Today I was in a meeting listening to Elder and Sister Renlund. They both shared a wonderful parable about a man who was stranded in the open ocean, 30 miles from land. I tried to reproduce the parable the best that I could, and found this parable to be wonderful.
Imagine you boat have capsized, in the middle of the ocean. You have a life jacket on you and have been swimming for hours against what you think is the closest beach, but you cannot be sure. You are completely dehydrated so every time you start swimming you do not feel so well. Your best estimate is that the beach is about 18 miles away. You fear for your life. At a distance you hear a small engine. The sound seems to come against you, so the hope of rescue rises. When you look, you’ll see a fishing boat approaching.
Oh, thank you, the fisherman sees you! The boat stays and a friendly weathered fisherman will help you on board. Thankfully you crawl to a seat in the back of the boat. The fisherman gives you a bit of water and some soda crackers. The water and crackers give you exactly the nutrition you need to recover. You feel a little better, you are so relieved and so happy. You’re on the way home.
When you begin to feel better, you notice things you had not seen before. The water you drink is a little stale, and is not what you would have preferred. The nourishment you would prefer to have was a few delicacies, with a chocolate croissant afterwards. You also notice that the friendly fisherman is old, has worn boots and jeans. The fisherman also seems to be hard of hearing.
You also notice that the boat is “bad” shape and there are dents and dings in the right side of the ship. Some of the paint is cracked and tired and is flipping off. You also notice that when the fisherman releases the grip of the rudder, the boat pulls to the left. You are starting to worry that this boat and the fisherman who controls it cannot provide the rescue you need. You ask the old fisherman about the ship and its condition. He says he did not worry so much for these things because he has steered his boat to and from the fishing waters the same way day in and day out for decades, and it has always got the job done. This boat has always taken him wherever he wanted and in safety back to the beach.
You start to question the reasoning of the fisherman. How can the fisherman not be worried about the dents in the boat and the problems with steering control? And why was not the food more like you wanted it? The more you think of the boat and the fisherman, the more worried you become. You start to question your decision to get in the boat at all. Your anxiety begins to grow. In the end you ask the fisherman to stop the boat and let you go back into the water. Even though you are now more than twelve miles from the shore, you do not stand the idea of being in this boat. The fisherman helps you back into the ocean.
This boat represents the church, and the fisherman represents those who serve in the church. The whole purpose of the Church is to help our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in their efforts to bring about eternal life for our Heavenly Father’s children. What do we learn from this story about the boat and the fisherman concerning the church? Does the church’s dents and old paint change its ability for you to receive ordinance for salvation that help us to become like our Father in Heaven? If the fisherman has to hold the rudder with both hands to prevent it from pulling to the left, does it inhibit his ability to get where we are going? You do not have to be an ordained seer to know that it’s unwise to slip back into the water instead of staying in the boat.