Last summer my wife and I had the pleasure of backpacking in the High Uintas with our oldest son, Justin, and three of his friends. We had a wonderful time fishing, camping, and simply observing God’s creations. Of course a large portion of the trip involved hiking. As many of you know, hikers or backpackers encounter a variety of trail conditions. On any given trek, flat, straight, and easy to locate trail segments can quickly become steep, rocky, and obscure. When trails become difficult to find, considerate hikers often place markers on the path to map the way for those who follow. These markers are built by stacking several rocks to form what is called a cairn. Cairns are spaced so that a hiker standing near one can readily see the next. By walking from cairn to cairn, a backpacker can successfully traverse the previously unseen path and reach the goal. Significantly, cairns only have meaning for those who recognize them for what they are. For some, cairns are nothing more than a pile of rocks. For others they are helpful markers on a trail. And yet for others, willing to examine in further detail, cairns can provide even more specific directions. For example, a stack of rocks with a small stone to the right of the stack indicates that the trail heads to the right. Similarly, a rock on the ground to the left of the cairn indicates that the trail heads to the left. A basic understanding of these structures makes it possible to obtain the final goal, but by being more informed about the nature of cairns, the journey can be made even smoother.During our backpacking trip, each time my wife and I reached a cairn, we stopped to look for the next stack of rocks. When we didn’t immediately find it, a sense of being lost was quick to enter our minds, but that feeling instantly vanished when we located the next small, simple landmark. This experience using cairns caused me to reflect on the journey through mortality. Things can be going so easily—life is smooth, goals seem obtainable, and the path is clear. When life feels like this, it nearly always changes—new challenges arise, goals dangle out of reach, and the path seems unclear. It is during these moments of confusion that we need to refocus on the single goal of coming unto Christ. Heavenly Father has provided a plan for us to accomplish this goal, and Christ has made it possible for each of us to obtain it through His atoning sacrifice and our obedience to His commandments. To clearly mark the difficult path through mortality and help us obtain this goal, Christ has placed markers along the path that leads back to the presence of the Father.
Like the Bismarck, each of us is a miracle of engineering. Our creation, however, was not limited by human genius. Man can devise the most complex machines but cannot give them life or bestow upon them the powers of reason and judgment. These are divine gifts, bestowed only by God. Like the vital rudder of a ship, brethren, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course toward our desired goal—even the celestial kingdom of God. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder, never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed. As with the mighty Bismarck, so it is with man. The thrust of the turbines and the power of the propellers are useless without that sense of direction, that harnessing of the energy, that directing of the power provided by the rudder, hidden from view, relatively small in size but absolutely essential in function. Our Father provided the sun, the moon, and the stars—heavenly galaxies to guide mariners who sail the lanes of the sea. To us, as we walk the pathway of life, He provides a clear map and points the way toward our desired destination. He cautions: beware the detours, the pitfalls, the traps. We cannot be deceived by those who would lead us astray, those clever pied pipers of sin beckoning here or there. Instead, we pause to pray; we listen to that still, small voice which speaks to the depths of our souls the Master’s gentle invitation, “Come, follow me.” Yet there are those who do not hear, who will not obey, who prefer to walk a path of their own making. Too often they succumb to the temptations which surround all of us and which can appear so enticing.