Building boats and lives

The last month has been busy for me as I have had to pack up my house in Idaho and moved with my family to Utah. Actually, it’s been more than busy…it’s been exhausting. Moving states is plain hard work. This experience has made certain parts of the Book of Mormon become more meaningful to me though.

nephi ship

In 1 Nephi chapter 18, Nephi is commanded to build a ship to move his family to the promised land. Lehi’s family didn’t just have to move states. They had to move across the whole ocean…and in a ship that they built with their own hands. Holy moly! Just thinking about that makes me shiver. I’m grateful I didn’t have to build the U-Haul that transported all my belongings or we’d still be sitting in my driveway in Boise looking pathetic.

But Nephi’s faith is unflinching. He doesn’t whine and tell the Lord he doesn’t know how to build a ship. He asks for help in making tools to build and sets to work. And he did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show [him] from time to time after what manner [he] should work the timbers of the ship.” (1 Nephi 18:1)

Curious workmanship implies that this was a type of construction Nephi had never seen. Scary…and the Lord only directed him from time to time. He didn’t stand over Nephi’s shoulder and give him constant direction. Nephi probably had to figure a bunch of the steps out himself. But that “time to time” phrase makes me know that when he couldn’t figure out the next step, the Lord stepped in and showed him what to do. That gives me much hope.

As I’ve pondered this, I’ve decided God works much the same way in our lives. He doesn’t want to do everything for us or tell us every step to take. We wouldn’t grow if He did that. When my children come and ask me for help, many times I could tell them exactly what to do and be done quickly, but I love letting them figure out solutions to their own problems and seeing if they can grow in the process. That brings both of us way more fulfillment than if I had just done it for them.

Once we work out different solutions to our problems or think of various paths to take in life, we must make a choice between which to put into action. We do this by studying out the pros and cons to all paths and then choosing one we feel will be best and then turning to God in prayer for confirmation that we’ve made a good decision. One of three things will happen if we are sincere and humble when we do this:

  1. Our hearts will be at peace and we will feel definite confirmation that God approves of what we want to do…or
  2. We will receive a stupor of thought. This is becoming easier for me to discern the older I get. Peace from the Lord sets my heart at ease. I don’t worry about whether my decision is right or not. I know it is. But a stupor of thought causes anxiety; spiritual equilibrium is set off balance; I worry; I fret; sometimes I even feel physically sick until I change course and make a different decision and start the process over again. And lastly…
  3. We might feel completely neutral. When I feel this way (no burning confirmation or dark confusion), I know God is saying it’s up to me. He doesn’t mind one way or the other what choice I make at that moment. Either way will lead to growth and goodness.

In verse 2 of chapter 18, Nephi writes that he didn’t build the ship after the “manner which was learned by men…but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me.

We should do the same.

This life is a test to see how we will build our lives. If we build it after the manner of men—the world—we will sink when the storms beat upon us. The Lord wants us to come unto Him and build our lives in the way He shows us through prophets, scriptures, and personal revelation. If we build our lives by His codes–even if the world mocks us for it–we will build a boat that gets us safely through the stormy seas of life and to a better world filled with joy from our Father.


In this crazy world, there will be many who taunt us for building after the manner the Lord shows us–curious workmanship in the way we live, speak, and believe. But Nephi’s faith in building his boat despite his brothers mocking him produced awesome results. That ship weathered some mighty storms that would have sunk all other boats. But it sailed on and eventually his family reached the promised land.

We might not be called to move our families across oceans like Lehi and Nephi were, but we will have to move our families out of darkness and toward light and truth.

If we choose wisely and pray for confirmation of our decisions, God will lead us from time to time (the times we NEED Him most) so that we safely return to Him after enduring to the end.

Now is the time to decide (if you haven’t already) what type of boat you’re going to build. Will you build your life (and that of your family) after the manner which the Lord has shown…or will you risk it all to follow the world’s pattern of shoddy building? The choice is easy if we are humble and love God above all else.

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