Faced with the creation of a world and of all the life that would live on it—including His own children—God did not waste time stewing or worrying over what could have gone wrong. No, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3). With authority, God acted, and the darkness dispersed.
Faced with new opportunities, circumstances, and challenges, I think we, on the other hand, often respond more with trepidation than with authority (if my own tendency is any indication). Sometimes, it can be hard to commit when we doubt our own ability to succeed: in such situations, it can seem easier to resign to failure than to risk failure. Of course, those who give up will never overcome. Spencer W. Kimball, a former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught that “[our] altitude, or the height [we] climb, is dependent upon [our] attitude or [our] response to situations.” But how can we cultivate an attitude of determination and hope in new and difficult circumstances? How do we resolve to conquer a bad habit or to develop a good one? What justifies our confidence that things will work out even if we seem to be seriously outmatched by our situation?
The Book of Mormon tells the story of Jared and his brother. The Lord promised them that He would lead them and their families and friends “into a land which [was] choice above all the lands of the earth” (Ether 1:42). The Lord instructed them to build barges that would be able to survive periodic submersion in the rough seas between their home and the promised land. As the brother of Jared worked on the construction of the barges, he realized that watertight ships would also be miserably dark ships—an obstacle that seemed insurmountable. Recognizing that he was, perhaps, outmatched by his circumstances, the brother of Jared approached the Lord in prayer and said, “I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them” (Ether 2:22). He had followed the Lord’s instructions up to that point, and I suppose he could have decided that the oppressive darkness in the barges was proof that he had not been led by the Lord. The brother of Jared could have given up, saying that his hope of finding a promised land was a fantasy and not a promise from God. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he asked for help, “Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”
The Lord responded to the brother of Jared’s prayer by confirming that light would not be easy to come by in the submersible vessels. Said He, “[Y]e cannot have windows, for they will be dashed to pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire. For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you” (Ether 2:23-24). The Lord continued, however, and offered His help, saying, “[W]hat will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)
Rather than simply solve the problem, the Lord responded by promising that He would help the brother of Jared to overcome the very real darkness that loomed in his future. The Lord prompted the would-be seafarer to try to solve the problem on his own and then present his plan to Him. Often, I think the Lord works in a similar fashion with us: rather than say, “Let there be light,” the Lord promises to illuminate our lives as we work out a plan to overcome the darkness.
The brother of Jared, then, started to work out a way to illuminate his vessels. The Book of Mormon relates that, fueled by his hope for a better tomorrow, the brother of Jared went to the mountains and “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass” (Ether 3:1).
Thus, in his quest for light, the brother of Jared made rocks. By most people’s standards, I think it would be reasonable to argue that making rocks is a spectacularly embarrassing way to fail in an attempt to make light. The brother of Jared didn’t even think to bottle up fireflies—he made sixteen rocks.
However, the brother of Jared’s attempt would have been a magnificent failure only if he had stopped at stones. He didn’t, though. He turned to God, presented his stones, and proposed his solution, saying:
O Lord, look upon me in pity…and suffer not that [thy people] shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock. And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in the darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men. (Ether 3:3-5)
In response, “the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger,” and they began to give light (Ether 3:6).
Because the brother of Jared had the courage and faith to takes his rocks to the Lord and ask for help, the Lord responded by rewarding him with the light he had desired. Understood in this light, the brother of Jared’s rocks weren’t so much a sign of failure as they were a sign that he had done all he could do and that he was ready for the Lord’s help. In our own quests for light, we often end up making rocks—not because we’ve slacked off, but because rocks are all we’re capable of making. As I’ve thought about the brother of Jared’s experience, I’ve learned that it’s okay for us to make rocks as long as we remember to take them to the Lord in faith and ask Him to turn our rocks into lights.
Surely, Jesus Christ is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We cannot achieve anything of eternal significance without His help: we can only make rocks. With His help, however, we can achieve great things. As we seek that help and believe that it will come, we will see His hand at work as he turns our embarrassing failures into brilliant successes. Of course, we have to be willing to make our rocks—to do all that we can do, even if it seems futile to us. As Elder Gene R. Cook taught, “We should have great hope in knowing, however unworthy we may feel or weak we may be, that if we will do all we can, He will come to our aid and provide for us whatever we may lack.” This is the grace of Christ, to turn our meager efforts into eternal blessings. So, whether we face a new school year, a new job, or even a new resolution to do something more with our lives, I know that we can find hope and success as we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and rely on the help that He will so graciously provide.