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Like Nephi, I was born of goodly parents. They taught and modeled the gospel of Jesus Christ to me. And they revealed the beauties of God’s incredible creations to me. My parents regularly took our family to visit State and National Parks. Those experiences have shaped my life in ways that continue to unfold blessings to me.
I grew up in the lovely state of Minnesota, popularly known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” During one family outing we visited a beautiful but otherwise non-descript lake. With so many thousands of lakes to choose from in Minnesota, this lake did not seem particularly special, compelling, or different.
At one end of this lake, a small outlet of water flows forth. I remember as a kid being amazed that I could so easily walk across that small stream using a series of rocks placed at equal intervals in the water by visitors before me. At points, that little stream is less than ten feet across and ankle to knee deep.
Why did we drive for hours to visit this lake and stream when only 235 yards out our back door we had a lake with more than 60 acres of water for swimming, fishing, and boating?
We trekked to visit this lake with its little outlet for more reasons than I can list. But consider the following:
This little lake and emerging stream are the source for the largest river basin in North America.
This lake serves as the initial source for the Mississippi river, one of the longest rivers in the world, draining water from some thirty-two US states, providing life-giving water and nutrients, acting as a natural highway, and serving as a life-line for people in the Americas across the ages.
We visited Lake Itasca and the headwaters of the Mississippi river
If I transported you to the headwaters of the Mississippi river and asked you to consider and contemplate what you were looking at, without any foreknowledge, you would have no idea what that stream could or would become.
The same holds true for our lives.
Our past is not our future.
Our past does not determine our future.
When I read the story of Ammon, the sons of Mosiah, and Alma the Younger, I think of Lake Itasca and the headwaters of the Mississippi river. These young men had nothing going for them when they were younger except the popular acclamation of sinful people throughout their society.
They were leeches (very much like those found in Minnesota lakes and river) sucking the life-blood of peace and righteousness out of Nephite society.
They were like the pond scum that covers many stagnant lakes throughout Minnesota.
They went about doing bad.
If we had predicted their future from that vantage point, we would see nothing but misery and pain for them and others.
Only the power of Jesus Christ can change the trajectory of the story, create a plot twist so unimaginable that our brains struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the narrative direction.
So it is with us. Will we continue to be a little lake that sits quietly not sharing its life-giving waters? Or will we go forth growing, expanding, and becoming until we flow throughout others’ lives as a path of life-giving love and light all because of Jesus Christ?
When I read the story of Ammon, Alma the Young, and the Sons of Mosiah, I take courage that my past does not define my future. I take hope that I, too, can experience a mighty change of heart because of Jesus Christ.
I have faith that my non-descript little stream can become a mighty river flowing unto eternal life because of salvation offered by Jesus.