There is something magical about the dawn of a new day, especially after a storm, when the air is crisp and fresh and everything seems to be renewed and cleansed. Sometimes the sun bursts through the clouds as a reminder that the storm has passed, that warmth is ahead.
I love the painting entitled “I Will Bring You Up Again out of the Depths” by Jonathan Arthur Clarke that accompanies the Come, Follow Me lesson for this week (see cover image). Two things immediately catch my eye: the darkness of the sky and water and the light breaking through from above. If this were a puzzle, there would be a lot of dark blue pieces with a few light ones. Barges drift towards the light, battered but intact. For me, this painting captures a powerful lesson from these chapters: no matter how hard the journey, the Lord will deliver His people if they follow Him.
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Read or summarize the introductory paragraphs in the Come, Follow Me lesson. Why were the Nephites “desirous beyond measure” to have Mosiah translate these plates and to learn of these people (Mosiah 28:28:12)? Why is it “wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto [us]” and what are we to gain from this record (Ether 8:23)?
The Lord will lead me toward my promised land
The Lord helps, leads, strengthens, and might even touch clear stones with His finger to light entire barges, but He doesn’t sail our journey for us to the promised land, nor does He guarantee smooth sailing. We must “set forth into the sea” and – in faith – commend ourselves unto the Lord (Ether 6:4). Elder Elder L. Todd Budge said, “To commend means to entrust or to surrender. The Jaredites did not get into the barges because they knew exactly how things would work on their journey. They got aboard because they had learned to trust in the Lord’s power, goodness, and mercy, and they were therefore willing to surrender themselves and any doubts or fears they may have had to the Lord” (Consistent and Resilient Trust, Oct. 2019).
After communing with the Lord, the Brother of Jared carried the divinely lit stones down from the mountain and put one in the end of each barge. “And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness” (Ether 6:2-3). The Lord’s light touched and blessed each one of them – individually – throughout their journey. We, too, are not left alone to face our challenges in darkness.
The Lord “caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind. And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind” (Ether 6:5-6).
It’s so interesting to me that the very wind that was sent to blow them towards their destination was the same wind that caused tempests, tossings, mountain waves, and caused them to be buried in the depths of the sea. This was a fierce but purposeful wind. So, too, are the storms of our own lives. The very experiences that challenge us – and sometimes almost crush us – are divinely provided lesson plans for our growth. Such tailored tutoring blows us toward our promised land.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for the Jaredites and it isn’t for us. “And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the bark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters” (Ether 6:7).
I have thought of the phrase ”tight like unto a dish” many times as we continue to face challenges and setbacks. Sometimes it feels as if the adversary is winning the fight for my family’s soul, and then I read again about these barges. They were tight like unto a dish. Nothing could penetrate them, and “no monster of the sea could mar them” (Ether 6:10). No matter what influences sometimes threaten to destroy us, the adversary has only won the battle, not the war. The countless efforts we make as a family – to keep our covenants and invite the Savior in – keep out the waters of the world. A barge – or home – filled with the light of the Lord is more buoyant than the waves that crash upon it.
Even when they couldn’t see it, “the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8). They felt the movement. I imagine they also looked upon the stones, which likely could be seen from wherever they were in the barge, and saw the Lord’s “fingerprint” upon them. They knew the Lord was with them, guiding them, protecting them, and strengthening them for the journey ahead.
DISCUSS and PONDER:
What evidences or fingerprints in your life remind you that the Lord is with your family? Share a time that the Lord has carried you through a difficult experience.
This is based on an activity my daughter did for art class in the Spring. She was told to gather household objects from around the house that had helped her during the COVID-19 lockdown. She arranged them on a blanket surrounding her. She chose: board games, her scriptures, a travel guide to a place she was thinking about, her computer that represented classwork and friends, stuffed animals, family, DVDs we watched for movie marathons, music, flowers that represented hikes and walks we took as a family, books we read out loud together at night, and so on. This picture is very meaningful to her because it reminds her of what helped get her through a hard time.
Have each family member gather on their blanket “barge” (or you could draw instead) objects that have helped them during the last several months of this pandemic. What has brought them strength? What has reminded them they are not forgotten? What has helped them feel God’s love?
The Lord blesses me when I am humble
Ether 6:5–18, 30; 9:28–35; 10:1–2
Despite the difficulty, length (344 days!), and the unknown elements of their journey, the Jaredites “did sing praises unto the Lord” and “did not cease to praise the Lord” (Ether 6:9). I find it insightful that they praised the Lord DURING their journey, not simply after arriving safely at their destination. I wonder if we all too often tie our faith to the outcome rather than trust the Lord during the process.
Finally, after nearly a year at sea, “they…set their feet upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them” (Ether 6:12). Whatever tears had been shed during the most challenging parts of their journey, these were tears of joy, humility, and gratitude. They knew God had delivered them.
Relying on God and recognizing His hand requires humility. As the Jaredites began to multiply, they taught their posterity to “walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high” (Ether 6:17). Their humility opened them to being taught. Later, their leader Orihah “did walk humbly before the Lord, and did remember how great things the Lord had done for his father, and also taught his people how great things the Lord had done for their fathers” (Ether 6:30). We see this call frequently throughout the Book of Mormon: to remember the great things the Lord has done for their fathers. There is something powerful in remembering and acknowledging the Lord’s hand, then and now.
After division, contention, and war, the leader Shule “remembered the great things that the Lord had done for his fathers in bringing them across the great deep into the promised land; where he did execute judgement in righteousness all his days” (Ether 7:27). Remembering the great things, the tender mercies of the Lord leads to righteousness. Forgetting leads to pride and wickedness.
As time progressed, the Jaredites experienced many wars and contentions as the kingdom passed from one leader to the next. Despite periods of great wickedness, there were also times that the Lord “did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands” and there was occasional peace in the land (Ether 9:20, 22). “And there came prophets in the land again” to cry repentance, but they were not well received (Ether 9:28). After a famine, drought, and plague of poisonous serpents, the people humbled themselves – or rather, were compelled to be humble because they saw they were about to perish. Still, “when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord” the Lord blessed and preserved them (Ether 9:35). Humility opens the windows of heaven, though it is better to choose humility than to be compelled to be humble (Alma 32:16).
Shez, being the sole survivor of the household of Heth after the others perished by the famine, “began to build again a broken people” (Ether 10:1). How? Where did he start? By remembering the great things the Lord had done. Shez “did remember the destruction of his fathers, and he did build up a righteous kingdom; for he remembered what the Lord had done in bringing Jared and his brother across the deep; and he did walk in the ways of the Lord” (Ether 10:2). Remembering led to humility. This echoes what King Benjamin taught many years earlier: “ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God…and his goodness and long-suffering towards you” (Mosiah 4:11).
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Read this definition of humility: “To be humble is to recognize gratefully our dependence on the Lord—to understand that we have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that our talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies. We can be both humble and fearless. We can be both humble and courageous” (Gospel Topics: Humility). How can we choose to be humble in all seasons of life? How do we show that humility by our actions? How are we blessed when we demonstrate humility?
- Watch and discuss the video “Our Hands His Hands, Our Hearts His Heart” [6:49] and brainstorm ways as a family to help someone in need.
- Gratitude leads to greater humility. Create somewhere visible in your home to write down things you’re grateful for over the next or so. On a posterboard, draw an outline of a tree trunk and cut out leaves in fall colors. Have family members write something they are grateful for and place the leaves on the tree. Alternatively, you could have a bowl on the table with slips of paper, or even just keep a running list.
Righteous leaders bless the people they lead
As noted in the Come, Follow Me manual, Ether 7-11 covers at least 28 generations. While it is impossible to record many specifics, the manual points out a pattern that emerges: righteous leadership leads to blessings and prosperity, while wicked leadership leads to captivity and destruction. We are encouraged to look at what we can learn, for good or ill, from some of these leaders. I’ve charted my findings here and it was insightful to watch the pattern emerge. You could do the same with your family.
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Pick a few favorite leaders, either locally or globally. Write down or discuss traits you admire in them. How have righteous leaders blessed your life? Share a teaching from a recent General Conference talk that has blessed your life.
Have each person find a favorite quote from a recent General Conference and put it up somewhere they can see. Make it into a sign that can be hung up and displayed. For younger children, this could mean drawing a picture of a favorite story that was told or writing one word and coloring it. For youth, it could mean designing or finding a meme online of a favorite quote and putting it up in their room or saving it as wallpaper on their phone.
There is another painting that accompanies the lesson manual entitled “Jaredite Barges” by Gary Ernest Smith (click on the lesson manual to view it at the bottom). If this painting were a puzzle, it would have mostly golden pieces from the light that shines down from the sun. The darkness and depth of the water is depicted, but the barge emerges victorious and reflects heaven’s light. God’s light shines brighter than the depths of any storm.
Elder L. Todd Budge said, “If we are faithful in keeping our covenants, we too will one day arrive safely home and will bow before the Lord and shed tears of joy for the multitude of His tender mercies in our lives, including the sorrows that made space for more joy.” (Consistent and Resilient Trust, Oct. 2019).
Some of my favorite lessons in the entire Book of Mormon are learned in these chapters:
- when God touches our life and provides light, He carries us through the deep to the promised land
- no matter how ferocious the storm, no matter the depths of the sea we are tossed about on, we can remain tight like unto a dish and surface intact
- God will deliver those who put their trust in Him
- we can sing praises continually throughout the journey, not just when we safely reach the destination
- the very wind that the Lord provided that blew them to the promised land also presented unique challenges along the way
- we can commend ourselves to God and get on the boat
Elder David A. Bednar said, “We will live in sobering and trying times, but we need not fear. Our lights will shine ever brighter in a world that grows ever darker.”
The Lord truly will deliver His people.