Choosing Between the Boat and the Ocean

This past Sunday I attended a ward that wasn’t my own. I sat in the back and left promptly after sacrament meeting. But I’ve been thinking about one of the talks ever since I left the building.

The man started his talk with a story about a friend of his recently announced that they were leaving the church. He repeated how they had been overcome by doubt. After expressing his disappointment, he followed up with the story about the individual stranded in the ocean who is picked up by a weathered boat and fisherman (You know, this one). After spending some time on the boat and noticing all it’s dents and blemishes, the rescued becomes worried and asks to be let back into the ocean to swim the remainder of the way to shore on their own. After the speaker finished the story, he remarked proudly that the boat represents the church and the fisherman is those called to lead it.

I understand the point of this story. Humans and the institutions they create cannot be perfect. In fact, small dents, paint chips, and difficult machinery shouldn’t keep us from utilizing those institutions for good. But this story, especially when listening to it yesterday, fills me with unease.

It seems to belittle and invalidate the feelings of those who are sitting in doubt while simultaneously diminishing the real institutional flaws of the church as mere “dents.” Feeling doubt is often more than uncomfortable, it is painful. And sometimes it feels like the only place on the boat you’re comfortable being requires you to hang over the edge. When we say that people who doubt are willingly climbing back into the ocean after being rescued by a perfectly safe boat, we ignore the fact that getting back into the ocean might be the only real option someone has. Sometimes the dents are actually leaks and the boat is slowly sinking. Sometimes the faulty mechanics are keeping the fisherman from being able to keep the boat on its proper course. The paint chips can be signs of a system unwilling to fix or even acknowledge the errors of its past.

Some days I feel like climbing back into the ocean. Sometimes that really seems like the safer option. The boat is rocking and sometimes looks like its veering off course. Right now I am clinging to the side rails hoping that my questions do not become to heavy to carry.

But if they do, if I find the ocean is becoming more inviting than the boat itself, I don’t need a fisherman to gently let me back in the water and leave. I also don’t need a fisherman who will jump in the ocean to save me, dragging me back onto the boat I was trying to escape. I need fishermen who are willing to jump in and tread water with me while I figure things out.

I feel like all I think about is doubt (I even think this is my third post on this topic in this past year). And maybe it isn’t productive to have this focus. But doubt is a natural companion to faith. It shouldn’t be ignored and it shouldn’t be shamed. I don’t need stories telling me how I should be ignoring my doubts. I can’t ignore them. They are as much a part of my experience as my faith. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away.

What I need is people to sit with me and listen, for people to get in the ocean with me and tread. Maybe you’re already here in the water. Maybe we can find each other and together face our doubts head on.

Comments

  1. I’m with you.

  2. Ryan Mullen says:

    “I need fishermen who are willing to jump in and tread water with me while I figure things out.”

    Beautiful.

  3. Maybe there’s a Paradise Island a few hundred yards away in calm waters, but the fisherman is intentionally driving away from it…

  4. ” I need fishermen who are willing to jump in and tread water with me while I figure things out.” So. . . I need to leave the Church too? Just to validate your experience? It is the one thing I will not do to help you. I’m not going to take on your doubts and make them my doubts. I was reading one of the high profile “I’ve left the Church” essays and it was clear that is exactly what he wanted – someone owed him an explanation as to why they still believed. I don’t owe anyone that. I can sympathize and support your decisions and I can give a listening ear, but expecting me to leave the Church when I don’t have the same concerns as you is not right.

  5. “Sometimes the dents are actually leaks and the boat is slowly sinking. Sometimes the faulty mechanics are keeping the fisherman from being able to keep the boat on its proper course. The paint chips can be signs of a system unwilling to fix or even acknowledge the errors of its past.” And sometimes they are just dents and chipped paint.

  6. I’m listening.

    As for the boat and the sea, we know metaphors have uses and limits. This one is useful in making the point that putting up with a few dents and a crusty sailor is better than going it alone. I’m all in for a group, a community, a Church, a Zion society.

    But it goes wrong in suggesting there is only one boat in the sea, or that there is only an in- or out- binary. I think we do ourselves a disservice to emphasize the all-in or all-out image. In my circle of acquaintances, friends, and family I know a lot of people who call themselves “Mormon.” Some with adjectives. Some with the longer name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints name applied to a person somehow. Some with a question mark or three. But when I get a close look–not the easy labels and not the Sunday morning appearances look–not a one is “all in” and not a one is “all out.” Even the ones who want to be or want to think they are.

  7. Lily said it better than I had even processed it for myself. If jumping in the water is leaving the church per the analogy, then no, you don’t “need” to have people get out into the water with you (aka leave the church with you). You may still need someone to sit with you and listen, and probably do, but you can do that while still in the boat. President Uchtdorf said to doubt your doubts. He didn’t say to ignore them. You still have to process them, but you get to decide your attitude as you do that. So let’s sit and talk.

  8. The “boat and the ocean” is a terrible metaphor, especially for those going through a faith crisis. As the church is wont to do, the issue is cast in black and white terms. Only two choices are presented: survival or certain death.

    Many don’t see a boat with dents and scrapes; rather, they believe it is taking on water at an alarming rate, rendering it uninhabitable for them. And from the boat they can see other vessels passing by, ones that may be able to provide the spiritual peace and comfort they seek.

    My son and his wife made the decision to leave the boat several years ago. Though it was a source of disappointment for me—and, I must confess, a situation I did not handle very well—we have remained close, and the two of them have done a marvelous job raising their two daughters and leading successful, happy lives. I love them both dearly and there is no doubt in my mind that God does, too.

  9. Perhaps this is why President Nelson is emphasizing personal revelation. I doubt that people would struggle with doubts if they had past experience with communication with the Lord when going to Him in prayer. I realize that the Lord will answer on His own time. I know for myself though that receiving revelation or inspiration more frequently would be a massive benefit to me.

  10. I agree with Eric Faber. The analogy is terrible. Terrible. I’m ashamed that our culture embraces such damaging filth; ashamed for Elder Renlund and his wife to promote it. We need more people who can see nuance and who do not support such poor thinking. Good metaphors can do wonders for good. Bad ones can do wonders for bad. It is a bad metaphor. It’s illusion of wisdom is damning.

    I realize the OP is trying to ‘save’ the metaphor, and I agree with the sentiment, but not the process. This metaphor is not worth saving.

  11. *”Its illusion” not “it’s illusion”

  12. Since we’re using a bad analogy anyway, let me point out that boats are really hard to steer when people are hanging on the side and dragging their legs in the water. When they do that, the boat’s ability to move against the current is drastically reduced. That’s no big deal if the boat’s got no nowhere to go and nothing to do, but if it does, you can’t be offended if you’re eventually asked to either get in or get out.

  13. amberhaslam says:

    Lily and Don,

    I guess I should have been more clear. The metaphor is terrible and I don’t think anyone needs to take it so literally. I am not telling people to leave the church with me. I haven’t left the church so that’s not even possible. Just be empathetic and try not to sway people who don’t want to be swayed. Be willing to stay with people without manipulating them in any way towards what you think is best for them.

  14. Okay, I already regret that comment because it sounds really unsympathetic, but it’s really not up to the people in the boat. Others cannot solve your faith crisis no matter how sympathetic, or even empathetic, they are. Faith is a choice.

  15. Michael LeFevre says:

    I found some answers in a book, “The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith by Terryl and Fiona Givens”. I often wondered why I had to find answers to easy questions that affected my activity in the church. There is solace and pain in doubting as well as in finding answers. And nothing (as far as I can tell) is perfect here on Earth. Personal revelation/spiritual experience helped me get past those roadblocks in my life, perhaps they will in others.

  16. While analogies can be helpful they can, at times, belittle the trials and feelings of what an individual is going through which I think can be the case with this one at times.
    I do think many in the church just can’t discuss honestly what some people are going through.
    I found from my experiences some members could discuss fairly openly but others just couldn’t and sadly both Bishops just didn’t get it. Sadly though even those members I could discuss concerns and ultimately my desire to ‘jump ship’ with were mostly not able to handle a totally open conversation.
    I no longer go to church having found another church that better meets my spiritual needs. It wasn’t until some months after having stopped attending I realised how desperately unhappy I had been for quite a long time. However I remain close to a few members but when I see them I always find I am careful in what I say to avoid causing them discomfort.

  17. Brother Sky says:

    Some of the comments here are sadly, not surprising. We’ve gotten to a point in this church where we are criminalizing doubt, in part because of the absurd view that apparently, we should all get to the point where we can say “I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the church (or whatever appended thing) is true”. It’s absolute madness to insist on knowing something for certain that the scriptures inform us CAN’T be known for certain. Having faith in something is just that–having faith. Did we always have this obsession with “knowing”? Is this a relatively new thing? At any rate, the fact that folks think amberhaslam wants them to leave the church for her is really off the mark, IMO. She’s asking for empathy, for understanding and maybe for a little bit of help navigating the difficult path of faith. People who really are secure in their faith (not knowledge) wouldn’t display such hostility towards someone who’s just asking to be heard and understood. Yikes.

  18. One thing we should never forget is that doubters are sometimes right. And if we listen to them and carefully consider their concerns, it may help us to see the mote in our own eye and correct mistakes we have made.

    Our leaders have no idea how their credibility would be enhanced if they, too, admitted to having—NOT having had—doubts (e.g., maybe the Book of Mormon is not 100% historical; maybe God didn’t want to Joseph to marry the wives of other men and pursue teenage brides). If they could do that and possibly acknowledge that they have made mistakes in their capacity as church leaders—and identify what they were; not simply say, in the passive voice, “mistakes were made in the past”—we would trust them more. Such a man I will follow to hell and back. One, however, who assures me that he can never lead me astray will only prompt me to count my spoons when he leaves my home.

  19. Jack Hughes says:

    Or the fisherman refuses to take you back to shore until you promise to pay him a portion of your income for the rest of your life. Or you find out that before 1978 black people weren’t allowed to drive the boat. Or that the original builder of the boat claimed that God commanded him to marry other men’s wives. We could go on.

    The boat analogy is inherently faulty, but even more so when you consider that Jesus encouraged Peter to get out of a boat in the middle of a stormy sea to teach him about faith.

  20. Responding to Brother Sky’s point, I don’t think doubt is nearly as criminalized now as it used to be, and I think there’s a lot of sympathy these days for those struggling in their faith. There’s probably more people willing to talk about doubts and faith crisis at church than ever before. So many conference talks and sacrament talks are given on that topic. In fact, I think it’s gotten to the point where there’s a bit of a backlash. It’s like the kid who gets fouled, falls, and then trampled on at his soccer game. Yes, he’s hurt. He’s bleeding. You give him a hug, try to bandage his knee, and give him time to deal with it. And maybe he sulks on the sideline the rest of the game. You hope the next game he’ll have a better experience, but after several games of similar incidences you start to get impatient with his sulking on the side. It’s not that the kid is wrong — he is getting fouled, and he is getting hurt. You’ve tried to teach him to better protect himself and focus on the game more than the moments of injustice, and it hasn’t worked. Finally, you bust out “Are you on the team or not? If so, then play! Take your hits and suck it up.” I think there’s a lot of this sentiment starting to grow. And just like with soccer, sometimes the kid quits and sometimes he changes his attitude. But even when said out of frustration, I don’t think anybody really wants the kid to quit.

  21. If you’re in the boat and the fishermen make belittling sexist comments toward you or repeated slap you in the face with the oar or dump out all the gay people in the boat or encourage the passengers to judge each other and create classes within the boat, I guess you can stay in the boat or decide to swim for shore without the boat or you can find another boat. So much of the boat experience depends on where you sit in the boat.

    By contrast, if the boat isn’t headed where you want to go, you should definitely get out. That’s an easier choice.

    Since the talk came from one of the fishermen, I wouldn’t expect them to be very self-critical about their own role in making the boat a great place to be. So, basically, you can stay in the boat or not, but the fishermen shouldn’t expect any 5 star google reviews except from those passengers who are already sitting in the sweet seats.

  22. Billy Possum says:

    amberhaslam:

    “I can’t ignore them. They are as much a part of my experience as my faith. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away.”

    I can’t remember ever reading anything so painfully true. I don’t know how you feel – we all feel differently – but I know that you do feel, which is self evident from your writing. Half of me wants to say “I’m sorry,” to sympathize, to ache with you; the other half wants to say “keep swimming” through the hard-won, precious-as-gold trials of faith. Contrary to what some in the boat have taught, faith tried really is superior.

    Here’s to keeping your head above water and, one day for all of us, making landfall from the weather rail of a close-hauled ship, stiff and fast.

  23. When you give a sermon, it’s always good to think about your audience: who are you speaking to, and for what purpose? The kind of sermon that Amber heard is pretty clearly aimed at those who consider themselves non-doubters. It’s meant to help those people feel that they are safer than–and better than–those who doubt. It encourages people to feel good about rowing away from others who are drowning. And when you put it in those terms, the metaphor is a total failure. Letting people drown is a fail.

    From the standpoint of the “non-doubter,” there are much better metaphors: the lost sheep; the laborers in the vineyard; the lost coin; the iron rod. Even these parables, though, are not good enough if you also want to speak to those who are struggling. A sermon that doesn’t empathize with the doubter is bound to fail. To put it more starkly, a sermon that can’t empathize with those who need help is just Rameumptom.

  24. Not a Cougar says:

    Loursat, I agree. And non-doubters are then bolstered by statements in General Conference about expressing belief being preferable to expressing doubt. Maybe you won’t get excommunicated for expressing doubt in testimony meeting, but you’re unlikely to be patted on the back for doing so.

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    While we’re on the subject of metaphors, I find that Jacob 5 provides more and more mileage over time… in particular, with regard to the imperfections of the church and its people, the implications of vv. 64-74 (and specifically 65-66 and 73-34) are huge. Progress remains to be made.

  26. Great thoughts for discussion Amberhaslam. I especially like your comment at the end “What I need is people to sit with me and listen.” We all need that, especially people who are struggling to see where they fit in anymore. Your interpretation of the story is just as valid as mine is. But I see the value of the story slightly different than you. I see it as a reminder that the dents, chipped pain, other blemishes are just that: superficial. I believe that Jesus is in control of the Church, that he leads it through a prophet. So if, at times, I see something that doesn’t make sense, or that seems wrong, I remember that Jesus is in control. It’s his church, not mine. If he chooses to allow things to go on that don’t make sense to me, I choose to trust him. I take the story to be a reminder that the boat is still safe, still headed in the right direction, and is in fact, the only way to get to Celestial Island, regardless of what else may appear at times.

  27. Ever since childhood, I have heard this idea that there is a big bad world out there that will swallow me up unless I cling firmly to the LDS church and its teachings. What I eventually discovered is that this boat of the LDS church is actually on dry land and the leaders are just trying to convince us that it is this dangerous ocean. I left the church not because of dents and blemishes on the boat. I could always deal with those. I left because I discovered that the whole thing is a facade. The emperor has no clothes. The Wizard of Oz is nothing but a man behind a curtain doing smoke and mirrors tactics.

  28. DoubtingTom says:

    Sometimes doubts lead to answers. Answers that are incredibly satisfactory, even if not faith promoting. Sometimes those answers lead one to step out of the boat and realize that the boat was on land all along, that being on water was the illusion. Once one comes to that realization, staying in the boat seems silly and confining, although one may still choose to do so for a myriad of good reasons. But the truth of the illusion can’t be unseen at that point.

  29. Totally unrelated but that was my ward! Come say hi sometime.

  30. “I need fishermen who are willing to jump in and tread water with me while I figure things out.”

    I think instead the need is for fishers who work to improve the boat, its direction, and its occupants, keeping room for you while you figure things out. At the least not a fisher who sneers at you for thinking there is anything at all wrong with the boat or whips you with her rod to say how stupid you were to get out.

    Can’t force someone to share the plank with you, even if there’s room and the alternative is the frozen depths.

    Very good and interesting post, thank you.

  31. “Just be empathetic and try not to sway people who don’t want to be swayed. Be willing to stay with people without manipulating them in any way towards what you think is best for them.”

    I can absolutely do that which probably does prove the point that the metaphor is a bad one.

  32. Or at the very least, one would hope not to be tossed overboard for pointing out the enormous gashes that are leading to the boiler room being flooded. Or for refusing to drop the issue when the captains of the ship deny that such gashes exist, or pretend that the boiler is waterproof.

  33. I agree that it’s a terrible metaphor. Much like the ‘cafeteria’ Mormons that seemed to be a popular topic a few years back. I’m in my later years and always considered myself a faithful member but have now been going through my own faith crisis for a number of years. I just hate all the judginess that goes with raising concerns and questions. There are so many things I can’t reconcile with a loving God. I’d like to think that he is no respecter of persons but the way church policies are at present time our leaders would suggest that this is not the case.

  34. I hear you Amber. I’ve come to believe that the boat ride really isn’t intended to be too comfortable, certainly not a cruise ship, and that the fishermen are left by the captain at times to figure out the course for their own experience along with the passengers.

  35. Here in the ocean. Head still above water. Still praying, still learning, still loved.

  36. I enjoy jousting with metaphors too! It’s one of our favorite things. As we reason together, crafting the illustration of our different perspectives out of virtual play-doh so that other eyes can see what we see, we should remember that all metaphors fail sooner or later, just as surely as play-doh gets smooshed. The best ones fail later, but fail they must. It’s because they aren’t real life, and don’t fully reflect the messy complications of real life. So when someone makes extensive use of metaphor, I appreciate when they step away from it and state their truth as plain as they can, as the OP does:

    “But doubt is a natural companion to faith. It shouldn’t be ignored and it shouldn’t be shamed. I don’t need stories telling me how I should be ignoring my doubts. I can’t ignore them. They are as much a part of my experience as my faith.”

    This is the heart of it for me too. I need my doubts, I need to pay close attention to them, and face what I need to learn from them. For me, and for others like me, “doubt your doubts” is the worst advice I could receive. Faith *is* a choice— I look at it that way, but it’s not often a simple choice. More often it is a choice full of complexity, and informed by facts and “facts,” and experiences, personality, and intuition. Such complexity would be wisely re-evaluated often and thoroughly, including the doubts.

  37. I’ve heard it said that you should never shop for groceries when you’re hungry. I’m pretty sure that I should never post when I’m angry. I end up saying stupid things. But as I have thought about this boat ride parable I have been feeling pretty angry. Let me get this straight: a guy is saved from almost certain death, but is so put off by an old boat and an old geezer fisherman that he jumps back in the water to swim to death, thus imperiling himself again.

    Look, I don’t mind the idea of the church being made to look like a weathered boat, or an experienced but unflashy fisherman being compared to a church leader. But the guy who is rescued? He can only be seen as shallow, ungrateful, and of course terribly and undeniably stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So that’s how they see people who leave the church? They are so stupid that they would jump out of a old but sea-worthy boat and swim on their own?

    So, I ask myself: Why would I jump out of the boat?

    1. If I were convinced that the water or food the fisherman was giving me was poisoned and that he meant me harm, then I might jump out.
    2. If I were convinced that the boat was being stupidly steered back towards the ocean and not to safety, I might jump out.
    3. If I began to observe that the fisherman didn’t treat others well. Then what would I do? What if he asked other potential victims if they were gay? If they were gay, you note that he not only doesn’t pick them up, but runs the boat right over them? Then what would you do? You suddenly realize that the boat has dents in it because the fisherman uses the boat to injure and possibly drown some certain class of people that he doesn’t like. Even then I might not jump out, because I want to live. But maybe it would become so bad, that I would say to myself: I can’t be party to this. Let me out.

    So for me this story doesn’t work. Not at any level. It only funtions to ridicule those who find that the church isn’t working for them. It makes the victim look stupid.

  38. For others, it’s not really about the boat:
    https://letterstowill.com/2018/05/27/based-on-a-true-story-perhaps/

  39. Thank you for this! I’ve been struggling since the MTC abuse allegations because of various reasons. But I haven’t voice my doubts because they usually aren’t well received. I tried once with a family member and was basically told to get my testimony in order. Sigh. Anyway, I love this. I really needed to know that it’s okay to question and I too would love someone who would paddle with me, or sit with me and just listen.

  40. Questioning and having doubts is normal. Evaluating those questions and doubts and making a new decision of some sort is healthy. But I believe that obsessively being preoccupied with them over an extended period of time without taking any action one way or the other (make a decision…get in the boat or swim off to a better place!) is just an example of attention seeking and being overly preoccupied with oneself.

  41. If you think the metaphor is bad then what do you make of what Sister Renlund said after she and her husband had told their little tale about those who have doubts?

    She started by explaining that the boat was the Church and that the fisherman represents those who serve in the Church. With this in mind what did the fisherman do at the end of their little story? “With a little sadness, the fisherman helps you back into the ocean.” And who were they talking to?

    They were talking to a group of teachers and administers in a Seminaries and Institutes Annual Training Broadcast. If you feel bad because you thought that they were talking about you then how do you think the audience felt about their role as they were accused of helping people out of the boat?

    Its one thing to have doubts and we can argue whether this metaphor is or isn’t effective but there is no way to sugar coat their message. It was blunt. It was direct. And it wasn’t aimed at the poor soul and their experience; it was all about the fisherman.

    All the best,
    Bob

  42. It took me years before I was able to jump off the boat and I only jumped at the stage my faith in Christ was being eaten away. Possibly the reason it took me so long and it was so painful was that I didn’t want to jump into the sea and waited until I was able to I was able to get into another boat. This other boat is also damaged but I feel more peaceful in it as it is somehow more seaworthy….

  43. Lets apply this analogy to the world population. For every one person in the boat there are a thousand people in the water. The majority of those in the boat were born in it and have never seen what it looks like from the outside. If you were to find yourself in such a boat it would be ignorant at best to not try and figure out why the boat looks so unappealing. That might require consulting those who are looking at the boat from the water. It might even require getting in the water yourself. This seems to be what Amber is advocating and I completely agree.

  44. Geoff - Aus says:

    The 5th Sunday meeting in our ward is based on “Do not leave the Saviour ” by Elder Pearson.
    I can not understand what might be achieved. He conflates the Saviour with the Church, his reason people leave is being influenced by “the wicked world”, or lead astray by Satan.
    And his solutions do not address the real reasons people leave.

  45. Xander Harris says:

    I’m still in the boat, but every so often I have to lean overboard and blow chunks.

  46. Bob,

    I think most of us get that this metaphor was directed to the fisherman–and, as others have pointed out, it tells them a very unhealthy and untrue story about people struggling: it minimizes the person suffering. Also, it doesn’t really give those fisherman good tools to deal with someone struggling. The lack of empathy that such a metaphor shows is terribly frightening. This is a metaphor designed to protect the institution, make the people in the boat feel good about themselves, and reinforce how weak and fickle everyone else is–even if framed in some last minute “but you would feel said for such a stupid people.”

  47. Geoff, thanks for referencing Elder Pearson’s talk. I had not read that yet. I read through it and it is terrible, as you say. But more and more I get the sense that what the leadership’s strategy is no or at least no longer to express sympathy for the people contemplating leaving. They have entertained that strategy for a bit but then abandoned it. Instead it is to cause the current believers to feel increasing shame about leaving and to be shocked, if not appalled, at the idea of a friend or family member leaving. To someone who has left the LDS church, Pearson’s talk is absolute nonsense. But for someone who has been conditioned for years in the LDS church, particular an impressionable young adult, it causes them to feel that leaving the LDS church is leaving Jesus Christ/God, deity, spirituality, etc., as if any form of true spirituality cannot be found elsewhere. The hope is to get the young single adults to a temple marriage and begin having kids as soon as possible, thereby linking spouse and family to the LDS church making it even harder to leave.

  48. There is so often in Mormon discourse a conflation of faith in the Church or its leaders with faith in Christ and a conflation of the gospel with the Church, that it is natural to read Elder Pearson as conflating the Savior with the Church. But I’m not sure he did. The story of his conversation with his friend who had left the Church includes his questioning: “Why did you leave the Church? … Have you also left the Savior?” This seems to clearly recognize a distinction between the two. While he just as clearly promoted remaining in the Church, he concluded “Whatever you do, do not leave the Savior!”, as if the “whatever” might include leaving the Church.

    But I think Geoff is right that Elder Pearson’s proposed solutions do not address many of the reasons people leave the Church. Perhaps he thinks those reasons for possibly leaving will fade in importance relative to reasons to stay if one does the things he recommends. But I don’t think I’m very good at mind reading. I’m particularly unimpressed with “Remember, faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith, not by hearing the doubts of those who have lost it.” It seems to encourage a rejection of compassionate listening to those struggling with faith in the Church. It might even be a mere encouragement toward group think rather than grappling with evidence, including witnesses and one’s own experience. Doubts/questions do not need to be anathematized.

  49. I got out of the boat. It was making me horribly sea sick, looked like it was right toward the side of a massive iceberg, and I was convinced that it wasn’t going anywhere (other than the side of a dangerous iceberg) anyway.

    I didn’t get into another boat, I guess. I’m just out here in the water. And honestly, it’s pretty great. The water feels good, not too many waves, and I’m happier than I ever was inside the boat. Plus there are a ton of other people out here who are all doing really well too.

    Ballard’s “stay in the boat” metaphor only works if you assume that the boat is better than the water, or that the boat is somehow necessary for some reason. I got convinced that neither of those things is true, and once I started swimming that confirmation became stronger and stronger.

  50. Brian,

    I understand where you are coming from. That was my initial reaction when I watched the live broadcast. I thought that this story was simply a way to make the faithful feel good and showed a surprising lack of empathy from those struggling with doubts. And who wouldn’t think that way when your doubts are compared to trivial things like peeling paint.

    It wasn’t until a conversation with my wife that I changed my mind. My wife pointed out to me that the fisherman helped the individual out of the boat. That’s when a light bulb went off and I realized that the message wasn’t meant to explain why someone would leave the Church but instead it was directed at anyone who thinks that someone would leave the Church over trivial things, and that this obviously false notion is a factor in them leaving the Church.

    I find this interpretation to be much more charitable towards Elder and sister Renlund.

    All the best,
    Bob

  51. Bob,

    I understand that interpretation. Just don’t find that interpretation compelling in light of the rest of the analogy. I see nothing in it, for example, that suggests that the idea that people are leaving for superficial reasons is an “obviously false notion,” instead it reinforces that idea.

  52. This is like Plato’s cave and talking about how the shadow looks like a boat and that one an ocean. Great campfire stories, but the simple fact is, is not a boat, there is no ocean, its just a man made church, and demonstrably false.
    People are better off standing up, taking the chains off, stop deceiving themselves and get on with their lives

  53. Whatever we make of it, Elder and Sister Renlund, and Elder Ballard were, I thought, pretty clear about their use of the metaphor.

    Sister Renlund: “slipping back into the water instead of staying in the boat is risky.”

    Elder Renlund: “Every member of the Church needs his or her own witness of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without that conversion, including a mighty change of heart, people may begin to focus on the metaphorical soda crackers and chipped paint.”

    Elder Ballard: “The Lord in His goodness has provided help, including a boat, essential supplies such as life jackets, and experienced river guides who give guidance and safety instructions to help us make our way down the river of life to our final destination.
    Let’s think about rule number one: stay in the boat!”

  54. Amber Haslam-

    This is a wonderful, thought-provoking post and you are an amazing writer.

    Seriously. Full stop.

    I have friends who are going through periods of doubt and transitioning out of the church. It is always hard for me to witness this–not because I think they are lesser people for leaving–but because I miss them. And I admit my bias–I think the church (despite all of its faults) is the best place to be.

    Help me understand something, please.

    “I need fishermen who are willing to jump in and tread water with me while I figure things out.”

    What does this mean exactly? How can I or anyone express faith to anyone who is doubting without minimizing their doubt? How do you jump in the water if you really want to be in the boat? It is really a hard thing to do. I have not figured it out yet.

    I agree with the limits of the analogy. But since this is the analogy is at hand–I think the biggest weakness of it is that it omits Christ.

    There are a lot of dents on the Old Ship Zion. The cabins are crappy, shuffleboard is lame, and the buffet is consists of funeral potatoes and Jell-O. The shipmates get on your nerves. There are rocky waves and storms ahead.

    But I just have trust that it will not sink, and that Christ is controlling the waters.

  55. Yes, Chris, they were clear – and clearly avoiding the problems that for some staying in the boat is risky, that professed certainty (“witness of the truthfulness of” the church) and a “mighty change of heart” are not necessarily linked and neither precludes concern about the problems minimized as “chipped paint”, and that the safety instructions given are sometimes flat wrong, e.g. Marion G. Romney’s telling BYU students considering marriage to look at the young man’s father or the young woman’s mother because when they “grow up” they will be “exactly like” the parent of the same gender, or Franklin D. Richards prophesying to the Willie handcart company that “though it might storm on our right hand and on our left, the Lord would keep open the way before us and we should get to Zion in safety.” [John Chislett]
    There is a risk, sometimes an extreme danger, in taking seriously safety instructions from experienced river guides who indulge in rhetorical exaggeration, who err because they are also human, or because they purport that they [like Christ] “have experienced it all”.

  56. Rich Harshaw says:

    I agree with Marc; the problem with the analogy (and this entire discussion, for that matter) is that it omits Christ.

    I really believe that having a rusty, dented, beat up boat is actually intentional on God’s part.

    I mean, think about it: It would be so easy to believe the Book of Mormon if Moroni had just allowed Joseph to keep the actual plates so we could have experts verify them. Maybe a few artifacts from an architectural dig would help, too. It would be easy to believe Joseph if all of his accounts of the first vision were 100% in harmony, or if he had an iPhone and had captured it on video and posted it on YouTube. And it would be so easy to believe that this church was truly HIS church if everything about it and all of the people in it–or at least the leaders of it–had perfect backgrounds and a sterling track record of getting everything right all the time.

    Of course, it would have been a lot easier to believe the Savior was actually the Savior if he had rode into town like Prince Ali on a giant elephant flanked by 75 golden camels. Didn’t happen.

    What those who yearn for those things are really yearning for is proof and evidence. Simply put, that is 100% NOT how God works. I’m not claiming to be an expert on God, but I’m pretty sure I have that one right.

    Instead of hard evidence, folly-free leaders, and sparkling-clean backgrounds, he puts us in a dimply lit escape room with a few friends who are as clueless as we are and says “see if you can figure it out.” There are plenty of bread-crumb clues, but you have to know where to look and how to piece them together. It’s easy to get distracted or to quit or to chase false leads. And it’s easy to get frustrated with the game, throw up your hands, and say it’s impossible.

    If we could somehow just stop focusing on the Church (and its leaders and policies and history and so forth) for a minute and instead focus on Jesus Christ, we will be able to put all of those dents and scrapes and rust spots into some context. We might realize that they actually are 100% irrelevant to our salvation. We might realize that the church can’t save us… and the temple can’t save us… neither can the prophet or the scriptures or our tithing or our food storage or our bishop.

    Nope. Only one thing can save: The Savior.

    But instead of deep-diving into the scriptures, we are picking away at policies. Instead of spending time in prayer, we’re spending time online searching for proof. Instead of unlocking the mysteries of the temple, we’re debating whether or not the church has the right to excommunicate apostates. I am not suggesting that those with doubts have not sincerely sought for truth. I am suggesting that they have allowed themselves to focus (and pursue) their doubts instead of holding steadfastly to the iron rod. I’m also not suggesting that this is an easy thing. I’m just pointing out what it actually is. We are letting the telestial distractions suck the virtue out of lives. We too easily devolve from eating the fruits of the Gospel to studying the branches… to criticizing the trunk… to picking at the roots.

    To focus on Christ, we have to be willing to NOT focus on anything else. Man cannot serve two masters; but therein lies the rub: Those who are serving a second master rarely recognize that they are doing so. In the name of fairness or honor or equality or safety or love or truth–or any of 1,000 other seemingly important banners–they take their eye off of Christ and affix it elsewhere.

    The church’s job is to give us the tools. It gives us the scriptures. It provides the words of prophets. It gives us priesthood and temples and ordiances. All very important. But the church’s job is NOT to take us to Christ. It’s our job to take ourselves to Christ. This is why I love President Nelson so much–all he does is direct us to Christ. It’s all about Christ. It’s not about the boat. If you need backup on this point, read April 2016’s “The Price of Priesthood Power.” That is about as clear as it can possibly be stated.

    Is there room for doubt? Of course. Is there ever a reason to speak out? Of course.

    But if the eye wanders from a singleness to Christ, trouble awaits. Always. Not sometimes… always.

  57. Thank you Rich, I am quite the skeptic but as I am going through a deep trial your words are very impactful.

  58. Rich Harshaw says:

    You’re welcome, Chet. I have a soft spot in my heart for those who doubt. Feel free to reach out to me at any time to just chat. My email is my name at gmail dot com.

  59. Rich — I am still in the boat, so to speak (or at least clinging to the sides). I appreciate your comments about focusing on Christ. The thing is, people can absolutely still focus on Christ and good things from anywhere in the ocean, whether or not they are in any boat.

  60. I learned this week that my brothers – both return missionaries and one married in the temple – had their names removed from church records. They both felt the extra step was necessary because of the harm they felt the church was personally doing to them and their families – including entrenched sexism, hostility towards LGTBQ lives, and sustained political opposition against medical marijuana. I think the church could have made difficult choices and kept some people in the boat – taken their doubts seriously and made some repairs. We are pushing good people away. We should be clear-eyed about that fact and not pretend that people are leaving over petty concerns but because they feel the church is a source of harm in their lives.

    I’m staying because I want to help fix the boat. But I am aware of the fact that it may be a source of harm rather than strength for my family depending on who my children become – and if so I will put my family first and pray for God to help us find another ride.

  61. As is typical of BCC, I found this post and its subsequent comment thread an interesting / compelling read. I confess I’m dismayed by the seeming echo chamber of doubt. An erudite, eloquent echo chamber to be sure – but 90%+ of the comments poke holes in the boat metaphor (pun oh-so-intended) and shore up this talented author in her doubts. In full fairness, she did request a listening ear and some water-treading, though one wonders how long treading water is feasible unless the buoy of faith is actively and forcefully held. It’s not empathy to let someone drown.

    Mercifully, there are a handful of comments that encourage faith and break up the monotony a little bit. Maybe I’m just the wrong audience for a post like this. I have my doubts, of course (maybe that’s why I’m drawn to BCC? Subconscious subversion?), but I would love to see a post that talks about how to overcome doubts we have. How to really, fully embrace the counsel (command?) to “Doubt not, but be believing” (Mormon 9:24). Not because we ignore our doubts, but because we somehow learn to make them take a back seat to faith. A chilling thought to think we decide who drives.

    I fully concur that doubt “shouldn’t be ignored and it shouldn’t be shamed.” (OP) However, for how long should we embrace our doubts? At what point do we seek – really *seek* deliverance from our mental infirmities of doubt and come unto Christ to be perfected in Him? And can we really come unto Christ and bind ourselves to him without the covenants of baptism / sacrament and the temple?

    Like any good hero’s journey, our doubts and challenging experiences should transform our faith into something more beautiful, more empathetic, more holy – more Christlike. I don’t recommend trying to bottle up / ignore doubt and return to the faith of childhood, ignorant of what you’ve learned and experienced and blind to the legitimate suffering you’ve felt and seen. I would, however, recommend becoming as a little child and approaching God in humility, with the hope that with his perfect help, we can learn to understand, process, and eventually let go of our doubts because we’ve more fully moved into the household of faith. Our God is a god of miracles; His Gospel, a plan of literal deliverance.

    “And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

    “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (3 Ne. 11:38-39)

  62. *sigh* – the reference is Mormon 9:27, not 9:24. Apologies.

  63. Mormon 9:1 “And now, I speak also concerning those who do not believe in Christ.” My observation has been that there are many who believe in Christ who are not in the “boat.”
    Perhaps there is a connection between the boat metaphor and Chapter 9, if “believing in Christ” really entails believing that the Church has unique authority to perform baptisms, administer the sacrament, and that those and the temple ordinances are necessary to “coming to Christ” in the sense Mormon was addressing. I think that is the teaching of the boat crew, but it does not seem to be communicated by the Spirit to all who believe they believe in Christ and who seek such knowledge. Carrying the metaphor one step further, the unique authority and necessity of authoritative ordinance claims mean there are no other boats to get the passenger to shore and it’s too far to swim, and that, in any event, treading water won’t get you there. I am not objecting here to those claims. I appreciate Bensen’s suggestions; Bensen described well what I try to do, though with less success than some claim. For me and for at least some others, what is objectionable about the metaphor is how it is sometimes used to minimize and promote ignoring the problems I mentioned in my comment of yesterday rather than dealing with them.

  64. Rich Harshaw says:

    Andrea, I agree that it is *possible* to focus on Christ from anywhere in the ocean. But I don’t think it’s very *common* for LDS folks who have doubts AND have chosen to either hang off the boat or jump out into the waters to do so. Generally speaking (allowing for exceptions) they are too busy (per my original comment) “studying the branches, criticizing the trunk, and picking at the roots” to partake of the fruit that comes from having an eye single to His glory. Also to repeat my original comment, you can’t serve two masters. D&C 88:63 says “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me…” By definition you are not seeking Him while you’re trying to prove that elephants couldn’t have existed in Nephite civilizations (let alone feeling angry about church policies/history/etc.).

    In terms of being focused on good things–this can actually be, believe it or not, detrimental as well. Not because there is no virtue in the good things, and not because we shouldn’t all be striving to do good things (regardless of religious affiliation)… but because many times doing good things is used as a substitute for seeking Jesus Christ. We soothe ourselves by rationalizing that Christ would (insert good thing you’re focused on here). But in reality, it’s probably not true. Christ would focus on only one thing: The will of his Father. Good Samaritanism is not a substitute for having an eye single to His glory. Yes, the Lord will likely tell you to do good things. But if you’re following your will instead of His will–however much good you do–you’re missing the point of developing a broken heart and contrite spirit. I know because I’ve been guilty of it.

    If all of that sounds like tough talk, it’s not meant to be. I’m certainly not questioning the sincerity of anyone’s doubts. And I’m not wanting to belittle anyone’s efforts to cling to the boat or do good things or champion causes within or without the church. I just want to reinforce the truth that we need to be focused on Christ. Any other focus leads to trouble. Always.

    I applaud you for hanging in there. If there is anything I can do to help you center your focus on Christ, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

  65. Rich Harshaw says:

    JR, I’ll address your concerns as an add-on to the comment I just addressed to Andrea. My comments to her were geared toward doubting LDS members who have already leaned over the rails or jumped out of the boat… and the likelihood of them focusing on other things that Christ. Again, allowing for exceptions.

    To address your comment, I’ll focus on those outside the LDS church who do legitimately and sincerely focus on Christ. There are millions of them all over the world. Good people doing the best with the information they have. They are on “other boats” that are heading in the same direction, which is obviously a good thing.

    From an LDS perspective, the problem is that their boats will indeed point them in the right direction, but in most cases (again, allowing for exceptions) those boats will not and cannot get them to the shore.

    Here’s why.

    The Holy Ghost is the God of this world. His job is to confirm truth and testify of Christ. Once one has truly received Christ (per D&C 88:63 as quoted to Andrea above), Christ speaks for Himself and as long as you remain faithful, will present you to the Father (a lot of temple stuff in that last sentence that I won’t elaborate on in this public forum). As people in this world heed the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and draw nearer and nearer to Christ, there will come a time when the Holy Ghost will testify of the divinity of the Book of Mormon to them–at which point that person will either have to yield (important word; see Helaman 3:35) to to the Spirit or reject it. If they yield, their progress toward Christ will continue; if rejected, it will be stunted.

    That might sound trite, but it’s because even most members don’t recognize how important the Book of Mormon really is. It’s not just important because it somehow proves Joseph Smith was a prophet or creates another testament of Christ alongside the Bible, although those things are important. The reason the Book of Mormon really is the keystone of our religion and that “a man will draw closer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” is because it literally shows us the blueprint of how to *actually* come face to face and be received by Christ. If we can somehow get past the stories of chopping off arms and killing Laban and hoisting the title of Liberty and Jesus coming out of the sky and teaching the Sermon on the Mount… and instead discover the deep and rich doctrine that oozes out of nearly every page of the book about how to truly obtain Jesus Christ… we would understand why the book is central to our salvation. There is no other source in the world that contains this information. None. Layer on top of that many deep doctrines of salvation in the D&C revealed by Joseph Smith (revelations that will never be seen by 99.99% of non-LDS people, and cannot be believed if one does not believe in the BoM) and that becomes a problem. The Holy Ghost can only witness truth that has been received by somebody–He can’t cram it down their throats against their will. Layer on top of THAT the truths found in the temple (again, let me emphasize, truths that even most members don’t come close to comprehending) and one starts to realize why “the stuff found in the LDS church” is so important to truly finding Jesus. Funny thing: It has almost nothing to do with your calling in the ward or your home teaching or the tithing you pay. It has everything to do with knowledge that one must gain that is ONLY (capital letters ONLY) be found within the confines of the LDS church. And that’s just talking about knowledge… and does not mention authority and ordinances (which is where most LDS people jump to in this conversation, passing right over the important knowledge.)

    Proof of this can be found by simply talking to good-hearted Christians about LDS doctrines. As earnest and sincere and diligent as they may be, they mostly full-stop reject LDS doctrines, usually (but not always) without even bothering to examine them. I know plenty of really great people who fit this category. Some of my favorite people on this planet, in fact, fit this category. When you (or me or an LDS person) attempts to help them understand the Book of Mormon, etc., their disposition becomes very similar to that of the disaffected LDS doubter who is outside of the boat treading water. The non-LDS Christians’ points of disagreement are generally different (ie, they aren’t necessarily focused on church policies or histories, but rather doctrines) but their defiance and unwillingness to heed the testimony of the Holy Ghost are pretty much the same. By definition, they are not keeping an eye single to His glory. They are attempting to serve two masters, which is an impossibility.

    This is not meant as a slam on non-LDS Christians. Like I said, there are millions of them around the world who are really great people. I trust many of them more than I trust LDS people I know. I have deep and abiding love for many of them on a personal level. But usually because of false traditions, they have chosen to reject knowledge that will lead them all the way to Exaltation. In other words, they are on good boats that won’t get them all the way to the shore. At some point, they have to transfer boats.. Alas, our Heavenly Father is loving and kind, and I have no doubt that they will have plenty of chances to accept Jesus Christ with full knowledge in either the 10th or 11th hour… or in the life to come. But lost time is lost time. Our job is to testify of Christ in a way that will allow them to feel the Spirit and gain precious knowledge that will help them find Christ and enter into his presence.

  66. Rich, I appreciate your testimony, though it does not address the problems I pointed to yesterday such as the existence of risks of staying in the boat for at least some people (check out, for one example, John Gustave-Wrathall’s story) or the risks of uncritical belief in safety directions from the boat crew (for example, in my experience Marion G. Romney’s rashly exaggerated remark I reported).
    I particularly noted your confidence that “As people in this world heed the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and draw nearer and nearer to Christ, there will come a time when the Holy Ghost will testify of the divinity of the Book of Mormon to them…” My experience is that the time is not predictable and does not necessarily follow promptly on asking “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ”. Moroni 10:4. Indeed, some who claim and appear to have done just that claim no response or a negative response from the Holy Ghost. One of the critical things to the truth of both your formula and Moroni’s, which are essentially the same, is that neither of you say when, just as Atticus didn’t say what sort of picture Miss du Bose looked like a-rocking away on her porch. At the very least, it seems to my observation, some people with sincere hearts, real intent, and faith in Christ, have to or are prompted to take action and get on with their lives before the Holy Ghost gets around to answering prayers about the Book of Mormon, etc. I’m not in the business of negatively judging such persons’ hearts, intent, or faith in Christ. Some of them appear to me to be a great deal more sensitive to the Spirit than some Mormons I know who testify that the Church or Book of Mormon is true.
    Thanks again for your testimony.

  67. Rich Harshaw says:

    JR, your point is valid, no question about it. Not everyone who prays gets the confirmation from the Spirit. I’m sure there are a huge variety of reasons for that, and I won’t pretend to understand them all.

    I am not a proponent of uncritical belief in the directions of the boat crew; I am however a proponent of being okay with being in the boat even if I’m uncertain/uncomfortable with some of the directions of the crew… because in reality, what the crew says doesn’t really affect me that much–especially on the most local levels. If a bishop or stake president does or says something that in my opinion is offensive or wrong or insensitive, I simply shake it off. If the GAs or Q12 say something that I don’t agree with or understand… I am okay with pushing pause on my concerns and taking it to the Lord. So far, this has worked just fine for me.

    In the case of Gustave-Wrathall (who I admit I had to Google to know who he was, and I’m not sure what his current status is) and others, I don’t really understand your comment about dangers of staying in the boat. If somebody strongly believes that the Church is false or misguided or wrong in a certain policy or doctrine that they feel strongly about–but they otherwise believe the doctrine of the church–then their logical conclusion would be (I think) that the church has apostatized and leaving the boat would be the right thing to do. But again, this very likely all falls under the category of a previous comment I made about people focused on other things (that they feel are good or right or worthwhile) that are not Jesus Christ.

    I think the overriding problem for all of this is that members (doubting or not) tend to put way too much emphasis on the church (and it’s leaders and doctrine and policies and culture) and way too little emphasis on Jesus Christ. I struggle with this. I think most of us struggle with this. But I think there is a line somewhere that many have crossed that where, again, instead of eating the Gospel fruit, they are examining the branches, criticizing the trunk, and picking at the roots. Instead of focusing on Jesus Christ, they are focusing on something else. And that is where the trouble comes from. Always.

  68. Rich Harshaw says:

    JR, I also agree that many non-Mormons are more sensitive to the Spirit than Mormons are. The sad follow-up truth is that a great deal of Mormons *culturally* accept the doctrines of the church, but sadly, do not have them seared in their hearts. There is a reason the apostles and prophets have to tell us to read the Book of Mormon every 10 seconds. This sad truth, does not, however, somehow mean that non-Mormons can somehow gain the knowledge needed for exaltation without ingesting it through a container called the LDS church. Indeed, one of the great challenges for all of us in the church is to find ways to minister to those in the church who are struggling, and to touch the hearts of those who are not in it. This is the challenge and the obligation. Meanwhile, we’re busy watching TV.

  69. I guess I see disparaging those in other boats because those other boats won’t get them into the C.K. as being short-sighted. Under Mormon doctrine, temple work for the dead means that everyone ends up in a boat heading in the correct direction. They still have a choice to jump out of swim any way they want, but I’m comfortable assuming that those in boats not-LDS approved, but working hard to follow Christ won’t have that problem.

    I’m also not a fan a fan of disparaging the Good Samaritians. Two two greatest things we can do to follow Christ is love God and love our neighbor.

  70. Rich Harshaw says:

    H ReTx, just to clarify, I don’t believe I am disparaging those in other boats or those who are good Samaritans. I am simply pointing out that if one’s focus is not on Christ–becoming like him and seeking his face–that they will no end up at the destination Christ has in mind for us (which is, redundantly, to become like him and see his face). Being in another boat is way better than not being in any boat. Or being in a boat that is headed in the complete opposite direction. Good Samaritanism is way better than being selfish and not helping other people.

    It comes down to Celestial law vs Terrestrial law vs Telestial law.

    This is the great teaching of the temple—a teaching that frequently is missed and misunderstood.

    All laws can be broken down into celestial, terrestrial, and telestial versions.

    In terms of love, it goes something like this: Telsestial law is to love yourself. Terrestrial law is to love your neighbor–this is where good Samaritanism happens. Celestial law is to love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. in this case, your overriding concern will be “what does God want me to do?” Like my previous comment, God will very likely tell you to do good things and help other people… but it will be according to God’s will, not your will.

    The point of life is to reach past the telestial into the terrestrial… and eventually into the celestial. It is hard for all of us. ALL. OF. US. We live in a telestial world that constantly pulls us in the opposite direction. But it important for us as LDS people to recognize what our true purpose is so we can aspire to it, live it, and bring others to it.

    Meanwhile, you are right, let us applaud every effort to move in Christ’s direction. You have to start somewhere.

  71. Rich is an example of much of what I hold dear in TCOJCOLDS. I am part of it, and I live it now as I always have, even as a little child. My faith is intact, and my POV is as Mormon as it can be, informed by the canon of scripture and temple covenants, and a lifetime of devout service. The boat analogy is so flawed for the particular telestial world I live in that I won’t even bother, and what Amber describes in the OP (remember that?) is a familiar frustration. I think the boat metaphor might work better for me if, instead of us all in the same boat, we were all imagined to be in the same flotilla of boats; a great variety of boats together on the water, with guiding rules and governance for the safety of the flotilla, and etc. You can play the metaphor game endlessly. Even the temple is a metaphor, or a symbol of another reality. But for some, the time comes when you must face your individual reality and grow (or die,) and no symbols or metaphors work for comfort or solace. I realize that many good members of the church just can’t see the impossibility of me living my covenants conventionally under such conditions I have in my life. I have dear friends and family who work so hard to achieve the golden life that such a worldview offers, and they have a measure of success in that, which I wouldn’t disparage for a moment. It makes me happy to see it. But the world– and the church– is full of many people for whom it simply won’t float, if you will. We have to find our growth in whatever way this telestial world will allow, of course always straining toward the Light. It’s in our mortal DNA to do that, even the ones without the assists offered by the flotilla.

    Frankly, I think the analogy of Plato’s cave carries this notion much farther.

  72. My apologies for using the word disparaged. I can see that came off incorrectly. Devalued is probably a better choice.

    My challenge with what you wrote is that it isn’t doctrinal. It’s conjecture. And if that is the way your personal revelation is taking you, that’s great. But mine is taking me in the direction of Everything hanging off of the two greatest commandments. We likely have very different personalities and spiritual needs/ relationships with diety.

  73. The funny thing about all this talk of boats is that Christ Himself doesn’t actually need a boat, he can walk on water.

    I think Christians have a tendency to focus too much on the boats–whose boat is best, whose boat is sinking, etc. In the end, the boats don’t really matter.

  74. JustTrying says:

    Agree, deeply flawed analogy. I felt the same way when I heard a summary of it earlier this year.

    As for responses, first, I mentally dismiss comments that equate the LDS Church with Christ or God, whether stating that God controls the boat or the water (deaths from storms or lack of wind at sea are a result of nature). Next, I worry when I see people of any persuasion focus on Christ with the intensity that many here seem to advocate. Some suggest that that focusing on good takes away from focusing on Christ. We are taught to study out of the best books. That indicates a need for more expansive knowledge than can be obtained only through scripture and prayer. The Bible Dictionary notes King David’s life experience and education that contributed to him being a well-rounded, knowledgeable, wise, (and flawed) person. Reading Isaiah it is clear that he had deep, broad understanding of the workings of his earthly existence. Early latter-day prophets onward advocated for knowledge and education and trades.

    Best advice I received from one of my YW leaders was to read a daily newspaper and weekly news magazine. “The best books” matters here (especially now) as well: sources of information that adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. I’ve heard church leaders at General Conference warning about information on the Internet. While there is some garbage, there’s also a vast amount of quality information. Blanket warning – not useful.

    D&C 9:7-9. We need people with authoritative knowledge in their field. We need knowledge. We need scientific method. We need evidence-based medicine. We need the professional standards various fields have developed. We need to understand our church history, recent and early.

    Christ and Heavenly Father are wonderful. God provided us critical thinking skills. He wants us to use them fully. He wants us to use them to benefit our families and others. He loves us. If we are trying to live a good, moral life, if we are doing work that makes a meaningful contribution to society, then we are not floundering helplessly at sea, 30 or 20km from land.

    [An aside, I’d hoped for better from a lady who chose to pursue education and career in the era of women-should-stay-home teachings of President Benson (which still has traction in my working-class ward). Furthermore disappointed that with her legal training, such an un-nuanced analogy satisfies her. Oh well.]

  75. Occasionally I stop at By Common Consent to see how the intellectual liberals in the church are faring. Not well, I see.
    I have read lots of church history and reams of anti-Mormon material. There is nothing in the past or the present that should cause anyone to jump out of the boat. There will be increasing numbers leaving but it will be because the church refuses to move its policies and doctrines to align with their desires.

  76. I don’t mean to be too rude, but seriously, not helpful Alan. Try a little empathy. Instead of “there’s nothing to see here,” how about, “I understand why marrying children, mistranslations of ancient documents, and failed prophecies might make belief really difficult for people. I’m okay with those things, and here’s why, but I understand that those things are deeply troubling to a lot of people and I can understand their pain.”

  77. early to bed says:

    Alan, you have just advertised a lot of things about yourself, likely none of them intended. But that’s okay, you are obviously enough for yourself.