Building the Ship, An Introduction

A Journey Begun


A quarter of a millennia ago in the windswept deserts of the Middle East, a young man and his family left a comfortable home in Jerusalem and undertook a remarkable journey. Born of goodly parents and taught in the learning of his father, his sturdy, boyish frame surely spent many hours wrapped in the arms of Jewish academia, for his scholarly achievements are evident in his writings, which continue to touch the lives of millions today. However, his education extended far beyond this worldly knowledge. Nephi’s knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God shaped his character as well as his intellect.


As he traversed scorching sand and waded through affliction suffering hunger, thirst, and fatigue, endured the rational railings and wrath of his elder brothers, and watched his young wife bear children—in the midst of all this Nephi wrote:


“And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us…

And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled.
And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God,
he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means
whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them;
wherefore he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.”


Nephi knew his God. When afflictions angered and hardened others, Nephi’s unflinching faith and courage reached deep and stood tall.  He knew the Lord’s voice and followed without hesitation.


‘Many years’ of toil found resolution in a peaceful place of rest, the beautiful oasis Bountiful, and, after ‘many days’, the Lord called Nephi to the mountain and spoke to him, saying:


“Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee,
that I may carry thy people across these waters.”


Without hesitation Nephi replied:


“Lord, wither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools
to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?”


The Lord instructed Nephi . . . a search for ore . . . bellows . . . a fire struck from stones . . . tools from molten ore . . . striving to be faithful . . .  exhorting others to do the same.  His brethren mocked him as foolish and misguided. They scorned him as lacking in judgment.  They did not believe that he, ordinary man that he was, could accomplish so great a work. With power that struck fear in the hearts of his quailing brothers Nephi rebuked their lack of faith, reminding them of the many things God had done and of His great power and love. Finally, he concluded:


“If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them.
If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth,
it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.

And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so
many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot
instruct me to build a ship?”


Nephi’s courageous example and powerful leadership turned his wayward brethren to the Lord. Together they worked timbers of curious workmanship. Nephi said of the construction of the ship:


“Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which
was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men;
but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me;
wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.

“And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord;
wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.”

“And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to
the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the
workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble
themselves again before the Lord.”


In the coming days they prepared themselves, embarked upon the sea, and after many days arrived in a promised land, prepared by the Lord for them and their posterity.


Nephi built a ship. However, that is not the most intriguing part of the story to me.  Nephi built a ship; the Lord built him.  I marvel at the daring and boldness, the strength and courage, the humility, wisdom, and power that was Nephi.


Nephi was real . . . real like me . . . like my family . . . like the modern Jerusalem that surrounds us with comfortable, easy ways and the empty traditions of men.  I have wondered, “If I were willing, could the Lord be waiting to extend to my family blessings as great as those reserved for Nephi’s family? If I were willing, could I also build a ship of curious workmanship which could carry my family to a promised land?  Perhaps, if I were willing, God could show me His way to raise my family rather than simply following the ways of men and, when my work was done, my brethren would see that it was good and that the workmanship was exceedingly fine. Perhaps, in the process, God would build me and my children as He did Nephi.”

This idea has inspired me from the beginning of my journey into parenthood.  It is the deepest desire of my heart and my greatest dream–to follow Nephi’s pattern and leave behind a self-seeking and self-satisfied Jerusalem to build a pattern of family living that will allow the Lord to build my family just as he did Nephi.


I began to let go of the traditions of men and look to God for direction.  I began to home educate.


My journey is not complete, but in 20+ years, I have felt the hand of the Lord direct and bless our family in so many ‘small and simple’ ways.  I thank God for the many ‘small and simple’ truths He has taught me which have made all the difference.


Let God Direct the Plans


While we may learn many good things from others only God knows our family’s unique circumstances and needs.  He has taught me the things I needed to know.  I share them, not as a template for you to follow, but to inspire and encourage others.  Only God can teach you what you should do.  He has a unique plan for each family.  The details will vary, but the process of choosing to go to the Lord for instruction rather than blindly following the world opens the door to a Godly education for parents and children alike.


Heed Them Not


As we step away from the world’s ways and begin to do something different, the world begins to scoff. . . we are not qualified to educate our children . . . without the world’s methods and institutions our children will be social outcasts . . .  doing something different from the norm will be too overwhelming and too risky . . . we are foolish, misguided, or extreme.  But the world is wrong.


God has ordained parents to lead families, to teach and bring up our children to serve Him. The world will go on its’ merry way, but we are accountable for the methods and institutions we employ in raising and teaching our families.  I testify that:


“If it so be that (we) keep the commandments of God, He doth nourish (us),
and strengthen (us),
and provide means whereby (we) can accomplish the thing
which he has commanded (us).”


I also testify with Nephi that:


“If God had commanded (us) to do all things (we) could do them…
And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles
among the children of men,
how is it that he cannot instruct (us) to build a ship?”


While the world may hold many positive options and opportunities for our families, allowing the world to ‘dictate’ our parenting and teaching choices leaves us with a mediocre ship at best, and tied to Jerusalem at worst.  May we each experience the hand of the Lord of Hosts in our lives and homes as we live and teach after the manner the Lord has shown us, that our ships may be good and the workmanship, thereof, exceedingly fine.


Next in this series: Seeking a Godly Education: A Statement of Educational Philosophy

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