Connection to the Divine
I helm a large ship. In the deep waters in which I sail, it is essential that I have the knowledge and skills to return me Home again. Every spiritual experience I have provides knowledge of the heavens: the points by which I guide my ship Home.
Attending church, feasting upon the scriptures, praying, fasting, and serving in the Kingdom are all things which serve as sextants, helping me to measure my distance from Home and the direction in which I must travel to return. Covenants and ordinances are my rudder, providing me power to steer my ship more steadily in the keeping of these serious and sober promises and in the making of future ones.
I help my children steer their ships as I teach them of heavenly bodies, crafting their own rudders and learning the use of their own sextants, linking their spirits to God and to us as a family. When I keep this vision in place, my efforts seem more substantial, more successful, and less Sisyphean, less futile. I want my ship to be strong, connecting me to the divine, to heaven, to Home.
Obvious things disturb my vision and weaken my connection to Home: sin, anger, covenant breaking, even becoming casual in my worship. But there are stealthy sandbars as well. Entropy is a big one for me. When there is chaos, when things in my daily life become too much like an absurdist play, I go further and further adrift, seemingly unaware of the directional damage done in merely navigating the chaos instead of wiser helmsmanship.
Wikipedia defines the nautical version of being adrift as “loose from moorings”, “a vessel [that] goes where the wind and current take her.” Simply put, I lose sight of the goal. Susan C. Jones from the YW General Board gave a talk at the 2009 BYU Women’s Conference about helms. She talks about D&C 123:16, where Joseph Smith counsels that “a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.” She suggests that daily times of stillness and feasting upon the scriptures are two ‘very small helms’ to more fully guide our ships through difficult patches. I know that daily times of stillness and meaningful, feasting scripture study give me great spiritual guidance—they provide ongoing connections to the divine that I need and seek, as surely as the stars guide sailors.
The very structure of God’s church has always provided for building connections to the divine: God wants us connected to Him.
In Old Testament times, they had sin, burnt, and peace offerings — the Law of Moses was the divine connection through which the Israelites partook of the Atonement which was to come.
With the completion of the Savior’s part of the Atonement, the Law of Moses was fulfilled. Our latter-day connection to the divine — our participation in the Atonement — is by exercising faith, hope and charity. We follow the first principles and ordinances of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, and receipt of the Holy Ghost. We endure to the end: obedience, sacrifice, gospel living, purity, and consecration. We prepare for and make covenants in the temple and we keep those covenants to eventually enter full fellowship with God.
A wise sailor uses all the tools at her disposal, never throwing her sextant overboard for bossiness, never angry at the strength and the weight of the rudder. She sees their role in guiding her journey and eventual return to port, to Home. Sometimes I don’t think I am all that wise a sailor. I don’t always see things in their proper light. I don’t always teach my children commandments as learning the heavens and finding passage Home. Sometimes I just teach rules. Rules often feel cumbersome; rules do chafe. When, however, I better see the power and depth of the seas through which we must travel, I cast about better for a good map, for well-calibrated sextants, for steady rudders. I fall back on past divine connections made, experience with the heavens, to guide me in making the next connections.
My tendency is to stay close to the harbor. I always want easy access to a “you are here” map. I suppose I do not have an explorer’s heart. But God knows that little growth comes in a voyageless life. He nudges me forth from the harbor, forcing me to realize that I know enough of the heavens (and can learn more) to make it Home, that I have crafted a steady rudder and it is true. He teaches me that I will find necessary treasures only in sailing away.
For others the reverse is true–the harbor is constraining; open water and its adventure call out over the small sounds of the port. My teenagers have adventurers’ hearts. For them, God teaches that rudders must be crafted and tended, celestial bodies must be studied and sextants calibrated. The adventurer must learn to trust that a strong and steady helm affords safety when open water turns treacherous. I hope, with my help in teaching of the heavens, that my adventurers will ultimately carry their treasures willingly and happily Home, guided and connected by their own connections to the divine.
Guiding my ship in the deep waters of life without divine connections, without small helms would be treacherous at best. Seeing each act of service, of stewardship, of covenant making and keeping, as a connection to God, to other deep water ships, helps me to see these acts, these choices as safety precautions, as safe ports in an ever raging storm.
- How do you connect to the Divine?
- How do you teach and understand covenant making and keeping as safety features and not agency robbers?
- How do you make use of “small helms” to guide yourself to an ever stronger connection to the Divine?