Throughout scripture there are stories of people seeking a land promised them by God. Abraham, Moses, Jared and his brother, and Lehi and Nephi are some of those people. Each of these stories has powerful symbolism that teaches us about finding our way to our promised land—the celestial kingdom of God. In one of those stories, the story of Nephi, God instructs Nephi to build a ship to take him across the waters to his promised land. Nephi has seen ships, but the Lord instructs him to build something different. As he obeys the Lord, he tells us that “we did work timbers of curios workmanship” (1 Nephi 17:1) and that from time to time the Lord instructed him what to do next to build his ship. Finally Nephi says, “I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 17:2).
There is beautiful symbolism going on here. The ship or vessel is what carries Nephi and his family to the Promised Land, and our physical bodies are what carry us to our Promised Land. So from Nephi’s story we learn that we are to develop ourselves by going to the Lord for instruction as to what we need to do rather than to follow the ways of the world and develop ourselves “after the manner of men.”
To build his ship Nephi went to the mount often and prayed often, therefore the “Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 17:3). Likewise if we go to the temple often and pray often we can receive revelation as to what we should do to obtain our Promised Land. There are many more symbolic elements to this story, but one of the most fascinating to me is that Nephi tells us that “we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 17:8).
While winds can “drive” a ship in the right direction while at sea, winds and storms can also be a symbol for adversity. We know that not all the winds Nephi encountered were gentle. There were many violent storms. But we learn that even the winds (read adversity) of our life can “drive” us closer to the Promised Land if we stay close to the Lord and trust in Him.
Picture by Jim Warren: http://www.jimwarren.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=62