Recently, I was perusing Facebook when on the Exponent II discussion page a story in a talk given by President Nelson in 2001 regarding a family rafting trip was shared. In the story (found here) he describes that by holding to the ropes of the raft while going over rapids is similar to holding to the “Savior and the iron rod of the gospel”, and by doing so his family will want to cling to him and the Savior. The implication of course being that holding tightly to the ropes on the raft through rough waters is like holding tightly to the church to keep you in the boat to get you through tough times.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that often finds herself not only outside of the boat but often out of reach of the ropes I questioned, why don’t I feel that sense of drowning that he describes in the story. Why even at my very darkest moment, did I still find peace?
As I pondered this idea, I realized my answer was simple. I’m wearing a life jacket. In Adam Miller’s paraphrased work of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan, I came to understand that although our natural instinct is to solely think of Grace as the life preserver ring tossed to us when we fall out of the boat, that is a very narrow view of God’s grace. It had never occurred to me that before we stepped foot into the boat, we were given life jackets because God knew that part of our growing process, part of the Plan of Salvation, was the Fall. That we not only could, but most defiantly would find ourselves in the water. He also knew this was not only where the most learning would happen, but there, in the water, individual support would be necessary. Where quite literally being embraced by the love and grace of God would save us.
Elder McConkie explains that the Plan of Salvation includes three doctrines that are “woven inseparably together”. No one pillar of the plan could happen without the other two; Creation, the fall, and the atonement.
It is only though the atonement that the resurrection can take place. Only though his love, and grace can we return to God’s presence. This is where we find acceptance, this is where we find comfort, this is where we find Him. We trust Him, believe Him, connect with Him.
But had the fall never happened we would have no need for the atonement. We would have no need for faith, repentance, trust, growth, knowledge. Had there been no fall there would be no salvation.
Additionally, the fall could not have happened if it weren’t for the creation. The creation of man with all his gifts and all his glory, of a beautiful world, of innocence, of, the plan.
So, you see God provided grace FIRST, it was a part of the creation, it is a part of the intricate weaving and threads that hold the plan together. The only irreparable sin is refusing that grace. Refusal of the life jacket before embarking the boat will jeopardize making it to your final destination. Just as refusing His grace, His gifts, His love, will jeopardize our relationship with Him.
I’m certainly not advocating jumping into the water; but should you find yourself there, DON’T panic. Stay calm, acknowledge that God is still there with you, His arms embracing you. Look for the lessons to be learned, the growth to be had, and take advantage of them. Take note of the other people on the river with you, in the water, canoes, kayaks, tubes, rafts and honor their journey. Be kind to those both in their boat and in the water (Jews and Gentiles alike), and when you finally get to calm waters find your family, embrace them, thank our Heavenly Father, and as President Nelson did, reevaluate your game plan for getting to the end incorporating the experience and knowledge you have gained.
Lisa is currently living in the Philippines with her husband and two sons, and missing her oldest daughter that is studying at University. She is a teacher with Master’s Degree in Education and Autism instruction. They will be relocating back to the US this year and she is looking forward to teaching again.