This wasn’t my thought, but it was one that was shared in Sunday School last week that I thought was profound enough that I wanted to share it. We were discussing chapters 16-22 of 1 Nephi, which included part of the story of Lehi’s family building a ship to sail from the Arabian peninsula to the Americas. As an engineer with a manufacturing background, the thought of trying to build a ship capable of oceanic travel, with just one extended family and no infrastructure, out in the middle of nowhere is fascinating. I can get why when Nephi’s brothers heard what he was trying to do, they thought their brother had cracked.
But the comment that someone made is that the challenge most of us face in life isn’t building a physical ship to sail across the ocean, but building other types of ships, that frankly can seem just as daunting at times: building friendships, family relationships, and discipleship.
Given how flawed most of us are, and how imperfect our family or work relationships may seem at times, figuring out how to build them into something that can last is something that can seem like an impossible task. I think Nephi’s example of faith, prayer, and trusting that if the Lord asks us to do something that he can prepare the way are all relevant in our daily efforts to build these other types of ships.
For my first Come Follow Me Thought, I wanted to share an idea I had that came out of a Sunday School discussion a few weeks ago, while we were discussing Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life from 1 Nephi 8. This was a fascinating vision the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi had, shortly after his family fled Jerusalem shortly before the Babylonian captivity. There are so many interesting lessons you can take from this vision, but I wanted to focus on one new idea I had that relates to one specific element of the vision — the “iron rod” that led along a strait and narrow path leading to the Tree of Life, which is a representation of the love of God.
During our lesson, one of the other members of the ward pointed out that the word used to describe the path isn’t straight with a -ght ending, but strait, which means something very different. Using Webster’s 1828 dictionary, strait means narrow, tight, difficult, confined, strict. As a noun, a strait is a narrow pass or passage, either on a mountain or ocean, between continents or other portions of land. I had heard this thought before, but as I was thinking of the strait and narrow path as being a winding, tight, and difficult path, I remembered a type of hiking trail I had learned about a few years ago called a Via Ferrata.
To paraphrase the Wikipedia article on the topic, Via Ferrata (which is Italian for something like Iron Path or Iron Way) is a type of protected hiking trail/climbing route that has metal cables, rungs, or rails anchored into the rock along the path. The anchored metal fixtures allow someone on the path to clip into them using a pair of leashes attached to their harness, which limit any falls that could happen. I found out about them while trying to plan a trip to Banff National Park in Canada. Here’s a few pictures to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
The Iron Rod and Strait and Narrow Path as a Via Ferrata
Anyhow, I think a Via Ferrata is actually an amazingly good metaphor for the Iron Rod from Lehi’s Vision, which Nephi later explained was a symbol of the word of God:
Via ferratas allow you to safely travel what could otherwise be a very perilous path. Allowing even relatively less-skilled climbers to access places that would otherwise be unreachable.
Via ferratas provide their safety by being firmly anchored into the rock of the mountain.
While I wouldn’t recommend trying it, a Via ferrata could probably allow you to safely reach your destination even if you were caught in a sudden storm, fog, or were caught out after dark.
Using a Via Ferrata properly, you are always connected to the fixtures through at least one of your two leashes. To transition across say a cable anchor point, you unclip only one leash, and then reclip it on the other side of the anchor, and only then do you unclip the first. By always keeping at least one leash clipped to the fixture, you’re always protected from accidental falls.
While a Via Ferrata protects you from falling, you still have to keep going on your path in order to reach your destination.
I still have never had the chance yet to use a Via Ferrata in real life, but I hope to some day try the one of the ones in Banff. I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to heights, but there’s something reassuring about knowing that you’re being protected by a system that if you follow its rules and keep going, you know you’ll safely reach your destination. It’s hard to think of a more apt metaphor for the iron rod from Lehi’s vision.
My church has a program for church-supported, home-centered gospel study called Come Follow Me. We use it Sunday School at church, in Seminary on weekday mornings for the youth, and also in our home and personal gospel study. If you’re interested, you can find a link to the curriculum here. This year, we’re studying the Book of Mormon, but each year we alternate to a different one of our standard works of scriptures (last year was the New Testament, the year before that the Old Testament, and the year before that what we call the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price). As part of my study this year, I thought I would start a series of blog posts on thoughts I had from either my own studies, or from discussions we had as a family, at Sunday School, or elsewhere. Knowing how inconsistently I am at blogging, I don’t know how frequently I’ll do this, but I figured I’d give it a try.
Just as a reminder for those who’ve recently stumbled on this blog, this blog is focused on things related to my personal/family goals, recipes, religion, philosophy, and if I’m stupid enough I might get into politics and policy thoughts. I have two other blogs that are not dead yet — Selenian Boondocks, which is focused on space technology, policy, and business musings, and which has had a few cobloggers over the past 18yrs, and my Starbright Engineering blog, which is focused on professional writing related to topics such as satellite servicing, etc. As you can probably tell if you check them out, I don’t get a chance to write very frequently. I’m hoping that these CFM Thoughts blog posts can be short enough that I can do them more frequently.
Anyhow, wish me luck. Hopefully someone finds these interesting.