M. Russell Ballard

Have you ever watched a large ship weigh its anchor? It is fascinating to see and hear the massive links of chain screeching against the metal bow of the ship as the anchor is lowered or raised. If an anchor is placed properly on the bottom of the sea, it can hold a giant ship fast, even in rough seas.

Just as ships need anchors to keep them from drifting away on the open seas, people need spiritual anchors in their lives if they are to remain steadfast and not drift into the sea of temptation and sin. Faith in God and in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the main anchor we must have in our lives to hold us fast during times of social turbulence and wickedness that seem to be everywhere today. Our faith, for it to be meaningful and effective and to hold us fast, must be centered in Jesus Christ, his life and his atonement, and in the restoration of his gospel to the earth in the last days.

Recently I spoke to a group of prospective missionaries. Many of those young men and women had made the decision to serve a full-time mission, but others were not certain they should accept a call. I told them that they did not have to decide that night whether or not to go on a mission. But I said they did need to decide whether or not Joseph Smith knelt in the presence of God, the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, “on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty” (JS—H 1:14). Listen to Joseph’s own words:

“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

“But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:15–17).

If this happened to Joseph, then the question of whether or not these prospective missionaries should serve a mission, or whether or not they should keep the Lord’s commandments faithfully, pretty well takes care of itself, doesn’t it? If anyone knows, I mean really knows, that Heavenly Father and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to and spoke to Joseph Smith as he said they did, the natural outcome of that knowledge should kindle a strong desire to serve God and his Holy Son all the days of his or her life.

Nothing is more remarkable or important in this life than to know that God, our Eternal Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, have spoken again from the heavens and have called prophets and Apostles to teach the fulness of the everlasting gospel once again upon the earth. That is a glorious thing to know. When you know it, that knowledge affects your life.

I make the same argument for the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood through John the Baptist, and the Melchizedek Priesthood through Peter, James, and John. Let’s be very plain about this. Either the priesthood of God has been restored or it has not. When you know that it has, you have secured your spiritual anchor firmly against the turbulence and storms of life.

Similarly, either the Book of Mormon is the word of God and is another testament of Jesus Christ or it is not. The issue is that simple and that profound. If the Book of Mormon is, in fact, the word of God, as I testify that it is, then the question of whether or not we should apply its principles and teachings in our own lives is already decided, isn’t it?

The same simple test applies to our living prophets and Apostles today. President Ezra Taft Benson is either a prophet of God in every sense, in every way, or he is not.

You know how to find out for yourselves if these things are true because you understand the first principle of the gospel. Because you have an anchor of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you understand that you must pray to receive your personal testimony. You understand that the Holy Ghost “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26).

Suppose a beautiful sailing ship had been manufactured from the finest materials and had been reinforced and strengthened for the roughest seas. Suppose the anchor was of the finest craftsmanship. But suppose, by some inadvertent error, the chain attached to the anchor was inferior and weak. Visualize what would happen the first time the anchor was lowered, or the first time a strong wave tried to push the anchored ship out to sea. If any link of the chain holding the anchor broke, the anchor would be left to rust on the bottom of the ocean floor, and the ship would drift and perhaps be destroyed.

The comparison to our lives is plain. The links in our chain of faith and testimony that enable our personal anchor to keep us safe and secure are the simple doctrines and teachings of the gospel. For example, can you see the value of the gospel link of personal prayer? Thanking your Heavenly Father for your blessings will help you remain secure. Pray for the help you need in your personal life, your education, your career, and your relationships.

Can you see another gospel link in your chain being the Word of Wisdom? By faithfully living the Lord’s law of health, that link in the chain will help you keep your physical body strong, and you “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (D&C 89:19) that will help you be more committed to the Church.

Another link is the law of tithing. Paying a full tithe is not a matter of money; it is a matter of faith. You can pay a full tithe regardless of your income if you develop the faith to do so. The Lord surely will “open the windows of heaven,” as he has promised to those who are obedient to this commandment.

How about the links of honesty, moral purity, service to others, attendance at church meetings, and studying the scriptures, to name just a few? These links of your gospel anchor chain may seem elementary, but they are as important as the anchor of faith and testimony itself. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We must take care every day to examine our own personal chain to anchor our souls to the gospel and see if we have any weak links that may make us vulnerable to the influence of the devil.

One good way to keep every link strong is to partake of the sacrament each week. As you know, the sacrament is a renewal and a reminder of our covenants with the Lord. What a great time for personal introspection and reflection on our life during the past week! Make the sacrament a time to review your personal gospel chain and see if each link is equal to the task of anchoring you securely to the Church.

Your personal chain that anchors your soul to the gospel can be as strong as you want to make it. Be grateful for the principle of repentance, which provides the way for us to strengthen any weak links in our chain. If you know that you are anchored to the Lord Jesus Christ, but still feel like life’s trials are more than you can handle, find peace and strength in the knowledge that each day you have done the best you can in honoring the Lord. Remember that strengthening your testimony is a lifelong process. Look to the Lord for strength. Work on one link at a time and strengthen each until you can feel anchored safely and securely to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Parry Van Schelt

[illustration] The First Vision, by Gary Smith