Don’t Go Overboard!


Russell M. Nelson
Adapted from an address given at April 1997 general conference.
Leaving the boat before it arrives is obviously unwise, but that’s just what some people try to do. Are you aboard for the whole journey?

Don’t Go Overboard!

Early in our married life when Sister Nelson and I lived in Minneapolis, we decided to enjoy a free afternoon with our two-year-old daughter. We went to one of Minnesota’s many beautiful lakes and rented a small boat. After rowing far from shore, we stopped to relax and enjoy the tranquil scene. Suddenly, our little toddler lifted one leg out of the boat and started to go overboard, exclaiming, “Time to get out, Daddy!”

Quickly we caught her and explained: “No, dear, it’s not time to get out; we must stay in the boat until it brings us safely back to land.” Only with considerable persuasion did we succeed in convincing her that leaving the boat early would have led to disaster.

Children are prone to do such dangerous things simply because they have not acquired the wisdom their parents have. Similarly, we as children of our Heavenly Father may foolishly want to get “out of the boat” before we arrive at destinations He would like us to reach. The Lord teaches over and over that we are to endure to the end. This is a dominant theme of the scriptures. One example may serve to represent many passages that convey a similar message:

“Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion … , for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb” (1 Ne. 13:37).

Blessings bestowed by God are always predicated upon obedience to law (see D&C 130:20–21). Applied to my analogy, we are first to get “on the boat” with Him. Then we are to stay with Him. And if we don’t get “out of the boat” before we should, we shall reach His kingdom, where we will be lifted up to eternal life.

Whenever an undertaking is begun, both the energy and the will to endure are essential. The winner of a five-kilometer race is declared at the end of five kilometers, not at one or two. If you board a bus to Boston, you don’t get off at Burlington. If you want to gain an education, you don’t drop out along the way—just as you don’t pay to dine at an elegant restaurant only to walk away after sampling the salad.

Whatever your work may be, endure at the beginning, endure through opposing forces along the way, and endure to the end. Any job must be completed before you can enjoy the result for which you are working.

The Lord’s ultimate concern is for the salvation and exaltation of each individual soul. What if the Apostle Paul’s conversion had not been enduring? He never would have testified as he did at the end of his ministry: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

The Lord can readily discern between those with superficial signs of activity and those who are deeply rooted in His Church. This Jesus taught in the parable of the sower. He observed that some “have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).

Loyalty to the Lord carries an obligation of loyalty to those called by the Lord to lead His Church. He has empowered that men be ordained to speak in His holy name. As they guide His unsinkable boat safely toward the shore of salvation, we would do well to stay on board with them (see Acts 27:30–31). “No waters can swallow the ship where lies/ The Master of ocean and earth and skies” (Hymns, no. 105).

Nevertheless, some individuals want to jump “out of the boat” before reaching land. And others, sadly, are persuaded out by companions who insist that they know more about life’s perilous journey than do prophets of the Lord. Problems often arise that are not of your own making. Some of you may innocently find yourselves abandoned by one you trusted. But you will never be forsaken by your Redeemer, who said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say” (D&C 82:10).

We are speaking of the most important of all blessings. The Lord said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).

Each of you who really wants to endure to the glorious end that our Heavenly Father has foreseen should firmly establish some personal priorities. With many interests competing for your loyalty, you need to be careful first to stay safely “on the boat.” No one can serve two masters (see Matt. 6:24). If Satan can get you to love anything—fun, flirtation, fame, or fortune—more than the Lord with whom you have made sacred covenants to endure, the adversary begins to triumph. When faced with such temptations, you will find that strength comes from commitments made well in advance. The Lord said, “Settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you” (JST, Luke 14:28).

When priorities are proper, the power to endure is increased. And when internalized, those priorities will help keep you from “going overboard.”

If you really want to be like the Lord—more than any thing or anyone else—you will remember that your adoration of Jesus is best shown by your emulation of Him. You will govern yourself not by someone else’s set of rules but by revealed principles of truth.

Your responsibility to endure is uniquely yours. But you are never alone. I testify that the lifting power of the Lord can be yours if you will “come unto Christ” and “be perfected in him” (Moro. 10:32).

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert McKay