Out of the Depths


We were so lost in the murky water that down seemed like up. If we didn’t get our bearings soon, we would be in real trouble.

Visibility is generally low in Lake Mead in Nevada, and since we were diving shortly after a storm, we knew it would be very difficult to see. The weather, however, was beautiful. So we loaded our equipment on the boat and headed out. We beached the boat on a small island about 150 yards east of where we knew a large boat had sunk years before. After putting on our diving gear, we swam the distance on the surface of the water to the buoy that marked the location of the wreck.

Once we reached the buoy, we descended below the surface along the rope that held the buoy to the boat far below. Visibility was even poorer than we had expected. We held tightly to the rope as we continued our descent, trying in vain to see through the murky darkness which surrounded us. We could not see the wreck until we were within ten feet of it. For the next 40 minutes, we explored in and around the large boat.

When we decided it was time to return to the island, I indicated to my friend that we should return underwater rather than surface swim. Swimming underwater is far less strenuous, and I had no desire to repeat the exhausting surface swim which we endured before the dive began. Suspended a few feet above the lake floor, I looked at my compass and decided to head directly east. I had unwisely not taken a compass bearing before descending, but I had noticed that our boat was generally east.

My friend and I swam for about 20 yards before the lake bed dropped out of sight below us. We needed to maintain our current depth rather than descending with the lake bottom, so we continued east for another 50 yards. At that point my friend and I conferred. As we looked around, we could see no more than ten feet in any direction. The murky darkness around us was eerie, and we knew if our original compass bearing was off by a few degrees, we would miss the island entirely. We decided it would be safest to ascend to the surface and complete our swim to the island from there.

I checked my depth gauge. It said 55 feet. We began our ascent. Looking around, we could see nothing but dark green, murky water around us and our bubbles rising to the surface. We were being careful not to go up too quickly. A good rule is to not rise faster than your smallest bubbles. Our small bubbles were creeping past us, so we felt safe. After about a minute, I knew something was wrong. The light was the same, the temperature had not changed, and there was no easing of the pressure on our bodies. It did not feel like we were rising. I checked the depth gauge again. It said 58 feet.

What?

All that time I thought I was making positive progress, I was, in fact, sinking deeper into the depths below. I began kicking faster toward the surface and kept a close eye on my depth gauge because I now needed to rely on the instrument to guide me to the surface. The needle began to creep slowly upward.

My friend had adopted a similar strategy, and we moved together toward the surface. The murky darkness around us lightened. The water temperature began to rise, and the pressure on our bodies began to ease as we continued our ascent. When we broke the water’s surface, I felt an incredible surge of relief. Looking quickly at my compass, I realized we might have missed the island had we not decided to surface when we did.

As we broke the water’s surface, one thought struck me. I thought of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life where he sees many people pressing forward along the straight and narrow path toward the tree which represents the love of God. As the people progress, a mist of darkness arises to blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the people. Never before had this story hit me with as much force as it did that day at the lake. When I was below the surface, I was blind as to which direction to go and I had difficulty getting my bearings.

My compass and depth gauge helped me that day, but it would have been much easier to follow the same rope to the surface which we had held onto as we had descended to the wreck. I felt what a desperate state we can find ourselves in if we do not hold fast to the iron rod—the word of God—to keep us on the path toward eternal life.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson