Stay in the Boat – MMM

Stay in the Boat

Stay in the boat

One of the teachings that emerged from our last General Conference was the simple idea, “Stay in the Boat.” Elder M. Russell Ballard used this idea in his memorable talk. Here is an excerpt:

“Recently, a friend of mine took his son on a trip down the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, located in southeastern Utah. The canyon is famous for its 14 miles (23 km) of white-water rapids that can be particularly hazardous…

At the beginning of the trip, one of the experienced river guides reviewed important safety instructions, emphasizing three rules that would ensure the group’s safe travel through the rapids. “Rule number one: stay in the boat!” (Link to entire talk here.)

It is such an easy image to visualize. It stuck with me immediately, as it might have for you as well. It also caused me to recall that it is not a new teaching. President Ballard even quoted Brigham Young teaching a similar idea.

“It is in calm weather, when the old ship of Zion is sailing with a gentle breeze, [and] when all is quiet on deck, that some of the brethren want to go out in the whaling boats to have … a swim, and some get drowned, others drifted away, and others again get back to the ship. Let us stick to the old ship and she will carry us [safely] into the harbor; you need not be concerned”

After hearing Elder Ballard speak, a memory kept trying to bubble up, until I finally sat down and did a search on to find it.  Elder Russell M. Nelson had used the same idea in a Conference talk “Endure and Be Lifted Up,” all the way back in 1997. Here is a snippet:

“Early in our married life, when Sister Nelson and I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the United States, we decided to enjoy a free afternoon with our two-year-old daughter. We went to one of Minnesota’s many beautiful lakes and rented a small boat. After rowing far from shore, we stopped to relax and enjoy the tranquil scene. Suddenly our little toddler lifted one leg out of the boat and started to go overboard, exclaiming, ‘Time to get out, Daddy!’

“Quickly we caught her and explained, ‘No, dear, it isn’t time to get out; we must stay in the boat until it brings us safely back to land.’ We had a hard time convincing her that leaving the boat early would lead to disaster.

“As children of our Heavenly Father, we, too, may foolishly want to ‘get out of the boat’ before we arrive at destinations He would like us to reach. The Lord teaches over and over that we are to endure (remain faithful) to the end.” (Link to full talk here.)

…And in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (D&C 6:28)

I think that the teaching of “staying in the boat” is effective because it is so visual. We can relate to it.

Personally, the idea of staying in the boat immediately linked up in my head with another teaching from a few years back. I will explain it with a brief story – but first some background.

I have always enjoyed boats. Sure the canoes and rowboats were fun back in my Scouting days, but the kind of boats I really appreciate are the kind that pull a waterskier. Waterskiing is awesome, but just the fact that I use the term “waterskiing” makes me old. Wakeboading or wake surfing is now the rage, and we slalom-skiing dinosaurs days are numbered.

A few years ago, my brother invited me to spend a morning with him at the lake to do some skiing. His boat was docked, so all we needed to do is show up with our snacks and hop in.

As we were preparing to cast off, my brother was behind the wheel, and I was untying the boat. I had one foot on the side of the boat, and the other on the dock.

Yeah, you’ve got it.

As soon as the boat was released, I inadvertently pushed the boat away from the dock, leaving me in the cartoon classic Chinese splits. Both legs were going in different directions, with one foot on the dock, and one foot in the boat.

I am not built for the splits. I am about as limber as a two-by-four.

It happened so quickly that I was not even able to make a conscious choice. Gravity made it for me: I went into the water between the boat and the dock. Mostly dressed, keys, wallet, etc.

I was irritated at my dumbness, but my brother enjoyed laughing at me.

Stay in the boat.

As my fall demonstrated, it is impossible to stay in the boat with one foot on the dock, and the other in the boat. One or the other. We have to commit.

So what does this have to do with the brethren’s teachings about staying in the boat?

It is impossible to stay in the boat with one foot in Zion, and the other in Babylon.

Read this great thought by Elder Carlos E. Asay, all the way back in 1992 Conference:

“There is a lie—a vicious lie—circulating among the Latter-day Saints and taking its toll among the young. And it is that a ‘balanced man’ is one who deliberately guards against becoming too righteous. This lie would have you believe that it is possible to live successfully and happily as a ‘double-minded man’ with one foot in Babylon and one foot in Zion.” (Link to full talk here.)

More recently, Elder Larry W. Gibbons reaffirmed that idea when he plainly said, “We cannot keep one foot in the Church and one foot in the world. One reason is the world and the Church are rapidly diverging. We will lose our balance.” (Link to full talk here.)

We can choose to be in “The Good Ship Zion,” or we can choose to watch it sail away without us, as we climb back onto the dock and try and figure out what happened.

We have to make the choice as to which place we want to be. For me, the idea of staying in the boat, and keeping one foot in Babylon will always be linked in my mind. Maybe they will be for you now, too.


Thank you MMM for this beautiful post.


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