Life Preservers


It was a death trap disguised as a lifesaving device.

Imagine you’re invited on a pleasure cruise with friends. At 3:00 A.M. the first night out, you are awakened by a loud explosion. A shout of “Fire!” startles you. You race for the deck. Amid the excitement, someone shouts the warning command: “Prepare yourself with life preservers!” Through the eerie dawn and jagged fingers of flame, you see a variety of lifesaving equipment on deck. There are cushions, belts, rings, and several kinds of vests and jackets. Would you grab the nearest piece of lifesaving equipment? Do you think one is as good as another?

I’m a landlubber, and to me one life preserver would have seemed as good as another. But not anymore! What changed my mind?

I attended a safety exhibit. The exhibit stressed accident prevention and covered safety in many situations.

The display that intrigued me most was water safety. A beautiful large blue and white boat caught my eye. Over the bow lay a variety of familiar pieces of lifesaving equipment. On each piece was a simple card. The card read YES on the pieces of equipment that were safety approved; NO on those that were not. I was dumbfounded. I thought all life preservers were approved and would save life in an emergency. I expressed my surprise to the gentleman who was in charge of the display.

“Most people think they’re perfectly safe,” he said, “but that’s the tragedy of it. Now take this skier’s vest. It will protect the skier from getting his ribs broken if he should hit the water hard when making a high jump. The belt will aid him some, but he needs this life jacket to be protected from drowning. Ski belts are not approved because of insufficient buoyancy and failure to ensure face-up flotation.”

He picked up an orange, U-shaped life jacket. It had a YES sign. “Inside this life jacket are strong waterproof plastic bags. They’re filled with kapok and surrounded with this heavy water-repellent canvas. You could float for days wearing this,” he said. “It’s designed to save life.” He put it on demonstrating it for me. “It fits securely around the neck. This holds the head up out of the water,” he said.

“Now, let’s compare this approved vest with this piece of equipment over here.” He rested his hand on the familiar khaki canvas vest with a NO sign on it. “This is nothing but a death trap,” he said. “It’s about as helpful as a bucket of cement. It can become saturated with water in 15 or 20 minutes. When it’s saturated it weighs 29 pounds. The weight of the human body is 10 to 11 pounds when in water. You put this 29 pounds around your neck and it just drags you down.”

“That’s terrible!” I protested. “Why are they allowed to manufacture such death traps? They’re worse than nothing at all!”

“You’re right.” he said emphatically. “They are just a money-making deal. There is no guarantee they will save.”

As I drove home, I thought how foolish I had been to assume all lifesaving equipment would do the job. I began to wonder if I was making other incorrect assumptions that were potentially as dangerous. Then a very striking comparison entered my mind. There are many different philosophies of life, but not all are designed to save. Some, like the khaki vest, can even be death traps.

A popular philosophy of our day teaches us to “look out for number one.” Have you ever heard the line “If it feels good, do it”? Some contend that it doesn’t really matter if you lie, cheat, or steal—as long as you don’t get caught. And everywhere we are bombarded with the message that a person’s success in life is equivalent to the amount of money he makes. While these philosophies, and many like them, are often packaged attractively and made to look very appealing, they are wholly inadequate to save.

The saving principles of the gospel as taught by Jesus Christ and his prophets look very different. Compare, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12); “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31); “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10); and “No other success can compensate for failure in the home” (David O. McKay).

All roads do not lead to Rome, and all philosophies do not lead to eternal life. The Savior taught that man-made creeds have no power to save. “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

He also said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

There is but one plan of salvation and one road that leads to eternal life. Don’t take things for granted, especially not your eternal salvation! Get informed. Apply the teachings of Jesus Christ and his prophets. Whether for water safety or eternal safety, rely only on that which is designed to save.

[illustration] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus