make course corrections and even obtain repairs as needed. What marvelous gifts! If we can only manage to trust in them, and thereby Him, we can safely traverse this life. Or, in the words of Isaac Watts:
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days.
Oh may Thy house be my abode
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest
While others go and come.
No more a stranger nor a guest
But like a child at home.“My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” Isaac Watts, lyricist
- “The Straight and Narrow Way” -Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, October 1990
- “The Iron Rod” -President Harold B. Lee, April 1971.
- “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” -Elder Robert D. Hales, October 2004
You can follow Angela on Twitter @angelisms.