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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Sailing and Sin

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

I love sailing. One of my favorite aspects of learning to sail was learning about ocean navigation without the help of GPS. Essentially, you point the boat in a particular direction (as denoted by a compass heading like 245 degrees). You then trim your sails so you go in that direction. After about an hour, you use a sextant to determine your location.

Inevitably, what you find is that you have not stayed on course. You have drifted one way or another. Depending on weather and ocean conditions you might be quite a bit off the course. So you then figure out what adjustments need to be made and change your course back toward the right destination. You then repeat that process every hour making these needed adjustments and course changes until you reach your destination.

Me and by brothers sailing The Sea of Cortez

I think you probably see where I am going with this, especially when you consider the word sin means “to miss the mark” or “to miss the intended destination". The reality is that because we have agency, we can choose whatever destination we want. Christ calls us to the highest and best of all destinations. He calls us to perfection. He calls us to be like He and The Father are and to be one with them.

Dealing with ideals

If this does not terrify you then you have not thought enough about it. Christ does not call you to be a good person. He calls you to be greater than the greatest person you have ever met by a long shot. More loving than the most loving person you have ever known. He calls you to be more courageous and strong than the greatest hero you can think of. He wants you to be more forgiving, more patient, more selfless, more humble, more knowledgeable, and every other virtue you can imagine. He calls you to integrate all these virtues perfectly. If you feel inadequate to this standard, good. That's where the Christian life begins.

“Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it… Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power—it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk... Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay.”

— Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) by C. S. Lewis

The good news (the gospel) is the idea that becoming ideal and achieving your highest potential and fulfillment is actually possible. The good news is that life is not an 80 year crapshoot but part of an eternal journey where it's possible for every imperfection and injustice to be made right. However, those who don’t embrace this “good news” (gospel) are those who, for whatever reason, don’t even try for the ideal destination. They damn themselves (which means to choose a destination less than the ideal). It’s not God who has damned them. It’s they who have chosen a lower level of being. It’s those who have given up on the ideal, they have given up on Christ. He never gives up on them.

“Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin.” - Brad Wilcox (His Grace is Sufficient)

It's for this reason that He calls us to go and share the good news with others so they can realize that the ideal is possible and to invite all to join with us in the process of sailing toward the fulfillment and life giving water we all ultimately crave more than anything else.

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."- Mark 16:15

Salvation: The Art of Sailing

Some think of salvation (attaining a celestial glory) as some kind arrival at a destination. I don’t think this is the right way to think of it. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ (setting his nature as your destination) and then engaging in a series of course corrections (repentance and weekly covenant renewal) as made known to us by the Gift of the Holy Ghost which then changes our very nature bit by bit.

In other words, salvation is not found in arriving at a destination but setting course toward the right destination and becoming a real sailor. A real sailor is never on a perfect course but understands how to course correct and will do it over and over until they reach their destination no matter how bad the weather. Becoming ideal (exaltation) is a destination so impossibly far off that we may never think we can reach it. But on an eternal scale, no distance is too great as long as you stay fixated on the right destination and continue to course correct. I have heard it said that it does not matter how far along the path you are, what matters is if you are pointed in the right direction. Damnation (the stopping of progress toward the ideal) does not occur because we fell off the path, damnation occurs when we no longer want to get back on it. This is why those who sell the idea that “you are good enough the way you are” are so dangerous. What's the point of a course correction if I am “good enough”.

Perhaps this why Paul considers himself among "the worst" of sinners. He would not accept the notion that he was good enough.

"What then? Are we any better? Not at all... As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one." - Romans 3:9-10

Never Settle.

We should not act like our temple worthiness makes us "good enough". We should think about what Alma said.

"Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?..Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God...Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?... And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared...Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you." - Alma 5:27-33

Have you ever heard the phrase, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I think there is some truth in that. As time goes on, we form into what we are. We are like wet concrete. Every moment, we become a little more fixed in the kind of being we are. So are we going to be the kind of person who is willing to course correct?

"I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."- Alma 34:34-35

Pride has been said to be "The Great Sin". Pride is when we refuse to be humble enough to course correct. Pride is us choosing a different destination, like the relatively low bar of temple worthiness being "good enough". We may feel pride in our temple recommend, but God is not nearly as impressed with that as the drug addict who just decided to sincerely try again to get sober and continue their progression. It's not about a destination, it's about keeping on sailing. It's about not getting stuck at a destination. It's about being pointed in the right direction and keeping the sails in the wind. Pride is faith in ourselves rather than faith in Christ. It's our pride that tells us to justify ourselves. It’s what distances us from God and our fellow man. Taking on the journey of moving closer and closer to Christ also brings us closer and closer to our fellow man. It allows for human relationships to be deeper. The saints are the people who have chosen Christ as their destination. As time progresses their ships come closer and closer to the destination and closer and closer to each other.

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.." - John 17:20-23

It’s actually strangely simple. It's faith that saves you. It’s this undeviating sincere desire for the ideal and the willingness to struggle for it without excuse for as long as it takes. Some may feel like this is a heavy burden, but they would be wrong. There is nothing more meaningful than seeking the ideal. Indeed, it is when you stop sailing and when you stop engaging with opposition, that you wallow in the stagnant pond of your own nature. It's the sensation of quitting. Giving up. Giving in. Selling yourself short. Your relationships with others and God get no deeper. There is no further meaning in damnation. Meaning comes from carrying a cross up a worthy mountain. Not sitting down and ignoring the call to adventure. The call to be more and have more than you already have. Instead what calls to us is the greatest of all adventures. The most meaningful of any meaningful story. An eternal journey that will inevitably get better and better as you progress eternally and become as God is because of Jesus's Atonement. It's the only path that leads to a meaningful life now and forever. Perhaps that's one reason why it's called "eternal life". So, correct the course, trim the sails and don't ever settle for anything less than the ideal. Don't settle for anything less than Christ. There is no other way.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." - Jesus


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