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Brett Miller

By June 26, 2018 09:22 AM
Brett Miller
Brett Miller was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in the Church with a brother and two sisters. He served a full-time mission in Rome, Italy and then attended Brigham Young University where he met his wife, Alice.

Spiritual Anchors

Today I would like to talk with you about spiritual anchors. We can learn about spiritual anchors by observing physical anchors. I am mostly acquainted with two types of physical anchors:       1) nautical anchors, used on boats and ships, and 2) surface anchors, used to secure something to a surface—like in rock climbing, hanging pictures on a wall, or securing a tent to the ground. In any case, the anchor is used to hold the item securely in place.

The word “anchor” is found six times in our scripture; four in the New Testament and two in the Book of Mormon. In the New Testament, Paul talks about anchors three times to describe the use of actual boat anchors when recounting the event of a shipwreck on his voyage to Rome. So let’s start with boat anchors.

Many years ago, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke at a BYU Devotional and described this type of anchor. He said: “Have you ever watched a large ship weigh its anchor? It is fascinating to see and hear the massive links of chain screeching against the metal bow of the ship as the anchor is lowered or raised. Now, the metal shanks of the anchor chain are incredibly heavy, but their weight is slight when compared to the total weight of the ship. Still, if an anchor is placed properly on the bottom of the sea, it can hold a giant ship fast, even in rough seas” (“Anchor to the Soul,” BYU Devotional, 6 Sep 1992).

I have had a few opportunities in my life to be on watercraft: small boats on lakes near my home when I was young, a fishing boat on the Columbia River, an old-fashioned paddle boat on the mighty Mississippi River, and larger vessels on the Mediterranean Sea. In each situation, anchors were stored onboard in case they were needed. While fishing on the Columbia River, we would anchor the boat in strategic locations trying to find the larger salmon that migrated there. The anchor kept us securely in place while we fished. And yes, I caught a three-foot-long salmon that day! Fresh salmon is one of my favorite meals.

Elder Ballard adds: “Just as ships need anchors to keep them from drifting away on the open seas, people need spiritual anchors in their lives if they are to remain steadfast and not drift into the sea of temptation and sin. Faith in God and in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the main anchor we must have in our lives to hold us fast during times of social turbulence and wickedness that seem to be everywhere today. This faith must be more than that of the generic dictionary variety. Our faith, for it to be meaningful and effective and to hold us fast, must be centered in Jesus Christ, in his life, in his atonement, and in the restoration of his gospel to the earth in the last days” (BYU Devotional, 6 Sep 1992).

It seems pretty obvious to understand how important these marine anchors are to the safety of those on the water, but do we see with equal importance the same great need for spiritual anchors to keep us safe while navigating through mortality? Mormon wrote about the Nephites of his day and how they had given themselves over to the enticings of the devil. He said: “But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they” (Mormon 5:18). Mormon understood how important such anchors are in life, and particularly for our spiritual well being.

Now let’s talk about surface anchors. Elder Richard G. Scott once spoke about rock climbing and the use of this type of anchors. He said: “When a pair of climbers tackle a difficult ascent, the leader scales a wall, placing anchors a few feet apart. His or her rope is linked to the anchor by a carabiner. Safety is assured by a companion, called the second, stationed in a very solid position. The lead is protected as the second belays, that is, carefully controls how the rope is put out. In this way the lead is assured protection while ascending. Should there be an inadvertent misstep, the anchor will safely limit the fall. The second not only secures the lead but gives encouragement with comments and signals as they communicate back and forth. Their goal is a safe, exhilarating experience by overcoming a significant challenge. They employ techniques and equipment that are tried and proven.”

Elder Scott continued: “The companionship has studied the rules and techniques of rock climbing. They have received instruction from experienced climbers and have practiced to become comfortable with the proper moves and the use of equipment. They have planned a route and determined how they will work together. When the leader scales far enough and finds a convenient place that is very safe, he or she belays while taking up the rope as the second follows the ‘pitch’ or length of rope that has been extended. When the leader is reached, the process is then repeated. One belays while the other climbs, inserting anchors every few feet as protection should there be an inadvertent fall. While technical rock climbing appears to be risky and dangerous, these precautions assure an exhilarating experience, safely accomplished by following correct principles” (“The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” General Conference, October 2006).

Now I have to admit that I have not done any real rock climbing, though it does sound thrilling. But I have a son who is a rock climber, and has much of his own equipment, and he does this kind of technical climbing. He told me that as he climbs there will often be anchors left from previous climbers. Before using those anchors, he will check them to make sure they are still secured to the rock. He also said that for him and many others, they have their rope through two anchors for added security. Though it is a redundancy, it has proven useful when he has lost his grip and fallen, only to be caught and protected because his rope line is connected to secure anchors. For me it is easy to see how important these anchors are to the safety of those who engage in rock climbing, but do we see the same great need for the spiritual anchors that can protect us when we fall spiritually, physically, or emotionally?

Let’s return to Elder Scott. He said: “In real life, the anchors are the laws of God that provide protection under all of the challenges that you will face. The rope and carabiners that secure the rope to the anchors represent obedience to those commandments. When you learn those commandments, continue to practice them, and have a plan to avoid danger, you will have a secure means of obtaining protection against Satan’s temptations. You will develop strength of character that will fortify you against transgression. Should you make a wrong move, there need be no enduring problem because of the belaying or help that is available through your repentance” (General Conference, October 2006).

Let’s now look at another example of a surface anchor, mounting a picture on a wall. Since my family has moved many times, we have had plenty of experience in decorating homes. My wife and I have spent many hours hanging pictures and things on our walls. Small pictures are easy, and a small nail is enough to secure it on the wall. But our larger pictures take more effort and larger anchors. One of our largest pictures is of the First Vision, and my wife decided it would look best in our home above the stairway to our basement. At first, I thought there is no way I can reach that. But since that is where she wanted it, I explored options on how to accomplish it. That sounds like Nephi who said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).

My inspiration came in the idea of bridging the open stairway by using 2x4 boards 10 feet long. I would buy several of them to span the distance, then lay a piece of plywood on them to make a temporary walkway. I could then put a ladder on that walkway and work on hanging the picture. Next came deciding exactly where to put the picture and measuring the locations of the wall mounts, or anchors, so they would be exactly level. When the anchors were in place I was able to hang the picture. And sure enough, it looks great. However, I have since used those 2x4 boards in the completion of our basement, so I don’t have a way of getting that picture down again. Maybe that means we don’t have to move anymore!

When I hang those larger pictures on the wall, I use two wall anchors to carry the heavier weight. I know that in life, we often feel the weight of the world upon us, so more than one spiritual anchor is needed to keep us securely in place, and to keep us level and upright. These anchors are meant to help us when we feel temptation knocking on our door, or when we face difficult challenges, or perhaps when just dealing with questions for which we don’t have answers. Elder Holland taught: “When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” (“Lord, I Believe,” General Conference, April 2013).

Now for the last example, securing a camping tent to the ground. As a Deacon in the Church, I participated in Boy Scouts. Typically, we had a campout every month, and a week-long summer camp with hiking in the nearby snowcapped Cascade Mountains in the state of Oregon. Our Scoutmaster worked for the Forest Service, so he knew all the good places to go. As a young scout I learned to set up camp and cook over a fire. Occasionally, we would encounter bad weather, particularly while camping in the winter. It was important to make sure our tent was properly set up and secured to the ground by the wooden or metal tent stakes. I would see some scouts who would not always put in all their tent stakes, or anchors, but just the corner ones. Occasionally, those tents would get caught by a gust of wind and blown over. But I wanted to make sure my tent was never pushed about by the wind, so I used all the anchors provided. Besides, having all the ground stakes in place also meant proper ventilation, and I like to breathe!

Let’s return to our scripture references on anchors. I’ve already mentioned the three references in the New Testament about the boat anchors. The fourth reference in the New Testament, also given by Paul, comes within a spiritual context. Speaking about the trust and reliance we can have in God as a type of hope, Paul says: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). I find it interesting how the writings of Paul and the writings of Moroni can be very similar. Both wrote about faith, hope, and charity, both wrote about gifts of the Spirit, and both wrote about the hope found in spiritual anchors. Moroni said: “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4, emphasis added). These messages of Paul and Moroni are profoundly similar though they themselves were separated by time and distance.

So let’s talk about these spiritual anchors that bring us hope. First an example. Just shortly before he died, Elder L. Tom Perry was preparing a message to Aaronic Priesthood holders, and he mentioned one of his personal spiritual anchors. He wrote: “I grew up in a comfortable environment in Logan, Utah. I had no childhood worries about food or shelter or education. But perhaps because life was easy, I needed something to hold on to that would anchor me. For me that anchor was the priesthood of God. … I’ve learned that there is a guide, an anchor, and a protection in the priesthood” (“The Priesthood: A Secure Anchor,” Ensign, April 2016).

Elder Perry gives a great example of what a spiritual anchor can be. For him, one spiritual anchor was the priesthood. Spiritual anchors can be a variety of things, and they can be different for each one of us. And just like large ocean ships that have multiple anchors to keep them from drifting, or tents that use many stakes to hold them in place, when it comes to spiritual anchors more are better.

Earlier we saw how Elder Ballard talked of our faith in Jesus Christ as our main spiritual anchor. Our Articles of Faith state that the first principle of the gospel is “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Articles of Faith 1:4). The True to the Faith booklet says that “Faith is a principle of action and power” and that “Whenever you work toward a worthy goal, you exercise faith. You show your hope for something that you cannot yet see.” It continues: “Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love, it includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though you do not understand all things, He does. … You express your faith through action—by the way you live.”  And perhaps most meaningful to our discussion today, it says: “When times of trial come, faith can give you strength to press forward and face your hardships with courage. Even when the future seems uncertain, your faith in the Savior can give you peace” ([2004], p. 54).

A dictionary definition which fits this states that an anchor is “a person or thing that provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation” (Apple Computer Inc. Dictionary, version 2.2.2, “anchor”). Elder Ballard adds: “… the most important knowledge you can acquire, and the area of learning that will keep everything else in focus for you and bring you true happiness and joy, will be your solid anchor of assurance that you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” (BYU Devotional, 6 Sep 1992).

I also quoted from Elder Scott as having referred to God’s commandments as spiritual anchors. A good example of this comes from a video that came out some years ago for seminary classes which portrays a young man who learns from his “better” alter personality. One scene is when they are in a Ferrari sports car and he sees a speed sign which shows a speed limit of 55. He says to his alter ego: “I’m in my dream car, and I’m supposed to go 55 miles per hour?” His alter personality replies sarcastically: “Rules are stupid, right?” To which he agrees. So, the sign changes to “No Limit” and he takes off driving recklessly fast on a two-lane road. Suddenly, an oncoming semi-truck pulls into his lane heading right for him. Just before they crash head on, he is back in his bedroom and says to his alter ego: “Did you see that? That guy could have killed us.” The conversation then goes like this. His alter self replies: “He didn’t do anything wrong.” “Didn’t do anything wrong, he was in my lane!” … “Well, if there is no law, which is what you wanted, then you also have to say there is no wrong. And if there is no law, which law did the truck driver break?” “None.” “So what did he do wrong?” “Nothing, except he was in my lane.” “Were you in the correct lane?” “Yes!” “How do you know that.” “Because the law says …” “You got it. The law designates which of the opposing choices is right and which is wrong. … Let’s see how this fits in with God’s laws. If God didn’t have any laws, could you disobey them?” “No.” “Could you obey them?” “I guess not.” “Well if you couldn’t obey them, then you couldn’t do good or become righteous. So the question is, how are you going to follow Christ if He doesn’t have a right way?” (“Act for Themselves,” Book of Mormon DVD Presentations, 2005). I love how this shows that God’s laws are designed to anchor us to Christ.

I have several spiritual anchors of my own. One is that we are all children of God. I love the songs for the Primary children, and of course a favorite of many is “I Am a Child of God” which is the first song in the Children’s Songbook ([2005], p. 2). Having grown up in the Church I sang that song often as a child. And we sang it in our Family Home Evenings when our children were growing up. All of these experiences added to the strength of my spiritual anchor.

The doctrinal statement that we are spirit children of Heavenly Parents has always resonated positively with me, and the scriptures support this idea. In the New Testament we read that we are the offspring of God (see Acts 17:29; Hebrews 12:9). From the experience of Jeremiah in the Old Testament we learn that God knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5). Abraham taught that we were in the beginning with Heavenly Father and that this earth was prepared for us to have a mortal experience (Abraham 3; see also D&C 49:17; 93:29). The Book of Mormon teaches that God’s Plan of Salvation was prepared from the foundation of the world to be taught to us in mortality (see Alma 12:30; 22:13). In the New Testament we also read that we are not just the children of God, but that the faithful will be joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16–17). And finally, from the personal scripture of my own Patriarchal Blessing I am told that I am “a son of God.” And you are a son or daughter of God too. I treasure this and hold fast to it. It is something I will not and cannot let go of or deny.

Another of my personal spiritual anchors is that God speaks to and operates through living prophets. The pattern of God working through prophets is clear to any student of the Bible. So, having modern-day prophets has been something easy for me to accept. Foundational to me is the calling of Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation. The one thing that I use as a picture in my mind, when I need to call upon a good and positive image, is that of the First Vision. I believe with all my heart and soul in the First Vision. I believe that God the Eternal Father, and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, came and appeared to the boy Joseph. They told him that They had a work for him to do, and Joseph tried to live up to that ever after. I know that Joseph saw those two divine persons during that visionary event. It is as secure to me as an anchor sunk deeply into a stone wall that a rock climber would use. In any trial or difficulty or concern, I can fall back on the thought of the First Vision and say that of all else, I know that really happened and that God speaks to us through His chosen prophets today.

To quote again from the True to the Faith booklet, the entry for “Prophets” says that “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets … Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God’s will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences.” It continues: “You can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord. … Your greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church” ([2004], p. 129-30).

I have known 9 of the 17 modern prophets, from President McKay to President Nelson. David O. McKay was known for being a true gentleman, caring for others, and most especially for how he treated his wife. I can still recall images of him from when I was a young boy on our black and white television. Joseph Fielding Smith was a scholar. He wrote several books, of which I have a few. Harold B. Lee was only the prophet for a short time. He was younger than many others were and the feeling in the Church was that he could be the prophet clear until the millennium. But the Lord had different plans. Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet of my youth, and it is his signature on my mission call. He was known for two phrases: “Lengthen Your Stride” and “Do It.” He emphasized the need for more young men to serve missions. Ezra Taft Benson emphasized reading the Book of Mormon, and to flood the earth with it. He is also a relative of my wife who has met him personally on multiple occasions. Howard W. Hunter played several musical instruments and emphasized being temple worthy and attending the temple often. He said to always have a temple recommend even if distance or other factors prevent you from attending the temple very often. Gordon B. Hinckley had a great wit and a fun sense of humor. He had such a positive outlook on life. He was interviewed by a couple of TV newsmen and shared his testimony publicly. During his administration as president of the Church, temple building was advanced to a remarkable pace giving us most of the temples we have today. Thomas S. Monson was known for his impeccable memory and his thoughtfulness to others. He was also concerned with rescuing every soul. And Russell M. Nelson is a remarkable man who not only loves us but understands how we as human beings operate. I have met him twice; once casually at a wedding reception and then more formally in a Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting. They are all remarkable men who have learned to be taught by the Lord and follow His will completely in their lives. My personal experience has taught me that I can trust them. Living prophets are a secure spiritual anchor to me, and I try to follow their counsel. They are an anchor that I cannot deny, nor will I ever betray.

Lastly, one more of my personal spiritual anchors is the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith said that he translated it by the gift and power of God. When you study about how we got the Book of Mormon you see that this is exactly true. The story of the Book of Mormon was revealed to Joseph and he had it written and printed so we can read it today. Think of the efforts the Lord took just to ensure it would be here for us in the latter days! I wouldn’t be surprised if Moroni himself didn’t have to stand guard over the buried plates for all those years until he was able to meet with the boy prophet. The Book of Mormon even came to us before the organization of the Restored Church. I try to read from the Book of Mormon daily, and I even still read it in my mission language. After responding to President Monson’s call to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon each day, President Russell M. Nelson said that the “truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls.” He also promised that as we “prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, [we] will make better decisions every day” (“The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?” General Conference, October 2017).

The things we choose to be our spiritual anchors are just that, a choice. By choosing to anchor yourselves to something solid, “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo” (Helaman 5:12). Returning again to Elder Ballard’s message, he said: “When you know and live these simple truths, they will be a spiritual anchor to help you keep your own life from being ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14)” (BYU Devotional, 6 Sep 1992).

May we all chose and develop solid spiritual anchors in our life; things we will not ever give up or betray, regardless of the difficulties we may face. This will help ensure our return to Heavenly Father one day. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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