Contained in this post is a story told in a Religious Devotional back in 2018. I was in the audience during this Devotional and was profoundly affected by the story, the message having stayed strong in my mind since as it completely changed my understanding on the process of repentance.
‘Jesus Christ, Our Great Deliverer’ Brother Shawn Jensen, March 6, 2018 BYU-Idaho Devotional
“About 20 years ago, I decided to enroll in a series of scuba courses. Throughout my training, we practiced things like what to do if my mask filled with water, how to share air with another diver in need, and other similar types of scenarios. By the time I was finished, I was looking forward, with great anticipation, to trying it out on my own. So one day I decided that I was ready to explore the underwater world of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, in eastern Utah.
When I arrived at the lake, I found an isolated dock, where I started to ‘gear up.’ I wriggled into my wetsuit and strapped my air tank to my buoyancy compensator device, or BCD for short. Now, the BCD is the dive vest that inflates with air to help keep one balanced in the water. Next, I slid on my dive fins and then pulled my mask over my face. Once dressed, I waddled my way to the edge of the dock, put my air regulator in my mouth, held my hand to my mask (just as I’ve seen it done in the movies), and then stepped off the dock.
As I began to swim towards the middle of the lake, I noticed that I was gradually sinking beneath the surface of the water, in spite of my best efforts to keep from doing so. As I continued to sink, the atmospheric pressure of the surrounding water also continued to increase with depth. Consequently, I began to sink at an accelerated rate, and I quickly found myself 10 feet deep! Then, before I even realized how fast I was sinking, I was suddenly 15 feet below the surface!
I found myself out of control and sinking deeper with every second into the dark, seemingly bottomless waters of that lake. I could literally watch the light disappearing around me as I fell through those dark waters, now at a depth of 20 feet below the surface!
‘How could I stop this uncontrolled fall?’ I wondered. Then I remembered something that I had learned from my training: If I borrowed air from the oxygen tank and placed it into the dive vest, or the BCD, the added air in the vest would compensate for the increased pressure of the surrounding waters and help keep me from falling deeper. However, when I tried this, nothing happened; I just keep sinking! Faster and faster, deeper and deeper I dropped—25 feet, 30 feet, 35 feet. I was in a full-blown panic when I finally landed hard on the bottom of that lake about 40 feet deep and surrounded by cold, dark, murky waters.
No matter how hard I pushed off the bottom and kicked my legs, straining and fighting to make it back to the surface, I continued to land back in the same place, four stories underwater, trapped and terrified. Over and over I tried to swim my way to the surface without success. After multiple attempts, and now exhausted, I realized that I needed to change my tactics if I were to escape those dark, cold waters.
I considered the idea of abandoning my scuba tank and my vest on the bottom of the lake, filling my lungs with one last deep breath, and then racing to the surface. I knew that this was extremely risky, but what other options did I have? Just before proceeding, I fortunately remembered learning about a condition called the “bends,” or decompression sickness. This condition can occur when a diver ascends too quickly to the surface, causing nitrogen bubbles to form and then expand in the body. The effects of this condition can result in severe pain, paralysis, or even death.
‘I might be able to make it to the surface on one breath of air,’ I told myself. But doing so without incurring some level of decompression sickness was very unlikely. No, there just had to be another way.
As my mind raced, I thought of a second option. ‘Maybe I could swim along the bottom of the lake until I reached the shoreline.’ However, this too was risky as the water was so murky that I could hardly see one foot in front of me. And because of those dark muddy waters, I completely lost my sense of direction and had no idea which way to even start swimming. I could easily swim myself into a much worse predicament—farther from the shore and without any air in my dive tank. I felt trapped, confused, and afraid.
Brothers and sisters, what would you have done if you were in this situation?
Well, in that moment of panic, confusion, and terror, I did what you probably would have done right from the start—I prayed. In fact, it was really more of a cry than anything else. I literally knelt down, right there on the bottom of the lake floor, surrounded by the circling darkness of the muddy waters, and pled for deliverance. I expressed my deep regret and sorrow for choosing to dive alone. I explained to my Father in Heaven that I had done everything I could think of to get out of this predicament but continued to find myself in the same situation. I pled with Him to help me return back to the surface and back to the warmth and light of the sun that I so desperately craved.
When I was pouring out my heart, my mind reflected back to minutes earlier, when I was safely back on the shore. In my mind, I saw myself picking up rock after rock and filling my vest pockets completely full of those rocks. You see, shortly after I had arrived at the lake, I had realized that I had forgotten to bring my dive belt.
Now, those of you who have been diving know the quandary I was in. The weighted dive belt helps compensate for the added buoyancy of the wetsuit and the oxygen tank. Without the properly weighted dive belt, I would not be able to submerge underwater. So, in an attempt to counterfeit the proper weight and use of the dive belt, I loaded my pockets with rocks.
After the Spirit had helped me recognize my obvious error, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to be delivered. Now, in a very calm manner, I took off my gloves, unzipped my vest pockets on my BCD, and began removing the rocks that I had placed therein. One by one, I removed each of those rocks. Once they were removed, I was then able to inflate my vest with air to its full capacity, and immediately I began to ascend up towards the light.
You see, the rocks were the problem. They were restricting the amount of air I could add to my vest. I can still clearly remember those feelings of fear, anxiety, and cold being replaced with feelings of warmth, safety, and comfort as I slowly ascended and then broke the surface of the water. Through prayer and by heeding the promptings of the Spirit, I was delivered from that terrifying situation.
I know there are at least a few of you listening today to my ‘scary scuba story’ who are questioning my sanity and even my level of intelligence, and I don’t blame you. You might be asking yourself, ‘Why would you do such a reckless thing as go diving alone?’ Or maybe you are wondering, ‘Why did you fill your vest pockets with rocks in the first place?’ Or perhaps your question is, ‘Why didn’t you recognize sooner that the rocks were the problem?’
I admit that all of those questions are valid, and, believe me, I’ve asked myself those same things. But, spiritually speaking, couldn’t similar questions be asked of each one of us at different times in our lives? Think about it. If we are honest with ourselves, couldn’t we all say that we have made poor decisions and reckless mistakes that have led us into spiritual captivity at one point or another? Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Why did I put myself in that situation?’ or ‘Why did I do or see or say that awful thing?’ Or perhaps you have asked yourself, ‘Why did it take me so long to realize that obvious mistake I made?’
Now, using my scuba experience as an analogy, let’s each do some self-reflection and consider what ‘worldly rocks’ we may be carrying that are weighing us down. Is it the rock of idleness or fear or self-pity that’s holding you captive? Perhaps it’s the ‘worldly rock’ of addiction or sexual transgressions or pride. What rocks do you need to discard?
I want to extend the first of two challenges to each of you today. I challenge you to examine your life and ask the question, ‘What worldly rocks am I currently carrying that are holding me captive and are keeping me from spiritually progressing?’ Recognizing these rocks is so critical in letting go of them! Picking up the rocks is one thing, but holding on to them is what really sinks us. Recognizing and then removing those rocks from your life will allow the Holy Spirit to fill you and help you ascend to the Son—spelled S-O-N—where He is waiting to deliver you and where you can feel of His warmth, His light, and His peace again.
My second challenge to each of you is this: Give your heart to God every day! I testify that our Great Deliverer—the fount of every blessing—has all power over death and hell. Trust in Him! Turn to the Lord with all your heart, and He will deliver you!
Our Great Deliverer can, and will, free you from feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and self-doubts. He can, and will, deliver you from the worldly rocks that weigh down the natural man, including laziness, pride, self-gratification, and other lusts of the flesh. The God that we worship wants to deliver you from these things. This is His greatest desire. He wants all of us to come to Him even as a child turns to their father for love, comfort, and peace. Our Great Deliverer said, ‘Repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you.’ All He requires of us is our ‘heart[s] and a willing mind.’
Now, as you work to give your heart to God every day, I feel impressed to warn you of two specific worldly rocks that can weigh you down. They are the worldly rocks of pride and fear.
The worldly rock of pride keeps us in bondage by persuading us to believe that we are not carrying any rocks at all. If we believe that lie, then we cannot progress. President James E. Faust said it this way: ‘Perhaps worse than sin is the denial of sin. If we deny that we are sinners, how can we ever be [delivered]?’ If the Spirit has helped remind you of a worldly rock or two that you need to discard, but you have either ignored that prompting or justified why you feel the need to continue carrying those rocks, then ‘beware of pride’! Instead, admit your mistakes and turn your heart to God!
The worldly rock of fear inhibits growth. After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, Satan convinced them to hide from God. I’m sure they were fearful of the consequences of their transgression and feared the thought of facing God unclean. However, when the Father called to Adam and Eve, they bravely came forth and confessed what they had done. Can you see how their growth and spiritual progression would have been damned if they had remained in their hiding place, allowing their fears to control them? Please, do not hide your sins! Like mold, when we try to keep it hidden and in the dark, sin only grows. Instead, bring it into the open and into the light! Shining light on the problem helps slow the growth, and eventually that light will overcome it.
If we are not careful, the worldly rocks of pride and fear can keep us from being delivered. For example, let’s assume that a person is struggling to remove the weighty worldly rock of viewing pornography from their life. After each ‘viewing session,’ feelings of guilt and shame well up, and a commitment to never do it again is made. This person can see how their senses are becoming dull and their mind is being warped by the graphic lies associated with pornography. In spite of the commitment that was made, this person continues to find himself or herself back in that same situation time after time, pledging those same promises to ‘never do it again’ and ‘I’ll be stronger next time.’
Brothers and sisters, can you see pride in this example? This person is convinced that he or she can overcome their pornography problem without help, even though it’s obvious that help is needed. The heavy rock of pride is holding this person captive at the bottom of those dark, muddy waters. Vision is clouded, and direction is confused. Spiritual progression is impossible in this current condition!
Let’s assume that this individual realizes the need for outside help and considers meeting with their bishop. However, now the worldly rock of fear begins to pull and weigh on this person. Satan plays on that fear by telling them that everyone will be disappointed if this worldly rock comes to light, that the consequences are just too great, and that it will be easier to keep it hidden.
Fortunately, in our example, this individual overcomes the worldly rocks of both pride and fear and makes an appointment with their bishop. Through specific and loving counsel, this person begins to ascend towards the light and to draw closer to the Son.”