Friend to Friend

From an interview with Elder Robert E. Sackley of the Seventy, currently serving as second counselor in the United Kingdom/Ireland/Africa Area Presidency; by Kellene Ricks

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    Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41).

    Elder Robert E. Sackley

    I was born in Australia and lived in the community of Byron Bay, located on the eastern seacoast. I remember the great ships that used to sail up the coast of Australia. Very often they would come into port at Byron Bay. During storms, though, the ships would have to put out to sea again to avoid getting smashed against the rocky beaches or wooden piers.

    When I was about seven or eight years old, I had an experience that had a tremendous impact on me. My father came bursting into the house very late one night. Outside, there was a blinding rainstorm, and a large ship—one of the largest to sail along the coast—was struggling to get out to the open sea. Its crew members had been celebrating in town and had delayed returning to the ship to prepare it properly for sailing. As a result, the coal-burning vessel didn’t have enough steam to sail out of port and away from danger.

    My parents bundled my brother, sister, and me up in our oilskin coats, and we went down to the harbor to watch the crew frantically trying to sail to safety. The sea was rough. The waves were high. Hundreds of townspeople roused from their beds had gathered on the shore to watch and pray that the ship would make it.

    I remember that the ship was all alight as it tossed on the waves. We knew that dozens of crew members were in the hold, shoveling coal into the engine’s furnaces, attempting to get up enough steam to sail to safety. It was an awesome and frightening sight to a little boy.

    Suddenly a cheer burst from the crowd. The ship was obviously clear of the pier, and we watched as her bow turned seaward. It looked as though she would make it to the open sea. She went for a short distance; then, because she didn’t have sufficient steam, she lost the struggle. The waves beat too heavily against her, and that great ship swung around, raced straight up onto the beach, and splintered against the rocks. She never sailed again.

    I’ve never forgotten that night. It’s as vivid in my memory today as it was when it happened so many years ago. I believe that I am a General Authority today because of the lesson that I learned that night—to prepare myself so that I can head in the proper direction with sufficient strength.

    When storms come and waves beat against us, we’ll be dashed against the rocks if we don’t have sufficient faith in the Lord, in the gospel, and in our own abilities. We need to learn the gospel and to learn to love the Lord. Then we will have all the steam that we need, and we will know the right course to sail in this life.

    Illustrated by Paul Mann