The following message is a talk I delivered to a Tri-Stake fireside in my hometown of Blackfoot, Idaho. I was so grateful for the opportunity to speak to all those wonderful youth and leaders and hope you will find peace in these words like I did.
A long time ago there lived a man named Peter. Like many of us he was a good man who tried to do the right thing. After a long night of fishing with no success Peter was getting ready to go to sea again when a man boarded his ship and asked Peter to sail for a while. Peter must have not been afraid of stranger danger because he immediately welcomed the man. While they were sailing the man taught Peter the ways of God. When he finished speaking he saw Peter had no fish so he bid him to cast his nets over the side of the ship. Peter replied, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” (Luke 5:5)
Peter than received more fish than his boat, and his buddy’s boat could carry. He was scared and begged the man who had worked miracles to depart from him because Peter felt like a sinner. Jesus replied, “Fear not” (Luke 5:10) “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19)
In that moment Peter received the highest calling on earth, the call to Follow Jesus Christ. This calling would prepare him for the work he was to do for the rest of His life. A work of servitude, a work of ministering to those in need, a work in which He would preach and defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Brothers and Sisters Peter was called to serve a mission.
Several years ago I was going through high school trying to do all the right things. I worked on my Personal progress, went to church, and bore my testimony because I was trying to be good. But I was missing something. I had a testimony because it made sense, I prayed because I had been taught to. Then one night my nets came up empty so to speak and I was at a loss. Nothing was going right. So for the first time I can remember I knelt down because I didn’t know what to do, and maybe God could tell me. When I received my answer it didn’t make sense. It was crazy and I saw no point in it, but I agreed to do it because he asked me to. Then came the assurance that sounded something like this Fear not, follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.
In that moment I received the highest calling on earth, the call to Follow Jesus Christ. This calling would prepare me for the work I am to do for the rest of my life. A work of servitude, a work of ministering to those in need, a work in which I will preach and defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Brothers and Sisters I was called to be a true follower and disciple of Jesus Christ. And just a few months ago, I was called to serve a Mission.
But Peter and I are only two of all of God’s children; all of us are all called to follow Jesus Christ. In 2 Nephi 31:10 Nephi speaks of that calling “And He (Jesus) said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore my beloved Brethren can we follow Jesus save we be willing to keep the commandments of The Father?”
I cannot answer for you Brothers and Sisters, I cannot speak to you all as if you unanimously follow Jesus Christ and keep His commandments and I cannot speak to you all as if you unanimously reject Jesus Christ and discard His commandments. But I can speak to you of my own experiences and of the experiences of Peter, the experiences that started with the acceptance of a calling to follow Jesus Christ, the experiences which prepared us both to serve our missions.
After a long day of feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus bid his disciples to meet him on the other side of the sea while he sent away the multitudes. During the fourth watch Jesus woke and saw his disciples caught in a storm. So he started towards them, walking on the waters of the sea. Jesus’s disciples weren’t used to seeing men walk on water and they were afraid. As they cried out in fear, panic, and I’m sure exhaustion, Jesus called to them, “Be of Good Cheer; Be not afraid; It is I.” (Matt. 14:27) The ever-impetuous Peter called back, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Jesus said, “Come”
Peter leapt out of the safety of his ship and landed in the water and miraculously started walking towards his Savior.
He started out pretty good, feet firmly planted in the waves and walking steadily towards Jesus, but then Peter became very afraid. He looked around and saw the storm raging around him, saw the black depths beneath him, and Peter started to sink. As any of us would do Peter cried out, “Lord save me!” And immediately Jesus caught his arm and pulled him up out of the water. “Oh ye of little faith” he said.
In that moment Peter was made aware of the faith that would be needed of a true disciple of Jesus Christ. He was taught to rely on rely on the merits of Him who is mighty to save (2 Nephi 31: 19) because in Peter’s life there would be many moments where his faith would falter and he would be scared, but The Savior would always be there for Him.
There was a time, not long ago, when I was caught in one of the many storms of life. I was confronted with contention and conflicting emotions and ultimately fear. I didn’t know what to do so I just tried my best to stay afloat. It was during this time that I was returning from a trip and had to drive home from the airport. Unfortunately I had not been smart enough to put gas in the car when I left the airport so there was only about 30 miles left. As I drove home I watched the miles go down one by one. The pressure was too much for my situation and I started to cry. By the time I was down to two miles I could barely see there were so many tears and I still had at least four miles to go until I was home. I was very, very, very, afraid. I called out to my Heavenly Father “God, please help me.” The tears didn’t stop, my situation didn’t change, I still only had two miles of gas, but I stopped sinking. My fear was gone and I felt the comfort that comes only from The Holy Ghost testify to me that I need not be afraid, but have faith.
In that moment I was made aware of the faith that would be needed of a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I was taught to rely on rely on the merits of Him who is mighty to save (2 Nephi 31: 19) because in my life there will be many moments where my faith will falter and I will be scared, but The Savior would always be there for me.
Brothers and Sisters-Faith in The Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the Gospel. It is the essence of our testimonies, it is the foundation upon which we should build our lives so when the devil sends 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 woe, because of the rock upon which ye are built. Which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
This knowledge prepared both Peter and I for our missions because following Jesus Christ is not easy. Preaching about Jesus Christ to people who don’t want to hear you is even harder, but with faith all things are possible. With a testimony of Jesus Christ and His redeeming power there is no force on earth that can cause a man to fall because of the Spirit, which burns inside of him. Faith has given me a conviction that Jesus is The Christ and that is what I will go share and what Peter did share.
When Jesus was crucified and resurrected He returned to the presence of His Father and left His, now eleven disciples, on earth. Without their Redeemer I’m sure they looked to Peter, the senior apostle, and asked him, “Now what?” Returning to what he knew how to do because he believed the work of The Almighty God was finished, Peter said, “I go a fishing.” (John 21: 3)
But the fishing wasn’t very good and they caught nothing that night. In the morning they returned to their boats and tried again. While they were toiling at sea a man appeared on the shore and called out to them, “Children, have ye any meat?” Grudgingly I’m sure they responded with a forced “No.” The man called back, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find,” Our ever impetuous and loyal Peter recognized the call of His Savior and leapt (again) over the side of the ship and swam to shore.
Here I borrow generously from the words of Elder Holland in his talk, The First Great Commandment. “Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” (John 21:15)
The Savior responds to that reply but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, “Peter, do you love me?” Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” (John 21:16)
The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny, He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” …Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.” (John 21:17)
To which Jesus responded perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”
In that moment Peter was called to serve as the Savior served, he was no longer preparing, but pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and all men.
Here I stopped writing my talk because I did not know what to say before I was delivering my message. I cannot recall what I said so I cannot include it here. However, I do remember this–
The members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are often viewed as overly strict with themselves and their families. I have heard people say,”You have so many little rules, why don’t you drink coffee? Why don’t you date before you’re 16? Those things can’t hurt you!”
We could give reasons for why we obey a great deal of commitments The Lord has asked us to keep, but there is one overarching reason.
In 1820 a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith had a question. Believing he would be answered he knelt down in a grove of tree’s and asked God which church he would join. In that moment God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the boy and answered him that he should join none of the churches, because none of them were true.
This moment launched Joseph Smith into the work of the restoration of The Gospel of Jesus Christ upon the earth with its accompanying Priesthood Power and commandments. I know Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ that day in 1820 and therefore I know this church is The True Church upon the earth.
I plead with you Brothers and Sisters to discover your own testimonies. Become righteous Men and Women against the wind of the world. Be your best selves and be steadfast and immovable in Jesus Christ.
In His name, even Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.